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Cold Weather Equipment Requirements.

Cutting equipment - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

After clothing, cutting equipment is probably one of the most import things to take with you into the Arctic forest. Having said that, I’m not going to say much about it here because so much has been written elsewhere on which sharp object is the best blah blah blah...

I favour a saw of some kind, something to chop with, a good sharp knife and a backup that you can carry in your pocket. Beyond that it is just a matter of personal choice.

Cordage - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Cordage is also something that is over fetishized as well.  The fashionable choice is “paracord” partly because of it’s military credentials. In reality most synthetic cordage is quite sufficient. I favour brightly coloured stuff because it is easy to see in the campwhich help prevent accidents.

For some jobs I carry a ball of biodegradable garden twine which is cheap, disposable and not unsightly if I happen to leave some in place by accident when I leave.

Fire Lighting Kit - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Fire lighting is another important part of your kit requirements of course and once again this is largely a matter of choice.

I like to carry a variety of methods which are distributed in different bags and pockets. If one method fails I have others I can call on.

I’m a great fan of the match. Light, effective and reliable.

Most need to be protected from damp which is not to difficult but if you by waterproof ones that is less critical. However, even those will not work if saturated so I tend to keep them in a ziplock plastic bag. Problem solved for a couple of grams.

Navigation Equipment - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Another matter for personal choice is navigation equipment.  You need some and you need to know how to use it but the type you use is up to you.

I’m not a fan of GPS as a primary navigation tool, it is unreliable at times and prone to issues with batteries in the extreme cold but I do like to have it in my pack somewhere.

Mainly I will use it as a bread crumb trail leading back to my camp or a safe location. In a whiteout it may be your best chance of retracing your route.

A map and compass is still, by many miles, your best and most important navigational aid in my opinion.

First Aid Kit - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

A good first aid kit is an essential item to carry with you and it is important to know how to use it too. You may need to treat anything between a blister or a splinter, though cuts and minor burns right up to broken bones and major bleeding. If you think the cold is scary, our ability to injure ourselves by making the simplest of mistakes is astounding.

Emergency gear - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

In addition it is worth having a light reflective sheet with you. these are often described as “blankets” which is highly misleading because they do not insulate you as a blanket does, they simply trap air and reflect your body’s radiant heat to some degree. They can be a life saver but you do need to know how to make use of one.

A loud whistle of some kind is very important for attracting attention. Beacon lights and satellite transmitters are well worth looking into as well.

Headtorches and flashlights - Ice Raven - Sub Zero Adventure - Copyright Gary Waidson, All rights reserved.

Even if you are only intending to travel in daylight, carry some form of flashlight with you. Make sure the batteries are fresh and I would strongly recommend Lithium cells because they perform far better than most other types in low temperatures.

I’m not a fan of head torches in any type of group situation because some berk will always forget to turn it off and blind everyone’s night vision while wondering why they are all swearing at him.

If I am using something like a head torch, I hang it around my neck and point it down so that it shines at where my hands are and I can see what I’m doing. It’s not stuck on my head and waving around like a damned lighthouse. The only time I ever put one on my head is if I’m on my own and even then very rarely.

I prefer to let my night vision adapt to the darkness which in snowy condition tends to work quite well, especially if there is a moon in the sky. It also means that I can see if the Northern Lights make an appearance. If you are constantly working in a pool of artificial light you may very easily miss one of the greatest shows on Earth.

You can see some more about some of the kit I use on the next pages.


Sub Zero Crew - Bushcraft UK

Unless noted otherwise, all photography, artwork and content on this site is copyrighted. © Gary Waidson 2020 All rights reserved

The Ice Raven Project promotes sustainable and low impact bushcraft and wilderness skills in Arctic and winter conditions. This includes the use of  tents, tarps  and snow shelters where possible. Fires are only used where safe and where use and collection of firewood will not damage the natural environment. We often travel to locations by public transport and then use snowshoes, sleds, toboggans and pulks to transport our equipment into the wilderness.