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Thread: Hypothermia

  1. #61
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    This is an excellent discussion. i am going out is weekend in WV and I have already reorganized my pack so that certain essentials will be easier to access if i am cold. I am thinking a fanny pack on the front with extra socks and large zip locks ( for wet feet to line boots), large nitrile gloves for a vapor barrier (ala Erik the Black), toe and hand warmer, fire tabs and stove, hot chocolate. My feet have gotten wet before and I didn't replace my socks cos they were in the bottom of my pack. Dum, dum,dum.

    i wanted to put in my 2 cents (get what ya pay fer). Regarding the posts about urination, i would like to point out that the physiologic discussions assume normo tensive, adequately hydrated individuals.

    Imho (and i have dipped a lot of urine, lol!) the vast majority of people are generally chronically dehydrated. Add to that the physical exertion required during a physical pursuit such as backpacking, and you could be setting yourself up before hitting the trail.

    Secondly, and I promise this is NEVER discussed among women ( except me LOL!) is that many women of child bearing age are anemic. This doesn't help, either. If you are planning a trip with a female, you should strongly encourage a weeks course of iron with vitamin c (for better absorption) prior to the trip...

    I'm thinking one shouldn't rely on urine retention/ excretion as a means of diagnosing hypothermia, but rather helping to understand why adequate hydration is imperative...

    I think this discussion should become a sticky!

  2. #62
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    Quote Originally Posted by Demeter View Post
    This is an excellent discussion. i am going out is weekend in WV and I have already reorganized my pack so that certain essentials will be easier to access if i am cold. I am thinking a fanny pack on the front with extra socks and large zip locks ( for wet feet to line boots), large nitrile gloves for a vapor barrier (ala Erik the Black), toe and hand warmer, fire tabs and stove, hot chocolate. My feet have gotten wet before and I didn't replace my socks cos they were in the bottom of my pack. Dum, dum,dum.

    i wanted to put in my 2 cents (get what ya pay fer). Regarding the posts about urination, i would like to point out that the physiologic discussions assume normo tensive, adequately hydrated individuals.

    Imho (and i have dipped a lot of urine, lol!) the vast majority of people are generally chronically dehydrated. Add to that the physical exertion required during a physical pursuit such as backpacking, and you could be setting yourself up before hitting the trail.

    Secondly, and I promise this is NEVER discussed among women ( except me LOL!) is that many women of child bearing age are anemic. This doesn't help, either. If you are planning a trip with a female, you should strongly encourage a weeks course of iron with vitamin c (for better absorption) prior to the trip...

    I'm thinking one shouldn't rely on urine retention/ excretion as a means of diagnosing hypothermia, but rather helping to understand why adequate hydration is imperative...

    I think this discussion should become a sticky!
    As one who does guided trips, I think these are great points. I count water bottles for everyone so I know how much water is being consumed. I do not use the "pee test" to assume anyone is well hydrated. The other point on blood is important as well. My wife has worked real hard to keep hers up because she gives blood and it helps immensely with her stamina.

    I have become very assertive with folks around issues of hydration to the point of watching them consume water. Most folks are in a constant state of dehydration without knowing it. I often hear, "I don't drink this much at home." To which I respond, "This isn't home, and you should." I am blunt, but with a smile.
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  3. #63
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    Wow what a thread!


    Okay, I have finally read the entirety of both threads, plus the latter half of a third. And I find this to be one of the most interesting and amazing threads I have ever read at the hammock forums. I think that this is the time when the elements finally caught up with the HF members. Possibly even more so than on most of the deep cold adventures that some of the members have had. And some of those deep cold hangers have said repeatedly that wet cold (specially when complicated by wind) can be far more challenging than even significantly colder temperatures. I think that is well proven by reading the posts on this thread. And it sends me back to times when I had to deal with similar situations. And it also gets me to thinking about basics.


