Even for the most seasoned outdoorsman, the backcountry can present unforeseen challenges that call for mission-specific gear. So, whether you’re on a casual weekend hike or a hearty multi-day backcountry expedition, the right tools and know-how could save you during a particularly nasty set of circumstances.
The more you study and practice survival skills, the more prepared you'll be in situations that call for expertise as well as endurance. This blog will talk about 5 different circumstances you might encounter when going off-grid in the winter, how to make the most of your surroundings for survival — and how having a multi-tool like the COMBAR™ PRO TITANIUM can serve you.
1. Hatchet blade for fire building.
Knowing how to start a fire is one thing, but knowing how to do it in the snow is another. So let’s start with the most fundamental yet critical use for the COMBAR™ PRO TITANIUM when surviving the elements of winter — fire starting. It may very well be the difference between life and death in an emergency, as fire not only provides warmth but access to clean water and safe food.
Find tinder, kindling, and fuelwood.
- Firstly, collect tinder. Pine needles dry very quickly, so if you can find enough in the lower dead branches of a tree , that will be your best bet to a quicker fire. Smashing tree bark with the hammer feature is also a good option in an emergency because there is almost always one dry side.
- Once you have tinder, you’ll need kindling and fuelwood. Look for an area with natural cover to dry wood like a leaning rock, fallen tree, or dead lower branches of an evergreen. Collect more wood than you think you need.
- Make sure the wood is dry enough. For kindling, try to snap it; it should easily break if it’s dry. Then use the ax feature to split your branches to find the driest wood inside.
- Find a sheltered location for your fire that will help you stay as dry as possible. For example, underneath a large tree, trap between trees or against a rock face. Dig a pit to sit in using the spade feature in windy weather.
- Now, create a bed for the burning materials to separate it from the wet ground using dry tree bark, stone layer, or constructing a bed from branches. Bend the tinder in half, then create a teepee over it with the kindling. Light the tinder from underneath, carefully blow on it and let it regrow - work with the direction of the wind. Build a larger teepee of fuelwood around it when the kindling starts to burn. Set any additional kindling and fuel woods next to the flames so they can dry out.
Using just three of the features on the COMBAR™ PRO TITANIUM, you would be able to chop wood, smash fibers, and dig shelter to start a fire, even in cold, snowy conditions.
(Note that cutting bark from a tree should, in fact, only be done in an actual emergency, as this can damage and even kill the tree.)
2. Spade for building a snow cave shelter.
The most advantageous form of protection in winter conditions might just be snow. That's because when it comes to building a shelter, you can dig out a hole in an existing pile of snow if the conditions are right. Thanks to the handle length, the spade is perfect for land tasks or small space excavation. So, here's how you can build a shelter with just snow and a spade.
- Initially, it would be best to find a drift about 9 - 10 feet deep that you can dig into using the spade feature. When you start the digging process, keep an arch shape to the roof, mindful of the snow that will eventually be melting down the sides. The walls and ceiling should be at least 12 inches thick, and you should have two points of entry,
- Once your hole is dug large enough to fit inside comfortably, you will need to build a sleeping platform. It will be in the cave's center, away from the snow walls. Use the spade feature here to dig a trench around your sleeping platform to keep the snow from melting around you and wetting you and your gear. This platform will be especially important if you'll be bringing a source of heat into the snow cave.
- Make sure the roof is elevated enough so that you can sit up when on the sleeping platform. If possible, obstruct the entrance with sturdy material and use the lowest of the two entry portals for making a fire. Ensure you carve a ventilation shaft so you don't get smoked out.
If for some reason, you can’t find a snowdrift big enough to construct a snow cave shelter, you can try piling snow into a mound large enough to dig out. But, this should be used only as a last resort, as saving your energy is crucial in times of survival.
3. Knife for crafting improvised tent stakes.
Seasoned campers know that it's not uncommon to show up to camp without your tent stakes — and it isn't easy to put up a traditional tent without decent tent stakes , let alone building an entire make-shift shelter without them. So if you find yourself in a situation without snow and in need of shelter, this is a quick way to make improvised tent stakes that requires nothing more than a knife and a branch.
