Dressing properly: I see two distinct premises for an article regarding clothing: First is to encourage proper dress when going into a potential survival situation; and secondly is to have suitable clothing incorporated into your bug-out bag or car survival kit if you are forced to flee at a moments notice. If you are suddenly caught in a earthquake and flew out the house dressed in your pajamas and only have that bug-out bag in hand, what is the weather like outside? Is it warm sunny summer day? Or is it in the cold rain or dead of winter in a blizzard? Do you relish the thought of hiking through the boonies in you pajamas and no shoes? Don't forget it is your kit and you can change its contents as you think best to accommodate the seasons.
Regardless of the need for your survival clothing there are a few things to consider.
- Your local or planned environment.
- Time of year regarding climate.
- Space and weight limitations.
One of the current philosophies regarding outdoor clothing is the layering concept; wherein a variety of lighter weight materials are used to layer your body. These allow for a range of temperature and body moisture changes and are pretty lightweight overall. With the advent of modern materials this seems to be an ideal solution for inclusion in any bug-out bag; however, the cost of some of the new materials is rather high.
Materials: If cost is a factor or you decide to use your "surplus normal clothing", consider the materials of your clothing. "Cotton kills" is a common saying among outdoors and survival books and rightfully so. In most temperate climates I suggest a light weight wool pants and shirt. They are warmer in the winter than jeans and even the people who live in the Sahara Desert in the above 100 degree weather prefer wool. The scales on the outside of wool fibers break up surface tension, and resist wetting. The lanolin (oil) on wool also helps resist water, and in olden days, oiled wool sweaters (with extra lanolin added back after the material was made) were the standard for cold, wet conditions.
Clothing fit: Tight clothing in any situation restrict your movements, is very uncomfortable after wearing for awhile (i.e. emergency shelter) and can cause pressure sores and even boils in extended wear. I also suggest forgoing baggy clothing that seems to catch or get caught on every bush, stick or damaged building materials. I suggest forgetting the cargo pants, over-sized shirts and the billowing skirts.
What to Wear: The basic clothing to include in your kit is a long sleeve shirt and extra pants and with a change of underwear and socks. I also suggest a down vest (very warm, rather cheap, and compresses into a very small package) &/or a wool sweater. Deserts and even jungle mountains get cold at night. Hypothermia is a constant danger anytime the temperature gets as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss in rain and perhaps inability to have a fire that first night out. (Remember you are planning on surviving under extreme circumstances).
Gloves: Sturdy work gloves are recommended as it would be good to have a pair around for doing chores such as moving that debris out of the way, woodcraft in the unforgiving wilderness, and warmth.
Boots: Toss in a pair of boots that you've broken in and are completely comfortable in wearing because the blisters that you will form from trying to break in the boots in a survival scenario will present a danger. Military combat boots are probably going to be a good bet as well. They'll hold up in combat and they're extremely comfortable.
A belt: Again, simple, but overlooked. In addition to their original intent, which is still quite important (holding up your pants), the belt can give you a place to hang holsters, survival packs, and in worst case scenarios can be used as a very effective tourniquet or rigging.
A hat: Preferably a floppy hiking style hat. Assuming that your survival is spent out of doors a simple hat will work wonders to help prevent sunburn because a nasty sunburn on the back of ones neck can limit the range of motion to the head and cause a distracting bit of easily avoided discomfort. Consider a Gore-Tex hat if cost is not an issue for not only will it keeps you dry, but you can also carry water in it.
A bandanna: This is one "survival tool" I suggest putting into any survival kit. Even if not worn, a bandanna can make for an excellent second hat, neck protection, worn as a dust mask, signaling tool, bandage, tourniquet or a number of other uses that may present themselves.
Basic principles of cold weather survival: It is more difficult for you to satisfy your basic water, food and shelter needs in a cold environment than in a warm environment. Even if you have the basic requirements, you must also have adequate protective clothing to survive.