    And I have sometimes been a bit on the obnoxious side around here, when stating that – just in my personal opinion and experience – that there's not a soul here who can guarantee they can always keep their insulation dry. This sometimes it's just a matter of your luck running out. Most of the time when making that statement I was referring to things having to do with sleeping gear insulation: things like tree limbs falling to your tarp, or tarp springing a leak, or condensation accumulating in your quilts. But clothing is certainly an equal challenge, probably even more so when you're hiking all day in torrential rainfall and possibly even working up a sweat. And this thread is going to greatly serve to increase the education of all of us on the safe way for us to deal with the circumstances. That's what makes this forum such a wonderful resource.


    So it appears some experienced, careful and well-equipped people got wet. Was it Doctari who used previously trustworthy Gore-Tex rain gear top and bottom, and similarly waterproof boots? And was pretty much soaked head to toe? In years past, I have skied all day (downhill and cross-country) working up a sweat (but with all synthetic and fleece clothing) under a Gore-Tex shell – and on other occasions have hiked in a cold daylong rain, under a Gore-Tex rain jacket, pants and boots. In all of these occasions I stayed dry. The sweat that I generated skiing (and maybe hiking in the rain) managed to evaporate leaving me basically dry under the Gore-Tex.


    Still, all of this makes me think of when I showed up for my NOLS course way back in 1985. I had the newest Gore-Tex stuff! But all of the instructors strongly discouraged me from using it. It was just their opinion that, especially since we were out for 30 days straight, some of the people using Gore-Tex were going to get wet. This was the opinion of people with lots of days with lots of people deep in the wilderness. They preferred coated, non-breathable nylon. Now mind you, these opinions of theirs were based on trials of the earliest generations of Gore-Tex stuff. Still, that's how they felt. I wonder if they still feel that way? These days as I continue to experiment with vapor barrier approaches, I feel like if I ever get fully committed to that approach that I will go back to (in fact am already doing so with a Packa) their non-breathable – but reliably waterproof – approach. Sweat and condensation might be considerable challenges to be dealt with. But it looks like ice cold rain getting past your outer layer of protection and into your insulation might be an even greater challenge. Clearly that can't be tolerated for very long without danger resulting.


    And then there is the consideration of what kind of insulation is under the rain garment, insulation that is getting soaked either from the rain getting in or from tons of sweat/condensation trying to get out. I know wet installation of any type is still cold and miserable, but I still feel based on my personal experience that some things handle it a lot better than others. Cotton being about at the bottom of the list for her performance in the wet, but is not the only one near the bottom. But once the cotton gets wet, you now have an air conditioner like evaporative cooling machine hanging on your body. Which takes absolutely forever to dry. Course we all knew that, and it has been confirmed in this thread. And yes, I do some of my hiking with some cotton garments, even when the weather is not all that hot and maybe even kind of cool. Sometimes I take the chance. I'm sure a lot of us do. I had some friends a few years back whom I was introducing to backpacking in Wyoming, and while advising them long distance over the phone, I used the phrase "cotton kills". I later found out that they thought I was an absolute buffoon for having said that. Though as they became more educated they did come to realize the inadequacies of cotton, but they still felt my statement was a gross exaggeration. And when they heard it from me for the first time, I guess they had visions of a pair of cotton jeans choking you to death, or maybe a cotton plant attacking you. Still, I stick with that old saying. If you are hiking where you could get wet and could possibly get hypothermic, more than anything else, cotton kills. It's great stuff for keeping you cool in the summer time.
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us....that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
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  4. #64
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    Quote Originally Posted by WV View Post
    Before we started hiking I took off my down parka, so I started cool, with only a poly t-shirt and a light fleece hoodie under my rain parka. That's probably why I didn't have a problem with condensation. It also meant that I had a dry down parka in my pack to put on at the shelter, along with the dry pants.
    Quote Originally Posted by WV View Post


    I wish that I had heated some water to make hot cocoa for all of us at Wise, but I use a wood stove and the cocoa was buried in my food bag. I carry an ounce or so of dry wood, so I could have done it, but we were in a hurry to make a decision and act on it. I don't use alcohol in my stove out of choice. It spills too easily. I've never used Esbit tabs, but I'm thinking that in the future I'll pack one or two with the stove, along with some cocoa packets, so a hot drink can be fixed in short order. Some of the buckles on my pack were iced up, so getting stuff out and then packing up again was made more difficult. I forgot to mention that my DIY sil overmitts weren't seam-sealed, so my possum down gloves were wet. Cold fingers + frozen buckles are not a good combination. Fortunately, using trekking poles gave my hands enough exercise to keep the circulation going. They felt okay on the hike out.


