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#188400 - 01/07/15 12:22 AM EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY:
Minx Offline
member

Registered: 11/22/14
Posts: 23
What do you do to prepare for emergencies on the trail?

Where safety is concerned for wilderness adventure we always think of things we should take like a first aid kit, enough water, a little extra food, foot care like mole skin, fire starter, compass and a signaling device or something. Then there's those anal ones, like me, who might add things to the list like an emergency blanket, knife, 20 or 30 feet of cord and some duct tape, etc. These are all worth more than their weight in gold should you find yourself in need of them. The hard truth is, however, that more often than not we run into bad situations exactly when we are least prepared. A unexpected fail on a short hike leaves us helpless away from camp without our gear or something. Whatever.
So the fact remains and warrants continued consideration...
The skills to 'make do' will get you through adverse situations exponentially better than any piece of equipment you carry. Preparing yourself is simply THE most important thing you can do to mitigate dangers and what ifs. Of course, pack those things but...
Basic first aid and wilderness first aid, physical fitness and navigation are all things every adventurer should know and practice. Books and online sources are great and you should study but, book sense only gets you so far. At some point you need to practice and it is best to practice with somebody that knows what they're doing.  Your local recreation shop and the red cross are good places to start looking for classes.
Then...
Why not take it to the next level?
Skills only get good with practice. Why not practice when you are actually out in the wilderness? Put what you learn to the test when you are out in the elements.  I realize this sounds like "prepper" stuff but there is a reason first responders do drills in their down time.

THINGS TO PRACTICE on your next backpacking adventure:
 - MAKE FIRE There is nothing like a fire to lift your spirits and make sheltering  better. It is also a defense,  signal, warmth, light, water purifier, etc. Try making fires in different ways. No matches or lighter. After using your sparking rod in a bundle, try a bow-driill, hand drill or magnifying glass. If you have to do it in bad conditions you'll be glad you worked through the details in good ones.
 - BUILD A SHELTER. What materials are in your vecinity to use? What kind of shelter would be easiest and most effective?  How long does it take? How can you make a shelter with limited resources or gear? i.e., all found natural items or just a trash bag and piece of string. (kids particularly love this one. A fort!)
 - BOIL WATER. Without a pot.  What can you use in nature or maybe out of your pack? Could you build a solar still? How much water can you get from one?
 - REPLACE TOILET PAPER with things in the wild. What works best?
 - BUILD A SIGNALING MARKER. SPECIAL NOTE: DO NOT LEAVE IT UP. How would you get a rescue team to find you? What would be the best signal for your location and conditions? For safety and to make sure you do not waste the precious resources and time of our amazing first responders, do not finish a signal and be sure to take down and clear any signal you make.
 - FIND EDIBLE PLANTS. What plants in your area are safe and nutritious? How do you prepare them?

Just a few basic skills you will be thankful to have practiced if you ever get into a bad spot. Rubbing 2 sticks together is extremely difficult and 10 times more frustrating when you are tired, cold, dehydrated and hungry.
This can also be a very fun way to spend some time in the wild and rewarding when you accomplish the task. Kids get so much out of it as well.

ADD YOUR EMERGENCY/SURVIVAL TASK TO PRACTICE IN THE COMMENT SECTION  BELOW.
I am curious to know what others do or if anybody else thinks about this crap (and will admit it) or if I'm just nuts.

Now go play outside. (After adding your suggestion.)

Packman
Tread lightly.
www.raisedbyraccoons.blogspot.com #backpacking #survivalskills #firstaid #goplayoutside

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#188407 - 01/07/15 10:54 AM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: Minx]
4evrplan Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 653
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
I definitely admire people with those types of skills. It seems like a fun hobby, if that's what you're into. However, some of us don't want to have to earn a PHD in wilderness survival just to enjoy the outdoors. I'm fully aware when I go on a hike that I'm taking a calculated risk, as we all should be, but that's our choice. Of course, I'm not saying to be stupid about it. At the very least, you should have gear and supplies appropriate to the situation, but most of the time, I'd rather hike than frustrate myself trying to make fire with wet wood and a stone knife.

Something else to consider is that, often, practicing wilderness survival skills goes against LNT. If you're building primitive shelters on your own property, that's fine. Just be respectful of everyone else who may want to enjoy the area you're in.

