If we live in an area that experiences extreme cold weather, as part of our emergency preparedness, we should be prepared with clothing and gear to operate in extreme cold weather. This may be related to a personal emergency in getting stranded in back country, or trying to operate our equipment in an emergency related communications event in the winter. We often like to think that all emergency communications events will happen in a nice June weekend. However, the reality is that our infrastructure of power, roads, and other utilities are most vulnerable in extreme weather conditions. Given this fact we need to be prepared with the right gear to not only survive, but to be comfortable enough to aid in assistance of others.
I have created what I call my Extreme Cold Weather Gear Bag. It is designed at a “jump bag” or “roll out bag” those in law enforcement or emergency services recognize this term. It is essentially everything I need to go from regular day clothing, to extreme weather clothing. Additionally, there is a change of clothing in the bag to sustain over a multiple day period, or change of clothes if I get wet.
Layers and Gear Selection
When looking at winter clothing there are several layers to consider. Just like our gear bags are modular to meet specific needs, our clothing is in layers. To regulate heat you can shed layers or add layers depending on the conditions. The last thing you want to do is be too warm, sweat, then turn cold from the wet clothing. So lets look at the layers going from the base layer to the external layer, relizing that any of these could be shed, or added to regulate heat. Then we will look at extremity protection, and associated gear. Last key item before looking at the gear, be selective on clothing product. Choose each item because it is very effective, not because it’s your old sweater you never wear. Each item will could be your life saving item. Choose high quality durable clothing. These items can be found at remarkable discounts at stores as winter comes close to an end.
The first layer is your base layer. This is the layer that is up against your skin so you want some form of thermals that will wick water away from your skin. In your bag you should have two of these sets, one to wear and one as backup while the other one dries. Your next layer is your insulating layer this is typically fleece or cotton pants and a fleece, cotton, or wool sweater. Next we have our mid layer, depending on conditions this may be our outer layer if we are in a tent, or structure, or if there is no precipitation. This consists of a vest, or light shell jacket that provides some environment protection and warmth. Our last layer is our outer layer. This is our protection from the elements not necessarily warmth. Our lower layers are providing warmth. This layer is protecting those layers from getting wet. This would include snow pants, and a shell jacket with our without hood. As thing heat up or cool down, you can shed lower layers then put the shell back on in outdoor conditions or leave off indoors.
Now moving on to extremities, this sometimes is the overlooked items but actually the most important. As your body cools the extremities will be the first to be effected by the cold weather due to exposure and lower circulation. Extremity protection includes insulating and shell protection for head, neck, ear, face, hands, and feet. Your gear bag should have heavy winter boots, and also lighter boots to change into when drying the first pair out. All of the above need to have multiple pairs for backup when the first pair becomes wet. With hands and feet not only have outer protection but multiple forms of insulating layers that can be added or removed as needed. Don’t overlook protecting the face with multiple face masks and ski goggles. To keep your boots dry have a pair of gaiters that close the gap between your snow pants and boots to keep the powder out. You can never have enough changes of socks. For working with radio gear and electronics find some thin gloves you can use when you need your fingers but do not want total exposure to your hand.
Additional gear you should have in your roll out bag is a pair of crampons or ice cleats. These fit over your boots and provide traction in snow and ice. Have plenty of heat packs to shake up and provide heat in your gloves and shoes. Additional items in my bag are: bivvy sac, emergency blanket, fire starting kit, flashlights, folding saw, compact shovel, canvas tarp, hydration backpack, canteen, first aid kit, basic survival gear, MRE, Power Bars, and mess kit with cider and hot chocolate. All of these items can provide a comfortable night in the backcountry if needed. An essential item to have is a bright hunter orange vest, hat, and signaling flag. If you are trying to be found in the backcountry this is the best item to wear outside your clothing.
In conclusion, if you have this roll out bag organized and ready to go, you can toss it in your vehicle and know that you can go from every day clothing to surviving in extreme cold weather conditions. You also can have confidence that if you are called out to an emergency event in the winter, you can use this kit in addition to your radio gear to be comfortable and safe. I hope you have found this training item helpful. A list of cold weather related items can be found on my website at W7DBO.net. This is John W7DBO with the training item.