Thursday, February 19, 2015

Layers (and I don't mean chickens)

Living in an area that provides all four seasons every year (sometimes all four within 24 hours), I've learned the philosophy of layers. Dressing in layers is a staple of cold-weather survival, with the basic idea being to add light layers of clothes as you get colder and removing them as you warm up.

An Example Of Layering
Let's say I need to go out to cut firewood in January -- something that is not wise, but yet sometimes has to be done. I know I'm going to be traveling in a truck with no heater (it didn't come with one from the factory), dragging a chainsaw up a hill to the trees, felling a tree or two, trimming off the branches, cutting the wood into lengths that will fit into the stove, and then loading and unloading the truck.

I'll start off in the morning fully dressed with thermal underwear under jeans and insulated bibs over them, a T-shirt under a shirt and sweater with a heavy insulated coat over that, wool liners inside leather gloves, and a stocking cap. Once I get to the trees I'll take off the coat and leave it in the truck. As the day warms up and I start working, I'll take off the bibs and take the wool liners out of the gloves. By the time I have a load cut and it's time to start loading the truck I'll take off the sweater and do the heavy lifting in just the thermal/jeans and T-shirt/shirt. The work will be paced to prevent working up a sweat, since sweating kills the insulating value of most material and leaves you cold and damp when you stop working. 

Clothes will be put back on as needed for the trip back home in the unheated truck depending on how cold it is, and taken back off for the unloading. The trick is to stay cool enough that you don't sweat, but warm enough that you don't shiver.

The concept of layering gives me a variety of options for staying warm that a single heavy layer would not. If all I had was a snowmobile suit or heavy parka over normal clothes, I would have only the choice of hot or cold with no options in between.

This concept also works for other prepping subjects:

If you're in a tent, you probably also have a sleeping bag and a rain-fly for that tent. These, along with a ground cloth and sleeping pad, are your layers of shelter. In warm weather you'll be comfortable with the tent flaps and vents/windows open, but if you're out in the Spring or Fall you'll want to use all of the layers available to keep heat inside with you. Many sleeping bags are now “sleeping systems” that consist of two or three individual bags designed to be used separately for mild/cool weather and then combined, one inside the other, for colder weather. 

If you look at how houses are constructed, you'll again see the concept of layers in action. The outer skin is usually wood or plastic siding with a Tyvek vapor barrier. Underneath that is the sheathing, a plywood or Oriented Strand Board (OSB) layer that attaches to the studs and reinforces the frame as well as providing another barrier to anything trying to get inside. Insulation is placed between the studs, and a layer of drywall is placed on the inside. Some builders will place another vapor barrier under the drywall if humidity is a serious problem.

The best security has always been designed in layers. Look at a normal bank: they have a vault at the core of the building, with alarms and solid walls surrounding it, and guards in place during business hours. They also have monitored cameras trained on each teller position as well as the outside of the building. Each teller station has an alarm button, and a lot of the cash trays have a secondary alarm switch built into them (empty out more than one bill slot and it triggers an alarm).

Security around your home should be set up in a similar layered fashion, with the specific barriers and measures dependent on your particular situation. Threat analysis is a specialized field, but you should at least have an idea of what you'd like to be able to keep out in order to develop a security plan. Locks, alarms, solid doors, cameras, and all of the other home security measures are parts of your security layers.

Food in individual servings packed into a box, and then stored on a shelf in a basement, is an example of layered storage. In order for anything to get to the food, it first has to defeat the protection of the house walls, then get up to the shelf, and work through the box and packaging. Grain stored in Mylar bags inside of a bucket in a pantry is the same idea, and works just as well. Having caches and storage sites other than where you live is a good example of having layers of storage.

When you plan out how you're going to pack things in your bug-out bag, it's a good idea to think of the layers that will be formed by stacking things on top of each other. Place the things you're going to need most often towards the top to make them easier to get to, and prevent having to unload everything in the pack just to get to that dry pair of socks.

Staying healthy requires good hygiene practices and layers of cleanliness are good ways to plan them. Start with the innermost level (where you have the most control) and work your way out to where you run into circumstances you have little or no control over. 
  1. Personal hygiene consists of washing your hands and keeping your body as clean as possible. 
  2. The next layer is your clothes: keeping them clean and dry helps prevent diseases and parasites from getting a foothold. 
  3. Your living quarters are the next further out from your body. Keeping your house clean and free of vermin minimizes disease vectors and secures your food from pests. 
  4. Placing your sanitary facilities (outhouses and trash pits) well away from living spaces and water sources is a common sense hygiene step. Removing or preventing others from placing trash and waste near living spaces is about as far as you can reasonably go in improving your physical layers, but there may be benefit to helping others improve their hygiene practices.

Face-to-face communication is the base layer, followed by short-range radio or intercom/field phones, and then long-range radio. If you live in an area with a population that speaks a language other than your own, plan on having translators handy to make communications possible. Cell phones, text messaging, and e-mail fill more than one layer and are harder to classify as devices. I prefer to think of their uses, rather than the devices themselves, as layers.

And the Rest
If you look at other parts of your preps you may be able to find similar patterns in areas like scouting, food production, and bartering. It's a tool you should use to check your preps for a shortcoming or two. There are other methodologies that will work just as well; if you have one that works let me know in the comments below.

Unlike some in the prepper-sphere, I have no pretensions of knowing everything. I am learning something every day and I try my best to share what I have learned. If you have anything that you'd like to share with fellow preppers, leave me a note in the comments and I'll contact you -- or check out our Guest Articles link at the top of the page.

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