Alaska is known for the year-round beauty of its landscapes, and also its brutal winters. Even if you don't intend to explore the Alaskan outdoors for extended periods of time, you need to always be prepared for weather emergencies, rough terrain, and the possibility of accidents.
The following are 11 useful winter outdoor safety tips for Alaska.
1) Make sure you can get warm and dry quickly. Staying wet in freezing temperatures can endanger you, especially with frostbite or hypothermia. Make sure you have plenty of spare clothes, including changes of socks, and a source of heat, such as a safely made portable stove or camping tent heater along with extra blankets.
2) Bring plenty of food. You need the food in order to stay warm and give yourself plenty of energy to cope with outdoor activity in the cold, which can cause you to feel fatigue quite quickly. Make sure you have food that you can heat up, and also food that doesn't require any preparation but can be consumed quickly with no preparation. Food is essential if you get stranded anywhere.
3) Bring plenty of water and make sure it doesn't freeze. Dehydration is possible when you're very active outdoors, even in freezing weather; a lack of water also contributes to fatigue and poor health. If you have a portable heat source you'll be able to thaw your water source if it freezes; you could also melt snow and ice for water if you run out of your own, though you need to take care that the natural water sources you use aren't contaminated and that you have ways of purifying them.
4) Have warm clothes and accessories with you. Thick, warm boots, layers of clothes, extra blankets, and a snug sleeping bag are essential.
5) Make sure you have a sturdy portable shelter. If you're camping, you want to make sure the tent you take with you isn't flimsy, easily admitting the wind, cold, and winter precipitation. Even if you don't intend to camp anywhere, take a small portable tent with you; if you get stuck somewhere while hiking, you'll have a more protected shelter.
6) Be aware of your surroundings. Thoroughly research the outdoor area you're going to. Listen to weather advisories and look into all potential dangers, from bear sightings to the presence of icy crevasses. Get advice and directions from park rangers and other trusted, experienced people. Carry maps with you and other tools to help you find your bearings. Don't just head off into the outdoors with little to no preparation.
7) Don't travel on your own. Ideally, you'll be with at least one other person who will be able to help you and take care of you if you're injured or if there's some kind of emergency. If you're determined to explore the outdoors alone, at least let other people know about your plans.
8) Have ways to communicate with the rest of the world if lost or stranded. Cell phone coverage can be rather spotty or nonexistent in many locations. There are other options for signalling for help during emergencies, including special radios and satellite phones. Look into the options in advance, and learn how to use them safely and properly.
9) Get first aid training. Although basic first aid training won't be able to help with all problems, it could still potentially save lives and help keep a medical situation from worsening.
10) Don't overestimate the thickness of ice or snow. Sometimes even ice that looks thick could easily break through, sending you plummeting into cold water or into a pit or crevasse. Small ice formations can also break off from a larger formation, leaving you stranded in the middle of freezing water.
11) Make sure your vehicle is in good shape. You should get your car inspected before taking it out into the Alaskan outdoors; check everything from the condition of the tires to whether the heating is functioning well. Always have extra fuel and a spare tire just in case.
We hope you enjoy your excursions into the Alaskan outdoors. With these safety tips, you'll be reducing the risks presented by the Alaskan outdoors.