    "God lives in detail," said architect Mies van der Rohe. I'm grateful for all the useful bits of information that have been shared in this thread.

    Wow, makes me shiver to just think about it! It sure does help to have some team members who are still thinking straight(as was the case this time thank goodness), and an ability to to heat lot's of fluids and/or melt tons of snow quickly and easily. ( don't know what all the various gear used here was ). I'm thinking of watching 3 out of a group of 20 showing obvious signs of hypothermia as we stood around in the snow storm preparing for the river crossing, which included lethargy and apparent stupidity. Several still with it folks were dispatched to break out the white gas stoves, ( Optimus or Svea?) and in just a few minutes there was lot's of hot chocolate ( and some GORP/cheese/nuts ) being passed around, and the incoherent ones were harassed by the others into drinking up. I'm also thinking of the time my tarp mate did not come back from his climb of Dogtooth Peak, so search/rescue was to start the next morning. My job was to cook him a hot meal and drink if he showed up, as he did about midnight, after a cold creek crossing. He refused hot food or drink, insisted he was fine, just exhausted and only wanted to go to sleep, and I believed him. A couple of hours later, I awoke to realize he was laying almost on top of me. I said “Dave, are you awake?”, he said “yes”. I said “You OK”, he said “Oh yeah, I'm fine”! It did not seem starnge to him that he was layiing on me, believe me not the norm! So I got up, fired up the stove and verbally badgered him until he ate and drank something piping hot. As he was finishing, he started profusely thanking me and telling me how much better he felt. He went back to sleep and stayed on his side of the tarp! Point is, though I did not know he was in bad shape, do not automatically believe a hypothermic person! Their brains are not up to snuff! ( and sounds like on this trip there were folks in fair to good condition who could recognize impaired hiking mates )


    Quote Originally Posted by Doctari View Post
    What helped me in the past (this is my 3rd bout with the hypo) I had a plan, it wasn't a great plan, but reliable. If not sure I can get warm and STAY WARM, and I can get to help, do so. If I can't get to help EASILY (short hike on easy(ish) terrain, do something to Get and STAY warm!
    As pointed out, getting warm was mostly within our grasp, had food, fuel & water. I'm not sure of my insulation at the temp drop we experienced plus I could tell I wasn't thinking clearly. So, the "A" plan was put into effect, at least in my mind, then Scott voiced his thoughts somewhat along the lines "I wonder if we should leave?" Dave felt he was fine, but supported us (Thanks again Dave!!) So we Ran for the barn so to speak.


    My take away, & this is the second time it saved me: When you have Hypothermia, you can NOT think, or at least do not have the flexibility to change a preset plan. You Can follow a plan, but if that plan is "I MUST make it to point X!" & point X is many &/or hard miles away, you may die. I nearly did 8 years ago trying to get to point X, some fellow hikers stopped me & got me warm & in shelter. That's when I came up with my plan. I am always thinking of it when hiking. Maybe not consciously, but I'm on the trail, the Hypothermia plan is near by so to speak.
    After that time 8 years ago, I hit similar conditions, 4 years later, wasn't nearly hypothermic but put the plan in place anyway: Set up shelter, ate & drank, took a nap. Funny thing about that nap, lasted 14 hours.
    Wasn't thinking this trip, but it all worked out! Since 4 years ago, I have hiked for extended periods in hard cold rain, this time I got caught with the proverbial pants down. Still had a great time, don't regret 1 second of it, , , , but would do it different next time.
    I would willingly hike anywhere, anytime in any conditions with WV, Bonsaihiker & Chickadee!!

    Yep, you can't think straight when hypothermic. It's good that Y'all had good hiking partners, for when stuff happens. Like unexpectedly getting wet.




