Busting 7 Winter Myths To Ensure Proper Survival

If you’ve ever found yourself pondering the veracity of the age-old anecdotes and advice circulating around the topic of winter survival, you’re in the right spot. It’s crucial to arm yourself with knowledge well before facing a real-life survival scenario in the chilly months.

In this exploration of survival winter myths, we aim to unravel the truth behind these traditional tales, providing you with a comprehensive understanding to ensure you’re not only well-informed but also adequately prepared for the diverse challenges that the winter season might present.

So, let’s dive into the realm of winter survival wisdom, examining the validity of those longstanding narratives and equipping ourselves with practical know-how for a resilient and secure winter experience.

Busing Winter Myths:

1. A glass of whiskey will keep you warm and safe

MYTH BUSTED: The notion that a spoonful of whiskey can miraculously ward off frostbite and hypothermia has been a longstanding belief, often passed down through generations. However, let’s debunk this age-old myth and unravel the truth behind staying warm in cold climates.

While it’s true that alcohol might provide a temporary sensation of warmth, it’s essential to recognize that this feeling is deceptive. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not alter your body’s core temperature. If you find yourself in a situation where there’s a risk of frostbite or hypothermia, opting for a sip of whiskey is not a viable solution.

According to experts, the wisest course of action involves lighting a fire instead of reaching for the liquor bottle. Not only does this method guarantee a genuine increase in warmth, but it also preserves your cognitive abilities. Maintaining a clear head is crucial in situations where quick thinking is paramount, ensuring you are well-equipped to tackle any challenges that may arise.

In addition to dispelling the whiskey myth, it’s important to emphasize the significance of proper winter preparedness. This includes wearing appropriate clothing, insulating shelters, and understanding the signs and symptoms of cold-related illnesses. By focusing on complete strategies for staying warm and safe in winter conditions, you’ll be better equipped to navigate the challenges of cold weather with confidence and resilience. So, let’s leave the whiskey aside and plan your trip better before getting out during the colder months.

2. If you pour hot water on your hands, you will keep them warm

if you pour hot water on your hands, you will keep them warm

MYTH BUSTED: It’s a well-circulated belief among cold weather enthusiasts that pouring hot water over one’s hands can provide instant relief from the chilling threat of frostbite. However, let’s delve into the reality behind this common practice and explore more effective strategies for keeping hands warm in frigid conditions.

While some winter adventurers might resort to using warm water or even unconventional methods like urination to fend off frostbite, experts caution against this seemingly intuitive approach. Pouring warm water over your hands, especially in the absence of a reliable heat source for sustained warmth, can prove counterproductive.

Consider the scenario of ice fishing on a frozen lake, armed with a thermos of warm water. The impulsive act of pouring this precious resource over your hands can lead to a dual problem. Firstly, you deplete your supply of warm water, and secondly, you end up with wet hands that quickly lose their warmth, unless dry, insulated gloves are readily available. Instead of haphazardly using warm water, a more strategic approach involves utilizing a consistent heat source, like a fire, to continually reheat the water. Submerging hands in warm water under these conditions can aid in thawing, provided your clothing remains dry throughout the process.

It’s crucial to note that attempting to warm skin affected by frostbite through rubbing or massaging is ill-advised without professional assistance. The initial discomfort or “nip” experienced in fingers during cold weather is usually a warning sign to seek warmth promptly. However, if frostbite progresses to a more severe stage, such as third-degree frostbite where tissue is frozen, attempting to reheat it can be detrimental. Not only does the application of heat increase the risk of complications like sepsis and gangrene, but it also induces intense pain.

In cases of frostbite, immediate medical attention is paramount. Rather than relying on makeshift solutions, individuals experiencing frostbite should promptly seek professional help by heading to the hospital. By dispelling myths and promoting informed winter practices, we can enhance safety and well-being in the face of harsh cold conditions.

