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#122437 - 02/03/08 03:23 AM My latest frozen adventure
Taurus Offline

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 441
Loc: Northern Canada
I apologize in advance if this gets long and drawn out, so I will try to keep it short as possible.

We have been having a good cold spell here lately (colder than usual) so my friends had it figured I would cancel my weekend hiking/hunting trip. Ha! The hell with that. What a great opportunity to sharpen my skills in bad conditions. I gave my wife my exact plan, tossed my gear in the truck, cranked some Johnny cash tunes and headed out for some cold weather hunting.

I thought it would be cool to share some points here on the forum.

I had two objectives this weekend. To do a bit of pre-scouting for next big game season, and to see if I couldn’t whack a rabbit or two to bring home. I enjoy hiking, but it is far more interesting with a gun. Once I arrived at my start point I geared up and started out. Boy, was it ever F#$^%&% cold. It actually hurts to breath when the weather drops this low. So a very valuable piece of gear to have is one that covers your mouth but allows your breath to escape. I am using my Army issued neoprene Gator hood and neck warmer and it is awesome for this. My route was about a 5 hour walk, but given the conditions and the deep snow it actually took 6. When I parked the truck, I looked at the thermometer to see the outside temp but it actually only goes to -30 deg cel. Combine that with the wind chill factor and you have got on hell of a cold day. Point # 1 - A very important factor in cold weather survival is ventilation. Despite what the books tell you this is no simple task. I opened every zipper possible to allow for air flow but despite my best efforts I was starting to sweat under my clothing. Every so often I would stop for rest and to ventilate. I would take off my pack and get some air to my back where I was starting to sweat under it. Although there is no way to totally prevent sweating these brief rest stops every 30 minutes or so helped. After about 2 hours I spotted some deer tracks and followed them a while. Tracking is a skill passed down from my old man that I try to use as much as possible. Tracking has obvious advantages to the hunter, but to a person trying to survive as well. Animals don’t usually go for a casual stroll through to woods. They always have a specific purpose in mind. A lot of times, following tracks can lead to an open water source (even when everything is frozen like this), or they may lead to bedding areas (natural sheltered areas) in the case of deer tracks. The down side is that it is easy to veer off course if you don’t note where you are being lead by the tracks. I’ve done it a few times, especially during hunting season. I followed the deer tracks for about 30 minutes and sure enough they lead me in to some low ground in a small crop of trees where there was excellent shelter from the wind, and obvious signs that they were feeding and bedding here. I then followed the tracks to a clearing where I saw these three beautiful whitetails. The picture is foggy but you can just pick them out in the distance.

By the time I was at the halfway point I was starting to get tired as there was some deep snow to push through. I agree with something hacksaw said in one of blast’s last posts. Your body is your most important tool…I couldn’t agree more and I am really glad that I stay in shape because all my gear would be useless to me at this point unless I can get it to where I need to go. We can argue about advantages/disadvantages of gear till the cows come home but there is NO disadvantage to being fit in any situation life throws at you so I fail to understand why most people I know neglect this area the most. The fitter you are the easier life is in the field no matter if you are a hunter, hiker, or whatever. By the time I got to the turnaround point I was getting COLD. My clothes were actually starting to stiffen and freeze. It was time to warm up and get some energy back before making my return trip. Point # 2- despite what people think, hydration is equally as important in the cold. You don’t really realize you may be dehydrated until you take a whizz and see how dark your pee is on the snow. It is deceiving how much water you are actually losing in a cold environment. The problem is that only a thermos will keep the water you are carrying from freezing solid. A thermos is good for quick drinks along the trail but it runs out fast. Eating snow is a very bad idea. Once you run out of the supply in your thermos you need a way of melting snow to get more. Point # 3 – Carry a quality stove that you can rely on. A fire is great for warmth, but not very convenient to be lighting one every time you need to melt snow for a drink. I chose the Coleman peak 1 mountain stove for a number of reasons. One is that it can melt snow to drinkable water (rolling boil) very fast with minimum usage of fuel. I carry a small strainer to filter out the twigs and leaves and the boiling kills anything germ wise that may be in the snow. I don’t know if Bacteria or germs can even survive in this kind of cold but it makes me feel better to boil it all the same. Point # 4 – In an extreme cold environment you NEED gloves that you can work in without having to take them off. This is what my stove looked like when I took it out of the pack. (Yes, it is as cold as it looks)

