How to Hike and Backpackâ„˘ Series
Hiking and Backpacking for Beginners First Edition
Bobby Chartier / Ania Marianska Authors & Photographers
High Sierra Mountain Life Publications ÂŽ ___________________________
High Sierra Mountain Life Publications ÂŽ Copyright ÂŠ 2013 by Bobby Chartier & Ania Marianska ALL RIGHTS RESERVED no part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, including photocopying and recording or by any informational storage and retrieval system, except as may be expressly permitted in writing by the publisher. Request for permission in writting should be made to R. Chartier, 501 West Broadway, Suite 800 San Diego California 92101 Attention: Permissions department. High Sierra and Mountain Man Publications
Photography: Bobby Chartier & Ania Marianska Library of congress cataloging-in-publication data is on file. ISBN: 978-1480045965 Printed in the United States of America 1480045969
WARNING: Hiking and Backpacking can present life threatening situations and professional survival training is strongly recommended. You should never hike or backpack alone under any circumstances. Seek a medical clearance for any form of outdoor activity from a Licensed medical professional before hiking or backpacking as these are both strenuous physical activities requiring special preparation and superior fitness levels to minimize risk from over exertion that could result in death. Additional outdoor and wilderness survival training schools and/or classes taught by experts in this field should be sought if you have any reservations about your confidence in entering any wilderness environment. It is your responsibility to be aware of the local wildlife, insects, plants, and weather considerations before you ever set foot in any outdoor setting that can pose a risk to your health and safety. This book should under no circumstances be considered a training manual for individual or group guide use. Information contained herein only expresses the personal experiences of the authors and their suggestions you may consider based upon their personal experiences and your best judgment as to the risk you feel acceptable for your personally directed decisions. Never take any risk that you feel may endanger either yourself or any member of your party embarking on any hiking and /or backpacking trip. The authors and publishers of this book assume no liability for accidents happening to, or injuries sustained by, readers who elect to engage in the activities described in this book.
Planning & Preparation
Putting it all together
Acknowledgements We want to thank the U.S. National Park service for all the great work and dedication they do to preserve our wilderness areas, educational classes to the general public, and their contribution to make the great outdoors a safe and fun place for all to recreate. The Sierra club for their time and efforts to protect the wilderness for our, and future generations to come. All the parks and recreation agencies that are preserving our valuable natural resources, hiking, backpacking, and biking trails. Outfitters world wide that supply the gear for all adventure seekers of all categories and descriptions. All local, State, and Federal air pollution control agencies keeping our planets life sustaining air systems as clean as possible. To all the private people and organizations that train and teach out door safety, education, and plan adventure trips around the globe. Search and rescue teams (SAR) world wide risking their lifeâ€™s each and every day to save others in wilderness emergencies and first aid needs. The U.S. Coast guard for their commitment to protecting and saving anyone in need of their much appreciated professional assistance. The U.S. Military for their bravery and commitments that allows us to have the freedom to explore the thousands of recreational areas across the U.S.A. To all the cable TV and Network shows promoting outdoor survival and adventure programming world wide.
To each and every survival book author that contributes to promoting safety in the wilderness and sharing their valuable experience, insight, and perspective for the preparation of life in the wilderness. Much appreciation for all those that have come before me and have taught me the ways of the wild and helped clarify and define this book which is my interpretation of how I see and suggest other that are here today and perhaps those that will come decades and centuries after me with the spark of outdoor adventure in their blood can better enjoy the wilderness which we hold dear to our hearts with such deep passion. Last but not least, to each and every single individual park ranger active and retired for their service and commitment to our Local, State, and National protected treasures, the great outdoors.
Introduction This book is written expressly for the beginning outdoor enthusiast seeking that connection with nature without being overwhelmed by the technical aspects of hiking and backpacking. For the purpose of this book, the jargon will be basic and expressed in laymenâ€™s language to keep the simple things simple. We may reference hiking and backpacking interlaced together and both activities intertwine with each other, and hiking is inextricably linked with the sport of backpacking. Backpacking in essence is hiking with the addition of a full survival kit strapped onto your back that can sustain your existence in an outdoor environment for overnight camping anywhere from a one righters, to weeks, or even months out in the wilderness. So backpacking is hiking with an extended stay under the stars component. Hiking can and should have a minimal survivalist component just to play it safe as even a harmless day hike can take you far into a wilderness setting, and hiking in fact will get you deeper into the wilderness faster as you will be traveling far lighter and be walking faster less the typical 25 to 60 pounds of gear typically carried by a backpacker embarking on an extended outdoor adventure quest. For the sake of this books intentions, which is a soup to nuts starter, or primer for making your outdoor experience safe, fun, exciting, enjoyable, and memorable experience, we will focus on a starter level hiking adventure blended with a 3 day 2 night adventure. So you will learn how to think like a seasoned backpacker, We will set the stage around a couple going on their first outdoor trip with little or no previous survival skills, little or no camping experience, and with no outdoor wilderness experience in order to really start you out at square one, newbie in the woods starter level setting.
