If you’re reading this then I’m assuming you’ve also read our article on hypothermia. In this previous article, we discussed the basics of hypothermia: what it is, how you get it, how to prevent it, etc. We are now going to go a little deeper on easy ways to help prevent getting this. The strategies listed here are pretty common sense so we hope you have already thought about a few of them.
Don’t Get Wet
This is pretty common sense. Being wet makes you colder. So don’t get wet. If at all possible stay out of the water or the rain. This is especially true if the temperature outside is cool. It does not need to be freezing or snowing for you to get hypothermia. It may even be relatively cool out but if you are wet your body temperature can still drop.
If it looks like it’s going to rain and it is cool outside then stay sheltered and do not move too far from your camp. If you do get wet, either from the rain or from a tumble in a lake, etc. you will need to take off your wet clothes. It’s smarter to not have any clothes on than be wearing wet clothes. The latter will make you colder and can lead to hypothermia if the conditions are right. If you have clothing that is not wet, then wear those.
If possible, dry your clothes near a fire or in the sun. Do not put clothing back on until dry. Moisture close to your skin evaporates and with that, takes heat away from your body.
You can’t stop your body from performing a basic human function like sweating, but you can limit activities and change your behavior to make sure you aren’t sweating too much. If you didn’t know, you can in fact get hypothermia from your own sweat. As sweat evaporates from your body it wicks away heat. This is what it is supposed to do, unfortunately, it can also lead to hypothermia.
If it’s cold out and you’re doing strenuous activity, your body temperature will drop a lot faster. If it is cold you should try to limit your strenuous activity. If you do need to do it, then try to limit the amount of time you perform the task at one time. The less you sweat, the better.
If the temperatures outside start to heat up, take off flayers, if you can. Another way to avoid sweating. If you end up drenched in sweat and it quickly gets cold again you’re going to notice that you suddenly feel extremely cold. These are the types of situations that can become dangerous.
Create a Shelter
Again, this is really obvious, but if it’s possible you’ll want to create a place where you can be warm and stay dry. Brush up on your shelter making techniques and be sure you have equipment around to help you build one. Staying warm and staying dry are huge factors.
When building a shelter, it will be best to have it enclosed on all four sides as well as from the top. The less exposure to the elements the better. You can also help increase warmth by using leaves and leaved branches to insulate your shelter.
If possible, have a small fire set up. The warmth from the fire will help you stay warm, at least a small amount. Check out the various ways to get a fire started here.
Once you have a shelter that will keep you warm, at least slightly, you can also make a bed for yourself. Using dry leaves to create something to sleep on will help you insulate a bit better and stay warm. Another unique way to use dry leaves is to stuff them in your clothes. Only do this with dry clothes though. The extra layer of the dry leaves can help to insulate you.
Another common-sense way to stay warm is to avoid the wind. Windy? Head back to your shelter. If appropriate, sit by the fire. Obviously do not stay outdoors by the fire if the weather is too bad.
If you were at home and it was snowing out and cold you might reach for some hot cocoa or some tea. This can also be a great option to help warm yourself up in the outdoors too. If you do in fact have a fire then you can probably boil some water. Add some pine needles for some extra flavor. Otherwise, just sip on the boiling water.
We did say that you shouldn’t do activities that make you sweat, and that is true. However, one way you can increase your body temperature is by performing non-strenuous activities. Run in place for several seconds, do some jumping jacks, or jump up and down. These types of short activities can also be done if you are waiting for your clothes to dry.
Hypothermia is not always preventable but there are ways to help you stay warm in hopes you do not get too cold. These common-sense tips will help keep you safe and warm.