The Psychology of Survival | Surviving the Elements-Part 5

Surviving the Elements

Protection from the elements is a top priority in almost every survival situation, even those that are not medical emergencies. Overexposure to heat, cold, wind, and humidity can quickly cause damage to the body. While some stories are true that the body can withstand extreme hardships and suffering, it’s better to avoid it than to suffer it. It is better to have shelter early on in the game than to suffer unnecessary psychological and physical distress.

A structured approach to survival in the wilderness is essential. You must take each step and stay ahead of the game. This chapter will cover a few basics.

  • Make sure you have the right clothing and equipment.
  • Keep dry.
  • Keep cool or warm as the season requires.
  • Get emergency shelter.
  • If possible, get off the ground.

Your shelter

We are, unlike other animals, without feathers. We can’t sink into the mud, dehydrate and then miraculously re-emerge from suspended animation until the next rainfall. We can’t eat one last feast, then crawl into a cave and hibernate till spring. Human beings are the most delicate of all animals. Our skin is not designed to withstand stings, bites, the effects of harsh sunlight, a thorny herb, or cold winds. Death is defined as a change of just a few degrees in the body’s core temperature.

We are not able to survive in harsh environments if we dress as we were born. Our survival is dependent on our ability to manipulate our environment using shelter and clothing. Clothing becomes our primary shelter when we are unable to rely on the vehicle or structure for protection.

Season is an important consideration, but proper clothing provides protection against more than heat and cold. It protects against sun, wind and insect bites. Real clothing is essential for outdoor life. Beware of the popular TV shows that show beachwear in survival situations. Long sleeves, long pants and sturdy footwear are the best options for protecting against nature’s weapons. I prefer a pair lightweight cotton/nylonblend, zip-off cargo pant because they offer good protection. They also allow me to choose whether the temperature is hot or cold. Layering a lightweight, long-sleeve shirt over a T-shirt gives warmth, protection from bugs, and allows me to remove or add what I need.


Zip-off cargo pants

Zip-off cargo pants are great for warm weather. They provide leg protection and the option to wear shorts if you don’t need full coverage.

The best clothing for hot weather is one that protects you from the sun’s rays and allows your body to cool off through evaporation. Lightweight, translucent fabrics should reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them. To reduce overheating and sweating, ventilation is essential. Loose fitting is more comfortable. It allows for air to circulate around your skin, which promotes cooling. Sturdy shoes or boots not only protect your feet from impact injuries but also keep you safe from sun- and heat-burned feet. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your neck and ears. You can also wrap a handkerchief around your baseball cap’s sides and back, French Foreign Legion-style. UV- protective sunglasses complete your daytime wardrobe. You can also have an insulating layer that you can add to your outfit for nighttime cold weather.


wide-brimmed hat

To limit sun exposure, a wide-brimmed hat is recommended. However, if you don’t have a wide-brimmed hat, a piece or cloth can be tucked into the back of the hat (or draped over your head) for shade.

It is crucial to choose the right clothing material for cold weather. Veteran outdoormen have a saying about winter clothing: “Cotton Kills.” This sounds grim but cot-ton actually absorbs and retains water. Hypothermia can be caused by moisture being held close to the body. Cotton is one fabric that can cause problems if you are not careful. Today’s clothing is largely made from cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester. This applies even to clothing found in good outdoor equipment shops. You can choose from other materials if you wish, but cotton should be dried well in outdoor environments. The best fabrics move moisture away from your body via wicking action, which is ideal for clothing that is worn in wet or cold weather. Both natural and synthetic fabrics can provide superior wicking properties. Wool is the best natural fibre, while polyester blends and polypropylene are the most popular synthetics. If you are thinking that synthetic fibres will be better than wool, then lightweight merino wool garments can be used as the closest layer to the body or as mid-layers. They are as soft against the skin as brushed cotton. Many wool clothes can be machine washed. You can find wool clothing online at places like Cabela’s (, L. L. Beans ( and REI (

Layers that trap air are best for cold weather clothing. This will allow you to retain heat. Layers allow you to add or remove clothing depending on the weather conditions. The base layer, insulation, and outer shell are the three primary layers. Each layer can be opened with buttons, zippers, or other means. Instead of being a pullover you can vent body heat and moisture.

