tactical watches survival

Are Tactical Watches Useful For Urban And Wilderness Survival?

tactical watches survival

Survival situations can arise in the blink of an eye, so we are always looking for ways to increase preparedness. However, carrying all of your survival gear on a daily basis simply is not practical for most people. Therefore, we also try to find lightweight gear with multiple functions that can be carried discretely as you go about your day. With so many features available, tactical watches are a survival tool worth investigating.

The tactical watch is possibly the most impressive form of wearable technology. With many practical uses, as well as specialized functions for extreme operations, tactical watches can provide you with a wealth of information to aid you in survival. The key to making the best choice is to determine how you are most likely to use it and finding the features that best meet those needs.

Survival Features Of Tactical Watches

Sure, a tactical watch sounds like an awesome piece of must-have gear but choosing one will be based on exactly what you will be doing. Completing a threat assessment will help you decide which features will most benefit you, then you can look for the watch with the best design for those features. No matter how you plan to use your watch, a secure comfortable fit and ease of use will play an important role.

tactical watches survival

Telling Time

In a world where we rarely use phones to talk, it isn’t too far-fetched that the primary function of a watch is the one least considered. How the time is displayed is a matter of personal preference. Digital or analog, military or standard 12 hour, or any combination may be available, depending on the specific tactical watch.

In addition to simply displaying the time, there are useful features that come into play in a post-disaster situation, such as a full calendar and sunrise/sunset indicator. Having a sense of how much time has passed when bugging out will provide a sense of stability and continuity. You can be sure the water boiled for a full 10 minutes, plan when to check your traps, or figure out how far your bug out party can travel during daylight. It is especially useful to know the exact date if you are tuning into emergency broadcasts for instruction, such as when and where relief efforts will commence.

Standing Up To The Elements

Tactical watches are built tough to withstand rigorous activity and a variety of conditions. Some have extra features to deal with special situations, such as diving, parachuting, and high impact activities.

tactical watches survival

The face will typically be made of a scratch- and shatter-resistant material, such as sapphire or mineral crystal. Stainless steel is a common material for the bevel and casing, due to its durability. Anodized aluminum is a lightweight alternative that does not compromise strength.

Tactical watch bands come in a variety of styles of materials, including nylon, rubber, leather, and steel. There are advantages to each material, depending on intended use and personal comfort.

Other areas to consider that are specific to your needs are low-temperature resistance, submersion, impact resistance, and dust resistance. You’ll want to make sure that the construction is solid and will keep out anything that could damage the internal mechanisms.

Finding Your Way

Navigation features range in accuracy and capability. For simple orientation, you might get by with compass points on a rotating ring to give you a general idea of the direction you are heading. Some tactical watches have an actual button compass integrated into the watchband, while others use a digital or analog compass display.

tactical watches survival

Altimeters are usually displayed as a real-time reading but some tactical watches are able to record elevation data. Tracking your elevation is very useful in conjunction with topographical maps, making it easier to know if you are on the correct trail.

For more precise navigation, you can choose a watch with a digital GPS readout so you are able to pinpoint exactly where you are. This can be very useful if you need to share or record your specific location coordinates, such as for search and rescue, locating your bug out camp, or coordinating a gathering point for your bug out party. For day to day use, approximate location may be sufficient but if you spend a lot of time in remote areas, you may want to go with a tactical watch that has GPS.

tactical watches survival

Monitoring Your (Or Someone Else’s) Health

For daily use, a heart rate monitor can be used to track your activity. This is a great feature for fitness training but it also has survival applications. Unless you pack a stethoscope into your bug out bag, a heart rate monitor is the next best thing when you or a member of your bug out party is sick or severely injured. For conditions such as disease, loss of blood, and shock, keeping track of the person’s heart rate and being alerted to accelerations or decelerations can be life-saving.

tactical watches survival

If you are a traversing high-altitude region, an altimeter will also help with health maintenance. Altitude sickness can occur at 8000 feet above sea level and if left untreated, can result in death. The first warning signs are headache, nausea, and fatigue and should not be ignored. Breathlessness, caused by fluid in the lungs, is a sign of High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema (HAPE) and can be accompanied by fever and a frothy cough. Drowsiness, clumsiness, and irritability are signs of fluid on the brain, known as High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACE). Both of these conditions are fatal. Therefore, paying close attention to your altitude is especially important to your survival.

tactical watches survival

A thermometer can assist you in making sure that your shelter is warm enough, knowing when to avoid being exposed to extremely low temperatures, or conversely, extremely high temperatures. The general safe temperature range for humans is 40F-95F. Spending prolonged time on the low end of that can result in hypothermia or on the high end of the range, hyperthermia. Being aware of the temperature will help you make decisions that favor your survival.

Top 5 Tactical Watches

#1 Garmin Tactix Bravo

tactical watches survival

Click the image to view the Garmin Tactix Bravo on Amazon.

This watch is built tough for handling rigorous field operations. A high-strength domed sapphire lens is mounted in a stainless steel bezel and rear case plate. The buttons are knurled for ease of grip and are also PVD-coated stainless steel. The display is non-reflective and night-vision compatible. Two interchangeable nylon straps are included.

The high-resolution display turns the watch face from an analog clock to a personal GPS device, with TracBack technology for finding your way back to your starting point. You can view your precise coordinates or switch to map view and follow your progress point to point. Mark locations along the way, such as water sources or dangerous terrain, and share them using Bluetooth or ANT+ wireless connections.

tactical watches survival

Click the image to view the Garmin Tactix Bravo on Amazon.