Your bare skin WILL stick to any metal you touch and it will hurt. Touching freezing metal in -40 deg cel actually gives the sensation of burning as if it was hot. I am speaking from experience on this one, I have done it a few times and it sucks. This goes for knife blades, gun barrels, multi tools and even a spoon unless you have warmed it up inside your jacket first. Whatever you do, DO NOT spill Naphtha fuel on your hands in this kind of cold or it will actually freeze the flesh instantly. Point # 5 – If you get really cold, get warm before hypothermia sets in.(dont try and tough through it because thats when things go wrong. build a fire and get as dry as possible as soon as possible. Since I was no longer walking I was cooling down fast as the sweat on my body was freezing. Screw the sparking tools and the like. Get a fire going in the easiest method possible (in this case I held some sticks over my stove to light them. A BIC is useless in these temperatures, not only will it freeze but it will be impossible to light with gloves on. For this reason I light my stove with my blast match instead. It may seem trivial, but every second your hands are exposed to the air fooling with something like a lighter, a zipper or the buttons on your GPS you can feel the tips of your fingers go numb. It doesn’t take long either. Lightweight gloves inside of mitts are a good option as well. As you take off the mitt to work you still have that layer of protection on your hands underneath. I am using bow hunting gloves which have the fold over the top mitt with gloves inside. These work very well. I tossed up my survival tarp as a fire reflector by lashing a pole between two trees and then tying it off. I then cut more fire wood with my Kukri. Before I could take a picture of my fire my camera froze solid. Step one in my quick camp was to walk all over the snow a bunch of times with my snowshoes on to pack down the snow, this lessens the chance of losing something should it be dropped, and with the snow packed down now it’s a chance to take off my snowshoes to give my feet a rest. I take the rain cover off my pack off and use it to lay out all my small items to prevent loss. The reversible orange/camo rain cover has had many uses for me in the field, but ironically enough protecting my pack from rain is on the bottom of that list. You must try to be as organized as possible in winter because if you drop an item in soft, unpacked snow you may never find it again. This is my start of my mini rest camp; the camera froze before I could show the finished version.

Once I had hot water I poured it into my empty Nalgene bottle I then put the hot bottle inside my jacket for a while. WOW, I cannot describe how awesome that felt. It made an excellent water bottle hand warmer as well. This is a method I use to quickly warm up when I don’t have the materials for a fire (some areas of Alberta where I go are flat and barren with no firewood to be found) I carry an empty Nalgene bottle just for this purpose.

Point #6- In severe cold, electronics will freeze. Keep your GPS, Camera, cell phone etc stored inside your jacket, but far enough away from your body so that sweat moisture will not get on them as this will make them freeze even faster when exposed to air. You have to take the GPS out of your jacket eventually if you want to use it, so do what you have to do and put it back inside ASAP. I keep my GPS in the pocket of my fleece sweatshirt under my jacket (sort of in the middle of the layers) It is a royal pain in the a#$ to have to keep digging it out all the time but it’s better than having it fail due to the cold. For this reason; ALWAYS carry a reliable backup to anything electronic. In the span of 4 hours, my cell phone, camera, and even my watch were fogged up and unresponsive to button pushes. And I was taking precautions against this. Once my fire was in full swing, I began to feel toasty again. I had some lunch; a good cup of hot chocolate and about a liter of warm water to rehydrate myself with.(from the nalgene bottle under my jacket) I took the opportunity to dry my clothes and gloves and then broke camp, heading in my old snowshoe trail back towards my truck. Drying my gloves was critical. I always have a spare set of huge, extreme cold weather mittens as a backup, but feet and hands are very important to keep dry.(for anyone who has tried to do the simplest of tasks with frozen hands you know where I am coming from with this one) On the way back, low and behold.,. A big fat rabbit pops out and decided to hop across my path. well……………let’s just say that said rabbit was in for a very bad series of events starting with the fact that he could not outrun a load of #6 steel shot from my Mossberg. I usually don’t dress rabbit in the field as it is easier to stuff them in my pack and do it in the comfort of home later. I would have done it to post some tips on the forum but I guess the pictures may have been a little graphic for some. I respect the fact that some people don’t care much for hunting so I won’t post any pictures of that nature. (My camera was hopelessly frozen at this point anyway)
The walk back to my truck was even colder as the wind was in my face. I had to break out the snow goggles because the moisture from my breath was freezing to my eyelashes causing them to stick together.(fun times) On arriving at my truck it took several tries to start it due to the cold, but no force on earth can stop a Dodge Ram 4 x 4. grin
In case any of you were wondering how the hell I take pictures of myself if I am alone, I took my wife’s camera to take a picture of my camera setup. I use my Bushnell spotting scope tripod. In this pick you can still see the ice on my camera after unloading my pack.


