Backcountry Survival  
 
Cold Weather Survival

Introduction  

Individual Clothing and Equipment  

Small Unit Living  

Skiing and Snowshoeing  

Movement  

Combat Techniques  

Small Unit Leaders  

US Marines Forum  

Definitions and Glossary  

Related Sites  
British Army Surplus

Section IV. FOOD AND WATER
3-22. Principles
a. Importance of Balanced Meals. Army rations are well balanced. The ration for 1 day provides all the essential foods the body requires. However, all the ration must be eaten if all the caloric value is to be obtained. Some items may, at times, not appeal to the individual sense of taste, but they must be eaten. The tendency to be lazy about preparing and eating satisfactory morning and evening meals before and after a hard day on the trail must be avoided, since it is exceedingly detrimental to continued good health. After having been without normal supplies for a period of time, it is essential that men be provided with a balanced meal containing the three basic food requirements (fats, protein, and carbohydrates). When possible and especially when troops are involved in rigorous activity, it may be desirable to feed four times daily. A desirable feeding plan would be the normal heavy
breakfast meal, a light midmorning meal, a light afternoon meal, with the supper meal being the main meal of the day. The midmorning and midafternoon meal should consist of foods high in carbohydrates and include a hot liquid. Concentrated foods found in some special and survival rations are suitable for
this purpose. Hot soup or tea are most desirable for the liquid. The evening meal should be heavily fortified with protein and eaten just before going to sleep. This heavy protein meal will increase body combustion above basal level, resulting in what is known as specific dynamic heat. This increase in the output of heat within the body also aids in keeping the individual warm while sleeping. If awakened by cold a small snack eaten inside the sleeping bag may increase heat production enough to permit further comfortable sleep.
b. Importance of Liquids. In cold regions, as elsewhere, the body will not operate efficiently without adequate water. Dehydration, with its accompanying loss of efficiency, can be prevented by taking fluids with all meals, and between meals if possible (para 3–34). Hot drinks are preferable to cold drinks in low temperatures since they warm the body in addition to providing needed liquids. Alcoholic beverages should not be consumed during cold weather operations since they can actually produce a more rapid heat loss by the body.
c. Use of Mess Gear. Individual mess gear will be difficult to clean and sterilize, therefore arrangements must be made for return of dirty mess gear to the battalion trains area where it is cleaned under the supervision of the mess stewards. Clean mess gear is sent forward with subsequent meals. During periods of extreme cold, it may be advisable to utilize paper plates and cups instead of mess gear. If utilized, they should be issued with the rations and sent forward to companies with the meal. When using paper plates and cups, commanders must insure that they are not haphazardly left in the unit area. Controlled disposal must be practiced by burning at squad level or by consolidating at company level and returning them to the battalion trains area. This problem is minimized, and cooling of food is minimized, by the use of individual operational rations which may be consumed directly from their containers.

