How Navy SEALS Train To Survive Freezing Temperatures

Navy SEALS are the elite, the best of the best, and their toughness in the midst of adversity is unquestionable. Their training alone is enough to probably kill any regular, unqualified man. But even Navy SEALS are not totally impervious to the elements — hypothermia is a real threat to SEALS just as it is to any other individual.

Winter lasts up until February, and northern states still have to deal with snowstorms even after the holidays. You’re probably not too fond of wading through icy waters like the Scandinavians up north; but falling through ice, slipping into frigid water while hunting, or be forced to go through water is a reality that we have to consider preparing for. As soon as that first wave of cold hits you, what do you do?

Hypothermia’s kicking in. Clock’s ticking. Let’s take a peek at how our nation’s elite force train to combat cold weather.

Is Genetics More Important Than Training?

Studies have been made as to whether some people are just naturally inclined to survive in the hostile cold than others — as it turns out, genetics do play a part in it. Regardless, building your stamina to cope with freezing temperatures can still be attained through proper training in cold environments.

Prospective applicants to the SEAL program must first undergo BUD/S, or Basic Underwater Demolition and SEAL training. The course is held at the Naval Special Warfare Training Center in Coronado, California, and has three phases that push applicants to the very limits the human body can handle. The attrition rate reaches up to 75%-80%, which means you have to be pretty damn special to survive the ordeal.

Now, catching frostbite during BUD/S is highly unlikely, since southern California weather NEVER gets cold enough to reach below freezing temperatures. The inevitability of hypothermia though is an extreme possibility.

How Do Applicants Pass BUD/S?

Passing BUD/S is not just an important key to getting into the Navy SEALS, it’s a step to priming you to becoming one of the greatest assets to the country. Simply put, training keeps you alive.

Stew Smith, a former Navy SEAL officer, has mentioned that the first and probably the most important trait you need in your arsenal is determination. A tough and adamant mindset allows you to keep pushing yourself regardless if you think you have nothing left in you.

“Never quit, and that’s the biggest thing,” he says. “Just don’t quit. And that’s tough, it’s easier said than done. They’re gonna keep pushing you, and you’ll make it through so long as you’re not quitting.”

Even if you no longer want to, even if you can’t find anything in you to go on, just keep going. It’s a daily experience in special forces training. Still, mental toughness can only get you so far. You need to your body to be fit for the role you want to play.

Have A Body That’s More Likely To Survive

Having an athletic background, whether playing sports in school or just being overall athletic, in general, is important to the SEALs. Having the body and stamina of a chunky, Netflix-bingeing, shut-in would almost guarantee your demise in a real-world battle scenario.  Add freezing temperatures, and you’re a sure goner.

Smith also indicated the importance of identifying weak and strong suits.“Once you have that foundation, now you have to find your weaknesses and make those strong, because, I will tell you this, BUD/S will expose your weaknesses within about a week.”

BUD/S instructors are experts at identifying hypothermia and will make sure that you get pulled out of the water — up until your core temperature goes back to normal. If your condition is deemed not severe enough for termination, instructors send you back to training.

Being fit an athletic is imperative, but experts suggest to make sure you have a decent amount of body fat before undergoing BUD/S. Getting skinny and ripped before BUD/S is not the best way to keep warm during training.

This is intensely physical and mental training, breaking trainees over and over until they become nigh unbreakable.

What Other Techniques Do SEALs Learn In Training?

Shivering is the body’s automatic response to low temperatures to heat the body back to normal. The drawback is it depletes glucose in the process, thereby wearing you out faster. Isolations, or the flexing of individual muscles, reduce muscle fatigue and raise core temperature faster. Coupled with deep breathing, doing it benefits the body better than shivering alone.

Another technique that’s not known to many is called “The Rewarming Drill.” Most people would assume that the best way to survive a plunge in freezing water is the strip and dry method. Instead, SEALs are made to utilize proper gear to get their temperatures back to normal.

Using a backup synthetic outer layer from their packs, they cover up (without stripping their wet clothes) and set up a fire to boil snow for water. While waiting for the water to boil, they wait it out from their sleeping bags.

Once the water is boiling, the SEALs rehydrate some chili and consume it — afterwards, they go back to their tents and sleeping bags and wait. The point of this technique is to utilize the body’s metabolism to kick in and warm the body from the inside.

After a few hours, their bodies should have already stopped shivering and warm enough for normal body function. Since the risk of hypothermia has already been addressed, building a bigger fire to completely dry out their clothes would be the next logical option.

This technique would only work if you have the proper layering of clothes, the necessary supplies in your packs, and making sure you’re wearing synthetic layers to start with. Cotton and down are warm and cozy when dry, but absorb water and retain it for an extended period of time; losing its insulating ability altogether. They just take too long to dry.

As a Survivor, you should be ready for any random possibility; whether you’re a SEAL or not. Making sure that you have the right mindset, fit, and have the proper gear guarantees that you get home safe after a hunt instead of freezing stiff out in the open.


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1 Comment

  • “I have not personally suffered through it” … then tell us all AGAIN how you KNOW how bad it really is ?? “Hypothermia” is in itself is no more painful than say “heat stroke” and it has been said over and over again for generations that it is one of, if not the most, peaceful way to die …. why ask an “operator” about it ?? maybe we should ask a paramedic or combat field medic or “parajumper” or …….

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