Three Ways to Stay Warm in the Wilderness Without Fire


In a wilderness survival situation, you can’t count on things going your way.  This time of year, cold will be a main concern if you find yourself stranded outdoors, since exposure too cold can kill within hours.  Fire is the obvious solution, but there are a number or reasons why you might not be able to have a fire when you need it.  Here are a few ways that you can stay warm even without a fire:

Dry leaves

Without external heat from a fire, the first priority should be to keep as much of the heat that your body already has from escaping.  The most crucial part of your body to keep warm is your torso, since your vital organs like your heart are in your torso.  One way to accomplish this is to tuck in your first layer of clothing and stuff dry leaves or grass in between your first layer and your outer layer.  You want a thick, puffy layer to trap air.  If you look like the little brother from “A Christmas Story” then you definitely did it right.

Remove layers

This one probably sounds pretty counterintuitive, but the idea is to remain dry.  If you are on the move, especially across rough terrain or through snow, you are going to be burning a lot of calories.  This will increase your body heat, which, if you are dressed too warm, will cause you to sweat, which will in turn dampen your clothing.  Damp clothes in the cold can kill you quickly.

Breath through your nose

While breathing through your nose will not directly increase your body temperature, it does help to recover as much as 33% of your heat and moisture that would be lost from breathing through your mouth (Elad, Wolf, Keck 2008 Air-conditioning in the human nasal cavity. Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology 163. 121-127).  This will also help indirectly because if you lose moisture and become dehydrated, you will need to drink more water, which will probably be cold.  When the cold water is in your body, your body will have no option but to obey the laws of thermodynamics and warm the water with its heat.


Since we can’t count on things always going our way and never being put in a survival situation in the wilderness, then we can’t count on things going our way once we are there.  Fire is not always an option, so try to have a plan that includes what to do if you cannot have a fire but need to stay warm.

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