Clothing selection is a critical part of planning for any trip into the outdoors. This preparation becomes even more important if you actually end up in an emergency situation.
Spring weather can be very temperamental throughout much of the country. From scorching afternoons and cold rainy days to sub-freezing nights, you need a set of clothing that will keep your body at the right temperature all the time, despite the whims of Mother Nature.
For starters, we need to anticipate the weather extremes for the area where we will be traveling and/or staying. For most seasons and climates, the material that the clothes are made from should be wool or synthetic fibers. These materials will not hold moisture in their fibers the way that cotton does. Moisture held in your clothing is almost always a bad thing, as it conducts heat away from your body and leads to hypothermia in even cool weather.
For cold and wet weather, many layers of clothing should be involved, preferably with synthetic materials underneath it all. This means that your socks, underwear, long johns and other base clothing should be made of things like polypropylene, nylon, and rayon. Wool is fine, too, but it can be scratchy, so opt for merino if you go the wool route. Mid-layer shirts, sweaters, pants and hats can be wool or synthetic. Outer layers, like coats, jackets and rain wear, should be breathable yet waterproof synthetics like Gore-Tex or comparable products. Select outerwear with hoods to add warmth when needed. Pick garments with lots of pockets to hold spare survival gear.
The color is something else to consider. Bright, unnatural colors can increase your visibility. If you wish to blend into the environment with camouflage or earth-tone clothes, keep some bright colored items to signal for help if you need it. A blaze orange or red bandanna in your coat pocket can serve many tasks besides acting as a signal flag. Don’t get too hung up on making sure all of your gear invisible on the landscape. I had a camouflage knife once, for a brief time. It’s still out there somewhere.
Insects and the sun are two other concerns we haven’t had to think about in a while. Seek out clothing treated with insect repellent and that has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating. Several clothing manufacturers utilize the effective Insect Shield formula in their apparel, and Columbia and Patagonia make a number of excellent UPF-rated garments.
Gloves and headwear are also important pieces of clothing that often get overlooked. Gloves save your hands from the constant wear and tear of survival tasks. The hat you choose could be one that keeps you warm in a cold-weather situation, or one that keeps you cool during a warm spell. Consider the following:
– Throw away your cotton long johns, immediately. If it is cold enough for long underwear, the last thing you want next to your skin is cotton!
– Brightly colored clothing is easier to spot by searchers–and yourself. Just imagine how hard it would be to find the camo jacket you took off when the afternoon temperatures got too hot once the sun goes down.
In the event that your clothing is not warm enough, add insulation like leaves, grass, pine needles, ferns, moss and other vegetation. Or warm some stones near a fire until they are just a little too hot to hold barehanded, and place them in your pockets. Warm a large, flat stone near the fire and sit on it or hold it against your belly. This trick will conduct heat toward you, and help you warm the air trapped in your clothes. Or, instead of a rock, seal some very hot water in your water bottle and hold the bottle against your stomach, under your arm or between your thighs. You can also throw the hot water bottle into the bottom of your sleeping bag or bedding, or walk around with it inside your coat.