Staying warm during an emergency may be critical to your survival. The last time my family experienced a major power outage it was right when the temperatures around our neck of the woods hovered around 20 degrees. Bone-chilling cold. However, since we were prepared, we built a fire, dressed in layers and waited out the winter storm, warm inside our home.
There are several ways you can keep yourself warm during an emergency. When packing your 72-hour kit, make sure you include supplies to start a fire, layers of clothing, emergency blankets and sleeping bags. Having several ways to stay warm will guarantee you will survive whatever emergency comes your way.
When there’s an emergency, you are going to need a way to stay warm. If you live in an area where there are extreme winters with subzero temperatures, having the ability to stay warm will be even more important for you than someone who lives in Hawaii. Even if you live in a warm climate, you will need a way to stay warm if there is a major natural disaster or if you have suffered major trauma. See more about emergency fire supplies on the “Recommended Gear” page of this website.
If you lose a lot of blood, your body will begin to feel chilled. While there may not be a whole lot you can do about the blood loss other than stopping it, you can make yourself comfortable until medical help arrives. Building a fire can help you stay warm and cozy until help finds you.
If you have a fireplace, you will want to have newspaper, kindling or fire-starting nuggets in your 72-hour emergency kit. While you may have all those supplies scattered throughout the house already, having them in one central location will help you find what you need in a crisis situation.
If you have the ability to store firewood inside, do so! Having a box of dry firewood, ready to go can make it easier to start a fire during an emergency. Fire nuggets are 100% natural plywood or cedar shavings with a wax-resin that ignites quickly. When you don’t want to spend a lot of time messing around with building a fire, fire starting nuggets are the way to go.
You’ll also want to pack weatherproof matches. These matches are amazing! You can literally start a fire in a windstorm- the flame will not go out. Waterproof matches are inexpensive and will not take up a lot of room in your 72-hour kit. If you want a backpack ignition source, try a mag strike or a lighter. A mag strike uses magnesium shavings to create fire.
Magnesium is naturally flammable, making it an excellent and natural way to start a fire. If you are feeling extra outdoorsy, try a magnifying glass to spark a flame as well. This works well when you are building a campfire outside, during the heat of the day.
Don’t forget a hatchet to cut firewood and kindling! Even if you shelter in place, you may need to start cutting into your kitchen table to keep warm. No, not the kitchen table! Okay, maybe not the table, but the bookcase and that old dresser in the basement would make great firewood too. If you evacuate your home, you will need a hatchet to cut dead trees into fuel for your fire. There are a number of small, sharp, compact hatchet on the market today specifically made for an emergency kit!
It’s a great idea to always pack a couple layers of clothing in your 72-hour emergency kit. Even if you get a fire started, you could still be chilled if you are not wearing the appropriate clothing. If you live in an area where there are four seasons, change out the clothing in your emergency kit as the temperature changes. You don’t want a bag full of short and t-shirts when you need to evacuate your home in the middle of January!
If you’re packing for warm weather, the temperature will still drop at night. I know in the desert regions it can be downright cold at night in July! Especially if you are a couple thousand feet above sea level. In general, you want to pack clothing that will keep moisture away from your body and keep a thin layer of body heat close to your skin. Regardless of where you live, add a nice pair of merino wool or polyester long johns in your 72-hour kit. Long johns will keep your body heat where it belongs. Don’t pack cotton. In fact, when cotton gets wet from sweat or water it can draw heat away from your body.
In addition to long johns, add in a middle layer like a fleece jacket or down coat. These layers will insulate your body and keep the heat close to the core. Down works wonders on a chilly night or day. Plus, down packs well and is incredibly lightweight. So, if you need to evacuate your home down will not weigh you down. Fleece is also a great option. It’s lightweight and it’s breathable- which means all that sweat has a place to go! Fleece is comfortable and keeps you warm. You can wear fleece and down jackets during the day and sleep in at night too!
If your living in a winter climate, don’t forget your outer shell and snow pants to keep wet weather away. Also, include gloves, hat, and extra boots. Even if you live in the Florida Keys, you may need a good pair of supportive hiking boots if you need to hike out of your town after a hurricane destroys a neighborhood. If you have the room, throw in a couple pairs of wool socks. Wool naturally wicks away moisture, keeping your feet warm and dry. We tend to lose a lot of body heat through our feet, hands, and head. Keeping those areas covered will keep you warm during an emergency.
