How to find shelter in a cold weather survival situation

Posted by Leighton Taylor on

Just because you didn’t plan to be in a freezing cold situation without a tent definitely doesn’t mean you should be resigned to spending the night slowly turning into a frozen mass of shivering goosebumps. Your surrounding environment is full of answers and provisions to keep you from this ill fate, so look around and see what you can use to build yourself a shelter. If you are in luck, your cold survival situation has landed you in the woods where pine needles, leaves, and branches abound, but even if you didn’t end up in this insulating paradise, a little bit of extra information, and of course, hard work, can land you a perfectly cozy shelter for the night.

3 Types of Cold Weather Survival Shelters:

In extremely cold weather, there’s one cold, white, fluffy material that you seem to see everywhere--SNOW! So, what do we do with such abundance? We use it for insulation. There are several different types of shelters you can build from snow, the three most popular being:

  • a snow cave
  • a snow trench
  • or a debris shelter

Be forewarned: building any of these is going to take a lot of energy, so expect to sweat and to get damp from handling the snow and prepare accordingly. It’s also important to note that if you are using snow and especially ice, you’re going to need equipment like an ice saw, ax, and shovel.

Snow Cave

Of the three snow shelters listed above, the most effective kind of shelter you can build is the snow cave because snow is such a great insulator.

  1. To start, you'll need to find a snow drift that's around 3 meters deep. If you can't find one, you’re doomed to freeze to death. NO! None of that now, make like a snow plow and build a snow drift that is around 3 meters deep.
  2. You'll need to keep in mind while digging that the door of your cave should be lower than your sleeping platform because cold air goes down while heat rises. So, if your sleeping platform is higher than the door, the heat that you generate in your shelter will stay trapped with you. Ahhh, warm and toasty!
  3. Also, you’ll want to make sure that the roof is arched and smooth. This way you won’t hit your head every time you sit up, and any snow that melts will slide down the walls rather than providing you with an icy drip to keep you company throughout the night.  
  4. The most important feature of your snow cave is the ventilation holes (in your ceiling and door) to ensure that you have enough breathing air inside.

To see how a simple snow cave is built, check out the video below.

Snow Trench

If you don't have any equipment or are running out of time, a snow trench will do the trick.

  1. Dig a trench that's deep enough to provide you with more than adequate protection from the wind.
  2. Use the snow you're digging out to pack the windy side of your trench higher for additional protection.
  3. Once you're done digging, look around for dry materials such as pine boughs, grass, and moss to line the floor of your trench and give you insulation from the snow itself.

Debris Shelter

If your cold survival situation is lacking in that white stuff we call snow, a debris shelter is your shelter of choice. It may seem a little complicated, since it’s not so much digging and packing, so, if you begin to feel overwhelmed, put on your basket weaving helmet and repeat this mantra while rocking back and forth “Become a basket-weaver. Become a basket weaver. I am a basket weaver!”

  1. First, you'll need to find a thick pole that's at least as tall as you to be used as a ridgepole.
  2. Place one end resting on a tree, a stump, or a large boulder. (Remember back in geometry class when they said that it would be useful in real life? The ground and the tree, stump, or boulder are sides A and B of your triangle. The ridgepole is your hypotenuse.)
  3. Place two thick branches diagonally at the front end of the ridgepole (the one resting on the tree/boulder) and tie them all together where they touch with a rope or vine. (We’ve created another triangle again! Thanks geometry!)
  4. Basket-weaver mode begin: create a ribbed frame along the length of the ridgepole using thick branches. These branches will be placed more perpendicular to the ridgepole than parallel. Ensure that the space inside your shelter is wide enough for you to fit into and that you have an opening big enough to allow you to get in and out of your shelter.

Steps 1-4 give you the basic framework. There are huge gaps between your branches though, so we’re going to get into master basket-weaving mode now.

