You vs. The Winter: Who Wins?

February 2, 2023

By Brian Boone

It’s winter, so that means it’s also cold outside. But imagine for a moment that you get trapped outside, in the wilderness, in frigid temperatures, and have to rely only on your wits to survive. Stock your brain with these winter survival tips.


Ice and fire are pretty much opposite things, but one can be used to create the other and bring warmth to a freezing situation. Find a chunk of clear ice of about two inches in diameter or make one by leaving some water out in a cup or container overnight; it just has to be clear, or it won’t work. When it’s ready, use something sharp to cut it into an oblong lens shape and then polish it clean with a shirt sleeve or cloth. Make a fire pit and fill it with tinder such as dry twigs and leaves and stand over it with the ice lens pointed at the sun. Like a magnifying glass, the lens will catch sunlight and it will heat up, and inflame, the tinder. 


Did you get frostbite because you didn’t have on thick socks and high-quality boots during your winter sojourn? If you can’t get immediate medical attention, find shelter, and remove your wet shoes and socks. Don’t walk — your toes could literally snap off. Immerse your feet into very warm (not boiling water) and wait for them to thaw, although be forewarned that this is going to hurt. Dry them thoroughly and place fabric or cotton material in between the toes to prevent rubbing and keep them elevated.


Lost in the woods, in the cold, and you can’t get a phone signal to help GPS locate you? Take a paper clip, unbend it into a straight line, and stick one end into the little internal antenna socket on your smartphone. Bend the clip until it lays fiat against the back of the unit, and then secure it with gum or another adhesive. This makeshift antenna will boost reception by a bar or more. 


Finding shelter is the best way to survive the cold, but you may have to make your own. It’s okay — snow, if packed tightly and correctly, can insulate. Find as large a snowdrift as possible or accumulate snow into a large pile and form it into a dome. Then, dig a tunnel into your mass of snow. From the inside, hollow out a tight living space and keep the door narrow (to prevent warm air from escaping). Leave the roof and sides at least a foot thick to maintain structural integrity. Insulate it by laying light branches on the top and on the floor. Poor water on the roof to harden it into ice to give more insulation and stability.

For more wild tips on surviving in the wild, in any and every reason, check out How to Fight a Bear…and WinIt’s available now from Portable Press.