How To Survive in Canada's Harsh Wilderness: Practical Strategies

Sometimes, it's easy to forget that planet Earth sits in the Goldilocks zone for human habitability. Frigid corners like the Canadian wilderness show only a preview of how we'd fare without the sun's rays. Cold tries very hard to kill you with frostbite, hypothermia, windburn, and so much more.

Fortunately, humans have figured out how to survive long periods in extreme cold. Just look at the Eskimos. If you have to subsist in a harsh environment like the Canadian wilderness, how do you do it?

Having a ready survival strategy is a must. So in this guide, we will discuss strategies for surviving the world's coldest reaches--in particular, the Canadian wilderness.

Plan a Survival Strategy in Advance

Planning can quite literally be the difference between life and death in the wilderness. Whatever your reason for being in the great outdoors, come prepared.

Every aspect of your trip deserves proper consideration. For example, how will you navigate out in the wild? You should have redundancies, such as a compass and map, to cover a suddenly non-functional GPS unit.

Make sure your vehicle is gassed, oiled, and tuned up. Check the battery charge and tire pressure. The last thing you want is for your ride home to be dead.

Plan for an Emergency

Tell friends or family in advance where you're going and for how long, especially if you'll be alone.

Aron Ralston famously sawed his own arm off after a near-death experience canyoneering alone. He told no one about his plans beforehand.

Bring a car emergency kit with you everywhere you go as backup. Have a tactical light on hand, as well as a good knife or axe. Include a ready repair toolkit for the odd chance something breaks.

In other words, you need to prepare for a disaster contingency. What will you do if you get injured, stranded, or lost? Even if these things never happen, you'll have peace of mind knowing you are ready.

Stay Warm

It's better to arrive in a cold environment with too much clothing rather than too little. After all, the cold weather on its own drains your body's calorie store at an increased piece. Even a seemingly small drop in temperature could lead to a 48% increase in calorie burning.

It's not just about having waterproof boots and a thick jacket. You need to include dedicated winterwear in your outfit. Things such as the following:

  • Base layers
  • Sweat-wicking socks
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Balaclavas or softshell face protection
  • Heat-pouch pockets

High-quality gear with a thick, warm lining, wind resistance, and water resistance is ideal. Stomping through snow can soak you quicker than you realize. You may require a dry bag to store essentials that need to stay dry.

Learn How to Build a Fire

Even if you have a heating lamp or plenty of heat packs, you'll likely need to make a fire at some point. You never know when you'll require that emergency heat in a pinch.

Bring fire-starting materials so you don't have to craft a bow drill in a bad situation. The following are good choices for a fire starter kit:

  • Lighter and waterproof matches
  • Ferro rod and knife
  • Petroleum jelly or steel wool

In learning the process of building a fire, know the individual components. Start with tinder, which burns quickly to light the kindling. Kindling holds the flame for a bit longer, enough to light the main fuel source--branches or logs.

Having steel wool or petroleum jelly mix for an easy-to-use tinder. Bring your fire starter kit in a waterproof case.

Create a Reliable Shelter

Exposure to the elements can easily kill you. Your body needs a safe, comfortable habitat away from the elements.

Bring a tent with insulates you from the air as much as the ground. If you have no tent--or it breaks--learn how to build a simple shelter. Creating a tunnel under the snowpack or a simple lean-to-out-of-stick works.

Avoid building a shelter in a dangerous area. A snow-laden mountain could easily become an avalanche risk. Victims of the Dyatlov Pass incident likely fell victim to a rare "slab" avalanche.

The most important thing is to keep the wind off you. Add insulation if possible, such as wild grass and leaves. Your body heat helps to create a warm pocket of air inside the shelter without fire.

Source Clean Water

Water is your second priority after staying warm. Drinking enough water is just as important in hot temperatures as cold. Perspiration under your clothes and respiration both can steal away a considerable amount of moisture.

Water may seem ever-present in a place like the Canadian wilderness. There's snow everywhere! Unbeknownst to some, eating snow is actually a terrible idea.

Snow lowers your body temperature drastically. Even seemingly clean snow is full of microscopic contaminants. You need to bring it to a boil for at least a minute before even the CDC would recommend it.

If possible, avoid snow entirely. Water from a stream or lake doesn't require melting it down first. Make sure you boil it, use purification tablets, or purchase a certified filter.

Keep Up with Caloric Burn

We mentioned that the body naturally burns more calories to keep itself warm in cold weather. That's only half of the story. The exertion you make--building shelter, collecting fire fuel, trudging through snow--all takes its toll.

In cold weather, your metabolism kicks up to keep you warm and humidify your air intake. You will exert yourself more even with basic tasks in the wilderness. A simple walk can take you up inclines, through snow drift, and over uneven terrain.

As we've said before, calorie burn could increase by 48% or more. Bring ample provisions--more than you anticipate needing.

MREs (made ready to eat) are an excellent choice, especially for emergency food. At most, they require some boiled water and heating for enjoyment.

Get Tools and Tips on How to Survive

Knowing how to survive in Earth's frosty northern hemisphere could save you from a movie-like horror scenario. It comes down to staying warm, having shelter, and meeting your body's needs for consumption. Prepare yourself well in advance to ensure a safe, disaster-free experience.

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