Staying warm in a survival situation can be, at the very least, a challenge. At the very worst, it can mean the difference between life and death. Lack of proper clothing, clothing that has become water soaked and clothing that has become damp with sweat from your own body are the three examples I’ll be discussing here.
The first example is the most obvious. A bad scenario for sure and not easy to fix if you weren’t prepared or have lost packed items that would have kept you warm. In this situation it’s time to improvise if you don’t have a quick way to obtain weather beating outerwear. Start looking around you. What can you use to better insulate yourself from the cold? If you happen to be wearing a long sleeved shirt or light jacket, you may be able to use pine straw or fallen leaves the same way that those warm, puffy winter jackets do to keep you warm. If you’ve got a large trash bag you may want to also take some additional “stuffing” with you as you move as you will eventually have to change out your insulating layer. You will also want to consider as much of this kind of material when you stop to rest. Any type of shelter you find or construct will keep you much warmer if you burrow in to as much insulation as possible to trap your body heat.
The next scenario is also an obvious problem. Your clothing becomes wet, either from precipitation or from immersion in water. Wearing wet clothing in temperatures even as high as 50 degrees Fahrenheit will greatly increase your chances of suffering from hypothermia. It is definitely advisable to switch out to dry clothing of some sort, or even get under shelter and cover yourself unclothed in dry insulating debris. Doing this you will give you better shot at making it out alive than if you leave your wet clothing on. If you are able, build a fire to help dry your clothing. If not, hang the clothing under shelter to dry if it’s raining or in the sun to dry if the weather is clear. As a less preferred but viable option, you may have to dry some of the clothing with your body heat as you warm up under your insulation.
The last example is one that doesn’t get as much attention but can be at least as uncomfortable and dangerous as the previous challenges.. If you wear too much warm clothing during periods of exertion such as walking with a heavy backpack, you can overheat, perspire and then begin to shiver. I’ve actually seen people suffering the symptoms of heat stress in very cold weather, followed by symptoms of hypothermia. The best way to guard against this is to resist wearing much, if any warm clothing other than a watch cap or similar headwear, and gloves while walking with a heavy backpack unless the temps are in the teens or below. As uncomfortable as it may seem until you have started warming up from the exertion, it’s well worth it to keep your insulating layers in your pack ready to be put on when you stop. That’s also the next real key to this.. Once you stop moving you will likely have perspired enough to at least dampen whatever clothing you are wearing closest to your torso. Now is the time to take any damp t-shirts off of your body and put on a dry layer or two, depending on how long you’ll be stopped. Don’t simply ball up your damp t-shirt or other items and stuff them away, you’ll want to bring those items inside your sleeping bag where your body heat will help dry them and ready them for rotation back into your dry clothing.
..To be continued.