Buffalo Hiking Club Message Board › 'Tis the season for hypothermia

'Tis the season for hypothermia

Group Organizer
Buffalo, NY
Post #: 229
Hypothermia occurs when your core body temperature drops below the required temperature for normal metabolism and body functions. Other than being submerged in water, damp clothing in cool or cold weather is the major cause of hypothermia.

You can suffer hypothermia in temperatures in the 60's on nothing more than a day hike. Staying dry, hydrated, and energized are the main ways of fending off hypothermia.

You can get wet from the inside as well as the outside. Damp clothing from perspiration is just as much a risk as damp clothing from rain or snow. Dressing in layers allows you to regulate your perspiration to some degree. Carrying dry clothing (a light pair of rain pants and wind breaker serve several functions) allows you to get dry if your clothing becomes damp.

Synthetics like polyester and nylon do not retain water but rather allow it to move from your body to the exposed surface where it can evaporate. Natural fibers like wool and silk have less of a tendency to retain water than cotton, and provide insulation even when wet. The adage "cotton kills" comes from the fact that cotton soaks up water like a sponge, quickly becoming damp and heavy and increasing the risk of hypothermia. Nothing says "unprepared" like a pair of blue jeans on the trail.

To stay dry from outside sources, you should always have some sort of emergency rain gear, even if nothing more than a plastic bag or $1 poncho, although it would be best to have a rain poncho that covers you, your pack, and your legs at least to the point of your gaiters. Gaiters are worn to keep rain and melting snow from running into your boots. A rain jacket with a hood and rain pants also work.

Even moderate hypothermia can cause disorientation and confusion. A sense of overheating can occur with moderate hypothermia causing the victim to remover clothing, further accelerating the loss of core body temperature.

Staying dry, and getting dry if your clothing becomes wet, are the two most effective means of avoiding hypothermia.
A former member
Post #: 59
smileThank you for posting this, especially with the upcoming colder weather. But it is something that you have to think about year round.
A former member
Post #: 7
I agree Susan-- I've had to put on a hat and mittens in July in the high peaks. Also, it's easier to stay warm than it is to get warm, so people should put on another layer or two as soon as they stop for a break in cooler weather, even if they feel warm when they initially stop to rest.
A former member
Post #: 60
That's why we carry those items in our packs...thinking we'll never need them!
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