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Survive Snow Blindness: Make Your Own Goggles

Improvised Winter Survival Gear

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Survive Snow Blindness: Make Your Own Goggles

If you lose your snow goggles, make new ones from duct tape, bark, or other natural materials.

Photo © Traci J. Macnamara.

While the winter season can be a beautiful time for outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, skiing, and hiking, it can also pose a number of challenges. It’s important to keep your eyes protected in snowy conditions because snow and ice readily reflect the sun’s rays and can cause a condition known as photokeratitis, or snow blindness.

Snow Blindness: Improvised Snow Goggles

Wearing proper sunglasses, snow goggles, or glacier goggles can help prevent snow blindness. But if you’ve forgotten to pack these essential winter survival items, or if you’ve somehow lost them, then you will need to use the resources in your surroundings or in your outdoor emergency kit to make improvised snow goggles.

Duct Tape Snow Goggles: Duct tape snow goggles may be the easiest to craft, but you first have to have some duct tape with you. If you regularly hike with trekking poles, simply wrap some duct tape around your poles near the handles so that you’ll have some available for emergencies. You can also make a small spool of duct tape for your emergency kit by wrapping it around itself and keeping it in your backpack.

Make duct tape snow goggles in the shape of an eye mask by taping two six- to eight-inch pieces of duct tape together, with the adhesive sides bonded together. Estimate the distance across your face, and use your knife to cut out a bridge for your nose in the center of the tape rectangle you’ve created. Now, cut small slits for eyes--not holes--by estimating the distance of your pupils from the nose bridge. Punch one hole in the each end of the tape strip so that you can tie it around your head with parachute cord, an extra shoelace, or piece of improvised natural twine. You may use four pieces of duct tape to begin with if you’d like a thicker pattern for your improvised duct tape snow goggles.

Wooden or Bark Snow Goggles: Snow goggles made of wood or bark may be made following the same basic pattern as the duct tape model, but you will need to rely on resources in your natural surroundings. Seek out birch trees and birch bark, which often separates from the tree in papery sheets. Use your knife to cut birch bark into a shape that can be molded across your eyes like a mask. Cut out a bridge for your nose and slits for your eyes, as described above. Punch holes in each end of the bark strip so that you can attach the bark mask to your head.

Inuit-style Snow Goggles: The Inuit peoples of the Artic regions often made snow goggles from caribou antlers, ivory, or bone. They cut a piece of antler as wide as modern sunglasses and carved it to fit the face by cutting out a piece for the nose bridge and slicing out small slits for the eyes. If you have a good knife and the time to create snow goggles in this way, they can be sturdy and effective. Bore small holes in the ends of the goggles you create, and affix them to your head with the materials already mentioned above--or do it the Inuit way, with caribou sinew for a strap.

Final Tips: No matter which method you chose to make improvised snow goggles, keep the slits narrow to reduce the amount of light that enters your eyes. Make sure the goggles fit close to your face to prevent light from entering on the sides. Inuit people were said to have sometimes spread soot on the insides of their homemade snow goggles to reduce eye glare. If you don’t want to spread anything on the inside of your goggles, smearing a dark band of charcoal or mud underneath your eyes can also achieve the same effect.

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