Clothing Essentials

One statement that our readers will find consistently throughout these posts is “prepare for long-term survival”. It is no secret that the unprepared survivor has a smaller chance of surviving than one who is somewhat prepared or unprepared. The somewhat prepared individual has less chance than someone who is confidently prepared.

Knowledge of proper clothing is very important for any survivor. The SEK (Survival Essential Kit), sometimes referred to as a “bug-out bag”,  must be prepared with proper clothing for any possible climate conditions.


Common sense tells us that dressing for the elements is necessary. Let’s take a look at some considerations when preparing your SEK. Use this climate map, happily provided to The-Survivalist.Com by the National Arbor Day foundation, to prepare the clothing portion of your basic equipment.


The SEK will need to prepare the survivor with clothing that covers the Average Annual Low temperature. Notice that the map above covers zoning 2-10, however, zone 2 does not fit into this US map. Average temperatures in zone 2 are typically found in northern most regions in Alaska and Canada.

Dressing in Layers

Layer One – Wicking Layer – Zones 2-10 in all types of weather
The first layer of clothing, the wicking layer, is the closest layer to the skin. This layer should be constructed of a good wicking material such as merino wool or other synthetic material which removes moisture from the skin and “wicks” it outward toward other layers, or releases it into the air. This wicking layer is essential to good core body temperature control, especially when in cool or cold weather spells as moisture held close to the skin causes a drop in core body temperature as the air temperature cools.

Layer Two – Protection Layer – Zones 2-10 in all types of weather
The second layer, the protection layer, should protect the vascular regions of the neck and wrists. Covering the neck and wrists, the pulse points, aids in protection from both hazards and weather, keeping the body warmer and safer when needed. For the best protection, this layer should be loose fitting, with sleeves that roll up (or can be buttoned at the wrist). A collar such as one that zips or buttons is ideal. During warm or hot weather, this layer may be the outside layer. The construction material should be lightweight such as cotton.

Layer Three – Insulating Layer – Zones 2-10 in cool or cold weather
The third layer, the insulating layer, should be used to keep the body warm in cool weather. This layer is best constructed of fleece and will be the layer to remove if you begin to feel hot. When travelling (walking, hiking, cycling, etc.), the insulating layer should be removed before you begin to feel cold. This can be worn as the outside layer in mild or cool weather.

Layer Four – Outer Layer – Zones 2-9 in cool or cold weather
The fourth layer, the outer layer, is used for protection against cold weather. For the best protection this layer should be constructed of a material that is resistant to wind and waterproof. In cold climates, wear winters are harsh (zones 2-8 especially), this layer should be padded, and have zippered, buttoned, or Velcro fastened ventilation to allow the body to be cooled before becoming too hot. In more temperate zones or in warmer weather, this layer may be simply a thin waterproof shell.

Thermal Underwear – Necessary in below-freezing temperatures
Thermal underwear are a beneficial addition to the survivor’s wardrobe in areas where mid-afternoon temperatures are at or below freezing. The caveat is that if wearing thermal underwear, waterproof pants and Outer Layer must be worn to prevent the thermal underwear from becoming wet. SEK bags should contain no less than two pairs of thermal underwear, if the survivor chooses to include them, so that a dry pair is always available. Wearing wet thermal underwear is the quickest way to lower the body’s core temperature below an acceptable level.

Water-Proof and Padded Pants Layers – Necessary in arctic and very cold climates
Outer pants may be useful when the temperatures drop to below or well-below freezing. There are two types of pants, which may be worn separately or together. The first pants layer should be waterproof, especially if wearing thermal underwear. If the climate is below-freezing and/or windy, an outer padded pants layer may be added. If this layer is worn, the pants will need to cinch at the ankles outside the boots.

Footwear – Sneakers to Jungle Boots
When the temperatures are mild to hot, the basic footwear that will be needed is a pair of sneakers, but only if the ground is dry. Sneakers should have cloth/mesh ventilation for cooling the feet. A better alternative is cloth boots with shock-absorption. This is very helpful when walking paved roads. When hiking or in rougher terrain, hiking boots with leather uppers and thick rubber soles provide better protection. In snow, the best boots are constructed of plastic as leather will shrink and become tighter when wet. For dense forests or jungle-type areas, jungle boots are the best option. Jungle boots will keep the feet dry and provide extra support for the ankles to prevent twisting, and extra protection from injury to the feet and ankles from sharp sticks and rocks.

Thick socks constructed of wool or cotton are necessary. Thicker socks provide protection to the foot to help prevent blisters from shoes, and will also wick moisture away from the feet. In cold weather, a second layer may be worn.

Headwear is necessary for a variety of reasons such as keeping the sun from shining directly in the survivor’s eyes. A variety of headwear is required. For warmer weather, headwear that wicks moisture from the head is necessary. In colder climates, insulated headwear that provides wind protection from the earls is essential. The ultimate cold-weather headwear contains zipped, buttoned or Velcro fastened ventilation.

Clothing  Repair Kit 
A variety of repair essentials is needed to be placed in the SEK. The clothing repair kit should contain, at least, the following items:

  • 10 needles of various sizes
  • 4 spools of thread – light-weight to upholstery
  • Scissors
  • Waterproof matches or a lighter
  • Material patches – cotton, denim, and polyester or polyester blends

When clothing is damaged, repair should take place as soon as possible to prevent further damage.

Keeping Clothing Clean and Dry
Clothing should be clean and dry. Washing clothing requires clean water and washing soap. Pack the SEK with dark colored (black, dark green) rope to hang clothes from for drying.




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