The Garmin Tactix Bravo also has great features for training purposes, such as monitoring stride length, cadence, ground contact time, and vertical oscillation. The heart rate metrics provide a stress score, performance condition, and lactate threshold readout so you can track how your body is handling physical activity. It also tracks sleep patterns to create a record of your overall health.

One of the coolest features of the Tactix Bravo is the ability to download additional screens to customize to your specific needs. You can even set it up to receive alerts from another device, such as emails and texts from your smartphone.

The battery life depends on which mode you are using: 20 hours in GPS mode or 50 hours in UltraTrac mode. A USB charger is included.

#2 Casio G-9300-1 G-Shock Mudman

tactical watches survival

Click the image to view the Casio G-Shock Mudman on Amazon.

Named for its resilience to mud and debris, the G-Shock Mudman has internal gaskets on all of the buttons and screws that are designed to handle dirty work. A sapphire crystal face protects the digital display, which features 12 or 24 hour time, date, temperature, pressure, and directional readouts. It also tracks the phases of the moon in a visual graphic.

The Mudman is shock resistant and water resistant to a depth of 200 meters, making it a suitable diving companion, as well. For navigating on land, use the digital compass with full 0-359 degree range, corrected for magnetic declination.

Since it is solar-powered, the G-Shock Mudman does not need to be charged or wound and it can last up to 8 months on a full charge even without exposure to light. This is a great feature for backcountry survival.

#4 Timex T49859 Intelligent Quartz Tide-Temp-Compass

tactical watches survival

Click the image to view the Timex Tide-Temp-Compass on Amazon.

With several key nautical features, the Timex Tide-Temp-Compass is ideal for boating, swimming, and snorkeling. Behind the mineral glass lens is a quartz analog clock with concentric rings that include analog tide tracker and temperature displays. The digital thermometer reads air or water temperature, and the watch is water resistant to 100 meters. An Indiglo light allows you to view the full face in low lighting.

The stainless steel case has a slide-rule bevel with directional indicators. A fourth hand on the clock serves as an analog display for the digital compass. The sturdy stainless steel band features a deployment clasp for a secure fit. Overall, this is a rugged watch by a trusted brand, and more economical than others in its class.


Tactical watches are far sturdier than other electronic devices, such as cell phones and tablets. If you rely heavily on your smartphone to provide tactical information, keep in mind that it may cease to function in a disaster scenario and it likely wouldn’t survive 100 meter submersion, even in the toughest protective case. The convenience of having a wealth of information at your wrist and the extreme durability of tactical watches makes them a useful tool for survival situations.

Your Thoughts

Which features do you think you would be most likely to use in a survival situation? Do you think tactical watches can replace other survival gear? Share your opinions in the Comments section below, thanks!

Read More

avalanche safety

Avalanche Safety Skills And Gear For Surviving The Backcountry

avalanche safety

A big part of winter is the ability to enjoy winter sports and explore snowy, mountainous expanses. However, lurking behind the beautiful facade of freshly fallen snow is the deadly risk of getting caught in an avalanche. Anyone who participates in winter sports or mountain expeditions needs to have avalanche preparedness high on their threat assessment list. Even if you don’t engage in activities where the threat of avalanches is high, you never know when you may need avalanche safety skills – especially if your bug-out plan may take you through snowy, mountainous regions or if you live in the backcountry.

Avalanches are some of the most deadly obstacles nature can throw at you and when it comes to preparing for avalanches, prevention is your most important skill. Always ensure you know as much as possible about the area where you will be traveling, including daily conditions, avalanche warnings, avalanche-prone areas, local emergency telephone numbers, and how to identify and avoid high-risk situations.

While prevention is your best defense against avalanches, there are techniques you can use to help you survive should you become caught in an avalanche. In this article, we’re going to discuss what those techniques are as well as introduce important avalanche safety gear that you can use to increase your chances of surviving an avalanche.

