Among survivalists there is something known as the Rule of Threes that says you can survive…
- 3 minutes without air
- 3 hours in extreme weather without shelter
- 3 days without water
- 3 weeks without food
Since these are the most fundamental essentials of life, they are what we are going to look at in this series. However, I don’t see any reasonably likely situation where I will run out of air besides chemical or nuclear warfare. Because those are both very unlikely and nearly impossible for me to prepare for, I’m going to skip over it and assume it won’t be a problem I will deal with. That leaves us starting with the problem of dealing with heat and cold.
Because it is a major problem for nearly every vandweller it’s perfect for this series: we can make our lives better right now and also be preparing for the future. I think it is extremely important to be prepared for heat and cold because of Global Climate Change. I know some of you have very strong feelings for or against that idea so I’m not even going to address it. I’ll just say this, no matter what you think about the idea of Climate Change, the climate in our country is changing and becoming more severe and extreme every year. Let’s look at some examples:
- The average summer temperatures keep going up and setting new record highs.
- As summers get hotter, the winters are getting colder. The winter of 2013-14 has been one of the worst and coldest anyone can remember over nearly the entire east coast and much of the Midwest. Last year we had winter storm Sandy which has been described as the “perfect storm.”
- A huge part of the country is in a severe drought with water levels dropping to record lows.
- Other parts of the country are having record flooding and some of the country is having both, record droughts and then record flooding.
- Last spring saw some of the worst Tornado activity anyone can remember.
- In the southwest, last summer was the wettest and this winter was the warmest and nicest anyone can remember. But California (one the most productive agriculture areas on the planet) is in it’s worst drought since we started keeping records:
California is experiencing its worst drought since record-keeping began in the mid 19th century, and scientists say this may be just the beginning. B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California at Berkeley, thinks that California needs to brace itself for a megadrought—one that could last for 200 years or more.
As a paleoclimatologist, Ingram takes the long view, examining tree rings and microorganisms in ocean sediment to identify temperatures and dry periods of the past millennium. Her work suggests that droughts are nothing new to California. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140213-california-drought-record-agriculture-pdo-climate/#.UwEbj_ldWMM
Given all these extreme weather events, there is nothing in any way kooky about a vandweller being adequately prepared for heat and cold! It’s a long topic so I’m breaking it into two posts. Today we are looking at clothing and bedding because they are always your first line of defense against the weather.
Remember, I lived in Alaska for 45 years and the last 6 years I’ve lived part of the year in the deserts of Arizona and Nevada. All my recommendations are based on that experience of products I’ve used at -70 degrees below zero and 115 degree heat.
Be ready for STORMS: rain, snow or wind:
- Buy a rain coat, pants and hat made from a waterproof-breathable fabric like Gore-Tex. That brand name is best but more expensive, so buy a house brand clone. In any kind of storm, it will be the first thing you reach for, so buy the best quality you can afford and get it a little large so you can add layers underneath it. Outdoor Research makes good quality products at surprisingly low prices and it’s what I own. I especially like their “Pit Zips” on their rain coats which zip open and close from mid-arm all the way down to the drawstring at the bottom of the coat. That lets you open it like a poncho. Here is a link to my coat for $63 from Amazon.com Outdoor Research Men’s Rampart Jacket I bought an Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero rain hat over 30 years ago and I am still using it today. It works just like new! Highly recommended! Get it from Amazon here for $42 (after 30 years of use, I got my moneys worth from it!!!) Outdoor Research Seattle Sombrero Hat
If you just can’t afford it you can get a cheap poncho or PVC rain suit, but they will fall apart and make you hot and sweaty when you walk in them.
- For footwear I suggest a pair of Gore Tex type waterproof-breathable hiking boots for summer storms and Pac Boots or military surplus Bunny boots for winter. Nothing else will do! Buy them from Amazon here: Bunny Boot, Extreme Cold Weather Boots, Genuine U.S. Military Issue
- Be sure to stock up on wool socks.
- I strongly suggest a good quality golf umbrella. There is never a year goes by that I am not delighted I own my Nike golf umbrella, I wouldn’t be without it. It’s available here from Amazon for $26 Nike Windproof Umbrellas
Have clothing appropriate for the weather, either heat or cold:
For HEAT you want:
- Lightweight, long sleeved shirts with long sleeves and light colors. You want to protect your skin from direct contact with the sun and light colors so it doesn’t absorb heat. I’m a huge fan of Columbia long-sleeve fishing shirts. When you are on the water all day fishing you MUST have a shirt that protects you from the sun and that vents and breathes well. Find that here:Columbia Men’s Long Sleeve Shirt,
- We all think of shorts which is great indoors but if you are out in the direct sun you need to protect your skin. Jeans are the worst type of pants in heat so you want a very lightweight, loose fabric and also in a light color.
