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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Important Notes About The 3 Hour Rule

More about blood, fire, boots, gloves, shelters, hypothermia and frostbite.

Our bodies cannot withstand high winds and cool temperatures without being properly clothed or our need of taking shelter from the wind, or our building a needful warm fire.

This danger can occur quickly in even fair weather. For example a 40-degree F. day can turn nasty with a 20mph wind, which drops the wind-chill factor down to 30 degrees F. We are prone to hypothermia after not very long exposure (about 2-3 hours), in such weather without maintaining proper body hydration and warm clothing.

Remember stay warm, do not get hot or sweaty. Sweat can mean death in severe weather so do all you can to layer your clothes by adding or subtracting loose layers of clothes as needed to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Keep and maintain a small fire so you can sit close to it without being endangered (getting burned). Loose clothing traps warm air and is warmer than tight fitting clothes.

If the temperatures and wind are both extreme, our danger becomes extreme also, possibly adding frostnip-frostbite to the equation along with hypothermia.

For example:

At 40 degrees F. with a 20mph or greater wind, hypothermia can occur in 2-3 hours or less. In addition, the following temperatures will likely all involve hypothermia as well as frostbite.
At 10 degrees F. with a 55mph or greater wind, frostbite can occur in 30 minutes, or less.
At 0 degrees F. with a 55mph wind or greater, frostbite can occur in 10 minutes, or less.
At –10 degrees F. with a 60mph wind or greater, frostbite can occur in 5 minutes, or less.

The first parts of the body to suffer from frostbite are your facial extremities such as your nose, cheeks, lips and ears, your fingers (hands) and your toes (feet). In winter months or times when going up into the snow, wear properly fitting boots with wool socks and a sock liner to wick away moisture. Dry socks are a soldier’s lament. Soldiers are always changing socks to maintain warm dry feet. As your feet go, so goes the rest of your body. If you cease to be able to walk, you are doomed to a very nasty situation indeed. So do not let your feet sweat, or get too cold. Marino wool socks and mixtures of acrylic make up the newer dry warm socks.

Keep your fingers covered in good quality insulated gloves. Do not cut corners on costs when it comes to keeping your hands and feet warm and dry. You will pay more for better quality gear, but “saving your bacon” so to speak, never was a freebie.

The words are Survive and Thrive, not Endure and Suffer! NEVER try to save money on your important items that will save your life. This is not to say that you cannot luck out with some good pricing on some gear. I have found the average price for a good pair of boots around one hundred or more dollars. However, I found that a do-able pair of rubber farm boots runs about $15. I thought I would test them out this year and the results had me buying a second pair, this time for my wife to wear for our emergency gear. (It is a good idea to add these to your emergency gear list.)

When I bought my boots, I made sure that I bought a pair of these boots ½ size larger than my normal size boot. I then cut and placed a ½ inch thick wool sole in the bottom of the boots to act as additional insulation between the cold ground and my pinkies. When I climbed in with my liners and wool socks, my feet were comfortable, not pinched and remained warm, not hot. Make sure this is a fit for you too, otherwise exchange them for a larger size.

I was initially worried that the rubber boots would not allow proper breathing for my feet and they would cause my feet to sweat. I was wrong. The extra size actually allowed for proper ventilation and my feet stayed dry even after playing in two feet of snow for several hours one day.

When buying farm boots, make sure that they have a rugged lug sole pattern for walking on both ice and snow. I was also pleasantly surprised that almost no snow went down into my boots while playing around in the two foot of snow. The boots come up to the top of my calf of my leg and with my long johns and pant legs tucked into the boot, they acted as a seal to prevent snow, but allowed breathability, which I was surprised about.

How about all those dairymen and farmers in Washington? They have kept this a secret for a long time! This is probably reflected in the price as being only $15 on average. (If everyone gets them, the price might go up.) They are cheaper then mukluks and other snow boots and I feel they are stronger than the typical mukluks you can purchase locally. Give them a try and let me know what you think. Long term hiking in them? I am not sure yet, but I did wear them all day long while staying outdoors and staying busy and never did get sweaty socks.

So back to severe weather,…you need immediate shelter and proper clothing to block out the cold and to protect exposed flesh in these conditions. A warm fire built behind a windbreak provides great benefits toward reducing hypothermia and frostbite. Build the fire early on, do not wait until you are too cold to move. It is almost too late by then.

Also, consider the value of layered clothing and a good shelter in advance. Anticipate the needed possibilities of colder weather or changes in the weather while you are outdoors. And another very important thing, include plenty of water to drink with your cold weather gear.

Proper hydration allows the body to help the blood stay thin, meaning it moves better throughout your body, including into the little capillaries of your extremities such as your fingers, toes, nose and ears vs. its thickening up because of insufficient hydration and not being able to transfer out to the capillaries. More blood movement means more heat to the extremities. Less blood movement further increases your risk of hypothermia and of frostnip-frostbite. So when in doubt, drink lots of fluids. Warmed is preferable in cold weather, but any form of fluid has it’s value, including such items as soups, stews and warmed up cereals.

