Primer to Cold Weather Survival

Primer to Cold Weather Survival
It’s getting cold. At least, it’s getting cold for me. The odds are very good that some of these players are unaccustomed to cold weather survival.

In the city, if you get cold, you can duck into a building, go to your car, turn up the thermostat or get a sweater from the closet. At game, your choices are very limited, and you need to be prepared. As temperatures dip and stay below 20 C, we really, desperately, do NOT want you to suffer from hypothermia. It isn’t fun. And as the nights (and days) get cooler, the odds of hypothermia will increase.

If you have little or no experience camping, especially outside of the summer months, or generally find cold weather difficult to deal with, please keep reading. Actually, keep reading regardless.


As it gets colder, your body needs more fuel to warm itself up. You need to be eating more often. Always have some water or snack on you, and whenever you get a chance, put something in your mouth, even if you don’t feel hungry or thirsty. There’s a good chance you won’t realize you need fuel until it’s very late, when the adrenaline fades, or when you’re hiding in the woods and trying to stay quiet.

Warm drinks are delicious, but avoid drinking anything too hot: your body will try to cool itself down (e.g. sweating) to shed the excess heat. Conversely, drinking cooler drinks will force your body to warm up; make sure your body is fueled enough to support this!

Primer to Eating at LARP:


Layer. Layer layer layer. Tank top, T-shirt, long-sleeved shirt, sweater, hoodie, light jacket, heavy jacket, cloak. It sounds like overkill, but if you’re anything like me, you can get cold fast. If you’re the type that retains body heat, remove layers as necessary. Wool and thermal wear (e.g. polar fleece) are the ideal fabrics. Have a weatherproof (waterproof or water resistant) layer on top in case the weather suddenly goes very, very bad.

Wear a hat, hood or other substantial head covering. A lot of heat gets released through your head.

Socks. Life is instantly better when you can change your socks. Always bring twice as many as you think you need.

Avoid cotton if possible. It’s great at absorbing water and holding it; once you’re wet or sweaty, you’re going to stay wet and sweaty, then cold, as long as you’re wearing it.

Everyone prefers something non-infernal to wear, like cloaks or knitted sweaters. However, if the only warm clothing you have is a neon orange hoodie, we aren’t going to make you strip it off. (We will, however, be extremely unhappy with you.) At the very least, try to keep your infernal wardrobe to the medieval palette – earth/nature tones, and blacks, greys and whites – and cover up any obvious logos or writing.

Metal is prone to sucking in the worse temperature extreme. If you are cold, your chainmail and plate will be colder. If you are hot, they will be hotter. Take extra care if you’re wearing a chainmail shirt, plate greaves and the like: keep a layer of cloth between you and it to resist some of its leeching properties.

If you find yourself holding still for a while, avoid sitting on the ground, as the ground will suck the heat right out of you. If you can’t find a fallen tree trunk, put a layer between you and the ground – a cloak corner, spare gloves, even a thick pad of leaves would do.

Hot Pockets (also known as Little Hotties) are biodegradable heating packs that can go in your pockets, boots, mittens, etc. Just rip open the package and shake them up, and you’re toasty all night! Thermawraps are larger versions that can go against your torso or back (primarily for medical use), but take care not to put it against bare, unprotected skin as they’ve been known to cause third-degree burns.


A weatherproof tent and thermal sleeping bag are essential to surviving a cold night. If you have a way to bring a portable heater in, go for it! (Remember we don’t exactly have outlets in the forest for you to use.)

Share a tent with a friend. If you’re buddy-buddy with them, sleep together. Your shared body heat will warm up the tent so much faster.

Remember that the ground will leech heat from you. Put a layer or two beneath your sleeping bag: a lot of people use foam puzzle pieces. Ditto for those who sleep on air mattresses or cots: the air beneath your bed will suck out the heat from under you.

Wear a hat to bed, but keep your nose and mouth outside of the sleeping bag. Your breath has moisture in it, and if you try to sleep completely encased, you will soak the material fast. (Also, not the quickest way to escape from a tent marauder.)

But if I’m suffering, the Medical Marshals will help me, right?
Medical Marshals are players – customers just like you – who volunteer their time to assist with unpreventable medical issues: twisting an ankle while running, smashing face-first into a tree, bad weapon swings to more delicate body parts.

They (and by extension Underworld) are not your mom. If you are cold, you eat a snack and put on a sweater, not keep running until you pass out in the woods, shaking and half-frozen. In the event of an emergency – if you are genuinely having trouble warming up – you can always go to NPC/Shaper camp, where there will be a fire and Shaper to warm you up. (Don’t count on Town Centre always having a fire, especially at Hallowe’en.)

However, you need to prove that you’re adequately prepared to deal with the cold before they’ll release you. If you can’t convince the Shapers that you have a spare sweater, blanket and/or sleeping bag to stay warm for the night, they’ll strongly advise that you go home. We genuinely are concerned for your health and nobody wants to kick you out, but the game is not worth dying for, especially for something as easily preventable as hypothermia.

(And don’t think avoiding to Shaper camp will absolve you of this oversight. Collapsing on the field during a game-wide mod is another way to get a Medical Marshal’s attention, and our player base is quite attuned to when a player is definitely not in good shape.)

If all else fails, go home. You got your blankets and played your game. We want to be known for being a threat to your fictional life, not real one.

This was originally posted at, with minor edits.


One thought on “Primer to Cold Weather Survival

  1. Pingback: This Year’s All Hallows (for Newbies) | Underworld LARP

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