So as this is a true beginning level hiking/backpacking manual and guide, you will learn the essential basic skills and techniques used by the most advanced backpackers to be safe in virtually any outdoor situation.
The rewards after a 4 day High Sierra backpacking Adventure
* Outfitters & Suppliers www.rei.com (one stop) www.amazon.com(one stop) www.campmor.com (one stop) www.backcountry.com (one stop) www.cabelas.com (one stop) --------------------------------------------
www. cascadedesigns.com www.sportsmanswarehouse.com www. goinggear.com www.rockcreek.com www.llbean.com www.gofastandlight.com/ www.dickssportinggoods.com www.eddiebauer.com www.adventure16.com www.sportchalet.com www.moosejaw.com www.sierratradingpost.com www.overstock.com www.patagonia.com * Used fitness Gear www.playitagainsports.com * Fire starters www.firesteel.com * National Parks www. npca.org/parks * Gel Fuel - Sterno www.grainger.com * GPS www. www.garmin.com/us
* Maps / trail + software http://shop.nationalgeographic. com/ (go to maps tab in menu) www.rei.com http://www.mapsales.com * Stoves for Backpacking www.amazon.com www.rei.com www.altrec.com/stoves/backpacking-stoves http://www.snowpeak.com/ stoves/backpacking.html http://zenstoves.net/ * Sleeping bags & Pads www.amazon.com (search: Therm-a-Rest Z Lite) www.kelty.com * Backpacks www.gregorypacks.com www.kelty.com * Tents www.kelty.com https://www.bigagnes.com/ Products/Tents * Clothing http://marmot.com www.sierratradingpost.com www.sundayafternoons.com * Knifes www.gerbergear.com www.kershawknives.com
* MREâ€™s (meals ready to eat) www.nitro-pak.com * Emergency Shelters www.backcountry.com
-Adventure Medical Thermal Bivvy-
* Signaling and Rescue www.findmespot.com/en/ www.stormwhistles.com * Hats www.sundayafternoons.com * Bug Suits www.bugbaffler.com * Cooking Gear www.wedocampstoves.com * Cutting Tools www.gerbergear.com <PROFILE>
* Multi- Tools www.leatherman.com www.gerbergear.com
* Watches www.timex.com/collections/ timex-expedition * Shoes www.zappos.com * First Aid Kits www.essentialpacks.com * Sunglasses www.sunglasshut.com * Warmers, Chemical www.rei.com * Gators www.rei.com * Bear Vaults www.bearvault.com http://counterassault.com/html/ bearkeg.htm * Walking Poles www.blackdiamondequipment. com <Ultra Distance Trekking Pole>
* Rain Gear www.rei.com www.amazon.com
* Hammocks http://hennessyhammock.com www.junglehammock.com
* Water Filtration www.amazon.com
Summary: www.rei.com is a one stop shop and has 99.9% of any gear you will ever need in the wilderness, but shop around.
<kayden water filter>
About the Authors Starting from the age of 5 Robert was introduced to outdoor life first by his Dad who taught him how to fish and prepare my catch for family meal. We went camping every year to locations like York Beach Maine, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and a very memorable 3 days of torrential rain on a trip to Nova Scotia Canada. On our adventures, we would do a little hiking as a family, and as a child, I would be walking, biking, tree climbing, and seeking all the outdoor adventures I could absorb, in conjunction with all the outdoor danger I could foolishly end up getting myself into. Thankfully, for my parents sanity, I always pulled myself out of sticky situations and thus became very confident and comfortable in the wilderness even as a very young age never mentioning the close calls I had climbing up 100 foot pine trees for example and finding myself hanging inverted by my knees after snapping off a hand hold branch frozen in fear after I realized I was still at least 50 feet off the ground ( when I thought I was only 6 feet or less of the ground as I was descending from my climb) with no one in ear shot or sight to get me out of this conundrum of self inflicted carelessness. That was the very day, at the tender age of perhaps 8 or 9 years of age I was initiated into the comprehension of the true meaning of the concept of what self reliance was all about in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a warm mid August afternoon that my young life flashed before my eyes. Yes I was a very independent outdoor loving child for the most part, nothing exceptional as I believe most of us were also more connected with the outdoors and nature in our younger years and I feel this is very natural and as it should be in life. As we age however, most of us get quite accustomed to civilized life and the material trappings, as I did, and we seen to grow a disconnect with nature and our roots as survivalist and the outdoor adventure seeking connections that were so attractive and natural in our younger years.
