Shelter- We need shelter…period. Even though we all know that guy with the hairy back, We humans cannot maintain our delicate body heat without some kind of covering, beyond back hair.
We need to stay within a small margin of degrees to function. Normal is around 98.6 right? Some are a little cooler some a little warmer but it’s still a narrow margin. If our temp rises or falls more than 4 or 5 degrees, we’re in trouble.
Our first line of defense is our skin. It closes up to keep heat in-goose bumps, and opens up to let heat out-sweat and redness. Listen to your skin and body. It tells you when you are on your way to trouble. When you get the shivers from cold, you need to get yourself warmed up. When you feel over heated, get somewhere and cool down. Listen to your body, The Lord made it that way for a reason.
It’s a good idea to carry some kind of portable shelter in your vehicle, a blanket, stocking cap etc. It’s also a good idea to carry water to keep hydrated for both warm and cold weather.
If you find yourself outside and need to make shelter, make sure to insulate yourself from the ground as well as the air. Cold ground will rob body heat quickly. Wet clothes in the cold pull heat from your body 25-30 times faster than dry clothes. This is where that blanket can come in to save the day.
However in the heat, those same wet clothes left on an overheated person can save them.
Shelter, whether it’s clothing or manufactured lean-to needs to keep you protected from the wind. Most people who die from hypothermia, were in temps above 40 degrees but didn’t prepare. They went on a day hike, got rained on and chilled by the wind. Their body temp kept dropping, they didn’t have a way to or knowledge of how to start a fire, no extra, dry clothes. Late stages of hypothermia will kill you. It doesn’t take that much to stay prepared.
If you are stuck outside and are going to build a fire to stay warm, first get out of the wind. Build your fire near a backstop or reflector of some kind to force as much of the heat toward you as possible. Remember that fire wood warms you up several times before it’s gone. You get warm going out and collecting it, warm building the fire, sitting in front of it and putting it out when you leave. Bank up your fire before you go to sleep (pile wood on it) then when you wake up, you can just put more wood on it and the coals will start it back up. With a little prep, you can stay alive.
NREMT-B, CPR/FA Instructor
Christian County, MO