Multiple layers of clothing for cold weather

Multiple layers of clothing can trap air and provide insulation in cold conditions. An intermediate insulation layer is a layer that wicks away body water. This layer is then covered by a windproof, breathable shell layer.

The undergarment layer serves two primary purposes: it holds body-temperature air close to the skin and wicks moisture away from the skin. Loft that traps warm air is one of the most important features of every insulation layer. You might have to wear more depending on conditions. Natural insulation materials such as down are better when dry, but they absorb water and lose their loft when wet, making them poor insulators. Synthetics work best in damp conditions. The shell layer should be windproof and waterproof. It should also be breathable to allow moisture to pass through the fabric to the environment.

Rapid heat loss occurs from the neck, wrists and head. Therefore, cold-weather clothing must include these important features:

  • A hood that can be adjusted to fit over the head and around your face in order to reduce air movement around the neck and head.
  • Sleeves with adjustable wrist closures.
  • To prevent air from moving around the body, there is a drawstring at the waist. There is also a drawstring at bottom of shell.
  • The shell layer should be sufficiently long to cover your hips.
  • Ventilation should be adjusted to allow perspiration moisture to escape.

keeping yourself warm in winter with multiples layer of clothing

WHEN your hands or feet get cold, cover your head. This old saying from the woodsman describes how important it was to prevent body heat from leaving your neck and head, which are areas that lose warmth quickly. A hood adds valuable protection

For cold weather clothing, I use Thermax undergarments and then either a wool shirt, or a combination fleece insulation items such as a vest, long-sleeved jacket, and a vest. A hooded, oversized shell parka is my outer shell. It’s waterproof, windproof, and breathable. The jacket is long enough to cover my hips. It also has a snow skirt that covers the bottom of my waist. There are wrist closures and pit zips for ventilation. To protect my ears and neck, I wear a fleece cap with side covers. I use Thermax undergarments to protect my lower body. Then, I wear a pair wool pants. I may wear synthetic pants, or wool pants, depending on the weather conditions. Then, add a windproof layer to my trousers. Windproof pants made from waterproof, breathable materials allow your body’s moisture to escape and keep rain or snow from entering from the outside.

If it is extremely cold, I prefer to wear mittens over gloves. A mitten allows fingers to share warmth, while gloves isolate the fingers and can cause them to become cold. Windstopper gloves are my choice for hand protection in moderate weather conditions. For protection against frostbite in cold and windy conditions, I wear a neoprene shield around my face that wraps around the top of my head.

mittens to keep warm in extreme cold

Mittens are better than gloves for extreme cold.

Your feet (and your hands!) are the first to be affected by cold weather. Your choice of footwear will depend on the conditions. You can choose from waterproof hiking boots, Sorels with felt lined to socks made of wool or arctic mukluks. Avoid putting your feet in tight boots. This can cause frostbite and inhibit circulation.

Be careful when dressing. You can use your clothes as a shelter from the elements.

The shelter you have

If you plan to spend more than one night in the backcountry, you will need a shelter system that includes a tent and a sleeping system. The shelter you choose to carry is the most basic survival gear. It must be selected taking into account the weather and “anticipated”, which should include anything that might be expected in the worst-case scenario. Although it is possible to build adequate shelters from materials found in nature, these shelters may not be as efficient as those designed for this purpose. Additionally, the time and effort required to gather and construct them can drain valuable energy.


Tent is the next level of shelter after clothing. There was a time in my life when I preferred a more primitive lifestyle. I have spent many nights sleeping under the truck or inside a cave just to escape the unexpected drizzle at night. It works, but I find it better to have a tent.

There is no one tent that’s perfect for every occasion, so depending on the circumstances and how many people are involved, I have several options. Sometimes I head out on the trail, knowing that Tm will slip my backpack over my shoulders as he drives the truck to the next destination. Sometimes, my whole family will camp next to the truck. These are the circumstances that will tell me if I should take my ultra-lightweight backpack tent, or my big cabin tent.