Cover photo of Authors taken in the Eastern High Sierras This essence of this book will reconnect you with nature and the adventure of the inner child we all have within us and allow you to feel the thrill of the great outdoors once again to bond with natures wonder and beauty as nature is also a part of who we are deep inside, and a huge part of our core DNA as we reconnect to our roots that allowed our forefathers to sustain their existence and thus provide us with this experience we call life. Robert and Ania live in San Diego California with their 3 dogs and frequently backpacks to the remote High Sierra mountains of Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Capital Reef, and many other world class outdoor adventures for the sheer pleasure of natures spectacular beauty and the passion of photography that he shares in books that meld the visual, spiritual, and narrative magic that happens on each and every adventure.
Chapter 1 Getting Started â€“ the basics As with any journey, all starts with the first step. As we are assuming you are a beginner or perhaps a novice, a step in the right direction is the key to youâ€™re experience being a memorable one with a safe and happy return with great stories to tell all the friends, relatives, family , coworkers, and even our children and grandchildren in the years ahead. The basics are relatively simple and straight forward. 1. Be prepared with a little fitness, a few weeks of cardio training would be considered wise as a primer with a little weight training in the mix. 2. Good high nutrition, low calorie, smart food intake would be smart move at least 4 to 6 week prior to your adventure. 3. Walking on a local trail, canyon, mountain, or even some hill climbing 3 or 4 times a week for 2 or 3+ miles per walk would be advised and highly recommended. 4. Alcohol is best to avoid at least 2 to 4 weeks before your trip date. 5. Drinking 3 to 5 liters of water a day, 2 to 4 weeks in a row before your trip is very important as your body will be prepared with nice plump fully hydrated cells for the potentially long walks you will be making on your hike in, and back out of the wilderness. 6. Get a good 8 hours sleep every night for 2 to 4 weeks in a row before your trek will also pay off in energy reserves the potentially moderate to long outdoor daily hiking activities. 7. Stress reduction will also allow your body to gain added resistance to the change in climate by boosting your immune system. 8. Deep breathing exercises 2 or 3 times a day will be beneficial in coping with blood oxygen level adjustment issues if you are going above 7,000 feet in elevation above sea level. 9.Stretching exercises, yoga, even a few dozen jumping jacks and pushups each day 2 to 4 weeks before your trip date will pay off more than you can even imagine.
10. Eating 6 to 8 smaller meals a day 2 to 4 weeks before your trip will give you higher energy levels and better blood sugar balance for sustained energy when hiking and especially when backpack- ing with the added moderate weight. 11. Eating the exact same foods that you will be consuming on the trail for the proceeding 4 weeks before your trip will avoid any adjustments in digestion that may come about with a rapid switch in food group consumption and gives your digestive system total preparation for the hiking/backpacking journey and “GO FOODS” you will need on the trail. 12. If your trails will have inclines, best to train 3 to 4 weeks before your trip on hills that are as close to, or steeper than the trails you plan on waking on your trip profile. A pleasurable and fun adventure will be assured on your outdoor adventure by just applying consistent moderate preparation on most hiking adventures. Mountains, steeply inclined trails, and switchbacks are more strenuous and time consuming adventures, so plan your wilderness adventure with ample allowance of added time that you may require to get from point “A” to point “B”, etc. Also keep in mind that distance on mountain inclines is not going to feel the same as flat ground hiking. Even a distance of half a mile on steep mountain trails will feel like 2+miles, factor in altitude, and you may feel like you have walked 3+ miles. Time and distance have an entirely different meaning on mountain trails, if you are a back packer with a 25% pack load to body weight ratio, that half mile on a mountain incline at even 7,000 feet will have you believe you must have covered 2 to 3 times the distance relevant to time compared to your flat ground hiking at or near sea level. Thin mountain air above 8,000 feet can bring on altitude sickness with symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, appetite loss, numbness in the extremities, restless sleep, and other more serious health related complications. So pace your walking to a slow to moderately medium slow rhythm and remember it is not a race but a peaceful and relaxing experience that makes a wilderness hike so rewarding and pleasurable. If you feel sick, just stop, chill, and relax.
I made the mistake of not property preparing my mind and body for one trip to Snow Creek in Yosemite back in June of 2011, and after #126, 30 degree plus switchback inclines taking us 3,000 feet off the valley floor, I was in the house of pain so bad my legs were shutting down every 4 or 5 steps as I neared the last 8 to 12 switchbacks, and I hit the wall so hard, I was very close to blacking out a few times. Not a good thing with a 55+ Lb. backpack and sheer drops that end on sharp solid granite stones, not even a remote possibility of a survivable fall. So please do not take the 12 getting starting basics lightly. Yes, I am guilty as charged of breaking my own rules of basic preparation thinking my mental preparations, past experience, and outdoor savvy would compensate and balance out my neglect of following my very own 12 basic rules of backpacking, and I got owned big time on this one very humbling day heading up the Snow Creek trail. Moral of the story, follow the 12 trail preparation steps as outlined.
