Keeping Cool When the Weather’s Hot

Dear Fellow Survivalist;

I just looked at the calendar and realized that summer is just around the corner. Of course, where I live, we have summer about 10 months of the year. But for the rest of you, the hot months are coming, and coming soon.

Many of us don’t really notice this as much as our ancestors did, simply because we live in air conditioned houses, drive air conditioned cars, work in air conditioned offices and shop in air conditioned stores. The only time we go out in the heat is to get from one place to another or because we actually want to go out there for some recreational activity.

But that would be a whole lot different in a survival situation. Trying to keep your cool when the weather decidedly isn’t can be hard, even much farther north than where I live. While the heat can be uncomfortable, it can also be dangerous, leading to hyperthermia (when the body’s core temperature is too high), the not as common cousin of hypothermia (when the body’s core temperature is too low).

Hyperthermia can be deadly, in extreme cases. Even in less extreme cases, it can cause serious problems, like lack of mental clarity, strength and bodily control, just like hypothermia can. In a survival situation, where you don’t have ice and air conditioners to cool you down, hyperthermia is serious.

Fortunately, there are things we can do to help protect our bodies from the ravages of hyperthermia, even in a survival situation.

  • Use the shade – There can be as much as 10 degrees of difference between sunlight and shade. But even if there is not that much of a temperature difference, avoiding the sunlight is still worthwhile. Sunlight that hits your body and does not reflect off is converted to heat, which is absorbed by your body. Using an umbrella or large-brimmed hat for portable shade is worthwhile as well, as it accomplishes the same thing.

Interestingly enough, the word “parasol” literally means “for the sun” and the Mexican “sombrero” has at its root the word “sombra” which is Spanish for shade. So a sombrero is a “shader.”

It is naturally cooler in the shade of trees, not just because of the shade that they provide, but also that they are losing a lot of water from their leaves, through evaporation. That water has to absorb a lot of heat in order to evaporate, pulling it from the air around it.

  • Keep hydrated – Your body can lose a lot of water through perspiration, as perspiration is a natural means of cooling. You’ve got to keep replenishing that water, so that you don’t become dehydrated (which can also be deadly). The rule of thumb is that if your urine is not clear, you’re not drinking enough water.
  • Wear light-colored clothing – Dark clothes, especially black, absorb the light, so they will convert more sunlight to heat. That’s why the classic Arab garb is white. The lighter the color, the more sunlight that gets reflected. So if you have to go out in the sun, do so with light colored clothes on.
  • Go Underground – If you have a basement, root cellar or cave available, spend as much of the daytime hours as you can in them. It is always cooler underground, except in cases where there is a natural hot springs or other volcanic activity.
  • Go Outside at Night – In any survival situation, there will be tasks that have to be completed outdoors. If it’s hot, you are better off doing them in the dark of the night, when it’s cooler. If you have to do them in the light of day, then do them just after sunrise, the coolest part of the day.
  • Use Evaporative Cooling – Soaking your clothing down with water, so that the water can evaporate will provide you with some natural air-conditioning. As the water evaporates from your clothing, it will absorb heat from the air, but also from your body, making you cooler. This will also help reduce the amount of water you lose through perspiration.

As you can see, there are actually a lot of different things we can do, to protect ourselves from the heat. Many of these strategies were used effective by our ancestors, in the days before air conditioning was invented. Most of them had to do much more physical work than most of us do today, yet these strategies worked to keep them from overheating.

In addition to doing everything you can to keep cool, make sure that everyone in your party is keeping an eye on each other. Once a person goes past the first stage of hyperthermia, which can happen without them realizing it, they are not able to discern what is happening to them. Unless someone else notices that they are suffering from hyperthermia, they could go all the way to the final stage and die. Learn the symptoms and make sure everyone in your party knows what to look for.

In the mean time, be sure to keep your powder dry and your survival gear close at hand.

Dr. Rich

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