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Bugging out is essentially a last ditch effort to ensure your survival and that of your family. This is especially true in winter, which is the worst time to have to face a bug out scenario. In the winter, especially in colder climates, it is far better to stay in place rather than set out on a trek for safer ground. But if this is not an option, there are some concerns you need to seriously contemplate before you shoulder your bug out bag and head out the door.
Your mind is your number one tool in a disaster situation. As an athlete prepares his body for the sports season, you also need to prepare your mind for the eventuality of an emergency. Many preppers take great pains to put together a bug out bag, but without considering how their materials should complement their location. Having a safe and warm destination to hole up in is every bit as important, if not more so, than what goes into your bag.
Here is something else to consider: Cold stress can drain your will power as quickly as any other stressor. Tasks that may have been easy in the warmth of your home can become unbearably frustrating out in the woods in freezing temperatures. Cold stress, in combination with the following factors, can quickly drain your mental energy. It can also tax your body physically. While calorie consumption typically wanes around 2,000, it can peak at 6,000 for extremely active individuals in the cold.
Solution: Plan for every contingency. Then plan some more. Want to know what you will really be up against? Spend a night out in the winter with the gear you plan to have on hand for a real emergency.
In winter, traveling becomes more difficult. Locations and routes that you’ve charted out ahead of time might end up buried in several feet of snow. Keep in mind roads may be impassable to vehicles, so your only option may be to walk, which can become life threatening quickly if you aren’t properly geared up for the expedition.
Solution: Plan your bug out location somewhere you can access in the winter via multiple routes and means of travel. Be familiar with the road conditions in all seasons. Have cross country skis or snowshoes on hand if foot travel is unavoidable.
Unless you have a cache, finding food in winter food will be a time consuming process. It is not impossible, but it is much easier to find in warmer seasons. Densely loaded survival rations and bars can be a Band-Aid solution for your food needs until you’re able to locate a more sustainable source of food. Even if you have a gun and plenty of ammo, wildlife may be scarce.
Solution: Limit food items you carry to those with high calories. Hide a cache of food where no one else (nor foraging critters) can discover it. Stay close enough to town or a storage supply so you can make forage runs if necessary.
If you think your pile of wood is large enough, think again. Typically, you will need five times as much fuel wood than you might normally go through to keep yourself warm through the night. Keep in mind that the tinder and wood you find will likely be damp. If you’re bugging in rather than striking out, make sure to keep your lumber properly racked and weatherproofed with resistant sheeting.
Solution: Include cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly in a tightly-sealed bag for an easy fire starter when dampness and cold makes traditional methods difficult. Include waterproof matches and flint. If you come across any unusable vehicles or cushions along your path, you can gut padding and stuff it into your clothing as a last-resort insulator.
Without shelter in the winter, your prep might be cut far shorter than you intended. If you have no idea where you might bug-out, you should stay at a shelter unless made absolutely impossible by a lack of vital resources. If you must strike out, it is crucial to know how to find shelter from wind chill – which can quickly turn deadly in subfreezing temperatures. That being said, it doesn’t take too much to make a shelter that will keep you out of the elements.
Solution: Take advantage of a source of insulation all around you—snow. Burrow a small space under the snow and pile more on top. Include a small entryway, as demonstrated by igloos. Look for south facing hillsides that will attract more heat from the sun. Scout around beforehand for caves or abandoned structures. Keep in mind these places may attract others that know about them as well, so always be prepared to negotiate with others when your preps fall through.
If you are forced to leave your home and take to the elements, keep the above things in mind. Remember, bugging out into the winter elements should only happen because you’ve run out of other viable options. But with the proper mindset and planning, it is possible to keep yourself alive and well for the long term – no matter what the forecast predicts.