Outdoor Education Labs
C – Keep Clean – (This includes your skin and your clothes). Clean skin helps your body thermoregulate normally. Clean clothes retain their insulation value (and stay waterproof ). Oddly enough, the most important items to keep clean are your socks! Clean dry socks keep your feet healthy and help keep your entire body warmer.
O – Avoid Overheating. If you overheat you sweat. If you sweat you are wet. If you are wet, you are COLD! (See D). Moisture from sweat does two things. It lowers the insulation ability of your clothes. As sweat evaporates, your body cools (a desired effect in the summer heat, not so much in the cold).
L – Wear clothes in loose Layers. Layering has two advantages. First it allows you to add or remove layers to maintain a comfortable body temperature and there from you avoid OVERHEATING (see O). Your head and hands are very good heat sinks. Getting too warm? Lift your toque over your ears, remove gloves. Too cold? pull your toque down to cover your ears and pull up your scarf to cover your neck. It is really amazing how much you can control your body temperature in these two small spots.
Secondly, several loose layers provide more insulation than one thick layer because they are able to trap air between the layers. This ‘dead air space’ keeps you warm. Loose clothing and footwear allows for good blood circulation which helps to keep your extremities (fingers and toes) warm.
D – Stay Dry. Keeping dry is critical to staying warm. Inner layers can become wet from sweat (caused by overheating) outer layers can become wet from snow or frost that melt from body heat. Despite your best intentions you may get wet. Worse case scenario – you fall through the ice and get totally wet. If this happens it is of paramount importance to get into dry clothing as soon as possible. If you don’t you could find yourself in the dangerous medical situation of hypothermia or frostbite or both (I will touch on these in a future post).
What do I do about water purification on my backpacking trip?
This is a common question from beginners, planning their first trip, to veterans planning their first long-distance or ultralight trip. Water treatment methods include the use of a backpacking water filter or a variety of other forms of water purification.
It goes without saying that water is important. The body can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water. However, dying from dehydration in the outdoors is pretty hard to do - unless you're in the middle of the desert. The more common problem is staying properly hydrated without contracting some type of water-borne illness.