Our Camp at 7,200 ft. in â€œSnow Creekâ€? Yosemite NP facing Half Dome
Walking sticks will help you on the trail and there are many choices of commercially made sticks available at your local hiking outfitter. Personally we like the old school tree limbs 3/4 of and inch with a good paracord wrap on the handles. A top of the line pair of carbon fiber extendable shaft walking sticks will set you back $150.00. If you were to purchae a pair, you would understand the value, but if you would rather invest your budget in a new pair of quality walking shoes, this would be money better spent as the walking sticks are nice to have, but not need to have trail gear. A good pair of hiking shoes with nice thick hiking socks will save your feet from the hours of walking and also be easier on your ankles, knees, and hips, which all get worked far more than a month of regular daily walking in 3 to 4 days of trail hiking, especially so when back packing where you want a good specially designed trail shoe for comfort, traction, and much needed ankle-foot stability under the added pack weight. On the trail, your body is going to be subjected to above average challlenges that creep up on you as the day, or days of hiking progressively challenge you. Even with a very good slow pace as you will be making on any mountain incline, muscles, tendons, and joints can begin to give you some interesting feedback signals which may suprise you. If you listen to your body and stop, rest, and recover as nessasary, all will be good. Press on and play macho man or woman when you should be resting, and the house of pain may come to visit you either that very same evening, or perhaps the next. We have been there and done that, pressed on, walked through the pain, pressed the envelope, and paid the price with muscle pain from overworked stabilizer muscles in the hips that did not get rested properly, then provided us with pain that night, and the following 2 nights, that woke us up with very intense shooting sharp pain when we turned on our sides at night. Rest when you think you need to, listen to your body, and pitch the tent to sleep under the stars if you feel you should not walk any further. Even a long day hike can overwork small muscle groups. Hot packs are a good idea to take on the trail for sure, for sore musles.
The chapter on fisrt aid has a great heat pack technique for making a super thermal effecient heat pack that will stay hot for over an hour that you can make in under 5 minutes. You also want to have a good bug repellent for the trail as the wilderness can have a flying insect issue from time to time depending on the time of year and the time of day you are on the trail. Not a big deal most of the time as your back yard likely has the same bugs flying around most spring and summer nights that you may encounter in the wilderness. You can buy hats with fine meshed netting that keeps the bugs off your face if this is your intention, most any outfitter has 8 to 12 sulutions for both bug repellents and head netting. We use buffs and hats with just a little bug repellent and long sleave shitrs and long pants that repell whatever nature can throw at us in the bug department. At night a camp fire with just about any available greens thrown in generate smoke keeps 98%+ of the bugs at bay. Fire works just as good as the best bug spray ever will at camp, a few harmless moths may be attracted to the fire. We always stick to the basics of common scense wilderness survival skills as the basics never fail to be effective solutions. One can be quite warm, secure, and comfortable at night in any outdoor backpacking adventure, in any season, once you know how to gear up correctly for the area and time of year you will be seting out on your trip. You positively will not need to be a survival expert to be a smart and safe in the wilderness, just read this book and follow the guidelines, advice, and adhere to the basic principles we will share with you for a lifetime of safe, fun, exciting, and memorable outdoor wilderness adventures. Simple preperation is key to spending quality relaxing time with friends and family in the great outdoors, â€œIf you are ready for anything, you will be prepared for everthingâ€?. Always be sure each and every person in your party has their own self contained survival kit strapped on their back or around their waist. The importance of this can be overstated if anyone should get lost on your trip they must have the basic skills, materials, supplies, and knowledge to stay calm, cool, and collected to avoid becoming a statistic as many avoidable tragic deaths needlessly happen each year around the
world in which most all could have been avoided with basic primitive survival skills, and less than $45.00 in basic fundemental, simple, and easy to use survival materials that can save a life and allow anyone, even a young child, survive 1 to 5+ days and nights for search and rescue crews to find them if nessasary. Saftey is paramount in hiking and backpacking, awareness is critical, and having an emergency plan should not be thought of as an option. National Parks for exmaple are just a dangerious and they are spectacularly beautuful. Yosemite National Park has many fatalities every year due to people not paying attention to their surroundings, falling into the ice cold fast moving waterways, going over waterfalls after falling into the ice cold water, stepping off high sheer drops taking photos, etc. Being aware and being responsible to avoid acts of recklesness and carelesness will keep your trek safe. Have your children read this book together with you and practice the tools and techniques in your back yard or at the local park, and out in your local wooded, canyon, and any forested area. Please be sure that fires are alowed before you practice any firemaking techniques, if not, find a safe and suitable place for these skills to be practiced and perfected. The middle of a parking lot at night may work well to practice core critical primative fire making skills. Nature is a total re-energising experience and even a quest to get closer to your maker if this is your intention. We have never been on a hike or back packing trip that did not open our eyes to the things in life that really matter, such as our daily blessing and gratitude for our health, family, friends, our animal family (dogs), and every little thing that brings the big picture into sharper focus which the great outdoor expentence never fails to deliver and increase our awareness of genuine gratitude by at least 10 fold for what we have in life. One realizes that all the material trappngs we get entangeled with in today’s modern world are not where our true contentment and happiness is based upon, and this revelation may take hold on you the very first wilderness overnight, or may take a few trips to sink in as these magical moments, where epiphanies suddenly rapture the soul and bring about enlightenment when they are least expected. Your wilderness enlightenment will certainly come in it’s own due course of time and the place where it shall happend will not be of your choosing. The “ah ha” moment will come.
