Winter Paintball Survival Guideline
White snow, chilled weather, endless possibilites to conceal,andabletobuildto suite bunkers. Who doesn't want to play paintball year round? Everyonetalks about the gear needed to play in the winter but what about the gear needed for safety? No, I'm talking talking about barrel blocking devices.
Basic winter safety is obviously to dress warm, keep hydrated, and stay warm of course. Frostbite and hypothermia are some of the dangers of winter play. But what happens when a white out occurs? Daylight is fading and its getting darker and darker, then what? Then things can easily go from bad to worse very easily. This guide is designed to help keep you safe when playing in the winter wonderland. As well as going over basic guidelines to follow for winter play, survival in the field will be covered at a later time.
Basic steps to help keep you safe. Dressing warmly, knowing and designating a play area, and packing the proper equipment and gear needed. First to cover is proper dress while in the winter field. This cannot be stressed enough on how important it is to dress warmly,properly, and layered clothing to keep you warm. Very quickly at night, the temperature drops when it is an open sky (cloud-less night) in the winter. Areas to specifically keep warm, are head, torso, hands, and feet. Okay, well saying just keeping the whole body warm could work as well,but we're going to cover proper dress for each section of the body.
Feet are essential to keep dry and warm since they (feet) are one of the body parts to get cold easily and be known area to be easily affected by frostbite. Starting off for the feet it is essential to have a good pair of socks. Yes I do realize that sometimes socks can be uncomfortable in boots or a personal preference but in the winter, no exceptions. Woolsocks are ideal to wear, but if unable to, two pairs of socks will do nicely. Socks serve a purpose not only of keeping the feet warm but dry as well.
Boots are essential for winter, an actual pair of boots. Boots that contain tinsulate are an excellent choice to have for winter paintball. Also it is important that the boots are somewhat water proof, since snow will cling to the boots and or stepping in a water hole under the snow.
-If you feet get cold easily, a hand chemical warmer (can be purchased at Wal-mart, K-smart, Sporting good stores, etc) can be heplful to have. While wearing two pairs of socks, or a wool pair, either will be thick enough to help insulate your foot from the hot temperatures of the chemical warmer while still providing ample heat. More or less, it helps reduce the chance of burning your foot. Since toes are generally the part of the foot that easily gets cold, generally a good idea to place the chemical warmer at the tip of the boot, and place your toes on top of it. The reason for your foot on top, is because the bottom of your foot is more coarse and rugged (meaning, more or less not as sensitive as the top of your foot/toes.) Although besides having a thick layering of socks, the chemical warmer still may be too hot to place directly against your foot. So please use caution when dealing with chemical warmers.
Waist and downward For the waist down, it is important to layer up. Whether a pair of sweat pants or jeans as a base layer, it is important to have a good warm base layer (Meaning no shorts) and a good outer layer. The outer layer should be water proof and non constricting of movement. Ski pants, snow pants, work nicely since they are not only water resistant for the most part, but generally pretty warm for varied temperatures of the winter weather.
Torso: For the core of the body, layers again are ideal to have. A T-shirt followed by a lone sleeve shirt or sweater/ sweat shirt will work nicely. Tuck all the layers into your pants, to prevent a draft coming up your shirt as well as to prevent snow going down your pants. Obviously in this case, its winter-time, so please use an appropriate coat, its a must.
Hands Okay the hands are used in almost every activity we do, so protect them and keep them warm. Now some options for proecting your hands are paintball gloves, regular fingered winter gloves, and glove/mitten combo. Paintball Gloves conform to the hand, provide padding against hand and knuckle shots are are easily to shoot with. However, they are not nearly as warm, nor water-proof and will easily absorb moisture. Fingered gloves contain heavy padding (usually) and are generally very warm. However the downside is, they are bulky, hard to shoot with, and can get wet and be difficult to dry. Gloves/mitten (inside the mitten is a removeable glove, mitten slides over) are generally very war, and can be convereted to just glove or mitten use alone. However of course, these type of glove has its downsides as well, such as the mitten will make it impossible to shoot with, and the inside glove alone may not be warm enough to just wear by itself. Each has their own pros and cons for winter activities so it is essential to know your climate conditions and prepare for changes in weather.
Head Body heat loss occurs rapidly when the head is poorly insulated. This is the greatest point for heat loss in the body, so it essential to keep your head warm and properly insulated. Aproximately 70% + of body heat loss can occur through the head. Depending on the tempearture, nose and mouth should be covered. The reason being, is that breathing in low temperature air can actually make it harder to breathe. A hat of some sort must be worn, besides keeping your head warm, it can also provide mild protection against paintball hits.
Now that is basic proper clothing is covered lets move onto the next part. Some things to kelp keep you safe is to desingated a play area. A good way to do this is to mark the boundaries by either a) painting trees, B) using orange tape/flags C) roping off the area, etc etc. Not only will this help prevent players from wandering off into no man's land during a game and drawing it out, but if a white-out occurs of darkness falls it will be easier to find your way out if need by following the boundry lines. However, it is advised stay put during a white-out with the exception of finding a form of shelter.
Gear Besides having your regular paintball gear (marker, pod-pack and or vest, pods, tank, mask, tools) it is generally a good idea to have water, a source of food (power bar works nicely), a utility tool (multi-tool, such as a Gerber), chemical handwarmers, as well as a Flint Stone,matches, or lighter (Lighter may freeze). The reason being to carry such items is although it may be just a fun day of paintball, you never know when you may need them. What is especially nice, is that all the items (chemical warmers, flint stone, utility tool, and food source) will all fit nicely within a pod. Now of course, I do realize that you could improve your gear so much better to be prepared, such as a shovel, radio, compass, etc etc. But this is just a small pack that is well travel size. So please, bare with me because we could make a list of hundreds of items to include for "Just-in-Case" but we won't.
