Oct 22, 2012 at 1:42 pm #1295442
Not sure if this should be in here, or General, but since this covers " Technique" I thought it may be close. Mods please move as you see fit.
We had a survival exercise last weekend. Daytime temps were ~70, night time temps ~50. No problem.
light LS merino top all day
Heavyweight LS cotton uniform shirt (required…ugh.)
50/50 cotton/poly uniform pants (only other authorized pants were 100% cotton, ugh.)
Polyprop liner socks
Heavyweight merino socks
In the pack:
Merino glove liners
leather gloves for rope-work (gardening gloves essentially)
merino neck gaiter
fleece balaclava (usually folded up and just used as a cap)
Second light LS merino top
light merino bottoms
uninsulated wind jacket (Eddie Bauer Scirocco)
I also had a heatsheets + SOL bivy (neither of which I used), a homemade-Tyvek Homewrap bivy (maiden flight, testing!), and a 5×7 cheap silnylon tarp.
We were allowed no lights (or anything which illuminates at all), no fires, no sleeping bags, nothing with an on/off switch, no food, no watches.
Tarp setup in the required location, slight hillside. Flatten a little in the remaining daylight (I'm 6'6" 230), tarp guyed out on the uphill-side to the ground, downhill side raised slightly on a pair of trekking poles. Lots of dry grass on the flat stop, bivy on top.
Cotton shirt is wet from the day's exercises, as is the merino top. Cotton comes off over a bush to try and dry it out while I set up the tent. Put the (dry, packed) merino layer on, the damp merino over it, the damp cotton over that. Merino legs on, under the 50/50 cotton/poly pants. Boots stay on but unlaced. Merino neck on, stretched up over the head, balaclava "cap style" on. Merino lines and leather gloves on. Legs up on pack. Targetted temp was 50F.
1) Too light on gear for 50F without getting into the Tyvek bivvy?
Dark hits, temps drop as expected. I start getting cold. Put the windbreaker on under the cotton shirt (to protect the light windbreaker a little.) Ground insulation okay, but I can really feel the heat escaping on top. Guessing because I'm damp, heating it up and it's just carrying all the heat away from me?
Get inside the Tyvek bivy. Holy crap it's really really really really loud even after softening it up.
Still feel the heat escaping both sides pretty badly. Duck down inside completely, can't feel feet, violent shivers now and then, but they didn't really feel uncontrolled. (Note, alum sheet + SOL bivy still packed but on my mind.)
Getting a bit colder. Mentally thinking this sucks. But it's only about 50F, I'm a wuss. Thinking that it sucks that I'm a wuss.
Wake up often; instructors come by periodically, don't pull anyone until the "pack up time" sometime just as the false-dawn is popping up … guessing around 6am (remember, no watches.) I'm dry, and achey (mostly in my back) and can barely stand up. I am dry.
Pack up, still cold out, get walking and moving gets the heat up well. Head to gather point and get a lift to the camp with a small fire going, coffee, etc.
Forecasted temp was 50. Actual temp ended up being 36F and slightly foggy.
1) How would you have handled the wet clothing? Put it inside with me as best as possible until it dries? It did seem much worse in the beginning of the night, which I am attributing to being wet and evaporative cooling losses.
2) Should I have gone with a normal A-frame instead of leaning it? I was mostly worried about the downdraft at night, almost no wind sidehill…very still.
3) I did not use the emergency blanket or SOL Bivy(by choice, I figured I was just being a wuss and it was only 50F.) Outside of using one or both of those, what other adjustments do you think could have helped?
-moxOct 22, 2012 at 2:01 pm #1923709
It was the heavy HomeWrap stuff.
It does not compress as well as other options.
It is heavier than other options.
It is insanely loud. It may quiet down through more use, or so I'm told.
It is stupid-cheap compared to a real bivy
It is slick; I was on a slight slope and it did like to slide a bit.
I went in wet. I put my head inside it of it most of the night. I was dry when I woke up with only the faintest hint of condensation on the inside…near my head and at the only point of the bag which was > 4-6 inches from me.
