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Cold weather survival skills in the wilderness

Whenever you're out in the backcountry, it pays to always be prepared for the worst to strike. In addition to finding water, avoiding dangerous animals and nourishing yourself, knowing how to keep warm during cold weather can save your life in a survival situation. Even in the height of summer with the right camping equipment, unexpectedly cold nights can become a real problem for the unwary explorer. Should you ever find yourself far from camp with the temperatures rapidly dropping, you'll be happy you kept these cold weather survival skills in mind.

Keep it clean
When you're out in the wilderness, completely exposed to the elements, your clothing will be your greatest asset keeping warm. In order to make sure your attire retains its maximum insulation potential, you'll want to keep it as clean as possible. Not only is this important for good health and sanitation, but dirty garments are far less effective for trapping warm air around your body. While it might not always be possible in the backcountry, do your best to avoid accumulating mud, dirt, grease or general grime on your gear.

While it doesn't take a genius to know that wearing layers of clothing will help keep out the cold, there are right and wrong ways to go about this. Layering holds warm air around your body, so you'll want to make sure your attire fits loosely to trap the most amount possible. Avoid tight-fitting attire, as these garments are less effective at containing heat and can also restrict blood circulation, which will make you colder.

Stay dry
Even when it's below freezing outside, wearing warm, heavy clothing can cause you to sweat as you explore the countryside. As sweat accumulates, it will dampen your inner layers, causing them to be less effective insulators and lower your body temperature. If you begin to feel perspiration forming, strip off a few outer layers to cool down and prevent moisture from affecting your gear. Similarly, wear a waterproof outer layer to repel any rain or snow.

Check your head
The majority of body heat escapes through the top of your head, so it's imperative to keep this covered during cold weather. Wearing a warm winter hat or hood (or both) will be sufficient to retain warmth even on the most frigid days.

Wind chill
Finally, high winds can tear through layers of clothing and render your insulation less effective. Make sure you always leave camp with an outer jacket that can break the wind and preserve the integrity of your inner layers as you explore.

back to Camping Equipment | posted on 6/11/2012

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