It happens to thousands of motorists every winter. Unfortunately, it also happens to many people who just went out for a fun afternoon snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking. Fortunately, being stranded in the snow doesn’t have to end in tragedy, and it often can simply be avoided. Let’s look at common-sense approaches to surviving when stranded in the snow.
Prevention & Preparation
Prevention and preparation are the best approaches to ensure survival if you’re stranded in the snow. The following suggestions will help in that effort.
- Avoid it. The best way to survive being stranded in the snow is never to get in the situation in the first place. Check weather reports before traveling or going outside and away from shelter for long periods. Be smart and avoid being out in extreme weather if possible.
- Pack an emergency kit. Always have some essentials with you. No matter your mode of travel, carrying extra water, food, and layers is crucial should you become stranded. Beyond this, use a good checklist, like the ones available at Ready.gov in their Winter Storms and Extreme Survival section, to help you prepare your vehicle or backpack for your winter excursion.
- Take your cell phone. Of course, make sure it’s fully charged before heading out. Contacting help right away can mean the difference between life and death. Don’t rely on your phone as your only emergency plan, though.
- Tell someone your plans. Tell them where you’re going, how you plan to get there (your route), and when you plan to arrive or return. That way, help can be sent as soon as you miss your designated times. When cold weather is a factor, never deviate from your plans if possible.
- Take extra. You have your emergency kit, but packing extra water, layers of clothing and blankets, and food is always a good idea. Especially when traveling by car, there’s no reason not to have extras of these items on hand. Investing in a comfortable and lightweight backpack for these items is essential when participating in outdoor snow activities.
5 Tips to Survive Being Stranded in the Snow
Unfortunately, avoiding being stranded in the snow is simply not always possible. So when it does happen, adhere to the following tips to ensure your survival.
- Stay put. In most cases, staying where you are is your best option.
- Be smart with your supplies. Make a plan for rationing everything and stick to your plan. You simply never know how long you’ll be stranded.
- Signal for help. Use your cell phone if possible. If it’s not working, there are other options for signaling for help, like raising your car’s hood, placing shiny objects (like mirrors and CDs) around your location, and laying bright clothing on the snow. And, of course, making a fire will not only help you stay warm, but it will also indicate your location.
- Stay warm. You can survive 30 days without food and 3 days without water. However, you can only survive 3 hours without warmth. This is where extra layers of clothing and blankets are essential whenever going any distance away from shelter in cold weather. If possible, take items for starting a fire for warmth and signaling.
- Hydrate. Second only to warmth when stranded in cold weather is hydration. As already mentioned, be sure to ration water appropriately. If you run out, consider options for melting snow into drinkable water. Do not eat the snow, as it will lower your body temperature quickly and increase the rate at which you’ll succumb to hypothermia. Also, note that staying hydrated at all times, whether traveling or not, allows you to be better prepared should an emergency happen.
Even the most careful person can get stranded and lost in the snow, but you never have to be unprepared for it. Instead, use the above tips to prevent tragedy and ensure survival if it ever happens to you.
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