Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Ten Essentials

On a warm afternoon in July, a family leaves a trail head with the goal of summitting the South Sister Mountain in Central Oregon.  It was a rough hike as they took a path not frequently traveled.  By evening it became obvious that this group would not make it to the summit and the glacier they were attempting to cross was icing up; it just wasn’t safe to press on.  911 was called and a local SAR team reached them after midnight.  The temperature on the glacier was quickly dropping below 40° (F) and the hikers were getting cold.

When the SAR team reached them, they found that the group had some food and water but no other gear.  The hikers’ clothing selection was questionable too.

What is the right stuff to carry in the outdoors?  What is the minimum?  What should you consider before hitting the trail?

A climbing group in the 1930's, The Mountaineers from Seattle authored the “Ten Essentials” describing ten items that should be carried in the back country. 

“The Ten Essentials” has been modified by different groups over the years.  The following is the list that REI recommends:

  1. Navigation
  2. Sun protection
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire starter
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

This is the minimum that one should carry.  It is a starting point.

For a more detailed look at what should go into your survival kit take a look at “Build the Perfect Survival Kit” by John D. McCann.  This book evaluates equipment and provides suggestions for kit components based on your outdoor needs.  For example, he has check lists for the day hiker and expands that to the deep woods trekker or SAR team member.
Now that you have the gear, what should you consider as you head in to the back country?

I was searching the Internet last year looking for other suggestions on wilderness travel planning.  I came across a web site hosted in Norway.  I read that after a series of accidents and 18 deaths on Easter 1967, the Norwegian Red Cross and Norwegian Mountain Touring authored what is known as the Norwegian Mountain Code.  (To find this information in detail, Google search on “the Norwegian Mountain Code.”)

The basic elements of the code are (and I am quoting from the site):

  1. Be prepared -Be sufficiently experienced, fit and equipped for your intended trip.
  2. Leave word of your route – Tell a responsible person your travel plan. (See the recommended Hikers Trip Plan at    click on links.”)
  3. Be weather-wise - An old adage advises that you should always be alert to forecasts of bad weather, yet not rely completely on forecasts of good weather.
  4. Be equipped for bad weather and frost. - Always take a rucksack and proper mountain gear. Put on more clothing if you see approaching bad weather or if the temperature drops.
  5. Learn from the locals.
  6. Use a map and compass.  Take a GPS too.
  7. Do not go solo. - If you venture out alone, there is nobody to give you first aid or notify a rescue service in an emergency.
  8. Turn back in time - sensible retreat is no disgrace. - If conditions deteriorate so much that you doubt you can attain your goal, turn around and return.
  9. Conserve energy and build a snow shelter if necessary.. 

The Scouts got it right – be prepared.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Be Sure That You are Ready for a Snow Storm

Today's post is by a new guest writer - Lee.  He has made some very valid points that the East coast is experiencing once again.  Please comment to let Lee know what you think.

Although spring has officially arrived, it is important to still be prepared for snow storms. Snow storms frequently occur in the late spring months, and if you are not prepared for them, you could find yourself trying to survive a drastic situation without the necessary supplies. As with many natural disasters, preparation is the key to survival. Therefore, if you have the items listed below, your chances of survival are greatly increased.

 Working Flashlight As with any natural disaster, one of the first utilities to be affected is electricity. The same is true with snow storms. When a snow storm comes in, the weight of the snow and ice will damage power lines, thus causing power outages. However, if you have a working flashlight, you will still be able to move around in the dark without causing damage to your home or injuring yourself. Additionally, a working flashlight will allow you to move around safely to get other materials that you may need.

First Aid Kit If there is an accident, it is important to have a first aid kit. Since there may be days before electricity is restored, you need to be able to assist with any medical emergencies. Furthermore, because of the amount of snow that will be at your front door, there may be days before you are able to leave your home. The first aid kit will prevent the small accidents from becoming large emergencies.

 Bottled Water With a snow storm, it is important to have lots of bottled water. Ideally, according to the Red Cross, you should have at least one gallon a day for each person in your home. Because it will be cold during a snowstorm, many people have the false belief that water is not as important since there will not be much sweating. However, water is as important during the cold weather as it is during the hot weather. Without the necessary amount of water each day, you will find yourself becoming dehydrated quickly.

Layered Clothing As noted earlier, one of the first utilities to be affected by a snowstorm is the electricity. Without electricity, your home will become cold in a matter of time. By having layered clothing, you will be able to keep your body temperature at its normal rate. The best type of clothing will be the type that has thick fleece fabric embedded within it. This type of fabric will hold heat inside much better than other types of clothing. Fortunately, this type of fabric is available in all sizes. In fact, the CDC notes that layered clothing is one of the single most important items needed to survive a snowstorm. 

Canned Foods Just as water is important, canned food is equally as important. Since you will probably be without electricity, you need to make sure that your canned food does not have to be heated. There are many types of canned foods that will be beneficial during this time. There are vegetables, fruits, meats, and whole grains that come in cans. For optimal results with canned food, you need to pay special attention to your food storage techniques. It is important to store your food in places that are dry and can be easily reached. Also, you should store your foods on low shelves as opposed to high shelves. By storing your food on a low shelf, you will reduce your chances of injury by having to climb to higher shelves.

 No one wants to have to endure a snow storm. However, if you have to go through one, it is important that you are truly prepared. Preparation will make this time much more manageable for you. By having the items listed above, you will be prepared for a snow storm. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Search and Rescue Responds

OUTSIDE magazine neatly describes how SAR teams are deployed and work in the backcountry.

Do check out Devon O'Neil's post - it's a quick read.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bear Attack

In my wilderness survival class, I am frequently asked what kind of gun would be my best defense against a bear attack.  I am asked “is a rifle better than a pistol or what about a shotgun?”  Rarely does anyone ask about bear spray.

Early Saturday morning I was listening to NothwesternOutdoors Radio.  The show’s host, John Kruse interviewed a representative from bear spray manufacturer Counter Assault.

After listening I did a bit of internet research and found some of the statistics brought forward on the radio show.  I focused on a May 2012 article in Outside Magazine by Nick Heil (“Shoot or Spray,  The Best Way To Stop a Charging Bear.”)

Bear spray may be the backcountry traveler’s best option.

Here are a few “take-aways” from Heil’s article:

  • ·       Over the period from 1883 to 2009, there were 269 bear close encounters, bears inflicted injuries in 151 encounters and killed 17 people.
  •         Bear spray was first introduced in 1985.  From 1985 to 2006 there were 83 close bear encounters involving 156 people. Heil reports that “In all the incidents involving spray, there were only three injuries and none of them were fatal…”
  •          Interestingly, an associate professor in Plant and Wildlife Sciences, Tom Smith, was asked to provide guidance on how to be safe in bear county.  “But all the information I could find was based on no data at all or just misguided impressions”

So, what should you do in bear country?

  •          Keep bear spray in a holster readily accessible and out of the backpack.

  •          Get the spray out in front and get ready to activate.  Spray has a limited volume.  Check Counter Assault’s info videos on their web site.

  •       Stay in a group and group up when a bear is seen.

  •         Stand your ground, make noise.

  •          Don’t make eye contact.

Please keep the following in mind:

  •         Bear Spray has a shelf life of about two years.  Check the bottle’s label.
  •            Bottles of spray may not go into your luggage for air travel.
  •        Bear Spray can be purchased at many parks, Cabelas, Sportsman’s Ware House,       REI and other stores that cater to hunters.
  •         At the end of a trip the bottles can be recycled.  I left an expired bottle on my last trip with the park rangers.