Crucial Avalanche Safety Gear

Backcountry Access Tracker2 Avalanche Beacon
• Digital triple antenna processor uses 3 AAA for 200 hours of transmit or 1 hour of search mode
• Detects and tracks multiple burials for group situations
• Lights indicate direction and display indicates distance in meters to quickly locate victims
• Includes harness
BLACK DIAMOND PIEPS DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon
• Digital triple antenna plus reference antenna with 50 meter search radius
• Mark function allows you to flag signals in multiple burials
• Single button design is easy to operate with gloves on
• Includes harness
Ortovox Zoom+ Avalanche Transceiver
• Digital triple antenna with motion sensor that switches back to transmit to protect rescuers in secondary avalanches
• Uses higher, faster beeps to indicate proximity to the victim so your eyes are free to scan the area
• Also displays distance and direction
Ortovox Avalanche Rescue Set-Zoom+
• Rescue set includes Ortovox Zoom+ transceiver, probe, and shovel
• 240 cm aluminum probe features Kevlar tension system and depth markings
• Shovel is reinforced for rigidity and high side walls provide 2.5 liter volume for efficient digging
AAA 4004 Red Aluminum Sport Utility Shovel
• Lightweight shovel weighs only 1.3 lbs and disassembles into 3 pieces for easy transport
• Telescoping handle adjusts between 25-32 inches for better leverage
• Sturdy aluminum scoop for handling heavy snow and ice
Black Diamond Transfer Shovel
• Hard anodized scoop has a sharp edge for cutting through packed snow and ice
• Removable handle extends for digging in deeper pits
• Compact trapezoidal design fits well in most backcountry packs
Backcountry Access Dozer Hoe Shovel
• Versatile design works as a shovel or converts to a hoe to adapt to the situation
• Large slip-proof grips on handle and blade improve grip even with gloves on
• T6 heat treatment prevents snow from building up on the inside of the shaft
Backcountry Access Stealth Avalanche Probe
• Rapid deployment action for when every second counts
• Collapses to a bundle about 18" long by 2" across to store easily in a backpack
• Laser etched depth markers indicate how deep to dig. Also helpful for reading snow pack layers
Black Diamond Quickdraw Probe Tour
• Aluminum shaft with alloy tip that is wider than the shaft for improved sensitivity
• High visibility markings for determining depth
• Includes rapid deployment stuff sack, which allows the probe to be removed and assembled in one step
BCA Float Airbag
• Airbag trigger can be mounted on the left or right side for optimal access
• Pack features gear integration points for carrying snowboards, skis, radios, water bladder, ice axes and more
• Entire system weighs only 7.1 lbs, including the cylinder (sold separately)
Backcountry Access Float Refillable Cylinder - Empty
• Uses 2700 psi to rapidly inflate the float when triggered
• Can be refilled at a certified refill station after use
• Lightweight at 1.45 lbs and designed to work with the BCA Float Airbag
Ortovox Mens Avalanche Rider 24 ABS Backpack
• Designed to work with M.A.S.S. system, sold separately
• Removable SPS Pro2 back protector to help prevent spinal injuries
• Chest strap features a safety whistle to signal for help
Ortovox M.A.S.S. For Backpack
avalanche safety
• Modular Airbag Safety System (M.A.S.S.) includes dual airbags with independent air chambers for added safety
• Inserts into Ortovox Avalanche Rider backpack in just minutes
• Release grip can be configured on the right-or left-hand side, with the angle and height adjustable to the quickest access location for the wearer
POC Fornix Backcountry MIPS Ski Helmet, Uranium Black, Medium/Large
• Equipped with MIPS (Multidirectional Impact Protection System) for direct and oblique impacts
• Aramid fiber bridge disperses energy due to its high tensile strength
• Adjustable ventilation and straps for a snug and comfortable fit
Smith Vantage Unisex Adult Snow Helmet
• Koroyd lining absorbs 30 percent more energy than styrofoam, offering better protection in both low and high impact crashes
• Boa FS360 fit system uses a halo design for the perfect fit
• Extra thick Snapfit ear pads provide full protection of the ears
Click the images to view current prices on Amazon.


When equipping your crew with survival gear, remember that each and every member needs to be equipped with these items – a shovel will be of no use if it is buried with the victim and the same goes for probes. As for the avalanche beacon, each member of your crew needs to have one harnessed to their chest, not in a pocket or backpack as these items can easily become separated from the person in a violent tumble.

avalanche safety
Every member of your party needs to be equipped with avalanche safety gear and survival techniques before heading into the backcountry.

Avalanche Beacon: The One Piece Of Gear You Should Never Be Without

What it is: An avalanche beacon is a type of transceiver that can be used to locate its wearer in the event of an emergency.

How it works: The avalanche beacon sends out a radio signal, transmitting at 457 KHz (a universal and international radio frequency). Avalanche safety beacons are also able to switch to receive signals from other beacons – one of the many reasons why everyone in your party should be wearing one.

When a signal is received, the beacon will beep with increasing volume as it gets closer to the source of the signal. This allows you to pinpoint the location of someone buried beneath the snow.

avalanche safety
Diagram of how the Black Diamond PIEPS DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon detects and displays multiple burials. Click the image to learn more on Amazon.

There are two types of beacons: analog and digital. The analog systems use a single antenna and have a broad range, able to receive signals from further distances. A beep is typically used to indicate the location of a signal. The digital systems use multiple antennas and have a much narrower range of signal reception. Digital systems use both beeps and a visual display to accurately narrow in on a signal and some even have light signals to indicate direction and display the distance to the signal.

Before setting out on any excursion, your beacon should be fully charged, turned on, and set to transmit at 457 KHz. In times of emergency, it can be very difficult to move, much less access your device, if you are buried under snow – or worse, you may be unconscious.

Additionally, when you or someone in your crew becomes buried in an avalanche, the window of time you have to be found or to find someone else is very narrow – 15 minutes at most. Everyone in your crew should practice with their beacons ahead of time so that they are proficient in sending and receiving signals, as well as following signals to find the source.

avalanche safety
The lights indicate direction and the number tells the distance in meters to the transmitted signal from another avalanche beacon. Click the image to view the BCA Access Tracker2 on Amazon.

A harness is an extremely important piece of avalanche safety equipment that will keep your beacon close to your body and protected underneath your clothes. By having your beacon harnessed to your body you reduce the risk of it becoming separated from you.

While some avalanche beacons will come with a harness, others require you to purchase it separately. Before purchasing your beacon, check to see if a harness is included and if not, make sure you purchase one.


What it is: A probe is a lightweight, collapsible stick typically six to seven feet long once assembled.

avalanche safety
The ripcord action of the Black Diamond Quickdraw Probe makes for fast deployment when it counts. Click the image to view this probe on Amazon.

How it works: A probe is used for probing into the snow in order to locate someone buried beneath the surface. Your probe will provide you with a good idea of where to start digging should one of your crew members be buried by an avalanche. Look for quick-deployment designs that snap into place, ready for use immediately. Probes are also used to assess the current snow pack to determine avalanche risk.


avalanche safety
Backcountry shovels are designed to be compact, lightweight, and ultra sturdy for quick set up and vigorous digging. Click the image to view the AAA Sport Utility Shovel on Amazon.

