Survival Skills: 3 Winter Urban Survival Techniques

Photo Courtesy of Ben Britten, Flickr

The life of a homeless person is full of constant struggles. Add in harsh winter weather and life on the streets becomes even more difficult. What if you became homeless for a night or even longer? What if, by accident, bad luck, or disaster, you had to spend a cold night out on the streets? With no place to go and no resources at your disposal, this could be a life-or-death situation. But there are methods you could use to prevail. Here are three urban-survival tips to make it through a cold winter night.

Enhance Your Insulation: The first thing you can do when you're stuck out in the cold is to beef up the insulation value of the clothing you're wearing. Crumple up newspapers or any other kind of paper material into loose balls. Stuff these down inside your clothing. They can go in your pants (if there's enough room), inside your shirt (front and back), and down your sleeves. You can also use bubble wrap, packing peanuts, Styrofoam, and any other lightweight material full of airspace. The more you look like a scarecrow, the better this insulation technique works. And never sleep on the bare ground or concrete. Stack up as many layers of cardboard as you can find. Cardboard is another good insulator. Finally, you can throw together a makeshift sleeping bag by filling a large trash bag with any of the insulating materials already mentioned. Burrow down inside, and you'll be insulated from the cold and out of the wind.

Borrow Some Heat: This could be a fire in a barrel, but that tends to draw a (sometimes unsavory) crowd and is frowned upon by firefighters. Borrowing heat could also mean camping out on a steam grate or beside a warm exhaust vent from a large building. The problem with this one is the moisture. Your clothing and any bedding materials could soon be soaked, which can lead to hypothermia when coupled with cold winter temperatures. The final approach here is a portable heat source, which can allow you to maintain a safe distance from others and avoid the moisture of building exhaust. Heat up a few bricks beside a small fire. Wrap the bricks in some fabric (make sure they're not so hot they could ignite the material), and place them in your bedding or hold one inside your clothes. The warmth is immediate and amazing. A similar trick is to find containers and get a quart of water boiling. Wrap bottles full of hot water in cloth to buffer the heat escape, and snuggle up with one or several of these. Just make sure the bottle lids are on tight, so that your clothes and bedding don't get wet.

Seek Shelter: The final urban survival strategy is a no-brainer—find some kind of shelter. This could mean taking refuge in a vehicle, an abandoned dwelling, or any other place that will get you out of the weather. Finding shelter is even more important in rainy, snowy, or icy conditions. If you can help it, don't break the law by trespassing or breaking-and-entering. Just find a quiet spot where no one will bother you as you shack up for the night.

Have you ever considered how you'd endure a miserable night or three on the streets? What would you do to survive?