Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Cold Weather Survival Class and Camp

Play video Cold Weather Survival Class and Camp
▶️ Play Cold Weather Survival Class and Camp

On the weekend of February 3-4, 2024 Andy and I took part in a general skills class targeted towards cold weather survival. The class was organized and taught by Michael Neiger and some fellow associates. Michael has extensive outdoor experience including considerable work in search-and-rescue. I certainly do not think I know that much about backcountry survivial and my experience is a match flame against what Michael and his colleagues bring with their bonfire of knowledge. I certainly can learn more (and what is just as good Michael knows he can still learn more).

Driving up towards Hartwick Pines State Park under steadily lightening but rather overcast skies Andy I pondered what would be covered. We arrived a little before 09:00 and found the lecture-room fairly well filled. Coffee was ever-so-slowly percolating in a giant urn and many people took Michael’s suggestion of bringing food to share up with enthusiasm. With one thing and another the morning session didn’t start at 09:00 but in time people were settled and the presentation of information began.

This was an overview class. Michael and Todd had a lot of material to cover and they still needed time for lunch and then the outdoor portion of the class. That would be the pattern for both days: information presentation in the morning and outdoor skills work outside in the afternoon. I’m not going to try and discuss all that was talked about in the mornings from navigation, what to carry on your body, suriving on ice and how to recover if you fall through, communications, food, shelter building, and so much more. If you want to spend time outdoors , especially away from well travelled spots, a good primer class like this is certainly worthwhile. Of course, simple information dumps only go so far; you need to practice skills. In this class that meant some basic fire building skills and some basic shelter building.

I wish I had video of us building the snow trench. With over 20 people tossing snow on to a pile that was surely 8 feet long by at leastt 6 feet wide and likely 4 feet tall did not take all that long. Then a couple people hollowed out the center while the rest of us gathered long branches and pine boughs to place atop of the opened-to-the-sky roof. While only one person could really lay down inside the trench you could get two, maybe three, people squeezed inside sitting against each other. It certainly would be proof against nasty weather outside and would warm up too.

We also threw up a debris-style shelter. With many people working to gather materiel it goes quickly. If I have a complaint against the class it is that you likley don’t get a proper sense of how long it would take to build a shelter like this beacause with 2 or 3 people it would certainly take far longer. But knowing how to do it and then doing it are valuable as you will know it is possible. Michael also quickly showed how a survival space-blanket can be turned into a basic shelter against bad weather.

On the second day we had more information-packed sldies to abosrb before venturing outside, again sunny low 40s (hardly cold) weather, to practice skills: fire making. If people took nothing else away from the class but the fact that patience is required and that you need far more fuel of all sizes than you think then I would say it was a success. I think everyone got their fires going. Goodness knows it is easier to get things going properly when you have a bit of help from your partners. To be sure Sunny, Kristen, and I probably took a good 20 minutes to get our kindling, tinder, and fuel sticks ready, then lit and burning. But we got the snow in my modest-sized cup melting and boiling. Practice and patience win the day.

I do not know how many people camped at vairous places around Grayling. I suspect the local hotels saw a bit of extra business which I bet was welcome because this has been a poor winter for snow-sports based recreation. Andy and I managed to carefully drive into the campground at Lake John. We heard a dog and some people in the distance but I think we had the campground to ourselves and the wildlife we heard. The barking of a deer was the most noticeable but the hoot of a great horned owl is always nice to hear too.

Photo taken Feb 3, 2024 at 2:42 PM

One of the things the several dozen attendees at this cold weather survival class including me (left)and Andy (right) did was build a snow trench shelter.

--February 3, 2024 at 2:42 PM.

Maps are centered on the photo: Google map, Apple map, OpenTopoMap map

Photo taken Feb 4, 2024 at 4:03 PM

--February 4, 2024 at 4:03 PM.

Maps are centered on the photo: Google map, Apple map, OpenTopoMap map

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