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How to think about outdoor survival gear, the survival system, and the base layer.

How to Think about

 Outdoor Survival Gear

Your Wilderness Survival System


Base Layers

When we think of outdoor survival gear, we think of the extra stuff we carry with us in case something unforeseen happens. We tend to think of these unforeseen events in terms of a medical emergency, getting lost, getting stranded for some reason, or a combination of several of these factors. 

However, we could look at survival from a more basic standpoint, and to bring the idea of outdoor survival to a more basic level we can ask this question.

If I were dumped out into an ________ environment naked with nothing, how long would I survive?

At this point we could fill in the blank above with something like, high mountain desert, or a subtropical desert, or even frozen tundra, and we could go on and on. The point is, in this scenario the chances of survival would be severely limited.  

Now, looking at things from that perspective, we can look at outdoor survival gear as any piece of gear we have with us or wear when we are outdoors. Obviously then, the warmer the clothes we are wearing or the more gear we are carrying the better prepared we are…right?

Of course, the answer to this question would be a very ambiguous…maybe…or maybe not…it depends.

With that said we are finally getting to the point of this article, and that is that we need to look at the gear that we wear and carry as a system, and this gear must be managed before we get into what could be considered a survival situation. If you don’t look at all of your gear as a system, at best it will not serve you well, at worst it will get you killed.

So today, we are going to talk about what I consider to be the base of that wilderness survival system, and that is the base layer of clothing.

I don’t want to discuss the base layer of clothing in terms of what it is made of, I think we all have our favorite base layer materials. I want to discuss the base layer in terms of function and how best to manage that base layer to maximize its effectiveness.


The Function of the Base Layer


We’ll start the discussion of the function of the base layer of clothing by talking about sweat, yup, sweat.

More importantly what is sweats function?

To cool the body, so it would stand to reason that if we want to stay warm, we want to minimize sweating. Now, we all know that is not always possible so the next best thing to do is get that sweat or any type of moisture for that matter away from the body and dry as quickly as possible.

This is where the base layer comes into the picture. The base layer’s job is to wick moisture away from the body and dissipate that moisture back into the air as quickly as possible while retaining insulating qualities.


The Wilderness Survival System


Here is where you really need start looking at your outdoor survival gear as the system of everything you have with you or on you.

In any case, the best base layer in the world cannot dissipate moisture if air is not allowed to pass over it. So, if we don’t manage our gear properly air will not be allowed to pass over the base layer.

Think of it like this. If you had a great base layer, then wrapped it in a big garbage bag and walked around for a while. Pretty soon the inside of your garbage bag would be covered with condensation moisture and that moisture would go back into the base layer as fast as it could shed it. This renders the base layer useless.

Here’s where things get interesting, imagine that you are walking around in your garbage bag because it keeps the wind and rain out, and you sweat. Your base layer is unable to dry. While you’re warm and walking everything is fine. It’s not the most comfortable thing, but not a big deal.

Now, the temperature around you starts to drop, the moisture that is trapped in your garbage bag and saturating your base layer begins to cool. This amounts to what’s referred to as the contact cooling of you. Eventually your body cannot produce enough heat to maintain its own core temperature and you go into what is called hypothermia and eventually die.

Now, what if you managed the same situation using your clothing like the wilderness survival system that it is. You have your great moisture wicking base layer but instead of a garbage bag you have a jacket that you can take off. This jacket has the same properties as the garbage bag, but you can take it off. When it is warm out you take it off and let your base layer keep you adequately warm while releasing the perspiration keeping you nice and dry through out the day. At the point where the temperature starts to drop you put your jacket on and you’re not wet. That eliminates the moisture trapped against your body and allows your clothing (your system) to do its job and keep you toasty warm.


The Takeaway


When you’re out enjoying the wilderness, you have to keep in mind that your outdoor survival gear is not just the stuff you have incase something goes wrong. It is everything you wear as well, and certain things you do before things go wrong can greatly increase your chances of survival. The irony is, that if you pay attention to, and manage your system you are often more comfortable as well.


I hope you got something out of this and that you enjoyed reading. This is the first in a series of articles on this subject. So, if you liked this stay tuned for more.

Thanks for reading.

As always, Don’t be safe! Be prepared!


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