Wilderness Survival

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by wayne_crider|4, Jul 24, 2003.

  1. For those that only frequent "this" forum and not necessairly thru Photonets main page, there is an excellent article on wilderness survival listed there that I found very interesting and would like call attention to. The link is here Wilderness Survival as well. I don't know how many times I took a hike into the woods meaning to keep it short and quick, when it turned into a much longer one and into areas where there was no one around to lend assistance if needed, especially when returning in the twilight. The article addresses carrying a personal survival kit which is even more important to those that go out for days. Of particular interest to me was the information on fire starting and some rather unique lights that are available. I'll be adding a version of my own for an enexpected overnighter to my photo backpack.
  2. Good point. Aron Ralston's (the CO hiker who amputated his own arm) 5-day ordeal was originally intended to be a 15-minute hike as I recall.
  3. well if any of us ever get lost out there, at least our demise will be visually well documented...

  4. Having grown up in Montana and spent a number of years in Search and Rescue, I can tell you that in addition to simple common sense skill sets, the easiest thing to insure your safety that is most overlooked is to simply tell someone explicitly where you will be, when you will be back and what vehicle you are driving (license plate, etc.)

    When you do not arrive at a reasonable time frame, those that go to look for you will be able to focus their efforts in the most expedient and effective manner possible. In closing, there is no such thing as over communication when it comes to any activity off of the main road and that goes for hunters, hikers, bikers and includes photographers as well. I was told that the gentleman from Colorado that had to resort to extreme measures to save his life had a reputation for spur of the moment outdoor adventures by himself for long periods of time without telling anyone where he would be and when they should be concerned when he does not come back. Not a smart idea.
  5. Folks,

    I remember the same account that Michael does. Telling someone where you're going and when you'll be back is much better that carrying a surgery kit. The Smokies are where I live and hike, and I'm all for being prepared, but cutting on yourself in the backwoods is only marginally better (if at all) than any other option. If you're in the eastern US, a cell phone will also work in a lot of places.

    I can recommend the LED lights, especially the LED headlamps. I have a two-LED Black Diamond Ion headlamp that uses a tiny 6V silver cell and gives plenty enough light to walk by for multiple hours, or to set up the camera before dawn as it's hands free - something the keychain light isn't (although I carry one and recommend them).

    There's no reason to carry a knife as large as in the article. I've done it, but a small saw is much more useful and lighter than a large knife. My current preference is the Victorinox Cybertool 41. It has a small saw in addition to a bit driver and bit set that enables me to work on gear if need be. The Cybertool 41 is a bit largish for a pocketknife, and it stays in the pack.

    Of course, if you get into trouble, you could always just set the camera up and wait a few seconds for the eternal gawker to show up and ask "Is that an antique camera"?

    Otherwise, the article seems reasonable and has several good weight and space saving tips, although I question the usefulness of razor blades (over a sharp knife), fishing equipment, and knife sharpeners, for emergency equipment.


  6. Are any parts of a Toyo 45A edible ?
  7. "Are any parts of a Toyo 45A edible ?"

    Ebony's make good firewood... :)
  8. All great advice, but one of the things that troubles me is the options for going to remote places with others seem to be getting fewer and fewer. It seems that everyone is very busy, busy, busy, and it's much harder to hook up with friends or even strangers for trips. This makes solo hikes more and more necessary. On the other hand, as I get older, I'm more risk adverse, fully realizing that I'd be I'd be in a world of hurt if I ever got hurt in the backcountry on a long trip, even if someone knew where I was going.

  9. I have to concur with Michael, telling someone where you'll be and when you'll be back is critical. Before going into the wilderness always check with the authorities, who might have useful information, and check back when you leave, telling them anything you might feel would be useful to those who follow. As far as "survival gear" goes, the simpler and lighter, the better. Too complex of a kit and the chances are you won't have it with you when you need it When I flew in Alaska there was a substantial itemized list of gear that was a legal requirement to have onboard. It always stayed in the Supercub---I couldn't imagine trying to lug all that gear around on foot! Having and knowing how to use a topo map and compass, having first aid skills, and current knowlege of the local conditions is important: What you carry in your brain is generally far more useful than what you can carry on your belt(but, of course, there are exceptions!)
  10. I do not think in order to survive one needs go to the extreme to carry very sophosticated instruments (no doubt though, it is nice to have such instruments). I have always carried a small flash light (carries 2 small AA batteries), a piece of broken/small mirror and a soccer whistle (it is a high pitched whistle compared to those carried by UK Constables). Also, having a Swiss Army knife will be helps too but not necessary (could tempt you to end your life or part with a vital body part for a photog). In most cases, majority of us are very poor geographers and tend to be carried away "clicking" and not take good look of our sorroundings to back track our trails!

