emergency overnights

Posted by: billyjaxin

emergency overnights - 10/20/14 05:35 PM

My experience applies to my own part of the world, the Pacific Northwest (specifically Vancouver Island, Canada).
I've spent a few unplanned nights out and two planned nights to discover what works. (More nights planned)

I've come to the conclusion that so far, for my region, one of those small disposable ponchos and a half dozen pocket warmers will keep me alive. The poncho serves as a mini-tent that I can squat under. Rain clothes don't function well when you're not vertical.
Fire is over-rated. In most cases it's emotional comfort and something to do. The warmth of a small open fire doesn't penetrate well-insulated clothing, and sparks will destroy artificial fabrics.
In bug season I consider a net essential. Running around in the dark to escape the torture would be dangerous.
A powerful mini flashlight with strobe would probably repel a cougar.

It will take many more trial nights to really learn what works. I suggest that anyone who packs an emergency overnight kit should test it out under real conditions in all weather, with the safety of the vehicle nearby.
Posted by: 4evrplan

Re: emergency overnights - 10/21/14 10:55 AM

I'm in the process of planning what to put in my nine year old sons pack for our first overnight (two nights actually) in case we get separated. Come to think of it, he'll be ten by the time we go. How time flies, but I digress. He'll be carrying bedding, warm clothes, an emergency blanket, whistle, a powerful flashlight, and a few other things. At some point, I need to go over with him what to do with the blanket. I don't anticipate getting separated, but luck favors the prepared.
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: emergency overnights - 10/21/14 03:06 PM

I'd say that for the most part you're right, a few chemical warmers and a big poncho will keep you alive overnight in some pretty rugged conditions and I certainly agree that's it's a good idea to have a clue about how your back plan will work out. You seem to be taking a minimalist approach to this though, and while there's nothing wrong with that, I think it's important to understand this.

Personally, I take a bit more stuff for the emergency overnighter, and I'd most certainly get a fire going if I wanted or needed one to be comfortable, and it was safe to do so.

And it's important to understand, like you've pointed out, that what works is really regional, seasonal, and even current conditions based.

I generally bring one of those "SOL" emergency blankets, a rain jacket, hard warmers, and some extra food, along with my FAK and some basic backpacking gear like tape and needle, thread, etc. So far I've never needed to use it, but that's probably because I generally bring it, but I'm a firm believer that the time I don't is when I'll really need it.



Posted by: billyjaxin

Re: emergency overnights - 10/21/14 04:14 PM

My first unplanned night out occurred when I was 16 and on a one week backpacking trip with experienced people. My tent got wet and, since I didn't understand hypothermia, I'd have died that night if I'd been alone in the tent. I spent the following night sitting in front of the fire, in the rain, under a poncho. Dozed off and when the fire died down I'd wake up and add some wood. That's when I became sold on the usefulness of a poncho as an emergency shelter.
Second time, age 17. My parents dropped me off after church to go looking for a lake. It took me too long and darkness overcame me in dense forest on the bushwhack portion of the route. I had enough overnight gear to light a fire and lay down beside it until daylight.
Third time was age 42 on a forestry job. I was returning to camp by a different route and found myself blocked by a cliff with darkness approaching. Spent a very boring 12+ hours of total darkness on the side of a remote British Columbia fjord in late November. Did have a fire for a while. It was ineffectual given the working gear I was wearing.
Recently I've decided to practice using my overnight gear. I've only gone out twice so far but plan to do one per month. They are long, long nights in the dark, I can tell you that.

When hiking in damp weather, I carry spare dry socks and thermals. The amount of emergency gear I carry depends on whether I'm alone, and the conditions.
I think that, when we're alone, we should have some minimum of proven equipment on our person, with the remainder in the pack.
Posted by: Gershon

Re: emergency overnights - 10/22/14 11:45 AM

I agree with fire being overrated. Collecting wood warms me up, but a fire doesn't do much.

My SVEA 123R stove is easier to light and I can get pretty close to it. It puts off more usable heat than a fire. A bottle of fuel will last a good part of the night.

Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: emergency overnights - 10/27/14 10:27 AM

Practice runs on unplanned nights out are very useful. When I taught at NOLS, we made every student do a "night out" with only the gear they would always take on a day-hike. Since climbing was our focus, our nights out were generally up on a mountain - a bit more severe condition than what you describe. I would only suggest that you test the extremes of your local conditions - temperature, wind and rain. Rain storms are quite variable - from the gentle drizzle to tornado like downpours with wind. Not sure if your area ever would experience the latter. If you would ever be caught out without tree cover, try that too. From what I know of your area it appears that you have plenty of forests cover. You are probably a better judge of what you need than any of us who backpack in different areas. Knowing how to utilize the natural material for warmth and shelter is just as important as bringing the right gear.

On item I always carry is a small 2x2 foot square of closed foam pad. That along with my pack, provides good insulation from the ground.

I disagree on fires being useless. First, you must be a very good fire-builder and most people nowadays do not know or have enough practice at building a survival fire. Even in a rain-soaked forest, you can always find dry wood to start the fire if you know where to look. Second, you need to know under what conditions fires work and when they do not work. If gathering wood is going to get you more soaked, hunkering down is better. On the other hand, if it is not too rainy and is very cold to freezing, fire gathering will not only warm you up but the fire will be very helpful. Survival fires are not your average campfire - you have to locate them so the heat is reflected back to you - such as a fire next to a rock wall with enough space for you to sit between the fire and the rock wall. A survival fire has been a real advantage for me on several occasions.
Posted by: Mama

Re: emergency overnights - 01/13/15 08:38 PM

Originally Posted By 4evrplan
I'm in the process of planning what to put in my nine year old sons pack for our first overnight (two nights actually) in case we get separated. Come to think of it, he'll be ten by the time we go. How time flies, but I digress. He'll be carrying bedding, warm clothes, an emergency blanket, whistle, a powerful flashlight, and a few other things. At some point, I need to go over with him what to do with the blanket. I don't anticipate getting separated, but luck favors the prepared.


For my daughter, we attached a good quality loud whistle to her pack. If she notices she somehow got separated from us she is to stop moving so she doesn't get even further away, and blow the whistle in increments of 3 blasts to signal her distress (a universal distress signal). So far no emergencies. Knock wood.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: emergency overnights - 01/14/15 11:24 PM

I think I would take walkie-talkies. My grandkids all have them and know how to use them. You may have to upgrade to a better quality than the general kids toys.
Posted by: 4evrplan

Re: emergency overnights - 01/15/15 12:35 PM

We've got a pair of those tiny hand-held two-way's buried in our stuff somewhere. It was a splurge my wife and I had back before we had kids so we could talk on trips from separate cars. I think we used them all of once or twice. I'll have to see if I can dig them up and check/charge the batteries.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: emergency overnights - 01/15/15 12:57 PM

I've never spent an unplanned night out, although I came close once when I went off on a long dayhike without my headlamp. I fortunately got off the steep, rough section of the return trail while it was still light, and had only a mile of level trail, most of it in the open and therefore lit by a half-moon, to get to my car. That was close, because I definitely would have stopped and stayed put on the steep, rough trail section had I been only 10 minutes later.

I was quite well prepared to be out overnight, though, and would have finished the hike out the next morning in good condition.

I keep thinking I should spend a night out with my "Ten" Essentials, and i may yet do that. Of course it needs to be a cold, soggy, windy, and otherwise miserable night for full effect! Unfortunately there is a lot of difference in being prepared to spend a safe but uncomfortable night when necessary and deliberately going out and doing it--I'm a bit short on will power for the latter!
Posted by: aimless

Re: emergency overnights - 01/15/15 01:07 PM

On item I always carry is a small 2x2 foot square of closed foam pad. That along with my pack, provides good insulation from the ground.

+1 on this item. This is always in my day pack (my backpack, too). Very light. Very versatile.
Posted by: 4evrplan

Re: emergency overnights - 01/15/15 01:12 PM

Originally Posted By OregonMouse
Of course it needs to be a cold, soggy, windy, and otherwise miserable night for full effect!

