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Bugging out in the winter can be a harsh reality if the SHTF during the cold season. You’ll often hear about some of the best items to put in your bug out bag or even best practices to find resources when the SHTF, but you seldom hear about doing all of that in the winter.
For a lot of people, bugging out is usually pictured in warm temperatures where things are relatively easy to accomplish. Once you add freezing temperatures and an abundance of precipitation to the mix, it tends to change things up.
If you’re new to bugging out or want some tips for the colder season, this guide will give you some valuable advice if you have to bug out in the winter.
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What Does Bugging Out in the Winter Mean?
If you need to leave quickly, you are effectively bugging out. Bugging out in the winter means the same thing but during the winter months. Depending on your location, winter can be a hindrance for up to six months of the year.
Many bug out articles will teach you effective strategies and what to carry in survival situations, but will generally only focus on temperate environments that have temperatures above freezing. Having multiple bug out plans and loadouts is the key to being prepared in case you have to evacuate in six feet of snow.
How Does it Differ From The Rest of the Year?
Winter provides its own set of unique obstacles and rules in which living can be difficult if you’re not prepared. Simple tasks such as walking require more energy, and the temperature can introduce potentially serious issues such as frostbite.
Here are some of the major differences you have to account for when bugging out in the winter:
- Less humidity in the air during the winter leads to dehydration quickly.
- Increased winds reduce the temperature, this is called the windchill.
- Food is scarce as this isn’t when the majority of food grows or wanders.
- Hypothermia and frostbite can quickly cause a situation to deteriorate.
- Starting a fire becomes a necessity.
Gear Requirements Change in the Winter
Survivalists live by a unique mantra during the winter season; stay comfortably cool while active and comfortably warm while stationary. This ensures that you minimize the chance of sweating. While sweating in the summer is great to help cool us off, in the wintertime, it can easily lead to a severe hypothermic situation.
A good example of an ideal gear loadout involves packing extra clothing, with the majority of it being insulating layers that can help ward off different weather conditions. Waterproof outer layers will protect against wind, rain, and snow.
Start Educating Yourself Now
One of the best ways to build up the ideal winter kit is to learn about the land around you. Basic bushcraft skills are incredible assets during the wintertime since you can use them to build shelters, start a fire, and build simple tools. Knowing how to create these things using the resources around you helps lighten the load in your pack, making travel easier.
There are incredible resources out there in handy field guides that break a lot of the bushcraft techniques down into easily digestible chunks. A great starter set would be The Bushcraft Box set as it includes basic, advanced, and even medical knowledge for surviving out in the wilderness.
5 Winter Bug Out Tips You Need To Remember
Surviving the wintry elements can be difficult in normal circumstances, but under the pressure of an expedited escape, it can prove nearly impossible to pull off.
Learning how to bug out in the winter doesn’t mean re-writing the book as many of the standard bug out tips can still apply. It simply means that we have to add some modifications to the existing plan so that it can work in any climate or environment.
Here are the top tips to remember in addition to your usual bug out plan and gear. Keep in mind that it is up to you to do a lot of the reconnaissance work in your area as some of these tips may not apply to your direct location.
1. Plan Your Gear For All Weather Types
The first tip to help you in a winter bug out situation involves the gear that you’ll be using. Expect cold temperatures during the day and colder temperatures once the sun dips behind the horizon. One of the easiest ways to plan your winter bug out kit is to remember the Five C’s of Survivability as described by Dave Cantebury.
- Cutting Tools (knife, hatchet)
- Covering (shelter, clothes, sleep system)
- Combustion Devices (ferro rod, flint and steel, lighters)
- Containers (metal pot)
- Cordages (paracord, rope)
Having something from each of the above categories is a necessity and not just a minimum requirement for surviving in the winter. It’s best to have a backup of each of these items since problems can happen in the field.
If you aren’t familiar with making shelters using wood, rocks, and manual labor, then you’ll want a tarp, tent, or hammock to sleep in at night. Without some form of shelter, you and your gear are exposed to the elements.
