Insulation (Extra Clothing)

How much extra clothing is necessary for an emergency? The garments used during the active portion of an outing include thick socks, boots, underwear, pants, shirt, sweater or fleece jacket, hat, mittens or gloves, and rain gear. The term “extra clothing” refers to additional layers that would be needed to survive the long, inactive hours of an unplanned bivouac.

Extra clothing depends on the season and climate you normally hike in. Certainly you should check on the weather conditions prior to a trip and carry extra clothing based on a reasonable worse case scenario.

However, you might consider certain items of sufficient utility to carry at all times.

  • Watch cap: of Wool or Polyester knit. Always welcome when it gets chilly. Heat loss of up to 30 percent occurs from the uncovered head.
  • Lightweight long underwear: Long sleeve top and bottom of synthetic fabric. Provides insulation next to the body in case of hypothermia.
  • Thin windproof anorak or jacket. For outer protection. You can even stuff dry leaves, etc between the jacket and your inner layer for additional insulation

There is a stretch polyester knit tube about 12-18 inches long called a “turtle neck” or “neck tube” that can be used as a neck gaiter, neck-to-head hood, head band or, twisted and doubled, as a watch cap.

In my Ten Essentials Kit I carry a neck tube, and optionally, a set of lightweight long underwear. On occasion, I will include a shell jacket and / or a down vest.

Emergency Shelter

Maintaining a core temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit is a top priority in an emergency situation.

If you are backpacking, you will likely be carrying a tent, tarp or bivy bag to serve as an emergency shelter.

If you are day-hiking, carry some sort of extra shelter from rain and wind, such as a plastic tube tent or a jumbo plastic trash bag. A poncho can be made into a very effective shelter. Even  a reflective emergency or Space blanket is better than nothing.

There are countless variations on how to pitch a tarp or poncho. Be sure to carry some light nylon cordage to use for pitching and tying your shelter to trees, etc. Nylon cord of 1/16, 3/32 or 1/8 inch (2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm) diameter in any length can be used. Recommendations are at least 30 feet (10m) of cord.

The Bothy Bag has become extremely popular in Europe, but has not caught on in the US yet. It is an excellent emergency shelter, especially for group hiking. Both hiker and leaders should at least be familiar with it as an excellent option. Click on Bothy Bag to learn more.

Jim Yuen March, 2002
revised April 2008

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