Letter Re: Preparedness with Very Limited Resources

I don’t think you’re a fool. It is important to put yourself in this type of situation and test yourself. I live in rural Northern Michigan, it gets cold up here. Last winter I did exactly what you’re talking about. I walked down to the river behind my house (about a ½ mile) and stayed two nights without any gear. The only thing I had other than my clothes was a lighter. You should always have a way to make fire on you. Ironically smokers are more likely to make it through survival situations, simply because they always carry a lighter. I also practice using my shoelaces to make a bow drill for fire starting. You do not want a bow drill to be your only method to start a fire in an emergency, although the effort of using one will help keep you warm. Carry a lighter always, everyday, everywhere.

The first night I was out I didn’t have time to make a proper shelter. I first started a fire and gathered lots of wood. The activity kept me warm. I needed a dry place to sit so I gathered cedar branches and piled them up next to the fire. The cedar not only kept me off the wet snow but it insulated me from the cold ground too. I took off my shoes and socks and dried them with the fire. I got warm enough by the fire that I fell asleep. In the middle of the night I woke up chilled to the bone. The fire had burned out and I was freezing in my sleep. My body told me to get up and stay alive so I started running around to get warm and I built the fire up again. I’ve never been that cold before. I didn’t get good sleep the rest of that night; I spent most of my time tending the fire.

The next day I started building a shelter; I made a lean-to with pine and cedar branches and insulated it with tall grass. I made a long fire with a stacked log reflector behind it, the opening of the lean to faced the fire. I gathered tons of wood for the second night. It was definitely more comfortable than the first, but it was still cold. I found that the cold ground will suck the heat out of you faster than the air. If I had stayed out a third night I would have tried lying over a bed of buried hot coals to keep warm.

You have to try it so that you know what to do when you don’t have the luxury of going inside. I tested the sleeping system I have packed in my bug out bag this fall, during the first freeze. It consists of a sleeping bag inside a sleeping bag inside a surplus Gore-Tex bivouac bag on a foam camping pad. I slept very well. Take care and keep warm, – Dano