1. Stay dry. Water accelerates the cold and hypothermia.
  2. Get out of the wind.
  3. Build a shelter. Make it as small as possible. Essentially consider it extending layers of clothing. Use leaves, bark, pine needles, whatever. People forget that their clothing is their first layer of shelter.

I remember the first time I deployed in winter with 10th Special Forces, the winter warfare Special Forces group. I had little idea about what it was like to operate at altitude (above 10,000 feet) and in the winter cold. My team sergeant had just come from Panama so he didn’t either. We built a snow cave together and showed it off to the amusement of the more experienced team members. We explained we had two entrances so the wind could blow the cold out. Eventually I became a fan of a snow trench. Thermarest pad on the bottom— and note the name— therma. You don’t want to be touching the cold ground. So don’t just put stuff on top of you, put something between you and the ground. I kept the trench just deep enough to put a poncho across the top. I would glaze the walls with a small candle. One night I was awakened for my guard shift and the poncho was in my face, almost suffocating me with over a foot of snow having fallen.

Part of stay dry is if you have to move, strip down so you don’t sweat. I’d give my team time warnings for when we’d move out on our skis with all our gear. We’d take off our outer shell at about a minute. And as time got close get down to polyprop undershirts. We were damn cold, but not for long once we moved out. Skiiing with gear, an akhio, uphill isn’t fun.

Also, we didn’t take our weapons into our snow trenches because that would warm them up and make them sweat. Then they’d freeze. And you wouldn’t be able to defend yourself against the Abominable Snowman.

Also, canteens stayed next to the body or– they freeze. The next meal went in the thigh cargo pocket to thaw it out.

Fun stuff. The Green Beret Preparation and Survival Guide. Get prepared for the New Year!