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It is gratifying to stand out in the sunlight on a cool or cold day and feel the warmth. Even if it is not raising your body temperature, you feel warmer. Unfortunately, the corollary is also true. Should the Sun suddenly go behind a cloud or, heaven forbid, go behind a mountain peak on the way to sunset, you may start to shiver. Again, the body may not feel it but the mind feels colder. Either of these circumstances can be readily made better by delayering in the warmth or adding a layer to retain body heat in the cold. Unfortunately, neither of these solutions is adequate to ameliorate an unanticipated event,

It is natural when going out on a cool day to take along a layer of insulation. This is properly anticipating the weather conditions. On a warm day that insulation may not be on the list of things to take on a hike. So, what are we suggesting as “extra clothing”? The word “extra” is the key. During warm conditions an extra layer of insulation is over, and above, what we expect to use on the hike. During cooler conditions where we would normally take along insulation, the “extra” is more important. It is more than what you plan to use for the day. The extra insulation is what is intended to keep you alive if you have to stay out overnight.

The important point to remember about insulation is that is not the thickness or loft of the insulation that keeps you warm but the ability to RETAIN body heat. Insulation can come in many forms. What you can wear might be as light, and compactable, as down or as heavy as a horse blanket. In between those two extremes, choose what works for you from fleece, wool sweaters, synthetic quilted overlays or another jacket. An “old wives tale” with some truth to it says, “If your feet are cold, put on a hat.” In summer, or winter, a warm stocking hat is in the Ten Essentials. A balaclava is a great addition to your pack as it covers more of the head than just the top. An extraordinary amount of heat is lost from the head. In winter, it is a great addition to have a set of gloves, or an extra set if you are wearing some, in your pack. A light, compact, synthetic quilt or coverlet can act as your extra insulation under numerous circumstances. Some might consider a “space blanket” as their insulation. Practically, it is more shelter than insulation as it does not retain the heat. But remember, this is not what you plan to wear today but might need tonight.

The extra insulation may not keep you comfortable if you have to stay out overnight but it should be enough to keep you alive.

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