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Staying alive: Arctic survival tips

By Pen Hadow, Special for CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Key survival tips include watch for clues in the ice; use specialized sleeping bags
  • Polar boots can save your life; polar bears won't
  • Pen Hadow is an experienced Arctic scientist

Editor's note: Expedition Director Pen Hadow is a veteran polar explorer and Arctic expert. He was the first person to trek solo and without resupply from the Canada to the North Geographic Pole and was part of the first Catlin Arctic Survey with two colleagues. These his top survival tips.

(CNN) -- 1: Wear at least four layers of clothing

Warm, breathable, quick-dry thermals and fleeces must be the only type of clothing worn in the Arctic. Your clothing must keep you as warm and as dry as possible. Any excess moisture will freeze instantly.

2. Recognize frostnip & frostbite

To avoid both the nip and bite varieties, wear mitts rather than gloves and don't lace your boots too tightly - to ensure blood can flow to your extremities. Nose, cheeks, ears, chin and toes are usually the first parts of the body affected. If your skin turns white or you feel a stinging sensation from an ice cold breeze, you are likely suffering frostbite or frostnip.

3: Deter polar bears

Their eyesight isn't great, so your best move is to deploy bear bangers -- bright, loud flares -- and activate a shrill personal attack alarm that should frighten your local visitor away. Having a dog is a real help. They can tell if there are bears nearby much sooner than a human and their barking is often enough to put off a bear.

4: Stay fueled

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Arctic Circle
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In the Arctic calories in versus calories out becomes an even more difficult balance to get right. You need to eat and drink more because of the extra effort and excursion everyday tasks require in such a harsh environment.

Bar eating greater amounts of food, melting butter into your evening meal is a quick fix. Other high-calorie snacks include macadamia nuts, double deep-fried bacon strips, butter toffee cashews and extra-creamy homemade chocolate truffles.

Your daily target is a whopping 5-6,000 calories. If you are being really active you might need more.

5: Watch the ice

The color of the ice below your feet will give you an indication about whether you should keep walking onwards or retreat quickly to safer territory. White ice is safest and will be 6-12 inches thick.

Gray ice is young ice between 4-6 inches thick. It should support your weight on skis but is best avoided if possible. Do not step on black ice. It is newly formed thin ice and you will likely fall through.

6: Travel in pairs or a small group

You can watch out for each other, and help out if there are problems. This is no place for lone travelers who aren't extremely experienced.

7: Carry a GPS, a satellite phone and alert beacon

If you are separated from others, you can tell exactly where you are and direct help to where it's needed.

Keep in touch with Philippe Cousteau and CNN producer Matt Vigil via their Twitter feeds.

8: Polar boots can help to save your life

Toes can be really susceptible to frostbite in the wrong boots. Good ones can make it seem a lot less hostile a place.

9: Sleeping bags

Take an Arctic sleeping bag fitted with inflatable thermal mattress. This gets you off the ice and, with a fitted inner sleeping bag inside, you can be relatively warm and stay warm all night.

10: Take a dry suit

Freezing temperatures and water don't mix. If there is open water you can't risk falling in without total protection. It is a recipe for disaster.

 
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