5 Winter Survival Skills That Will Keep You Warm, Dry, And Alive

Every different climate delivers a unique set of challenges in a survival scenario, and winter is no exception. If you aren’t too careful, the frigid wind and cold can immobilize you with frostbite and then kill you off with hypothermia.

In this article, we are going to look at five specific skills that you absolutely must have in order to survive when you’re stuck outdoors during winter.

1. Getting a fire going … and keeping it going

Starting a fire

Knowing how to start a fire is an important skill to have in any survival scenario, but it’s extra important during winter. If you are ever wet and cold, a fire may be the only thing that gives you a chance of surviving. You also need a fire to dry out any damp clothing.

Unfortunately, it’s harder to build and maintain a fire during winter. The ground often is blanketed in snow or ice and the wood that is above the ground is saturated with moisture, too. On top of that, there could be high winds that put any spark you manage to create out in an instant. So how are you supposed to start a fire during winter?

Cotton Balls

The answer is to keep cotton balls that are coated in Vaseline with you at all times – especially during winter. These are highly flammable and will be a lifesaver in a winter survival situation. (They’re also inexpensive.) You’ll also need something to cause a spark, such as a ferro rod. But this is just the solution to getting a fire going. How can you keep that fire maintained?

Construct a pit into the snow that is approximately two feet deep. This is so that the walls of the pit will protect the flames from the wind. The bottom of this pit should then be covered with logs and sticks. Next, set some tinder and your Vaseline cotton balls on top of these logs.

If all of the wood that you find is already wet, then use a knife or a hatchet to cut into it and see if there’s any drier kindling that you can get from the inside. Then, set up your kindling in a pyramid. This will allow the wood to dry and then burn faster.

The technique above might save your life.

 

2. Building a warm-enough shelter

Winter camping
Green tent and tourist inside against the backdrop of snowy pine tree forest. Amazing winter landscape. Tourists camp in high mountains. Travel concept

This is another survival skill that is important in any situation — but arguably more so in a winter scenario. During winter – unlike other seasons — you have to keep yourself warm and dry. For these reasons, you would be wise to spend more time working on your winter shelter than, say, your summer shelter.

Your shelter should be constructed in a site that is flat and on higher ground, with plenty of trees for cover from falling snow and wind. The trees also provide the natural resources you’ll need to build your winter shelter.

One of the best winter shelters to make is one that has natural cover, such as the boughs of a tree. You can dig around the trunk of the tree underneath the lowest boughs, so that the branches spread above you protect you from the snow and wind. The snow walls would then provide additional protection, and you can even set up a little place for you to make a small fire.

 

3. Maintaining a proper body temperature

During winter, it’s easy to get too cold – but also too hot. Wear an outer shell layer that deflects the wind and the coldness, an insulation layer that keeps your body warm, and then a final layer that sticks right to your skin. When you’re traveling through the snow with all of this clothing on you, you can easily overexert yourself. The sweat will then freeze and make you at risk for both frostbite and hypothermia.

Keep close attention to your body temperature and add and remove layers as needed. If it is snowing or raining, wear all three layers so that your shell layer can keep your inner two layers dry. But when you’re traveling out in the sun or working on building a shelter, remove one or more layers so that your body can cool down and avoid perspiration.

4. Making snow goggles

While we most commonly use sunglasses during summer conditions, the ice and snow during winter can reflect the rays of the sun back to your eyes – essentially blinding you. If you don’t have snow goggles or sunglasses with you already, then you’ll need to know how to make them on your own, out of natural resources.

The easiest snow goggles to construct are made out of birch bark. Birch bark is best for snow goggles because it can be removed from the trunk of the tree in sheets. Cut out a sheet of bark and then cut small slits in it for your eyes.

Next, cut holes into the sides of it so that it can be tied around your face. These simple DIY goggles will provide your eyes with the protection they need when the sun is out.

19TH ANNUAL SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE PHOTO CONTEST People preventing snow blindness with birch bark goggles

5. Building a pair of snowshoes

Snowshoes distribute your weight over a larger area so that your foot will not completely sink into the snow. If you’ve ever tried to walk through a winter forest without snowshoes, you know how exhausting and time-consuming it is. Snowshoes will save you a lot of time and energy.

If you don’t already have a pair of snowshoes with you, you’ll need to make some on your own.  The simplest form of DIY snowshoes are groups of boughs that are tied together and then lashed onto the feet. More traditional snowshoes will require some time and energy to build. You’ll need to find a long, flexible stick that you can bend and then tie at the end, followed by crisscrossing the insides of the snow with more sticks, vines, and/or rope.

