Winter Survival – Hypothermia

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 23,096
    Wilderness expert Tim MacWelch of Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival and Ancient Skills discusses winter survival tips including how to survive hypothermia.

    Hi! I am Tim MacWelch of Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival and Ancient Skills in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is a video clip series on Winter Survival Tips. In this clip, we are going to talk about hypothermia and your first line of defense from it, your clothing. So, the clothing that you have in the outdoors is a portable shelter that you take with you everywhere you go. You want to try to know approximately what the weather is going to be like on your trip outdoors but you can't always know for sure. So the err on the side of caution, we bring extra clothes and we wear a little bit more clothes than we think we will need. So, your clothing is really set up in layers, so we would start with a good warm synthetic fiber or wool base layer like Long John tops and bottoms. And then move on out with shirts and sweaters of wool or synthetic fiber and then eventually end with coats and jackets of insulated synthetic or wool material, preferably with hoods.

    Cotton is not the greatest Long Johns for winter wear. It's fine pajamas inside the house but cotton has the ability to hold water up to eight times longer than the next fabric or fiber. What this means towards in the winter is that when we get sweaty or just the natural evaporative moisture coming out of our skin. When this soaks into the cotton Long Johns, they become cold and clammy. This chills us and cools us down and this can be the toehold for hypothermia to set in. Hypothermia is your body's core cooling down below 98.

    6 degrees. Now we can operate fine if our hands are little cold, if our face is little cold, if our feet are little cold, we can still operate just fine in the outdoors. But when our core starts to cool, then we start having health problems. Hypothermia can start with simple shivering, or slight aching in your extremities. It will then lead to severe shivering, you may find that your speech is slurred, you may find that your thought process is a little groggy and eventually you will feel very tired. After you have begun to feel very tired and disoriented, your skin will start to tangle and burn, you may feel as if you are on fire and you maybe tempted to do the worst thing possible. Take off some of the layers of clothing that you have. Sometimes hypothermia victims are found in the extreme cold wearing very little clothes and the final part of their trail before they are found is the clothing that they have shed. So, we want to find hypothermia in its early stages if we are starting to contract it and we want to stop it. One of the easiest tests that we can do to find out if we are becoming slightly hypothermic is a finger test. We touch our thumb to all of our fingers on both hands, when we begin to have trouble touching our ring fingers and our pinkies, this means that our fore arm muscles are trying to get cold and lock up. This is the first symptom you can look for before you start to shiver and shake with hypothermia. So, when we find that we can't touch those fingers very easily, it's time to warm up. So we would either put on more clothing or enhance the clothing that we have, if we have no other clothes to put on, we could fill the clothes we have front and back, top and bottom with leaves, grasses, pine needles, ferns, moss, any type of vegetation that we have available. Basically, making a scarecrow suit out of ourselves. You would also want to consider a hat, you are going to loose a lot of body heat through your head, so you want to keep your head and your ears covered. Your neck also is a source for lot of heat loss, so scarf is a great choice. Of course, you want to protect your hands by wearing gloves in the outdoors as much as possible. A good choice for pants would be some type of wool pants, either some Army Surplus or some wool pants from the outdoor store, these are great in cold weather, even wet weather because the wool fibers naturally are hollow, each little hair from the sheath has a hollow shaft, so it provides insulation in and of itself and then as it's created into wool fabric, there is even more insulation. And even if this fabric gets wet, it will still retain quite a bit of warmth.

    The socks, of course, you would want thick socks, wool or synthetic and a footwear, preferably some type of insulated boot and these are not only insulated but water proof as well. Now in our next clip, we are going to talk about shelter, the next line of defense beyond your clothing.