Every year, cold weather injuries claim countless people who ventured into the unforgiving elements unprepared and untrained. Don’t be one of them. If however you end up in such an environment, first do yourself a favor and memorize the US Army’s KOLD acronym: Keep it clean, avoid Overheating, wear clothing Loose and in Layers, and keep clothing Dry.
Exposure to these elements can be a sure way to find yourself in a bad situation. In addition to the obvious — covering your feet, legs, arms, and core like you would in normal winter conditions — you will also need to have something for your hands, face, and head.
The skin on your face will be brutalized in the piercing wind, and your hands will go numb within a minute or two if unsheathed.
Every bit of bare skin is a crack in your armor, don’t give the enemy an opening to attack you! Pack accordingly.
Extreme temperature swings are possible in remote environments, so you’ll need the ability to quickly add to or take away from your wardrobe. A wicking material, such as synthetic polyester or merino wool, should always be used as the base layer against your skin.
This will help keep your skin dry when performing vigorous activities, and will be comfortable when you shed your other layers to crawl into a sleeping bag at night. After that, you will need 2-3 light to medium layers (almost any material is acceptable, but at least one layer should be insulated), and they should all be loose fitting.
Finally, a winter jacket will need be your exterior shell. Follow a similar scheme for your legs (but not as many layers) for best results.
It’s often the small things that make the difference between comfort and injury.
People often forego these measures and have cracked, bleeding lips by the end of the afternoon. As far as sunglasses go, almost anything will do. They serve two purposes. One, they act as a barrier between your eyes and the driving wind and two, they prevent straining your eyes against the bright white environment. In some environments, you’ll need specialized glasses for prolonged outdoor activity, so do your research and plan accordingly.
Seriously, don’t do that. Getting wet is one of the fastest ways to find yourself with a severe cold weather injury that can be potentially life threatening. If you are going to do an activity like ice fishing, make sure you keep a towel and an extra set of dry clothes nearby just in case.
If you are doing something active that will cause you to sweat, make sure you heed the above advice about that wicking base layer. Being wet in sub-zero temps is no joke, so make sure you take this one seriously.
It may sound crazy, but rolling in the snow naked after you fall into icy water will enable excess water to be soaked up off of you. This will work best with really dry snow and only if your skin isnt warm enough to quickly melt more snow.
You will lose heat quicker in wet clothes or if your skin is wet. If you get your clothes completely soaked in dangerous temperatures far from safety then your only real hope is to get a fire going or get a lot of warm water bottles heated up with a stove.
If you are shivering, it means your body is trying to generate heat via rapidly moving muscles. It’s a defense mechanism that helps regulate body temperature, just as sweating does. Unlike sweating though, shivering is a sign that you are doing something wrong.
If you are dry and dressed appropriately, you should be completely warm and comfortable from your head to your toes — no shivers needed. Ultimately, this can be boiled down to listening to your body when it’s telling you something is wrong.