Should you successfully build a pair of snowshoes, it’s guaranteed you’ll be able to make it out alive much faster.

Closeup hiker in spring mountains snowshoeing

What winter survival skills would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

Why you should vacation at Moosehead Lake

Take an adventure to a deep, cold water lake, which is the largest mountain lake in the eastern United States. Moosehead Lake is the second largest lake in New England, situated in the Longfellow Mountains in Northwestern Maine, sitting at an elevation of 1,029 feet. Surrounded by wilderness, solitude, and more moose than people, this lake region is the perfect vacation for adventurers looking for peace in the untouched nature.

Moose outnumber people 3 to 1 in the Moosehead Lake Region, and with so much to do outside, you’re bound to see one of the beautiful creatures that the lake is named after. The lake is filled with year-round activities, including camping, hiking, canoeing, kayaking, ice fishing, and snowshoeing. The lake itself is 75,000 acres and 40 miles long, and 12 miles wide! 

Moosehead Lake is a popular destination in Maine that welcomes thousands of visitors to the region annually. Several towns in the area feature restaurants, accommodations, and recreational activities, including Rockwood, Greenville, Okoadjo, Lily Bay, Beaver Cove, Monson, and Abbot.

With so much to do here during all four seasons, outdoor lovers are in for a treat while visiting. You can’t go wrong with choosing Moosehead Lake and connected state parks for your next adventure.

Mount Kineo

This 800-foot mountain is located in the middle of Moosehead Lake. Once used as a Native American destination to acquire rhyolite rock to make arrowheads, Henry David Thoreau and Teddy Roosevelt even visited due to their interest in the areas history. 

In order to reach the area, you need to take a boat to get to the trailhead. If you don’t have a boat of your own, you can take a shuttle from the Rockwood town boat launch. The shuttle is operated by the Mount Kineo Golf Course, which operates on the island, which is the second oldest in New England.  If you’re interested in golfing, 9 hopes start at $32.

The 3.4-mile loop at Mount Kineo includes four different trails that all lead to a fire tower that used to be used by the Maine Forest Service. The face of Mount Kineo features 700-foot cliffs but has gentle slopes on the northwest and a steep southeast. It was initially formed by a mile-thick ice sheet that moved across the region. The four trails that Mount Kineo features are as follows:

  • Indian Trail (.9 miles, moderate): The shortest trail to the tower, but it climbs steeply. This trail provides the best view!
  • Bridle Trail (1.1 miles, easy): This is the original fire warden trail and is much less steep. It begins along the carriage trail, walks along maple and birch trees, and meets with the Indian Trail right before the summit.
  • Carriage Trail (2.2 miles, easy): This trail walks parallel with the peninsula’s western shore and follows the water to Hardscrabble point.
  • North Trail (1.9 miles, moderate): This trail offers a view of the eastern peninsula and rises steeply up the southeastern cliffs.

All of the hikes offer fantastic views of Moosehead Lake and provide unbelievable access to nature as it walks through maple, birch, and other hardwood forests.

Lily Bay State Park MAINE

Maine road in fall
Autumn road in Maine, USA.

Lily Bay State Park is located 9 miles north of Greenville, Maine, and features an abundance of year-round activities for your next vacation. This state park is located directly on Moosehead Lake and features 925 acres of protected land. Animals throughout the park include birds, deer, ducks, moose, foxes, eagles, loons, otters, and more. Recreational activities and camping are the main draw to the State Park.

Birding

Moosehead Lake is actually a prime birding location with nearly every type of warbler of the north woods found here. Even more rare birds like the black-backed woodpecker, spruce grouse, boreal chickadee, gray jack, and white-winged crossbill can be seen in the woods. Bring your canoe or kayak to look for birds in the sky from the lake!

Boating and Camping

Lake outdoor Maine
Boating on Lake Recreational Place. Scenic Lake and the Boat.

Boating on Moosehead Lake is a very popular adventure activity at Lily Bay State Park, and boat launches are available at Dunn Point and Roswell Cove. Motorized and non-motorized boats are allowed to launch off from here.

In addition to a boat launch, Lily Bay State Park has an abundance of camping sites available, split between two campgrounds – Dunn Point and Rowell Cove. Both campgrounds feature showers, boat launches, recycling, showers, playgrounds, restrooms, and firewood available. 

