What I Learned Braving The Cold In The Army

Discussion in 'General Survival and Preparedness' started by Yard Dart, Dec 31, 2017.

  1. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator


    Every year, cold weather injuries claim countless people who ventured into the unforgiving elements unprepared and untrained. Don’t be one of them.

    Squinting my eyes in the near white out conditions was mildly annoying, and, sure, I was worried about the 30-mile-per-hour winds beating against the few inches of skin I’d arrogantly left exposed. But, still, I felt at home. For my out-of-state friends, however, the situation was a little more dire. It was December in the Dakotas, and none of them had ever experienced weather like that before. Miserable as they were, I couldn’t help but remind them that this was “toboggan” weather — the sort of weather local children break their sleds out for.

    Growing up in South Dakota, I gained a healthy respect for what the winter season is capable of. We send our kids to school in this weather, we go to work in this weather, and, hell, we even go out to the lake in this weather just to drill a hole in the ice and sit around it all day. For fun. That’s just life on the high plains in the winter. It takes a special breed to live and thrive in subzero conditions for weeks at a time. It also takes some common sense and a little bit of know-how to prevent cold weather injuries.

    Every year, cold weather injuries claim countless people who ventured into the unforgiving elements unprepared and untrained. Don’t be one of them. If, this winter, you’re going to lose your mind and head out to the Dakotas, or any other place where freezing to death (literally) is possible, first do yourself a favor and memorize the Army’s KOLD acronym: Keep it clean, avoid Overheating, wear clothing Loose and in Layers, and keep clothing Dry. That’s a good start, but here are a few more key tips to help you stay warm and, more importantly, alive.

    1. Cover every inch of your skin, literally.

    Exposure to these elements can be a sure way to find yourself in a bad situation. In addition to the obvious — covering your feet, legs, arms, and core like you would in normal winter conditions — you will also need to have something for your hands, face, and head. The skin on your face will be brutalized in the piercing wind, and your hands will go numb within a minute or two if unsheathed. I personally like my Marmot Randonnee gloves as they have a moisture-wicking liner and cinch close at their opening to keep driving winds out. Every bit of bare skin is a crack in your armor, don’t give the enemy an opening to attack you! Pack accordingly.

    2. Dress in layers that make sense.
    Extreme temperature swings are possible in remote environments, so you’ll need the ability to quickly add to or take away from your wardrobe. A wicking material, such as synthetic polyester or merino wool, should always be used as the base layer against your skin. This will help keep your skin dry when performing vigorous activities, and will be comfortable when you shed your other layers to crawl into a sleeping bag at night. After that, you will need 2-3 light to medium layers (almost any material is acceptable, but at least one layer should be insulated), and they should all be loose fitting. Finally, your winter parka will be your exterior shell. I have worn the Beyond Clothing Level 7 Parka in some of the most extreme environments possible without suffering so much as a shiver – you absolutely cannot go wrong with the L7 as your outer layer. Follow a similar scheme for your legs (but not as many layers) for best results.

    3. Chapstick and sunglasses are a must.
    It’s often the small things that make the difference between comfort and injury. I’m a Blistex kind of guy myself, but as long as you are using some sort of chap-stick, you should be in the clear. I’ve seen people forego this measure and have cracked, bleeding lips by the end of the afternoon. As far as sunglasses go, almost anything will do. They serve two purposes. One, they act as a barrier between your eyes and the driving wind. And two, they prevent straining your eyes against the bright white environment. In some environments, you’ll need specialized glasses for prolonged outdoor activity, so do your research and plan accordingly.

    4. Don’t get wet.
    Seriously, don’t do that. Getting wet is one of the fastest ways to find yourself with a severe cold weather injury that can be potentially life threatening. If you are going to do an activity like ice fishing, make sure you keep a towel and an extra set of dry clothes nearby just in case. If you are doing something active that will cause you to sweat, make sure you heed the above advice about that wicking base layer. Being wet in sub-zero temps is no joke, so make sure you take this one seriously.

    5. Remember: shivering isn’t a good thing.
    If you are shivering, it means your body is trying to generate heat via rapidly moving muscles. It’s a defense mechanism that helps regulate body temperature, just as sweating does. Unlike sweating though, shivering is a sign that you are doing something wrong. If you are dry and dressed appropriately, you should be completely warm and comfortable from your head to your toes — no shivers needed. Ultimately, this can be boiled down to listening to your body when it’s telling you something is wrong.

    What I Learned Braving The Cold In The Army
  2. Bishop

    Bishop Monkey+++

    I was on a hunting trip in the upper UP of Michigan and on my down time I would go out and play in a frozen Beaver dam well the third day I fell through I sealed my way back onto the ice and on to land walked the 3 miles more ran it than walked when I got back to camp and got my pants off they would stand up by themselves what I learned don't get into a hot shower when you fall through the ice.
  3. Sapper John

    Sapper John Analog Monkey in a Digital World

    I learned all ever wanted to learn about extreme cold weather while stationed on the DMZ in the Korean peninsula. I've never been so cold in all of my life. Hard times for a Southern boy.
    DuxDawg, Zimmy, sec_monkey and 3 others like this.
  4. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grudge Monkey

    I learned all I ever wanted to know training with the Norwegian Army! That was quite an experience to say the least. We did every thing in the cold, kayaking the fiords at night in the winter, sleeping in holes dug in the ground at -30 deg. climbing ice runs, ect. Cold beyond belief, but I survived with no frost bite!
    DuxDawg, Zimmy, sec_monkey and 5 others like this.
  5. Altoidfishfins

    Altoidfishfins Monkey+++ Site Supporter+

    The best survival tactic I've ever used for beating cold weather was to move to a warmer climate.
    DuxDawg, VisuTrac, techsar and 9 others like this.
  6. Sapper John

    Sapper John Analog Monkey in a Digital World

    The most important thing to remember in extreme cold weather is to back up when you pee!
    Altoidfishfins, Ura-Ki and Yard Dart like this.
  7. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grudge Monkey

    That and face down wind! LOL
    Altoidfishfins and Sapper John like this.
  8. DKR

    DKR Raconteur of the first stripe

    I worked with the Army while in Alaska - their equipment sucked at the time. I had to wear TA-50 gear in the field, but at least we were able to have Eddy Bauer parkas and some styl'n cold wx boots (Not the VB boots)issued to our unit.