While fairly self-explanatory, a shovel is an essential tool to have on-hand for avalanche safety, especially for rescuing those caught in an avalanche. In order to perform an effective rescue, you will need to dig quickly, a task that is much more easily performed with a shovel. Look for a collapsible, high-volume shovel and remember – carrying a shovel with you will be more than worth it when you need it as your window of opportunity is so slim.


avalanche safety

Head injury is a serious concern especially when it comes to outdoor sports. Surviving an avalanche is no different than surviving an extreme skiing accident. Wearing a helmet will help provide protection from head trauma in the event of impact – whether during a fall or in an avalanche. In fact, it is quite common for avalanche victims to die prior to burial due to sustained injuries, so any added level of protection is prudent. For more information, please review this resource from BackCountry.com.

Avalanche Airbags

Avalanche airbags have been gaining popularity among outdoor enthusiasts but have also met with some skepticism.

What it is: An avalanche airbag is a backpack-style flotation device that can be deployed should you become caught in an avalanche.

How it works: The principle behind the airbag is that it makes your body larger without increasing your mass, thereby decreasing your density and heightening your chances of staying closer to the surface. While an avalanche airbag by no means guarantees survival, it can help your efforts by protecting your head, neck, and shoulders from impact.

The aforementioned skepticism stems from a fear that avalanche airbags encourage reckless risk-taking by providing a false sense of security. For more information, check out this resource from OutdoorGearLab.com and see how they work in the video below:

When traveling with an avalanche safety airbag system, be sure to check with the airline regulations. The cylinder will need to be emptied and you may need paperwork with it. For more information on traveling with survival gear, CLICK HERE.

What You Need To Know About Avalanche Safety

avalanche safety
Signs are one way of warning visitors about avalanches. Image via Rexness on flickr.

Avalanche Rating System

Whenever you are heading out in mountainous or snowy territory, always pay attention to the local warning system. Typically, the system will consist of a rating between 1 and 5, where:

1 – Low chance of avalanche

2 – Moderate chance of avalanche

3 – Considerable chance of avalanche

4 – High chance of avalanche

5 – Extreme chance of avalanche

Geological Conditions for Avalanches

The layering of different types of snow can make an area more susceptible to avalanches. Powdery snow is an especially unstable base layer for heavier snow as the wet snow compacts into a slab that can easily slip off the sugary base on an incline.

Avalanches typically form on slopes between 30-45 degrees, however, avalanches can form on slopes of anywhere between 25-60 degrees. In terms of ground slope shape, a convex shape will have a higher tendency to avalanche than a concave shape.

avalanche safety
The pattern of snow collection results from sun and wind exposure.

Slopes that lack trees and thick brush will have no anchor points and are therefore more susceptible to avalanches. Additionally, the direction that the slope faces and the time of year also play a role in how likely an avalanche is to occur. In mid-winter, a north facing slope is the most dangerous while those that are south-facing become dangerous in the spring.

A slope that faces into the wind will not only accumulate less snow, but also experience compaction from the wind. Conversely, a slope sheltered from the wind will collect a large volume of drifts and be less compacted, creating prime conditions for an avalanche to form. As such, avoid trekking out on days with steady winds of 15 mph or more due to the dangerous drifts created.

Warning Signs an Avalanche is About to Occur

avalanche safety
Pay close attention to local warning signs and avoid restricted areas. Image via Cory Doctorow on flickr.

A key warning sign to look for in anticipation of an avalanche is a deep layer of newly fallen snow as it has not had a chance to compact. When assessing an area, look carefully at the trees and rocks as this is where compaction comes from. Inserting a probe into the layers of snow can help assess what is happening with the layering underneath.

Another avalanche safety indicator is the shape of the snowfall. A layer of small needle or pellet-shaped crystals can mean danger as this type of snow can suddenly give way, much like a house of cards. Conversely, large snowflakes compact more easily and are ‘sticky,’ although a heavy rate of snowfall (> one inch per hour) of any kind makes for bad conditions.

avalanche safetyA dry slab is another warning sign, this occurs when old snow layers break off as a unit and slide down the mountain in one big slab. The sheer mass of the slab causes it to pick up speed as well as additional snow, resulting in the entire side of the mountain coming down with it. Dry slabs cause the most deadly types of avalanches due to their large scale, size, volume, and the speed with which they occur.

Temperature is another avalanche gauge to be aware of. The lower the temperature, the less stable the snow will be. Temperature / sun exposure that allows for some melting and settling is safer than a shadowy area that remains below freezing. However, if the temperature is too high, such as in the spring, wet snow slides can form.

When reviewing an area for warning signs of an avalanche, look for the following:

  • Evidence that a particular path has avalanched before, indicating that area is prone to avalanches
  • Whether or not avalanches have occurred on nearby slopes
  • Current snow conditions are unsafe
  • Hollow-sounding snow
  • Cracks in the surface of the snow (an indication a dry slab is forming)

Avalanche Safety And Survival Tips

While avoiding an avalanche entirely is the best way to ensure survival, if you are out backcountry skiing, boarding, or climbing and an avalanche comes pouring down after you there are steps you can take during the initial commotion that will help increase your chances of getting out alive.

Steps to Take When an Avalanche Begins

avalanche safety

As soon as you notice signs of an avalanche, begin to move away from the center as quickly as possible. The center flows at peak velocity and volume, which makes it much more difficult to fight against. Your first goal should be to get yourself toward the closest side as quickly as possible. If you’re really lucky, you may be able to get completely out of the way and avoid being swept up in the avalanche.

Often times, the cause of an avalanche is activity and it will form right under your feet. If you react quickly and jump uphill, you may be able to get yourself to safety and avoid being swept away. If you’re unable to get out of the way fast enough, the next step is to prevent yourself from being buried. It may sound simple enough but when confronted with a massive force of snow and ice, it becomes extremely challenging.