Emergency Space Blankets
If you are short on space and need a guaranteed way to stay warm, add a couple space blankets to your 72-hour kit. A space blanket was originally made for NASA. It worked so well for astronauts, it’s not available to the general public. A space blanket is very thin and made out a metallic material. This material reflects body heat back to you and that’s what keeps you warm. A space blanket uses your heat to keep you warm. How about that? According to REI, a space blanket retains 80% of your body heat. That’s incredible.
Space blankets work wonders. They are lightweight, easy to use and they are cheap. A single space blanket will cost you about $3. They are great to have in an emergency situation. However, make sure you pack one for everyone in your family. You don’t want to be fighting over space blankets at three in the morning. While space blankets work wonders at keeping the cold away, they are thin and a bit flimsy. They are soft and cozy. They are thin, crispy and a bit uncomfortable. Even so, I think I would rather be warm and uncomfortable than cold and cozy.
If you want to keep your entire body warm, pick up a lite emergency bivy. A bivy is just a fancy word for a thin sleeping bag. A bivy is basically a space blanket sleeping bag. It’s thin, lightweight and reflects your body heat to keep you warm. It’s not cozy by any means. But, with a bivy, you can comfortably sleep all night and wake up warm in the morning. Emergency bivies are made of bright orange material and metallic inside. It’s bright orange so emergency crews can easily spot you. Most bivies are waterproof and windproof to keep bad weather away. Opt for a bivy with a stuff sack to make it easier to store in your 72-hour emergency kit.
If you have space, add a couple down, lite weight sleeping bags to your 72-hour emergency kit. Down is perhaps the best insulation for sleeping bags. It’s lightweight and provides the best warmth for you. Synthetic down is another great option if you are looking for a sleeping bag to fit in your budget. There are a variety of sleeping bag options on the market today: mummy bags, winter bags, summer bags, women’s bags, men’s bags and sleeping bags just for kiddos.
While you can buy the fanciest sleeping bag on the market, if it doesn’t fit you and cover your entire body- it’s not going to keep you warm. If you’re 6 feet 6 inches, you are going to need an extra long sleeping bag. If you have kids, consider getting a couple sleeping bags that can be zipped together. When you zip two sleeping bags together, you double the warmth. Plus, extra body heat keeps you warm too. In an emergency, your kids may want to be close by and with a double sleeping bag you know they won’t be too far from you.
When you aren’t sleeping, you can unzip the sleeping bags and use them as blankets or sit on. Sleeping bags pack well and they are versatile. However, if you are evacuating your home you may be tempted to leave it behind. Don’t! Nowadays, sleeping bags hardly weigh anything. A quick search on REI.com and you can find several 700 ducks down sleeping bags weighing less than 3 pounds. How about that? Keep the sleeping bag in your 72-hour kit and take it with you in an emergency.
If you live in an area with several seasons, I would invest in a year-round sleeping bag. When shopping for bags, you’ll notice they are rated for a variety of temperatures. A year-round sleeping bag will keep you warm in the winter and after the sun sets in the summer. If you live in an area where extreme cold is common for nine months out of the year, a bag rated for subzero temperatures will do. Before you buy your bag, check the temperature rating and make sure it will work in your particular climate and region!
Hand and Body Warmers
One of the best ways to take off the chill during an emergency is to shake a few hand and body warmers. Hand warmers are those tiny, non-toxic packages that fit nicely in your socks, gloves or in your coat pocket. With a few shakes, you activate the heat and they stay warm for several hours at a time. In fact, some of the warmers will last up to 12 hours.
If you need to warm up more than just your feet and hands, try the body warmers too. The body warmers are bigger and you can stick the patches directly to your shirt. The body warmers help take the chill off your core if you are starting to feel cold. Body-warmers are easy to store, they are lightweight and have an indefinite shelf life. This means you can pack a couple boxes of warmers and forget about them until the next emergency strikes.
In addition to hand warmers, you can pick up a couple packs of feet warmers too. These warmers are designed to fit snug under your foot and over your sock. Depending on the brand, the warmers can get up to 100 degrees. Don’t attach directly to your skin. Always stick the warmers over socks or another layer.
Reusable hot water bags are another way to stay warm when there is an emergency. Just boil water and add to your rubber bag. The bag will keep the water warm. When you put the hot water bottle next to your body you can quickly warm up your hands, feet, and core. If it’s really cold where you are, consider keeping a hot water bottle close to you while you’re in your sleeping bag. This will help you stay warm all night and keep the chill at bay! Hot water bottles are inexpensive and fold up easily so you can add one or two to your 72-hour kit without taking up much room!