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Backpacker's Health & Safety The Backpacker's Health & Safety forum is for the discussion of health and safety/survival issues that directly relate to backpackers.


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  #1  
Old 03-29-2006, 01:45 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Survival Gear (Kit)

Other than what would be included in the so-called 10(+) Essentials, is there any survival gear that you normally carry for backpacking?

Reality
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  #2  
Old 03-29-2006, 03:29 PM
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[X] [X] is offline
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I think "survival gear" for a backpacker is redundant.

A backpacker by definition is supposed to be equipped to spend one or more nights out in the backcountry.

To me "survival gear" is something one carries when there is no intention of spending the night out, but the risk is real, so I might carry "survival gear" in my day pack / belt pack.

What might "survival gear" look like? The gear that might be required to spend the night or nights out in the backcountry without loss of life or limb. It's gear that will protect one from the elements, slow heat loss, provide energy & sustenance, provide a source of heat and a signal, and other signaling devices.

How do I stay warm and dry? How do I stay hydrated? These are my main concerns. Hypothermia is the biggest problem and it is strongly correlated with hydration (in the desert heat issues & finding protection from the sun would come into play).

I endorse the 15 essentials, which are the original 10 (map, compass, flashlight, extra food, extra clothing including rain gear, sunglasses & sunscreen, knife, matches, fire starter, and first aid kit) plus 5 more (full water bottle, ground insulation (3/8"x12"x18" closed cell pad (especially important above tree line)), tube shelter, emergency blanket, signaling devices). (This information is from "Mountaineering First Aid" by The Mountaineers.)

How many hikers (backcountry day visitors, in general) carry the essentials?

What I carry is a function of where I'm going (distance, remoteness, environmental zone) and the assessment of risk. Part of the equation is that you might stumble upon someone else in need of aid, but who is not prepared.

A large contractor's grade trash bag, an emergency blanket, a small sheet of closed-cell blue foam (or perhaps a folding saw for below timberline), extra clothing including rain gear, a water bottle, some energy bars, a knife, an LED headlamp, sunglasses, a small, personal first aid kit, a system for starting a fire, some cord, and some tape don't weigh that much. (Kind of sounds like an ultalighter's pack, doesn't it?)

We can't get so obsessed with weight that we don't carry some essentials that might make a huge difference in our (or someone else's) well being over the course of an unexpected night, or nights in the backcountry.

I could throw in some sort of water purification system, but I'm not going to be stressing about Giardia et. al. when my very survival is at stake. Besides, the incubation is at least a week, and I can deal with those issues when I'm back in civilization. Since I'm probably not carrying all the water I plan to drink, I will have something with me already.

I carry the essentials on day trips, but I've never had to spend a night out unintentionally. Once I turned my trash sack into a rain poncho for a hiker who had no extra gear and it started to rain. Once I supported another hikers sprained ankle with a triangular bandage and helped them hike out. I might even take more risks knowing I have the essentials with me (storm moving in, but instead of turning back I still want to make my goal).

I see a lot of people on the trail that are either feeling very lucky or they're just ignorant. Who wants to turn a simple day hike into an epic adventure by not bringing the basics along? How stupid would I feel if I needed the essentials, but didn't bother to bring them along? Hmm. "Yeah, I knew better, but...."

Regarding harvesting food: Why? It's a proven fact that we can go without food for long periods -- certainly in the time frame of rescue. The energy spent harvesting food could be spent walking out to civilization. I've heard it said that there isn't a mountain range in the lower 48 that one can't walk out of in a day. I know I can go without food and carry a full pack (minus food & non-ultralight) for five days because I have (that's another story).

The weight/volume issue: a small comfortable pack with the essentials is nothing. Can't be bothered with that? Don't go! I think we've all read about that ultralight concept of "what is the cut-off weight that provides marginal returns". Certainly it is no lower than 20# and a small pack with essentials won't even approach that.