So a whiteout blows in, its low visibility conditions and its coming towards the end of the day (sunlight ends at 5pm here), and no one is near by. Just to add to the situation, nothing looks familiar and your tracks are beginning to cover up, now what? First things first, cover your mouth and nose if you haven't already and keep your mask on. By having your mask on, it will help keep face covered and exposed to the elements to a minimal amount, as well make it easier to see a bit. Keep any vest or pod pack that you are wearing on, and do not fire your marker. The reason being not to fire the marker is because the noise will be muffled by the snow and wind, and it will be used later on. Keep any paint you may be carrying in your pods, this will become useful later on.
Shelter Now check your surroundings and look for any forms of shelter that are near-by. Pine trees provide excellent cover from the elements and are ideal place to seek refuge. However, not all Pines will provide ample cover of course. In which case, if possible using the multi-tool blade/saw cut branches from a pine or spruce. These branches will then be used to make a semi-circle of a dome shelter. The best way is to go to a large base tree, get on the backside (opposite side of the wind) and build your shelter from there. Using the cut branches, position them against the tree to start to form a semi-circle with the tree in the middle and branches on both sides. If the branches cannot be firmly placed in the snow or will not stay against the tree, then you can secure them by using the laces from your boots. If that is not an option for whatever reason, a barrel blocking device (Barrel Condom) elastic cord will also work nicely to bind the branches.
Now in the case there are no near-by branches or natural cover to use, place your backside against the wind and pull off your mask. Your mask will double as a cheap means of a scoop/shovel and will be useful when digging. Find the largest tree near-by and begin scooping snow from the base of the tree. The should used as a means to block the wind and provide a wall of the quick shelter. The hole that is dug should be no wider than foot on each side of your body.
Body heat can rapidly disperese when on frozen ground through the legs and back. So its very important to sit on your vest/pod pack so you are off the ground, and will provide insulation against the frozen ground and you. If the pod pack alone is enough to sit on (provided you have a vest and pod pack), the vest can be used to further drape over the body for added protection from the elements. Now that basic shelter has been established (Or should have been) lets move on.
Heat will be neccessary if possible to help keep warm, as well as signaling. Although the conditions are not ideal, even during mid-winter fire can still be achieved. It is generally a good idea to wait for the wind to die down before attemping to start a fire. Up in Northern Michigan, long dead grass (Hay, or wwds) can easily be found coming up through the snow as well at the base of trees (especially pines). This grass or dry brush is ideal to gather and burn, however the grass can and will burn rather quickly so a good amount will be neccessary. As well burning this, small branches or bark from a Birch tree will help keep the firing going as well. Although the fire will provide some minimal heat, its primary purpose in our case is to help you be seen in the night. In the wooded areas, at night (as well as Dusk), even a small fire will help stand out on the horizon against the darkness or and will provide light to the area. However, if fire cannot be achieved and are cold, then the chemical warmers will come in handy and be used. Its also important to keep fingers, and toes moving to keep the circulation of the blood moving to those areas.
Now suppose it is still daylight, or the next day even, and you want to mark your area. The simpliest way to mark the area is to take a pod or hopper of paint and crush it into liquid form by either using your barrel or a tree branch. This will make it easy to "paint your area" so to speak, to make your location more identifiable. The paint can be used to pour, shake, or toss on the snow, and trees and will cover more area than if the paintballs were fired into the snow or onto a tree(s). Most people could consider to use their marker, althought this will make it easier, it will also use your air supply which will be needed later on.
For signaling purposes, the marker can be used to signal or rather, make noise by simply dry firing it. Generally by removing the barrel the marker will become louder. NOTE::Not All Markers Will be Loud. Now firing your marker should done during the day over timed intervals during low-wind and high visiblity conditions. However, if you were think there are people searching during the night, feel free to fire then too. The reason the marker will be used, is for the fact that it makes noise, alot of noise, and this can be especailly useful if you are in a weakened state and unable to speak loudly. Now ideal conditions would allow you to wait until help arrives but that doesn't always happen. Especailly if lost, itis best to stay in the same general area and this will be useful since whoever you may be playing with will realize you are
missing and will come searching at some point. It is also important to remain hydrated and your food energy level up (power bars are especailly useful). By keeping a chemical hand warmer against the water container it will help prevent the water from freezing. Drinking ice cold water during the winter, while already cold will cause your throat to close up, so it is important to keep the water as warm as possible. Rationing your food source and keeping your energy level up is important not only to keep move if need by, but when the body is cold it uses energy to try to keep itself warm and thus burns up (fat/energy) to try to maintain body temperature.
Closing remarks, I do realize that is just a general guide and will always work in all conditions. However, although this may be somewhat basic knowledge it still will provide a form of help or means of what to do if this situation ever comes up. I decided to write this after becoming lost in an 40 acre lot when a snow-storm blew in. I spent roughly 3-5 hours waiting for the snow to disperse so I could begin finding my way out. Aside from paintballing in the winter time I enjoy snowboarding. A year ago, on Christmas eve, I was snowboarding up in the mountains of Canada through the back trails. The temperature was at -29 degrees F at the top of the mountain. Winds were roughly 5mph, however at -29, your face and body freeze very quickly. My companions and I spent 2 hours making our way down through the trails to the base of the mountain. The temperature at the bottom was only at -17. Still very cold. The point of saying that, is I've faced extreme weather and have been in similar situations so this guide is more or less from personal experience. Again, its not fool-proof, theres always more that could have been done, but its just a general guide for winter-play.
Another safety precaution to take for winter play, is to have a course of action, in what to do, if you do become lost, or another play has become lost. That way everyone present knows what to do in the event that a player becomes lost and how to the handle the situation.
Play Safe and Have Fun