I think most "condensation" issues are around having a bivy too big. Mine was tight and I had zero issues. My theory is that if you keep it "tight" then you heat it up more and move the dew point to the outside of the bivy. If you go too big you cannot keep it (the air inside the bivy) warm enough and the dew point ends up inside with you. The gear outside of the bivy, but still under the tarp, was wet from mist/fog in the air.
When I was done, I brushed it off, folded it in half and rolled it up. Strap to outside of pack and done.
I would not hesitate to use it again, the noise notwithstanding.
-moxOct 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm #1923713
As far as the tarp, I would make sure it covered me enough to stop radiation heat loss. If it was foggy, that probably wasn't big though.
I think I would have gathered as much dry grass, etc. to pile under me to impede conduction to the ground. I think dry grass, etc. either inside the bivy or on top of the bivy may have helped out with convection losses as well.
I would have hiked in the least clothing possible to prevent cold wet clothes. At 70 degrees, I would have worn the thinnest thing I had. I think I would have left any wet clothes off of me. I would probably get the shoes off too.
And at 36 degrees, I might have still been cold.Oct 22, 2012 at 3:02 pm #1923723
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
One thing that's important to note is that 50 degrees is prime hypothermia temp. In Alaska it's a killer because it's warm enough that people get complacent and don't wear the proper layers. Alaska kills more people in the summer from hypothermia (50 degrees is a normal night time temp for us in the middle of summer) than in the winter. It's also a fact that humans are tropical animals and we don't generate a lot of heat when at rest. 50 degrees is plenty cold enough, at night. No wonder you were shivering.
Personally I would have used every layer I had that was dry and would have utilized nature in whatever way I could (dried grass or dead leaves for ground insulation, as an example).
Why no fire allowed?Oct 22, 2012 at 4:45 pm #1923745
@rexLocale: Central California Coast
If you are getting cold, use everything you have, and everything you can think of, to stay warm and get warmer. You are not wimping out, you are preventing further problems.
Wet cotton kills in cool weather. Take it off, and keep it away, you aren't going to dry wet cotton overnight with limited body heat, and you don't want to. Think how much energy a clothes dryer takes to dry your cotton clothing.
I was shivering violently wearing a wet cotton t-shirt under a 3 mm wetsuit, running around on a sunny-but-cool spring day on the river. Everyone else in similar wet suits was happy. Within 30 minutes of taking off that t-shirt, I was happy.
Wet merino wool is better than cotton. But you should try to dry it before you put it on – like wringing it out, and swinging it around the (still dryish) evening air.
As others said, use dry vegetation for insulation. Afraid of creepy-crawlies? Pack the grass and leaves into garbage bags, stuff sacks, packs, or unused clothing and use like blankets.
You didn't seem to have this problem, but sleeping on wet ground can suck a lot of heat too. Move to dryer ground. If you can't, put more insulation underneath you.
Behavioral changes: Give up on sleeping continuously through the night. Get up and do jumping jacks or run in place for a while to warm up. Then try to sleep. If you get to the shivering stage, repeat.
Do not let yourself get into the violently shivering stage for very long, you'll only go downhill from there.
Do not tolerate your feet staying cold for long periods – you can cause permanent problems, like enhanced cold sensitivity in your feet.
As you get colder, you get dumber. That's why you need to do everything you can to keep from getting too cold.
Why no fires, …? Probably so you'll learn. I never wore a cotton t-shirt in those conditions again!Oct 22, 2012 at 4:52 pm #1923751
sounds like you used natural material for warmth under you, take advantage of it as insulating material above as well- you can even cram into the bivy if there is room (heck you even cram into your pants/shirt etc- think strawman :))
if I'm going to spend the night out w/o fire, it's going to be in a debris shelter- stretch the heasheet over the top of your framework and then pile on the insulation (in and outside)- now it's warm and nearly waterproof as wellOct 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm #1923752
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I too wore a cotton shirt on some windy, rainy mountain.
