How to survive the cold, no matter what
With a “deeper-than-normal” cold blanketing much the country right now, it’s only fitting and right that we talk about staying warm. Exposure is one of the top killers in a wilderness setting, but it can also claim our lives if we get our vehicle stuck in a snow bank or run out of home heating options in the frosty weather. With that in mind, here are three ways to stay warm—no matter what happens.
1. Love The Layers
Staying warm really starts with layers. When the atmosphere makes our skin cold, it’s because we didn’t have enough dead airspace around our skin to prevent the heat loss. The simple and instinctive solution is to add enough layers of clothing (or other material) to block this heat loss. Layers of clothing can also be adjusted with ease. If you start to work up a sweat, take off a layer. If you get chilled, add another. And who said it all has to be clothing? In a pinch, you can stuff your clothing with insulating material to increase that vital dead airspace. From leaves and grass in the wild to crumpled paper and packing materials in an urban setting, it doesn't matter: if you add enough layers of air trapping material, you won’t get cold.
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2. Cotton Kills
Most of us have had the experience of grabbing a pair of damp jeans from the dryer and pulling them on (with difficulty) because we were late for something. Think back carefully about the cold clammy feeling of that damp denim on your legs. And remember how long it took for them to dry? Probably several hours, right? I've said it before and I'll say it again: cotton is a terrible clothing choice for cool and damp conditions. Cotton fibers hold water much longer than synthetic or wool fibers, and this allows damp cotton clothing to steal precious body heat when you’re wearing it next to your skin. Of course, layering helps—but even good fabric isn’t much help when worn over or underneath a damp cotton layer. The moral of this story is simple, if it’s cold enough for long johns, they shouldn’t be cotton. In fact, none of your clothing should be cotton in those conditions. From your socks to your hat, and everything in between, choose synthetic fabrics or the perennial outdoor fabric: wool.
3. Bring The Heat
Our body stays warm by burning the food we eat, or if that isn’t available, it burns our body’s own tissues. Calories are, in fact, a measure of heat energy. So as the cold winter air tries to chill our body and steal our heat, it’s only natural that we “stoke the furnace” by eating additional calories. Fatty foods are a great choice, but any calories consumed will be useful. Protein and carbohydrates will produce heat, too. Eat up when conditions get cold—and you’ll be more likely to stay warm. And it doesn’t hurt to steal a little heat too. If those calories come in the form of hot food or drink (like soup or hot cocoa) this warmth warms the body core through both heat and calories. To steal heat yet another way: place warm stones or a hot water bottle inside your coat for wonderful warmth that you didn’t even have to consume to enjoy.
How do you stay warm when the mercury drops? Tell us your tricks by leaving a comment.