    Quote Originally Posted by bonsaihiker View Post
    One thing I always carry with me is a space blanket sleeping bag. It's there for those nights that are colder than expected--I plan to use it as a reflective VBL inside my insulation, if needed, or as an emergency shelter. I could have used that at the shelter. However, I did not recognize hypothermia at that point. I may not have actually been hypothermic at that point when I think about it, but I don't know. I simply recognized the danger we were in and felt that it would be best to be around more people and our vehicles in case we went over the edge. If it wasn't such an easy bail I probably would have just stayed there. I was also worried about my daughter and wanted to get her to safety.
    Quote Originally Posted by bonsaihiker View Post


    BTW, I tested my rain jacket in the shower this morning and I had leaks at the pit zips and pockets. Otherwise I was dry underneath but wetted out on the outside within 5 minutes.


    I also tested my new Merril winter boots (advertized to be waterproof) in a pan of water, weighting them down with water up to the top of the rubber upper. The left one was swamped within an hour, the right one was just starting to get damp inside. Back they go, which is sad because I otherwise really liked them.

    The precaution proved correct once again by this thread:sometimes gear just does not work as expected, either from the first or after several years of use or from damage on the trail. Stuff happens. Was it Doctari who only had a few sq. inches that were not wet? For me the only safe approach is to figure that it will happen sooner or later.


    After having read through 3 threads related to this trip, it is all sort of blurred as to who had exactly what problems , who had none, who hiked back to the cars where some one was camped, etc. But it is all makes for a very interesting story! What lessons can we all take out of it?


    1: Some were wet and some were not. Any exact differences in those groups that can be pinned down? Is that just from failed gear not functioning like it should have, and/or as it has already performed in the past? Or is it a difference in the type of gear used? Or was it mostly from working up a sweat? ( though sounds to me like it was mostly rain/snow getting past the outer layer) Would sil-nylon or coated nylon have been any better, or would the sweat ( assuming a totally non-VB system) overwhelm the extra waterproofing? What about Packas, which at least have great ventilation?


    2: would the type of insulation worn have made a big difference? I'm certain it would have where cotton was counted on, that stuff is a disaster if you get wet. I don't know what other types of clothing insulation was involved, except that WV hiked in a poly shirt and fleece hoodie under his rain shell. For those that got wet and cold, do you think this kind of clothing ( synthetic fleece, or maybe wool) would have made much difference? Would have dried more quickly from body heat? For WV, would fleece gloves or mitts have worked better? ( just thinking out loud here ) What about light weight Polarguard clothing?


    3: What about stoves? Would there have been an advantage to the heavier white gas blow torches for easily making a bunch of hot water/food fast? Would things have gone better if a decision was made to stop, and to make a bunch of hot chocolate and HOT mac/cheese and strongly encourage the cold ones to consume it?


    4: this all occurred with a campground/automobile within a reasonable distance for bail out. What are the implications of the lessons learned on this trip for when you are 2 or 3 long days hike ( or more ) from any trail head?


    5: As far as I can tell, no one had any sleeping equipment failures. But I have seen tarps become damaged or just develop leaks, so it can happen. Such could be disastrous in conditions described in these threads. Any thoughts on that?


    There is much to be learned from this trip! I'm glad to see the thread discussing how things can go awry. It is the 1st trip report I remember where a significant amount of stuff has gone wrong for more than one person. That is why there is a lot to learn here!
    Last edited by BillyBob58; 02-12-2013 at 15:05.
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us....that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
    Romans 8:18,21-22

  5. #65
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    I can't tell you how valuable this thread is to an intermediate hiker like me, seeing all of you very experienced people {whom I have learned so much from over the years with admiration I might add } struggle with something that most people don't even consider, or take serious enough. I think, most people, like me have camped for decades, but have always been by a car, a trailer, or a cabin. Hiking is very different, and I appreciate the discussion.

    This is the time of year that cabin fever is at it peak, and many in my area are overly anxious to get out there, hastily and unprepared.

    Today my grand son and I went snow shoeing with a larger group and many of them were wearing clothes that had no business being out in the cold snow.