You must not only have enough clothing to protect you from the cold, you must also know how to maximize the warmth you get from it. For example, always keep your head covered. You can lose 40 percent to 45 percent of body heat from an unprotected head and even more from the unprotected neck, wrists and ankles. These areas of the body are good radiators of heat and have very little insulating fat. "If your feet are cold, put a hat on" is a very old and true statement. The body will rob peripheral blood supply to keep the brain at a constant temperature thereby allowing the hands and feet to go cold (or even freeze) and then the extremities.
There are four basic principles to follow to keep warm. An easy way to remember these basic principles is to use the word "COLD":
C - Keep clothing clean.
O - Avoid overheating.
L - Wear clothes loose and in layers.
D - Keep clothing dry.
C - Keep clothing clean. This principle is always important for sanitation and comfort. In winter, it is also important from the standpoint of warmth. Clothes matted with dirt and grease lose much of their insulation value. Heat can escape more easily from the body through the clothing's crushed or filled up air pockets.
O - Avoid overheating. When you get too hot, you sweat and your clothing absorbs the moisture. This affects your warmth in two ways: dampness decreases the insulation quality of clothing and as sweat evaporates, your body cools. Adjust your clothing so that you do not sweat. Do this by partially opening your parka or jacket, by removing an inner layer of clothing, by removing heavy outer mittens or by throwing back your parka hood or changing to lighter headgear. The head and hands act as efficient heat dissipaters when overheated.
L - Wear your clothing loose and in layers. Wearing tight clothing and footgear restricts blood circulation and invites cold injury. It also decreases the volume of air trapped between the layers, reducing its insulating value. Several layers of lightweight clothing are better than one equally thick layer of clothing, because the layers have dead-air space between them. The dead-air space provides extra insulation. Also, layers of clothing allow you to take off or add clothing layers to prevent excessive sweating or to increase warmth.
D - Keep clothing dry. In cold temperatures, your inner layers of clothing can become wet from sweat and your outer layer, if not water repellent, can become wet from snow and frost melted by body heat. Wear water-repellent outer clothing, if available. It will shed most of the water collected from melting snow and frost. Before entering a heated shelter, brush off the snow and frost. Despite the precautions you take, there will be times when you cannot keep from getting wet. At such times, drying your clothing may become a major problem. You can place damp socks or mittens, unfolded, near your body so that your body heat can dry them. In a campsite, hang damp clothing inside the shelter near the top, using drying lines or improvised racks. You may even be able to dry each item by holding it before an open fire. Dry leather items slowly. If no other means are available for drying your boots, put them between your sleeping bag shell and liner. Your body heat will help to dry the leather.
Survival Clothing: You'll probably never have to use animal skins for survival clothing. You might never lose your shoes and need to glue tree bark to your feet with pine sap for hiking. Still, knowing how to improvise a few basic pieces of survival clothing can make you more comfortable, and possibly save your life.
Usually, you'll do better to look first at what you have, before looking to kill animals for their skins, or weaving grass skirts. If you have a sleeping bag, it can double as a coat - just wrap it around you. Socks can be mittens, and garbage bags can be made into snow pants.
A garbage bag can also be a raincoat. Otherwise, ties bundles of grass tightly together along a string or strips of cloth, and then wrap it around your shoulders. This will repel a light rain. You can fashion a rain hood of birch bark as well.
In the desert you can make a sun-hat of large leaves, like those from a fan palm. String some together to wrap around your shoulders to prevent sunburn.
In the cold, insulation is the important principle here. You can stuff a jacket, shirt, sweater or pants with dry leaves, milkweed down, bracken ferns or almost anything that creates a lot of "dead air space." It's better if you have two layers to sandwich it between, but being itchy is better than being frozen in any case.
In a jam, you can also use the flat leaves of cattail plants to weave a vest that will block the wind and some rain. Two bread bags full of milkweed down or other silky plant fibers make warm mittens (tie them at the wrists). A plastic bag full of the same could be tied onto your head as a hat.
When trekking off into a wilderness area or preparing your bug-out or car kit, ensure your plans incorporate proper survival clothing. Getting caught with your pants down in a social gathering may be embarrassing, but getting caught with your pants down in a survival situation may cost you your life.
-Jerry B Blaine