Keeping Warm and Dry
(and avoiding hypothermia)


It is surprisingly easy to progress from very cold to dangerously cold even when the air temperature is above freezing. All it takes is a combination of wind, wet clothing, fatigue and hunger.

The danger of becoming wet and cold is a condition known as hypothermia, which is when the body loses heat faster than it produces it, and the core temperature of the body falls below 98.6°F.

To avoid hypothermia:

  • Dress in layers using inner layers of silk, wool, polypropelene or capilene, and outer layers of wool, nylon or gortex. A strong, waterproof outer layer is essential, as keeping dry is vital. A space blanket is something all travellers in cold climates should carry.
  • Wear a hat in cold or wet weather, as the body losses a tremendous amount of heat through the head.
  • Carry the ten essentials, including high-energy, easy to digest food containing sugar to help the body generate heat quickly.
  • Drink lots of fluids to keep from getting weak due to dehydration.

The symptoms of hypothermia are exhaustion, numb skin (particularly toes and fingers), shivering, slurred speech, irrational or violent behaviour, lethargy, stumbling, dizzy spells, muscle cramps, and violent bursts of energy. Victims may become so irrational as to claim they are warm and try to take their clothes off.

To treat mild hypothermia, get the victim out of the wind or rain, remove their clothing if it is wet, and replace it with dry, warm clothes. Give them hot liquids - not alcohol - and some easy to digest food. Do not rub victims, but allow them to slowly warm themselves. This should be enough to treat the early stages of hypothermia. Early recognition and treatment of mild hypothermia is the only way to prevent severe hypothermia, which is a critical condition.





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