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Survival Tip: Clothing and Gear

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The debate about what constitutes the right gear or the best survival clothing will never end. It’s like asking a bunch of snipers which caliber is best; you’ll get a different answer every time, and they’ll all sound well-reasoned and persuasive. So don’t be overwhelmed by all the choices you have.

Part 1   

Part 2 

Instead of trying right away to figure out which set of gear and clothing is best for you, expect to work it out over time by trial and error. Learn what to look for, put a package together that addresses most of your needs, then use what you’ve acquired and make adjustments as necessary. As always, make sure your family participates. Consider their input, discuss the options, and explain your decisions so your kids will learn how to make reasoned decisions like you do.

We all know what we mean by clothing. We define “survival gear” as the equipment consisting of those articles needed (or particularly useful) for the learning and application of survival skills. Strictly speaking, some types of clothing are a subset of survival gear, but we’ll discuss clothing separately for convenience.

Clothing. You need to be able to adapt to various situations like weather, location, and finances, so before we make a list of clothing items, let’s look at the characteristics of good survival clothing. If you know these principles, you’ll be able to choose what you need in any given situation.

  • Protection from exposure. Clothing needs to protect you from heat, and from cold. Extremes of either will kill you. Cold temperatures above freezing are extremely dangerous if you get wet and have no access to shelter, because water rapidly sucks the heat out of your body.
    • Heat. This section is about clothing, but water is so important for heat regulation that it bears mentioning here; when you get dehydrated, your temperature regulator goes haywire, so drink plenty of water.
      • Wear lightweight fabrics that absorb and wick sweat, like cotton, silk, and linen.
      • Stay out of the sun. If this is not possible, “wear” your shade by keeping direct sun off of you, especially your head and neck.
      • Wear a hat. Or use a bandana, a shemagh, or even an extra cotton t-shirt to wrap your head. A shemagh is specialized for desert environments — it protects from heat, cold, and blowing sand.
      • Light-colored clothing reflects heat. (Some desert cultures use dark clothing for religious reasons, but don’t be misled; you’ll be far more comfortable in light colors).
    • Cold. Layering is the key, because this creates insulating air spaces between the layers. It also allows you to scale up or down as temperatures or your activity levels change.
      • In general, avoid cotton because it loses its insulating ability when it gets wet. Exception: a thin layer near the skin is often fine in non-extreme cold; any sweat will wick away and evaporate through the outer layers.
      • Wool is an excellent cold-weather fabric. When it comes in contact with water it reacts exothermally, releasing a non-negligible amount of heat, and retains its insulating ability when wet. Some synthetics are excellent choices.
      • Good quality polyester fleece is hard to beat as a lightweight, rugged, water-resistant insulator.
      • Even the most expensive synthetics can’t beat goose down for its ability to keep you warm in extreme cold. It is bulky, though, and make sure it’s housed in a water-repellent fabric.

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