The main differences between tents aren’t their size and shape. Let’s now take a look at some of the most important things to consider when choosing a tent. These are some of the questions that you should ask:

  • Which is the most common use of the tent? Camping close to the vehicle or backpacking?
  • How many people will use the tent at once?
  • Is cost a major factor?
  • Will the tent be used mostly during mild weather and summer months?

There are some tents that are suitable for car camping. These tents are large and heavy and are ideal for those who don’t plan to backpack. These tents can have vertical walls along their sides and ceilings that reach seven feet high. This gives them plenty of space to move around and allows for cots. You have all the comforts and conveniences of home. This tent measures 10 by 20 feet and can sleep 12 people. It costs several hundred dollars. You can also find a cabin tent that measures 9×12 feet and sleeps five. It weighs less than 25 lbs, is much cheaper, and has a smaller footprint. There are many options.

Perhaps you prefer a dome tent which is great for family use. Dome tents are very interesting for several reasons. You don’t have to stake them to the ground or use guy lines to support them. A dome tent can be easily set up in one spot and then moved to another. They can withstand strong winds. An 8-by-8-foot dome can be compacted and weighed in at 10 pounds. It sleeps four people.

compact dome tent

compact dome tent offers adequate sleeping persons for two to four persons

A compact dome tent is ideal for small groups of two to four people.

The Kamp-Rite Tent Cot I purchased from Paha Que Wilderness, Inc. ( is one of my shelters. It takes me only two minutes to set up this shelter. Installing the rain fly takes another minute. The rain fly is placed on a fitted sheet with a few tie-downs at each end. The Tent Cot, as the name suggests, is a cot that has a tent on top. It has zip-opening doors at both ends and sides, as well as no-see-um zippers to protect against bloodsuckers. This arrangement allows for total control over ventilation, privacy and protection from wind and rain. The cot rises about a foot off the ground so that nothing crawly or creepy can bother. It also prevents direct contact with cold, wet or lumpy ground. The Tent Cot can withstand harsh conditions and is suitable for military use. Paha Que actually received a letter from an Iraqi soldier who said that he had used a Tent Cot for 16 months in the combat theater. The company made a strong and reliable product, which he praised. The Tent Cot can be cumbersome and bulky to transport. Although it can be carried with a vehicle, it is not practical for backpacking.

tent cot

A TENT cot is a shelter that raises you from the ground. These cots are useful for camping with motor vehicles, but they’re too heavy for backpackers.

Ultralight backpack tents are at the other end of this scale. These tents are great for small spaces and when compact size is important. This tent offers more space and standing room than the other options. These tents provide basic shelter with a low profile. They are intended for either sleeping or providing refuge from the storm. Tents aren’t sold by the pound because they can be more expensive than big cabin tents.

Once you have decided on the general shape and size, select the right type of material. A mistake here can lead to misery. Problem is that humans are naturally humid creatures. When we seal up a waterproof tent, the moisture quickly condenses inside the material creating an indoor rainstorm. Tent manufacturers have developed clever ways to keep the humidity out, while still allowing for bad weather. They use the right materials and design ventilation openings.

Canvas was used in early tents, and many are still made today. Because the material is porous, it allows for humidity to escape to the outside. The shelter is water-resistant, even though it can be damaged by moisture from hard rains. When the canvas is wet, capillary action causes water to flow through the fabric and cause a leak. Canvas can be heavy and bulky if it has been exposed to a lot water. It will also mildew or rot if it is not dried thoroughly before being packed away.

Because nylon is lightweight and durable, it is very popular as a tent material. Nylon is easy to dry after a storm, and it resists mildew. There are several types of nylon that can be used to make tents. Taffeta is more heavy and durable and is waterproof-coated with urethane. It is also used for flooring and rainflies. Ripstop nylon is distinguished by its distinctive reinforcing threads, which run about every quarter inch. Ripstop nylon is lighter than taffeta and therefore can be used to make tent walls or roofs. Ripstop nylon without a coating is not waterproof so waterproof rainflies are used to protect the roof from rain.