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3. Never expose bare skin to the elements

MYTH BUSTED: Dressing in layers and donning well-insulated clothing is often touted as a paramount method to combat the cold when venturing outdoors. The conventional wisdom dictates that exposing bare skin to the frigid weather is a strict no-no. However, let’s challenge this notion and explore a nuanced approach that acknowledges the practicalities of dealing with wet conditions in winter.

While the general advice holds true for maintaining warmth, there are situations where exposing bare skin might be the more pragmatic choice. For instance, if you find yourself needing to handle something wet, opting to use your bare hands can be a quicker and more efficient solution. The rationale behind this lies in the ease and speed of drying your skin compared to the time-consuming process of drying a pair of gloves. Once the task is completed, the immediate drying of your bare hands, followed by the prompt reapplication of gloves, ensures minimal exposure to the cold.

Moreover, if your gloves, socks, or other clothing items become saturated, the recommended course of action is to remove them promptly and substitute them with dry gear. This proactive measure prevents the discomfort and potential health risks associated with walking around in wet apparel. The brief exposure of bare skin during this transition is deemed more favorable than enduring the prolonged challenges of navigating with damp clothing.

This nuanced perspective encourages a balance between the traditional wisdom of staying covered in layers and recognizing practical exceptions when dealing with wet conditions. By understanding the context-specific considerations, individuals can make informed decisions to enhance their comfort and well-being in the winter elements. So, when the situation demands, don’t shy away from briefly baring your skin to address wetness, making winter outings a more adaptable and enjoyable experience.

4. A small fire is better

MYTH BUSTED: The adage “Make a small fire and sit close” is a well-known piece of advice in the world of outdoor adventuring. However, the practicality of this guidance may vary, especially in regions prone to bitter cold. Let’s delve into the nuances of campfire size selection and challenge the notion that smaller fires are universally smarter.

Traditionally, the idea of a small, cozy fire close to the body is often idealized. Yet, in extremely cold and snowy conditions, adhering strictly to this principle may pose challenges. When faced with the reality of damp and soggy materials, attempting to kindle a small fire may result in a less-than-optimal outcome, potentially leading to a struggle with ignition or an insufficient source of warmth.

The truth is, in harsh winter environments, where temperatures plummet, and snowfall is abundant, practicality should supersede the traditional wisdom of small fires. As highlighted by experts, the focus should pivot towards prioritizing warmth, recognizing that circumstances may necessitate the creation of a larger fire. In such situations, embracing the reality of a bigger fire becomes not only a pragmatic choice but also a matter of practicality.

It’s crucial to acknowledge the contextual nature of this advice, understanding that the size of the fire should be adapted to the specific environmental conditions and available resources. While the charm of a small, intimate fire remains, it’s equally important to be prepared to scale up when the cold and wet elements demand it. Ultimately, the key lies in striking a balance between the ideal and the practical, ensuring that the primary objective of securing warmth takes precedence in the ever-changing dynamics of outdoor survival.

5. A hill is warmer than a valley

a hill is warmer than a valley

MYTH BUSTED: The notion that setting up your winter campsite on top of a hill is inherently warmer due to the faster arrival of the sun’s warmth is a common belief among outdoor enthusiasts. However, let’s unravel the truth behind this assumption and explore the nuanced considerations for choosing the optimal campsite location in winter.

While it might seem intuitive to seek higher ground for quicker exposure to sunlight, the reality is more complex. The earth heats from the ground up, and various factors must be taken into account when selecting a suitable campsite. Landscape characteristics play a crucial role, introducing considerations such as the risk of avalanches on mountainous terrain, resource availability for fire-making, and other site-specific issues.

In open country scenarios, opting for the bottom of the hill for your campsite might be a more prudent choice. Contrary to the misconception that it would result in a substantial temperature difference, the actual gradations are relatively small. Moreover, situating your camp at the base of the hill offers advantages such as pooling cooler air, which, in turn, provides protection from harsh wind chill. This not only prevents you from feeling colder but also makes it easier to maintain a consistent and reliable fire.