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#188408 - 01/07/15 11:11 AM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: 4evrplan]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1731
Loc: Napa, CA
While many of those skills are fun to learn, the most important survival skills iare to learn how to stay safe, stay found, and get out. Most of the skills on your list become pretty darn redundant at that point.

I think too many people endorse the idea of the outdoors as survival training. It's recreation. Get out there, have fun, and stay safe. You don't need to know how to catch a fish with your bare hands, skin a bear, or make a fire in the blizzard to have a spectacularly good time in the wilderness.
_________________________
balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#188409 - 01/07/15 11:49 AM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: balzaccom]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6400
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
The important things are having the gear to stay warm, dry, and hydrated if stuck out over a night or two (those "Ten" Essentials), sense enough to stay put until found if lost, basic wilderness first aid skills, knowledge that hydration is more important than what might be in the water. Also leaving your itinerary with a trusted person. I personally no longer go out even on day hikes without my Personal Locator Beacon. I've never had to use it and hopefully never will, but the 5 ounces beat the alternative of waiting several days to be reported missing. They also keep my family off my case, a psychological weight saving! Why is it that when children grow up they want to reverse the parent/child role?

I agree with balzaccom that most of those skills described by the OP are not necessary. Some of them may be illegal (such as cutting green wood for shelter, or building fires in situations where wood is scarce (high altitude) or the fire danger is extreme. In the right situations, of course, they are fun, but mostly not essential to survival for those who routinely follow the precautions I've outlined above.


Edited by OregonMouse (01/07/15 11:51 AM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#188413 - 01/07/15 02:20 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: Minx]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2860
Loc: Portland, OR
My take on this has not changed in decades.

Aside from fire building, the skills you listed have very little application to an experienced and prepared backpacker. If I am backpacking, I already have the gear, clothes and food I need to survive in the wilderness. I don't need to build a makeshift shelter if I have a tent. I don't need to boil water without a pot, because I brought a pot.

Knowing edible plants is a good general skill, but it wouldn't apply until I run out of the food I brought with me, and if I take the correct precautions before I leave the trailhead, I will almost certainly be located before I starve. At best, wild plants provide very few calories, but they can provide a psychological boost.

Where hikers most often get into life-and-death situations without adequate gear, clothes and food is while day hiking. That is why I always bring enough with me on a day hike to survive an unscheduled night out. I always pay attention to the forecast for that night and the next day when I plan what to take with me. I do this even for a casual day hike on a popular trail, because survival should not be left to chance. If I am with another person, I make them do the same. The same precautions should always be taken before leaving the trailhead, to let others know where you went and when you expect to return.

Making the right sort of preparations and taking the right precautions from the very start is FAR superior to the types of survival skills you listed. They are much easier to learn and to use, and they will tend to do far less damage to the wilderness.

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#188419 - 01/07/15 09:00 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: aimless]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I'm with Aimless. Most of the hiker rescue stories from around SoCal involve people who go out with little or no gear, no extra clothes, no light, no map or gps and little food or water. I've done that on a local loop trail, but if I'm in unfamiliar territory, I'd rather have enough with me for at least one night, including a small pot and stove, especially in winter. In Yosemite, I took enough for overnight when I did day hikes away from my camp with snow on the ground.

Adventure is just bad planning - Roald Amundsen
_________________________
Don't get me started, you know how I get.

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#188433 - 01/08/15 01:36 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: TomD]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2802
Loc: NorCal
Have watched enough Bear Grylls and Les Stroud to be familiar with sheltering under fir boughs and wringing water from elephant dung and using a camel carcass for a tent, but confess a certain lack of kinesthetic knowledge and practice. But my hiking buddy's son knows how to use a fire drill, so we take him along quite regularly now.

Now that I carry InReach I have an SOS signal should I ever really get in the soup. And in the meantime I can certainly practice my shelter-fashioning/fire-building/water retrieving skills. I think the larger issue is dealing with the wholly unexpected, which in the US West seems mostly to revolve around people motoring to places they can't escape. The stories are endless and to be honest, I take my InReach driving now, as well as my rescue tool when I'm traveling the Delta (in case I end up in the drink).

Cheers,
_________________________
--Rick

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#188458 - 01/10/15 05:35 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: Rick_D]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
Although I am not a fan of "survival" shows (they are SO phony!) I am in basic agreement with the post. When an emergency situation arises, you need:

1) appropriate equipment
2) skills to use that equipment and improvise
3) an emergency plan

I think everyone agrees to #1.

