Connect with us

Lifestyle

How to Survive the Winter… Literally

This piece will serve to familiarize the reader with the signs, symptoms, and treatments of these common, sometimes deadly winter afflictions, as well as the importance of preparedness and proper training in recognizing and treating them early.

Published

on

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…To Suffer a Cold Injury
Recognition, Prevention and Treatment of Common Cold-Weather Medical Emergencies

By: Patrick Norton of ARTOS Survival


Right around this time of year, bears of all types are heading out into the wilderness to partake in their favorite winter sports. Be it hunting, skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling, the risk of suffering a cold injury greatly increases in the late fall, summer, and early spring months. Bear in mind that snow and freezing temperatures are not required for one to experience a cold-related emergency. Even in warmer climates, especially in places such as the desert or at sea, where drastic temperature drops are common at night or during and after a submersion incident, hypothermia, frostbite, or non-freezing cold injury can also occur. This piece will serve to familiarize the reader with the signs, symptoms, and treatments of these common, sometimes deadly winter afflictions, as well as the importance of preparedness and proper training in recognizing and treating them early.

First, it is crucial to have a baseline understanding of the physiology of heat production and heat loss in the human body. There are three ways the body can produce heat on its own: resting metabolism, exercise, and shivering. When the body is given energy as food, chemical reactions take place to convert energy to power the mechanisms that keep it alive and allow it to work. One of these energy conversions is turning the potential energy in food to heat energy. This resting metabolic rate will increase a bit in cold conditions, but it does not provide enough heat to sustain life in winter weather. The second form of heat production is physical exercise. Exercise is a great heat producer, whether through short bursts of intense exercise or constant, moderate motion. Exercise does have some constraints and concerns, however, that need to be considered. Athletic ability, conditioning, stamina, and endurance, as well as the availability of energy in the form of food and water, are limitations for exercise. Sweat production is another concern associated with cold injury. These highlight the importance of physical fitness, acclimatization, proper nutrition and hydration, effective winter clothing and layering, and activity regulation, which will all be addressed later. The last physiological method of heat production is shivering. Yes, shivering is a mechanism for the body to create heat, not just a symptom of hypothermia. Shivering will be addressed more later in the hypothermia sections of this article, but essentially shivering is a response to a drop in core body temperature that creates heat at a rate of approximately five times that of resting metabolism. Again, this form of heat production is fed by food, water, and oxygen. Shivering also decreases dexterity, hindering the victim’s ability to perform essential tasks required to keep warm in the first place. This will bring us to the importance of preparedness and prevention of heat loss, but first, a crash course on the forms of heat loss.

There are four types of heat loss that occur in cold environments: conduction, convection, radiation, and evaporation. Conduction is heat transfer through direct contact, for example, body heat transferring to the rock one may be sitting on. Convection can be thought of as heat loss due to air passing over the patient. Radiation is the indirect transfer of heat from a hot to a cold object. Heat is also lost through evaporation, either by sweating or breathing. To maintain adequate body temperature, it is imperative that the outdoorsman mitigate heat loss from all three forms of heat transfer and evaporation. When this is combined with proper nutrition, hydration, and activity regulation, the chances of avoiding cold injury will greatly improve.

The most important thing to do to fight hypothermia and other cold injuries is to establish preventative measures to ensure it does not happen in the first place.

In order to be prepared, one must also carry the proper gear and supplies, research the area’s conditions, acclimate to the environment and make a solid plan for the trip and for possible emergencies. Also, before the wilderness enthusiast even leaves the house, he must train! This training includes learning effective and efficient wilderness living, survival, and medical skills such as camp, shelter, and fire building, camp cooking skills, proper wilderness layering, smart activity regulation, and wilderness first aid (WFA). All too often, many people go out thinking they know exactly what to do because they have either been hunting or snowmobiling for so long that they automatically have gained survival or medical skills through osmosis, or they have watched enough hours of YouTube to know it all. This is not the case! Assume you will not rise to the occasion when an emergency happens. In general, these are the people that get into critical situations or die, whether due to cold injury or something else. Take the time to learn proper skills. Teaching all of these skills is beyond the scope of this piece, but learning to make effective shelter and fire quickly, efficiently, and safely. Learn to properly layer and regulate exercise.

