American Bushman

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing." —Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I was going to be writing about firestarting equipment in the PSK today but something happened to me last night that was far more exciting, far more educational, and far more dangerous.

I developed the first signs of hypothermia. It was approximately 55-degrees and rainy and I didn't have a raincoat. This is the PERFECT weather to get hit with a life-threatening condition because it doesn't seem so terribly dangerous.

Anyway, there I was, getting wet and cold, having just been exposed to hours of second-hand smoke in an air-conditioned restaurant and suddenly I was complaining of muscle cramps all up and down my torso and shivering uncontrollably. I just thought it was because it had cooled off outside.

I drove home with the window cracked to get some of the smokey smell out of the car and the wind continued to rob my body of heat.

By the time I got home I could barely walk, breathing was incredibly difficult, and thinking was out of the question. I hopped out of my smokey clothes and into a hot shower. Not hot enough...turn the heat up...still not hot enough...oh, all the way up? I jumped out of the shower, dried off, found some warm clothes, put on a stocking cap, and crawled into my Wiggy's overbag.

I'm convinced, this morning, that that bag may have saved my life. How hypothermia struck me so fast and so hard is beyond my comprehension. Fortunately I knew the signs and knew what to do about it. I knew falling asleep in that bag would be safe as it would warm me effectively even if I did nothing else but fall asleep.

This morning I'm feeling much better, I can breathe easier, and I am thinking much clearer. Last night was about getting warm and today is about figuring out just what I did so wrong last night that caused this situation in the first place.

Lessons learned:
  1. If it's cool and rainy and you don't have a raincoat, STAY INSIDE.

  2. If it's cool and rainy and you don't have a fleece, STAY INSIDE.

  3. Know the signs.

  4. Be prepared to bring your core temperature back up either through the consumption of warm liquids and foods or through the use of blankets, sleeping bags, extra clothing, etc.

  5. As they say, "Cotton Kills" and I was dressed in a whole lot of lightweight cotton. It gets cold and stays cold.

I'm sort of glad to have experienced the early stages of hypothermia so now I'm more intimately familiar with how it feels. However, I really would have been happy to go the rest of my life without having to experience it and really, really happy to avoid experiencing it again.

Just be prepared for the weather. Don't consider a trip to the store as different from a trip to the woods. Cold and wet is the same in the city, in the country, and in the wilderness.

Thanks for reading,

Chilly B


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