Survival: In the Cold with…No Body Heat
Fording the river didn't seem risky until the moment your butt hit the water. Now you're soaked up to your pits as the evening mercury drops below 45-degrees F. Your goal: Prevent hypothermia.
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Find a spot sheltered from the wind and, if possible, in the sun. Remove wet clothing, including socks and underwear, and don the warmest, driest layers you have; cover your head and neck, too. No dry clothes? Start a fire. Also, insulate yourself from the ground with a pad or pack.
Warm Things Up
Still shivering or feeling clumsy? You need to raise your temp fast. Pitch your tent and unroll your sleeping bag inside, so it’s ready. Do jumping jacks, and cook up a warm drink that has no caffeine or alcohol (both are diuretics, and dehydration hampers temperature regulation).
Slurred speech, resisting help, and confusion signal hypothermia’s downward spiral. If those symptoms develop, zip the victim into a dry sleeping bag, treat for shock by raising his feet, and place a water bottle or bladder filled with lukewarm—not hot—water against his chest, back, groin, and head. Before you strip naked to spoon with your buddy, know that a 1994 Canadian study in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that body-to-body contact doesn’t warm up hypothermia victims any faster than applying heated water bottles at these key areas. Plus, it chills another person.
Sugary drinks and foods boost a hypothermic person’s ability to generate body heat. For other key tips, check out BACKPACKER’S Outdoor Survival: Skills to Survive and Stay Alive ($13, falcon.com).