river partially frozen over with ice
The Bluestone River in winter.

NPS photo/Mark Bollinger


Hypothermia is a medical emergency that occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Hypothermia can happen even in the summer, so always be prepared!


You never know what the weather might do, so always be prepared for the possibility of cold and wet weather.

  • Always take an extra pair of dry clothes, especially dry socks. If your cloths become wet, replace them.
  • Always pack a sweater or jacket, warm hat, and rain gear for any hike.
  • Wear clothing that wicks away moisture
  • Avoid sweating by dressing in layers


  • No matter how warm it is outside you are likely to get wet, so wear appropriate clothing.
  • Wear quick drying clothing (such as nylon).
  • Also take a quick drying jacket, one made for rain or water.
  • DO NOT wear cotton or jeans. They will hold the water and make you very cold.
  • Have a pair of dry clothes where you will be getting out, including dry socks, shoes, and a jacket.

Symptoms of Hypothermia

  • Uncontrolled shivering
  • Loss of coordination; clumsiness and stumbling
  • Slurring of speech
  • Confusion or difficulty thinking
  • Drowsiness and very low energy
  • Shallow breathing, weak pulse, loss of consciousness.


  • Move person out from the cold, take them into a dry warm place.
  • Remove the person’s wet clothing.
  • Cover the person with dry blankets, or coats.
  • If victim is outside place something on the ground underneath them to help warm the body.
  • Monitor breathing; if victim has lost consciousness make sure to contact emergency services.
  • If the person is conscious have then drink warm beverages, non alcoholic with no caffeine.
  • Do not apply direct heat, do not use hot water or a heating pad, the direct heat will damage the skin.

Last updated: February 8, 2021

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