Are You Ready Series: Emergency Clothing

Essential clothing for a disaster supply is a commonly overlooked area of prepping.  If a person does not have the proper clothing that is suitable for the terrain they are in, then harsh elements such as rain, cold, and snow can cause catastrophic effects.  Preparation for an emergency means having the right tools and clothing to meet any emergency situation.  Let this article serve as a basic guideline on some of the principles to keep in mind when researching what type of clothing will be needed if a disastrous incident breaks out.

The Layer Principle

According to the Special Forces Survival Guide, the Layer Principle offers the absolute best protection and flexibility for all types of climates.  The idea of layering clothing creates the best type of insulation in the form of still air.  The still air is trapped between layers of clothing.  The more layers that are worn, the greater the insulating effect.  Taking off layers of clothes serves as temperature control.

It is important to note that when preparing for cold weather, all of the body extremities should be well protected and maximum warmth is derived from multiple layers.  Water-proofing is as critical as warmth.

Source – Special Forces Survival Guide

It is important to note that overheating can be as much of a problem as being cold.  If you sweat when it is cold, the body chills when you stop sweating and your sweat-soaked clothing will act as a conductor to draw away body heat into the air.  Steps must be taken to prevent this.

Proper Layering Techniques

  • Thermal underwear should be worn close against the skin.
  • A woolen or wool mixture shirt should be worn over the thermal underwear.
  • On top of this layer should be a woolen or good woven fiber sweater or jacket (woven fiber tends to be better because it is warmer and more windproof).
  • A jacket filled with synthetic fiber should be worn over the last layer.  The Special Forces Guide advises not to wear a down jacket as it tends to lose its insulating properties when it gets wet.
  • The final layer must be windproof and waterproof.  This jacket is the outer shell of the thermal protection gear.  It should also be made of a “breathable” fabric such as Goretex, which allows sweat to evaporate through the fabric into the atmosphere while as the same time stops rain and water from getting in.  These last two layers can be combined into a single jacket.
  • Make sure that a durable hat is worn to insulate the heat given off by your head.  The Special Forces Survival Guide estimates that between 40 and 50% of heat loss from the body in some conditions can occur through the head.  Therefore, having proper head gear is essential to maintaining proper body heat.  Preferably the hat should be a  nylon shell with ear flaps that can snap down. A brim on the hat would help keep snow out of the eyes.

When preparing clothing for an emergency situation, bug out bag (B.O.B), or SHTF scenario, comfortable, non-restricting clothing should be chosen.  Keep in mind that you are preparing for any given situation.  Just because you have a warm home, or shelter does not mean that the shelter will always be there.  If there is a situation where you are left to walk in the harsh elements of nature, you must prepare for that.

Footwear

Good footwear has everything to do with survival.  A good pair of waterproof boots will protect your feet from the natural elements (water, heat, cold, snow, etc).  Boots that have flexible soles and deep tread are the best type of shoes to have as far as walking/hiking in nature go.  There is much debate on whether to purchase all leather boots that are fairly heavier or light weight hiking boots.  Several studies have shown that wearing one extra pound on your feet takes as much energy as carrying five or six pounds in a backpack.  Keep in mind of the terrain of the location you will be in to make the right decision of the type of footwear that should be purchased.  There are many reviews of hiking boots to determine what is the best choice.

Socks

Socks are vital in keeping the feet warm and free of moisture.  Without a good pair of socks, the feet are susceptible to not only natural extremities, but also susceptible to blistering and other injuries to your feet.  Socks should be matched to the intended type of weather condition and the type of walking will be done.  Whether a person wears multiple pairs of thin layered socks or wears two thick pairs, it is entirely up to the person’s preferences.  But carrying multiple pairs in your backpack or B.O.B. is a good idea.  If one gets worn out, or wet, then there are extras on hand. Try and keep socks as clean and moisture free as possible to prevent fungal infections and other unwanted podiatry ailments.   Always plan and prepare for the worst. 

What Type of Sock Should Be Purchased

Like a shoe or boot, your hiking socks should be matched to the type of activity a person will be doing.  According to www.hiking-gear-and-equipment-used-for-camping.com, there are things to keep in mind when choosing a good pair of socks.