In terms of camping, there are 90 walk-in camping sites and reservable campsites that can accommodate campers ranging from small, pop-up campers to a greater than 35′ trailer for those looking to vacation here. There is no electrical service available at any campsites, making it the perfect excuse to reconnect with nature and remain off-grid. Several of the campsites are located on the waterfront of Moosehead Lake.

Hiking

Lily Bay State Park which connects to Moosehead Lake, also features a trail system that allows visitors to enjoy a peaceful walk along the lake’s edge. The 1.3 mile Dunn Point Trail is an easy, flat trail along the shore that features wildlife spotting and mixed growth forest that hikers can enjoy year-round. In the winter, this trail is used by cross-country skiers.

In addition to the Dunn Point Trail, the .8 mile Rowell Cove Trail offers an alternative destination. This trail offers several spots to sit on the shore of Moosehead Lake to enjoy the view and relax. There are also several geological formations to view along this trail.

In addition to enjoying the scenery, many visitors have reported seeing wildlife such as fox, white-tailed deer, and moose while on their journey. Make sure to bring your camera!

Swimming

Lily Bay State Park is the best area at Moosehead Lake to swim in the water. The State Park offers a beach for visitors to swim at, though this activity should undoubtedly be saved for the warmer months when the water is warm.

Fishing & Ice Fishing

Fishing man at the lake. Fishing from a boat,

Whether you take the boat launch from Lily Bay State Park and fish in Moosehead Lake or take a boat from the Moose River in the village of Rockwood, Flyfishing is a popular spring and summer activity in the Moosehead Lake Region. There are several pools, pocket waters, and rapids to fly fish at where you can find Brook Trout, Landlocked Salmon, and Smallmouth Bass. Shallow water fishing is also available in Lily Bay and Spencer Bay throughout the summer.

Moosehead Lake is also a popular vacation destination in the winter for Ice Fishing. Fishermen flock to the area to seek brook trout, cusk, salmon, and togue under the frozen water of Moosehead Lake. The area behind Mount Kineo is a popular location for rough weather ice fishing during the winter. This is also where the deepest water in Moosehead Lake is located. Don’t forget to bring a portable ice shack before you arrive as the weather and the winds are unpredictable. Please note that before February 15th, all salmon caught on Moosehead Lake must be released without removing them from the water. Also, make sure that you have your up-to-date fishing license and fishing regulation book.

Hunting

Hunting outdoor
Hunters with hunting equipment going away through rural forest at sunrise

For those that are looking for some extra outdoor adventure, the Moosehead Lake area features many hunting opportunities. With much of the seasons taking place in the fall and spring, visitors can hunt for deer, bear, moose, wild turkey, migratory birds, and other species. Specific rules and permits apply.

ATV Trails

Riding ATV outdoor
Two atv riders race in forest, front view.

A group of local ATV trail volunteers maintains well-marked trails through the region that allow for people to have a full-day adventure exploring the region on trails. Several local businesses also rent ATV’s to visitors. You can ride the trails from Greenville to The Forks, Rockwood and on to Kokadjo if you’d like. Make sure you stay on the marked trails while riding. Keep your eyes open as you might spot a moose or two while you’re riding!

Snowmobiling

Woman in a motor sled race

There is a lengthy snowmobiling trail called the Moosehead Trail that offers 160 miles of scenic riding. The trail combines with the Main Interconnected Trail System for frequent riders who want to continue through the state or go further into to Canada. The Moosehead Trail features several stops for coffee, food, and gas along your journey. Make sure you stay safe and check the Main Snowmobile Association website, which maintains trail condition reports so snowmobilers are aware of the safety of ice on ponds and lakes.

In Closing

Moosehead Lake sunset

Moosehead Lake has so much to offer visitors when it comes to outdoor adventures for their next vacation. Whether you are hoping for a laid-back camping holiday with swimming and a hike, or you want to ice fish and snowmobile, this area has that to offer and more. Visitors could spend a week or more at this fantastic location and fill each day with a different activity or a different hike and still find more exploring to do. Don’t forget to look for moose while you’re here! You could even join a moose safari in town if that’s of interest.

Must-Have Ice Fishing Gear in 2022

Ice fishing is one of the most thrilling and exciting winter activities, and for the best possible experience, you should have the must-have ice fishing gear.

Ice fishing isn’t as simple as open water fishing. A lot more safety measures and fishing techniques are required. It would help if you had the right ice fishing gear and the perfect ice fishing tackle to penetrate the ice and quickly catch the fish.

Being an angler, you may find it very challenging to choose the best ice fishing gear. So, this article will be a useful guide for you.

Is Ice Fishing Gear Necessary?