  1. Using smaller, thinner sticks, weave them across the ribbed frame in order to create a “net” that will prevent the debris from falling into your shelter.
  2. Once your net (or dare I say “weave”) is thick enough, you’ll want to work on insulating. Collect light, dry materials such as leaves, pine needles, grass, and twigs and pile them onto your frame.
  3. Make sure that your pile is at least 2 feet thick to increase the insulation value of your shelter, then, put some more branches on top of your debris pile because, really, wouldn’t it be sad if all of your insulation was slowly blown away during the night?

Shelter is finished! Now for a bed and a door:

  1. Using the same light, dry materials, create a bed for you to sleep in and prevent the cold from seeping through.
  2. Finally, collect one last pile of leaves and branches and place them at the entrance of your debris shelter, to be used as a "door" that blocks the cold from coming in and the heat from going out.

Tips for building a shelter:

  • Never use metal for shelter if you're in an extremely cold environment. The metal will function as a conductor, transferring heat away instead of helping trap it within.
  • Ventilation is crucial in an enclosed shelter, particularly if you're planning on making a fire inside it.
  • To keep the heat in, you'll need to block the entrance of your shelter. A "door' will also ensure that the wind stays out.
  • Make sure that the size of the shelter is only as large as you need it to be. Small shelters take less time to heat while large ones steals from your body heat.
  • Don't sleep directly on the ground so the cold won't seep through. Instead, create a "bed" made from grass, pine needles, moss, and other materials that provide insulation.
  • Hillsides are ideal spots for building a shelter as they protect you from the wind.
  • Avoid clearings in the mountains as they are vulnerable to avalanches.
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Schrade SCHF3N Extreme Survival Knife Review

Posted by Leighton Taylor on

If you're looking for a survival knife that will give you an outrageous bang for your buck, you'll definitely want to look at the Schrade SCHF3N extreme survival knife. Schrade knives are generally known providing a high quality knife at lower-end prices.

The Schrade SCHF3N survival knife, in particular, is one of the most popular ones in their extreme survival series. We’re going to look at exactly what features this knife has and how it performs in the field.

Features of the Schrade Survival Knife:

We’ve already come up with a list of the most important features that any dependable survival knife should have. If you want to learn more about what they are and why we chose them, you can read about it here. So, how does the Schrade SCHF3N rate on our checklist?

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Cold weather survival basics

Posted by Leighton Taylor on

Surviving in the wild is hard enough. Surviving in the wild during freezing temperatures is even harder. You face the risk of getting hypothermia, frostbite, or both when you are exposed to cold weather for a long time, plus you’ll find it much harder to meet your basic needs such as food and shelter if you’re growing numb from the cold. This numbness will drain your focus and your will to survive.

Photo by randihausken. Used under Creative Commons license.

What kind of scenario would require you to fight for survival in cold weather?

Here are a few possibilities:

  • You go hiking and get caught in a snowstorm
  • Your car skids off an icy country road in the middle of nowhere, leaving you stranded
  • A plane you’re on crashes  into a mountain in the dead of winter
  • You might even find yourself in a cold-weather survival situation inside your own home – no electricity, no heat, and no help in sight with a blizzard showing no signs of easing any time soon.

    You never know when a situation like this might become reality. And in order to deal with that reality (should it come knocking on your door) and come out alive, you’ll need to know the basics of cold weather survival.

    Stay Warm

    In order to survive in cold weather, you’ll need to stay warm. There are numerous ways to ensure that your body never gets hypothermia or frostbite.

    Your first line of defense is your clothes. Obviously clothing can protect you from getting cold, but you may not be aware of how to optimally use clothing for maximum warmth. Certain areas of the body are more susceptible to losing body heat. These are your ankles, wrist, neck, and head. In fact, an uncovered head will cost you 40 to 45 percent of body heat. Whatever types of clothes you are wearing, be sure to always keep these vulnerable areas covered to ensure that you don’t lose valuable heat.


