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There are 3 critical factors in wearing winter clothing of which to be aware. The holiday and winter season is a time of great joy. Many people travel during this time of the year to visit relatives. For example, AAA® estimates that over 54 million people will travel by car over Thanksgiving this year. The winter months are a busy time of the year. Winter clothing is a critical consideration when traveling or outdoors. What are the four essential characteristics to remember about winter clothing?

Proper Fitting

The first notable characteristic to consider about winter clothing is that it fits properly to your body. Winter clothing that fits appropriately will function more efficiently to keep you warm. Clothing that is snug or tight around the body hinders the breathability of the fabric. Clothing that is too loose or long when worn will also lose its ability to keep you warm efficiently. Therefore, it is recommended to get measured, so you know your waist size, inseam length, neck size, and arm length before purchasing winter clothing. It is also important to try clothing on before purchasing if possible. Sizes vary among manufacturers so be careful about sizing when purchasing winter clothing online.

Layering

The concept of layering is critical to the effective functioning of winter clothing. There are three layers of winter clothing: a base layer, an insulating or middle layer, and a shell or outer layer. These categories are: silk weight, mid-weight, and shell. The U.S. Army has seven layers of winter clothing: Lightweight, Middle Weight, High Loft or Fleece, Wind Breaker, Soft Shell, Wet Weather, Extreme Cold Weather. Most layering systems do not count your shirt or pants as part of the layers. However, you should consider it as a layer. Thus, for the average outdoor enthusiast, the primary layers should be the following: Undergarments, Shirt and Trousers, Outer Garments. Your head, face, hands, and feet are covered, as necessary. Why is layering important?

Importance of Layering

The layering concept helps keep your body warm in cold environments. Layering works by creating layers of warm air around the body. The fabric of winter clothing also employs this concept. Winter clothing traps small pockets of air between the fibers. These micro-pockets of air are heated naturally by one’s own body heat. Poor personal hygiene in the field will hinder the efficiency of winter clothing. This is also one of the reasons why mountaineers freeze to death at high altitudes wearing all of that bulky winter clothing. The warming properties of their clothing diminish after days of sweating in this gear. They, then, get caught in a blizzard, and their winter clothing does not help them stay warm, thus precipitating hypothermia and frostbite in concert with fatigue and high altitude sickness. What about the layering of the head, hands, and feet?

Layering of the Head, Hands, and Feet

The covering of your head, hands, and feet is also an area to consider employing the layering concept. However, most winter gloves and shoes use Gore-Tex fabric in them to enable the warming of hands and feet. Some headwear also uses a Gore-Tex membrane to help the head keep warm. Therefore, understanding and practicing the layering concept of wearing winter clothing is an essential factor in staying warm outdoors. Footwear and gloves that use Gore-Tex linings already have the layering concept within them. However, there are glove liners of wool or acrylic that can be complimentary if necessary, to add a second layer of protection to Gore-Tex gloves. Thus, as you consider the wearing of winter clothing, layering is an important concept to remember. What about fabrics for winter clothing?

Fabrics

The primary concern with fabrics in winter clothing is whether or not the fabric retains moisture and keeps you warm. There are only three categories of textiles in winter clothing: natural, synthetic, and blends. All of these categories have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, natural fabrics come from wool or cotton. Synthetic fabrics like acrylic or Gore-Tex come from petroleum processing. They help retain heat and whisk moisture away from the skin and offer some durability over natural fabrics. The blended fabrics are an attempt to combine the best qualities of natural and synthetic fabrics. A common type of blended fabric is rip-stop (60/40 or 50/50 cotton to polyester ratio) material common in modern military fatigues.

Wool Fabrics

Outdoor experts agree that wool winter clothing is the best if you can obtain it. An excellent example of wool clothing is the WeatherWool® All Around Jacket or the WeatherWool® Neck Gaiter. You can purchase both of these products at the Sigma 3 Survival School store. The outstanding qualities of wool clothing are many. Wool is a natural fiber that comes from sheep. It helps keep the moisture off of your skin even when it is wet. It maintains its heating qualities even when wet. Therefore, purchase wool clothing when you can.

Gore-Tex Fabrics

The second best type of winter clothing to purchase are those of Gore-Tex® fabric. Gore-Tex® is a type of fabric that is a derivative of Teflon. It allows water vapor to escape away from the skin while simultaneously not allowing liquid water to come through the fabric to the skin. Thus, various combinations of Gore-Tex® fabrics are in winter clothing. Gore-Tex clothing combines some of the desired qualities of wool with the durability of Teflon. An example of quality outerwear made of Gore-Tex® is the U.S. Army’s Generation III Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) Parkas and trousers. Thus, Gore-Tex® is outerwear is the best on the market for winter clothing made of synthetic fabrics.

Conclusion

These three essential factors of wearing winter clothing are at the core of keeping warm this winter. A person would do well to remember and practice these basic tips for the wear of winter clothing. Whether traveling for the holidays or going on a winter backpacking trip, wearing the right clothing in layers are keys to keeping warm in cold weather conditions. Equally important to remember is that poor personal hygiene while in the outdoors will diminish the warming qualities of winter clothing. Therefore, to get the most benefit from quality winter wear, keep yourself clean as much as possible when outdoors. Quality winter wear should be part of your emergency bag or get-home bag that is in kept in your car. Thus, the proper use and care of winter clothing will save you a big disappointment in an emergency.