As your body is more dense than the snow, you will naturally sink. Rescuers recommend using a swimming or thrashing motion uphill in the opposite direction of the flow to help keep you up near the surface. The closer you can stay to the surface, the less digging you will need to do once the snow settles, giving you a huge advantage in terms of avalanche survival.

If you can find a tree or a rock, this can provide an anchor point for you to hold onto and maintain your position in a less powerful avalanche. Delaying your descent for even a few seconds can improve your chances of not being buried as deeply, or even at all.

avalanche safety
Airbags, like this one by Backcountry Access, help increase your chances of staying “afloat” in an avalanche. Click the image to view details on Amazon.

Another prudent move is to hold your hand over your head as this will give you a better chance of being seen by rescuers as well as provide a sense of which direction to start digging after the snow settles.

In terms of lightening your load, there are mixed schools of thought. On the one hand, the lighter you can make your body, the easier it will be to stay afloat or pull yourself out of the snow; however, on the other hand, you never want to willingly separate yourself from your survival equipment.

Keep in mind that if you are encased in an avalanche, your immediate situation is that you are trapped in a cold environment and may have to wait a long time before anyone locates you. Getting rid of anything that will help keep you warm, nourished, provide first aid, and most importantly, help others locate you, would be a counterproductive move to your survival.

A key tip if you become trapped in an avalanche is that as the snow begins to slow down, fill your lungs with air and hold it in to give your chest room to expand after the snow settles. Snow is very heavy and its weight causes it to compact quickly. Without performing this maneuver, you may not be able to expand your chest to take in air after it settles.

cold weather survival gear

Steps To Take When Trapped In An Avalanche

Once you have stopped moving, time is of the essence. Your first priority should be to get to the surface as quickly as possible to avoid running out of air or becoming trapped. In the first 15 minutes you have the highest rate of survival (about 93%), but your chances decrease significantly after that.

If after the avalanche has settled, any part of your body is above the surface – and you’re sure of it – begin to dig in that direction. However, being tossed around and buried can be very disorienting and finding yourself in a situation where you’re not sure which way is up is not uncommon.

If you are unsure of which direction you should dig, gravity can be a good tester. Visible rising breath is a good indicator but there is a more reliable test – the spit test. Clear a space near your face and spit – the liquid will go straight down compliments of gravity, telling you to dig in the direct opposite direction to reach the surface.

Unlike drowning, when you are trapped in an avalanche, there is air trapped in the snow with you. To create a larger pocket for breathing, continually push the snow away from your face. Additionally, your body movement will compact the snow around you creating more air space.

avalanche safety
With this much snow, a probe and a shovel are essential avalanche safety equipment. Image credit Clayoquot.

If you are close enough to the surface, continue to to dig upwards, poking anything you can above the surface, such as a ski or brightly colored clothing, as this will make it easier for your rescue party to spot you. If you’re not close to the surface, it might be best to conserve your energy and focus on breathing.

Definitely make an attempt to call out for help but do keep in mind that when you are trapped beneath the surface, you may be able to hear others calling for you but they are unlikely to be able to hear you. If you can hear your rescue party but it’s obvious they can’t hear you, remain calm and give them a few minutes before calling out again. Otherwise, you may waste your air supply and voice by continually shouting to people who can’t hear you.

A rather unconventional but potentially life-saving tactic when buried in an avalanche is to urinate. For one thing, the pressure of being buried may be very uncomfortable on your bladder, but more importantly, the odor acts as a beacon for rescue dogs sniffing around the surface.

avalanche safety
Avalanche rescue dogs are trained to sniff out buried victims. The stronger your scent, the more likely they will be to find you. Image via Paul Morris on flickr.

The mere thought of being caught in an avalanche is terrifying and should you have the misfortune to ever be buried by one, no doubt your natural instinct will be to panic. Fight this urge. By remaining calm, you will slow your breathing and preserve the available air beneath the snow, which will afford you more time to get out. This is where preparedness presents a major advantage. If you know what to do it will be easier to remain calm and you can focus on the survival tasks at hand.

If you want to experience the terrors of surviving an avalanche without leaving the safety and comfort of your home, check out this video from the helmet cam of a backcountry skier who was buried in an avalanche. Luckily, he finds his way with a lot of help from his friends. Notice how they had to dig for him using their skis and hands – a shovel would have been very helpful!


When it comes to avalanche preparedness, awareness and knowledge are your best tools. Always be aware of the daily and regional conditions in your area, make sure you and your crew are packed with the proper equipment, and attend training courses to learn more about avalanche survival. Remember, when it comes to avalanche safety, avoidance offers your best chance for survival, always err on the side of caution when out enjoying the backcountry.

Your Thoughts

How do avalanches rank in your threat assessment? Are they something you are expecting and prepared for, or a rare occurrence you don’t expect to encounter? Have you ever been in an avalanche or used avalanche safety gear? What was your experience like? Tell us your thoughts and leave your questions in the Comments section below, thanks!

Read More

cold weather survival gear

Cold Weather Survival Gear & Tips For Battling The Snow

cold weather survival gear

Winter can be a beautiful and highly enjoyable season with lots of holiday celebrations and exciting sports; however, if you live in an area where snow is inevitable, winter presents some unique threats to your survival you need to be prepared for with appropriate cold weather survival gear.