You know, I keep reading about people using leaves as extra insulation and cushioning in both emergency and non-emergency situations, but I would think that equation breaks down really quick when it's wet. If I had to spend a night out with only the "ten essentials", and there wasn't any dry leaves, I don't think I'd lay down at all. I'd probably ball up in a sitting position to conserve warmth, probably even put my legs inside my jacket or shirt, assuming they fit. Only problem is, my left knee bugs me and I've got to stretch it out every now and then.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: emergency overnights - 01/15/15 01:36 PM

That's where that small piece of closed cell foam pad in your pack comes in! It will insulate you from the ground. It's a good idea to have for rest stops on a normal, uncomplicated day hike. A cold, damp rear end takes a while to warm up and dry out when you start hiking again, and definitely reduces your enjoyment!
Posted by: billstephenson

Re: emergency overnights - 01/15/15 11:07 PM

Originally Posted By aimless
On item I always carry is a small 2x2 foot square of closed foam pad. That along with my pack, provides good insulation from the ground.

+1 on this item. This is always in my day pack (my backpack, too). Very light. Very versatile.


I switched over to a piece of bubble foil insulation. I fold it for a sitting pad but the piece I bring unfolds to a 3/4 length sleeping pad. I can lean it against a tree or rock and sit on it and have a back rest too. I'm a huge fan of that stuff.
Posted by: Minx

Re: emergency overnights - 01/18/15 08:28 PM

Layering clothing and a poncho are great. Weighing almost the same as a poncho are those little tube tents but they require some cord or poles or making poles out of branches. Might be an option for some. The Gatewwod Cape by Six Moons Designs is the ultimate in poncho/shelter design in my opinion. I love mine. 10 oz +/-, multifunctional, practical and extremely well built. (Maybe a bit much for an essential kit as far as $ and space/weight is concerned but well worth it.)
It always seems like itís around 2am when it gets really hard if you are in harsh conditions without adequate shelter. Thereís those 4 or more hours of dark cold ahead and you are already shivering. Personally, this is when I appreciate the benefits of a good fire. I used to do quite a bit of survival hikes, which is basically what you are posting about here but with a destination to make it to by sometime the next day, and some of those nights it was much better to hunker down with the minimal gear Iíd take rather than keep hiking thru the night. The warmest/driest lightweight/small thing Iíve tried is an emergency bag. The Mylar sleeping bag. One that is long enough(84Ē) for you to get fully inside so you can go sideways and keep the rain off if you have to. Seemed to work better than the emergency blanket to me. So well that I keep it in my kit to this day. Donít get me wrong, itís still miserable, but Ö maybe less so.?. This and an emergency blanket as a lean-to to keep the rain/wind off and reflect the heat of the fire at your back, is the lap of luxury for emergency overnight shivering. I think these 2 things with some cord are about 8 or 9 oz. and tiny. Fit in your medic kit which is a good place to have um, hypothermia, shock, etc.

And, +1 on hand warmers and small CCF pad. I always have a small pad with me, reflective on one side.

4evrplan Ė Good work with your son. I found it extremely helpful to have an extra emergency blanket to give my kids to, uh, ďworkĒ with. They had a good time destroying it and learning itís limitations. The one thing I would stress is that your boy know how to use every piece of gear you throw in there.
Posted by: Jim M

Re: emergency overnights - 02/18/15 01:02 AM

I found this topic interesting. I live in the pacific northwest and hike the Olympic Mountains all year long. I think that the ultralight people don't understand what the weather is like here because there is no way you can carry extremely light loads and be safe. If I am on an easy popular trail my day-hike pack weighs 10 pounds for a day hike. In anything but summer it is more, and snowshoeing it gets close to 20. Base layer, insulation layer and shell bottom and top. In winter a substantial hooded down parka. I always carry a mylar bivy sack and a 48" closed cell pad, but I might start carrying a poncho now that I have read your recommendation. I was out the last two nights at 4950' and it was unusually warm for Feb. It was 27 F (-3C ?). Thanks for the topic
Posted by: Jim M

Re: emergency overnights - 02/18/15 12:15 PM

I agree with your "sitting" suggestion. I happen to really like an old survival guide called "Outdoor Living" by Eugene H. Fear (no longer in print). Most of the illustrations showing how to reduce the mechanisms of heat loss from the body show people in the sitting position. That makes a poncho a nice envelope if you can get your knees up inside it.
Posted by: Weston1000

Re: emergency overnights - 09/10/17 03:03 PM

Video: "Tip Of The Week" - 2 Minute, Heated Emergency Shelter (E12)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vzl2rPdiwYQ