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#245770 - 05/09/12 08:10 PM COLD situation priorities
Chisel Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 12/05/05
Posts: 1154
Please take time to see through these videos from the Survival Adventure Network. They show a couple of survival situations where volunteers are cold and discusses their priorities.

SAN Cold Water & Hypothermia Prevention

SAN Cold Weather Break Down Part 1

SAN Cold Weather Break Down Part 2

SAN Cold Weather Break Down Part 3

SAN Cold Weather Break Down Part 4.wmv

SAN Cold Weather Breakdown Review by SAN Survivor

SAN Review and Follow Up.wmv

#245771 - 05/09/12 08:18 PM Re: COLD situation priorities [Re: Chisel]
Chisel Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 12/05/05
Posts: 1154
Briefly your car or canoe broke down and there you are spending a cold night ... but have about one hour before sunset where you can build shelter , find enough firewood for the whole cold night , and at the same time, you have to dry your wet clothing.

I was wondering in such a scenrio, if it was best to spend the first hour running around collecting wood, and not start fire at that stage. My reasons are :

- You really have no choice but collect wood, because after sunset you have to stay put
- No matter how cold it would be initially , it would be even colder at night because(a) it is night, and (b) you are statonary in your shelter so your body temp will drop. In such a situation it is better to push yourself to gather wood in that first hour instead of sitting at the fire .
- Running or moving will help warm you up, although not suiffciently but it won't be as cold as six hours later

So guys what do you think ???
Would you gather wood until darkness forces you to stop and then start your fire , or would you FIRST build a small fire and dry yourself , then think about more fuel ??

#245774 - 05/09/12 09:03 PM Re: COLD situation priorities [Re: Chisel]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
I haven't read your scenarios but the specifics besides time to darkness are really important: what season, what is the ambient temperature, is it raining or snowing, how wet are you, what terrain are you in, is your car or canoe still accessible to you? Alaska in winter is far different than the Boundary Waters in summer. Cars are qualitatively a much better shelter for a wet person than no shelter or even a canoe.

Taking out the extremes, I would first stop and assess my situation - what kind of shelter do I have, how wet am I, do I have any other clothes to change into that aren't wet? Can I set up a signal that would attract rescuers in the time before darkness?

If I'm irrevocably wet, I would plan on staying up all night, focusing on not getting any wetter, and trying to stay away from hypothermia. Walking, pacing, jumping jacks. If its raining or snowing, I would focus on shelter - my car or an upturned canoe for starters. Either will keep me directly out of the elements and trap a fair amount of heat, although either will also make a nice coffin in the wrong circumstances. I would gather whatever ground cover I can such as tree branches for insulation under me and over me, and wait the night out. During the night I might have to trade some time out in the wet and cold for time getting my engine (internal heat) running again. I would eat a fair amount of my food rations to ensure I could keep my engine running through the first cold night - assuming I survive, I can focus on drying out and warming up during the next day, and reduce my rations for the amount of time I expect to be lost. Given any adverse circumstances where there is a deficiency in my clothing/insulation or I keep getting cold and wet, I would focus on staying awake to stay alive that first night, and continue to improvise to improve my shelter or my degree of wetness. If I die, I can sleep then.

In reality I carry overnight preps with me on any excursions, but I assume in your scenario those get dumped in the water or lost along the way. If I'm lucky I'll find a cedar tree, which have enough needles underneath and cover from rain above to afford me a chance at surviving a fairly cold night, with maybe some sleep. Or again, a nice final resting spot if the weather doesn't hold.

Edited by Lono (05/09/12 09:06 PM)

#245781 - 05/10/12 02:40 AM Re: COLD situation priorities [Re: Chisel]
Pete Offline

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1347
I'll give it a shot.

assuming that I had some spare clothes that were dry - i would dry off, put on the dry clothes, and i would immediately start gathering all the firewood I could possibly find. and also some stones for heating in the fire. but definitely i would use all the available light to get the max amount of fuel. while walking i would chew some food (granola bars) if it was available. and while gathering wood, i would check for any obvious edible food in the area. i would also find some kindling.

if all the clothes were wet - none dry - then that is a serious situation. i would try to dry myself with leaves, put on whatever clothes were available that gave some protection (wring them out), and gather some wood as quickly as possible. get a small fire going and get the wet clothes started with the drying process, and then be gathering more wood while this was going on.

i've been borderline hypothermic a few times ... it's no fun and i take it pretty seriously.


Edited by Pete (05/10/12 02:43 AM)

#245787 - 05/10/12 04:22 AM Re: COLD situation priorities [Re: Chisel]
Richlacal Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 02/11/10
Posts: 778
Loc: Los Angeles, CA
As I've done in a similar situation,I would strip out of clothing,Wring the daylights out of my clothes,beat them against dry rocks,then put my underwear back on,leaving my outer clothes to dry abit on more dry rocks,while I gather fuel for a fire,& assess my present scenario while feeding the flames & adjusting positions of drying clothes,hopefully boiling some water in something!