Yosemite NP Snow Creek “Zen Moment” on the 126 switch back trail
As you get “connected in the wilderness”, you will better understand the journey and not the destination is the true prize and the big reward. Most first time, and even some novice hikers and back packers get far too focused on the destination and miss out on the sweet fruit of the journey. With a 90% certainty, the original trip plan will hit a twist, snag, and/or turn, and knowing this is part of the deal will eliminate any trip plan anxity and keep you in the mode of going with the flow. We have rarely had a single multi-day back go according to plan like clock work. Remember you left your business scheduler back at home and now you are in natures element and on natures terms. Sure you will have your watch, but this is not a destination timing device in nature, just a reference tool for keeping tabs on your trail blazing progress and to remind you to eat and drink if the altitude has supressed your appitite, which it always does with us. So use your watch as a reminder to eat some ‘“go food” so your body remains fueled and your blood suger does not hit a low and shut you down. We have had it happen more than once and learned to fuel frequently with very small trail meals under way and frequent hydration intervials to avoid the dehydration headaches and fatique that follows and may requires a 15 to 30 minute unplanned trail stop. A good quality hydration pack and 4 to 6 trail mix bars is all you need to eliminate food and hydration complications. Any park ranger will tell you the No.# 1 problem park visitors encounter is not wild life, weather conditions, nor the trail challenges, it is dehydration. Most people do not know that when they feel thirsy “before they drink”, their body is already in “stage one” dehydration mode. So drink water very frequently and always before you “feel” thirsty. This one tid bit of advice alone will eliminate the most prevelent issue most all new hiker and/or back packers fail to address as part of every trail walking plan. If your trail route crosses many water ways you will not need to carry more than 2 to 3 liters of water per person at any given time in weather between 35 to 60 degres F. If your trail plan is in hotter than 60 degree F and has moderate to steep inclines, and/or does not traverse many water ways, you will need to have 6 to 8 liters of water per person and you will have to moderate your trail pace for the added weight. So pre-planning all these factors actually serve to set your trip up for higher success and pleasure.
Over the years all the trail basics become a reflex action for us, but new hikers and back packers will need to think through the basics far more in the beginning, however, 2 to 4 trips will hard wire the importance of the core basics and once you have passed the wilderness virgin stage, you will be ready to move on to the intermediate and advanced level trail skills that expand the pleasure and adventue factors that got you hooked for life on the benifits of hiking and back packing. As in riding a bike, the basics will soon be on auto pilot for you and then the adventures will bloom with more color and excitement on each subsequent adventure. A point will soon come once the outdoor life adventure bug bites you, you will be planning the next trip as you are in the wild under the stars sitting by the fire you built with your own two hands providing warmth and comfort in the bliss of natures secluded wilderness. All the basic survival skills you will master with the aid of this book will become almost effortless and be as natural as breathning in a very short preiod of time spend in the wild. The first time hiker and/or backpacker will have some akward moments an adjusting to a wilderness adventure lifestyle as you wiil be stripped of most all things you are accustomed to in your daily civilized routine life. So the initial instinctual adjustments may take one to four trips to kick in and emerge after 10,000+ years of evolutinary survival skills begin to bubble up to the surface like crude oil. The survival skills in this book are all skills you have programmed into your DNA that you are not even aware of. Think of this book as the survival manual refresher that will wake up the dorment survival skills in your genitic code that trigger the fight or flight response we all still have programmed into our reaction reflex response today. If you ever go to pet a strange dog and it responds with a bark, growl, then teeth, do you extend or retract your hand? This is not a consious action, it is pure survival instinct as you are programmed to protect your body and to protect your hands, and hands are your tools and instinct provides the fastest response times to hands that build shelter, and provide food, and feet that provide distance from any percieved bodily threats. It is not an evolutionary accident that people living near and among lions in the bush of Africa are world class champion speed and distance runners, and they only need to out run the slowest guy.