Think about it: where do these "essentials" lists come from? From reviews of backcountry misfortunes. If they only had "x", the outcome might have been much more favorable....

I know, I know, I’m preaching to the choir! It all started with some question about "survival gear".
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  #3  
Old 03-29-2006, 04:07 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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A 'survival' situation (as you know) is not limited to an unexpected night out in the woods or a temporary inconvenience.

Though that can certainly be the case, there are other unforseen circumstances which may arise - making one's unexpected stay significantly more lengthy.

In the past, I've spent over 5 years in various forms of search and rescue... I've been exposed to a plethora of situations. There are times when people fall, become injured, and cannot move very far (or become trapped).

While it's true that we cannot be overly concerned with pathogens when we're in a survival situation, it's better to be prepared with water treatment tablets/drops which can be used to avoid complicating one's circumstances. For example, Cryptosporidiosis can occur in as little as 2 days. And this can worsen symptoms such as dehydration, body temperature regulation...which can result in death.

Regarding food procurement, it's often thought that because we can (sometimes) live for weeks (perhaps well over a month) without food, that it's not so important. However, when a person is injured or in danger of hypothermia (for example) food becomes more crucial. It can help to keep the body warmer and functioning better. [That said, if much protein is consumed, it can also complicate hydration. In many cases it's best not to eat if drinking water isn't available.]

Survival is all about preparing for the unexpected - a readiness to keep yourself alive. [It's often too late after the fact...]

Imagine loosing your footing, falling into a ravine, and breaking both legs and puncturing a lung. Oh, and you're now separated from your pack. A few items carried on your person can go a long way towards keeping you alive.

By the way, my survival kit is carried on my person not in my pack.

[If you're reading this and thinking this is just a bunch of unlikely hype and paranoia, you're urged to rethink your survival mindset and wilderness preparation strategies. It's nothing to be overly consumed with, just prepared for. Hike for the best, prepare for the worst.]

Reality
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  #4  
Old 03-29-2006, 06:08 PM
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[X] [X] is offline
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We agree that the best "survival kit" is a prepared mind.

Or as my SAR book sums it up: the 5 Ws -- Will, Wits, Wind, Warmth, Water.
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  #5  
Old 03-29-2006, 06:28 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by [X]
We agree that the best "survival kit" is a prepared mind.

Indeed. It's one of the most powerful things in life.

It's easier than some think to 'freak out' when things go wrong in the wilderness. It's good to do some mental rehearsal and carry some useful survival gear.

Reality
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  #6  
Old 03-29-2006, 08:30 PM
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jasonklass jasonklass is offline
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Survival Gear

Hmmmm.....I don't think I specifically carry anything for a survival situation. I do have a few birthday candles in my waterproof match case but that's not going to get me very far.

I remember when I first started backpacking. I used to carry an emergency bivy, a huge repair kit, oversized first aid kit, one of those magnesium firestarters, bulky emergency candles, and other survival gear. Eventually, through the years I pared down my first aid kit and just stopped carrying the other stuff.

Maybe it's because now I have more experience, I have more confidence that if faced with a survival situation I could rely on my skills to be creative with the gear I'm already carrying.
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  #7  
Old 03-30-2006, 01:08 PM
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hoosierdaddy hoosierdaddy is offline
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Some survival tidbits from my Mountaineers course:

Common factors contributing to survival situations

• Improper clothing, footgear or both.
• Lack of rest (fatigue)
• Lack of adequate water (dehydration)
• Hypothermia (or Hyperthermia)
• Too ambitious an undertaking for skills or proficiency
• Poor physical condition, lack of motivation or both.
• Inadequate or improper food.
• Little or no planning.
• Inadequate party for the goal, and lack of leadership.
• Itinerary confusing or not known to others.
• Inability to recognize a physical, mental, or environmental threat.
• No preparation for adverse weather.
• Unfamiliarity with terrain & lack of map or compass.
• “It can’t happen to me” philosophy.