#245790 - 05/10/12 11:25 AM Re: COLD situation priorities [Re: Richlacal]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6582
Loc: southern Cal
I can speak from actual experience on this one. Deciding on a spot to shelter and build a fire is the first critical decision; it influences all that follows. It is important that it is sheltered enough that you can build and sustain the fire you will ignite. Even in the desert, fuel is not going to be much of a problem (well, most places)

My priority would be to get the fire lit and burning well. Most times you can actually gather fire wood well after dark; after all, night comes on gradually - you will have about an hour after sunset before you lose all light, and even then, if the moon is up, or your fire is burning well, you will have additional light.

In one of my actual situations, we (a group of four) had stopped moving because we were in steep terrain and were concerned that we would suffer injury if we persisted. It was already dark, we had no flashlight (!). After we built our fire, we were easily able to gather additional fuel safely.

I would say, based on my own episodes and dealing first hand with those of others, that building a fire is the difference between life and death in a good many situations. For one thing, you are no longer moving, so that means you will not fall off the cliff and die. You will get warmer, even if your clothing is wet - you have all night to dry out and several ways to do it. You are also signalling your presence to others, who may be able to assist you (I have witnessed this numerous times).

The psychological value of the fire is immense. It calms and relaxes you, even as it warms. It also provides a focus for the group, and facilitates productive interaction.

In my first ever SAR, a while back, we were searching for three young men who died of exposure in a ferocious snow storm. Investigation revealed that they had tried to light a fire at least twice - unsuccessfully. I made very sure that I have the means to make fire when I go out - I have never regretted the modest extra weight.

There is of course the flip side,where a fire was lit in dry, extreme conditions, triggering mammoth conflagrations, but that is probably fuel for another discussion. I have seen that also. Keep your head screwed on tight when dealing with fire.
Geezer in Chief

#245795 - 05/10/12 03:25 PM Re: COLD situation priorities [Re: hikermor]
AKSAR Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/31/11
Posts: 1111
Loc: Alaska
Yes, what hikermor said!

A fire can quickly change things from a grueling "we may die" survival situation into a "this will be a great story over beers when I get back to town" adventure.
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas any more."
-Dorothy, in The Wizard of Oz

#245810 - 05/11/12 12:18 AM Re: COLD situation priorities [Re: AKSAR]
thseng Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/24/06
Posts: 899
Loc: NW NJ
I watched the first video - seems to be pretty realistic. However, I consider the mythical "pile of firewood big enough to last all night" to be something like Bigfoot: occasionally glimpsed, but always disapears into thin air before you can get a good look.

Couple more thoughts: In general, sitting up by the fire all night is my least favorite thing to do - I much prefer a fully enclosed shelter. I'd probably start by building a very large fire and try to dry off as quickly as possible. Never built a "fire bed" but this might be a place for one. You're boots are probably not going to be really dry by the morning, or the next one. An extra pair of dry socks goes a long way. Jeans... better to just take them off.
- Tom S.
Mora Knives & Adventurer Series Survival Gear

"Never trust and engineer who doesn't carry a pocketknife."

#245817 - 05/11/12 02:38 PM Re: COLD situation priorities [Re: Chisel]
bacpacjac Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 3599
Loc: Ontario, Canada
I found the first video showed an interesting range of mental attitudes. Two of guys (FLA and EMT) look pretty comfortable. One guy is kind of middle of road. They set up decent shelters and got their fires going to dry their clothes and boil water. At the opposite end of the spectrum was the guy that sat around whining about how wet and cold everything was. He didn't do anything about it, mind you. It looked to me like he didn't do much of anything except whine which proved to me, once gain, that positive pro-active action is the name of the game.
Mom & Adventurer

You can find me on YouTube here:

#245822 - 05/11/12 04:25 PM Re: COLD situation priorities [Re: Chisel]
ILBob Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 02/05/10
Posts: 776
Loc: Northern IL
I guess a lot depends on the specific circumstances of an actual situation as opposed to something like this that is contrived.

I suspect a canoe would make a pretty decent makeshift shelter, as would a car.

However, I don't know how well a fire is going to work to keep you warm if you are inside a car.

The wet side of it bothers me. Obviously getting dry is a priority, especially with the cold. But, there are degrees of both wet and cold. If there is no wind, the wet is far less of an issue IMO. I also think it matters just what part of you is wet. Wet extremities are far less of an issue than wet core body areas. I have had pretty much soaked pants legs from the knees down in 15-20 deg F temps and it was not much of an issue when there was no wind. A 15 MPH breeze changes that a lot. Wet feet can be very unpleasant in cold temperatures.

I think the suggestion of wringing out one's clothes to get as much water out as possible probably makes as much sense as any for a first priority.

Collecting as much firewood as you might need for the night is probably a second priority. I also agree with the poster who suggested no pile of firewood is ever enough to last the night.

I don't know what forests these guys are in, but some of the ones I have been in can get very dark very fast. It may be possible to see in a clearing with moon light or the waning sun, and often is, but how much firewood can you find in a clearing? I think you have to go collecting while you have enough light to see by.

Warning - I am not an expert on anything having to do with this forum, but that won't stop me from saying what I think. smile


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