The next article in our series ‘Identify what you need to put aside‘ is Keeping Warm.
Keeping warm like many modern things we take for granted. It doesn’t cost much to turn the radiators up or put a fire on and even if we are not well off we usually have access to the power necessary. Although thousands of OAPs die every year because they lower the temperature just that little bit too much to save costs and they succumb to the cold. It’s obviously worse in a bad winter as well. Although it is not the house temperature that is the killer it is your body temperature. The house temperature is just a contributor. What we are talking about here is the basics. Just keeping you warm.
Our bodies need to be kept at a constant temperature. For us this is around 98.6°F (37.0°C). It varies depending on the time of day and whether you are tired, hungry or cold. The temperature also varies slightly when we are ill and the body normally regulated its temperature up to fight infections. Under normal conditions though our body temperature fluctuates around 98.6°F and our body adjusts itself to stay in that area by using fat stores, energy, to raise the temperature or excreting heat by opening pores and sweating as required to lower the temperature. If our body temperature goes too high, over 104°F (40°C), we enter Hyperthermia and without help we die. If it goes too low, under 96.6°F (33.4°C), we enter Hypothermia and without help we die. The closer our environment keeps us to our required temperature the less of our food energy is used to regulate the heat. So it is very important to us that we use external sources to maintain our body temperature when food is scarce.
In the UK we don’t get that many temperature extremes. For a few weeks in the year we get baked by the sun and thousands die because they dehydrate and overheat. For a few weeks of the year we have extreme cold, for us anyway, and thousands die because they don’t wrap up. Normally however the UK is chilly and we need to keep warm via artificial means such as shelter, heating or clothes. Most of us survive this easily but old or ill people with their tired metabolisms succumb much quicker.
In a survival situation we may not be able to bury ourselves in a bed and stay warm or turn the heating up. We may be out and about looking for food or working on something. The only thing stopping our body temperature dropping is the heat from the sun and our clothes. The sun may be fine for the two summer months of the year but there is also the wind to contend with and the occasional rains in those months. The sun is a contributor but the real thing that is keeping you warm is your clothes. Almost everyone who goes out on a regular basis wears appropriate clothing. It’s the odd few who don’t and at the moment they go home cold and miserable in a survival situation it could be life or death. In our car kit we had a change of clothes while our personal survival kit we have a change of socks, wet feet are bad for you because the blood has to be pumped to the feet and when the temperature drops your body reduces that flow to maintain the core temperature in the torso, containing the major organs, this leads to frostbite at our extermities, fingers and toes. So dry socks and shoes are a must. You may remember the old adage wear layers. Like many old wives tales it is as true today as it was then. If you wear a single item and it is too hot you open it or remove it. Your temperature plummets so you put it back on or fasten it up. The circle continues each time you are wasting energy. With layers you can remove the outer layer if it gets too hot while still keeping your warm clothing on. Too cold? Add a jumper or a jacket to keep you warm. Hunting outfits in particular come this way with a thin inner jacket, a thick outer jacket and a fleece internal jacket. Gloves and over boots, a hat and scarf. Starting with thermal underwear, a shirt, socks and trousers. You can add on what you need or remove what you need to stay at just the right temperature for what you are doing and the weather.
So what should we have as a minimum for each person?
- Thermal underwear
- Vest x 2
- Underpants x 2
- Socks x 2
- Light shirt
- Heavy shirt
- Thick trousers
- Inner jacket
- Over trousers
- Boots x 2
- Over boots
- Sun Hat
- Trapper Hat
- Waterproof bag
With these as a minimum you can mix and match throughout the year.
Obviously these changes do not cover extremes such as, total immersion in water during the winter, where you would ideally have a complete change of clothes but they will cover the common eventualities we would encounter. The real solution of course is the default of having three of everything.
Next up is part 10 in the series, Shelter.