    In addition to staying properly covered, you’ll need to follow the C.O.L.D. principles in order to stay warm. C.O.L.D. stands for

    1. Stay Clean

    Clean clothes are signficantly better than dirty ones at keeping you warm. Dirt and grease can lessen the insulation value of your clothes because they mat down air pockets where air can be trapped and used as insulation. This causes heat to dissipate more easily from your body.

    2. Avoid Overheating

    When your body overheats, it will start sweating in order to cool you off. Sweating in cold weather may seem unlikely but it does happen.

    If you sweat, your body will cool down (that’s what sweat is for, after all), and the sweat will dampen your clothing which reduces its insulation value. If you feel your body overheating, remove your hat or use a lighter head covering. If that doesn’t stop you from overheating, you can partially open your jacket or take off your gloves/mittens. Both your head and hands are effective in dissipating heat from your body.

    3. Loose & Layered Clothing

    Loose clothing ensures that your blood circulation isn’t restricted. Blood flow is essential to keeping your body warm, particularly your extremities. Loose, layered clothing also ensures that there are air pockets to add insulation.

    4. Keep Dry

    Damp or wet clothes are your enemy when in cold weather. If you do get your clothes wet, make sure that you take the time to dry them out using the wind, sun, or fire. You can also use your body heat to dry out small items of clothing such as gloves/mittens and socks.

    This won’t always be possible if you’re caught in a survival situation, but if you can, have a separate set of clothing for sleeping. Chances are that the clothes you wore during the day got damp or dirty so sleeping in them won’t do you any good.

    Other tips for staying warm

    • Use natural dry material found in the woods like moss, leaves, or pine needles to insulate your sleeping area, bedding, and shelter.
    • Keep a fire crackling! Make sure you have a way to start a fire like matches or a fire starter. Fire keeps you warm, cooks your food, boils water, dries out your clothing, and gives you a morale boost.

    Stay Hydrated

    Staying hydrated is just as important for surviving cold weather as it is in hot weather. Our bodies lose water through urinating, sweating, and even breathing. In addition to these basic bodily functions, the cold weather causes our blood pressure to rise which leads to more urination, risking dehydration.

    Just like in other survival situations, the possession of certain survival gear and tools will help you stay alive until help comes or you find you way to civilization. These include a survival knife, waterproof matches, warm clothing, and food. Knowing the basics of surviving cold weather coupled with these items can help you ensure that you'll live to fight another day despite the extremely low temperatures.

    Sneak peek at next week’s survival article:

    Next week we’ll be talking about how to find shelter in a cold-weather survival situation. Until then, have a great week!

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    Cold Steel Leatherneck SF Review

    Posted by Leighton Taylor on

    It’s always exciting to check out a survival knife that you’ve never used before. And since we’re always on the lookout for the best survival knife, it pays to know what all the ones in the market have to offer. Today, we’re going to do a Cold Steel Leatherneck review. Cold Steel is known for producing high quality knives, many of which are favorites of outdoorsmen and survival experts. How does its Leatherneck SF stand up to similar products in the market today? Let’s find out.

    This Cold Steel Leatherneck SF review will discuss several important aspects that concern any knife-buying consumer. First, we’ll check to see what features of the best survival knife can be found in this particular knife. Secondly, we’ll see how well each feature “performs.” Hopefully, at the end of this review, readers will have been able to conclude whether they want to buy this particular survival knife or not.

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    3 Ways a Survival Knife Can Keep You From Going Hungry in the Wild

    Posted by Leighton Taylor on

    If a huge natural disaster should strike, society should collapse, or zombies begin to take over our “world”, you’ll have no choice but to run to the wilderness in order to survive. Hopefully, you’ll have your bug out bag with you wherein you have at least 3 days’ worth of supplies until help comes. However, there is a possibility of you needing more supplies after 3 days with no help in sight. Though a more probable scenario would be that you found yourself lost in the wild with nothing but your survival knife, the result is the same thing – you’ll need to fend for yourself until help comes along. Thus, one of the skills you definitely must have is the ability to use your survival knife to procure food. 