3-23. Rations
Many types of rations are used for operations in cold weather. The type of ration to be used will be determined by the location, supply situation, mission, and duration of the operation. Rations are normally prepared in the unit kitchens. Insofar as possible two hot meals per day should be served. These generally will be the breakfast and supper meals. In situations where this is not practicable, group rations are utilized and prepared by one member of the
small unit. Under certain conditions an individual ration may be issued to each man. When serving meals without shelter, food may become cold or frozen before it can be eaten. Therefore, and whenever possible, shelters should be provided for the preparation and serving of food. Certain packaged rations and food packets are ideal under these circumstances because they are precooked and some components or all of the ration can be eaten without heating. However, one of the components should be heated when possible.
a. Bulk Supplied Rations. Rations of this type are desirable whenever possible. They are characterized by a need for maximum time and effort for preparation, high palatability, a large variety in menus and a high caloric content. These rations are also heavy and bulky.
(1) “A” Ration. The standard “A” Ration consisting of fresh foods is issued whenever possible. The caloric content of the ration is increased to compensate for the added caloric requirements of cold weather operations.
(2) “B” Ration. The standard “B” Ration is the field ration used for mass feeding in areas where kitchen facilities, with the exception of refrigeration, are available. The ration consists of approximately one hundred nonperishable foods. These are canned and dehydrated. Hot meals furnish approximately
3,900 calories per day with a 15-day cycle of menus. Caloric content may be varied to meet requirements of varying climatic conditions or degree of physical activity.
b. Packaged Operational Rations. Rations found in this category are characterized by a need for minimum time and effort for preparation. They have a high caloric content, limited menus and are lightweight. Maximum advantage is taken of dehydration and concentration. They are for the most part served hot, but certain components may be consumed cold.
(1) Ration, individual, trail, frigid. This ration is designed for trail use under cold weather conditions. While hot meals can and are intended to be prepared
from this ration, all components, except the dehydrated soups and beverages may be eaten without preparation. Components of the ration such as, processed cheese, fruitcake bars and candy are especially adaptable to consumption in mobile situations. The inclusion of several condiments enables maximum flexibility in component preparation. The ration supplies a minimum of 4,400 calories. It is intended for use by members of small patrols or trail
parties for short periods of time during which resupply is not feasible.
(2) Meal, combat, individual. This ration is designed for and is issued as the tactical situation dictates. It can be used in individual units as a meal or in multiples of three meals as a complete ration. Twelve menus are available. Each meal furnishes approximately one-third of the minimum nutrient intake prescribed by Army regulations.
(3) Food packet, long-range patrol. The packet was designed for use by forces in remote areas where resupply may be uncertain for as long as 10 days,
under tactical situations that require men to eat as individuals, but where normal supply of water is available. There are eight menus, all flexibly
packaged. Each furnishes over 1,000 calories, and consists of a precooked, dehydrated, combination item as the main component, with a confection, a cereal, or fruitcake bar, coffee, cream, sugar, toilet paper and matches. Five menus also include cocoa beverage powder. The average volume is 40 cubic inches and the average gross weight is 11 ounces. The principal menu components are packaged in a flexible combination package attached to a chipboard base which gives the package a rigid bottom while the food is being reconstituted in the bag. The main component may be eaten dry with drinking water or reconstituted. If hot water is used the main component will reconstitute in 2 minutes, if cold water is used, in 5 minutes.
(4) Survival rations. Survival rations are designed for use in emergency situations. The food is highly concentrated, lightweight and requires little or no preparation. Per volume it is high in caloric content but contains much less than the minimum required nutrient prescribed by Army regulations. These rations, when available, are especially good to supplement the special rations discussed above.