Took the shirt off and I was warmer.
It was my base layer so I had to strip to nothing which was funny in the wind and wet.Oct 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm #1923754
@jdw01776Locale: Southeast Texas
I would have replaced the extra merino shirt and windshell with a synthetic insulated puffy, put that over the damp merino shirt, and not put the cotton shirt on until I was ready to hike out in the morning and generating some body heat…Oct 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm #1923756
Thanks everyone for the feedback.
I was considering leaving the cotton off, and the damp merino. I figured, perhaps incorrectly, that the extra layer(s) would help even if damp.
Adding more debris on top would have worked. I definitely should have considered it, or better yet, had it on-hand prior.
It was a "replicate someone lost" (even though we were allowed a few things that a true "lost hiker" may not have.) Everyone figured on "cool/chilly" but not quite to that level. I'd even left my fleece and "cold weather" gear in the car, opting only to carry the cool-weather stuff. (Had another heavy layer of merino in the car, along with fleece and heavy gloves.)
I was wearing everything I had — I could have moved my feet into my pack..might have helped. Losing the damp layers may have been the best move, but I couldn't fathom that I'd be better off without it than with it. I honestly did consider it briefly, but with merino being warmish while damp and the wet cotton outside my wind jacket I thought I was doing the right thing. Live and learn. :)
I've been trying to get allowances to get away from cotton-anything gear as mandatory, but only having limited success. Will keep working on them. :)
Thanks again! Things like the debris-shelter I'd completely overlooked, and the information on hypo at 50F was interesting. Didn't know you could have issues that 'warm.'
I can't say I'm anxious to replicate to try it out but… a small sick part of me is kinda curious just how it would feel and work out…
-moxOct 22, 2012 at 8:58 pm #1923779
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Daytime 70 F (10 C): skip the LS merino top, keep it dry, run cool all day. Wear as little as possible in the day!
Cotton clothing: if part of the exercise was to show you just how bad cotton is in the field, they sure succeeded. If cotton is the default clothing for that organisation and they won't change that for ideological reasons, consider changing organisations. Wet cotton is a known killer. It's your life. (And I do mean it has killed people in the field.)
Night-time 36 F (2 C):
Strip off ALL wet cotton!!!! In fact, strip off all wet clothing. Stash to side.
Build up grass layers to ridiculous height as a pad – it will squash down.
Put on all merino thermal layers.
Put on fleece balaclava fully deployed over head and merino neck gaiter and gloves.
Put on wind jacket.
Get inside a bivy sack and leave only face open.
Drape emergency blanket over top
Use wet clothing and shoes as a pillow, with a waterproof cover to keep your clothing dry.
In the morning, stay dry and warm until the very last minute. If you KNOW that the exercise ends that day, you could consider putting the wet cotton over the top of a layer of dry merino. Otherwise change at the very last minute and start moving fast.
No Food: really bad scene. My recommendation there would be to cheat. We NEVER go out without emergency high-calorie food. There's always some in the pack. Eat the lot, fairly early.
Why didn't you use the extra gear you had? This is not a silly question. I suspect you were too cold to think properly about this at the time. Yes, this happens! It is not a criticism.
CheersOct 22, 2012 at 9:16 pm #1923788
@rexLocale: Central California Coast
One more caution: I've seen people shivering violently with an air temperature of 70° F. They were soaking wet from getting splashed by 55° F water, wearing cotton cut-off jeans and cotton t-shirts, in the shade, with the wind blowing, not moving around much, tired, hungry, and probably dehydrated.
It doesn't have to be "cold" to get into trouble. The best solution is to stay out of trouble.Oct 23, 2012 at 1:02 am #1923818
No food was a requirement; had to skip dinner the evening before as well. I had a light lunch ~3pm. Didn't really notice being hungry all that much.
The shivers were strong, but were controllable (I could consciously stop them) and they subsided relatively quickly. The decision to not use the alum/SOL was based on "I'm cold, but not ice cold (except for my feet! :) and it's only about 50F."