  11. well if I ever manage to become able to visit the real wildernes I 'd go into HF ham radio and morsecode to send my SOS maybe even unlicensed. But it's always good to make it easy for the rescue team.
  12. Keychain lights certainly are hands-free. Am I the only one who was in Boy Scouts and learned to hold that Mag Lite between my teeth?
  13. In a recent article I read in I believe Outdoor Photographer, there is now a locater beacon available for about $500 that works anywhere and off the satelites above. It uses a particular monitored bandwidth. In the young mans case above I can certainly see having one, and who of us haven't fell in a stream out in nowhere.

    If you didn't have time to read all the article, there are alot of tips included that were very handy; Especially the ones about using super glue to shut a wound and the one about vaseline on a cotton ball to start a fire. The radioactive light was also pretty interesting.

    Concerning alerting authorities, sound advice, but sometimes hard to do when travling by car thru remote mountain areas and from one location to another. I have a habit of stopping for a short hike to take a photograph and then realizing that I'm further away then I thought and it's dark. Luckily I have a keen sense of direction, but at times have had my brain taxed when crossing a stream a few times. The banks start looking the same on the way back. Maybe a can of marker paint would help!
  14. I can tell you one thing for sure, if you suddenly realize you don't know where you are, and worse, don't know where to go to get to some place so you know where you are, the first thing that shuts down is your brain. Best you be MENTALLY prepared too.
  15. Heres an observation from 18 years in a mountain SAR organization, FWIW: Children, when lost, usually seek higher terrain where the view is better(perhaps they think they'll be able to spot a road, house, person?) while adults tend to seek lower terrain(as does water, and eventually a waterway will be bridged by a road) Also, injuries, hypothermia and safe water are probably going to be the most immediate concerns. Clothing that protects from the sun, cold, and elements are critical. A cheap plastic tarp and hank of parachute cord can be made into a fly for shade as well as to keep dry in the rain and if it is a bright color, it can serve as a conspicuity panel for aerial searchers. Even a garbage bag can be useful---cut a hole to stick your head through the bottom and wear like a poncho, and if you don't get lost, you can always fill it with trash others leave behind and pack it out. If you are lost and decide not to sensibly stay put the more trash you leave the better. My unit successfully tracked lost people because a famiily member told us the missing person liked a particular brand of candy or cigarettes and we were alerted by litter! I'm not 100% convinced that cutting edge technology is all that useful for survival, but if it gives you confidence thats fine as long as its not false confidence. The Mojave native americans, Eskimos and others have been living on 'the edge' in the most hostile enviornments imaginable for a thousand years or so without all the bells and whistles so I figure that makes 'em experts, especially when your batteries fail. Bradford Angier wrote eloquently on the subject.------------Cheers!
  16. To be blunt, the article was the worst piece of rubish I have ever read on photo.net. For reasons pointed out above by Michael Kadillak and John Kasaian, it is BAD advice, it fails to address the fact that other aspects of preparation are much more important than carrying a "survival kit".

    This was pointed out in the thread that followed the article by myself and one or two others, and while we were ignored by the author, he warmly engaged those who wished to discuss the size of their Bowie knives.

    I'd suggest that those dabbling on the fringes of wilderness for the first time choose their advisors and research carefully. I'd feel more relaxed in the wild with Mr Kadillak or Mr Kasaian than Mr. "Rambo" Spinak.

