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If you’re a survival prepper, then you already have a bug-out bag — a bag with equipment meant to get you through the first 72 hours of an emergency. Of course, that equipment you’re carrying might not help you if you’re cold, wet and suffering from hypothermia. This article highlights the importance of carefully selecting a set of emergency clothing for a bug-out bag.

Survival preppers spend hours planning, researching and testing out gear for their bug-out bags. Your bug-out bag — or BOB — is meant to help you survive for 72 hours, until you can either return home or put a long-term plan into place.

Major end-of-the-world catastrophes aside, imagine a scenario where you need to leave immediately, with barely enough time to grab your bug-out bag on the way out the door — a house fire, maybe, or an evacuation due to a natural disaster. Imagine that it happens in the middle of the night, when you’re wearing nothing but pajamas — assuming, of course, that you even wear pajamas to bed. You might not have time to get dressed or even throw on a jacket before fleeing outside, with your BOB in hand.

Now imagine that it’s the middle of winter.

In addition to a variety of other equipment meant to see you through the first few days of an emergency, your BOB has to provide you with the means to stay warm and avoid hypothermia. Hypothermia leads to poor decision-making skills— and in an emergency situation, poor decision-making skills can lead to death.

One of your best weapons against hypothermia is a carefully-selected set of emergency clothing,

The clothing that you choose to pack in your BOB will depend on season and climate. Regardless of your situation, it’s best to think in terms of layers. An adequate layering system can take you through both warm and cold conditions, allowing you to remove or add pieces to regulate your temperature.

A basic layering system includes a base layer (t-shirt and/or long-sleeved shirt), a mid-layer (fleece or heavier insulated jacket) and an outer layer (wind-resistant and waterproof shells). Even in the middle of summer, weather can be unpredictable, and you need to be able to stay warm and dry.

When choosing your emergency set of clothing, stay away from cotton. The old hiking adage — “cotton kills” — is all the more true in survival situations. Even if it doesn’t seem that cold outside, wet cotton dries very slowly and doesn’t retain warmth — perfect conditions for hypothermia. Depending on your personal preferences, you might choose silk, merino wool or a synthetic wicking material. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages with regards to cost, warmth, drying time and odor-control, but each one will help you survive cold, wet conditions.

A spring or fall set of clothing might include merino wool base layers (long underwear and a long-sleeved shirt), synthetic mid-ayers (a fleece sweater and a pair of quick-dry hiking pants) and waterproof, breathable outer layers (a rain jacket and a pair of rain pants). In the summer, you might want to add a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and winter conditions will require warmer mid-layers.

Because you can lose a lot of heat through your head, it’s important to carry a warm hat — even in the middle of summer. Wool or fleece hats are readily available, warm and lightweight. If it’s winter, a scarf or neck gaiter will also come in handy.

Fingers and toes are some of the first body parts to succumb to frost-bite in below-freezing weather. For this reason, it’s also important to think about protecting your extremities. A pair of gloves or mittens can mean the difference between comfort and a medical emergency.

As for your feet, it’s a good idea to pack two pairs of wool socks in your bag. Depending on the size of your pack, it might be harder to pack a pair of boots or shoes. If you don’t have room in your bag for a pair of footwear, consider leaving a pair of shoes next to your BOB. If your shoes have laces, leave them wide-open, so that they’re easy to slip on in an emergency situation. You can always tighten them later, once you’re outside.

First and foremost, your goal as a survival prepper is to be prepared for any eventuality. Even if you have top-of-the-line equipment in your survival kit, you’ll find yourself in serious trouble if you have nothing but a pair of flannel pajamas to wear. A carefully planned bug-out bag must absolutely include a full set of weather-appropriate emergency clothing. When the worst happens — as we all know that it might — your life may very well depend on that pair of long underwear in the bottom of your pack.

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