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Protection from the elements is the first and MOST essential of the “currencies of life.” 

In cases of extreme heat or cold, you can die from exposure in a matter of a couple hours, if you don’t have the proper protection from the elements.

So what is “protection from the elements?”

A lot of people will include “shelter” on their list of survival basics. I use the phrase “protection from the elements” because to me it seems like a more appropriate label for the threat we’re trying to describe-the elements. The elements can be heat or cold, and can be delivered with side orders of humidity, aridity, or wind.

Apart from helping me to remember that the “elements” really are the threat, and that they come in many shapes and sizes, I like the phrase “protection from the elements”, because it includes more than just shelter.

Protection from the elements includes: clothing, shelter and fire.

Clothing

Having and wearing the right clothing may not be as exciting as building a tipi or ice cave, but it has INFINITELY more to do with whether you live or die.

Scout’s honor.

The clothing you wear, is your first line of defense. Proper clothing yields sooner and longer lasting results than your shelter will, because it’s on you. It doesn’t matter if you have a shady spot on a 112 degree day, if you’re wearing a wool sweater, you’re headed for heat exhaustion. Same thing goes for wearing a bikini inside of an ice cave.

Gaining a good understanding of how clothing can maximize your thermoregulation, is your first line of defense against the elements.

Shelter

The second thing you can do to protect yourself from the elements, is to have appropriate shelter–both from the heat and cold. This means incorporating any natural AND man-made resources that you have at your disposal.

When you’re a couple hours away from dying of hypothermia, you can’t be thumbing your nose at sheltering in a car because it’s not “bushcraft.”

Same thing goes for trying to pitch a tent in the middle of a freezing rainstorm when there’s a cave or downed tree 20 feet away.

Fire

Fire could fall into a handful of different categories–water because it helps you purify, food because it helps you cook, but I feel like it’s a main course in the “protection from the elements” meal, and perhaps more like a side dish in the others.

Fire can create the heat that your body needs to survive, even in a subzero climate.

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