Later in the night when I finally dried out the difference was huge, and it became "I'm just really annoyingly cold" instead of "stupid popsicle cold." Hard to say how much was impaired after a 6am rise + full day humping gear around some steep hills and skipping dinner .. and then into improvised shelters and being cold. I did not feel groggy or slow at all mentally but that does not mean that I wasn't. Having the heavy Tyvek really made a huge huge difference. A few people did break out the SOLs…one person just had on some more layers and used a couple plastic bags for the night. He had on better gear than I had for cold weather with fleece and heavy gloves and a jacket though.
Every time I shifted though, and that bivy popped open even a tad…hoo brother you'd better believe I knew it instantly and got that sucker closed right back up. With a little dead-air space (couple inches tops) between myself and the bivy wall .. worked good. Touch that wall, though, and you could feel the heat sucked right out through that spot. Was kinda cool, actually, noticing the variations.
Okay, so tally so far:
* Use more debris under; did not recognize just how much the layers I did put down would get crushed during the night. The extra padding never hurts either.
* Use debris around/above. Better than circulating air there!
* Break out the blankets/SOLs
* Lose the cotton gear completely; better none than wet.
Thanks for more feedback! I know a lot of your are UL-in-the-snow and while I'm MLife here and this was borderline due to the "survival" aspect, who better to know than those who are already pushing the limits and have been out there and doing it? The survival-type forums all seem to be populated with "yer dumb, use an ECWCS system" type mentality. I may be dumb, but that's not really a constructive response either. Thanks for being constructive and the solid feedback! What happened was far outside where I've been or where I was expecting to be, but I'm still alive so it's good to learn for later/next-time!
-moxOct 23, 2012 at 1:17 am #1923820
I had taken 2 Aleve (NSAID painkiller, naproxen sodium) earlier.
It's possible that I was colder than I actively recognized, but masked by the painkillers. Might have been a good thing. :)Oct 23, 2012 at 2:15 am #1923822
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> It's possible that I was colder than I actively recognized, but masked by the
> painkillers. Might have been a good thing. :)
Might equally have been extremely dangerous, masking your normal reactions!
CheersOct 23, 2012 at 3:25 am #1923828
@oiboyroiLocale: South West US
I would've done the same thing clothing-wise, depending on how wet the cotton shirt was. If it was soaked though, then it would come off. If you can eliminate cotton altogether, great. Maybe put the wind-shirt on the outside – they seem help speed drying a bit.
Something not mentioned so far … Curling into a ball would keep warmer. Minimizing contact with the ground would help too. I'd lean up on tree and sleep that way. Wrap up in the tarp and whatever else you had.
Why no fire? A small one (or even a candle) under your legs while sleeping as described above would keep you quite cozy. They're easy to hide too, aside from the smell.Oct 23, 2012 at 3:51 am #1923829
Who was running this exercise?!?!?!?
Did you pay for this experience with money or just the discomfort that you experienced?
"We were allowed no lights (or anything which illuminates at all), no fires, no sleeping bags, nothing with an on/off switch, no food, no watches".
Sue me for being a boy scout, but I never leave home without a light source, two "edged tools" of some sort and two sources of ignition a.k.a. fire.
I live in hurricane alley and never leave home without a Bail Out Bag. There is one in every vehicle and my EDC day pack goes to and from work with me. In them are a synthetic change of clothes, some insulating layers & vapor barriers along with some admittedly aged snacks. ;-)
In this type of situation use everything at your disposal to keep your core temperature at a normal 98.6*.
NewtonOct 23, 2012 at 5:10 am #1923843
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
While I agree with most that has been said here, there are a couple caveats I would be aware of, especially in your position.
While hiking: Remove the merino wool base layer. 70F is too warm for both a shirt(required) and a base layer.
Wet Cotton: How wet is wet? Soaked, dripping cotton I would wring out very tightly. At least the exercise will warm you up a bit. Even heavily dampened cotton will assist to hold heat with the two base layers. You done good! Cotton is actually a very good insulator, some rate it on a par with wool. Trouble is, it soaks water into the molecular makeup making it very, very, difficult to dry. Nothing to be done, so, ignore it. Just keep away from your skin, it doesn't really matter… condensation will not be a big issue for 8-10 hours. You will have some.
