Avoid the Naked Freezing

The Naked Freeze

 Most people don't know that when you get excessively cold, you also become delusional. When advanced stages of hypothermia set in, you might start to feel hot instead of cold. Then you start to take off your clothes thinking it will help you cool down and of course you then freeze to death.

You may be hiking along a trail with snow in just your t-shirt and shoes thinking it will be just a ten-minute hike on the trail. You start shivering and decide maybe it's not a good idea to be out in the snow with so little on. You try to get back to your car but you can't remember the trail as well as you thought. Slowly you stop shivering (BAD SIGN). There is no end in sight. You start to feel extra warmth in your arms and legs. Taking off your shirt doesn't sound like such a bad idea any more - there's snow on the ground but it's not that cold after all, right? You're hiking along and must be generating all sorts of body heat because you're just baking up - taking off your pants sounds like the perfect idea (and you've got to get the shoes off to get the pants off). Your feet are numb so you can't feel the rocks ripping off your skin. You start to feel a little tired. Who turned up the heat, god damn it? A patch of snow looks like a nice soft spot to lay down for a rest. So relaxing this warm white stuff is.... That weather forecaster doesn't know what the hell he's talking about - this is great.        Next day they find you a frozen meat-cicle in just your underwear. And of course you left your wallet in your pants on the side of the trail a quarter mile back so the coroner has no idea who the hell you are.

Moral of the story... You can never be too warm in cold weather. If you see the light at the end of the tunnel, stay away from it.

Frostbite

A lot of people with hypothermia obviously have frostbite.  Taken from alanarnette.com
A lot of people with hypothermia obviously have frostbite. Taken from alanarnette.com

Wear Proper Clothing

Cotton sucks. It stays wet when you sweat and it gets cold and will refuse to dry. Son-bitch. Wool is warm but gets heavy when wet. polyester is lighter but makes your body odor horendous. Take your pick.

Wear multiple layers. A shirt or base-layer, then a mid-layer, and then a coat. If it's going to get rainy on you, make sure your coat is waterproof or get a raincoat to go with it. Make sure that when you buy the layers that they are big enough for your body and the lower layers of clothes.

Make sure you have good boots. Hiking in the snow in shoes means your feet will be wet in no time. Make sure your boots are waterproof as well as insulated.

Bring changes of clothes. Base-layers and socks are the big ones.

A lot of your body heat is lost through your head. So buy a hat, damn it. The parts of your body to be quickest bit by frostbite are your fingers/toes, your nose, ears, then cheeks. If you do a lot of crawling you can get the bite on your knees. Wear good insulating/waterproof gloves. Make sure your ears are covered (even a thin layer will trap enough of your body heat to keep your ears thawed). And if you want to get extreme, there are "gaitors" and masks that you can cover your neck and face with to keep the bite off your nose and cheeks.

A commonly forgotten piece of snow equipment is ultraviolet eye protection. Go to a junior high or high school right after spring break and see how many of the kids have racoon eyes because they sunburned themselves while skiing/snowboarding. The snow reflects a lot of sunlight. It's worse than the beach in the summer. You will sunburn your eyes if you're not careful. Sunglasses are okay for hiking, goggles are recommended for more extreme activities.

Raccoon eyes, from corbis.com
Raccoon eyes, from corbis.com

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Constant Walker profile image

Constant Walker 7 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

Great piece, Guru. As someone who walks a lot in Oregon's weird weather (right now a single day's weather gear can include a parka - morning and night; a warm coat; a lined hoodie and just a shirt), I'm well-aware of the layering trick, and ALWAYS shades. I'd never heard about getting hot and taking off your clothes when freezing. That's scary stuff. Luckily I just walk in town. Too much wildlife in the hills and mountains for hiking.

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