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June 2012 Issue
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10 essential winter tips

Winter presents unique challenges for those who want to get outside and explore the backcountry. Survival expert Stu Gilbert offers 10 tips and reminders to help see you through.

Skill set – Your equipment and techniques that work for summer may not be suitable or successful in winter.

Training – Elementary cold weather techniques, skills and methods should be practised and maintained before you need them.

Environmental Conditions – The wind and temperature have the greatest effect on living conditions. Prevent against cold weather injuries like frost nip, snow blindness and hypothermia. Snow can hide many hidden dangers, avalanches, and crevasses. Familiarity with the environment will build confidence but should not extend to over confidence. The environment doesn’t care if you live or die but you family and friends do.

Equipment – You’ll need to have a good knowledge of and be able to use equipment that is suitable for cold environments. Bring your equipment inside your shelter at night when sleeping and never place equipment on the ground without it being secure – losing an item like a glove could have major consequences.

Clothing – Use a layering system to help regulate your body temperature.

Go to bed warm – Carrying out light exercise, drinking and eating something hot prior to jumping into your sleeping bag will help you sleep better.

Stick to marked tracks – Don’t rely on following your footprints back from wherever you have travelled. They can get snowed over or blown in.

Survival kit – Carry a small compact container with specific items to assist in a survival situation. Include things like flint, hand and feet warmers, light stick and a survival blanket.

Stay hydrated – It’s easy to forget to drink in cold weather, but dehydration can affect your thinking and performance.

Route selection – If you are new to winter tramping, select routes within your limits until you have some experience under your belt.

Stu Gilbert is a former Air Force survival instructor now running SOS Survival Training