3-24. Individual or Small-Unit Messing
Frequently, while on patrol or during combat conditions, individuals will find it necessary to prepare their own meals or to combine rations with other individuals within the unit.
a. Equipment.
(1) The one-burner M1950 gasoline cooking stove is a cooking and heating unit for a group of from 2 to 5 men operating in an isolated or forward area where the use of heavier equipment is not practical. The mountain cookset is combined with the stove to make the one-burner cooking outfit.
(2) Rations may also be heated on the M1950 Yukon stove. The top and to a small degree the area underneath the stove is used for this purpose.
(3) Any fuel-burning device will give off carbon monoxide, which is poisonous. Adequate ventilation must be provided when using fuel-burning equipment
under shelter.
b. Preparation.
(1) First priority is the procurement of water (para 3-30). If snow or ice must be melted to obtain water, all available stoves are utilized for this purpose. After water is obtained, the stoves are used for food preparation. For convenience in preparation of meals and for conservation of fuel and labor, cooking should be done for as large a group as the situation permits.
(2) Meals must be prepared efficiently and as quickly as possible. Areas sheltered from the wind should be chosen for stoves or fires. A few blocks of snow or ice or a hole dug in the snow will serve as a windbreak and provide for more efficient use of fires. Heating tablets are not efficient in extremely cold weather accompanied by high winds. Individuals may have to prepare and eat one item at a time, but a hot meal will be worth the effort.
(3) Instructions for preparing the components of the rations will be found on, or inside, the package. The possibility of combining the various ration
components, i.e., mixing meat and vegetables to make stew, should also be considered.
(4) Canned foods are cooked and require little heat to make them edible. Overcooking will waste fuel. The juices in canned vegetables are tasty, and contain vitamins and minerals. Drinking them will conserve the water supply. Cans must be punctured or opened before heating by open fires or stoves.
Failure to do this may result in an explosion. No puncturing is needed if the can is submerged in water during the heating process.
(5) Food, including frozen meat, should be thawed before cooking. Partly frozen meats may cook on the outside while the center remains raw. Fresh meats must be cooked thoroughly to kill any germs or parasites that may be present.
(6) Whenever possible, dried fruit should be soaked overnight in cold water, then simmered slowly in the same water until tender, and sweetened to taste.
(7) Canned rations, either frozen or thawed, can best be heated by immersion in boiling water. This water can then be used for making tea, coffee, or soups and for washing soiled utensils or personal hygiene.
c. Storage.
(1) In winter the simplest way to preserve certain perishable foods such as meat products is to allow them to freeze. Rations should be stacked outside
the shelter and their location carefully marked. Only as much food as can be thawed and consumed before spoiling should be brought into the shelter.
(2) Frozen food should not be placed near heat where it may be thawed and later refrozen. Once thawed, certain foods may spoil. Meat thawed and
refrozen two or three times is tasteless and watery, and resultant bacterial growth may be sufficient to cause food poisoning.
d. Eating. Meals should be prepared at regular times and as much time as possible allowed for cooking and eating. Men should be allowed to relax after each meal. There will be times when it may not be possible to prepare a meal. Under such circumstances the meal or components of meals must be distributed to individuals before breaking camp. Any frozen food is thawed before issue to individuals. These items are wrapped in spare clothing and placed in the rucksack or in the pack to prevent them from refreezing. If time permits, halts should be made for the purpose of heating food and drink. To the extent possible, preparation of the following day’s food should be done during the night bivouac in order to shorten the time required to break camp in the morning.
e. Suggestions.
(1) Organize and control cooking.
(2) Insure that all food is eaten; save any usable leftovers for snacks between meals.
(3) The squad leader supervises the meals and makes sure that each man is receiving his portion.
(4) Check continuously to see that each man’s mess equipment is kept clean.
(5) Food is prepared for as large a group as possible.
(6) Fuel is conserved by prethawing food. This may be done by utilizing heat in the engine compartment of a vehicle or by placing cans of food under and around the tent heating stove.
(7) Canned rations, either frozen or thawed, can best be heated by immersion in a pot of hot water on the stove. This water can then-be used for washing soiled utensils.
(8) Adequate training of all men in the preparation and cooking of cold weather rations is imperative.
(9) One-pot meals, such as stews, save preparation time and fuel and can be kept warm more easily than several different food items.

3-25. Small-Unit Messing
a. One Man Responsible. One man should be responsible for the preparation of each meal and this job should be rotated throughout the squad. The squad leader is responsible for supplying any additional assistance needed by the cook.
b. Ingenuity in Cooking. Ingenuity on the part of the man assigned to cook for the small unit will aid immeasurably in the success of field messing in cold weather. Potatoes, onions, or bacon, when available, will increase the palatability of the food and can satisfactorily be added to many foods. The habit of making the morning coffee the night before, or using two stoves to melt snow or ice for the evening’s water supply, and of thawing out those rations that are going to be used the next morning, will save time and greatly simplify food preparation at mealtime.
c. Eating Arrangement. When the weather is moderate, the mess line feeding system may be used. During cold weather in a bivouac area the food can be prepared hot and then carried in insulated containers to each tent for consumption in a heated shelter. Food may also be transported in this manner to frontline troops by using track vehicles or other methods of transport.