You likely wasted time with a shelter. Prepare a bed with 12-16" of dried grass. Lay out your tarp, one edge over the bed, and lay an additional 12"-16" of dried grass allover it. Set the bivy on the opposite edge, gathered more dried grass and stuffing that fairly well, allowing for getting into it. (Under your shirt too, unless it was tight. This will also seperate the wet shirt from the dry wool layers.) Put the wind breaker on, stuffing that with grass. It supplies little in the way of insulation, alone. Everything(except the bivy) needs to be tightly stuffed! It will compress with your weight, don't worry about overstuffing. Get in the bivvy, maneuvering the grass as you can to get in. This will take a few minutes. Grab the tarp, as low as you can, and roll, trying to maintain the insulation in the "roll". A lot of the grass will puff out the bottom. That's OK, as long as the tarp covers you, you should have trapped enough insulation to keep you comfortably warm for sleeping. (Spit out any grass that covers you face and mouth.) Pull the tarp over your head. Don't worry about condensation for a single night, it is more important to retain every bit of heat. The Balaclava should be used as such. Every bit of skin exposed to the air, will cost more heat loss than covered skin. Your head, should have hair on it for insulation, unless it is too thin to matter (like mine.) Double layering it will likely just mat it down more.
Holding the "burrito" style sleeping bag tightly around you, it is possible to scoop spilled grass around you, building up a "nest" or wind break. Any grass that spills out under you will become part of your bed or windbreak anyway.
Heat sheet, SOL blanket should have been used. Why Not??? If I am facing a cold night, I would use as much as I have and do what I can do to stay warm.
The coldest part of the day is predawn. Plan for it. Hmm…I forgot to mention to urinate before rolling in. After dark, your "sleeping bag" could be impossible to find without a light. It will likely come apart during your sleep. Redoo what you can once or twice…difficlt with no light, though. The exercise will not hurt.
Anyway, the resulting burrito blanket keeps you as warm as possible with SUL gear. If you had more time, a debris shelter would be nice, but the tarp burrito works well enough for a few hours, in the event of rain…
Don't worry too much about IR losses. Rather concentrate on conduction and convection, first. Then an IR shelter, if you have time before dark.Oct 23, 2012 at 6:22 am #1923857
I applaud you for getting out and practicing- looks like you've learned plenty already :)
Without actually spending some nights out in a impromptu bivy or building a debris shelter or starting a fire in extremely challenging conditions, etc- you'll never really know how prepared (or unprepared) you are
I've spent numerous rather miserable nights out in varying conditions with varying gear and while certainly not invincible, I'm very confident that with a little forethought on what I have with me (and the knowledge of using it), that I can spend an unexpected night out with out too much wear and tear.
I'm taking my guys out this coming winter where we'll no doubt spend a miserable night out, but they will learn how effective a snow trench is, how a couple of small candles can add considerable heat to a small shelter, how to start (and keep going) a fire in less than optimum conditions and how important clothing selection is (amongst many other things I'm certain)
practice lets you build a skill set, lets you know what works and what doesn't and maybe most importantly gives you the confidence that you will survive (I think folks tend to under estimate the mental aspect of survival)
keep practicing :)Oct 23, 2012 at 10:09 am #1923897
+1 for what James and Mike M stated and suggested in their posts.
I have experienced the shivering "response" while camping outdoors and I have been to and through heat exhaustion. My hiking partner "Lazarus" jokes that I have seen the coldest and the hottest days in our local state park. I've also "bonked" for lack of elctrolytes. Experience is the best teacher if it doesn't kill you. My bout of heat exhaustion was at home in our back yard while doing yard work! A survival "event" doesn't have to be in a wilderness or deserted locale.