I've got a slightly different twist on the 10-essentials. Basically the same stuff, but more explanatory:

1. A positive attitude.
2. Fuel to burn: food.
3. Adequate hydration: water.
4. Ability to stay warm and dry: clothing
5. Ability to get dry: shelter.
6. Ability to get warm: fire.
7. Know where you are going: navigation.
8. Know the environment: weather.
9. Ability to attract help: signaling for rescue.
10. Ability to provide help: first-aid kit.
11. Ability to obtain physiological and psychological repair: sleep


And....here is my "Survival Kit" that I carry on all BPing excursions: (With modifications based on season)

• Two heavy duty freezer bags (gallon & quart size)
• Tincture of iodine 2%
• Heavy duty space blanket
• Dental floss
• Medium sized zip-ties
• Colored surveyors tape (3 – 4 feet)
• Whistle
• Paraffin coated, strike anywhere matches kept in a match safe
• Disposable lighter w/ adjustable flame
• Magnesium-block fire starter w/ hacksaw blade striker
• 6 – 8 petroleum jelly saturated cotton balls kept in film vial
• Mini flashlight
• 6 – 9” long fixed blade, full tang, carbon steel knife w/ sheath
• flexible plastic drinking tube, 3 feet long
• Collapsible 1-2 gallon water container
• Three large capacity leaf bags
• Wool / synthetic stocking cap
• Cotton bandana
• 100’ of 550lb test parachute cord
• 3X5 inch glass, sight-able signal mirror
• Homemade first aid kit
• 7.5 minute Topo map & compass
• Two candy or nutrition bars
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  #8  
Old 05-02-2006, 11:20 AM
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Trisha Trisha is offline
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What I bring on my walks....
1) Spiral keyring with compass, watch, clippers, mini Maglite, pepper spray (which I have used several times over the years against stray dogs.)
2) Hat, hiking pole, fleece jacket or windbreaker, Kleenex, drink bottle and carrier, belt purse which includes ibuprofen and snacks.
3) Sometimes added: Coleman 5-in-1 survival whistle, small mulitpurpose tool, AA Maglite.

This hits most of what I include in the essentials.
C = compass & map, clippers, cell phone, extra clothes
F = flashlight, fire & firestarter, first aid, extra food
W = watch, whistle, extra water
S = Swiss Army knife (or multipurpose tool), pepper spray, sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, extra shelter
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  #9  
Old 05-02-2006, 01:09 PM
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gussomer gussomer is offline
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First of all, this is an excellent thread with some great ideas.

Reality, I would really like to get more info and/or see a picture of your altoid can-sized first aid kit...perhaps you feel it is proprietary and marketable...if so, I understand.

I read a post from another site today about how someone carries their essentials in a fanny pack so that if they have to dump their pack during a mishapped water crossing, then they would still have critical gear needed for survival...yes, what an important consideration.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why snake-bite kits are never mentioned. I carry one. Rattlers are everywhere and seems stepping off a ledge or bushwacking increases the odds of crossing one. Can someone with wisdom in this area shed some light for me. If you were 10 miles from your car and you got bit, what would you do?
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  #10  
Old 05-02-2006, 03:35 PM
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ChrisN ChrisN is offline
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Carrying survival gear all the time

Quote:
Originally Posted by gussomer
I read a post from another site today about how someone carries their essentials in a fanny pack so that if they have to dump their pack during a mishapped water crossing, then they would still have critical gear needed for survival...yes, what an important consideration.

I don't carry a fanny pack so all my survival gear goes in my pockets. If I have my pants, I have my survival gear (I only take my pants off at night and then they are always in arms reach). I carry a Pocket Survival Pak (equipped.com/psp/index.htm) augmented with a couple extra items and a survival blanket. Also in my pockets are a mini Swiss Army knife, Photon light, lighter, bandana, and a Clif bar. Around my neck is a compass.
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