Heat Loss

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Heat loss can cause a range of problems from minor discomfort to death. A critical component in emergency preparedness is combating heat loss. There are a variety of ways to lose heat and ways to mitigate heat loss.


Heat moves from a warm object to a cold object. Think of the cold as a vacuum and the surrounding air as being the warmth. For example, if you are sleeping on cold ground you are the warm object and your warmth will move to the cold ground. An insulator can reduce or block this heat transfer. A Sleeping Pad with a high R-value is a excellent way to significantly reduce the transfer of heat from you to the ground. You can also create an insulating layer using available materials.


Hypothermia occurs when your body loses more heat than it absorbs. Symptoms vary and can include (1) shivering and confusion, (2) increased confusing and no shivering, (3) severe confusion and paradoxical behavior including undressing. Hypothermia decreases one’s mental ability which can lead to poor judgment resulting in greater danger. Often times the victim will cease to feel cold even though core body temperature decreases. Manual dexterity can also decrease as symptoms become more severe. The body starts protecting core temperature at the expense of limbs, hands, and feet.

The best way to combat hypothermia is to avoid hypothermia by keeping clothes dry and having sufficient insulation. Wear clothing that wicks away moisture (details). Dress in layers use the layers that fit your environment. Wear a hat that either retains heat or protects you from the elements (sun, rain, etc.). If you fall victim to hypothermia recognize that your judgment may be impaired and that it is critical to restore your core body temperature. If you are in the field then protect yourself from the elements and start a fire for warmth and protection.