3-26. Natural Food Resources
a. In some cold regions, animals are abundant at certain seasons of the year. In other areas, very little game can be found during any season of the year. A person without food in these areas must know how to “live off the land” and subsist on what is available. Fish are present in fresh-water lakes and rivers
during all seasons of the year, and some salt water near shore will normally yield fish. Fish will form the most readily available and largest portion of available nourishing foods.
b. Small animals and birds are also present in most areas at all times of the year. Large animals, because of migratory habits or other characteristics, are not a reliable source of food in many areas. Game should not be shot unless necessary for survival. Animals to be used for food should be thoroughly bled, internal organs removed, and the carcass chilled as soon as possible. This will prolong the keeping time of the meat. To expedite the chilling clean snow can be packed in the body cavity. All meat should be cooked thoroughly as a safeguard against harmful micro-organisms and parasites that might be present in the carcass. Only healthy animals should be used; in the absence of a person qualified to determine if the animal is healthy, meat from the animals that appear sick should not be handled or eaten. For additional information, see FM 21-76.

3-27. Animals of Cold Regions
a. Caribou and Reindeer.
(1) These are mainly herd animals found in the high plateaus and mountain slopes as well as in the grassy tundra areas. Their favorite year-round food is the lichens or “reindeer moss.” Their summer diet consists of grasses, shrubs, and brush tips. They are very curious animals and will often approach a hunter merely from curiosity, thus presenting a good target. Sight of a human may have no effect on them but the slightest hint of human scent will send them galloping. It is possible to attract them near enough for a shot by waving a cloth and moving slowly toward them on all fours. In shooting, the aim should be for the shoulder or neck rather than the head.
(2) Reindeer have long been domesticated in Scandinavia and northern Asia for their meat, milk, hide, and as draft animals.
(3) Both caribou and reindeer should be skinned promptly. Animal heat is the largest factor in meat spoilage. Fast and complete field dressing will eliminate most of this hazard and airing will finish the work. The bones and muscles can hold heat for as long as 48 hours, if the surrounding temperature
is not below freezing. Fat should be kept with the carcass, not with the skin. If time does not allow skinning, at least the entrails and genitals should be cleaned out of the animal.
(4) A poncho may be used for wrapping the meat, whether for packing it out or if it is to be left hanging for the second trip. Meat should be raised off the ground as soon as possible because this will cool it sooner and keep it away from predators. Dirt and contamination should be washed from the meat and the meat then dried, if possible. A carcass should never be washed until it has cooled and is ready to be butchered and stored.
b. Mountain Sheep and Goats.
(1) These animals are available in many northern areas. Although they normally live in the higher elevations, during periods of heavy snow, they may be more readily available than other animals.
(2) The procedures for skinning and care of caribou and reindeer are also applicable to sheep and goats.
c. Moose.
(1) The moose is the largest known species of the deer family. They are found in most areas of the northern hemisphere. Full grown bulls weigh from 1,000 to 1,200 pounds and may stand two meters (6') high at the shoulder. They require a large amount of forage and usually may be found in areas where food of this type is plentiful, such as burn-offs, swamps, and lake areas.
(2) The procedures for the skinning and care of caribou and reindeer meat are applicable to moose.
d. Seals.
(1) Seals are widely distributed and generally common. Their flesh is an excellent food. The liver should be avoided since it may contain toxic levels of Vitamin A.
(2) The seals should be shot as they come to the surface of the water to breathe or as they are basking on rocks. The aim should be for the head. Most of
the seals shot through the head will float, while about half of those shot through the body will not. Seals will also be found in the open leads in the icepack or may be found at their breathing holes in the ice. However, hunting seals through breathing holes requires extreme patience and the holes are difficult to locate without the use of dogs.
(3) In the spring, mother seals and their pups may sometimes be located under snow hummocks adjacent to and over breathing holes, where they have
given birth to their young. In the spring, also, seals lie on the ice and bask in the sun. They must be carefully stalked and the hunter must be close enough at the time he shoots to retrieve the dead seal before it slips into a hole in the ice.
(4) It takes great skill to stalk a seal. The Eskimo usually tries to imitate noises made by the seal, and he may use a white screen behind which he crawls
while the seal sleeps, remaining absolutely still when the seal raises its head to look around. Seals normally sleep only for a few seconds at a time and then look around for their enemies or a few seconds before sleeping again. Seal meat from which the blubber (fat) has not been entirely removed will turn rancid in a short time.
e. Walrus. The meat and blubber (fat) of walrus are edible, as are the clams which may be found in their stomachs.
f. Bears. All bears are edible, although the flesh must be thoroughly cooked to guard against trichinosis. The liver of the polar bear should not be eaten because of toxic Vitamin A concentration. All bears are dangerous and hard to kill. There should be two or more hunters in the party when hunting; soft-nosed bullets should be used. The shoulder shot is best. If the bear stands up, the aim should be at the base and center of the throat for a shot which will sever the vertebrae.
g. Wolves and Foxes. Wolves and foxes are edible. Wolves follow caribou herds. Arctic foxes follow polar bear and eat their leavings. Foxes will hang around a camp or follow a trail party and try to steal food.
h. Rabbits or Hares. Rabbits or hares can be snared or shot. They should be shot in the head or very little meat will be left. A whistle will probably cause a running one to stop long enough for an aimed shot. When cooking hare or rabbit, fat of some sort, should be added as the meat is very lean. They should not be dressed or cut up with bare hands because of the danger of contracting tularemia (rabbit fever) from contact with the raw flesh. Completely
cooked flesh is safe to handle and eat.
i. Marmots. Marmots are woodchuck-like animals that live above the treeline in the mountains. They are excellent food, especially in late summer when they are very fat. The hunter should wait until the marmot moves away from his den before shooting or he may fall into his burrow.
j. Porcupines, Beavers, and Muskrats. These animals are found throughout the colder regions. Porcupines are excellent food, as are both beaver and muskrat. All are easily obtained. The porcupine, beaver, and muskrat when found on land, can be easily killed with sticks.
k. Ground Squirrels. Ground squirrels abound in most cold areas and are easy to catch. They can be easily dug out of their burrows. They are especially common along streams with sandy banks.