    John Mc. (25 years of wilderness adventuring)
  17. As far as traveling by car through desolate areas, in the county I worked, deputies and rangers made note of any cars they found parked on the roadside. Any that were left for more than a couple of days and no wilderness permits(now thats an oxymoron!) had been drawn by the owners would trigger a call out and search if the occupant was declared missing. A dated note left on the windshield in a platic zip lock with any pertinent information: a footprint of your boot sole on a piece of paper, notice of a medical condition, direction of travel, your favorite candy? (Tootsie pop wrappers are easiest to spot!) would go a long way towards helping searchers --and if you're concerned about a potential major injury you'll probably need to be carried out-------Cheers!
  18. ...One more thing, as far as light goes, at least in my experience: bumbling around off trail in the forest in the dark, even with a good flashlight, it risky business at best. It is often better to stay put, build a fire, eat tootsie pops and be happy. Of course this wouldn't apply in the desert on full moon nights when night would probably be the best time to travel, but unless you're attracted by say, a campfire or headlights from road traffic, its best to stay put---way too easy to hurt yourself!
  19. Go with nothing if you feel confident in your abilities. Just be ready to accept what may come your way. In todays society Jim Bridger & others wouldn't be able to do much of anything outdoors. If you get caught, you figure your way out of the problem. If you die, that is just part of your wilderness experience.
  20. I think Richard makes an important point. For most of us, being caught in the woods overnight would be an unfamiliar and worrisome experience, expecially if injury or unexpected bad weather were to blame. At such a time, I would not want my survival to depend on performing--for the first time under do-or-die conditions--a series of merit-badge exercises like building a fire and constructing a shelter. Thoughts like "if I can't get this wet wood to burn, I could die" are apt to promote panic and unsound risk taking. The worst threat to survival, hypothermia, also impairs thinking.

    With this in mind, I can't think of a better three-pound "survival kit" than a two-pound down sleeping bag and a one-pound weatherproof bag cover (plus maybe a synthetic balaclava). At all times, you know that you can get inside, sit on a pack some other insulator, and stay warm enough to survive.
  21. There is one thing that years in backcountry have taught me.

    The bigger the knife someone carries, the less experience they usually have.

    Not to imply anything, of course.
  22. I have a big knife. The one time I spent a night out in the snowy
    woods without my pack I kept warm by cutting down trees for my
    partners to burn.

    My brother was once in N.W. Greenland, and decided to get a bit
    of advice from the locals. Clad in his finest goretex parka and
    double skin boots he strode manfully up to a bemused youth in
    jeans and t-shirt and had the following conversation:

    "What do you wear when it's cold?"

    "A jumper"

    "But what do you do when it's really cold?"

    "Wear two jumpers"

    "But what if it's really, *really* cold?"

    "I stay indoors."

    Survival is about skills, not gear. About the only exception is
    Antarctica, which is why it has no indigenous population. My
    knife wouldn't help much down there.
  23. I see a "window of opportunity" here! Someone needs to market a "McGyver Dark Cloth": radar reflecting kelvar and gortex construction that can be converted into a body bag, stretcher, tent, or hang glider, with built in pockets for a GPS, defibulator, spot meter, propane bottles, LAWS rocket, and battery powered margarita machine! Ya-Hooo!---Cheers! ;-)
  24. The article was more addressed to a kit that one would carry when
    intentionaly going out hiking for a few days, and not necessairly for those
    short walks in the woods. I just added the fact that things can happen even on
    the short walks. I did not intend "that" to be a focus of the conversation. I
    would have thought that we would have compared our thoughts on different
    items to carry (again) for intentional overnighters, but as one can read, there
    was very little suggestions to that end. I guess there are not many camping/
    photographers among us who have the experience to talk about such an
    important aspect. So to that end I would caution everyone not to go into the
    woods unless they absoutely had to. It's daaanggggerous out there. You'll get
  25. I am amused by the advice of informing the "authorities" about one's exact hiking destination and datetime of return. Some years back, I spent two summers solo hiking/ camping in northern New Mexico wilderness (doing field mapping for a geologic MS thesis), and I tried to diligently inform the local Rangers of my hiking (topo-map) path and return date.

    Each time, the Rangers would courteously post my hiking plans on their bulletin board. Upon each return from the mountains, I would come in to the Rangers' office to "report in". My reward was to find: (a) a new set of Rangers who had never heard of me much less my hiking plans; and (b) my precious hiking details and emergency contact names hidden beneath two layers of fresh paper posted on the bulletin board.

    Forget the authorities, and count on yourself, your friends, and your family.

    Wayne, I would be very interested in your thoughts on a survival pack. I spent a few winters working in the Alaskan arctic, and the kit I assembled for our vehicle consisted mostly of high-calorie and physically robust foods...so we would at least have full tummies if our vehicle broke down and we froze to death. Oh, yes... the "authorities" in the arctic were equally uninterested in monitoring our travel plans.... :)

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