Do You Have What It Takes to Survive the Alaskan Tundra?

winter thaw in Chalkat river in haines, alaska
(Image credit: M. Cornelius/

AUSTIN, Texas — Although it's sunny and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) outside, it's parka weather here in Texas.

A scavenger hunt at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival recreates what it's like to be trapped in a chilly Alaskan shed, trying to escape.

The "Escape the Cold" experience throws several people together to solve a puzzle, locking them in a shed that is designed to mimic the Alaskan wilderness, complete with chilly (though not freezing) temperatures, fake snow and a freezer full of elk meat. The frigid experience is meant to promote the new season of the show "Life Below Zero," which airs April 9 on the National Geographic Channel.

I tried it out with a group of strangers on Saturday (March 14). The challenge – in which you get only 20 minutes to escape -- was surprisingly tricky, and involved using clues in the cabin, such as pamphlets or walkie-talkie messages to deduce the combination on several locks in order to get a key and unlock the shed we were "trapped" in. (For the claustrophobes out there, you can get out any time you want.) We made it out with about 48 seconds to spare, though we were helped along with a few timely hints.

The experience convinced me that I'm not cut out for either surviving in the tundra or solving puzzles. Those who think they can hack it in bear territory, can check out the show on April 9.

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Tia Ghose
Managing Editor

Tia is the managing editor and was previously a senior writer for Live Science. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, and other outlets. She holds a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington, a graduate certificate in science writing from UC Santa Cruz and a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. Tia was part of a team at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that published the Empty Cradles series on preterm births, which won multiple awards, including the 2012 Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.