The most effective and easy way to layer is the modular, three-layer system. This includes a form-fitting, moisture-wicking base layer of wool or synthetic fabric; wool is preferred in the author’s opinion because it does not become stinky due to sweating. The second piece of this system is an insulating layer, also of wool or synthetic material. Down layers are acceptable only in dry cold. This layer should not be too tight; the idea is to hold heat in the negative airspace of the fabric. The final layer is a breathable, waterproof shell. Gore-Tex is preferred, but there are other materials that do the trick as well. The purpose of this layer is to protect the wearer from wind and water while allowing the other layers to breathe and expel any moisture that has built up. Do not forget to also wear warm headwear, footwear, and hand-wear. Do not over-tighten footwear, as this can inhibit circulation to the feet and toes. The following is a simple example of how to employ this modular system along with proper exercise management. Imagine a snowshoer wearing this three-layer system at the bottom of a fairly steep slope. The next step in the expedition is to get to the top. The wearer is fairly certain that he will create heat through the exercise required to get to the top, so he sheds his middle, insulating layer. He begins to climb but maintains a moderate level of exertion using a steady pace, following a switchback pattern up the hill rather than forging straight up the hill as fast as he can to mitigate sweat production, which could freeze or increase his chances of hypothermia or other cold injuries. If the hill climb is quite long, he can take frequent rests as he begins to feel himself start to sweat or overexert. Certainly, by the time he gets to the top, he will want to take a good rest, eventually donning the insulating layer again before cooling off too much. This is an easy-to-follow example, but it is important to be strategic and diligent, no matter how complex the scenario is.

In concluding the topic of prevention, adequately fueling the body is required to perform exercise and simple tasks and to power the metabolic heat production mechanisms addressed earlier in this article. Be sure food is consumed regularly, in proper amounts, and according to the intensity of activity. Remember, food intake should be increased in colder environments, whether intense exercise is involved or not. Carbohydrates are converted into kinetic and heat energy very quickly, which is likened to tinder in fire building. Fats and proteins will provide more sustained energy, comparable to larger pieces of firewood. Lastly, proper hydration is of the utmost importance to prevent not only heat injury but cold injury as well. It allows for adequate perfusion to supply oxygen and nutrients to the cells and to circulate warm blood to the vital organs and extremities. Pre-hydrate before activity and hydrate often during activity. Make sure to have electrolytes available so the body can absorb the water it is supplied. Under normal circumstances, food provides the body with enough electrolytes, but under strenuous activity, the rule of thumb is one liter of electrolyte replacement for every two liters of regular water.

If these measures fail, cold injuries may happen. There are different types of cold injuries, and each has different levels of severity. Cold injury may also occur in conjunction with other injuries. This is why in a wilderness setting, the primary patient assessment not only includes airway, breathing, and circulation assessment and intervention but spinal disability and environmental measures as well. It is recommended to take a WFA course, at minimum, to learn to properly carry out a patient assessment, which every patient deserves. The first type of cold injury is hypothermia.

The key to treating hypothermia is to recognize the signs and symptoms early and treat them immediately.

The signs and symptoms of hypothermia vary depending on severity. These include shivering, goosebumps, loss of fine motor function, stiff extremities, clumsiness, poor decision-making, and confusion for mild hypothermia. When these symptoms increase and the patient begins to become more uncoordinated, including an altered gait and falling, and begins presenting signs of obvious mental status changes, the patient is considered to have moderate hypothermia. These symptoms are often called “the umbles” or stumbles, fumbles, and mumbles. To treat mild and moderate hypothermia, dry the patient, dress him in warm clothing, move him to a warmer location protected from wind, and encourage movement if possible. In moderate cases, the patient may need to be put in a sleeping bag with an insulating pad between him and the ground. The patient should be given warm drinks with plenty of sugar if he can swallow. The caregiver should also put hot, but not scalding, water bottles or chemical heat packs on critical places such as the torso, back, armpits, and groin, with a layer of clothing in between. Once the patient is warmed, he may begin to have solid food such as candy or energy bars progressing to full meals with fats and protein. Fires with a reflector wall or space blanket will also help rewarm the patient. Most times, rewarming a mildly hypothermic patient can be done in the field, and the patient may continue the trip once ready. In moderate cases, this becomes more difficult but can still be attainable. Keep in mind the rewarming process may take a long time and may not always succeed in the field. Be persistent and do not allow for any more heat loss.