P.S -HACKSAW – if you read this, I know you want to purchase a gun soon so I wanted to add this. I switched from my Ruger 10/22 to my Mossberg 500 on this trip because past experience has shown me that the tiny action of a .22 cal WILL freeze up in these temperatures. As a fellow Albertan your field time will be just as cold as mine. This is not to discourage you from a semi-auto .22 but it is something to be aware of. You can use them with success but you must unload the gun and work the action back and forth at least every 20-30 minutes to prevent the metal from sticking. I have had problems with the rotary magazine of the 10/22 freezing as well. It takes a lot to freeze up a good pump action though. Granted I still had to work the action a bunch of times. The biggest concern for me is the buildup of snow and ice inside the barrel of a rifle.(especially the small .22) You have to be constantly vigilant that your barrel is free from obstruction before you fire or it will be a very bad day. A small bit of tape over the tip of your barrel will prevent this.
A fresh rabbit stew is bubbling on the stove as I finish this post, to be followed by a HOT shower and a tall glass of 18 year old Glenfiddich scotch. That should put the warmth back in my blood. I hope this info may have been useful to someone here.

#122439 - 02/03/08 04:13 AM Re: My latest frozen adventure [Re: Taurus]
Blast Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 07/15/02
Posts: 3561
Loc: Spring, Texas
I'm raising a glass of brandy to my lips in your honor. Thanks for the great review, as usual it was filled with many useful thoughts. I vaguely remember cold weather, mainly that it sucks. eek

We can argue about advantages/disadvantages of gear till the cows come home but there is NO disadvantage to being fit in any situation life throws at you so I fail to understand why most people I know neglect this area the most.

Because exersizing is hard but reading a book or buying some techno-magical peice of gear is easy.

Blogging the Borderlands
Wild Edibles Blog
I miss OBG.

#122441 - 02/03/08 05:34 AM Re: My latest frozen adventure [Re: Blast]

Another excellent post! You've summed up sub -30 perfectly.

The gloves+mitts tip is an excellent one. I wear Helly Hansen poly glove liners under MEC 3 finger cycling mitts. It's nice to be able to take the mitts off and be semi dexterous without having to worry about sticking to anything frozen even if that's just a metal zipper pull. I've melted my last few pair...fire is deceptively hot, especially in the cold. I've carried a spare pair ever since the first time I did that!

Thanks again for the tip on the firearms. I'd be lying if I told you I haven't been thinking about a Mossberg 500 as a versatile and affordable first gun. The more we talk about guns in the cold, the more I wonder how the break action of a weapon like a Savage 24C would fare the cold...seems like it would have the fewest moving parts to freeze up...an important thing to consider when you factor our 6+ months of freezing weather in Alberta.

#122452 - 02/03/08 12:19 PM Re: My latest frozen adventure [Re: Taurus]
SwampDonkey Offline

Registered: 07/08/07
Posts: 1268
Loc: Northeastern Ontario, Canada
Terrific Post and Adventure Taurus, Thanks for taking us along with you.


#122454 - 02/03/08 01:46 PM Re: My latest frozen adventure [Re: Taurus]
OldBaldGuy Offline

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
Man, I don't know how you guys do that. Right now it is 54 here, partly cloudy, with about 5-10 mph winds. Cold enough for me!!!