Gore-Tex is a high-tech material that is waterproof and breathable. These materials can be used to make a roof or walls that shed water, but allow for interior moisture to flow through to the exterior. This makes it possible to get rid of the rain fly. Although these tents can be more costly and need to be handled with care, they are usually lighter and compact and easier to set up (because there isn’t a fly).

There are many ways to stitch tent material. Not all of them are equally good. Double-stitched felled seams have a higher strength rating. This can be seen by looking at the seams. There are two rows of stitching and the edges are folded in half to interlock the fabric before stitching. You should examine the stitch count to ensure that the seams are between 6-12 stitches per inch. Less than 6 stitches won’t give the seam enough strength, while more than 12 will weaken it. Straight stitching is best. The best thread for sewing is cotton/polyester. It swells slightly when it’s wet to seal the seams. Nylon thread can be too stiff and cut fabric if tension is applied.

The following are some of the most important characteristics to look out for in a tent:

  • A waterproof floor that extends approximately 6 inches above the walls from all sides.
  • Vent windows and doors that can be screened to allow cross-ventilation and keep bugs out. It is easier to see through dark-coloured netting than lighter-coloured.
  • A tarp over the entrance to keep the rain out.
  • Internal pockets for small items like eyeglasses and other miscellaneous things.

It is easier to erect support poles hollow that are connected with elastic cord than separate poles. You won’t require special features such as snow tunnels or holes for cooking unless you are an expedition camper.

To keep the fabric from being destroyed, it is important to take care of a tent. Before you erect the tent, remove any debris from the ground. For extra protection, you might consider covering the ground with a hard plastic tarp and then setting up the tent on top of the tarp. To avoid causing damage to the floor, it is a good idea to take off your shoes and boots before you enter. For sweeping up dirt, bugs, or leaves that have managed to get in, a small whisk broom can be handy. To avoid damage to the bug screens, you should carefully operate the zippers. After the trip is completed, put the tent in a yard or garage to dry it.

Family Tent


The FAMILY tent has bug screens and plenty of space for everyone to relax.

A good tent can last almost a lifetime if it is well cared for and chosen carefully. The next thing is a good sleeping bag.

Sleeping Bag

Some memories, especially the most painful ones, refuse to go away. Let’s take, for instance, my first Boy Scout outing. I was carrying a brand new sleeping bag, stuffed with kapok material, and marched into camp. The other boy asked me a technical question as I unfolded my sleeping bag. Then I had a brief lapse. The material began with the letter K, so all I could remember was that. So I mumbled the first thing I thought of. The word I came up was not related to sleeping bags. It is more commonly used as a feminine hygiene product. I almost died twice on that camping trip. I nearly died twice, once from embarrassment, and again because my sleeping bag was so heavy that it almost made me freeze to death.

Today’s sleeping bags are far more advanced than the old technology. A high-quality sleeping bag will cost you several hundred dollars, which is a far cry from my old kapok-filled bag. Then again, you need to ask yourself: What is comfort worth? Comfort is more important to me as I age.

A good sleeping bag is an essential piece of outdoor gear. A good sleeping bag can save your life. It acts as shelter and helps to maintain your body temperature. What are the characteristics and qualities of a good sleeping bag, you ask? These are some important things to keep in mind when shopping for your next sleeping bag.