I am especially enthused about drinking warmed up juices of all types, including grapefruit, orange, apple, etc., and various cool aide, and Gatorade flavors. Every single one I have personally tasted warmed up I have been pleasantly surprised to find how much better the drinks tasted heated up. For a while, I tried a new one every time I went out, just to find out that so far, like I said, I found I now like all fluids warmed up.

In reading about climbers of Mount Everest and K2, I discovered they also recommend herbal teas, coffee without caffeine, and hot coco without caffeine. This is because climbers especially are susceptible to hypothermia and frostbite at higher altitudes and these helped keep their capillaries functioning properly. Both caffeinated drinks and nicotine on the other hand interfere with the oxygen levels in the blood, which can cause a person to get colder quicker, because of poor circulation.

So back to the subject at hand! At a minimum, we need to be getting out of the wind in cold weather. This alone can save your life, thus the need to know how to layer your clothing and how to build shelters quickly, and in the snow, how to build snow caves or igloos. These are important skills to have, as important as being able to build a quick fire.

And how about building a fire on snow? Well look for exposed rock or dirt. Without these, build your fire on top of a pile of pine, fir or cedar boughs or other tree branches layered on top of the snow, or in the case where there are large pieces of old growth bark or downed trees, use what bark you have available as a base to build your fire. Do not put down a plastic base. Plastics when heated by the fire are toxic.

One more thing, please do not blow on your hands to warm them up. It does not work and can actually cause you more skin damage. When you blow on a mirror you can see the moisture in your breath form a fog on the mirror. When you blow on your hands in cold weather, this moisture turns to ice crystals imbedded into the surface of your skin and can increase the rapidity of your getting frostnip-frostbite. Likewise, do not pull your head down into your shirt or jacket and breathe only inside your jacket. The moisture will freeze and further lower your core body temperature. It is okay to zip up, but leave your nose outside to breathe. Do not breathe through your mouth as you lose more moisture that way and it increases your body’s dehydration.

When your body first gets chilled, the muscles receive a message from the brain to tighten and contract, (basically shivering). This is what causes the hair to stand on end and what we call the visible results - goosebumps. You only have to lower your body’s core temperature down to 95 degrees F. to get hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia are uncontrollable shaking, slowed breathing and heart rate, slurred speech, unsteadiness on your feet, sleepiness, pale and cold skin and slowed thinking. When you remain cold for too long, your body temperature may lower further. When your body core drops below 90 degrees F., you stop shaking and you become extremely sleepy and confused and are headed shortly into a comma and then possibly death. Between 80 and 90 degrees F., you need immediate medical attention. Before your temperature lowers to 90 degrees, if you are treated, you can likely recover fairly quickly.

Hypothermia treatment while a victim is conscious remains simple.

· Insulate the victim from the cold ground with anything that will provide insulation.
· Change them out of wet clothing into dry warm clothing if possible.
· Give them warm drinks and fluids, or warmed foods, and a piece of hard candy.
· Place them inside a pre-warmed up blanket or sleeping bag, not a cold sleeping.
· Until the bag is warmed up, bring the victim to a campfire or into a shelter out of the wind.
· Do not expose their hands or cold feet to the fire as it will warm up the extremities too fast and could cause them to go into shock.
· Do not rub any potentially frozen flesh.
· Do not place hands or feet into hot water. Warm water is okay if it is about 105 degrees.
· You must have a warm towel to pat dry the water off once feeling is restored. Do this gently, as frozen fingers and toes are numb when frozen but are extremely painful when touched after frostnip or frostbite limbs are warmed up.
· If the person is not yet inside a sleeping bag, encourage them to do some calisthenics and some slow exercising to increase their core body temperature.
· Have another person dress down to their long johns and warm up a sleeping bag.
· Then place the victim in the bag with the other person for added body heat.
· Place heated up water, not boiling water, into bottles and then place them next to, the victims wrists, armpits, groin and neck area. Warm but not too hot to the touch.
. Seek medical attention for follow-up as soon as possible.

Once a hypothermic victim becomes unconscious, you need to perform everything as far as contact, except give internal liquids. Place hands and feet between the partner’s thighs and/or armpits and warm them up inside the sleeping bag or add a second person with both people stripped down to the flesh with the victim between two. Add warm water in bottles to the sleeping bag. Seek medical attention immediately as death may be very near.

Always remember, the weather is your friend, not your enemy. If you work with it rather than fight it, you will fare well and enjoy a great story to tell about later. If you ignore the weather warnings and plunge on unprepared, you will be gambling with your own life and those around you. Always Be Prepared, ALWAYS carry with you what you need.


Kymber said...

Wow - what an awesome post! there is too much excellent information here for just one read! i will be back tomorrow to re-read!
thanks for this - and please keep up these awesome posts!

CherB said...

Thanks for posting this. It is so important as someone can look disoriented and be thought of a druggie instead of being in trouble because of cold weather. I always wear layers and take something off like my turtleneck if I need to vent more. What I hate the most is a cold head, so I make knitted hats that are double layered. They are handy in Feb-March cold windy season which sometimes feels colder and any part of this last winter!
I too sometimes get too long winded in some of my posts so try to make a shorter one here and there, or cut it up into seperate topics. Glad I stopped by though! Cher

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