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Dreamin’ About 98.6 Degrees

You head up to the mountains after work with your pooch to explore a new trail and to relieve some post-work stress. After a mile or two, you let Sparky off the leash, like you always do, and then…Sparky bolts after a rabbit and you find yourself frantically chasing after him. After hustling to keep up, you finally track down your “best friend,” but realize that you are miles from the trail. You are very lost, it is getting dark, the wind is chilling you to the bone through your thin sweaty cotton t-shirt. Your core body temperature is plummeting.

There is a great survival book written by a friend of mine named Cody Lundin called “98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive!” The key take away from this book is the importance of regulating your body temperature at 98.6 degrees during a survival situation. At the Cottonwood Institute, we refer to this as the “Game of Thermoregulation.” The game is to keep your core body temperature constant, warm, and comfortable. If your body gets to warm, you can get hyperthermia and your body can get too hot and shut down. If your body gets too cold, you can get hypothermia, you shiver uncontrollably, you get the umbles (mumble, stumble, fumble, etc.), and eventually your body shuts down.

If you find yourself in a survival situation, it is key to insulate yourself from the elements to maintain your core body temperature at approximately 98.6 degrees. Here are a few ways to insulate yourself from the harsh conditions you can encounter in a survival situation:

  • Proper Clothing. As they say, “Proper planning prevents piss poor performance.” Having appropriate gear with you in the backcountry is key. It helps to have a next to skin long underwear layer, an insulation layer, and a water/windproof layer, depending on the conditions. Synthetic materials work great, but I prefer natural materials like wool. While wool is a bit heavier than its unnatural counterpart, wool keeps you warm even if it gets wet, it is durable, it does a fantastic job of blocking the wind, and it will not melt to your skin if a coal from your fire happens to pop on to your shirt. Proper clothing is your first line of defense from the elements because it helps trap your radiant body heat and can make or break you in a real survival situation. Steer clear of cotton, because it looses its insulating properties when it gets wet and accelerates hypothermia.
  • Natural Insulation. If you do find yourself in a survival situation without the proper clothing and a plush down sleeping bag to snuggle into, there are several natural materials you can use for insulation in the Rocky Mountains. Remember, as human beings, we survived without modern conveniences for hundreds of thousands of years! People have survived falling through the ice in freezing conditions because they were able to think and act quickly. They stuffed leaves and pine needles in their clothing and began to run at a moderate pace. The heat generated from exercise is trapped by the natural insulation between their skin and their wet clothes. Dried pine needles are great insulators, but less comfortable. Other alternatives are dried oak, cottonwood, or aspen leaves, dried grass, dried cattail down, etc.

If you get caught out in a survival situation with less than ideal gear, equipment, or conditions, remember the Game of Thermoregulation and that insulation is key to keep your core temperature comfortable at 98.6 degrees!

Categories: Survival Stories

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