One of the worst nightmares of any camper, hiker, or survivalist is becoming trapped outdoor during extreme winter conditions. Hikers or campers become trapped all the time by the onset of sudden winter storms, and every year it seems like someone manages to wander off into the woods during the winter months and needs to be airlifted out.

Of course, becoming trapped in harsh winter conditions doesn’t just happen to hunters, hikers or campers, it can happen to anyone. One year, a sudden winter storm overtook travelers on Highway 67 in southern Missouri, trapping drivers overnight in sub-freezing temperatures until emergency services could rescue them. And this isn’t an isolated incident by any stretch of the imagination either. It happens all over the world every time the temperature drops. 

The best way to avoid becoming a statistic during a cold-weather emergency is to prepare for it. This means not only having the right equipment with you during an emergency but also to make sure that you have taught yourself the skills you need to go through a winter emergency and come out the other side with your life intact. Hopefully, this guide is going to help all of our readers with the information they need to survive the unique challenges presented by cold weather. 

Step One: Have The Appropriate Winter Gear

The first thing that a person can do to ensure that they survive a winter weather event is to make sure that they have the winter gear that they need. What should be kept in mind, however, is that not every person is going to need or be able to carry the same amount of gear. For example, the winter gear that a person might have in their car is likely to be different than what someone on foot is going to want to carry or what someone is going to want to have in their home. Therefore, we’ve broken down the essential winter gear according to one of three categories: For Travelers On Foot; For Travelers To Keep In Their Car; And For Homeowners. 

Items Useful For Foot Travelers: 

This section is for hunters, campers, mountaineers, or anyone else who knows that they’re going to be out and about during winter conditions. Although the following list isn’t exhaustive, it’s a good starting point for people who want to be prepared in case they’re trapped out in the cold. 

  • A Lighter And Fire Starter
  • Light & Heavy Gloves
  • Layers Of Light Clothing, Medium Clothing, And Heavy Clothing
  • A Multitool And/Or Survival Knife
  • Personal Location Beacon
  • Energy Bars And Trail Mix
  • Paracord
  • An Emergency Blanket
  • A Bivy Sack
  • A First Aid Kit
  • Folding Saw
  • Pop-Up Tent
  • Signal Whistle

Items Useful For Drivers

This section contains some of the equipment that drivers might want to have in their vehicles—just in case their vehicle is disabled by snow or ice and they’re unable to make it to a safe location on foot. Some people might want more gear and some people might want less gear, depending on their needs. 

  • Flashlight With Extra Batteries
  • Warm Blanket
  • Extra Winter Clothing
  • First Aid Kit
  • Ice Scraper
  • Snow Shovel
  • Jumper Cables
  • Tire Chains
  • Road Flares
  • A Brightly Colored Bandanna
  • Gloves
  • Nonperishable Food
  • Kitty Litter Or Sand
  • Signal Whistle
  • A Firestarter
  • A Candle

Some of our readers might look at the above list and wonder why a candle is at the end of it. After all, most winter vehicle preparedness articles don’t place that on their emergency preparedness list for vehicles. We placed it on our list because a candle can warm the interior space of a vehicle just enough that it can prevent a person from freezing to death if their vehicle is disabled during a snow storm. Just be aware, that during warmer months a candle is going to melt, so it will have to be cycled in and out of the vehicle according to the season.

Winter Items Useful For The Home

Next, we want to talk about the tools that are useful for a home winter survival kit. Although not everyone gives it much thought, having a winter emergency kit for the home is just as important as having one for the car. If the power is knocked out due to a winter storm, will you have what you need to keep it warm until the power is restored, or if you’re snowed in, will your family have enough food until you can make it to a store? These are questions everyone should think about when they’re equipped they’re home for winter weather. Now, let’s take a look at some of the gear that might be important during this time. 

  • Canned Goods
  • Dried Fruit & Nuts
  • A First Aid Kit
  • A Battery-Powered Radio
  • Plenty Of Toiletries
  • Shovel
  • Bottled Water
  • Plenty Of Blankets
  • Flashlights With Extra Batteries
  • A Backup Generator

It’s also a good idea to have some of the best hand warmers around, too. They can be extremely useful for when you have to shovel snow or if the power fails and the heat goes out. 

Step Two: Understand Winter Weather Survival Principles

The next thing that you’re going to want to do is to learn as much about winter survival as possible. No amount of gear is going to do you any good if you don’t use it correctly or are out in the elements without a plan. Therefore, we’ve included some general survival principles that will help all of our readers survive the cold. 

Avoid Wearing Cotton

When dressing for the cold, it’s always a good idea to avoid wearing cotton. That’s because cotton has a tendency to hold onto moisture and this can result in it pulling warmth away from the body. Instead of using cotton, use Merino wool for warmth. 

Avoid Drinking Alcohol

It’s also a good idea to avoid drinking alcohol in the cold. Alcohol tends to dilate blood vessels and this can result in the blood being cut off from fingers and toes. And this can cause a drop in body temperature and expose the person’s extremities to a greater risk of frostbite. 

Remember: Hypothermia Is Always A Constant Threat

The last thing we want our readers to understand is that hypothermia is one of the greatest threats that a person out in the elements can face. Hypothermia is not only potentially deadly, but it can occur at warmer temperatures than many people realize. Even if the temperature is in the 50s, a person can quickly succumb to hypothermia—especially if they’re wet.