    I just wanted to thank you guys for sharing your experiences, and that you were able to return and share it with us. I have learned more valuable information from you all that I can better protect the ones that I am responsible for out in the wild.

  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by BillyBob58 View Post
    He refused hot food or drink, insisted he was fine, just exhausted and only wanted to go to sleep, and I believed him. A couple of hours later, I awoke to realize he was laying almost on top of me. I said “Dave, are you awake?”, he said “yes”. I said “You OK”, he said “Oh yeah, I'm fine”! It did not seem starnge to him that he was layiing on me, believe me not the norm! So I got up, fired up the stove and verbally badgered him until he ate and drank something piping hot. As he was finishing, he started profusely thanking me and telling me how much better he felt.
    A small point...At a sailing lesson on hypothermia, our instructor taught us that when asked, everyone will automatically say they are fine. His advice: Say instead, "Describe your condition" or "Describe mood, temperature, energy level, please" or something nonstandard like that. The response, and response time, will help to gauge their true state.

  7. #67
    Prefers life at 12 MPH. FLRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sturgeon View Post
    A small point...At a sailing lesson on hypothermia, our instructor taught us that when asked, everyone will automatically say they are fine. His advice: Say instead, "Describe your condition" or "Describe mood, temperature, energy level, please" or something nonstandard like that. The response, and response time, will help to gauge their true state.
    A small point, but a very good one. If asked that question, even in my living room at 70* with me being well hydrated and fed, I would still need a moment to process it before responding. If I was hypothermic? Well...I might respond with "Huh?" or something even less articulate.

    A good piece of advice. Thanks, sturgeon!
    "Just prepare what you can and enjoy the rest."
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  8. #68
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    We were out last weekend at a low of 8-9F. Hypothermia would be on the forefront eh, but years ago I spent 2 weeks boardsailing in Aruba. Before they let us go out we had to undergo a training class on the dangers. They told us of what happens if you fall off your board and stand or lang on a sea urchin but they also told us that Florida has the highest cases of hypothermia in the country. True? I didn't argue but the point is that it can happen when and where you least expect it.
    Probably counterintuitive, but drinking cold water when its cold outside is exactly what I did last weekend and chased it with cashews and chocolate/cherry MMs
    The ones I always see on the trail are Scouts with poor leaders hiking in cotton (in our eastern woodlands) in the rain and in temps between 38-52F.

  9. #69
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    This trip was the first time EVER that I got hypothermia below 40 degrees. Every time though it was raining.

    If asked how I felt: I was warm, & fully functional or at least felt so. I had no problem knowing where I was, but then I had done at least 1/4 of the hike we did to the Wise 4 times, so I was very familiar with our hike.
    I was wet from condensation inside my iced over Gortex, soaked actually. MY first clue, after seeing what Scott & Dave looked like, was I was shivering. I do not shiver till very late in the "game". Then I tried to get food out of my bag, couldn't do it, my snacks had migrated to the bottom & I couldn't reach them.
    I still felt fine.

    So when someone asks the "Small point" be honest with yourself. They are asking for a good reason. See if you can do simple tasks, like getting a snack out of your pack. Do a simple word game with your "crew" something like say the word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Mary Poppins,,, provided of course you can say it while warm, well fed & hydrated that is.
    If your companion can't properly pronounce their name, they are in trouble, & its a late sign.
    When you have a backpack on, no matter where you are, you’re home.
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  10. #70
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    Quote Originally Posted by sturgeon View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by FLRider View Post
    A small point, but a very good one. If asked that question, even in my living room at 70* with me being well hydrated and fed, I would still need a moment to process it before responding. If I was hypothermic? Well...I might respond with "Huh?" or something even less articulate.

    A good piece of advice. Thanks, sturgeon!
    Very good point indeed. We probably should not base our decisions on the response of a person suffering from hypothermia induced stupidity. But of course, I was just speaking reflexively by this point, because I already knew the answer to my question ( maybe it was even a rhetorical question ). I knew the answer to my question because I had a major sign: Young Dave, a professing heterosexual, who for the previous 20 days had shown not even a hint of any attraction to me, was now laying right on top of me, and he was awake, and though it seemed odd to me, it was apparently not so to him. So that was a sign! A further sign was that, after he affirmed that he was "Just Fine", I had to literally push him off of me so I could get up and start cooking!

