Notes on surviving in the winter:
The winter can be so fun, we love to go skiing, snowboarding, fishing, hiking, whatever. However it can be quite the harsh mistress as well, all too easily you could lose yourself among the uniform trees in the snow covered forest. You could easily fall through ice while fishing and be in a survival situation immediately. The obvious challenge here is that it’s cold and dark. So how can we best overcome this if something bad should happen? The answer is clear, BE PREPARED. It turns out the Boy Scouts were on to something with this.
The easiest thing you can do is try not to panic, try to think of where you were, and which direction would be best to walk back to safety. In most areas of New Mexico, you will likely find people. They’re everywhere. Without a compass this is easily done with the sun. Around here, it always rises in the east and sets in the west. This should give you some idea of where to go. On a cloudy day one can cast a shadow on some reflective surface like the edge of a knife and still pick up where the sun is likely at. The snow will also be thicker on northern slopes due to the lack of sunlight in the northern hemisphere. The opposite is true in the southern hemisphere. Along the same wavelength, but less reliable, many mountains in New Mexico often have more vegetation, be it moss on trees or the trees themselves, on the northern side of the mountain, as it receives less sunlight than the southern side. This is only a generalization however, and one should always carry a compass especially if nightfall is upon you, and in most cases two compasses are handy. Many people can become quite stubborn when they “think they are right” and it has been documented that many will choose not to believe a compass if they think it’s wrong. They will assume it is faulty. With two compasses, it is VERY unlikely that they are wrong, and being a very small lightweight tool, why not throw an extra key chain version on your coat zipper for luck? Having the right gear is always important, but nothing can beat a little knowledge.
That being said, why not carry a little extra gear? I don’t know how many times I’ve been in a situation where my day pack has come in so handy. In fact, I always leave it packed and ready to go in my car just in case. Beyond getting lost in the woods, I’ve also been stranded due to car trouble, you just never know. So, what do I keep in there that’s so handy you ask?
It is very important to think of safety, food, rescue, shelter, among other things, but with that in mind this is what I carry:
First Aid Kit
Full Water Bottle (Metal, to be able to cook, boil water)
Para Cord (Make Shelter)
Lighter (Because in the words of Mykel Hawke “Bring a damn lighter!”)
Duct Tape (A few feet at the very least)
Knife (You should always have one of these anyway)
You don’t want to bog yourself down too much, but just keep in mind “what if”. All of the things above are fairly lightweight and most you should have anyway if you go out in the wilderness.
So, stay safe, and read up! I’ll have more safety advice in the spring issue! Have fun until then!