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Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) Clothing

11 Jan

I planned on writing a post about prepping for the new year, with an emphasis on fighting the one thing that hinders our preps, procrastination. We don’t give ourselves enough time to prepare. Start early and you’ll have an advantage over those who delay. Alas, it’s now the eleventh of January and too late for a New Years Resolution post.

With record setting cold temps throughout much of the country, I thought we’d revisit preparing for extreme cold. This is a topic covered thoroughly in the book. Cold weather has killed car batteries, frozen water mains, and many have been without heat and electricity.

Many outdoor survival instructors will teach shelter building and fire building first, because these help warm us and protect us from the elements. In the worst environments, though, fires are exceptionally difficult to light. It can be difficult to find fuel.

Proper clothing is your first line of defense against extreme cold. If you want to assemble an ultimate ECW kit, watch this video to see the basic components:
These guys are bundling up for a trip to Antarctica.

Another video give a short tour of the facility:

Here’s a rundown of what you might want:

socks and thermal socks…
Carhartt bibs  –or other insulated bib…
wind pants
boot liners
heavily insulated working boots
bunny boots –warmer
face mask
gaiter –for neck
parka  –Carhartt parka for work
glove liners
snow goggles
bear paw mittens
bottom base layer, and fleece pants, fleece shirt/pullover

In most environments, a danger is that it will get above freezing and rain, so add rain gear to the list. If you’re equipped with the above clothing, you’re all set for the cold. It doesn’t matter if you’re forced to travel or stay at home.

Everything has an important role. In extreme cold, you don’t want exposed skin. With this kit, you’ll be covered from head to toe, including goggles to protect your eyes.

The best cold weather advice: If you have heat and don’t need to go anywhere, just stay warm inside until the cold snap passes.

Just noticed Harry Epstein sells some Mora knives, which seem to be all the rage:


Bug Out Underwear

4 Sep

I spent a little time on Youtube watching some prepper videos. One I recommend is Demcad about the importance of building relationships.
This is especially true for older preppers. He’s correct that this is a neglected topic. Guns get all the attention. It got me to thinking: What’s the most neglected prepper topic?

Several preppers showed off their new bug-out-bag equipment. Guns, knives, fire starters, cooksets. Cool stuff. When I see a prepper pull out a shiny new tube tent in its packaging, I wonder how he’ll really do in a real bug out. You need to test your outdoor equipment. From what I recall of shiny emergency blankets and cheap tube tents is that they won’t hold up to real use. Give me a military poncho instead.

We all must test our preps. But we all neglect some. The other day our land line phone stopped working. No problem. I dug out an extra I had purchased a few years ago. I plugged it in. DOA. Cheap Chinese crap. Too late to return it. Shoot. If I was smart, I would have tested it when I purchased it. I’m only out a few bucks. With outdoor survival equipment, you could be out your life.

With all the bug-out-bag videos on Youtube, I didn’t find one that discussed bug out underwear. No. I’m not kidding. Maybe all these preppers live in moderate climates and their clothing doesn’t really matter. But if you’ve spent time outdoors in harsh environments, your clothing is important.

One of the best groups to learn about underwear from is backpackers. Because nobody wants to talk about underwear, they call this their “base layer.” That sounds cooler than talking about underwear.

Here’s a nice discussion about your “base layer” from They explain the situation very well. I won’t repeat the same information here. The problem with comfortable cotton is that it retains moisture. It’s even been called “death cloth” because wet cotton takes more energy for you to stay warm. If you take some expeditions in Alaska and other cold areas, they’ll tell you not to wear cotton. You’ll need to smuggle in a few contraband pairs of your cotton shorts.

With your “base layer,” you have three basic choices. Cotton. Comfortable, but if you sweat and it gets wet, it’ll stay wet. You’ll stay cold. We won’t even go into the other issues of wearing wet underwear for days on end. We’ll call this your wet option.

The other option is synthetic. This is the stinky option. For some reason, most synthetic materials that are good at wicking away moisture stink.

The third option is wool. Many of us just can’t wear wool. It’s itchy. Some like Merino wool, but it can wear out quickly. This is the scratchy option.

Talking about wet, stinky, or itchy underwear, I mean base layer, just isn’t that much fun. But if you’re forced to survive in a harsh environment, this stuff matters. Being properly dressed can be the difference between life and death.

Once you’ve purchased and tested base layers, you can look into the other clothing layers. Insulating layers provide warmth. In most environments, you’ll want a waterproof outer layer. You want to keep warm, but not sweat too much. Your clothing layers let you regulate your body temperature and control sweat build up as your level of activity and the outside temperature changes.