If hypothermia progresses, the patient may stop shivering due to energy depletion and show a profound decrease in mental status, muscle rigidity, and lowered heart and respiratory rate. This is severe, or profound, hypothermia, a life-threatening condition. The patient likely will not be able to swallow, so giving warm drinks and food will not be possible. In cases of moderate or severe hypothermia, the patient should be put in a hypothermia wrap (hypo-wrap) or “hypo-burrito .”Many useful modifications can be made to improve the hypo-wrap, and it can be viewed online or learned in a wilderness medicine course. However, the basic principles of the hypo-wrap remain the same in all iterations. Begin by heating water bottles or activating chemical heat packs. Lay the patient down on a large, waterproof sheet, such as a plastic tarp or drop cloth. Put the patient in at least one sleeping bag or wrap them in blankets with an insulating pad underneath. Place the bottles or heat packs in the critical areas mentioned above, including by the feet. Finally, wrap the patient in the waterproof sheeting tucking the edges under the patient to keep warmth inside the wrap. A cloth or scarf may be placed over the patient’s mouth to prevent evaporative heat loss. The photos in this article show how this should look. When handling this patient, be very gentle so as not to cause cold blood to circulate to the heart. This may cause a life-threatening heart arrhythmia. Keep in mind that the patient’s pulse and respiratory rate may be difficult to detect, so go slow with the assessment. If they are absent, CPR may be performed. However, when in doubt, give only rescue breaths. Due to the preservative nature of cold, the patient may appear deceased, but given in-hospital warming and resuscitation care, many patients do survive. Remember: “the patient is not dead until he is warm and dead.” In most cases of mild or moderate hypothermia, evacuation is generally not necessary, and the patient can be rewarmed and continue acting as long as their mental status returns to normal. With severe hypothermia and some cases of moderate hypothermia, the patient should be quickly and gently evacuated to a higher level of care.

Frostbite is a condition in which tissue, most commonly that of the fingers, toes, ears, nose, and cheeks, freezes locally. The fluids between the cells of the tissue freeze, causing damage from the friction between the ice crystals and constriction of blood flow due to blood clots in the blood vessels of the affected regions. Frostbite is categorized in much the same way that burns are. Superficial frostbite, also known as frostnip, affects the outer layer of skin, causing it to appear red at first, then grey or white and waxy. The patient may experience numbness, tingling, or pain. Partial-thickness frostbite affects the tissues underneath the outer layer. The signs and symptoms for partial-thickness frostbite are much the same as for superficial frostbite, but the outer tissue may feel hard and frozen, while the underlying tissue may be softer. Full-thickness frostbite, occurring deeper into the muscle tissue of the patient, will also have similar signs and symptoms to those of superficial and partial-thickness frostbite, but the outer and underlying tissues will feel hard and frozen. It is difficult to determine the severity of frostbite until after it is rewarmed, but the presence of blisters within 24 to 48 hours of rewarming may indicate a partial-thickness injury, while the absence of blisters may indicate full-thickness frostbite. The treatment of frostbite is mostly the same across the board when it comes to severity. The patient should be brought to a warmer place, and wet clothes and jewelry should be removed. The affected area may be rewarmed if there is no chance of refreezing. This can be done by skin-to-skin contact or sticking fingers in the armpits, but rubbing is not appropriate as this can cause more damage. Do not expose the affected area to flame or rub snow on it. Ideally, the injured area should be rewarmed by submersion in 99°F – 102°F water. This is best done in a hospital setting since a constant warm water supply is required. Under-thawing can result in further damaged tissue. A flush of pink indicates that rewarming is taking place, and blisters may form. This process will be very painful. Pain management measures, such as Ibuprofen, are appropriate here. After the area is rewarmed, use extreme care when handling the area, place padding between fingers and toes and wrap and protect the rewarmed part. Encourage the patient not to use the injured body part. Quickly evacuate any person with frostbite, being gentle with the injured area. It is imperative to avoid rewarming if the chance of refreezing is high during evacuation. Preventative measures for frostbite are similar to those of hypothermia, with the addition of being especially careful to cover at-risk body parts and not touching frozen, metal objects. Frostbite is generally not life-threatening but can lead to loss of function and even amputation. Remember, it is easier and safer to stay warm than to treat a cold injury.