Skills only can be learned with practice. LOTS of practice if you want to be proficient under very stressful conditions. Building a fire is one thing; being able to do it with wet wood and frozen fingers is another. Skills include mental skills - old fashioned toughness, focus and not to panic. And knowledge. And judgment. The ability to know when building a fire will add to your safety, and when it will do the opposite (getting soaked finding wood to build a fire, when you would be better off hanging low in the tent until the worst of the rain stops).

Most backpackers are not aware of #3. Emergency planning is really important and needs to be well though out BEFORE you even go into the wilderness. An emergency is a case when "democracy" does not work so well - a leader needs to be take charge. One example - a group of four goes backpacking. One guy "goes missing" from camp at 8PM less than an hour from dark. What is your plan? How do you assure the safety of the other three? Or do the other three run into the woods helter, skelter trying to find the missing? Or, what if you group gets separated on the trail. What is the plan?

Thankfully, backpacking is pretty safe, so most people never even encounter these situations. But I do agree practice of skills is GOOD.

When I taught for NOLS, we made everyone spend a night out with only their day pack gear. This small exercise had a big impact. Do this once and you will not forget your 10 essentials! Another way to get experience is to do things in controlled environments. Fast at home for three days to see what it is really like to go without food. At home, walk one hour in cold downpour, to see how quickly you get wet and totally chilled. And, there are lots of lower elevation Forest Service lands with plenty of firewood. Wait for a rain storm, then go out and try to build a fire.

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#188488 - 01/12/15 01:12 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: Minx]
Minx Offline
member

Registered: 11/22/14
Posts: 23
Agreed, the best safety is to avoid an emergency situation altogether. All of the statements above are valid and generally a given I would think. I am surprised, however, to find half the comments relying on gear and planning though. This was intended to be a study for when all that fails. Granted a pot and stove is nice, GPS or beacon is grand, hunkering down in a tent is preferred, but, when all those things fail? When the truly remote emergency situation comes up?
I often backpack in remote wilderness which is vast in the Southwest. Of course every precaution is taken and planned well. I feel skills only augment my "kit" and lend an advantage to me and others I may come across in a bad way. Having been in a desperate situation in the wilderness when I was very young, I appreciate the knowledge.

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#188491 - 01/12/15 01:58 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: Minx]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 848
Loc: Torrance, CA
The problem with many of these skills is that they take a lot of time... often that time would be better spent getting out. Even in very remote wildernesses you are rarely more than a day or two hike from civilization. It takes a month to die from starvation. Giardia takes weeks to develop. Keeping moving keeps you warm. Lighting a fire when you are cold and wet and don't have matches or a lighter is a real challenge. That is when you need a fire and you won't have the time or energy to make one. Spend that time getting out.

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#188493 - 01/12/15 02:06 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: Minx]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2860
Loc: Portland, OR
If you hike in the Southwest I am surprised you did not mention making a solar still for collecting water as a primary skill. Seems to me that water is about x10000 more crucial to survival than identifying a replacement for toilet paper. Although I grant you that cactus spines or salt bush twigs would make dreadful tp. grin

generally a given I would think

We have several active members who are involved with SAR and I think they would say these are far from a given, and the bulk of their (ahem) clients fail to do proper planning or take the recommended precautions. Even those who are described by loved ones as "experienced hikers" often fail at following the basics of safety, because when you've taken hundreds of hikes without a problem, you tend to slack off and think that exempts you from having to do the simple things every blessed time you hike.

One difficulty in emphasizing the sorts of survival skills you mentioned in your original post is that most hikers will never (and I mean never) take your advice to spend a good chunk of their recreational time pretending they are lost and practicing skills they never expect to use. So, your well-meant advice and freely offered knowledge will come to nothing. Whereas, drilling it into them over and over that they need to leave an itinerary and stick to it may actually result in their doing it more often than not.

I would not tell you to stop trying to offer that advanced knowledge to those willing to take it, but I would hope that you always start out by reminding people of the most basic, most useful, and most important precautions. Because these save more lives than any other thing you could tell them to do.

