Thursday, December 13, 2012

Keeping Warm In Cold Weather Emergencies Without Killing Yourself

The most basic way to keep warm in a cold weather emergency is with body heat. You can do this even in below zero temperatures.

I am assuming that you want to do this inside your home during a cold weather emergency in order to shelter in place.

If you have multiple people and pets, you should huddle together to keep each other warm with your body heat.

Here are the five ways you lose body heat:
convection, conduction, radiation, evaporation and respiration. You need to know these to be able to avoid them.

Convection is "wind chill factor". The wind speeds up evaporation when it blows against wet skin or clothing. You will have to avoid being wet or getting wet to avoid convection. Staying out of wind also helps prevent this.

Conduction is touching something cold. If you have a cement floor or walls, don't be against them when you want to stay warm. You need something to insulate you from cold surfaces. 

Radiation is your warm body sending heat out into the cold. You want to trap your body heat around you to help you stay warm.

Evaporation is part of wind chill factor. Stay dry and it helps stop this. This includes sweating. You do not want to exert yourself and build up a sweat.

Respiration is your breathing. This another reason to avoid working too hard when you want to stay warm. If you breathe hard, you lose more heat. Whatever work you do, do it slowly and steadily and take breaks a lot to avoid breathing hard and sweating.

You will need to build a shelter inside your home to trap body heat and stay warm. I have read that you need at least 15 to 18 inches of insulating material to adequately trap body heat for warmth. This needs to be materials that will not conduct cold into the shelter. No metal for example.

Your shelter needs to be above you so you will need something to hold it up. I have seen chairs suggested for this. You will need a way to get air inside your shelter without letting too much warm air out. 

Remember warm air rises and cold air drops. In a snow cave the entrance must be lower than the surface that the occupants are resting on to trap warm air inside the snow cave. This idea could work for a shelter inside your home also.

You also need to allow moisture to stay off of you and your clothing and not collect and drip on you. Your body will be producing moisture and so will your breathing. You need air holes in your shelter.

Drink hot beverages, but not alcoholic ones. Take off wet clothing.

If you have a stove use it outside (avoid carbon monoxide poisoning - see yesterday's post) to heat bricks or rocks. You can bring them inside your shelter to warm it up more. Wrap them to avoid burns. If you are very cold already when you bring in your hot rocks or bricks, be careful that numbness does not cause you to touch the hot objects too much and burn yourself.

If you already have a shelter around your bed, you will need to lower the top of it to trap more heat near your body during a cold weather emergency. It would be a good idea to plan for this if you want to use it for cold weather emergencies.

There are some high tech lightweight things like sleeping bags that hikers use. Some offer insulation and even breathe so your perspiration will evaporate from them without getting you cold. They are very expensive and run $50 and up. 

They are intended for use with a foam pad to increase insulation to avoid conduction heat loss. REI has some. I assume other sporting goods stores also have them. This might be good to use for sheltering in place, but I don't believe it would be adequate by itself. You could use it inside a shelter inside your home when sheltering in place. They seem to be intended for use when waiting for rescue outdoors.

I have read that some people have used a tent pitched inside their homes as their cold weather emergency shelter. If temperatures are very low, a double walled tent is probably better to use this way. A single walled tent or one with only a rain fly would not work very well if it is very cold. 

Tents are often rated for how cold a temperature they are intended for. The same is true for sleeping bags and other equipment. It might help to compare temperature ratings of equipment with maximum low temperatures for your area and allow quite a bit extra for climate change weirdness.

Microfiber cloth will allow moisture and air to pass through it while keeping in heat. This is a good kind of fabric to watch for when looking for materials to use for a cold weather shelter in your home and for clothing to wear inside said shelter.

Many of the things I read while doing research for this article mentioned that old methods for cold weather shelters are not effective enough. Check several sources when you get information to use for cold weather shelter. I would prefer you do the same even for this blog post.

It is very difficult to find information to use for sheltering in place for cold weather emergencies. Many articles tell you to go to an emergency shelter or seek help and don't say much else. Others only address outdoors emergencies. It was necessary to piece together bits of information from many sources for this post, and I am not an expert on this subject. It is good to get other sources as well as mine.

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