We hope you are excited and thrilled to start or perhaps re-start your hiking and or backpacking adventure as this book will ignite the fires of a life long quest in exploring the great outdoors. In the US we have some of the most breathtaking National Parks on planet earth to visit and experience. Even just one single NP such as Yosemite can provide you with an entire lifetime of unique trails and outdoor adventure travels with magnificent vistas and natural wonders that will keep you camera shutter going like hot popcorn on a summers fire. We encourage you to start a trip plan ASAP at least 3 months in advance so you can gear up and be 100% prepared for matching your trip profile with a preparation plan that is trip specific as this is the smart way to hike and back pack. A planned day hike to Half Dome as an example will require at lease 8 weeks of physical training prior to departure. Yes, even a day hike on Half Dome will push your legs to the otter limits of endurance and energy reserve requirements. The 16 mile round trip is not for the faint of heart and even well conditioned younger people under 30 have reported this day hike as a very demanding physical challenge as just the walk to Vernal Fall is a hike to remember in and of itself, and this is just the warm up leg to Half Dome. So do your homework, get all your trail plans in place, elevation profiles, trip route(s), maps, compass, and sunscreen ready for your group and be sure every member of your party has a copy of this book so no one rains on your parade because they forgot or neglected to bring their property packed gear package, failed to train for the physical trail demands, plus they all must have the proper food, water, and outer wear gear to prevent any complaining about the natural elements that you will be prepared for. Have all members of your party meet at lease once a week for the preceding 4 to 8 weeks so everyone is on the same page of readiness. This may sound like overkill to some, but most all seasoned hikers and back packers do this as part of their trip plan as they understand the importance of team work and how any trip can go sideways in a snap with a fast moving weather front, rock slide, land slide, river crossing wash out, and dozens of potential surprise wilderness challenges that can, and do happen.
One of the Authors,“Vernal Fall” in Yosemite N.P. in the background
Chapter Review+ • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Plan your trip logistics from A to Z and be detailed Improve your cardio conditioning Take the 12 steps seriously and apply this to your trek Mountain trails are physically demanding trips Dedicate yourself to learn safe hiking procedures Always travel with an emergency shelter in your pack Always have a basic first aid kit on you at all times Learn basic fire making skills Always keep your body fully hydrated Eat 6 to 8 snacks for ever 6 to 8 hours of trail walking A fit hiker is a safe hiker Practice hike on terrain at least as steep as your trip profile Good gear is gear that will serve you well in the wilderness Expect the unexpected whenever you venture into the wilderness Match your trek training to your specific trip profile Do all your homework weeks, if not months in advance Alcohol and Hiking just do not mix well together Never venture into any wilderness setting without survival gear Good hiking shoes are a great place to start your gear collection Always STOP and rest when and as you feel the need Never be in a rush on the trail, moderation is the key Give you mind time to adjust to the wilderness environment Start on your trail head after a full 8 hours nights sleep Start on your trail head with good hydration in you and with you Start on your trail head after a small pre-fueling breakfast Never start your trip with a hangover, huge mistake Check the weather report again just BEFORE you start your trip Be sure your entire group has all their required gear with them Travel as lite as possible, but always have the essentials on you Be sure everyone has a map of the trip plan on them Have BIG RED DOTS on meet spots if anyone gets lost Have everyone use their map as the trip leader is in real time Be sure everyone has a compass and can use it to get direction Have the strongest, most mature leader lead the group journey Never underestimate the wilderness and fast weather changes
Chapter 2 Planning & Preparation In this chapter we will explore the science of setting the foundation for a well executed trip planning program just like the pros do it, only without the technical jargon that advanced level back packers and Alpinists use for their trip plans which can be Mt. Everest level expeditions requiring many specialized gear packages and skill sets. As you are likely going to be do a base camp day hike or perhaps a 2 night 3 day beginner level trek, we will focus upon the structure and planning of a moderate mountain trail adventure trip to set the picture of a trip plan for this outing from square one. The profile of this trip will be a starting elevation of 4,000 ft., and a five mile in destination up to 7,500 feet in altitude which will be a moderate trail profile with a steady gradual pitch in 65 degree F ambient daytime ternperature with a dry mountain air 20% humidity. We will rub the magical crystal ball and see a rain shower in our near future with moderate 15 to 25 mph winds and a cold front that will drop the temps down to 38 a chilly degrees F at night. This profile will set the stage for your adventure and as you did your homework in advance, you already know these conditions were a possibility and you are now planning accordingly for a party of six to set forth, all first time backpackers and all outdoor survival virgins. 1. Your groups profile will require 6 to 8 weeks of cardio condition- ing, leg press work, and both leg lunge and stair stepping work. 2. Each member of your party will need to have a 55 to 65 liter back pack, property fitted, with 3.0 liter water bladder hydration pack, and 3 days of food reserves. 3. As you are in black bear country, bear canisters are mandatory. 4. There will be a requirement of 3, 2 person tents that are light weight and each tent requires a ground protection plastic sheet. 5. 6 p.m. cooked meals and 6am breakfast meals, coffee, coco, and or tea will require three small PCS (Personal Cooking Systems). 6. 3 light weight pans, 3 to 6 light weight cups, 3 to 6 light weight plates, and 3 cans of 8oz screw on fuel containers are required.