    Managed to stay warm mostly because I was able to dodge the worst of the ruck-humping in the winter.

    The stuff they issue now is light years ahead of the Korean-war crap they Army was still using....
  9. Thunder5Ranch

    Thunder5Ranch Monkey+++

    Or move from SD to a warmer zone :) LOL I thought about moving back until I visited Mom in Spearfish for Christmas a few years ago. Killed any motivation I had to return to the homelands for anything other than visits between May and September!
    Ura-Ki, Sapper John and sec_monkey like this.
  10. HK_User

    HK_User A Productive Monkey is a Happy Monkey

    Reminds me of those ice storm mornings when I had that morning paper route. Had to ride a horse one morning because it snowed.
    Yard Dart and Ura-Ki like this.
  11. VisuTrac

    VisuTrac Ваша мать носит военные ботинки Site Supporter+++

    Well if the SHTF, I hope it's in winter.
    Yard Dart and Ura-Ki like this.
  12. Ganado

    Ganado Monkey+++

    snow blindness is no joke you never quite get over it
    DuxDawg likes this.
  13. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart Snow Monkey Moderator

    I certainly never did.... Have been Totally Colorblind since i was 12 years old, after i burnt my Retinas, while skiing without goggles in the spring time...
    Ura-Ki and Ganado like this.
  14. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    Color blindness is one effect, but snow glare (also summer sun on beaches and water) is one of many suspect causes of cataracts. I KNOW this ---
    Three of the following are the proximate causes in my case.
    • Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources
    • Diabetes
    • Hypertension
    • Obesity
    • Smoking
    • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
    • Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol
    • Previous eye injury or inflammation
    • Previous eye surgery
    • Hormone replacement therapy
    • Significant alcohol consumption
    • High myopia
    • Family history
    So winter cold is a health hazard, for sure, but not the only problem with winter. Cold will kill you faster than the others ---
    Sapper John and Ura-Ki like this.
  15. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grudge Monkey

    I have ALWAYS worn polarized sunglasses year round, I have sensitive eyes and family eye health issues, so I started using these glasses way back when I was 12. SO far, so good, and I have avoided all the issues others have had!
    I have Wiley-X custom make mine in both standard, and goggle configurations as I also need safety (ballistic) rated for my work!
    I have done this since they first started supplying them to the U.S.Mil, and continue to use ONLY this brand!
    Yard Dart likes this.
  16. hot diggity

    hot diggity Monkey+++ Site Supporter+++

    I grew up in Michigan, and I think my internal thermostat is off. My best guess at winter temperatures is usually 20-30 degrees higher than it actually is. This is great, until I decide to lay down for a nap in my car and end up like Bon Scott, or stay outside until my fingers are crunchy. I've only ever had a real issue with cold weather survival once, and it wasn't a problem with me being cold.

    It was a problem with everything being cold. I got so badly dehydrated that I had to get IV fluids in the back of a field ambulance.
    Hydration at that time of year was dependent upon our ability to get water from the only potable water source in the area, an M149 400 gallon water bull. The tank may have been insulated, but the spigots were frozen solid. It was such an ordeal to get them flowing with a propane torch that we all started conserving water. It's amazing there weren't more dehydration casualties on that operation.
    DuxDawg and Ura-Ki like this.
  17. VisuTrac

    VisuTrac Ваша мать носит военные ботинки Site Supporter+++

    my preferred winter temperature range is 20 - 30.
    cool enough that it kills the bugs attempting to over winter, not so cold that I have to break out the full on winter gear to shovel the driveway, haul wood or feed the animals. And much easier to keep the house a comfy temp without constantly filling the firebox.

    Right now we have the squeaky snow and the freeze the nostrils closed cold. More than a few minutes working without gloves is going to leave you with tingle fingers for an hour or so. Longer than that .. well they may start calling ya Lefty or three finger Murdock.
    Yard Dart, Sapper John and Ura-Ki like this.
  18. Unique

    Unique Monkey

    I grew up in Nebraska and I spent 2 winters in Germany but it was so long ago the cold weather gear I had to work with is all pretty obsolete. They were just coming out with the Gortex parkas and Matterhorn boots.

    I had a job in Colorado that required me to be out in the cold for hours at a time in some pretty remote regions. I used it as chance to test various items of cold weather gear and boots till I figured out what worked for me.
    Sapper John likes this.
  19. Unique

    Unique Monkey

    Ganado likes this.
  20. Ura-Ki

    Ura-Ki Grudge Monkey

    It's UBER expensive, But the U.S.C.G. cold/wet weather Parka and Bib Overalls are SO worth having, as long as you don't mind rescue red! I was gifted a set after training with the Coasties, and my son keeps me outfitted with any of the latest gear they might toss out!
    IF you can still find them, the Artic rated NorthFace Parka's are Super warm and weatherproof, I used mine when Operating Grooming Cats at the ski park until I changed jobs!
    For foot wear, nothing beats Ice rated climbing boots, or cross tech alpine boots, I swear by SALEWA brand boots for this!
    Sapper John likes this.
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