The temperature drop itself can be a huge threat. In the cold, your body will need to work harder and require more calories and warmth to sustain itself. Additionally, basic survival activities such as harvesting water, gathering food, and lighting a fire become increasingly challenging when faced with snow-covered ground.

cold weather survival gear
Be prepared for winter survival scenarios that can leave you out in the cold.

However, the best reason to prepare yourself and your family with cold weather survival gear is that you need not only be prepared for bugging out, but also for the chance that a major blizzard could leave you stranded in your home without power, or worse, out in the elements. In this article, we will address the challenges and threats you could possibly face this winter and provide some key tips and recommendations on cold weather survival gear to help you be prepared.

Maintaining Core Body Temperature

For your body to function properly, it must maintain a temperature of 98.6℉. If your body deviates from this temperature, there are built-in mechanisms that kick in to help restore the core temperature and warm you up.

cold weather survival gear

Typical outward signs that your body is working harder to keep you warm include shivering, teeth chattering, and goosebumps. If your body goes through prolonged periods of exposure to cold temperatures, your heartbeat will decrease and blood pressure will slow, reducing the delivery of oxygen to your organs.

This will effectively cut off your extremities from heat sources as body warmth is focused on vital organs (at this point, your hands and feet will turn purple, becoming tingly and then numb; for more information, please click on this link). These changes can severely affect your ability to think and move, becoming life-threatening in the worst-case scenario.

cold weather survival gear
Hypothermia isn’t only a concern outdoors. Without electricity, your home can become dangerously cold.

The best way to protect yourself against the cold is to dress in layers. Three layers are best, beginning with a thermal layer, then an insulating layer, and finishing with a shell or outer layer.

What to Look For in Thermal Layers

cold weather survival gear

For the most effective thermal layer that will keep you warm and dry, look for the following fabrics:

  • Synthetic polyester blends. These fabrics will wick moisture away from the skin and are lightweight; they include rayon, nylon, polypropylene, and spandex. An added benefit is that they move well with you due to their stretchy nature and can fit tightly under other layers without restricting movement.
  • Merino wool. This fine-fibered wool will not cause itching as traditional wool does and evaporates moisture within the fabric to help keep you dry. It is naturally antibacterial, unlike synthetics, which makes a big difference when you will need to wear your thermal layers for an extended period of time.
  • Silk. Silk fabric can be treated to enhance wicking and is very soft, however it typically requires washing after each wear, making it an unfavorable choice for survival conditions.
  • Cotton. While cotton is a soft and comfortable fabric, it also retains moisture, which is not only uncomfortable but also works against keeping you warm as evaporating perspiration will actually cool your skin.

In terms of fit, look for a close-fitting thermal layer, as this lends itself well to adding on additional layers. Ensure that the arms and legs are long enough that they completely cover your wrists and ankles, and that the waist and shirt overlap in order to protect your back when squatting or bending.

Thermal Layers For Men And WomenKey Features
Carhartt Men's Base Force Performance Super Cold Weather Crew Neck Top
• Heavy knit Polyester-Spandex fights extreme cold
• Wicks moisture away from the skin and resists odors
• Crewneck and droptail back lock in body heat
Carhartt Men's Base Force Performance Super Cold Weather Bottom
• Heavy knit Polyester-Spandex fights extreme cold
• Wicks moisture away from the skin and resists odors
• Long, fitted rib-knit cuffs prevent riding up at the ankle
Rothco ECWCS Poly Crew Neck Top
• 100% Polyester with ultra-soft fleece lining
• Tiny air pockets trap heat close to the skin
• Same Extended Cold Weather Clothing System used by U.S. Armed Forces
Rothco Gen III Level II Underwear Bottoms
• Highly breathable Polyester-Spandex grid-fleece with moisture-wicking technology
• Microban fabric ideal for long-term use
• Level II of the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System used by U.S. Armed Forces
The First Outdoor Women's Thermal Underwear Set
• Polyester-Spandex fabric with suede lining for added comfort
• Fabric resists pilling in high friction areas
• Athletic seams on shirt and pants for ease of movement
Duofold Women's Heavy Weight Double Layer Thermal Shirt
• Double layer Polyester-Spandex blend designed for extreme cold
• 4-way stretch and princess seams provide a contoured fit that moves with you
• Anti-microbial fabric ideal for long wear
Duofold Women's Heavy Weight Double Layer Thermal Leggings
• Double layer Polyester-Spandex blend designed for extreme cold
• Flatlock seams prevent skin irritation
• Drawstring for an adjustable fit
Sportown®Women's Odor-resistant Merino Wool Base Layer Shirt
• 100% Merino wool is extra soft against the skin
• Moisture wicking technology keeps you dry
• Lightweight and designed for active use
Click on the images to view current pricing on Amazon.

What to Look For in Insulating Layers

Once you’ve established a solid thermal layer, your next layer should be made of insulating material such as wool, fleece, or down. Wool, and some types of fleece, will still insulate when wet, however down is best in dry conditions as it loses its insulative qualities when wet. In extreme conditions, there is always the option of adding additional insulating layers.