3-28. Birds
All birds and their eggs found in cold regions are edible. Certain nonmigratory birds are found in cold regions in wintertime. Several species of grouse, like the ruffed, sharp tail, spruce, and ptarmigan (which turn white in winter) are common. To obtain the greatest food value from birds, they should be plucked rather than skinned.

3-29. Fish
Fish form a large part of the native diet in cold regions and are almost the entire diet of work dogs in these areas. Along the coast, salmon, tomcod, flounder, sculpin, sand sharks, herring and other fish are found. Inland waters yield salmon, several varieties of whitefish, blackfish, and suckers. All fish and shellfish are edible, with the exception of the black mussel. Mussels from Pacific waters should be avoided entirely. Mussels are easily distinguished from clams and oysters by their orange-pink flesh. Shellfish can be cooked by boiling them in water.

3-30. Water
Water points, operated by Corps of Engineer personnel, offer the best source of water supply for all troop units in any area and in any season. Under normal operating conditions, an Engineer unit with a water point capability will be attached to task forces of brigade size or larger. Engineer water point operations under cold weather conditions are discussed in FM 31–71. This paragraph, together with paragraphs 3–31 and 3–56 offers possible solutions
to the problem of water supply that confronts individuals and small detachments operating in isolated areas away from normal support activities.
a. Water is plentiful in most cold regions in one form or another. Potential sources are streams, lakes and ponds, glaciers, freshwater ice, and last year’s sea ice. Freshly frozen sea ice is salty, but year-old sea ice has had the salt leached out. It is well to test freshly frozen ice when looking for water. In some areas, where tidal action and currents are small, there is a layer of fresh water lying on top of the ice; the lower layers still contain salt. In some cases, this layer of fresh water may be 50 to 100 cm (20" to 40") in depth.
b. If possible, water should be obtained from running streams or lakes rather than by melting ice or snow. Melting ice or snow to obtain water is a slow process and consumes large quantities of fuel, 17 cubic inches of uncompacted snow, when melted, yields only 1 cubic inch of water. In winter a hole may be cut through the ice of a stream or lake to get water; the hole is then covered with snowblocks or a poncho, board, or a ration box placed over it. Loose snow is piled on top to provide insulation and prevent refreezing. In extremely cold weather, the waterhole should be broken open at frequent intervals. Waterholes should be marked with a stick or other marker which will not be covered by drifting snow. Water is abundant during the summer in lakes, ponds, or rivers. The milky water of a glacial stream is not harmful. It should stand in a container until the coarser sediment settles. c. In winter or summer, water obtained from ponds, lakes and streams must be purified by chemical treatment, use of iodine tablets or in emergencies by boiling.
d. During chemical, biological, and/or nuclear warfare, precautions should be taken against using contaminated water sources. In general, cold weather conditions tend to prolong or conceal contamination hazards, and unexpected contamination may thus be encountered. When snow or ice is thawed to
provide water supplies, detection tests should be conducted during or after the melting operation, since frozen contamination may not be detectable. Radiological contamination which has been covered with snow or ice may or may not show up on radiac instruments, depending upon the thickness of the cover. Boiling or treating with water purification tablets has no effect on radioactive contaminants in water. In emergencies, water suspected of radiological contamination may be filtered through a 15 cm (6") column of loose dirt and then chlorinated or iodinated. Purification of water showing, or suspected of containing, chemical contamination should not be attempted.
