In normal situations, cold hands mean it's time to head in and warm...
When it comes to life-threatening low temperatures from inbound blizzards, we often have some advance warning that we’re about to get blasted. So we stay inside, we secretly drink the hot chamomile tea that our wives bought, and we download Jocko Willink podcasts before the WiFi cuts off. It’s fine. We’ll wait it out.
The problem is, when polar weather patterns decide to clog our roads with snow, we might have to get out and help our under-prepared family and friends. Or we may just be visiting, for work or on vacation, and we’re not very well prepared because we’re only in town for 48 hours, and how much can the weather really change in 48 hours? “Come on. Don’t be the crazy prepper person. We don’t need all of that.”
In Part 1 of our Cold Weather Survival series we examined travel and transportation techniques for sub-freezing conditions based on the Army’s Mountain Warfare and Cold Weather Operations Manual. This time we’ll discuss weapons maintenance, nutrition, clothing and gear. We hope it’s useful. Now wipe off those snowflakes and get ready to tell Jack Frost to shove it.
Just like it matters what fluids you run in your vehicle during extreme cold, you also must consider the freezing points of firearms lubricants. For example, the Army’s Cleaner Lubricant Preservative (CLP) solution will freeze at -35˚F. An arctic weapons lubricant is available, but if you don’t have that, then just completely clean the weapon and fire it dry.
Generally speaking, as it gets really cold we need to eat more. Most foods including standard MREs will do just fine until it gets below the freezing point. Once it becomes colder than that a Meal, Cold Weather (MCW) ration is more appropriate. The MCW contains more calories and won’t freeze like a standard MRE will. The catch is, they require a lot of boiling water to prepare them—34oz per meal. If you’re planning on two hot meals per day that’s an additional ½ gallon of water required just to prepare the food.
Clothing selection for extreme cold weather could take up its own series of articles. In general, however, the key is loose-fitting layers of clothing and moisture-wicking layers close to the body.
If you’re using a hand-held GPS or other electronics like a cell phone to navigate, be aware of their operating temperature constraints. Carry it close to your body inside your clothing, or keep it inside the heated vehicle when not in use. Also, avoid breathing on the screen or else it will quickly ice over.
We hope these tips help you face extreme cold weather conditions if and when they’re encountered. This concludes Part 2 of our Cold Weather Survival series, but for more information check out Part 1 of the series, or past articles on avalanche avoidance and route finding in mountain terrain and how to drive in ice and snow.
We performed hands-on testing of the stove, parka, and gloves mentioned in this article and have reviewed them in the final part of our series. Click here to read Cold Weather Survival Part 3: Winter Gear Reviews.
Andrew Schrader is a licensed professional engineer and is certified by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as an Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Structures Specialist. His company, Recon Response Engineering LLC, advises state and federal government organizations on the subject of urban search and rescue and building collapse. He recently assisted the U.S. Department of State’s Italian Consulate in the development of their post-earthquake response and rescue protocol. You can follow him on Instagram at @reconresponse.
Lance Corporal Joseph Spronk, an artilleryman assigned to The Combined Arms Company out of Bulgaria uses small burners to melt snow into water as his unit sets up camp for the night. This unique company is comprised of multiple vehicles with multiple capabilities, including amphibious assault vehicles, M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and light armored vehicles. In the weeks leading up to exercise Cold Response 16, at the end of the month, the two nations have been conducting bilateral training to improve U.S. Marine Corps capability to operate in cold-weather environments. The exercise will feature maritime, land, and air operations to underscore NATO's ability to defend against any threat in any environment. The location in central Norway provides a unique, extreme cold-weather environment for all forces involved to develop tactics, techniques, and procedures and learn from one another.
Pfc. Matthew B. Rossi and his fellow U.S. Army Alaska Aviation Task Force Soldiers assigned to Headquarters Company, 1-52 Aviation Regiment, at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, conduct Cold Weather Indoctrination Course II (CWIC) training Nov. 19, 2015. These Soldiers completed a three-mile snow shoe ruck march to their bivouac site and spent the night sleeping in Arctic 10-man tents. CWIC training is required of all Soldiers assigned to U.S. Army Alaska annually to ensure America's Arctic Warriors have the knowledge and experience to survive, train, operate, fight and win in extreme cold weather and high altitude environments. (Photos by Spc. Liliana S. Magers, U.S. Army Alaska Public Affairs.)
U.S. Soldiers assigned to the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division, build a thermal shelter as part of the Cold Weather Orientation Course at the Northern Warfare Training Center at the Black Rapids Training Site near Fort Greely, Alaska, March 27, 2013. The event helped develop leader skills needed for operating and planning for combat operations in extremely cold environments. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael O'Brien/Released)
U.S. Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 26, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, eat their cold weather Meals Ready to Eat, used to sustain an individual during operations occurring under arctic conditions, at the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC) Bridgeport, Calif., Jan. 24, 2015. MWTC trains Marines across the warfighting functions for operations in mountainous, high altitude, and cold weather environments in order to enhance a unit's ability to shoot, move, communicate, sustain, and survive in mountainous regions of the world. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz/Released)
Cold Weather Meals, Ready-to-Eat, used to sustain an individual during operations occurring under Arctic conditions, issued to Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 26, 2nd Marine Logistics, lay near their tents on the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC) Bridgeport, Calif., Jan. 22, 2015. MWTC trains Marines across the warfighting functions for operations in mountainous, high altitude and cold weather environments in order to enhance a unit's ability to shoot, move, communicate, sustain and survive in mountainous regions of the world. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz / Released)
A Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 26, Headquarters Regiment, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, melts snow for drinking water in a portable stove during a training exercise aboard U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center in Bridgeport, California, Jan. 20, 2015. The Marines maintained a potable source of water not only for drinking, but for re-hydrating their Cold-Weather Meals Ready-To-Eat, as well. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn Klein/Released)
A U.S. Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 26, Headquarters Regiment, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, refills his supply of white fuel during a training exercise aboard U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center at Bridgeport, California, Jan. 24, 2015. The Marines used the fuel to ignite flames in their portable stoves, providing heat for potable water and warm food. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn Klein/Released)
Trackers rarely need anything extra. They can live with the bare essentials: combat vehicle crewman uniforms, steel toe boots, gloves, eye protection, flak, Kevlar, rifle, sling, 9/16ths wrench, 15/16ths wrench and a sleeping system. Everything necessary is already inside the AAV. Outside of the gear that trackers are supposed to have, there isn’t anything that they would need. But Williams has his essentials. He packs Monsters, Ramen noodles and a portable camp stove — necessities as he calls them.
Army Pfc. Harlan Howze, a native of Mobile, Ala., left, and Spc. Omotayo Jagun, Detroit, Mich., both assigned to the 98th Support Maintenance Company, 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, U.S. Army Alaska, unpack an ahkio sled while conducting cold weather training in single-digit temperatures at Forward Operating Base Sparta on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Nov. 29, 2016. Alaska provides USARAK Soldiers with training opportunities on tactics, techniques, procedures for cold-weather military operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Justin Connaher)
A U.S. Marine with Combat Logistics Battalion 26, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, ignites his portable stove to melt ice for drinking water at the U.S. Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center (MWTC) Bridgeport, Calif., Jan. 20, 2015. MWTC trains Marines across the warfighting functions for operations in mountainous, high altitude, and cold weather environments in order to enhance a unit's ability to shoot, move, communicate, sustain, and survive in mountainous regions of the world. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anthony L. Ortiz / Released)