Dressing for Cold Weather

Dear Fellow Survivalists;

1484493823292006320We often focus on the big issues in survival circles, but sometimes staying alive is about the little ones, not the big ones. Actually, taking care of the big survival issues usually consists of taking care of a number of small things; together, they become the big issue.

Take clothing, for example. Clothing is an important part of anyone’s survival equipment. It forms our first layer of protection against nature and her savages. As such, the type of clothing we wear in a survival situation is actually much more important than the type of clothing we wear at the office, even though most people will put more attention and effort into selecting their clothing for the office.

The issue of what clothing to wear is no more important at any time, then it is in the winter. In the summertime, clothing protects us from scratches and scrapes, as well as being exposed to too much sun. But in the wintertime, the clothing we choose to wear must help us maintain our body temperatures, so that we don’t die from hypothermia.

There are a couple of problems that get in the way of our clothing protecting us from hypothermia. First of all, most clothing loses its insulating value when it is wet. So, instead of helping to protect us, it is actually helping to kill us. The second problem is that clothing doesn’t automatically adjust itself for changes in the temperature and in our activity. So, the clothing we start out with in the morning, might be totally inadequate for the activities we do later in the day.

This may seem like a minor issue, but what happens if you start sweating while chopping wood? If that happens, your clothing will get wet next to your skin. As long as you are working, that isn’t really much of a problem, but when you stop, that sweat can actually freeze, forming a layer of ice next to your skin.

The solution is to select your clothing carefully and dress in layers. That way, if the weather warms up or you are doing some heavy physical activity, you can take layers off, helping to ensure that you don’t overheat and sweat. This ability to take off layers is essential in a survival situation, especially one in which you don’t have shelter nearby that you can go into to get warm.

Flannel is an excellent cloth for the inner layer of your clothing, as flannel wicks water away from your skin. So, even if you do sweat while working, that sweat won’t stay right on your skin, like it would with cotton or a cotton/polyester blend.

The outer layer of your clothing needs to be water resistant. Notice that I didn’t say “waterproof.” Anyone who has been in the Army and used an Army poncho knows what waterproof does to you. Within a very short amount of time, that waterproof poncho will be as wet on the inside, from your sweat, as it is on the outside from the rain. Water resistant clothing will still repel water, unless you fall in the river, while allowing the cloth to breathe and your body’s moisture to evaporate.

I mentioned that most clothing loses its insulating value when wet. Actually, the situation is much worse than that. Rather than only losing its insulating value most clothing will help you lose your body heat faster when wet, than if you were standing there totally naked. A down jacket is the worst for this, as soaking wet down will make you lose your body 300 times faster.

There is only one material used for clothing that retains some of its insulating value when wet. That’s wool. Wool fibers are hollow and virgin wool has a fine oily coating, preventing the fibers from absorbing water. So it repels water well and won’t become soaked. Even when wet, wool retains half of its insulating value. That makes it an excellent material for coats, shirts and pants, even if it does tend to make us itch.

Likewise, a true sheepskin jacket will help to keep you warm, even if it gets wet. The leather outer layer may get wet, but the sheep’s wool on the inside will resist that water and keep insulating you from the cold. So, while it may not seem like the high-tech answer, a true sheepskin coat is one of the best survival options you can find.

Never forget hats and gloves either. One fourth of your body’s blood supply goes to the head, providing oxygen and nutrition to the brain. That means that an uncovered head is like a radiator, sending off your body’s heat into the atmosphere. Wearing a hat, especially a fur hat or a knit one, will do more to keep you warm, than anything else. Conversely, if you find yourself overheating, the easiest way to cool down is to take that hat off and allow some of your body’s heat to escape.

Gloves re important from the viewpoint of protecting your fingers. When your body gets cold, one of its defensive mechanisms is to restrict the blood supply to the extremities. That means your hands and feet. Bu if that goes too far, you’ll end up with frostbite and maybe even lose some fingers.

Mittens are even better than gloves, if you can do the work you’re going to do with mittens on. By keeping the fingers together, in the same area, they are able to share their heat and stay warmer. So, have some gloves for working in, but buy yourself some mittens as well, for those times when you don’t need that fine dexterity for what you’re doing.

Dress in layers, choosing your clothes wisely, and your chances of winter survival are better. Remember that it’s better to feel a little chilly (I stress the word “little”) than to overheat and sweat. Sweating in the cold can be dangerous.

See you soon. In the mean time, keep your powder dry and your survival equipment close at hand.

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