  • Blood Flow – Good blood flow through the feet must be maintained.  A decrease or cut-off in blood flow can be caused by unyielding fabrics in hiking socks. Acrylics in combination with other fibers and a terry weave can help with this and shear.
  • Moisture- With exertion one foot can sweat 1-2 pints of vapor/fluid per day. That’s why wicking technology in hiking socks is so important. Without it bacteria and fungus can become a problem.
  • Position – If your hiking socks don’t help to maintain correct anatomical alignment this can cause premature fatigue. Correct posture also helps to correctly position your foot in your boot or shoe to make it feel like it’s an extension of your body.
  • Pressure Areas – Pressure can cause discomfort and lead to damage if it’s not addressed. A good example of this is a bedsore. Most people hopefully won’t experience pressure to this degree, but it’s something you want to keep in mind when looking at hiking socks. Padding is especially important around bony areas like the heal and ball of the foot.
  • Shearing Force – This happens when your tissue is moving in opposite directions, like when jumping over a stream, or descending a steep slope. Part of your skin is moving one way and the tissue under it another, this causes a tearing action just under the surface of the skin. This is the most common way of getting blisters.
  • Temperature – Good hiking socks need to be appropriate for their intended use, from a warm weather day hike to a week-long mountaineering trip.
  • Liners- Thin socks called liners are made to be worn under your hiking socks next to your skin so they can wick the moisture away and keep your feet dry. They also can help prevent chafing and increase warmth by wicking when used under heavier hiking socks.

Invest in a good pair of socks,  it’s worth every penny spent.

Gloves

The layering princle also works with gloves.  According to the Special Forces Survival Guide, mittens are better for heat retention.  Putting a thin pair of gloves under the mittens helps maintain heat if the mittens need to be removed to grab something.  There are also waterproof winter gloves available that have built in pockets to put a heating pack in to also maintain good body heat.  However, if a person is going outside to work, then they would need leather gloves or an insulated synthetic pair that is durable.  A pair of leather gloves can also be “winterized” with SnowSeal, paraffin or seal oil to protect the leather.

Outer Clothes

When outdoors, it is recommended to wear lightweight, quick drying, windproof pants.  Synthetic/cotton gabardine weaves are the best.  These type of pants also have multiple pockets with zippers that are handy for carrying extra items.  There are also pants that convert into shorts for an all weather type of clothing.  However, keeping the extremities warm is the point to keep in mind.

If possible, try to avoid wearing cotton clothing.  Tight cotton clothing that gets wet has a tendancy to hold the water next to the skin which can drop the body temperature as a very alarming rate.  Wool clothing is naturally durable as well as a natural thermostatic insulator that keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  Wool naturally repels water and has the unique property of keeping the body warm even if it gets wet.

In the book, The Patriots, Rawles discusses the importance of having the same type of clothes per group as it makes your group more easily identifiable to each other in the case of unwanted vistitors.  Wearing BDUs is a sturdy outfit that is equipped with handy pockets as well as camouflages into a natural background.  Coveralls and overalls are another suggestion of clothing to wear.  This would especially be good to dress children in as they tend to need more growing room than adults.

Undergarments

Never underestimate the relief of a clean pair of underwear when you have not had clean underwear for sometime.   Having clean underwear is also essential to good hygeine.  Buy an extra pack of underwear for your B.O.B as well as some for your long term survival supply.  For kids, buy some packs of underwear that are a few sizes too big so they can grow into it.

The C.O.L.D.E.R Principle

Creating a thermal protection system is essential in surviving in the open terrain.  If a person does not protect themselves against the natural elements, then injury and possibly death could ensue.  Having the proper attire to survive can be an investment, but a necessary one.  Find reviews online to see what type of clothing is the most durable, long lasting and best suited for the area you will be living in.  The U.S. Air Force has an acronym that helps them remember the principles of survival clothing:

C – Keep clothing clean.

O – Avoid overheating.

L – Wear clothing loose and in layers.

D – Keep clothing dry.

E – Examine clothing for defects in wear.

R – Keep clothing repaired.

Source – Special Forces Survivor Guide

When you are preparing, you are preparing to survive in any given situation.  Even if the SHTF scenario does not happen.  What happens if your electricity and heat in your home are effected by a bad snow storm and the heat gets turned off for a week.  You and your family must have the appropriate clothing on hand to survive until the heat is turned back on.  Having the necessary clothing packed will keep you prepared and ready to act swiftly in the case of an unplanned emergency arises.

The Special Forces Survival Guide: Wilderness Survival Skills From The World’s Most Elite Military Units is a huge survival resource that should be in any prepper’s library.  This learning tool teaches essential survival skills to stay alive in extreme conditions, harsh terrain and gives examples of what to do in life threatening emergencies.  This book is the first book I purchased for my Preparedness library and I constantly look upon on for advice.

Related Articles:

Are You Ready Series: Emergency Medical Supply

Are You Ready Series: Emergency Water Supply

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published November 27th, 2009
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  • Paul S

    Great article!
    I learned a plastic garbage bag next to the skin raises temp 15 or more degrees and stops wicking from the skin. Very lite weight insurance on a hike or a bike ride. Clammy inside, but definitely preferable to cold and hypothermia.

    • Tucker B

      While your absolutely right, it will keep your warm. You want to avoid sweating in an extreme cold environment, or just being wet in gneral. With the plastic bags (we call them sweat suits) you have no way of wicking that moisture away from your body.

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