By Beth Buck
This article is dedicated to cold college students. If you have a college student in your life who is often cold, please show this to him or her.
Stop me if you've heard this Star Wars joke: What is the temperature inside a Tauntaun? Luke Warm.
The image from The Empire Strikes Back
of Luke Skywalker being shoved into the gooey carcass of Han Solo's noble winter-loving steed in order to stave off death from hypothermia, while dramatic, does not depict a strategy that will save your life if you're stranded in a snowbank. According to this fascinating analysis
, climbing inside a freshly-killed animal will only buy you about an hour until you succumb to the elements.
I only bring it up because it's a scene I thought of often during my freshmen year of college, when I was dealing with cold climates and snow on a regular basis for the first time in my life. I grew up primarily in warm climates, so when I moved to the Rocky Mountains for university I found myself woefully unprepared for the weather. I had to bundle up in a parka and three layers of socks just to get from my dorm to my first class. I would see others who had grown up in the area wearing only a light jacket as if they were crazy people. I was fairly certain that at some point during finals week I'd get trapped in a snowbank outside the testing center and they wouldn't Replace my poor frozen body until spring.
Obviously, people don't get lost in blizzards on campus on a regular basis. But if you Replace yourself in extreme cold, either on campus or off, remember these strategies
Dress properly. I'm sure you've seen those pictures circulating around the internet of Finnish infants sleeping outside
in below-zero temperatures. “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” they say. I've written before about the benefit of wearing wool
as a means of staying warm. If you live in a snowy climate and don't already have a good pair of wool socks—made from actual wool,
mind you—then obtain some. If you don't care to buy socks you could knit some yourself. I mean this sincerely. Knitting socks
is a lot less complicated than a lot of people would have you believe. Silk is another insulating fabric, and isn't nearly as bulky as wool.
Stay hydrated. If you are dehydrated, you are more likely to feel the effects of the cold. Melt snow first before drinking, as consuming still-frozen snow will decrease your core temperature, which is not good when staving off hypothermia is your ultimate goal.
Practice survival skills—building a fire, erecting a shelter. Like any skill, survival skills require practice. If you are a college student, I don't recommend practicing fire-building on campus. In a survival situation, you will only last a couple of hours at most without shelter, and Replaceing or building a shelter is the #1 priority. I could offer you this nifty article
with neat pictures that shows how to build a selection of shelters, but it won't do you much good if you have never tried your hand at it.
Recognize the signs of hypothermia
. The list includes mumbling, confusion, low energy, and memory loss—also symptoms of finals week. Ha ha. Seriously, though, hypothermia is a dastardly condition because it robs you of your self-awareness. A person suffering from hypothermia is less likely to think something like “I probably should do something about my advancing hypothermia and build a shelter.” (Pro tip: asking for permission before building a snow shelter outside the testing center is a good idea).
Thankfully most of planet Earth, unlike Hoth, is not icy all year round. If you can get through the end of the semester, avoid Wampas, and refrain from getting shoved into a pile of Tauntaun guts, you can safely assume you'll live to see the departure of winter and with it, the risks associated with extreme cold.
Beth Buck has been involved with emergency preparedness since her very earliest years. She enjoys hiking, martial arts, reading, and writing about food storage. Beth lives in the Intermountain West with her family.