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#188512 - 01/12/15 06:36 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: Minx]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3571
Loc: Texas
All fun and useful skills. Thanks for posting.
Survival and enduring is regional. From the Texas angle I'd add....
1. Find water. You can't boil it if you don't have it and I'd put it way up on that list. Solar stills are nice but really slow. Learn what plants carry water, topography likely to have water sources or moisture below the surface, if not flowing/standing water. Learn to filter it with what you have, assuming no fire or containers.
2. Ditch toilet paper from the get go. I don't hike/camp with it. Learn what 2/3rds of the rest of the world does, who have never seen TP.
3. Learn the day and nighttime sky.
4. learn signaling, mirrors, smoke fires, signs, some morse code.
5. learn to trap and fish with minimal equipment, including no equipment at all.
_________________________
paul, texas KD5IVP

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#188517 - 01/12/15 08:09 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: Minx]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1731
Loc: Napa, CA
Originally Posted By Minx
Agreed, the best safety is to avoid an emergency situation altogether. All of the statements above are valid and generally a given I would think. I am surprised, however, to find half the comments relying on gear and planning though. This was intended to be a study for when all that fails. Granted a pot and stove is nice, GPS or beacon is grand, hunkering down in a tent is preferred, but, when all those things fail? When the truly remote emergency situation comes up?


I'd suggest that your planning was pretty poor if all of those things fail. Can you give us an example of how that might happen?
_________________________
balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#188536 - 01/13/15 01:22 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: BZH]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
Simply bailing out as quickly as possible is not always the safest thing to do. And the keeping moving keeps you warm theory breaks down when soaked, wind is 60 mph, and the temperature is dropping and you are on a 12,000 foot pass. There are many places in the Wind Rivers where I have been pinned down for a few days because there is NO way out that does not involve high passes, without trails, some requiring crossing glaciers, and none safe in a lightning storm, heavy rain or snow. My fire-building skills have served me well over the years. The trick is knowing when to build a fire and when to hunker down in the tent. I have used many fires to dry my clothes after the storm. Maybe this did not exactly "save" me but it sure made the next few days less on the edge. Practicing survival skills will add to your "knowledge and skill" kit. I do not see how doing this has any down side. Not enough time? Well make time. And I find this kind of practice actually fun.

And I really believe beginners need to be put into tough situations, within a controlled environment, to actually experience what it would be like in a real survival situation. I do not think most beginning backpackers know how quickly they get drenched in a real heavy rain and how quickly you get chilled. I got caught in a surprise severe storm (storm quickly coming in on the other side of the mountain so I did not see it until on top) on the top of a 11,000 foot high pass in the Sierra. Although it was only a half hour hike to get off the pass, I got soaked and became so chilled that as soon as I got to timber, I got out the stove and cooked soup. It took that external warmth got avoid hypothermia. Had I continued to walk, I do not know what would have happened. You need to recognize when things are getting bad (and you need to have experienced this before to gain this judgment), and know what needs to be done, and have had enough practice to do it under stressful conditions. And, you do not wait until you are exhausted and soaked to build a fire- you stop before that point.

Practice builds confidence; confidence reduces panic; less panic allows you to make better decisions.

And I agree that proper planning and avoiding emergency situations is the first line of defense. Backpack enough miles, enough years, and I bet you will eventually find yourself in an emergency situation that will be helped by survival skills.




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#188543 - 01/13/15 04:15 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: wandering_daisy]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 848
Loc: Torrance, CA
Originally Posted By wandering_daisy
Simply bailing out as quickly as possible is not always the safest thing to do. And the keeping moving keeps you warm theory breaks down when soaked, wind is 60 mph, and the temperature is dropping and you are on a 12,000 foot pass. ...


I do agree with most everything you said. Perhaps I wasn't very eloquent or perhaps I was wrong, but I was referring to making a fire without a lighter or matches. In that scenario it is rarely worthwhile spending the necessary time to make a fire. Particularly if you and everything around you is wet. You are probably better off on other pursuits. If you are hypothermic and have nothing but a string in your pocket. I don't think using that string to make a fire should be your number one priority.

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#188544 - 01/13/15 05:16 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: BZH]
Rick_D Offline
member

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2802
Loc: NorCal
Shelter, whether carried or created, would be the top priority in most situations I'd typically encounter. Medical emergencies, of course, are a whole other kettle of fish.
_________________________
--Rick

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#188545 - 01/13/15 05:57 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: BZH]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2860
Loc: Portland, OR
If you are already hypothermic and have nothing but a string in your pocket, I would think that your survival is hanging by a thread and you are probably SOL. eek

That is, unless your non-hypothermic hiking partner can build you a fire or warm you up somehow ASAP. Because a hypothermic person is in no condition to act quickly and decisively, even if they have far better resources at hand than one piece of string.