7. 6 Sleeping bags rated to 25 degrees F and 6 sleeping pads, and 6 fleece sleeping bag liners. 8. 3 pocket rocket cooking devices, 6 sporks, a ferro rod sparking system, and one portable folding sink to clean dishes. 9. A high volume water filtration system. 10. 6 Head lamps with low power drain LED lights. 11. Trail shoes, good ones with a rigid soul and ankle protection. 12. Everyone needs a good quality outdoor hat with a chin strap. 13. Permits for your trip if required. 14. 6 high volume rescue whistles, each person must have one. 15. 50â€™ of 550 parqacord in each back pack. 16. Each person must have 3 pairs of hiking socks. 17. Each person must have a portable Rain poncho, yellow. 18. Each person must have a 4â€? to 6â€? fixed or folding blade knife. 19. Each person must have a thermal foil survival blanket. 20. Each person must have their own separate fire making kit. 21. Each person must carry a one day emergency food kit. 22. Each person must be able to make a fire with their kit. 23. Each person must be able to make a basic emergency shelter. 24. Each person must understand basic rescue signaling. 25. Each person must be able to set up the tent on their own. 26. Each person must know how the water filter system functions. 27. Each person must know how to operate the cooking device. 28. Each person must have a compass in their pack. 29. Each person must have map in their pack and know their location. 30. Each person must have photo ID on them. 31. Each person should have any medication needed with them. 32. Each person should know their route and tell a friend at home. 33. Your party should report to the local ranger station with your names and route plan even if a permit is not required. 34. A first aid kit must be carried with enough supplies for the group. 35. Two way radios can come in handy. 36. Two person teams on the buddy system. 37. A team leader should be elected for the trip. 38. All parties must know who is the most qualified first aid party. 39. A emergency meeting place(s) must be established on the maps.
Now you have the core frame work of a safe wilderness adventure. You may think this is all a bit extreme, well if you get separated from you group for any reason, end up being he only one in your group that can go for help in an emergency, and/or are the only one in your group that can initiate a rescue plan, like a fire, you will understand that each person in your group must be able to perform the basic proficiency of survival skills well enough to save a life, which may well be their very own. Now think you are out on a 2 person Back Pack, one man down places the entire trip survival and extraction on the others shoulders 100%. So if you were the one man down, how would you rate your partners ability to save both your back sides in the wilderness? Did the light switch just turn on? We certainly hope it did. Even though this scenario has 6 people in the party, your scenario may be a two man party with the weight of the world on the uninjured party to get you out alive from a wilderness situation with no 911, no help, no assistance, and only the resources in your (their) head and in your (their) back pack to effect a successful conclusion to the adventure. If any of your 6 person team goes out on a 2 person trek after getting the hiking and/or backpacking bug in their system, and your group preparation skills assured they were 100% taught all the vital and essential outdoor wilderness skills, all the proper gear selection, and all the confidence required in the wilderness to be prepared for natures surprises and most any emergency situation, you will effectively be the one that saved the life of a friend, family member, or co-worker on a trip you were not even a part of, but your legacy of that one adventure you took the lead on saved a life. That is powerful mojo my friend. The most important phase of any safe outdoor adventure is the pre-planning and preparation phase. What may initially feel like a lot of work just for a few days on the trail will all come together and gel once you get a few days in and a few miles out of civilization. Soon the wilderness will bring home the fact that your preparation is the difference between a fantastic, restively comfortable experience and a potential wilderness panic attack. Preparation is the key to calm on any hiking and/or back packing adventure. The age old axiom â€œBetter safe than sorryâ€? must have been coined by a wilderness expert.
