Skip to main content Skip to main content

10 Ultimate Survival Tips for Winter Weather

10 Ultimate Survival Tips for Winter Weather

Winter can be a cruel thing.

Snow, while pretty, can wreak havoc on driving conditions. The aftermath of ice storms, while beautiful on a sunny day, can cut power to your home for days and make driving nearly impossible.

Take for example the Nevada family whose Jeep overturned in the Nevada mountains. James Glanton, 34, and Christina McIntee, 25, thought to stay with their vehicle, making it easier for rescuers to find them, reported CNN. They also thought to heat rocks in a fire, then place the heated rocks in the Jeep's spare tire to smokelessly heat their vehicle. By making use of some ultimate survival tips, they were able to stay alive.

Winter's not just tough on humans. In early December, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued a dog that fell through the ice of Sturgeon Bay, Wisc., according to a news release on the Coast Guard's website.

"The ice is really new right now, so it is really important to understand ice conditions," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Disher, officer-of-the-day at Station Sturgeon Bay. "In this case, the owner of the dog did the right thing by not trying to rescue her dog by herself and calling us for help instead."

According to the release, the dog rested at a veterinary clinic and went home with its owner.

To keep safe, the Coast Guard encourages the acronym I.C.E., which stands for "Intelligence, Clothing, Equipment." The Coast Guard hopes I.C.E. will help ice anglers and other outdoor sportsmen to know the weather and ice conditions before they venture out. Ice anglers should also dress for the water temperature rather than the air temperature and wear a life jacket. Screwdrivers tied on a string around your neck are also handy to claw your way out of the water if you should break through the ice.

What to Do if You Get Wet Outside

Paddling safety advocates say to keep an extra change of clothes in a dry bag if your vessel should tip. Wet clothing quickly wicks heat away from your body, and a situation can become dire quickly. Wear clothing made out of a synthetic material or wool, which can keep you warm even if it gets wet. Keep a map and know where the local roads are that correspond to the point in your trip. A dry bag with fire-building materials, a compass, your GPS, a cell phone and a marine radio can come in handy.

Winter Hiking Safety

The Washington Trails Association says hiking in the winter can be far more dangerous than in the summer. Know the area's avalanche conditions before you venture out, and have a portable shovel and avalanche beacon with you. Let someone know where you're going and when you expect to return. Wear layers and keep a headlight or flashlight with extra batteries. Extra food and water can come in handy, and if you get into a tough situation, consider carrying an emergency shelter or sleeping bag.

Image via dahu1

Ice Safety

Know the weather and ice conditions, where you're going and how to call for help. Know the ice depths of inland lakes, where currents are predominant and where rivermouths enter — currents and rivers can cause weak ice. If you're fishing on iced-over Great Lakes bays, know the wind direction. The Coast Guard has rescued hundreds of people who get caught on ice floes, which can float out to the vast lakes if the wind changes directions.

Image via Great Lakes Coast Guard

Tips for Power Outages

If you have the freezer space, freeze empty milk jugs. They can help keep your refrigerator cool when the power goes out. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a freezer half full of food will keep food safely for 24 hours. Make sure you have clean water for cooking and personal hygiene. You can disinfect water by filtering it through a clean cloth, paper towl or coffee filter. When using household chlorine bleach, add 1/8 teaspoon of unscented bleach for each gallon of clear water, or ¼ teaspoon for each gallon of cloudy water, mix well, and let stand for 30 minutes or longer. If you use clean water to freeze in milk jugs, you can use that water as it thaws.

Image via Robert Lawton

Stranded in Your Car

Authorities attribute the Nevada family's survival to the fact that they stayed with their car. The car gives authorities a big target to search for. AAA recommends tying a brightly-colored cloth to your antennae and keep a dome light on at night if possible. Make sure your exhaust pipe is clear so that carbon monoxide gas doesn't creep into your vehicle. To avoid being stranded to begin with, either stay put at home, invest in winter tires, and keep your tank half full.

Image via Kim Hanson

Surviving an Ice Storm

If you're caught driving during an ice storm, carefully and slowly proceed to your destination. At home, take care that you have tree-trimming professionals keep your electrical lines free from tree limbs and brush. Your food can go into crates and containers and be placed outside.

Image via NOAA

Camping Safety

The outdoors company REI recommends winter campers don't go it alone, and to include people with different winter skills. Know the area: talk to experienced campers, study maps and know what emergency services are closest. Know the weather forecast. REI recommends NOAA's National Weather Service website for backcountry forecasts. Avoid avalanche areas, and check the local avalanche forecast.

Image via Tulipanos

Driving in Winter Weather

AAA recommends several tips for driving in bad weather, and they all have a common theme: be slow. Stop and start slowly, including getting up to speed. Slowly applying the gas will help you gain traction better. Give yourself a long time to slow down for stop signs or stop lights, and leave a lot of room between you and the car ahead of you — AAA estimates leaving about 8-10 seconds between you and the car ahead of you. Also, try to avoid coming to complete stops, particularly before attempting to drive up a hill. Inertia is your friend when the roads are slippery and snow-covered — just make sure it's safe, slow inertia. Make sure to remember that, if at all possible, a warm couch and a good book are preferable to a cold ditch and snow-covered boots.

Image via SnowKing1

Winter Paddling Safety

Like keeping safe on the ice, one of the most important tools you can have while paddling during the winter is a reliable way of calling for help. Chief Petty Officer Kyle Niemi with the 9th Coast Guard District in Cleveland, Ohio, recommends using a waterproof marine VHF (very high frequency) radio, which broadcasts to all radios in the area. It also floats, he said. Use your cell phone only as a backup. Keep extra paddles on board.

Image via Willi H2O

What to Keep in Your Car

Keep an emergency kit with blankets, gloves, hats, energy-rich food such as beef jerky or granola bars, water and any needed medication. Inexpensive handwarmers are good in a pinch. A fully-charged cell phone with a local tow truck's number is helpful. Flares will help rescuers see you, and a wind-up radio and flashlight will allow you to listen to the weather and have light even if you have no electricity. Some wind-up flashlights have a blinking red emergency setting. A well-stocked first-aid kit is also valuable. A bag of sand and cat litter adds ballast to your vehicle and provides traction if you're in a slippery spot.

For even more outdoor survival tips, check out 18 Survival Skills: How to Be a Real Woodsman.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

Recent Videos

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


Buy Digital Single Issues

Magazine App Logo

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Game & Fish App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Game & Fish stories delivered right to your inbox every week.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Enjoying What You're Reading?

Subscribe Now and Get a Full Year

Offer only for new subscribers.

Subscribe Now