Cold Weather Survival Gear

Having a survival kit packed full of bug out bag essentials is a good start towards coming out alive in any situation.  However if you are likely to have to face a cold weather survival scenario you should consider adding specific cold weather survival gear to your kit to maximize your chances.  If you live in a cold weather climate you may have these items in your BOB at all times.  However if you live somewhere that has seasonal changes in temperature, you should include the addition of supplemental cold weather survival gear into your regular bug out bag updates.

cold weather survival gear

Cold Weather Survival Gear

There are many essential BOB items that are helpful in a winter survival scenario.  The best of these can serve to greatly increase your chances of survival when the mercury is dropping and snow is on the way.  Here are our picks of the best cold weather survival gear that should be a part of any bug out bag in a cold climate:


This will greatly help you when breaking trail through the wilderness, digging a fire pit, or when shelter building.  If you are going to be shoveling snow a flat shovel blade is suggested.  If you will have to be digging into frozen ground a spade or pick end will serve you better.

Broad blade for moving snowSpade tip for digging in frozen ground

Saw or Hatchet

This is a personal choice but bringing one or the other is a smart move.  These tools will help you build a shelter and gather firewood as well as many other important tasks.  A hatchet will be better at smashing ice and splitting wood but a saw generally weighs less and is better at cutting dead wood for fires.

High quality basic hatchetSurvival Chain SawCompact Folding SawHatchet/Saw Combo

High energy/low weight foods

Maximize the space in your BOB by using compact rations that have high calorie values such as MREs, granola or powerbars, energy gels, or nuts.  You will be burning more calories than normal so you need to up your intake to keep pace.

High energy gel - high energy, little weightHigh calories, take up little spaceKeep hydrated, just add water

Fire starting equipment and tinder

Having a fire is a key to keeping warm in a cold weather survival situation, make sure you have a high quality fire starting set.  A magnesium fire starter will last longer than matches and will work better in wet or windy conditions.  Invest in a good one to maximize your odds.

Compact and reliableOne handed firestarterMilitary grade firestarting gel. Better than any tinder.

Container for boiling snow

A metal water bottle or canteen is a great multipurpose survival tool in this regard.  It will serve as a storage container for the water after you have boiled it and will not crack if the water freezes, like a plastic bottle would.

Wide mouth makes it easy to stuff snow insideClassic style, comes with an integrated cup and carry caseInsulated to keep liquids warm

Emergency blanket

This is another great piece of multipurpose cold weather survival gear.  Emergency blankets are relatively inexpensive and in a cold weather survival situation they can be used for wrapping up yourself up to keep in warmth, as a ground cloth to keep you from losing heat to the cold ground and to keep moisture from being absorbed by your clothes, or as a shelter building material.

Compact and inexpensiveUpgraded, heavy duty version of a space blanket with integrated hoodBivvy sack made of emergency blanket material. Put your sleeping bag inside for extra warmth.

Quality waterproof boots

Taking care of your feet is one of the core elements of survival.  Wet shoes from walking through snow can quickly lead to frostbite.  Being immobilized due to this can quickly lead to death.  Having a good pair of warm, waterproof boots will eliminate any issues with your mobility and allow you to survive longer.

High quality warm, waterproof men's bootHigh quality warm, waterproof women's bootAdd on to your boots to give you traction on ice

Brightly colored bandana

Something brightly colored, preferably fluorescent will be visible from great distances against a snowy background.  This can be used for signaling passing cars or planes.  As mentioned in our multipurpose survival gear article, a bandana has many uses and this applies to cold weather survival as well.  As a cold weather survival gear item a bandana can be used for:

  • Collecting and melting snow and ice

  • A Layer of head cover under a hat

  • Wrapping extremities to prevent frostbite

  • Signaling

Bright orange and printed with helpful survival informationBright red and printed with 1st aid infromation

Quality sleeping bag

Having a quality sleeping bag rated to sub-zero temperatures is one of the most important pieces of cold weather survival gear you can have.  It will allow you to rest when you need to in order to recover your energy.  Additionally, keeping warm at night will cause you to burn less calories that would otherwise be spent keeping your temperature up.  We suggest one that is rated to -20 degrees F (about -30 degrees C) for starters.  If you live in a very cold region get one that is rated for even colder to ensure your safety.

High quality bag rated to -20Extreme bag rated down to -40


If you are in an area that usually receives a lot of snow these are a good thing to have.  They will make traversing snow covered ground far easier than breaking trail through snow banks.  Snowshoes can be purchased in many places or you can learn how to make them in the video below:

Basic snowshoesMidrange snowshoesHigh quality top of the range snowshoes


As we have discussed in the past tailoring your bug out bag to your survival scenario is a key to having it be as useful as possible when you need it.  Adding cold weather survival gear to your kit will greatly increase your chances of succeeding in a winter survival situation.  Be sure to pick quality gear, you will not be happy that you saved a few dollars when you are out in the wilderness freezing.  As with any survival tools make sure you take any items you select out and familiarize yourself with using them.  You don’t want a life or death situation to be when you are taking an item out of its original packaging.  Practice your cold weather survival skills and hone the techniques of using your cold weather survival gear for the best results.

Your Thoughts?

Do you have a piece of cold weather survival gear that you would recommend?  Do you have an innovative use for one of the cold weather survival gear items that we mentioned above?  Please let us know in the Comments Section below.


Chris Ruiz

My name is Chris and I created this site to help ordinary people prepare for the uncertainties of the modern day world. I believe that a well-prepared society is the best safeguard against any natural or manmade disaster.

3 comments on “Cold Weather Survival Gear

  1. With regards to sleepingbags apply the same principle as for clothing. Layering.
    Start with a lightweight wicking type liner that can serve double duty as temperature multiplier in the winter or a stand alone bag in the summer. Next move on to the main sleepingbag with a good low temperature rating. Finish with an outer bag that acts a temperature multiplier and that also is made of a waterproof but breathable material that will keep the inner bags from sucking up moisture if you are forced to sleep drectly on the ground or snow. (Also useful for people who move around in their sleep and may move wholly or partially off of the tarp or bedding.) Extra bedding like pine boughs or camping mattress that gets you up off the ground is a must. The higher the better. Although cots allow for cold air to circulate all around you. Sleeping on an emergency blanket can also help but may be rather slippery.

  2. The importance of getting off the ground can not be overstated in a cold weather situation. Multiple layers of pine boughs are extremely effective, the more the better.

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