Everyone knows cold weather is a factor in hypothermia, the lowering of your body’s core temperature to levels too low to sustain body functions and metabolism.
But did you know water — including perspiration, humidity, and rain — can also be a major factor? Moisture speeds up the loss of heat from your body and increases the risk of hypothermia. In fact, the air temperature doesn’t have to be below freezing to get you in trouble if it’s accompanied by moisture.
Years ago, I saw two hunters experiencing advanced stages of hypothermia on separate days — both in Alabama. One hunter was from Colorado and the other from Wisconsin, states where hunters know a thing or two about cold weather. But both underestimated the effect of Alabama’s high humidity on the 20-something-degree temps that didn’t sound extreme to either of them.
Here are a few ways you can control moisture to prevent hypothermia:
- Always pack a rain jacket or rain suit. And, of course, put it on in case of rain. A light drizzle is all it takes to speed up the effects of cold weather. We like the Kryptek Koldo rain jacket.
- Layer your clothing. Three light layers are better than one heavy one so you can remove and replace layers as needed during several hours in the field. Wearing a heavy coat that causes you to perspire is counter-productive. Instead, try some combination of long underwear, pants/shirts, vests, and jackets.
- Wear underwear that wicks moisture away from your skin. Walking and climbing while you’re hunting can cause you to perspire, even though the air temperature is cold. Several modern fabrics used for long underwear wick, or pull moisture away from your skin. Merino Wool is also a great choice, as it continues to insulate even when it’s wet.