    3 Ways to Use Your Survival Knife for Procuring Food:

    Finding edible insects

    Though you might be cringing at the thought of swallowing a bug, a lot of insects are rich in protein and fat, two important nutritional needs that you must meet if you’re in a survival situation. Before you start digging for bugs to eat, however, you should keep in mind that the basic rule of thumb is to avoid brightly colored insects, pungent ones, and hairy ones as well. Following this rule can help you avoid eating any inedible insects. So, how does a survival knife help you find edible insects? For some insects, such as ants, you’ll have to do a bit of digging and using your hands isn’t always the most ideal thing to do. Other insects have nesting sites underground, beneath rocks, or within rotten wood that you’ll need to dig or pry through to get your meal. With the best survival knife in hand (or even just a mediocre one), you can easily forage through the insects’ hiding places and gather yourself some grub. And while Bear Grylls loves to eat bugs raw, you’d be better off cooking them (a.k.a. boiling) before consuming your meal.


    Spearfishing and hunting

    A spear is a perfect tool for catching some fish and game, both excellent sources of protein and fats that you will need in order to survive. Now, if you’ve watched some episodes of Bear Grylls (who is the ultimate survivor man), you’ll know that using a spear to catch food is not going to be easy, whether you’re fishing or hunting. But like with everything else, practice makes perfect so onwards we go.

    You can fashion a spear using your survival knife by getting a stick that’s about five feet long. Make sure that it’s durable enough to withstand the abuse of being thrown time and again. Once you have a stick, choose the end that is more rounded as your tip. To create the pointed tip of a spear, hold your stick at a 450 angle, place your knife’s edge around 4 inches from the end of the stick, and start shaving in a downwards motion. Rotate the stick frequently as you shave so that the tip stays sharp and even. Once you have a sharp point, rotate it slowly for a couple of minutes over some hot coals to dry out the wood. This makes your DIY spear much sharper.

    If you need a visual of how to do this, be sure to check the video out below:

    Another way you can create a spear with your survival knife is to lash it onto a stick. Some of the best survival knives have “spear-holes” which you can use to tie your knife to a stick. Even if your knife doesn’t have that feature, it’s still possible though less secure. Before you can tie your knife to the stick, you’ll need to create a shelf for your knife. For the shelf, you'll need a stick about 3-5 feet in length. Make sure that both ends of the stick are flat so cut off a bit at the ends if need be. Place your knife's handle on top of the stick to measure its length starting from the end of the stick. Mark that spot with your knife. Using your survival knife, split the stick up until the spot you marked. Then, cut off one of the split ends to make the shelf. Place the knife's handle on top of the shelf, making sure that your blade sticks out at the stick's end. Use a rope, cord, or whatever material you have handy to tie your knife to the stick. With a spear in hand, you're now ready to hunt and fish (or die trying).


    Creating small traps or snares

    To improve your chances of catching food in a survival situation, you'll need to do a bit of trapping to supplement your hunting (or lack of success thereof). With your survival knife in hand, you can easily create small snares and traps. One of the simplest ones you can make is the "simple snare" which is exactly what it says. You simply need to create a noose out of fine, flexible wire, twine, or some kind of cordage that easily and quickly tightens when the animal pulls on it but is durable enough that it won't snap. Some examples include shoe strings, a fishing line, and the wire in your bra (if you happen to be wearing one). If you don't have any of those types of materials with you, you can still find excellent materials from plants and trees such as milkweed, cattail, and stinging nettle. Once you construct your noose, make sure that its size is about half a head larger than your prey's. You'll also need a small stake where your noose will be attached. Using your survival knife, create a small stake which you will attach to your noose and hold it in place even if the animal pulls against it continuously. Keep the noose open (able to allow the animal to pass his head through it when passing by) with some small twigs or grass. One thing to keep in mind is to place your snare in a place where an animal is likely to stumble upon it such as a trail or near some animal droppings.


    Of course, there are numerous other ways your survival knife can help keep you from starving to death in the wild. But these three should be good enough to hold you until help comes or you finally reach civilization.

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