Laz and I went out purposely during very cold temps in our state park to test out our shelter and sleep systems for an upcoming hike. We froze our assets off but learned a lot.
James made a good point about relieving yourself before turning in. Your body is trying to warm itself with the shivering response. A full bladder is a container of useless fluid that your body is trying to keep at 98.6* by shivering. If you "eliminate" it you'll be and feel warmer.
Do some sort of exercise like James mentioned before turning in to warm yourself up.
Could you have relocated a little higher but below any rideline and gotten in-between some of the trees and used them as a windbreak? I don't remember seeing a reference to wind if any in your post(s).
I've noticed a decidedly solo approach to most of our suggestions on this thread. How about becoming rather "chummy" with other members of this group and sharing the wealth of what warmth you possesed as a group?
I am still bothered by the no fire rule! ;-?
Fire + Water + Food = Survival
Fire gives warmth, light, a way to treat drinking water and a "sense" of well being. Water is more necessary than food for a short "survival" stint. Food on the other hand and the calories in it will aid in keeping you warm.
BTW I'm curious as to whether or not there was any kind of first aid kit available to the group or in your individual pack. I keep one in each of my vehicles and in my EDC bag.
NewtonOct 23, 2012 at 11:54 am #1923919
It was to simulate what it's like to be a lost day-hiker who gets stuck out overnight. Most lost day hikers have even less than what we were allowed, so we cannot complain too much. Thus, solo with no food, fire, sleeping bags, etc. The "no watch" was an interesting twist though; could not even tell how much longer we had left to suffer!
I had my personal medical kit. There was also a stocked camp about 1/2 mile away with multiple vehicles, medical supplies and multiple personnel. They checked in with us multiple times during the night. So, semi-controlled "lost."
As UL backpackers, sometimes things go awry. People on here have been there, so I'm looking to learn from them as much as I can so I do not have to figure it all out the hard/uncomfortable way. :)
We had 16 people out, ranging from early 20s to late 40s, both male and female. Everyone was in the same boat, but no one appeared too worse for wear in the morning. I was one of the last people into camp the previous evening, cleaning up gear and repacking in the field, so everyone else had time to get rested, dried off, get some food and relax before the overnight exercise.
I had about 15-20 minutes between the time I got back to when we were walking out again. Lucky me. :)
Backstory and history aren't relevant though… I had what I had and I want to do better next time. And hopefully far more comfortable to boot! =)
-moxOct 23, 2012 at 11:57 am #1923921
Interesting point about urinating before sleeping.
I'd always thought that have the fluid in you actually helped. Once it was warm it was not exposed to outside elements so it actually acted as a heat reservoir (internal warm water bottle!)
May have to research that. What's the overall consensus here, discomfort notwithstanding?
To Pee Or Not To Pee, That Is Thine Question.
-moxOct 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm #1923924
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Uh, oh,… not another Pee War.
It doesn't matter 'slong as you are comfortable.
No more on that subject….Oct 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm #1923927
James, yer innate sense of humor should tell you that Mike's just kidding!Oct 23, 2012 at 12:51 pm #1923928
The "hosts" of this exercise seemed to have given the participants a lot of wiggle room on the "allowed" gear.
A day hiker would probably have a lumbar pack or a small capacity day pack like a Flash 18 and maybe 1 liter of water. A tarp and a bivy would probably have been a no show in either pack.
Nothing with an on/off switch is a limitation that I would question. Very few people these days go anywhere without their cell phone. They talk, text, IM and take pictures & videos. That would be a source of some minimal light and possible communication. These days with the right GPS app, you're on your way home and not lost anymore.
I have no problems with the available and worn clothing except the dedicated "leather gloves for rope-work". ;-?
Urination?!? Sooner or later it will happen. L O L
Do it first and stay as insulated as you can for as long as you can.
NewtonOct 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm #1923932
Yes, I had the gloves for rope work.
Hikers may have had extra food, maybe even a lighter, cell phone, etc.
Give and take, lots of wiggle room. It wasn't Survivor … just a drill with some given limitations. Don't read into it too much. :)
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