In most cases, whatever situation you may be in, survival ultimately comes down to one thing - knowledge. All the fanciest gear in the world could amount to nothing without the proper knowledge of both your body and the environment you're surrounded by.
1. Rub frostbitten skin
Don’t. Ever. Frostbite occurs when ice crystals form in your skin and other tissues. Rubbing the injury causes more tissue damage as the ice crystals lacerate new cells. Instead, treat the victim with painkillers as you slowly rewarm the tissue—frostbite hurts!
2. Drinking liquor will warm you up
We’ve probably all seen the cartoon depicting a Saint Bernard dog with a cask of brandy around his neck reviving some avalanche victim. But liquor is the last drink you need in a cold-weather survival scenario. Although you may feel warmer, alcohol actually dilates skin-surface blood vessels and capillaries, which will chill your core even faster. Instead, drink hot tea or cocoa.
3. All base layers work equally well
Not true. Cotton kills—or, at least, could lead to hypothermia if you rely on it as your primary base layer in cold weather. It’s a great fabric to wear around the house, and it has great applications in hot, dry climates. But once cotton gets wet, it loses its insulating properties. Before you even break a sweat, normal skin moisture will soak into the cotton fibers and start to cool your body through conduction. These fibers can hold up to 27 times their weight in water and then store that moisture up to eight times longer than synthetics or wool. This doesn’t just leave you feeling clammy—it steals vital heat from your core. If it’s cold enough for long johns, then it’s too cold for cotton.
4. Don’t feed a victim of hypothermia
Normal shock treatment and hypothermia treatment are different—you don’t, for example, want to feed someone who may be going into shock because he can vomit and choke while unconscious. However, in mild to moderate hypothermia cases, high-calorie foods can be given in small, repeated doses to create metabolic heat in the victim and help him restore his own heat-generating ability.
5. Let a hypothermic victim get some sleep
After the shivering, confusion, slurred speech, and clumsiness of hypothermia have manifested, an exposure victim also gets drowsy. This is a serious warning sign because sleep can lead to death. Keep the victim awake as you warm him up.
6. A hot tub will cure hypothermia
Rewarming is the main way to treat someone whose core temperature has dipped far below 98.6 degrees. But dropping somebody in a Jacuzzi will cause excruciating pain and can even trigger a heart attack. Instead, put hot-water bottles in both armpits, or use skin-to-skin rewarming. Never use a high-heat source to treat a hypothermic person.
Photography shot at Elfin Lakes by Hennygraphy