How To Survive Being Stranded In Snow

Strategies to employ in order to survive being stranded in the snow

For most people, the thought of being stranded in the snow is a bewildering experience. Unprepared, untrained, and ill equipped, they lack the proper resources necessary to know what to do if such an unfortunate occasion should arise. Without a doubt, being stranded in the snow can test the willpower, strength, and limits of the human machine, but there are certain strategies and tips one can employ to increase the chances of not only surviving such a harrowing experience, but walking away both intact and alive.

Dangers Associated with being Stranded in the Snow

1. Hypothermia is an omnipresent danger to anyone exposed to low temperatures, even for short periods of time. Hypothermia can either be mild or severe and must be treated without delay. The symptoms of mild hypothermia include uncontrolled shivering, poor coordination, and blue lips. In order to relieve the symptoms of mild hypothermia, warm your body by adding more clothes, get out of the elements and into the warmth of a sleeping bag or protected shelter, consume calories, rehydrate, or if no other option is available, keep moving and expending energy until the symptoms abate. If left untreated, mild hypothermia can rapidly lead to severe hypothermia and death.

2. Frostbite is another common danger to anyone stranded in the snow. Mild frostbite is characterized by a numbness and whitening of various parts of the body, especially the fingers and toes. To prevent frostbite, it is necessary that you keep your extremities covered and dry in freezing temperatures. If you do not have gloves or they have become compromised by melting snow, take them off and place your hands on your warm stomach until they are sufficiently thawed. Do not place them back into the wet gloves, as they are still susceptible to the effects of frostbite. Try covering your exposed hands with extra socks or any clothing you can afford to spare.

3. Although it is not often mentioned, snow blindness is a very real possibility when stranded in the snow. Snow blindness is caused by ultraviolet light striking the sensitive tissues within the eyes, causing excruciating pain and temporary blindness. Unfortunately, the only treatment for this sunburn of the cornea is time and aspirin if any are available. A good pair of sunglasses or snow goggles is the only preventative measure for snow blindness.

Ways to Survive Being Stranded in the Snow

1. If you are without map or compass, the first thing you want to do before you get lost any further is to look for familiar landmarks. If you can find familiar landmarks that you remember passing, attempt to retrace your steps to see if more familiar landmarks become visible. If nothing looks familiar and you are confused, do not attempt to find your way out, however appealing; you are likely to get lost even further.

2. If you cannot make sense of your surroundings, establish a camp. If you are alone, the easiest shelter to erect is a snow trench. Dig out a body sized tunnel in the snow, large enough to protect your body from the wind. The snow walls of the tunnel serve as the sides of your shelter and pine boughs or extra clothing can be strewn against the top to serve as a roof. Pine boughs or clothing can also serve as flooring in the structure to protect your body against the cold snow. Digging serves a second purpose as it promotes the body to stay warm which will help fend off hypothermia. A second option if the snow is windblown into drifts and is particularly deep, usually at least five feet, is to construct a snow cave. Again, the premise is simple but the task is time consuming and requires lots of physical exertion. Tunnel into a sloping hill of snow until there is adequate space for your body to be protected from the elements. Be sure to leave at least a foot of snow for the roof in order to protect against the tunnel caving in.

3. Rehydrate, rehydrate, rehydrate. Even if food is not available, it is important to drink water in order to stave off the potential for hypothermia as well as to keep your body functioning well and ridding itself of harmful toxins. Melted snow or stream water provides abundant sources of water. If you have your own water supply with you but it is frozen, try placing it against your warm skin in order to thaw it into a drinkable liquid.

4. Be creative with your emergency signaling devices. In lieu of mirrors and flares, try using CD's or any other shiny metallic devices to signal for help. Also use colorful clothing as a rescue aid by spreading it out on to an open field of snow. The color will stand out in stark contrast against the white blanket of snow and may just be the key to helping you get rescued.

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