e. After the water is obtained, the problem of transporting and storing it arises. Units operating in the field under cold weather conditions may store water in 5-gallon water cans with insulated covers, or other similar type containers for use by small detachments or individuals. Immersion-type heaters may be used to prevent freezing of water supply tanks. Some points to be remembered are-
(1) Transportation of water by wheeled vehicles in barren, sparsely settled areas under snow and ice conditions is practicable only when there is a road net established. The best way to transport water in cold regions is by the use of track-laying vehicles which are not dependent on roads for maneuverability. If 5-gallon cans are used to carry water, they are filled only three-quarters full to allow agitation of the water and help prevent freezing while in transit. Cans are stored off the floor in heated shelters as soon as they are delivered. Sledmounted, 250- to 300-gallon water tanks in which immersion-type heaters have been installed have proved satisfactory.
(2) For small units of two to four men, the 5-gallon insulated food container is satisfactory for water storage. These can be filled at night and will hold enough water for the next day’s needs for about four men. The insulation of these containers is sufficient to keep water from freezing for as long as 40 hours at an ambient temperature of –20° F., if the temperature of the water was at boiling point when the container was filled.

3-31. Types of Ice and Snow
a. When water is not available from other sources, it must be obtained by melting snow or ice. To conserve fuel, ice is preferable when available; if snow must be used, the most compact snow in the area should be obtained. Snow should be gathered only from areas that have not been contaminated by animals, humans, or toxic agents.
b. Ice sources are frozen lakes, rivers, ponds, glaciers, icebergs, or old sea ice. Old sea ice is rounded where broken and is likely to be pitted and to have pools on it. Its underwater part has a bluish appearance. Fresh sea ice has a milky appearance and is angular in shape when broken. Water obtained by melting snow or ice may be purified by use of water purification tablets, providing it has not been contaminated by toxic agents.
c. If chemical, biological, or radiological contamination is detected, procedures as outlined in paragraph 3-30 d will be followed.

3-32. Procedures for Melting Snow and Ice
a. Burning the bottom of a pot used for melting snow can be avoided by “priming.” Place a small quantity of water in the pot and add snow gradually. If water is not available, the pot should be held near the source of heat and a small quantity of snow melted in the bottom before filling it with snow.
b. The snow should be compacted in the melting pot and stirred occasionally to prevent burning the bottom of the pot.
c. Pots of snow or ice should be left on the stove when not being used for cooking so as to have water available when needed.
d. Snow or ice to be melted should be placed just outside the shelter and brought in as needed.
e. In an emergency, an inflated air mattress can be used to obtain water. The mattress is placed in the sun at a slight inclined angle. The mattress, because of its dark color, will be warmed by the sun. Light, fluffy snow thrown on this warm surface will melt and run down the creases of the mattress where it may be caught in a canteen cup or other suitable container.

Continue to Hygiene and First Aid

 

© 2005 BackcountrySurvival.com. All Rights Reserved