Insulative Layers For Men And WomenKey Features
Columbia Women's Fast Trek II Full-Zip Fleece Jacket
• 100% Polyester with four-way comfort stretch for mobility
• Full zip doubles as a jacket in warmer weather
• Zippered pockets on front and sleeve for keeping gear close at hand
The North Face Womens Glacier 1/4 Zip
• Polartec Micro fleece dries quickly to keep you warm
• 1/4 zip allows for ventilation during rigorous activity
• Lightweight and great for layering
Minus33 Merino Wool Women's Sequoia Midweight 1/4 Zip
• 100% Merino wool with interlock knit construction to trap heat
• Flatlock seams make for a low profile when layering
• 1/4 zip allows for ventilation
Columbia Men's Steens Mountain Front-Zip Fleece Jacket
• 100% Polyester filament fleece is soft yet rugged
• Standing collar provides extra neck protection
• Zippered pockets ideal for hand warmers
The North Face Mens TKA 100 Glacier 1/4 Zip
• Ultra-soft TKA 100 fleece insulates against the cold
• Reverse-coil 1/4 zipper reduces bulk around the collar
• Thin and comfortable for layering
Minus33 Merino Wool Men's Isolation Midweight 1/4 Zip
• 100% Merino wool with interlock knit construction to trap heat
• Flatlock seams make for a low profile when layering
• 1/4 zip allows for ventilation
Click on the image to view current pricing on Amazon.

What to Look For in a Shell or Outer Layer

The ideal outer layer for cold weather survival is breathable, allows for movement, and protects against the elements such as wind, rain and snow. Breathability is key in order to allow perspiration to evaporate, otherwise, it will condense on the inside of your shell and cause you to feel colder. Good options for lining that allow for air circulation while keeping you warm include Gortex and eVent.

For outer fabric, look for something treated with weather proofing, such as teflon, as this will keep out wind, rain and snow to keep you dry and retain body heat. Also opt for a hood in your cold weather survival gear to provide protection for your neck and head – some hoods even have a built-in brim to keep rain and snow off your face, helping to prevent frostbite.

cold weather survival gear
Protect as much skin as possible from exposure to the cold air.

While heavy, bulky winter coats are a great source of warmth, they do little to allow for sufficient movement to perform survival tasks. Look for an ‘athletic fit,’ which will typically be trimmer and stitched to accommodate arm movement.

Finally, don’t neglect your legs, they need protection too! When looking for a cold weather survival snow pant, the same favorable qualities you would look for in an outer shell apply: breathability, mobility, and wind/water proof. Additionally, look for plenty of pockets so you’re able to keep cold weather survival gear close at hand.

Outer Shell Layers For Men And WomenKey Features
Arc'teryx Men's Theta AR Jacket

Arc'teryx Women's Theta AR Jacket
• 100% Polyester is rugged and durable
• Reinforced to add support to high wear areas
• Gore-Tex shell is light and breathable with side vents to cool off during exertion
• High collar keeps heat in and protects the neck
• Hood is roomy enough for a helmet but cinches for normal wear, with brim to shed rain
• Athletic fit eliminates bulk and longer length provides extra coverage from wind and snow
Mountain Hardwear Kelvinator Hooded Jacket Men's

Mountain Hardwear Kelvinator Hooded Jacket Women's
• 20D Ripstop Nylon shell is water repellant and designed to handle tough outdoor use
• Filled with Q.Shield Down treated to maintain insulating performance even when wet
• Compresses easily for packing due to stitch-through quilting
• Dual draw cords at the hem lock out cold air and adjust easily on the move
• Side zip pockets for warming hands or stashing gear
The North Face Apex Elevation Jacket Men's

The North Face Apex Elevation Jacket Women's
• Durable ripstop Polyester treated to be water resistant and block out wind
• Tight weave is abrasion resistant on the exterior and brushed on the interior for comfort
• Insulated body, hood, and sleeves provide superior warmth in harsh conditions
• Four zippered pockets with interior headphone slit perfect for listening to an emergency weather radio
Arctix Men's Mountain Snowboard Shell Cargo Pants

Arctix Women's Mountain Snowboard Shell Cargo Pants
• Waterproof, breathable nylon construction with reinforced seams and abrasion resistance
• Zippered hip pockets and velcro cargo pockets for holding tools
• Articulated knee for improved mobility especially when squatting by the fire
• Boot gaiters have grippers to keep them tucked into boots
Click on the image to view current pricing on Amazon.

Using Hand Warmers For Maximum Effectiveness

For those who participate in winter sports, hand and foot warmers are most likely a very familiar item. In everyday use, they make activities such as skiing or sitting in a football stadium much easier on your body, and in survival use, they prevent frostbite and lack of circulation to extremities. In terms of value, they are relatively inexpensive and can provide hours of heat without adding unnecessary bulk or weight.

Hand warmers work by using the exothermic reaction of oxidizing iron and forming rust. When sealed, the lack of air (oxygen) prevents the process from starting. After opening the package, shake it vigorously to allow air to enter the breathable cloth and mix with the iron, this activates the reaction and starts the production of heat. Once activated, place your warmers in an enclosed space, such as gloves, boots or pockets, trapping the heat and allowing it to build up continuously.

cold weather survival gear
Your hands are one of your most important survival tools! Keep them warm and protected.
Hand And Foot Warmers
HotHands Hand Warmers 15 Pair Value Pack
Heat Factory Premium Hand Warmer, 40 Pairs
Zippo Refillable Handwarmer
HotHands Adhesive Toe Warmer 6 pair Value Pack
Grabber Foot Warmer
Little Hotties Adhesive Toe Warmers, 30 Pairs
Click on the image to view current pricing on Amazon.

The Benefits of Wearing Snowshoes

cold weather survival gear

If you’ve ever had to trek through deep snow, you know how laborious it can be, but an additional concern in a survival situation is that it increases the risk of frostbite to your feet. With snowshoes, not only can you keep your boots above the snow, but also you conserve energy as it takes less effort to walk.

