17 Survival Skills You’ll Need if You’re Alone in a Snowstorm

Thankfully, it’s very rare that people will find themselves alone in a snowstorm. However, if you’re an adventurous type or live in a more treacherous part of the world, it’s possible that you could end up in this unfortunate scenario. But worry not—to help you prepare, we’ve compiled a list of 17 survival skills you’ll need if you’re ever alone in a snowstorm.

Find or Create a Shelter

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One of your first priorities should be to find some form of shelter to shield yourself against the wind and snow. Even if you can’t make it into a house or other man-made shelter, you can use natural features like dense trees and overhangs to help protect yourself from the elements.

Stay Dry to Prevent Hypothermia

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Once you’re in a safer location, you could consider changing into dry clothes if possible. If you have waterproof layers, these can also be effective in protecting against moisture. Watch out for common signs of hypothermia, which include shivering, slurred speech, and confusion.

Signal for Help

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If your situation seems dangerous, it could be a good idea to create a visible signal for help in the snow, such as SOS or large shapes. You could also use brightly colored gear or fabric to wave someone down. If you have mirrors or flashlights, these can also be used to signal.

Maintain Hydration

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It’s incredibly important to ensure you’re looking after your basic needs until you can get back to safety again. You can maintain your hydration levels by melting snow for drinking water with a fire or using your body heat if needed. Avoid eating snow directly, as this can cool down your body temperature significantly.

Use Layered Clothing for Insulation

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If you have any other layers you can use, now is a good time to put them on. This will help you stay insulated and maintain your core body temperature. You should also adjust your layers to avoid sweating, as this can cool you down and reduce the efficiency of your insulation.

Build a Snow Shelter

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If you don’t have a tent or any other good form of shelter, you could build a snow shelter. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, snow can be a surprisingly good insulator. Make sure to poke ventilation holes in some parts of the shelter so fresh air can enter.

Start and Maintain a Fire

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Obviously, being trapped in a snowstorm can be pretty chilly. So if possible, it’s a good idea to warm yourself up in a sheltered spot by starting a fire. Use dry, dead branches from the lower parts of the tree or waterproof matches. Make sure to keep your fire protected from the snow and wind.

Navigate Safely

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Try to avoid traveling to other locations during the storm unless you feel it’s completely necessary. You can use natural landmarks or a compass to get your bearings. Consider marking your path with clear indicators if you do need to travel.

Collect and Store Food

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If you’re going to be in the storm for a while, you may want to see if you can find any edible plants or other food items nearby. Of course, you should also ration and make use of any food supplies you bring with you.

Recognize and Treat Frostbite

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According to the NHS, symptoms of frostbite include numbness, pale or white skin, and hard skin. If you think you may be developing frostbite, warm up the affected areas slowly using your body heat. However, you should avoid direct heat or rubbing, as this can damage the skin.

Prioritize Mental Health

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Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. So try to stay positive and focused on your survival tasks to maintain your concentration and morale. It could also be a good idea to use mindfulness and meditation techniques to calm you down.

Conserve Energy

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Try to avoid any unnecessary physical activity and movements to reduce your energy expenditure. If possible, you should stay in your sheltered spot and be as insulated as possible to minimize heat loss.

Monitor Weather Conditions

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To avoid ending up in a snowstorm in the first place, you should pay close attention to weather forecasts for any signs of dangerous conditions. If you’re already out in a snowstorm, observe changing weather patterns (such as increasing clouds or dropping temperatures) to prepare yourself for worsening conditions.

Stay Oriented

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Before venturing out into the wilderness, it’s a good idea to carry a compass and know how to use it to maintain your sense of direction. You can also use physical landmarks to keep yourself from getting lost. If you decide to travel, it’s best to choose one direction and stick to it to avoid going in circles.

Practice Snow Travel Techniques

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Prepare yourself before traveling in snowy conditions by learning how to properly walk in snow to conserve energy, such as by snowshoeing. You should also learn basic avalanche safety if you’re in a mountainous area.

Manage Food Intake

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Manage your food intake by eating high-energy, easily digested foods to help you keep up your energy levels. Be sure to ration non-perishable food items to ensure you have enough for however long you may be out in the storm.

Create Insulated Bedding

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If you need to sleep, you can use natural materials like pine branches or even snow to insulate your sleeping area from the cold floor. If you have any extra clothing items or blankets, you can put them underneath you to preserve your body heat.

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