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Clothing – Your First Line of Defense

by Survival Dispatch Staff

Survivalists often spend a lot of time thinking about the things they’d need in an emergency, like shelters, fire starters and multitools. But while it is important to make sure that you have these types of items in your bug out bag, you must also consider another important survival tool: The clothes on your back.

Clothing provides your first layer of defense against the natural world, and is a resource that you’ll almost always have with you, even if you aren’t able to prepare for an emergency or grab your bug out bag. Accordingly, you should always select your clothing with care anytime you leave the house. This way, you’ll have the best chance of surviving a sudden catastrophe.

Durability and Comfort

It is important to select clothing that is comfortable, yet durable enough to stand up to the wear and tear it’ll likely see in a survival situation. Clothing that binds or chafes can reduce your mobility, slow you down and lead to painful rashes, so you’ll want to be sure your clothing fits well.

But you don’t want to wear delicate items either – no matter how comfortable they are to wear. Things like thin t-shirts or super lightweight pants will quickly become tattered and torn in harsh conditions, which will leave you exposed to the elements.

Material Matters

Some materials are better suited for survival situations (or general outdoor activity) than others, so you’ll want to pay special attention to the materials used whenever selecting clothes.

For example, cotton is one of the most common materials used to make clothes, and many people wear it on a daily basis. However, cotton does not wick sweat well and it provides relatively little insulation, so it is best avoided in favor of other fabrics.

Wool is one of the best natural fibers available, as it insulates well (even when wet) and wicks sweat better than cotton. In fact, wool can trap water deep in its interior, keeping it away from your skin. Unlike the itchy, uncomfortable wool that was historically used in clothing, modern manufacturers produce wool fibers that are very comfortable to wear.

Synthetic materials like polyester (sometimes called polypropylene) are also effective in many cases, and they have the additional benefit of being very lightweight – some are even waterproof.

Layers Upon Layers

The best way to ensure you remain comfortable in fluctuating environmental conditions is to wear multiple lightweight layers. This way, you can add or shed clothing as necessary to keep your internal temperature relatively consistent.

Minimally, you’ll want to wear the following layers to remain warm:

  • Moisture-Wicking Base Layer: Your base layer needs to absorb sweat and wick it away from your body to keep you dry. It also needs to protect you from any rough or uncomfortable surfaces on the inside of your middle layer.
  • Insulating Middle Layer: The middle layer should primarily be used to keep you warm. Ideally, this layer should be breathable to help keep your base layer dry, but if possible, you also want it to be water resistant, to keep you dry when it is too hot for your outer layer.
  • Water-Resistant Outer Layer: You’ll want some type of water-resistant (or, even better, water proof) jacket or poncho to help shield you from the wind and protect you from moisture. Select a garment of suitable weight for your region to ensure it keeps you warm enough.

Of course, you can add more layers than this if you like; just make sure that you don’t add so many layers that you can’t move freely.

Important Back Ups and Redundancies

Even though you should always wear clothes that will provide suitable protection in the event of a sudden emergency, you should be sure to include a few extra articles of clothing in your bug out bag to give you some additional protection.

Some of the most important things to include in your bug out bag include:

  • Extra Socks
  • Extra Underwear
  • Extra Light-Weight Shirt

It’s also a good idea to pack a basic sewing kit in your bug out bag, so that you can repair any damaged items. Be sure to stick an extra button or two in the kit, and always keep a few small pieces of Velcro on hand to repair other types of broken closures.
Long Pants and Long Sleeves

Although it isn’t always comfortable to wear long pants or sleeves in warm weather, you’ll be glad you did if you are faced with a survival situation. You can always roll up long sleeves if you get to hot, but you’ll be glad to have the extra protection from bugs, thorns and the evening chill that long sleeves provide. Long sleeves and pants will also help protect your skin from the sun, should you find yourself in a desert or similar, sunbaked environment.

Color Considerations

Because you may need to hunt for food or avoid the detection of hostile people, it makes the most sense to wear earth-toned clothing as a matter of course. Dark clothing will not only help you stay out of sight in a forested environment, but it will also help absorb more of the sun’s rays, which will allow you to warm up more quickly in the sunshine. If the current temperatures are high, consider wearing tan or light-green colored clothing, which will still camouflage relatively well, without keeping you to warm in the process.

Plenty of Pockets

The very best survival clothing will usually feature an assortment of different pockets. Not only will these help you carry things with you on a day-to-day basis, but they’ll also help give you places to carry things of value you may find in the wilderness.

You can also cut pockets off your clothing, should you find yourself in need of a small swatch of fabric. For example, if you suffer an injury and lack a first aid kit, a pocket-sized square of fabric can serve as a bandage.

Final Thoughts

The next time you are heading out of the house, give a few minutes thought to your clothing. If you don’t think your clothes would help keep you warm, dry and safe for a few days in the wilderness, you may want to make a few changes before leaving the house. You never know when an ordinary day is going to turn into a struggle for survival, and the clothes on your back could make all of the difference.

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