Brad Harvey: Don’t let cold get best of you

February 23, 2013 

Around here, it almost seems as if Mother Nature has gotten a bit confused.

We’ve had temperatures in the low 60s, followed by several inches of snow that melted quickly because the mercury ran right back up again.

The problem is when we have weather that jumps around the thermometer, even within the span of a single day, folks tend to be more susceptible to running into serious problems because they’re not prepared.

We all know hypothermia is a killer. We’ve even heard the stories of how mountain climbers have started an ascent, never to be seen again. But, those are extreme elements. Surely that kind of danger isn’t present in our environment, right? Think again.

Most cases of hypothermia take place in temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees.

Hypothermia is, in fact, the No. 1 killer of outdoors enthusiasts.

As your core temperature drops, the body’s natural defenses take over in the form of shivering. This uncontrollable movement is the body’s way of trying to create more heat to bring that core temperature back to a safe level.

If you remain in that cold environment, the shivering will grow until it has reached a point you are unable to perform even small physical tasks. This can be followed by slow or slurred speech, incoherence, stumbling, exhaustion, drowsiness and, ultimately, death.

Let’s say you’re a deer hunter sitting in your tree stand and find yourself starting to shiver uncontrollably. You know the dangers of hypothermia and, after a while, decide you’ve had enough and want to head home.

As you stand to begin your climb down the tree, you find your body doesn’t want to work properly. Your hands don’t grasp well and your legs are slow to move. Before you know it, a foot slips and you’re unable to catch yourself. The ground rushes up and you land with a thud.

Here are steps to follow to be assured returning home safely.

• Layer clothing. This allows pockets of warm air to be trapped between the layers, keeping you warmer. Today, companies such as Under Armour manufacture layers designed to be worn together as a cold weather “system.”

•  Look for products with wicking properties. These pull perspiration away from the skin and allow moisture to dissipate.

• Stay dry. Avoid perspiration as much as possible, and stay away from rain and other wet conditions.

• Wear insulated, waterproof boots designed for extreme weather activity. Regular, uninsulated boots, hiking boots and athletic shoes are worthless in this environment.

• Breathable rain gear is worth it. The standard rain gear will repel water but it also holds moisture (perspiration) in.

Layers work well for your feet, too. Thin sock liners under heavy wool or insulated socks are best.

• Mittens outperform gloves. Gloves inside of mittens are even better.

• Wear headwear that covers your ears and neck. Most heat escapes the body through your head. A ski mask is perfect.

• Use a scarf to cover the neck.

If you find that, in an emergency, you still don’t have enough on, remember paper, grass, leaves and pine needles are all good insulators. Try placing them between your layers to provide more insulation.

Stay warm!

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at bradharveyoutdoors.com.

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