By Mark Kaz

I remember it all too well, the season that didn’t want to end. It all started in November, 2013 and finished in late April, 2014. It was a grueling 6 month period, and for most of us, we wondered if it was ever going to end. From the first snowfall to the last and everything in between, the winter of 2014 was a season that we’d really like to forget.

When there is snow in November, in southern Michigan, it can be a sign of what’s to come. It sure did come: in the form of snow storm after snow storm and with the wind and cold as well. However, there I was, in my deer stand, watching the majestic snowflakes falling from the white cotton like clouds. The view was breathtaking, watching nature in its moment of beauty. As the season went on we were also challenged by a polar vortex that swept through in January, 2014.

I’m a hunter and fisherman, which is my passion and also how I make a living, which means I spend 75% of my time outdoors, I truly can appreciate and understand what it takes to keep and stay warm. The seasonal challenges I face as an employee and outdoorsman remind me how difficult it would be to bug out and survive the wrath of nature.  Winter is the season one should prepare for most and there are critical areas of survival that you should focus on to survive an extreme climate.  Here in Michigan we set a new snowfall record with 94.8 inches of snow in the winter season of 2014.

When it’s winter and one has chosen to bug out they must be sure they have an understanding of these three critical aspects of survival.  In this season bugging out becomes so much more difficult and there are key survival tips to remember.

  • Maintaining body function in winter has the utmost priority with proper hydration and food intake. You need to be sure your water and food supply doesn’t freeze and thus creating another challenge of maintaining body functions. The importance of this is extremely critical for many reasons besides the basics of water and food intake. Being dehydrated and hungry causes your body to use more energy to regulate itself.  Other side effects include the brain’s inability to think clearly and to make critical decisions.
  • Another important component in maintaining body function is keeping and staying warm. In an environment where you find trees and brush that are readily available for burning in the summer, they are now damp and wet due to late fall rains and snowfall. Building a fire for warmth without dry or seasoned wood could possibly turn into a life or death matter if temperatures begin to fall below freezing.  Eating a good hot meal will combat the cold and raise your body’s core temperature.
  • Staying and keeping dry will be a big factor in you reaching your bug out location. Not only your body but the change of clothes you have in your BOB will also have to remain dry. This means keeping your gear protected from the elements. Rain, snow and humidity always seem to find a way into places where you don’t want them. Be sure your essential gear is secure from these elements. Sweating inside your clothes causes major problems.  When the temperatures are near or below freezing you will feel the freezing effects from the sweat of your body.Having some type of portable structure or tarp in your BOB is a necessity. Constructing a lean to or shelter will hold the heat from your fire. This should give you enough time to dry any damp or wet clothing you have and warm up a MRE. If your family is with you, designate a plan of action and make everyone feel like their job is important.
  • Winter gear, clothes and thermals are something most people sometimes forget about. The added weight of winter gear will affect your efficiency of travel. Not only will this gear be in your BOB but it will be on you as well. The rule of thumb is to dress in layers With each layer contributes to more weight. Your BOB’s weight in winter may grow by almost 50 percent in a cold climate. However, with the advancements of technology, clothing has become much more dynamic with the addition of compression shirts and pants. My experience with these thermals has had positive results. They are lightweight, form fitting and stretchable for good comfort. Besides those advantages, you can find them in several different materials including wool blends.

The choice to bug out in the winter will be one of the most difficult things you’ll have to face. Being unprepared for winter survival could be a disaster in the making. Don’t fool yourself into thinking it’s not going to be that bad. Subfreezing temperatures are not that forgiving and neither are the rain, snow and wind. You should have survival supplies ready for the summer and winter climates that happen in your area.