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Survival / November 13, 2012

Don’t die: Hypothermia

Written by: Matt Minich

Halfway into a long snowshoeing trip, you notice something is wrong with your partner. His speech is slurred and hard to understand, and he is stumbling and dropping his trekking poles. He’s dangerously cold and needs your help.

You’ve heard rumors about this situation. And while you want your friend to be warm and healthy, you’re not entirely comfortable stripping down and sharing a sleeping bag with him. But if you don’t, is he going to end up a human popsicle?

Probably not, says Tod Schimelpfenig, the curriculum coordinator for the Wilderness Medicine Institute of NOLS. Despite what you may have seen in the movies, getting naked and cozy with someone isn’t a very effective way to warm them up.

“The transfer of heat body-to-body is minimal,” says Schimelpfenig. Your friend will be better off if you wrap him in a thermal burrito: basically a sleeping bag wrapped in a windproof layer like a tarp.

Make sure to remove wet or damp clothes from your partner, and change them into dry clothes if possible. Give them sugars and non-alcoholic hot drinks (hot cocoa is a great option).

With this fuel and the insulation provided by dry clothes, a sleeping bag, or whatever else you are able to provide, your partner’s body should be able to warm itself over the course of several hours.

about the author

Matt Minich

Matt Minich is Editorial Director for Shoulders of Giants. He has spent more than a decade writing, editing, and curating content about outdoor sports and adventure. As an adventure journalist he has climbed peaks in Patagonia, rappelled waterfalls in Colorado, B.A.S.E. jumped in Moab, and sampled fermented horse milk in Kyrgyzstan.

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