Hypothermia is a creeping, secretive killer. Its early symptoms can appear as mere irritations. Because a person suffering from hypothermia progressively becomes less and less coherent, those who are suffering hypothermia rarely recognize the danger. That’s one reason why the buddy system is so crucial for survival in the backcountry. Two sets of eyes and two rational minds are a real advantage in the face of hypothermia. Your buddy can speak up if you’re not behaving normally, or if he or she notices conditions are ripe for hypothermia. Recognizing hypothermia symptoms is like recognizing stoke symptoms: The earlier you spot it, the better chance you have of saving the victim. And yes, “saving” is an appropriate verb here, since hypothermia can kill.
Protect yourself and your trail mates: Know the signs of hypothermia we list below, so that you can call 911 or stop to warm up your companion before it’s too late.