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#188546 - 01/13/15 07:28 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: aimless]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 848
Loc: Torrance, CA
Originally Posted By aimless
If you are already hypothermic and have nothing but a string in your pocket, I would think that your survival is hanging by a thread and you are probably SOL. eek

That is, unless your non-hypothermic hiking partner can build you a fire or warm you up somehow ASAP. Because a hypothermic person is in no condition to act quickly and decisively, even if they have far better resources at hand than one piece of string.


I agree.

Building a fire with a bow drill is not an easy task in the best scenario (manufactured equipment and plenty of dried tinder). I've never seen anyone build a fire with an improvised bow drill in any reasonable amount of time. I've never seen anyone do it period when its cold and wet outside. It is a fun exercise to help you appreciate modern society and maybe a useful skill for a post-apocalyptic society, but I would not consider it a reasonable survival skill.

The OP did mention using a sparkler for the no matches, no lighter fire building technique. The problem I have with that, is that I could have three more lighters for the weight of a sparkler. Any failed equipment scenario where I have a sparkler I can think of, I would be better off with extra lighters/matches. Lighting a fire with a sparkler is a real challenge. The OP also mentions a magnifying glass. If I am cold and wet, is the sun out? I think I would rather bring an additional lighter with me than a magnifying glass.

Building a fire WITH a match or lighter in a challenging environment is a skill I think people should practice. It is something I failed at after a heavy rainstorm while backpacking outside Phoenix. Alas, it can be challenging to find yourself in that situation with proper planning.

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#188552 - 01/13/15 09:28 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: BZH]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6400
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I love the REI emergency matches, which light when wet, keep on burning and burning and are impossible to blow out. With those, the horrific Jack London scenario in "To Build a Fire" is just about impossible. I always have some of these and an Esbit tablet (which burns long enough to dry out quite a bit of soggy tinder) in my emergency kit that goes with me on every trip. I see no reason to resort to primitive measures for survival when more efficient technology is available! I save 150-year-old technology for my other hobby, Civil War reenacting.

I also take a dry base layer and sleeping socks to wear inside my sleeping bag. They and the sleeping bag are carried inside a waterproof dry bag at all times, so even if I fall in the drink while fording a stream (yes, it has happened!), I have a warm/dry layer, plus the sleeping bag, to change into once I've set up my tent. If it's an emergency (i.e. the air temp is 10*F instead of 60*F as it was when the dunking actually happened), I can do this really fast, before I get too chilled, if necessary just wrapping up in the tent to keep dry instead of pitching it. Under such circumstances I doubt if I could build a fire before succumbing to hypothermia even at 10*F, much less -40* (thinking Jack London here). I would save the fire-building tools for after I get warmed up and want to start drying out the wet stuff.


Edited by OregonMouse (01/13/15 09:46 PM)
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#188555 - 01/14/15 12:00 AM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: OregonMouse]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
Agreed. When I have talked of fire building skills, I meant with matches plus emergency lighter if needed. I too love the REI matches. You can get the same effect cheaper with a regular match and a few of those no-blow-out birthday candles. Another interesting observation - I tried to use my REI matches this summer, and I had evidently kept them too long, because when I struck the match it literally fell apart, crumbled almost like powder. So check them at home and do replace with new ones occasionally.

Once you become hypothermic you are useless. The key is to recognize that you are becoming hypothermic before you deteriorate into true hypothermia.

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#188556 - 01/14/15 05:20 AM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: BZH]
Minx Offline
member

Registered: 11/22/14
Posts: 23
Originally Posted By BZH
Lighting a fire when you are cold and wet and don't have matches or a lighter is a real challenge.


Especially if you've never practiced it.