Preppers assembling bug out bags can learn a lot from backpackers. Youtube preppers should show off their bug out underwear. OK. Bad idea. Never mind.

What do you think is the most neglected prepper topic?

This is a neat collection of articles about backpacking.

Homemade cotton ball fire starters.

Compact fishing kit.

More about skin irritation and hiking.

The ten essentials for hiking.
It’s interesting to see what other backpackers carry.

For those interested in metalwork (casting), here’s a good book review of an older Navy manual.

Apartment Prepper has a great write up about experimenting with a sourdough starter mix.

U.S. Marshals on use of the expandable baton:

Lessons From Dateline’s “Against All Odds” (& Cold Weather Survival)

2 Jun

The TV show Dateline featured a survival story “Against All Odds” about a couple that got stranded in their vehicle during a winter storm.

I bet most preppers who watch a survival story like this immediately see several lessons that can be taken away. Many of the lessons are well known. As preppers we’d already have taken steps to be better prepared if we found ourselves in this situation.

Here is the episode on Youtube (it was posted as a six part series):

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6

Spoiler Alert: Watch the videos before continuing.

Without further ado, here’s what I took away from this:

1) If you take a road trip, tell somebody where you’re going. Let them know when you’ll return. If you change your plans, call them so they’re not worried. Select a reliable person who cares about you. A good choice: Your mother. A bad choice: Your ex-wife who’s living with her new boyfriend in California.

2) Don’t trespass into areas you don’t belong. In the story, the couple bypassed a road closed sign because the guy wanted to test the off-road capabilities of his vehicle. If a road is closed, it’s closed for a reason.

3) Be prepared. If you’re traveling in isolated country in Winter, assemble a basic winter survival kit for your vehicle. If you’re traveling in desert conditions, assemble appropriate gear.

Keeping warm in severe winter cold comes down to having adequate clothing. You can take this as far as you want. There are people who make expeditions to arctic regions who need to function continuously in horrible cold, ten days forty-five below actual temperature sort of cold.

At a minimum, you should have:

a) A warm jacket or parka
b) Snow pants (or full snowsuit, if you prefer)
c) Warm gloves
d) Warm hat and neck and face protection
e) Insulated boots and good wool socks

People photographing the Northern Lights, sled dog racers, and extreme North climbers must rely on the best clothing.  In the arctic or up a mountain, you can’t just build a fire. There isn’t fuel, and if you somehow managed to start a fire, the wind would blow it out.

You actually have a great heater: Yourself. Your body will shiver and generate heat to warm you. Adequate clothing will keep this heat from being lost. You’ll also need plenty of high-calorie food: You’ll burn far more calories as your metabolism heats up.

Younger children, smaller people, and the elderly are at the greatest risk of not being able to generate adequate heat. As an emergency heat source, you can carry chemical hand warmer packets to defrost your toes.

One point about clothing was made clear: The young lady was terrified of drizzle, because she knew her clothing wasn’t waterproof. In the arctic where it never drops below freezing, waterproofing isn’t the same concern as it is in most environments. Since most of us face freezing rain that can soak our clothing, we need an outer waterproof layer.

If you want to learn more about extreme cold weather clothing, who better to learn from than Norwegians?

4) Learn a bit about basic survival in your environment. This is closely related to point 3 above. Your supplies and knowledge interweave. In the story, the young lady decides she must seek help. The snow is so thick, she can’t walk. She can only crawl.

Almost nobody carries snowshoes in their car’s winter survival kit. That would be excessive for most of us. But if you learned a bit about winter survival, you’d at least have some ideas about how to improvise a pair yourself.

5) Pay attention to weather reports. Storms can come up fast. Tornadoes are especially sudden. Other storms like hurricanes are predicted very early. It’s good to know what’s in the forecast.

6) Ask: “What If?” In the story, the guy wants to test drive his Jeep off road. What if it gets stuck or breaks down? What are the possible consequences of something going wrong? Am I prepared if this thing happens? What options do I have? Start a conversation with yourself.

7) Spoiler Alert. You never know what skills you’ll need to survive. You never know what factors might conspire to save you. The lady wouldn’t have been able to crawl to safety through the deep snow. But, by miracle, her brother was searching for her in the right area. His truck wouldn’t make progress up the road. But he saw a dump truck and, as luck would have it, he had driven tanks in the military, and the keys were in it. He was able to find her.

Whenever you watch or read a survival story, make up your own short bullet point list of important lessons that can be taken away from the story. Learn from the experiences of others. I bet many of you already do this.

Charlie Palmer -author, The Prepper Next Door: A Practical Guide For Disaster And Emergency Planning

There is a great article about hurricane preparedness at