Fort Wainwright is located near Fairbanks, Alaska about 200 miles from the Arctic circle. It has earned the reputation of being the military’s coldest military installation. And for good reason. Temperatures in the wintertime routinely drop to less than 20 degrees below zero and can stay there for weeks at a time. But the cold doesn’t stop the training. In fact, the fort is home to the Army’s Northern Warfare Training Center. About 500 soldiers pass every year through the center. Those soldiers learn the secret to surviving — and operating militarily — in the extreme cold. While there are lots we can’t tell you about their training, we have extracted the three basic principles by which these soldiers live during their cold-weather survival training. Pay attention, as these principles are lifesavers. 

Extreme Cold Weather Training
U.S. Army soldiers with the 181 Multifunctional Training Brigade of the 1st Army Division West trek through open fields at Fort McCoy, Wis. Feb. 2, 2017. Cold Weather training included cross skiing, snowshoeing, and constructing improvised shelters. (Photo by Jamal Wilson/U.S. Army)

Cold Weather Survival Hinges on Ample Calories

The first and most important aspect of surviving in extreme cold weather is to properly fuel your body. An average person operating in a cold-weather environment will burn something like 4,500 calories. High exertion requires close to 6,000. Additionally, the body will need three to five quarts of water per day. It’s also important to spread your caloric intake over a wide range of time; eating your entire meal in one sitting isn’t ideal. Staying fueled requires almost constant caloric intake. 

Cold Weather Training
A soldier bundled up during a cold-weather exercise showing signs of poor ventilation.