survival preschool: 98.6

Cover of "98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keepin...
Cover via Amazon

An absolutely fundamental and immediate survival concern (once you have survived the immediate safety crisis that is) , believe it or not, is maintaining your body temperature. Hypothermia or hyperthermia, otherwise known by their more common name…exposure; are the leading causes of death in the bulk of survival situations.

So on this topic I am in total agreement with survival expert Cody Lundin. He believes that this issue is so vital that he named his book, 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive.

Since this is “preschool”, I am not going to bore you with all the descriptions, symptoms and treatments for exposure. Check out the wikipedia links above for that. Suffice it to say that everything from clothing to shelter has to do with keeping your body’s core temperature at 98.6 degrees.

A waterproof breathable (hard shell) jacket
Image via Wikipedia

On the issue of clothes. Clothes are at the top of the list in our survival concerns. Our clothes are necessary for protecting us from the elements and maintaining our body temperature. You should ALWAYS be prepared for the environment you go out in by either wearing or packing the proper clothing.

Clothing systems for both hot and cold environments can be broken down into three components.

  • Base Layer: These are the clothing items that go against the skin. They trap air close to the body and should be made of materials that wick moisture away from the body.
  • Insulation layer: Added or subtracted as the outside conditions change, insulation layers go between your base layer and your outer garments.
  • Environmental Layer: This is your outside shell. The environmental layer protects you from the elements; wind, rain, snow, sun, brush etc. Ideally, your outer garment should be lightweight, loose fitting, wind and water resistant/proof and have the ability to be vented if you begin to sweat too much underneath.

In cold weather you need to try and trap your body heat close to your core by using insulating layers of clothes or air space. This is done by adding or subtracting insulation layers as the temperature dictates. Exercise and food intake will also effect your body temperature .

An acronym to remember for cold weather clothes is COLD.

  • C= keep yourself and your clothes CLEAN
  • O= avoid OVERHEATING
  • L=wear LOOSE clothing in LAYERS
  • D=keep DRY

And remember to wear a hat. Your head looses a large percentage of your bodies radiant heat. You will notice an immediate warming when you cover your head in a cold weather environment.

Drops of sweat
Image via Wikipedia

In hot weather your primary concern, clothing wise, is protecting yourself from the sun. Sunburn effects your bodies ability to cool itself. In hot weather your skin is your survival tool because your body depends on sweating to regulate body temperature.

Your clothing goals here are to wear loose layers of clothes that  will protect you from solar radiation while providing airflow that will slow the evaporation of sweat for efficient cooling. If your sweat evaporates too quickly you will rapidly dehydrate.

So…while not as exciting as learning how to build a Rube Goldberg style dead-fall trap to hunt wild now at least have a good idea of what it takes to survive in the most common survival crisis situation. Exposure.


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5 thoughts on “survival preschool: 98.6”

  1. NIce Tom. Another thing to remember is not to ‘cocoon’ in cold weather conditions by refusing to take layers off when you are exerting yourself. That’s a sure way to sweat. Then you increase the risk of hypothermia and reduce the effectiveness of your nice warm (and probably expensive) cold weather gear.

    Taking layers off and on based on comfort/exertion will help maintain a stable core temp and reduce sweating in the cold.

  2. Tom,
    Great layering explanation. One thing I would add:
    Cotton is the “cloth of death,” especially in cold weather situations, although it is also deleterious in hot weather.

  3. One thing to keep in mind is that water will pull water away 25 times faster than air. You want to be dry when its cold, even if this means taking clothes off and changing into a more skimpy outfit because you will actually be warmer (core body temperature is what is important). This information can also be used to help keep you cool in hotter climates, water will still pull heat away faster than dry still air due to the evaporative effect.

    Air flow is another issue to deal with. If you are cold it is important to block out the wind. As the wind blows past you it makes it harder for you to retain heat near your body and you will get colder. Find a cave, dig a hole (in dirt or snow), build a shelter, whatever it takes to get out of the wind. Just watch that you do not get wet in said cave, and the earth often is colder than anything else so insulation is important (trash bag filled with pine needles works great).

    The myth about alcohol making you feel warm is only partly true. Alcohol inhibits your ability to constrict blood to your core. If you are cold you should not drink because you may feel slightly warmer but you are actually getting colder in your core. Saint Bernard dogs with a cask of brandy around their necks may have been common at one point but it is only viable if you have a heat source to help you stay warm.

    If you are cold and shivering and you stop shivering you are too cold. Your body will actually shut down and stop shivering if you are too cold. I think this is a danger sign worth pointing out. Generally if you are still shivering you will survive even though it may be unpleasant.

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