    But still that is a good point: don't make your decision on whether a person is hypothermic based on what they tell you.

    Quote Originally Posted by MedicineMan View Post
    .......................
    The ones I always see on the trail are Scouts with poor leaders hiking in cotton (in our eastern woodlands) in the rain and in temps between 38-52F.
    It is amazing how this info about cotton and hypothermia is either just not known or not believed or thought of as over cautious. Or in my own case, often just ignored for "safe" hiking in well known areas for the sake of convenience. I mentioned earlier ( this thread or another ) how I was virtually viewed as a buffoon when I said "cotton kills" to some noobs, before their 1st ever backpack into the northern Rockies. But get this: go forward a year or two to another trip, with these 2 guys also in the larger group. This time it was horse packing to the same mountains, with guides, a real luxury trip. But the 3 young guides, up from OK, while excellent horse men, were ( it turned out ) fairly inexperienced in these high mountains. The older guide who was supposed to be heading things up had a heart attack just prior to the trip!

    So, we were having breakfast around the camp fire on a cold but clear sunny morning and the subject of my "cotton kills" statement came up again, brought up by the same noobs from the previous trip. It still seemed an extreme statement to them. I said something like "I'll stick with it - cotton kills, an accurate statement". At which point the head guide jumps in with " Well cotton has always done right by us, all we have ever needed". As he and the other two guides were hopping from foot to foot by the fire trying to get warm! They were head to toe layers of cotton, cotton jackets and jeans, the only ones in camp who were, and the only ones obviously cold that morning! I think they were cold and miserable the entire trip! I pointed this out to them, and to their credit they had to admit that maybe I had a point. I think money was a huge factor for them, but we educated them on how they did not have to spend much money to get non-name brand polyester fleece or wool clothing at surplus stores or Sams or WM. No need for Patagonia etc, this stuff can be had cheap! They indicated that would be their 1st order of business once they got us down out of the mtns, as they were coming back up with an elk hunting trip in a couple of weeks. But here were 3 outdoor guides/professionals completely ignorant of the drawbacks of cotton, especially once it is even damp.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doctari View Post
    This trip was the first time EVER that I got hypothermia below 40 degrees. Every time though it was raining.

    If asked how I felt: I was warm, & fully functional or at least felt so. I had no problem knowing where I was, but then I had done at least 1/4 of the hike we did to the Wise 4 times, so I was very familiar with our hike.
    I was wet from condensation inside my iced over Gortex, soaked actually. MY first clue, after seeing what Scott & Dave looked like, was I was shivering. I do not shiver till very late in the "game". Then I tried to get food out of my bag, couldn't do it, my snacks had migrated to the bottom & I couldn't reach them.
    I still felt fine.

    So when someone asks the "Small point" be honest with yourself. They are asking for a good reason. See if you can do simple tasks, like getting a snack out of your pack. Do a simple word game with your "crew" something like say the word "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" from Mary Poppins,,, provided of course you can say it while warm, well fed & hydrated that is.
    If your companion can't properly pronounce their name, they are in trouble, & its a late sign.
    Roger that. I have done plenty of solo trips winter and summer. But, it sure can be a life saver if someone else is getting into trouble but there are one or more people along who are not in trouble and can recognize that their friends are getting into trouble. Someone who is able to get a tarp up, and put a white gas stove or 2 together and start melting snow and/or boiling water. So that soon, copious amounts of hot food and drink are available. Then those same non-hypothermic person(s) can badger the other cold folks, who are "not hungry/thirsty" into drinking at eating nice hot food/drink. That can just turn the entire show around. I have seen that turn a hypothermia situation into an "all is normal", pretty quickly. Funny though, often the ones that need the hot food and drink don't seem to want it, they have to be harassed into eating/drinking.

    Do Y'all think there is an advantage to white gas pressurized stoves in a near hypothermia situation? Could it be worth the extra weight?
    For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us....that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
    Romans 8:18,21-22

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