It is vital to keep your feet healthy at all times when outdoors. Survival, bushcraft, and outdoor activities require healthy feet. The U. S. Army gives important instruction to soldiers on the proper care of feet. The U. S. Army field manual, FM 21-18 Foot Marches, offers excellent advice on taking care of your feet. There are three basic principles to remember to keep your feet healthy at all times.

1. Properly Fitting Footwear

Your footwear must fit properly if you wish to keep your feet healthy. It goes without saying that poorly fitting footwear is a menace to healthy feet. Footwear that is too tight or too loose will deteriorate foot health very quickly. Outdoorsmen with the most significant experience are prone to blisters, corns, stress fractures, and hammer toes from wrong footwear in the field. Many extreme athletes become sidelined very quickly by significant foot injuries due to wrong shoes or boots. There are some simple tips to remember about getting the correct footwear for your feet.

Proper Size and Breaking In

Before purchasing footwear, get your feet measured by a professional while wearing your outdoor socks. It will ensure purchasing boots or shoes that are the proper size. Commercial footwear that is available for outdoors is heavily cushioned and lined with Gore-Tex membranes. Thus, outdoor boots or shoes feel snug when you first put them on. However, after wearing those expensive boots or shoes in the field, they lose their snug fit. Your foot will begin to slide inside causing blisters and sore toes. Break in any footwear before wearing it in the field. You might have to purchase footwear ½ size smaller or larger than your standard size to achieve properly fitting footwear after breaking them in.

The Right Footwear from Reputable Manufacturers

Additionally, purchase the right boot or shoe that is suited to your purposes. For example, a pair of running shoes may not be suitable for an extended trek into the wilderness to hunt game. If you are going on a survival adventure in the wilderness for an extended period of time, purchase footwear designed to be outdoors for long periods of time. Furthermore, it is crucial to buy footwear from reputable manufacturers. Many companies are selling military-type footwear that is both low quality and dangerous to wear in the field. Berry Compliant (USA made) military footwear is available directly from the manufacturers like Altama, Belleville, or Danner. Some other great companies to buy footwear are Salomon, Merrill, Lowa, and La Sportiva. Therefore, spend a little more money and get the right footwear. Your feet will thank you for it.

2. Dry Feet and Dry Socks

A second principle about foot health in the wilderness is to keep your feet clean and dry and to also keep your socks clean, dry and changed regularly. Feet will get wet inside footwear from perspiration. Waterproof boots will accentuate the sweating of feet if you are hiking through the outdoors for long periods of time. Remember that having wet feet is a fact of life in the wilderness. Thus, it is critical to dry your feet regularly along with changing your socks. It is recommended that you carry at least two extra pairs of socks in your backpack at all times. One pair you will wear. The second will stay dry in your pack. Your last ones should be cleaned and drying out. Wet socks can hang on the outside of your backpack while trekking if the weather is allowing it. Otherwise, they might have to dry next to your fire in your bivouac site.

Furthermore, the best socks to wear in the wilderness are merino wool or military wool blend boot socks. Socks made of wool give two critical benefits: quick drying and the promotion of foot respiration. Wool fibers will pull the moisture away from your feet. Moreover, it will help keep your feet warm even if your feet are wet inside your boots. These two qualities of wool allow your feet to breathe inside your footwear. This promotes the circulation of blood to your toes. Thus, keeping your feet and socks dry will help your feet stay healthy in the field.

3. Foot Hygiene

The final principle about caring for your feet in the wilderness is to conduct foot hygiene often. Dirty and unattended feet will fester problems that may hinder your movement in the wilderness or bugging out in an emergency. It is dangerous enough just trekking through the bush while tracking down that big buck. If you add a foot injury into the equation, then life becomes complicated very quickly. Furthermore, if there arises a foot ailment or infection caused by lack of foot cleanliness, then a disaster and medevac situation ensues. Therefore, it is needless to say that those clean feet are critical to a successful experience in the wilderness. You can keep your feet clean by remembering to take care of them when resting during a movement. Here is a simple checklist to help you keep your feet fresh while at rest during movement in the outdoors:

  1. Pull off your footwear and socks. 
  2. Elevate your feet for 10-20 minutes to help reduce swelling from trekking.
  3. Wiggle and spread your toes to let the air blow through them while they are elevated.
  4. Inspect your feet after you have rested them.
  5. Clean your feet with a wet wipe
  6. Apply antifungal foot powder on your feet (top, bottom, and between toes) before putting on your socks and footwear
  7. Put a clean, dry pair of socks on after powdering your feet.

These simple steps for conducting foot hygiene will go a long way to keep your feet healthy while outdoors or bugging out during an emergency.

Conclusion

Your feet are your best friend, or they can be your worst enemy in a critical moment of survival. You do not want your mortality to rise or fall on the condition of your feet. If you take care of your feet in the wilderness, you will enhance your chances of survival in a critical situation. Remember these three simple principles of foot care, and you will have a more enjoyable experience outdoors.

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