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#188557 - 01/14/15 06:23 AM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: Minx]
Minx Offline
member

Registered: 11/22/14
Posts: 23
I am sur pr, ised mph . T he Texan, added find raining water to the list and it took a page of other comments to get there. The question of what you would do when all else fails and the idea that gear can be lost or fail seems to have struck a cord with a few on this "gear" site.
Some have chimed in with their harrowing experiences in the Sierras and such to get the talk back to reality. Appreciate the share.
For those with matches from rei and such, I wish you well.
20 to 40 Degrees F, 15 to 30 mph Winds, drizzling and sometimes pouring rain for 2 days, made a fire with a bow drill in 10 minutes after about 30 minutes of collecting materials in Danali. Everything was wet on top. Ya gotta know where to look. 6 million acres of park, nowhere close to walk to "to keep warm" and everybody's matches were soaked on a tourist tour with a guide who wasn't prepared and ran his jeep into a rut. We were 30 miles up a road from the closest station and about 20 out from there on a jeep trail. I was 17. 1980. No cells. It can be done. We should have stayed with the jeep and used the battery and gas but we talked ourselves into walking for 6 hours before things got really bad. No packs. No gear to speak of. No magic rei matches. And the 3 other people and i were alive and warm enough on the 3rd day when rescue came.
You're not ready til you're ready.

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#188561 - 01/14/15 01:10 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: Minx]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
The great thing about REI storm matches is that they still light when wet. Nevertheless, I have been in weeks of rain and always had dry matches. I separate matches and store in several locations - one in cook gear, one in first aid kit, one in map packet. Although I have not done it, others have coated their matches with wax, which is essentially making their own storm-proof matches.

And I 100% agree with you - starting a fire in wet conditions has EVERYTHING to do with knowing where to find the dry tinder. And I 100% agree that being able to build a fire efficiently is a key survival skill. (Understood that if you hike in a desert, or on glaciers, of course, there is no wood or tinder). In the "old days" I did well over 100 days backpacking without stoves, with building fires as the only means to cook. But I did not do that solo. Being in a group of competent people (many who actually taught survival courses for the military) added to our margin of safety. Sure is nice to have a couple of other bodies protecting your tiny beginning fire from the wind while you struggle with it. Fire building and tending is a lost skill nowadays.

Not sure if you have read the book called "Who Lives; Who Dies". Very enlightening about what personality types survive when "all else fails". The book really points to the most important emergency skill - the will to live, deep inside you. All the survivors never thought they would NOT survive. They just got down to the task of surviving. And it verified the saying "nice guys do not win". As disturbing as that is, the survivors were a ruthless lot.

I agree the "equipment failure" aspect is overlooked in the UL community. Then again, there is a saying in climbing - speed saves. When you are climbing in an inherently unsafe zone, the faster you can get in and out, the safer you are. In as much as your "survival gear" and clothing matched to the "worst" probable conditions or "all else fails" mode weighs you down, you may actually be creating your own survival situation.

All discussion aside, I see no down-side to becoming proficient at survival skills. Maybe others are criticizing this because of the silly survival shows on TV that are so off the mark on what true survival skills are.

I am old enough to have done plenty of outdoor activity in the days when there was no SPOT to push a button to be rescued. You either got yourself out of survival situations or died.

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#188566 - 01/14/15 03:22 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: wandering_daisy]
aimless Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 2860
Loc: Portland, OR
All discussion aside, I see no down-side to becoming proficient at survival skills.

In a very broad way, I agree. But the same sentiment could be applied to learning Latin, how to sew your own clothes, how to play the violin, or a thousand other skills that might possibly prove useful someday or give one pleasure or satisfaction.

But it is also true that learning these skills does have a non-negligible cost, in both time and effort. If learning these skills is your hobby, or part of your job, then the calculation of return on investment in these skills is much different than if you are trying to place your efforts where they will do you the most good for the least cost.

In my opinion knowing how to build an emergency fire is the only one of the skills mentioned in this thread that is critical in enough situations and where physically practicing it is of utmost importance, as opposed to merely practicing it mentally, that I would urge others to go out and spend time learning it and keeping their skills fresh. That priority has been emphasized by almost every other post in this thread, too.

Most of the other 'survival skills' that get listed by survival hobbyists are of practical interest to special operations units of the armed forces, but for ordinary outdoors recreationists it is sufficient to keep a cool head and have a clear idea of how to prioritize their needs in an emergency situation. The Gonzales book mentioned upthread is a good one for understanding what is required.


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#188571 - 01/14/15 05:07 PM Re: EMERGENCY SKILLS SURVEY: [Re: aimless]
4evrplan Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 653
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Aimless, thank you for saying so eloquently what I couldn't quite articulate.

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