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DURHAM, N.H. -- Frostbite and hypothermia are not the only health hazards associated with frigidly cold temperatures. Cold weather studies at the University of New Hampshire show increased risk for dehydration, a condition more commonly associated with hot weather.
“People just don’t feel as thirsty when the weather is cold,” says Robert Kenefick, UNH associate professor of kinesiology. “When they don’t feel thirsty, they don’t drink as much, and this can cause dehydration.”
We lose a great deal of water from our bodies in the winter due to respiratory fluid loss through breathing. Our bodies also are working harder under the weight of extra clothing, and sweat evaporates quickly in cold, dry air.
The body is about two-thirds water, and when the total water level drops by only a few percent, we can become dehydrated. Kenefick says fluid deficits of 3 to 8 percent of body mass have been reported in individuals working in cold environments, and dehydration is a major problem with exercise in the cold.
Yet the loss of fluid from our bodies, which triggers thirst in warmer weather, does not elicit the same response when the temperatures dip. It’s not simply because we don’t feel hot, Kenefick says. His recent study, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports &
Exercise, shows that cold actually alters thirst sensation.
Originally posted by argentus
Excellent thread Dan. Thermal systems have sure come a long way since the days when I wore White's boots, wool socks, wool pants, wool shirt, and oilskin coat. Makes me itch just thinking about it. What's your thoughts on wool inner gloves and socks? Is the polypro layering effective for the extremeties as well as the torso?
Originally posted by crgintx
The best clothing I can think of is a well prepped snug shelter. Temperature extremes hot or cold are best avoided. Even Inuit and Laplanders head to shelter where us western fools rush out into bad weather.
Even the most experienced modern outdoorsmen seemed to get caught unawares. IMHO A military surplus poncho and poncho liner are worth their weight in gold. More folks end up suffering from hypothermia more often in wet weather above freezing then below it.
Hypothermia itself doesn't kill that often but it will weaken the immune system to the point where your body can't fight off bugs that it could normally deal with. That's why pneumonia and flu are so much more deadly in the cooler and colder months than during the summer.
It will take more than simple education to reduce the estimated 30,000 deaths a year in the UK due to cold. Age concern estimates 8,000 more elderly will die for every time the temperature drops 1 degree centigrade below average.
Proper clothing will help fend off the cold for awhile but learning to make a proper shelter when stuck out in severe winter weather is as important as any bit of clothing or gear. I'll add that this philosophy of proper clothing and shelter applies to hot weather as well.
Ah, a topic near and dear to my heart! I grew up in Massachusetts and northern Vermont, drilled with the Infantry in all kinds of weather, and attended the US Army Mountain Warfare school. One unit I was in even got to evaluate gear for Natick Labs. I love the cold but respect its hazards as well.
"Cotton kills" is the mantra of the outdoor enthusiast, as someone previously mentioned.
Cold weather protective clothing, especially footwear
For gloves, now that I am not drilling in the cold anymore, I like civilian Northface Goretex gauntlet-style gloves with removable liners, to which I add my own black issue polypro liners as well. If I do not need finger dexterity or am going to be stopped for a while and unable to seek shelter, I may switch to mittens (kept, of course, in an easily-accessible place and warm).
Speaking of polypro...what "weight" is the military-issued stuff considered to be? I tried a couple civilian brands (don't recall offhand) and some seemed lighter than issue, while others seemed heavier, but the heavier ones were labeled as "lightweight."
While it is unarguable that polypro next to the skin is wonderful, I have found that issue items wear out quickly when washed, and tend to hold the odor of sweat, sometimes needing repeated washings. Of course, when I was sweating with polypro, I would always have to ask myself if I am LAYERING properly...another key to cold weather survival.
As someone mentioned, read labels on things marked as "thermal sweaters" and caps and whatnot. Some of them are made of spun acrylic!!! Or even...gasp...cotton! In my opinion, wool is usually the way to go for a mid layer, or even outer layer if precipitation is not too heavy. Then again I've only recently developed a taste for synthetics...
The newest thing in the Army's arsenal when I last had good cold weather gear, was Primaloft insulation.
Last but certainly not least...remember dehydration and hyperthermia con occur in the cold just as it can in warm weather. Keep water handy and sip it during activities. We used to fill our uninsulated canteens to about 1 inch down from the top so water would move inside and not freeze.
I hope that some of the more experienced people can comment on what I've shared.