Water filtration is important and in a winter situation, a normal membrane filter like a Lifestraw may not cut it. This is because water that is stuck inside the membrane can freeze and expand, damaging the delicate filter.
Never eat fresh snow. Instead, boil it down in a container using a fire. This method takes a long time but can ensure you have clean drinking water. Aquatabs or an iodine and vitamin C combination are chemical water purification methods.
The type of fuel you use in the winter matters as products such as butane and isobutane won’t work when the temperature gets below 32°F (0°C). If you plan on using a cooking stove, then propane or white gas are your best options.
2. Learn What Natural Resources Are Around You
Even seasoned survivalists won’t go into an area unless they’ve done some prior research. If you’ve lived in an area long enough, then you more than likely know a lot about what kinds of plants, trees, and other resources are around during the winter.
There is still a lot of value to be found in the now-dormant natural resources around you. In the absence of berries and fresh leaves, you can find nutrition in roots and coniferous needles.
In many urban environments, you can find common plantain still peeking out from in between cracks in the sidewalks, which is a powerful all-purpose medicinal plant.
Cattail is often seen growing alongside highways, and the brown puffy tops can be fluffed out and used as a hand warmer or firestarter. Additionally, the roots can be eaten if dug up.
Picking up some identification books is key in your understanding of what can be used medicinally or functionally. Some come in easily packable pamphlets that you can tuck away in your bug out bag as reference materials.
3. Update Your Winter Bug Out Bag Periodically
Packing your bag properly is about proper weight distribution with heavier items centered on your back to reduce fatigue. Items frequently accessed need to be closer to the top or in exterior pockets.
If possible, put a dry bag inside the main pocket of your pack. This added moisture barrier will ensure your items stay dry. Keep in mind that it might reduce the amount of available space inside your pack using this method.
Clothing will be something that will change seasonally as you more than likely won’t need shorts in the winter. Change out those light summer pants for some merino wool base layers and your ankle socks for thicker wool socks.
The basic concept of dressing in the winter involves multiple thinner layers instead of one thicker layer. As the air in between the layers heats up, it makes it easier to strip a single layer if you get too hot, preventing sweating from happening.
The nice thing about bug out bags is that they can double as camping packs in a pinch. It gives you a chance to test out the winter gear in real-world situations. Updating your pack frequently can ensure that you remain familiar with everything in it and that the items inside work effectively.
4. Avoid Crossing Frozen Waterways
There are countless reports of people falling through ice and drowning from either the initial shock of the cold or the fact that they could not surface again. These are very dangerous circumstances and without proper training, should be avoided altogether.
The surface ice on a waterway can be turbulent, meaning it’s weak because of the current still moving underneath. If there have been a few warm days in between freezing, the ice could be weakened, allowing for someone to plunge through. Try to find an alternate route, even if it takes a little more time. It’s better than risking your life.
If your particular situation requires you to make a frozen water crossing, then wearing snowshoes can help displace a lot of your weight. Do not try to break through the ice to check its thickness as that can send cracks outward, putting you in more danger.
5. Don’t Skimp On The Calories
You burn more calories in the wintertime than at any other time of the year. This is largely due to your body needing to maintain its body temperature in a much colder climate. Activities require much more energy as snow and ice prove a hindrance for many.
Be sure to eat plenty of fat and protein which are essential for slow-burn energy. You’ll often find that a diet of ethically sourced meat can provide you with enough energy for hours. Root vegetables and beans are great substitutes if you can’t find fresh meat anywhere.
Aside from that, you can rely on natural energy boosters such as dried fruit, coconut oil, and herbal teas.
If you can keep your energy levels high through power-packed foods, then you’ll be able to do more for longer periods. It’ll also help keep you warm as your metabolism provides you with heat as it works away at the calories you’ve consumed.
If you have a bug out kit already arranged and put away, then you’ve already done half the work. Creating a second bag or swapping the contents for winter survival will ensure you’re not caught off guard in the warmer months.
The necessities for a living don’t change once the snow starts flying; they just get more difficult to obtain.
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