#122455 - 02/03/08 01:57 PM Re: My latest frozen adventure [Re: SwampDonkey]
KenK Offline
"Be Prepared"

Registered: 06/26/04
Posts: 2018
Loc: NE Illinois

Nice post!

Did you by chance bring a GPS along? I'm wondering if the display even worked at those temperatures. It has been around -5F here recently and I meant to take some electronics out, let them cold soak for a while, and then see how they behaved. But, it was too cold out to do that. I'm kidding - I just didn't think about it until it got warmer.

What kind of tripod is that you were using? Is that one of the waterproof Sony cameras?

Ken K.

#122456 - 02/03/08 02:58 PM Re: My latest frozen adventure [Re: Taurus]
bsmith Offline
day hiker

Registered: 02/15/07
Posts: 584
Loc: ventura county, ca
Originally Posted By: Taurus
I enjoy hiking, but it is far more interesting with a gun.

i've heard that 'hunting is hiking with a purpose'. grin

an excellent post that made me put on warmer clothes just reading it. you really captured your day.

living in southern california, i can only imagine.

thank you.

“Everyone should have a horse. It is a great way to store meat without refrigeration. Just don’t ever get on one.”
- ponder's dad

#122460 - 02/03/08 03:40 PM Re: My latest frozen adventure [Re: Taurus]

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 1835

rabbit stew and a glass of whisky--sounds like dinner in the
Old Country..have you tryed washing the gun parts in boiling
water to get the oil off in the sub zero weather..thats a
tip i hear about but have never tryed..
we had some cold weather down here--only 14 below..i thought
i would try out my fire starting gear i carry on the inside
pocket of my parka--not much..matches--candle--so on a dog
hike by the Mississippi River i pulled some sticks in a pile
and found out right away that the INSIDE of the parka is not
the place to carry stuff like that..i had to unzip and open
the jacket--and unzip the inside pocket,all the while geting
cold fast--i of course was able to get a fire going to
say i did it but i have now switched the fire making gear
to an outside pocket so i don't have to exposed myself to
weather to get to it..

#122461 - 02/03/08 03:43 PM Re: My latest frozen adventure [Re: bsmith]
MDinana Offline

Registered: 03/08/07
Posts: 2184
Loc: Deep south... Carolina
You're nuts. But, thank you for being such a source of info on cold weather survival. Being from SoCal myself, this Michigan weather is a PITA - but looking at you, I find myself not able to complain.

Thanks for the info on the 10/22; I guess I'll keep mine nice and dry in the basement (plus, they frown on carrying weapons in Detroit!). Out of curiousity, how are bolt-actions in that weather? I've got a Russian M-44. I assume Russians know something about firearms in the cold, but I sure won't go outside with it and figure it out!

1 other question: do you find that you "get used to" your weather when it's that extreme? I usually walk my dog about an hour daily, but here it's only about 20F. I'm noticing that I'll be OK in a t-shirt and my jacket (whereas earlier in the year, I'd have a sweatshirt on too). In other words, do you think it helps to force yourself into that weather, or do you just end up freezing your butt off no matter what?

Thanks for another great post!

#122471 - 02/03/08 05:07 PM Re: My latest frozen adventure [Re: MDinana]
PackRat Offline

Registered: 09/23/05
Posts: 56
As a fellow Albertan and an avid photographer I understand your issue with electronics.

I use a chest pack camera bag for my digital SLR, when snowshoeing and skiing, and use reusable hand warmers in the bag to keep things functioning. The padded bag insulates well and I can usually work for a couple of hours before I need to add a new hand warmer.

The camera is usually out and back in the bag fairly quickly so it does not cool down that much. For other electronics like GPS that might be out for longer periods of time I will sometimes tape one of the disposable hand warmers to the GPS to keep it working. The disposable hand warmers need to interact with oxygen to work so do not seal it up with tape so that it can breath.

For water I use a Nalgene bottle in an insulated jacket and will drop one of the reusable hand warmers into the bottle to help keep it from freezing. The reusable warmers are usually made with food grade material so I am not worried about them possibly leaking. The Nalgene is usually my primary water source and I keep a thermos full of hot water wrapped in clothes deep in my pack as an emergency supply of warm water.

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