The temperature on my front porch when I went out on a pre-dawn ambulance call yesterday morning was twenty below, and today I’ve got freezing rain and sleet, with a forecast of four-eight inches of snow on top of it, so it’s time for my annual Hypothermia talk.
Guys, hypothermia can kill you deader’n dirt, and it can kill you fast.
Some things to remember if you’re planning on outdoor activities like hunting or hiking:
First, there is no such thing as “warm clothing.” Hang the nicest fleeciest Gortex ‘n Hollofil parka on a clothesline overnight with a thermometer inside it, and in the morning that thermometer will read the same as the air temperature.
All that clothing can do is slow down how fast you lose heat. Sometimes the clothing you need to wear is a “cabin” with a pot-bellied stove.
Non-survivable conditions are just that: non-survivable. Listen to the locals. They’re the ones who are going to have to go haul your dumb ass out if you run into more trouble than you can handle.
While no clothing is warm, some clothes will chill you down faster than others. Cotton is about the best for buying you a ticket home in a body bag. Wool stays warm even when it’s wet.
Hypothermia and dehydration go hand-in-hand. Drink lots of water! Beer is not a substitute.
If the question ever arises in your mind, “Should I turn back now?” the answer is “YES!”
Dress in layers. Carry more food than you think you’ll need. Carry more water than you think you’ll need. There are some very nice, very light, very small tents on the market. They won’t help you in non-survivable conditions, but they’re a big help when conditions are marginal, the sun’s going down, and you’re deep in it. The question in your mind when you’re packing should be “Can I manage overnight with what I’m carrying, if the temperature is twenty degrees lower than forecast, and it’s raining?”
Let someone know where you’re going, and when to expect you back. Give the local rescue squad something to work with.
The buddy system isn’t just for Girl Scouts. If you go into the woods, take a friend. When his teeth start chattering, his lips turn blue, and he starts acting goofy, you’re hypothermic too.
A GPS and a cell phone are no substitute for a map and compass (and know how to use them, too, bucko).
Carry a whistle. Make sure your kids carry whistles. We’ve had some very sad cases.
Stay safe. Mother Nature doesn’t give a flip if you live or die.
Copyright © 2005 by James D. Macdonald
I am not a physician. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe. This post is presented for entertainment purposes only. Nothing here is meant to be advice for your particular condition or situation.
Cold Blows the Wind Today by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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