  • Insulation value. The insulation value of your bag should be matched to the season and the location where you will use it. For summer camping in the Deep South, a bag that is minus-20 degrees F is not ideal.
  • Weight. If you’re backpacking, lighter is better. However, if your gear is in a car, it may not be the best option.
  • Loft. Loft refers to the measurement of the insulation thickness of a sleeping bag. Loft insulation is good insulation that traps air between the fibers. It’s this dead air that keeps you warm.
  • Fit. It is up to you. However, for maximum warmth, it is important that the bag fits snugly but still allows you to move freely inside. You should have enough space for your feet and toes in the foot box. You should ensure that the foot box has enough room to accommodate your chest, shoulders, and height. Bags made for women are sometimes a bit narrower at the shoulder, but have more room for your hips.
  • Details of construction. To prevent cold air from entering a cold-weather bag, it should have an insulated draft tub running the length the bag’s zipper. Large pull tabs are required for zippers so that you can reach them even when gloves are on. The zipper will not catch the bag lining material if there is a layer of stiff material between the two. A fully insulated hood should be adjustable with a drawstring. Extra insulation in the footbox and torso will increase comfort. You should look for construction techniques that do not allow for sewn-through seams, which can lead to poor insulation.
  • Accessories. To keep your sleeping bag dry and protected, get a waterproof stuffsack.
  • Maintenance. Machine washing is possible for most bags made of man-made insulation material, but not for down bags. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when cleaning the bag. The bag should be opened and allowed to air out. Bags that are not kept open will allow the insulation material to expand.
  • Insulation material. This contest is won by Mother Nature. Prime goose down is the best insulation for sleeping bags. Goose down also compresses well, making it simple to stuff the bag in a small bag. These are the main factors in choosing the best sleeping bag insulation. However, life isn’t always so simple.

Temperature Ratings of Sleeping Bags

When shopping for a sleeping bag, be sure to check the temperature rating tag as well as the information about the insulation material.

Down has its positive qualities but there are some downsides. Down stops insulation when it gets wet. The down will also escape from the insulation layer if it is dry. Under certain conditions, down can clump into lumpy globs and leave areas without insulation. Four, even the most fluffy goose down can become compressed under your body weight, leaving you with no insulation or comfort padding.

Do not be misled, I don’t condemn down bags. I actually own one. To make sure that the bag works properly, I cover it with an insulating pad to give it extra insulation. It is kept away from campfires, as sparks could burn through the bag and cause feathers to escape.

Polarguard 3D, a man-made material that is nearly as effective as down in insulation, has been developed. This material is incredibly strong and won’t clump. It also won’t escape from a bag that has been ripped or burnt. The material is synthetic and does not absorb moisture. It can be soaked and wrung out.

Synthetic insulation bags are a lot cheaper than down ones. A 15-degree Lamina bag by Mountain Hardwear, which weighs in at four pounds and fourteen ounces, costs around $140. Compare that to a 15-degree Phantom down bag made by the same company, which weighs in at 1 pound 15 ounces and drains your wallet to the tune $350. A 3-pound weight loss is expensive. What would you do with $200? Perhaps buy some new clothing or a waterproof vest.

Although synthetics are lighter than down, they have the disadvantage of being bulkier and require a heavier bag. You might be able get by with less compressible synthetic insulation under your shoulders and hips.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Choose the bag that best suits your activity and transportation mode. Synthetics are best if you plan on kayak camping in the rainy season, and you don’t want to get wet. Down is the best choice if you are backpacking to a dry camp, where you will be sleeping on a mattress inside a tent that’s guaranteed to stay dry.


You will be much more comfortable if you have a closed-cell foam pad under your sleeping bag or a self-inflating mattress. Any insulation underneath your bag will be better than the ground. Conduction refers to heat transfer when you come in contact with cold objects (like the ground). Conduction resistance is provided by any dry insulation that prevents direct contact with cold objects. This resistance is known as the material R value. The better the R value is, the more durable the material.

These are the qualities that make a mattress or sleeping pad a great choice.

> Comfort vs. weight. The heaviest pads are the most comfortable. You will need to compromise if you backpack.

> Durability. Comfortable, but they need to be protected from punctures. Although puncture-proof, closed-cell foam pads offer less comfort.

> Size. To get the best performance, the pad should cover your entire body.

Winter camping. Experienced cold-weather outdoormen recommend a closed-cell pad with a self-inflating mattress. The pad can be placed underneath the mattress to provide extra comfort and thermal protection. This protects your self-inflating mattress against damage. This technique increases insulation by slightly inflating the mattress.

Sleeping Pad

A SLEEPING pad provides insulation and comfort beneath a sleeping bag. While they are more affordable and last longer than inflatable foam pads, closed-cell foam pads (right), are bulkier. Inflatable pads provide better insulation and comfort.

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