Although winter fishing may be slightly more complicated than fishing in summer, it still is a simple concept. You have to cut a hole in the ice, drop in your ice fishing tackle, and pull fish to the surface. The only effort you need to make is to acquire the right ice fishing gear.

Ice fishing gear is necessary because if you don’t have the right ice fishing gear, you may be exposed to many inconveniences.

For example, if you don’t have a proper ice fishing tackle, it will significantly reduce your fish catch. You won’t feel the nibbles properly, thus missing many catches.

Similarly, consider not having the appropriate apparel. In this case, you may find yourself shivering and freezing in the middle of a lake. Would you want to spoil your trip by catching a cold instead of a fish? That’d be terrible.

Must-Have Ice Fishing Gear in 2021

When you start something new, you want to be perfect at it; that’s the case with everyone. To do something correctly, you need all the tools required to do the job, just as in ice fishing.

Here is some serious must-have ice fishing gear that will make you look cool and professional upfront. Let’s start with your attire.

Ice Fishing Clothing

Cold wind repeatedly hitting you while you’re trying to enjoy would be a huge bummer. When going for ice fishing, proper attire is one of the most important factors to be considered.

You need to prepare yourself as if you’re going ten feet beneath the ice. The good part is that you can always remove a layer if you get hot.

It might be a little expensive, but the investment will be worth it. It’s going to complete your ice fishing gear for 2021, after all.

Dress in Layers

For the bottom layers, choose a material that will keep you warm. DO NOT use cotton. If you start sweating during the hot hours, it will be tough for your clothes to dry up.

On the other hand, go for waterproof for the upper layers.

To be specific, you should wear bib snow pants for your legs. At some point, your knees will touch the ice, and thus, they need to be water-resistant.

For the upper-body, you can wear any fabric (other than cotton) as a bottom layer. Polypropylene, for example, will help keep you dry. For the upper layer, a jacket would do best.

Try Covering 80% Of Your Body

Source: Pixabay

Your face, neck, hands, head, and feet are still uncovered. Make sure to take heavy boots, thick socks, scarves, gloves, and hats with you to keep yourself warm. Health comes first.

Ice Fishing Equipment

Having the right equipment in your ice fishing gear is extremely important. It is only then that you will be able to catch a good number of fishes.

Here are some suggestions for what you need to add to your ice fishing gear list this year:

An Ice Auger

Red bobber and fishing line in an ice fishing hole

If you’re planning to dig only a few ice holes, a manual ice auger will suit you best.  You’ll be able to cut off the expenses and transportation. Plus, you will be free from the restriction of having to charge batteries. 

But you may have to face this drawback: manual augers are hard to operate in thick ice.

In this case, power augers are an excellent option. Along with making a larger ice hole, it will save you from gas/oil mixing and engine maintenance. Additionally, it is a cleaner option – no exhaust fumes and no gas smell.

However, it may be very costly.

Ice Fishing Tackle

The selection here depends upon the species you’re after. Ultra-light rods are suited for panfish, light rods for perch, and medium rods for whitefish.

Then, you need to consider the rod blank materials. Graphite is expensive but more sensitive. It’ll make it possible to feel every nibble.

Likewise, choose between a longer and shorter rod. A longer rod will provide more leverage while fighting fish. In comparison, shorter rods are more comfortable to use in closed quarters.

FAQs About Ice Fishing Must-Haves

The essentials and non-essentials in an ice fishing gear may get tricky. So, here’s a FAQ section to compensate for anything missed out in the article earlier.

What gear do you need for ice fishing?

An ice fishing gear for beginners is pretty much the same for any experienced angler. But what either of you needs to know is how to make the perfect ice fishing gear list. Some of the essential things you need are:

Can you ice fish with a regular rod?

You can ice fish with a regular rod, but using a specific ice fishing rod can be a game-changer. Being shorter, it allows you to fish in a confined space. It will enable you to sit closer to your ice hole and grab fish with your hand.

Is ice fishing better than regular fishing?

The type of fishing depends on what you like better, but I prefer ice fishing. It’s more calming and teaches you patience. It’s an excellent angling activity that you can do with your family. And yes, it’s also cheaper.

Last but not least, do the summer heat, and roughness bother you? If yes, you should consider ice fishing.

Conclusion

Ice fishing is a fun activity, but you need everything in the must-have ice fishing gear. But remember only to carry everything necessary. You will, no doubt, get to enjoy your trip to the fullest if you do so.

By the way, don’t forget that ice fishing gear storage is vital once the winter season ends. Ample storage will help you enjoy it all over again next year!