- A hat with a wide brim. It’s critical (in some situations it might be life and death) to protect your neck as well so it must have a wide brim or a fabric that drapes down and protects it. This is a link to the hat I’m wearing in the photos. It costs $15 from Amazon.com. Highly recommended: Sloggers Unisex Nylon Sun Hat, Tan
For COLD you want:
- Wear a coat with a hood. Nothing will make you feel warmer than keeping your neck and head covered. A hood is your first and best choice because it holds in the heat rising from your torso warming both your head and neck, so try to find at least one layer of coats with a hood.
- Wear a hat and mittens. Keeping your extremities warm is critical!! So the first thing you do is put on a hat and gloves. Mittens are warmer when it is really cold.
- Don’t wear any cotton clothing: cotton kills in the cold! Cotton absorbs and holds moisture and moisture makes you feel colder than you already do. You can last for hours in 32 degree weather if your clothes are dry, but get them wet and you will be dead in a few minutes. Having damp clothes next to your skin (because they are wet with sweat) will make you feel very cold.
- Wear multiple layers of synthetic clothing. The reason it must be synthetic is because unlike cotton, the individual strings of fabric will NOT absorb water, it just lies on the surface of the fabric. Because of that they wick moisture and pass it through which means they dry very quickly. You want three layers that cover your arms, torso and legs: 1) A base layer next to your skin that is fairly thin and fits close to your skin. It will collect the moisture and pass it on to the next layer keeping your skin dry. 2) A second layer of slightly heavier and looser synthetic fabric (like fleece). It will provide warmth and wick the moisture away from the base layer. 3) Ideally you will have a third layer of slightly heavier and looser synthetic clothing, but that is starting to get pretty bulky so it is optional, you could skip it and go to the outer layer. In Alaska, Helly Hansen is probably the most popular brand because it is very high quality at a moderate price. Here is the base layer I wear. Get it in white and you can wear it in the summer to protect you from the heat. Helly Hansen Men’s Dry Stripe Crew Top
- An outer layer of coat and pants with durable fabric and warm lining, both for your torso and legs. 1) Down is warmest and lightest but it is also very expensive and worthless once it gets wet. 2) For those reasons I recommend a quality down alternative. It will cost much less and keep you somewhat warm even if damp and it will dry much faster. 3) Fleece is not as warm or as light but it will wick away moisture and dry much faster. It will also keep you a little bit warm even when wet. A good fleece as a third layer and an outer down alternative layer for extreme cold is ideal. 4) Wool is heavy and dries slowly once wet. But, it will give you the most warmth while it is wet so in some places like the Pacific Northwest where you get a lot of rain it may be the very best choice. In Alaska, Carhart owns the market. Here is their down coat that you can bet your life on: Carhartt Men’s Down Snorkel Parka
Sleeping in heat and cold:
- I think your best choice is have many layers of blankets so that you can add or remove them as the temperature goes up and down. However, for extreme cold you will want a quality mummy bag with down alternative fill. I recommend:
- A quality cotton sheet set next to your skin for summer heat.
- Light fleece sheet set next to your skin for cooler temperatures or to add to the cotton sheet as it cools off in fall.
- Two or three progressively heavier fleece blankets so that you can add or remove them one at a time as it gets hotter or colder. If you go to bed and it’s hot you can just throw one off and as it cools off overnight put one back on.
- A medium weight quilt for the top layer.
- A quality down alternative comforter for serious cold
- A quality down alternative mummy sleeping bag for extreme cold. It should be rated to zero degrees because hopefully you will never be anywhere colder than that and if you are you can cover it with the down comforter and drastically increase its warmth.
Here is a shopping list for clothing and bedding. As you do your shopping you’ll have to decide if you want to pay premium prices for premium brand names. Normally I don’t, I try to find a balance of not the most expensive and not the least expensive. But a few times I think it’s worth it to pay the higher price. You’ll have to decide for yourself. For bedding it’s hard to beat department stores like Kohls, Target and Wal-Mart where you can see the product before you buy. Out door gear is best from Amazon.com if you know what you want or from specialty stores if you don’t.
Shopping list for STORMS:
- Waterproof-breathable rain coat
- Waterproof-breathable pants
- Waterproof-breathable hat
- Waterproof-breathable boots (this is the only time the Gore Tex brand is worth the extra expense).
- Golf Umbrella
Shopping list for HEAT:
- Wide-brimmed hat that protects your face and neck
- Cotton, long sleeved, light colored shirts
- Cotton or synthetic pants that are light colored and loose fitting, no jeans!! Shorts for inside, long pants for exposure to the sun.
Shopping list for COLD:
- Quality hat, mittens, scarves and gloves
- Bunny Boots
- Synthetic base and middle layer for wicking and warmth
- Outer layer with down, down alternative, wool or fleece. Preferably with a hood
Shopping list for SLEEPING:
- Quality cotton sheet set for summer
- Light Fleece sheet set for winter
- 2-3 fleece blankets (progressively heavier and warmer) to add/remove as layers
- Medium weight quilt
- Down alternative comforter
- Quality down alternative mummy sleeping bag