All good Jedi know that the best way to survive a snow storm is in the snugly belly of your nearest Tauntaun. Just cut open with your handy dandy light saber, a single horizontal slice across the midsection will do, push squirming intestines aside, and crawl right in. Warm as it is comfortable, the intestines mold to your body like a memory foam mattress. But how long could you survive in a Tauntaun?
Realistically, the sub-zero environment of Hoth is no place to be, Tauntaun or not. And it's important to remember that Luke Skywalker didn't need to survive in his Tauntaun over night, he simply needed a warm place to be until Han had time to build a proper shelter. So, the better question might be, how long did Han have to build a snow shelter until Luke was in serious trouble.
In a normal environment, a carcass gets cold in 8 to 36 hours losing an average rate of 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit per hour. However, the ice world of Hoth is not an average environment. The Star Wars database lists that Hoth reaches nightly temperatures of -60 F. In a frigid, sub-zero environment, body heat can be lost almost 32 times faster. This means a Tauntaun's body heat could drop almost 51.2 F every hour. Considering that Han Solo's Tauntaun died of severe hypothermia even before it was cut open with Luke's light saber, one could assume it's core body temperature was already well below normal. The problem for Luke is if the Tauntaun's body temperature reaches freezing point those once toasty guts, blood, and assorted alien goo, will in fact become a frozen coffin. If the Tauntaun died of cardiac arrest due to hypothermia with an average body temperature of 75 F (23 C), and if Tauntaun blood freezes at 28.4 F (-2 C), then Han has roughly 56 minutes to set up a shelter before Luke once again is in danger of losing his life in the barren wasteland of Hoth.
Try a Tauntaun yourself, it's Tontons of Fun
Don't believe in the effectiveness of Tauntaun wilderness survival. Find out for your yourself. ThinkGeek offers a Tauntaun sleeping bag, featuring simulated Tauntaun fur and plush light saber zipper pull.
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