Preparedness & Survival by Capt. William E. Simpson,
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Hot Weather & Staying Cool

f you’re an outdoorsy person, summer can bring-on some unseen and potentially deadly challenges. Aside from the fact that with the advent of the hot weather, pit vipers like the Pacific Rattlesnake are on the move and threaten people, livestock and pets, the heat of the day should never be underestimated.

According to the CDC: “Extreme heat can lead to very high body temperatures, brain and organ damage, and even death. On average, 675 people die from complications related to extreme heat each year in the United States – more than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, lightning or any other weather event combined.” More here.

Staying cool while outdoors on hot days can be accomplished by using some relatively simple techniques:

1. Carry plenty of water and stay hydrated: Before I even head-out on a hike, I pre-hydrate by drinking at least a full pint of water even if I am not thirsty. Depending on how long you’re exposed to the heat, hot it is, and how much you exert yourself, your water requirement during an outdoor adventure can vary greatly. Everyone is a little different and some people just need more water than others, which is a function of individual metabolism and experience. For an all-day hike on hot days, I recommend carrying at least one-gallon of pure water. This may seem like a lot of water to some highly experienced outdoorsmen and women, however, you will be using a small portion of that water supply for tactic #3 herein below.

2. Wear a hat with ventilation: Keeping the direct sunlight off your head is an important tactic. Wearing light colored ventilated clothing also helps some. Wearing dark colors is not advisable.

3. Probably the most effective tactic, combined with others that I have encountered is to wear a damp towel around my neck. You can use any rag that will hold water and which is long enough to go around your neck and secure with a knot. I buy the small white hand-towels that are available at Costco and Walmart, which I soak with water. Then I very gently ring-out excess water so the towel is not dripping wet. I then spin it around in the air before rolling it and placing it around my neck. The laws of thermal-dynamics are reliable and water is a great conductor. And as the water in the towel evaporates, it carries-away heat energy from the blood supply in your neck which affects the temperature of your head, and more importantly your brain. You will need to use small portions of your water supply to re-wet the towel periodically when it becomes dry.

William E. Simpson holding snake,
Always be prepared for any surprises when adventuring outdoors!

Using these three tactics, I have regularly hiked in deserts where the ground was so hot, the glue holding the soles of my boots onto the leather uppers melted! I ended-up trying the soles of the boots onto the uppers using some para-cord and was able to successfully hike back-out of the desert.

One of my desert stories is online here.

William E. Simpson spent his formative years growing up on a working ranch in the Applegate Valley of Southern Oregon. William (aka: 'Capt. Bill') is a retired U.S. Merchant Marine Officer with decades of boating and expedition sailing experience, having logged more than 150,000 miles at sea. Capt. Bill has successfully survived long-term ‘off the grid’ at sea and at remote uninhabited desert islands with his family for years at a time. In early 2013, he appeared on National Geographic’s hit TV show Doomsday Preppers (Season-2 ‘A Fortress At Sea’) and received the highest score in two seasons for disaster preparedness and survival, earning the title of ‘Best Prepper’.

Capt. Bill is also a commercial airplane and helicopter pilot and a PADI DiveMaster. Simpson is an accomplished writer covering all aspects of disaster preparedness, including a recent book ‘The Nautical Prepper’ (Ulysses Press). His articles have been featured via numerous magazines and websites and he has been a featured guest on various disaster preparedness radio talk shows. More info at

More columns by Captain William E. Simpson


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