The final injury that will be addressed is a non-freezing cold injury, commonly known as trench foot. Trench foot is caused by prolonged exposure, usually in the feet, to cold, wet conditions, resulting in a lack of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the extremity. The symptoms of trench foot include swollen, cold, painful, white or gray, shiny or mottled feet. Pain, numbness, or tingling may occur. Capillary refill may be slowed. This can be tested by pressing fingers on the affected part and watching the color return to the area. This should take less than two seconds. In severe cases, blisters or gangrene and long-term disability may develop, as well as the need for amputation. If the patient experiences any numbness or tingling, be suspicious of developing a trench foot. Treatment of trench foot involves rewarming the affected area at room temperature, elevating the affected body part, and bed rest to avoid further trauma. Avoid trench foot by being very diligent in keeping your feet dry and warm. It is important to dry and change socks frequently, avoid over-tightening footwear, sleep with warm, dry feet and pay special attention to the needs of your feet, examining and massaging them at regular intervals. Sometimes getting wet, cold feet is unavoidable, but care should be taken to keep them as dry as possible by using terrain to your advantage and the proper equipment, including plenty of thick wool socks and galoshes or waterproof boots with gaiters. In general, non-freezing cold injuries do not require evacuation.

Although not exhaustive, this article will give the reader an informative introduction to understanding, recognizing, and treating some of the more common cold-related injuries that may occur during outings in the wilderness. The most important takeaway should be that preparedness and prevention are the preferred and safest methods for addressing these conditions. Proper research and training are encouraged before heading out into the wild. The author believes that it is incumbent upon everyone who works or plays outdoors to take a two-day wilderness first aid course to prepare for their next trip. Visit artossurvival.com for more details on WFA and survival courses in Northwest Montana, or find an instructor near you. Stay warm out there!

Patrick Norton
Owner/Lead Instructor
ARTOS Survival
Patrick@artossurvival.com
(510) 406-685
P.O. Box 1431 Eureka, MT 59917

Lifestyle

Making Pine Needle Soda: A Fantastic Foraged Beverage

Pine needle soda, a truly one-of-a-kind beverage, has been savored worldwide for its zesty taste and health benefits.

Published

on

Pine needle soda, a truly one-of-a-kind beverage, has been savored worldwide for its zesty taste and health benefits. It’s not just a refreshing drink, but also a creative use of natural ingredients. Here’s a simple guide to crafting this unique soda at home.

Pine needles are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, which help boost the immune system. Different species of needles can offer different flavors, but it’s important to make sure the trees you harvest from are not toxic. Avoid using needles from yew, Norfolk Island pine, or Ponderosa pine. You should do additional research to insure you are staying safe.

The recipe I followed is easy and only requires a jar, strainer, and measuring cups. Start by identifying the pine tree you would like to harvest from; I used fir, tamarack, and white pine. Again, make sure you don’t use anything unsafe. You can choose to use new sprouted tips or even mature needles, which means you can also have fresh pine soda in the winter months!
You can scale up the recipe, but for reference, use the following:

  • 2 Cups Pine needles
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 2-4 Tablespoons sugar (depending on sweetness you desire)

For the above measurements, I recommend using a quart jar. Begin by rinsing the needles, not too thoroughly, because the carbonation comes from natural yeast living on the pine needles. Add the sugar and water and seal the jar. Leave to ferment so it can become bubbly soda! Make sure to “burp” the jar every couple of days to release some of the gas so it does not build up and explode the jar! In 5-7 days, you will have soda, God willing.

Serve over ice and with some citrus if you’d like. Enjoy!

