Maintaining core body temperature is fundamental to survival in any environment. This delicate balance, often overlooked in the comfort of modern living, becomes critically evident in survival situations, where the difference between hypothermia and hyperthermia could mean life or death. We explore what core temperature control is, why it’s necessary for survival, and how you can protect and maintain it in adverse conditions.

Survival priorities with Josh Enyart, The Grey Bearded Green Beret

What is Core Temperature Control?

Core temperature control refers to the body’s ability to maintain its internal temperature within a narrow, safe range. The human body operates optimally at approximately 37°C (98.6°F), with slight variations. This internal temperature regulation is crucial for the proper functioning of vital organs and physiological processes.


Why is it Necessary?

Maintaining a stable core temperature is essential for several reasons:

  • Enzymatic activity: Most enzymes that facilitate biochemical reactions in the body work best at this temperature.
  • Cellular function: Extreme temperatures can damage cells, affecting tissue function and leading to potential organ failure.
  • Homeostasis: A stable internal environment allows the body to function efficiently, supporting everything from muscle action to brain activity.


How Can You Protect and Maintain It?

1. Layered Clothing

In cold environments, dressing in layers helps trap body heat. The air between layers acts as insulation, while the outer layers can be adjusted according to activity level and weather conditions to prevent sweat accumulation and subsequent chill.

2. Shelter 

Whether you’re combating the scorching sun or shielding yourself from icy blasts, shelter is paramount. It protects against the elements – wind, rain, snow, and sun – helping to maintain core temperature by creating a more controlled microenvironment.

3. Fire

Fire serves multiple survival purposes, from warmth and cooking to signalling for help. In cold conditions, it’s a vital heat source, while in hot environments, a small fire can be used for smoke signalling without significantly increasing ambient temperatures.

4. Hydration and Nutrition

Staying hydrated helps regulate body temperature by allowing for proper sweat production and cooling in heat, while in cold environments, it prevents dehydration, which can quickly lead to hypothermia. Nutritious food provides the energy necessary for metabolic heat production.

5. Understanding and Mitigation of Environmental Hazards

Recognising the signs of hypothermia and hyperthermia allows for early intervention. Hypothermia symptoms include shivering, slurred speech, and lethargy; hyperthermia symptoms might include dizziness, nausea, and confusion. Immediate action—such as adding/removing layers, seeking shelter, or adjusting activity levels—can be lifesaving.

6. Physical Conditioning

Being in good physical condition can enhance your body’s ability to regulate its temperature. Regular exercise improves circulation and metabolic rate, which can help in both heat and cold scenarios.


Core temperature control is a critical aspect of survival that underscores the importance of preparation and knowledge. Understanding how to maintain your body’s internal temperature within its safe operational range is vital, whether you’re planning an adventure in the wilderness or preparing for any unforeseen survival situation. Remember, the right knowledge, skills, and tools not only make survival possible but can also ensure a return to safety and normalcy.