If you ever find yourself in a situation of cold and snow,
remember that air is an excellent insulator,
so the fluffy snow you hopefully see is not just an obstacle, but may be your salvation.
Snow will probably be your most excellent immobile insulation,
so throw it atop your tent if you have one or if you don't, build what you can from it.
In the cold, the snow is your fiend.
If for some reason you find yourself living outdoors in less than excellent climate,
make sure you put distance between the place you sleep and the ground.
The ground will contain relatively infinite amounts of cold as well as dampness which helps transfer coldness.
A very excellent help to create such a distance is cargo pallets, which many places just regard as waste and will not mind at all if you have them.
Put them under your tent or whatever you have, then build everything else OVER that layer of ventilation.
It will also help ensure rotting, omld, etc is less likely.
If it's fortunately short term, look for pine branches or similar.
...also, if you find yourself living in cold temperatures outdoors for a long time (like +10°C or below),
try to ensure you get out of your day clothes while you sleep, so they can dry off.
If it's really super-cold so they would freeze instead, but them between yourself and whatever insulation you have to the ground (e.g. sleeping mat).
First priority is socks, as if they aren't allowed to dry fully sometimes, it's likely you will get fungi in them and on your foot, which is... super-BAD.
It's usually genuinely preferable to sleep naked in good insulation like sleeping bag, etc,
even around -30°C, says both my experience and my army training.
If it's actually cold out and you sleep in a tent, make sure the tent has several layers.
To "think in layers" while dressing for cold is well established, but many tents still just province one layer.
One of the best insulation materials we have against cold is... air.
Really, it's that simple.
If the tent you have does not have layers, maybe you can put it where there are bushes around and you can put a simple tarp over them and your tent under both.
Survival-type of computer games have taught people to appreciate duct-tape ("ducktape") but a good tarpaulin is probably more important.
Many when in cold climate will just stick with the initial instinct and what more are taught: Shut your jacket and keep all clothes airtight.
Well, that's not always right.
As my army trainer told us,
the natives of Sapmi have clothes that include a belt over the jacket which is normally kept tight, but if they expect long time physical exercise, they remove the belt to ensure the jacket drops from being short to instead medium-length and allows for air to circulate from bottom to top so that the sweat is allowed out.
If it's not allowed out while excretion is anyway heating your body, it will remain while you generate less heat and then it will cool you way more than "nature intended" long term.
That's why you'll find those "annoying" strings mid/bottom of any kind of serious winter outdoors jackets. Open them UP before doing heavy work.
Yeah, the arctic climate instructor of Sweden's Army also mentioned why the traditional dress of the Sami people includes that "funny" huge ball on the top of the caps.
As I mentioned before, air is an excellent insulation against cold (if it's not blown away).
So while people stand still, we build up like an invisible "bubble" of air that we have already somewhat heated, which slowly exits upwards.
The ball thingie just extends that bubble a bit. where the heat is the most likely to be lost from us.
Not "funny" but just people knowing how to survive best where they live.
Sapmi is the indigenous Sami areas I highlighted in a previous map as blue or red in this previous picture.
Yes, we conscript NCOs did comment a bit internally on the irony of the Army of Sweden, the State that occupied Sapmi, the home of the Sami people, now using the superior knowledge of those natives in the teachings of its imposed army service...
but regardless of how illegitimate the path of the knowledge, their knowledge remains legitimate (as does resistance to occupation).
Of course you don't have to limit yourself to a tent even if live "outdoors".
Here's an excerpt of a video interviewing participants of Occupy Stockholm, as illustration.
That actual elite-sports person was one of two that built entire plywood cubes around their initial tents, in a climate of two hurricanes crashing and down to at least -27°C. You can still spot the original tent through the hatch.
All building materials were donated or found.
When I was in that cube, it was warmer than most people have in "proper houses", at the coldest of the year.
I've also been invited to the homes of "homeless people" that built an entire all-year secret camp on a mountain in a swamp, with secret paths.
If it had not been for the incredible diversity of people and their experiences, I am sure that Occupy Stockholm had not lasted to become the "longest lasting" demonstration or occupation in the history of Sweden.
Definitely not past the autumn that included two hurricanes clashing over the town so that "proper houses" were demolished but our tents lasted and very unlikely during the next exceptionally cold winter.
Specifically, one participant indigenous of the Chiapas had experience from the "Zapatista Army of National Liberation" guerrilla and several Kurd refugees that had been "peshmerga" (liberation militia) ensured the tents survived what even the cops later declared was incredible.
Diversity is humanity's "survival of the fittest". :-)
@b9AcE Fantastic thread, thank you.
The thing that I was most surprised to find probably indispensable at the coldest times back during Occupy Stockholm, when temperatures were at least -27°C (-17°F) was...
Most importantly I figured out that when I was lying down to sleep, I could form the thin cloth around my head, so that a bubble formed in front of my mouth so that when it froze, I had a constant "pre-heater" chamber so the air would reach comfortably breathable temperatures before it got to me and because it was so thin, it could still exchange the used air for fresh air just by the aid of my heat.
Another useful tip if you expect to find yourself in very cold climate without instant access to warm shelter is to if possible prepare by dressing in less warm clothing while in warmer but still cold climate, thus make your body adapt to the cold.
Those of us during my conscript army time that eventually adapted so we habitually ran around in T-shirts while it was snowing in Stockholm did VERY much better during the later weeks long winter-training when we slept in self-made snow-caves and such.
Also, it's important to keep clean if possible, as dirt gathers moisture which cools you down,
but don't wash skin which will later be exposed to the open cold air just before the exposure starts as that removes the skin's natural barrier of fat.
Do NOT add a thick layer of fat from the outside to compensate, as that traps sweat, which may then freeze and be... very unfortunate.
Also, if you expect to be stuck in cold climate for a while, do avoid both tobacco and alcohol.
Nicotine makes the blood system tighten and thus won't deliver the blood needed for heating to the limbs as well and thus they are left with decreased heating and that's... you know, bad.
It's opposite would be alcohol (ethanol) which instead opens up the blood system more and thus makes people feel like "I'm getting warmer", but that exposes more of the warm blood to the cold so therefore cools the blood so that the whole body in total gets more cooled down faster, which in the long term is obviously bad.
@b9AcE in the book Factfulness, Hans Rosling makes a very good point about assuming that people aren't idiots.
For us here in Northern Europe it might seem silly for Bedouins to wear long, black clothes in that heat because our traditional knowledge is that black clothes are hotter.
But their clothes cover their skin from direct sunlight, and by being loose and billowing and open at the bottom they let air circulate and flow over the body and cool it down.
@kungtotte Oh, I think it's always a good assumption that peoples that have survived in a specific area, especially if it's one with inhospitable climate, have probably developed traditions that are very good at countering those specific inhospitable aspects, even if we others may not know that or why those traditions are and how they work.
Once scientists start studying each particular case, they tend, as far as I know, to come back with the result "Ooooh! THAT's why/how those people did that!" and then it may even become mainstream practice.