- First, find a green branch roughly as thick as your thumb. Then, using the saw feature, cut off a piece at around 8-10 inches long. You must use a green branch because deadwood will most likely split when you're trying to work it into a stake or when it's driven into the ground.
- Hold your stake steady. Using the knife feature, find a good position, arching over the stake for ultimate support. Using downward cutting motions, create a point on one end of your tent stake. This end will be pushed into the cold ground, so the sharper, the better. Also, it's advantageous to use a log as a solid base to work when crafting your stakes to keep from slipping - hurting yourself would only add to your distress. Cut away from yourself at all times to reduce the risk of injury.
- If you want to make tethering a rope to the stake easy, add a notch at the top of your stake on the opposite side of the sharp end. Make the notch about a quarter-inch deep; this will help hold your rope in place and prevent it from slipping off in adverse winter weather. Don't cut away too much material, or you'll create a soft spot that might fail with time.
Roots can be a sturdy alternative to rope. So, if you need rope to hold up a tarp or any other material, you can use the spade feature to dig into the ground to search for roots. Then, you can work the roots into a rope by braiding it as best you can.
4. Saw for building a tripod pot holder.
Safe drinking water is, of course, essential to your survival in the wilderness — as well as safe food. So, if you find yourself in a situation where you rely only on natural resources, having a way to boil and cook can keep you from ingesting dangerous bacteria. So how do you do this without burning your food or your water vessel? Well, a tripod might be a great place to start.
- First, you need to source three strong poles. Then, using your saw, cut a large branch at least 5 feet in height and 1 inch in diameter. It's best to use green wood, but you can use deadwood if it's still standing.
- Now you need to tie them together. At first, this can be tricky, but you'll eventually find your groove. Start by wrapping a rope (or your root cordage; see above) around your first branch multiple times to secure it.
- Next, in a straight line, lie all three poles next to each other on the ground. You will need to weave the string in, out, and finally around all three poles several times to make it sturdy enough to stand. The final touch is to wrap the rope a few times where the three poles meet. The poles ought to be tight enough to stay together but move autonomously — so you can spread them apart to make your tripod.
- Next, cut a solid branch to hook your pot or cook your meal using the saw feature. Using the knife feature, make a notch in the other end of the stick to tie your rope around to secure everything further.
Add stability to your tripod by using the spade to dig into the ground a bit. Place your tripod into the holes, and use the excess dirt to pack it in. Repeat as needed.
5. Hammer for breaking frozen ground.
No — we don't mean actually hitting your hammer on the ground to break up frost and dirt (though the spade feature would be perfect for that task) but instead for driving those tent stakes s and pot holder poles into the cold hard earth.
Driving a tent stake into the ground seems like a relatively straightforward process. Just hit the head of the stake with a rock, and try to keep it vertical and straight. Easy, right? Well, cold ground is more challenging and firmer than the warm ground. You can still manually drive a tent stake in cold conditions, but it becomes a lot harder.
That being said, the whole process can become exhausting after only a few hits, and as we've mentioned above, saving your energy is crucial in these situations. Not to mention that sweating is a serious threat due to freezing on your skin when you stop moving.
A tool designed to hammer quickly and efficiently will save your precious energy. The hammer feature on the COMBAR™ PRO TITANIUM is hardened stainless steel. Its pattern allows traction and friction for precision and ease of use. A few solid hits, and you're on your way to a warm shelter or hot meal.
So, there you have it, five winter survival tasks that you can accomplish using the COMBAR™ PRO TITANIUM. We hope these tips come in handy the next time you find yourself in a situation where your survival relies heavily on your natural surrounding and a good multi-tool. Please leave any questions or comments below, and we'll be sure to answer them here or in an upcoming blog post. Also, stay tuned for more survival tips from the experts at ACLIM8.
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