Friday, December 6, 2013

Dress For Survival

Your clothing is your first line of defense against the elements in the outdoors, or even in an urban survival situation. So here are the rules about dressing for survival.
  • Dress long. That means long sleeves and long pants. No matter what time of year it is, in a survival situation, the last thing you want is to expose yourself to harm. Exposed skin can be harmed by sunburn, bug bites, scratches and scrapes, and contact with toxic properties of some plants (poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac). Those injuries can easily lead to infection. Obviously, bare skin leaves you vulnerable to the cold, wet and wind, all of which lead to hypothermia.
  • Choose the right fabrics. Cotton feels soft and comfy but it absorbs moisture and holds it against the skin, which promotes hypothermia. Wool or synthetics are a better choice, because they are less absorbent and they wick dampness away from the skin, keeping you dry and helping retain a proper body temperature.
  • Dress in layers. Think of your clothing as a system, not just an item. Ideally, you have an undergarment that wicks moisture away, allowing skin to remain dry and comfortable. The next layer is insulation that is meant to trap and hold air at body temperature. The outer layer is a shell, designed to turn the wind and repel precipitation while allowing body moisture to pass through from the inside and escape to the atmosphere. By using the layer system, you can make adjustments as conditions change. You don’t have to wear everything at once. If you don’t need it, take it off, tie it around your waist or stuff in a pack until needed. There are pros and cons to pullover tops vs. clothing with buttons or zippers. Pullovers retain maximum warmth, but don’t open for ventilation. Buttons and zippers can break or foul, but offer ventilation options.
  • Wear a brimmed hat. Keeping your head, neck, ears and face covered with shade is an advantage when the sun is strong. On a cold, rainy day, you don’t want water running down the back of your neck. So, a brimmed hat is excellent in all conditions. An alternative to a full-brimmed hat is to tuck a handkerchief up under the back of a ball cap and let it drape (Legionnaire style) over your neck and ears to protect against the sun, wind and rain.
  • Sturdy shoes or boots. You need honest to goodness trail shoes or boots that offer protection against stone bruises, twisted ankles, and such. Sandals are fine for the beach, but not for the trail. Going barefoot, even around camp, is just asking for an injury. 
  • Pockets are good. Cargo pants and shirts with pockets are especially versatile. In pockets, I carry fire-starting equipment, a folding knife, a signal mirror and whistle, a map and compass, some food, a lightweight poncho.
  • Never discard any article of clothing, even if you don't think you need it. Down the line, you might find that item useful for something other than its original intended purpose.
Pay attention to how you dress for survival in the outdoors. Your clothing is your first line of defense against the elements, so think of it as your portable shelter.

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