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  1. #1

    Planning for cold weather

    After about 370 days of solid work, 7 days a week I was able to get away for 2 1/2 days to MVT for another iteration of Heat 1 their flagship team tactics class.

    It was crazy cold and having been there to train in December before I was well aware of this and planned ahead.

    Friday afternoon it rained slightly on the square range. Rain and high 30's, yeah that's fun. Saturday and Sunday on the tactical ranges it was rarely over 30 degrees and the wind was constant running up the valley.

    These kind of conditions have to be planned for correctly.

    I remember getting hypothermia two times training when I was younger. One was on a February weekend where it rained the entire time and the temperature never got above 40. We were dropped off at a training site in the middle of nowhere with a scheduled pick up on Sunday. By mid day Saturday we were soaked to the bone and two skinny little fellows with us were in real danger of dying out there, really all of us were. Later it was "called" and two of us decided to walk the 10 miles out to a phone and call for an early pickup. We tried all the "tricks" that morning to get a fire going in rain and soup, none of them worked. We had a tarp strung up over where we were attempting to start a fire. Every little fire we would get started would soon die out because of lack of dry enough tinder and the wind. It sucked, it was bad. Three of us were under 20 and one of us was "an adult" LOL. This mad for some bad decision making as no one wanted to be "that guy" that threw in the towel first and said let's walk out. Seeing one of the skinny guys shaking uncontrollably for a half hour **** the decision for us. Two of us including myself took the long walk out, ditching our gear near the road where we designated a rally point and walking back to the nearest phone in the rain.

    A few years later I suffered a dry hypothermia event also. Area we were training in got down to 19 degrees and coming in after midnight from a solo night land nav course I was a little sweaty. Being a little wiser but not having much more money nor availability of quality gear, I **** due without a sleeping bag. I wrapped up in all I had- poncho and a space blanket and essentially slept in the fire... Actually had burn marks on my gear in the morning. Would get a little bit of sleep until the fire died down, then would wake up shivering, stocked the fire some, got back to sleep for a little while and went through that same process all night.

    The worst part on the last example was that we had to hike and shoot for qualification the following day, so I was dragging butt big time during those events as well.

    I vowed that when I started making money I was going to be sure I had good cold weather gear.

    Until you experience "the suck" like that, you may not "get it" why you need to invest in quality extreme cold weather gear.

    One of the guys this weekend had an issue with his car when he arrived and accidentally locked the keys in his car. Had to bust a window out to get the rest of his gear out for the class. He also forgot a heavy jacket. Seeing him suffer in the cold I gave him a Snupak Sleeka Elite jacket I had brought with me.

    It **** me think how many people will have to "embrace the suck" (re: bad conditions) due to poor planning on their end.

    While I used to get asked "why do you have extreme cold weather gear, you live in Florida?" I always replied that I had been in the field and gotten mild hypothermia a time or three and therefore understood the need for staying warm, getting a good night of sleep, etc. Often times when people aren't actually getting out and using their gear (like most "preppers" don't) they don't know what they don't know.

    Things I started keeping in packs year round-

    *A good set of silk weight undergarments for a base layer. These are super lightweight and take up little room.

    *All of my packs have a lightweight jacket that will compress into a stuff sack like a Sleeka Elite jacket-

    This gives me options for layering.

    *Extra socks for cold weather. I'm a fan of Thorlos.

    *Quality gloves. The mechanix gloves look all cool daddy on the shooting range, but they don't seem to help much in the cold and if they get damp your totally screwed. Look at some of the Outdoor Research brand of gloves for better options for cold weather.

    *Small compressible sleeping mat. There are cut down versions of Thermarests and Multimat that work well.

    *Small compact sleeping bag like a Snugpak Merlin or a Hawk. If conditions are expected to truly suck, then a larger bag or I will double one of these inside a larger bag.

    *Combat casualty blanket. The heavy green on one side and reflective on the other side ones.

    *Wet weather fire making aids- several lighters along with a little "Starter log" brand firestarter. These are small compressed starters, not a "log" in the sense of what you think. A couple split up pencil sized sections of lighter knot or "punk"- that's pitchy pine for you non southerners- are nice also. Conditions may be so bad that you have to start a fire on top of something else. I've seen moisture in the ground kill fires that were just getting started that guys had worked on for long periods of time. That plastic outer wrapper of your Israeli bandage, or the outer plastic from an MRE can be set down on damp ground and your fire started over that. I know, I know burning plastic and crybabies that revolve around that, but we are talking about crappy conditions here and potentially survival.

    Also it's important you manage yourself as well as your gear during cold weather. This means stuff like avoiding over heating (sweat is bad in cold weather) and being willing to shed a layer when necessary. Drink something warm when you can and be sure to eat a warm meal when possible.

    As it nears night, be sure to have any gear your going to switch out for sleeping located and prepped. This is different than car camping where you can offload all your crap and leave it laying about everywhere. Your gear should be ready to pick up and leave with at a minute's notice. So your sleeping gear shouldn't be unpacked until right before it's needed. And then it should be packed up immediately in the morning and your ruck re-packed and ready to go. Think "I need to be gone in less than a minute" and pack that way.
    Last edited by Lowdown3; 12-10-2020 at 09:36 AM. Reason: spelling

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  2. #2
    Great post/advice LD.
    Growing up in Ohio and being a boyscout I learned a lot about cold weather camping in my youth. Good quality gear will save your life.

    I use a lot of wool (socks, gloves, hats) and some of the surplus gear while heavy is worth the weight. I especially like the ECWCS expedition weight long johns for when the temps get into the teens and below.

    My cousin and I camped for a weekend in single digit weather a few years back and while it wasn't a day at the beach it wasn't bad because we prepared for it.

    One other thing that I've learned from years ago, Bic lighters don't function well in cold windy conditions. Keep them inside your coat next to your body AND keep a Zippo lighter with a piece of bike innertube over the joint where the lid closes. The innertube keeps the fluid from evaporating or leaking and in a pinch you can use a piece of the tube as a firestarter.

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