Continue Reading

Lifestyle

Reconnect and Rejoice: Beartaria Times Weekly Challenge

Maintaining solid relationships with family and friends offers numerous benefits that enrich our lives in meaningful ways…

Published

on

In our fast-paced world, losing touch with friends and family members who once played significant roles in our lives is easy. This week, the Beartaria Times invites you to participate in our heartwarming challenge: Reconnect with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Give them a call, ask how they’ve been, and rekindle that bond.

Maintaining solid relationships with family and friends offers numerous benefits that enrich our lives in meaningful ways:

1. Emotional Support: Close relationships provide a robust support system during tough times, offering comfort, advice, and a sense of belonging.

2. Improved Mental Health: Regular interactions with loved ones reduces feelings of loneliness and depression, contributing to mental well-being.

3. Increased Longevity: Studies have shown that strong social connections tend to help people live longer and enjoy better health.

4. Enhanced Happiness: Sharing moments, memories, and experiences with others brings joy and fulfillment, fostering a more positive outlook on life.

5. Personal Growth: Friends and family often challenge us to grow, learn, and become better versions of ourselves.

6. Creating Memories: Every interaction creates new memories, adding richness to our personal histories and offering stories to cherish for years to come.

We encourage you to take this challenge to heart and reach out to someone you miss. Whether it’s a friend from high school, a distant relative, or a former colleague, a simple phone call can reignite connections and brighten your day and theirs.

Once you’ve reconnected, share your stories and experiences on the Beartaria Times community app. Post about who you called, the memories you shared, and how the conversation went. Did you learn something new? Did you laugh about old times? These stories can inspire others to take similar steps in their lives.

Join us in this week’s challenge and celebrate the beauty of human connection. Let’s make an effort to nurture our relationships and remind those we care about that they are valued and remembered.

Happy connecting, Beartarians! We look forward to hearing your heartwarming stories.

Sincerly,

– The Beartaria Times Team

Continue Reading

Lifestyle

Into the Wilderness: Part 1 Knives and Knife Skills 

Knives will perform numerous tasks, better or worse, based on their grind, edge geometry, and thickness. That said, I have found that a full flat grind is ideal for food prep and butchering, though a high saber grind works well too. 

Published

on

By Gabriel- The Last Huntsman

As with many of us in the Beartaria community, we have found the mundane existence of modern Babylon completely unappealing, ungodly, and unfulfilling. As a result, many of us seek to make our way, either by downsizing our footprint in the modern digital world, homesteading our sustenance, or becoming producers. For some of us, however, that also means getting out into the wilderness; far away from civilization, we test ourselves and our bodies to become more like our ancestors of old,  becoming non-domesticated humans. 

In this article series, I will detail at least one part of the wilderness- a popular term coined as bushcraft. Bushcraft seemingly has taken many different names and forms.

For me, it’s practicing basic wood skills such as shelter craft, fire craft, knife skills, axe skills, and other tools, and can even have some hunting or tactical applications.

Though you can write a whole book on bushcraft, as many already have, we’re just going to get into some knife basics for this article. 

Choosing Your Knife

Knives are mankind’s first tool; they are essential for basic tasks, whether processing your food, wood processing, cutting cordage, etc. In addition, knives can be used in a myriad of practical tasks and defensive means. While having a flimsy folding knife can be ok for opening boxes or backyard/vehicle camping, bushcrafting skills require having a solid and reliable fixed-blade knife, ideally full tang, for practical tasks.

You will have to determine if a smaller knife or a larger knife would better suit your purposes. A saying often goes, however, that you can do small tasks with a big knife if you have to, but you can’t do big tasks with a small knife, but having a smaller blade is less weight and easier to conceal. That’s just food for thought. Another consideration is steel choice; I will simplify carbon steel or stainless steel. Knife Nerds is an excellent resource to dabble into all things knife steel. Carbon steel, while generally tougher than stainless steel, can be prone to rust. So if you’re in a coastal environment, it can be hard to maintain. Stainless steel is more rust-resistant and can have better edge-holding capabilities. However, it can be more prone to snapping or chipping during extreme use.