Recognizing the multifaceted nature of winter camping decisions is essential. It goes beyond the simplistic notion of choosing high ground for quicker sunlight exposure. By factoring in the specific landscape characteristics, potential hazards, and the practicalities of fire-building, you can make informed choices for a safer and more comfortable winter camping experience. So, when it comes to setting up your winter retreat, think beyond the hill’s summit and consider the comprehensive factors that contribute to a well-planned and resilient campsite.

6. Eating snow will hydrate you

MYTH BUSTED: The misconception that eating snow is a reliable method of hydration stems from the seemingly abundant resources available in cold environments. Many may assume that since snow is made of water, consuming it directly provides a quick and convenient way to stay hydrated during winter activities.

In reality, eating snow poses risks to one’s well-being, particularly in colder climates. Snow, in its frozen state, can absorb heat from the body during the melting process, leading to a decrease in core body temperature. This can potentially contribute to hypothermia, a condition where the body loses heat faster than it can produce it. Additionally, ingesting frozen snow can cause discomfort and potentially damage the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat.

The more advisable approach is to melt snow before consuming it. Melting allows the snow to transform into liquid water, ensuring that the body receives a safe and effective source of hydration without the associated risks of temperature loss. Methods for melting snow include using a heat source, such as a stove or a portable water purifier with a melting function, to ensure the water is safe to drink.

Furthermore, understanding the snow’s source is crucial. In areas where pollution is a concern, consuming melted snow without proper filtration may introduce contaminants into the water. Thus, it’s essential to consider water quality and, when possible, use reliable water purification methods.

As part of winter survival education, individuals should be informed about the potential dangers of consuming snow directly. Emphasizing the importance of proper hydration practices, such as melting snow before consumption, contributes to safer and more enjoyable experiences in cold environments.

7. All ice is safe to walk on

LostWaysMYTH BUSTED: Assuming that all ice surfaces are uniformly safe for walking is a common misconception, especially in regions where frozen bodies of water are prevalent. The belief that a frozen surface is inherently strong and stable may lead individuals to underestimate the potential dangers associated with walking on ice.

The safety of ice is not universal, and several factors determine its stability. Thickness is a critical consideration, with thicker ice generally being more stable. However, variations in temperature, the presence of cracks, and the type of water body all contribute to the ice’s overall strength.

Understanding the nuances of ice safety is crucial for individuals engaging in winter activities that involve frozen surfaces. Ice thickness should be carefully measured using an ice auger or other appropriate tools. The recommended minimum thickness for walking on clear ice is around 4 inches, while thicker ice is required for activities involving heavier loads or groups.

Moreover, it’s essential to be cautious around areas where factors like moving water, changes in temperature, or pressure points can weaken the ice. The color of the ice can also provide clues about its strength, with clear ice being generally stronger than cloudy or white ice.

Educating individuals about ice safety involves not only dispelling the myth that all ice is safe but also providing practical guidelines for assessing ice conditions. This includes recognizing potential hazards, understanding the impact of weather conditions on ice stability, and promoting the use of appropriate safety equipment, such as ice picks or life jackets when venturing onto frozen bodies of water. By fostering awareness and respect for the dynamic nature of ice, individuals can make informed decisions, reducing the risk of accidents and enhancing their safety during winter activities.


Dispelling winter myths is essential for ensuring safety in cold environments. From the misconception that eating snow hydrates to the belief that all ice is safe for walking, understanding the potential risks is crucial. Winter survival education, focusing on accurate information, empowers individuals to make informed decisions, emphasizing proper hydration practices and ice safety. By fostering awareness and preparedness, we contribute to a safer and more enjoyable winter experience, reducing the likelihood of accidents and emergencies in cold weather.

Suggested resources for preppers:

How to find Food in any Environment

The #1 food of Americans during the Great Depression

Survival Foods of the Native Americans

If you see this plant when foraging, don’t touch it!

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