This can become of the highest importance in a situation where you find yourself stranded and need to walk to a nearby town or make your daily commute on foot due to a snowstorm.

cold weather survival gear
Stash a pair of snow shoes in your car in case you get stuck and need to continue on foot.
Snowshoes For Men, Women, And YouthKey Features
Chinook Trekker Snowshoes
• Aluminum frame is curved for ergonomic comfort
• Dual ratchet bindings adjust for a perfect fit and quick-release heel strap makes removal easy even with cold hands
• Heavy-duty crampons provide grip on slopes or icy areas
• Includes carry bag with mesh panels for ventilation
Alps Performance Light Weight Snowshoes
• Frame is designed for maximum floatation in heavy snow
• Aluminum tubing with TPU-85 plastic engineered for heavy use in cold temperatures
• Heel and toe crampons prevent slipping
• Bindings are situated to eliminate pressure points
MSR Lightning Ascent Snowshoe
• Toothed frame with lateral crampons sustains 360 degree traction
• Ergo Televator heel lifts reduce calf fatigue when ascending and can be activated using a pole grip
• Modular tails (sold separately) can be added for deeper snow conditions
• PosiLock bindings contour to any boot for a secure fit every time
Click on the image to view current pricing on Amazon.

Cold Weather Survival Gear & Tools

There are two major obstacles you will come across in winter that will impede your survival activities: clearing snow and starting a fire.

Clearing Snow

cold weather survival gear

You can never truly understand the importance of having snow removal gear on-hand until you’ve been through a situation where you needed it and it wasn’t there. On a personal note, this author will never forget the time I landed at the airport at night only to discover an unexpected blizzard had completely covered my car in over a foot of snow.

It was early in the season for snow, so having not expected it, I was left without any scraper or brush and had to use my bare arms and hands to clear the snow from my car. Now, I travel with snow removal tools year-round!

For stocking your bug-out bag, a folding shovel works great. Not only is this a compact tool, it also has multiple uses including clearing a spot for a fire, digging a shelter, and collecting snow to melt for drinking, among many other essential tasks.

Starting a Fire in the Snow

cold weather survival gear

When it comes to fire starting implements, if you have one, you have none. Carrying multiple means of starting a fire and packing them separately is a measure of precaution that most preppers live by.

In terms of firestarting tools, lighter fluid is not ideal in extremely low temperatures and tools such as Ferro rods or flint will be much more reliable.

cold weather survival gear
In heavily packed snow, you can create a bed of bark for the fire to rest on.

For collecting firewood, start as early as possible, avoiding waiting until dusk if possible, as you will need a fair amount to keep the fire burning all night. Pine trees are good to scout for as they naturally shelter their undergrowth and there are typically plenty of dry dead branches beneath dense evergreen that can be collected for firewood with little effort.

cold weather survival gear
The denser the foliage, the more protected the base will be so look for evergreens that have thick lower branches.

However, obtaining larger dry logs can prove a bit more challenging, so it’s always prudent to carry a hatchet or tomahawk with you as these tools prove immensely helpful in cutting through thicker wood.

Even if the outside is damp, a fallen tree can provide enough fuel for one night if you can split the logs and cut away the damp portion to use the dry, inner part for firewood.

Once the fire is burning large and hot, you can add the occasional green log, which doesn’t produce as much heat as dead wood, but does burn much longer.

cold weather survival gear
Collect a pile of wood about six feet long by 3 feet high to ensure you have enough to last the night.

An excellent option for quickly and easily starting fires in windy, cold conditions is the Everstyke Survival Lighter. Click here to read more about this essential cold weather survival tool and how you can get your very own!

cold weather survival gear
The Everstryke Pro combines both a fuel-based system and flint and steel striker, so you can spark a fire under any conditions.

Harvest Water Safely in Cold Conditions

Yes, snow and ice are made of water, but there are still some unique obstacles to navigate through in obtaining life-saving, clean drinking water.

Harvesting Directly From Snow

Clean snow, such as fresh snow scooped directly off branches or brushes, is considered reasonably safe to consume. The part you’ll want to watch out for is that consuming snow (which is frozen) will result in lowering your core body temperature, making your hard work to preserve your body heat all for naught. If possible, boil the snow before drinking it and bring the water down to a consumable temperature by placing your drinking container in the snow.

Harvesting From Lakes, Rivers and Streams

The challenge with harvesting from an iced-over body of water is the danger that you may fall in and have hypothermia set in. Hypothermia is life-threatening and can be triggered by something as simple as submerging your feet in cold water, which can cause a significant drop in body temperature and increase your risk for frostbite.

When conducting survival activities around frozen or partially-frozen bodies of water, it’s always best to put safety first. One way to avoid coming too close to the edge is to carry cordage with you: throw a rock or log to make a hole in the ice within reach from shore, then tie your water bottle to a length of paracord (make sure it is secure so you don’t lose your water bottle!), then safely submerge the water bottle from solid ground and reel it in when it is full.

Before drinking, be sure to filter, boil, or treat your water as Giardia bacteria can survive in very cold temperatures, even ice!

cold weather survival gear
Keep a safe distance from icy rivers and always purify water – even ice contains harmful bacteria.

To be able to drink your harvested water safely without having to worry about bacteria or contamination, consider packing Lifestraws in your bug-out bag. These ingenious tools make it easy to turn harvested water into safe drinking water. Click here to learn more about Lifestraws and find out how to get your very own!

cold weather survival gear


Survival is challenging, but the additional threats posed by cold weather make survival activities extra challenging in winter, including maintaining your core body temperature, starting a fire, and harvesting water. However, with the proper knowledge and the right cold weather survival gear, you’ll be prepared to survive anything nature throws at you!

More Great Cold Weather Survival Gear

Your Thoughts

What is your most essential winter survival tool? What other winter survival gear do you pack? Tell us in the Comments section below, thanks!

Read More