Knife Skills

Using your knife to split wood is known as batoning. This is done by utilizing your knife as a wedge while you use another log (baton) as a mallet to beat the spine of your knife blade through the log. This can be a rather rigorous task on your knife. However, it is sometimes needed to make wood burnable when conditions are wet or when it’s hard to stabilize a log and safely use an axe. In many cases, the wood logs could be wet; however, the wood on the inside will be dryer and more suitable for fire craft. Splitting wood is necessary for ease of burning to cook, keep warm, and many other things.

Making feather sticks with a knife is another handy bushcrafting knife skill. It is done by finely slicing small curls of wood into a bundle. This bundle is perfect for fire tinder. While most small sticks, twigs, and other tinder may be too big or have too much moisture to catch a spark well, the feather sticks can be from a freshly split log that you just have batoned, which should be dryer. Making feather sticks takes time to master, learning what knives work best and what wood works best. The finer and thinner your wood curls are, the better; they will catch a spark or flame easier to start your fire.

Chopping is another handy knife skill to practice. I’m sure many will ask why you would use a knife to chop when you can use an axe. Well, for one, it’s more likely to have a knife on your person than an axe. If you’re hunting, scouting, or hiking, having a solid knife is lighter than packing a knife and an axe. Finally, it can be safer, as having an axe in full swing can be more likely to miss or over-swing. Having a medium to larger knife size will obviously help with the performance of this task. Good ergonomics will help the knife maintain in hand and absorb shock during chopping tasks. 

Striking a ferro rod (ferrocerium rod) is a skill that can help you get a fire going in your wilderness adventures. Firstly a ferro rod is a metal rod that will produce sparks when struck with a flat edge and can last thousands of strikes. So why use it over a lighter? Lighters can be finicky at best; they can get too cold, wet, or drain themselves of fluid. That is a big no-no, mainly when you’re depending on it.

So simply put, Ferro rods are just a survivalist/bushcrafter’s go-to fire-starting tool. Ideally, your knife will have a 90-degree spine on the back edge of the blade. This sharp, flat edge can strike and scrape the ferro rod. However, not all knives have a sharp spine, so having a small scraper or a spare knife may be necessary. In a worst-case scenario, you can use the edge of your knife; however, this is not recommended as it will damage your edge. When using the Ferro rod with your blade, you want to ensure your rod is as close to your tinder bundle (feather sticks) as possible. This will maximize the amount of sparks and heat transferred into those fine wood curls to get a fire going. 

Notches are another bushcrafting knife skill that is good to learn. It is essentially cutting a notch in various shapes to allow cordage to be held in place for constructing many things in the wilderness. Notches can be used to build tent stakes, fire spits, shelters, and even wild game traps. Notches can be carved directly using the knife or with a knife and baton. Though there are several notches, the few fundamental ones are the square notch, v notch, and stake notch. They may seem self-explanatory; however, carving these can take a measure of skill with your knife.  Square notches can be done by simply partially cross-batoning your knife into the wood, then doing so again, a short distance from the first, and twisting your knife- this will pop the excess wood. Stake Notches are achieved by partially cross-batoning and carving the extra wood with your knife toward your baton mark. V notches are done by cutting a ‘V-shaped groove into the wood.  

Then, one of the oldest knife skills is probably out there, processing animals or vegetation for food. People have been using knives to kill and butcher their livestock and wild game or cut up their humble veggies since humanity’s beginning. As we return to our roots, having these knife skills can make things much more manageable and save you money. 

Knives will perform numerous tasks, better or worse, based on their grind, edge geometry, and thickness. That said, I have found that a full flat grind (shown on the knives pictured above) is ideal for food prep and butchering, though a high saber grind works well too. 

 As I’ve stated, knives are one of mankind’s primary tools. We will always have a place to use a blade, especially as we separate ourselves from this fruitless modern world. These are just a few simple knife skills necessary for bushcrafting and wilderness adventures. The easy way to practice and master knife skills is to get out there and try to have fun. As you enjoy yourself, you’ll find ways to make things happen. Always check out my content on my Youtube channel, Beartaria Times app, and Instagram at The Last Huntsman. Feel free to follow up and message me with any questions. Finally, be prepared both physically and spiritually. God bless and carry on. 

Continue Reading

Trending

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website.