Snowshoeing is less expensive that skiing and can be a marvelous way to explore the outdoors during the winter. However, one needs to be prepared to deal with the dangers that can occur in the snow. There are three major dangers that can occur to snowshoeing enthusiasts – sudden storms, avalanches, and injury. By being prepared and knowing how to deal with these situations, you will be better able to survive these situations if they occur.
Since winter conditions can be dangerous, inform a friend of the route you are taking so that searchers can locate you more easily if there is a sudden storm or avalanche. You also want to do this so that if you do not return when you are supposed to, rescue folks know in what direction to look.
Another precaution that you can take is to wear bright-colored clothes that are easy to spot against the white backdrop of the snow. Choosing to wear clothes in colors such as orange that are normally not found in nature will make you more easily identifiable.
Selecting a Camp Site
If you need to take shelter from a storm, because the way back has been blocked by an avalanche, or because you are lost, you need to select the camping site with care. The top of a cliff or a hill will expose you to the wind and chill you faster while a hollow will accumulate cold air. Instead select level ground that is protected by a natural wind break but does not pose a risk of succumbing to an avalanche or does not pose a risk of being defeated by one.
Melt Snow to Stay Hydrated
Even if you are feeling cold, you need to stay hydrated by drinking water. Never eat any snow since this can rapidly lower body temperature. Instead melt the snow and then drink the water.
If you are caught in a snow storm without a tent, build a snow cave since snow is an excellent insulator. This will keep you warm and protected from the wind.
You can line the base of the cave with pine boughs and sleep with your backpack close to your core. This will help add to the insulation.
Whether you are sleeping in a tent or snow cave, you should keep your water bottle and food close to your body so that the water and food do not freeze. This will ensure that you can stay hydrated a soon as you wake up and can eat something quickly if you feel very cold in the night.
Once it starts snowing, make sure to brush of snow from your clothes at regular intervals. This will help reduce the weight on your body and ensure that melting snow and water do not penetrate your clothes and chill you further.
You should also make it a point to brush off snow from your clothes and shoes before entering your tent or snow cave at night. This will keep the interior dry even as your body heat warms the place.
Change Wet Clothes
If your clothes have become wet, you need to change them as soon as possible. This is especially true of socks, gloves, and mittens.
It can be difficult to stay warm when out in the snow. However, you can retain your body warmth for a longer period of time by covering your head, wearing mittens instead of gloves, and dressing in layers. When you walk, your body produces more heat, so you can remove a few layers, but you need to add layers as soon as you stop. Do not remove your warm clothing when you sleep since your body will need the additional warmth provided.
Signal for Help
Once the storm blows out or it is daylight start signaling for help. You can use a mirror to flash sunlight thrice since this is the universal signal for help. You can also light three fires in a triangle if you find sufficient wood.
If you are injured while snowshoeing, you need to immediately apply first aid. Broken arms or legs should be placed in a splint. You should also stem the flow of blood from any cuts by bandaging the wound or applying a tourniquet.
Whether you are injured or lost while snowshoeing, it is best to stay as close to the trail as possible. However, if you are unaware of the location of the trail, stay close to a tree and use its height to signal for help.
It is not possible to light a wood fire on the snow. Instead, you need to suspend the wood from a tree branch or similar projection, anything elevated, using wires and then light it if you cannot find any dry or covered/sheltered ground.
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