In our many wilderness adventures, preparation has always been the key to our ability to adapt and overcome challenges related to wind, cold, rain, injuries, and even black bear encounters. The other axiom “A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” also must have roots in wilderness trail blazing. Sure, the objective is a fun and memorable experience, just remember the fun will be surviving the experience and living to talk about the tales. Every trip you take will become volumes of conversation that tell the stories like a book of life you are authoring with each days trail mileage placed behind you. We just want to impress upon you the importance of having a fully packed gear bag with no missing components you may need. If you are doing a two person trip, a missing fuel can, water filter, fire kit, or bug repellent is a big deal if your trail partner was the one that forgot a critical item, you will not be a happy camper, If you were the one that forgot a critical item, your trail buddy will not be a happy camper. Truth be told, you will both get pissy and upset eating cold beans on a cool night sipping cold water as warm food and drink take on an entirely new meaning in the wilderness. Do a complete gear list check together, this way you will both know there is a complete wilderness package with no missing parts. Lay out your back packs and do a gear fit as well at least a week in advance. Balancing your back pack is just as important as the contents once under way. Hopefully you had the outfitter that sold you the back pack educate you on the art of “packing a pack”. A lop sided back pack, overweight back pack, and/or mal-ajusted back pack will all result in a less than optimal experience. In the following pages, a diagram and weight distribution guidelines to prevent the dreaded back pack issues many new hikers and back packers have learned the hard way to avoid. Fortunately for you, this book will assure you a correctly fitted, packed, and weighted back pack. I vividly recall a very young couple in Yosemite at the foot of Snow Creek trail where the girl was hell bent on climbing switchbacks, and the boyfriend had what appeared to be a back pack made for carrying books that had to be 35+ lbs. and had only two unpadded shoulder straps and no waist belt, that was already digging into his shoulders as he was fighting to relieve the pain before the real hike had even started. It was apparent these two young adults were
not experienced hikers, had no concept of what a notoriously challenging climb they faced, and the boyfriend was just going along for the ride so to speak to appease his girlfriends intentions. Last thing on earth I wanted to do was rain on their parade, so all I mentioned was the climb was positively going to satisfy their quest for switch backs and it was highly likely he would be considering a different back pack on their next adventure, and bid them well. If they ever made it to the top they were going to need to spend the night resting their very sore muscles and one set of super sore shoulders, then trek back down the following day. As I pondered their highly probable and almost certain plight, it then came to me, they had no tent with them, the chances of them having any fire making skills were likely slim to non existent, and if it were to rain, I doubt they even had a poncho to keep warm and dry. I believe the back pack was loaded with camera gear, food, water, and perhaps a stove at least and hopefully warm clothing. Perfect example of all good intentions that were totally void of the all essential, mission critical planning phase. Dehydration and hypothermia are both killers each in their own right in the wilderness. If you have clean drinking water, can keep warm and dry, have the tools and basic skill to make fire, you will be a self sufficient individual in the wilderness. Always strive to be that person, should nature put you to the test, you will live to hike another day with a few well practiced base line outdoor survival skills you can always count on in a pinch. We are trying very hard to not sound like a broken record in this chapter, but even with all the safe, sound, and solid basic skills contained with these pages, we know with certainty that 50% of the readers will perhaps skip a step or two, and the other 50% of the readers will take all the knowledge and information to heart and be as prepared as any seasoned hiker and/or backpacker will be, even on their very first hike into the wilderness, please strive to be the latter as we want you to be a smart, safe, well prepared hiker/back packer. No shame in reading this book several times and taking notes on all the details which will make you feel 100% safe and secure.
Ok, you now understand some basics, perhaps have a better concept of the big picture, and maybe even enough knowledge to survive an unexpected overnight on a day hike gone sideways. Not so fast, you have much to learn yet, so grab a power bar and some water and read on. Let’s do a quick review what you know so far, you have a 39 point base line trip outline on gear, you understand each person needs to be an island onto their own if for any reason they (or you) find separation from the pack. You understand that dehydration and cold are the two most dangerous elements in the wilderness that kill most every lost hiker and/or backpacker that has or every will loose their life in the wild. You understand that how you pack can be ever bit as important as what you pack in with you, and we do hope you have at least a little more respect for any wilderness environment. Nature can dole out pleasure and pain with total immunity from any and all emotional values. Nature just “IS”, but you must pro actively be prepared. This hiking and backpacking thing can only be explained so many times and in so many ways, so we are going to show you now what you need to do with the information you have read thus far with several photos that get right down to the point of preparation and safety. You are going to see REAL trip level gear preparation that is going to be broken down even further in the following chapters, like fire making as a good example. Simple to grasp, not so simple to master. This is indeed a book on basics, but even the basics must be broke down into separate components, for the very same reason the US Military trains it’s young men and women for 8 weeks of boot camp covering the basics before moving on to the specialized training. You will not need to know how to field strip an M-16 blind folded, put it back together again, and know with 100% competent certainty it will fire if your life were to depend upon it on the very first trigger pull, but make no mistake, your wilderness hike and/or back adventure carries serious consequences that can get you killed slowly if you think you can flip a few pages ahead and not get your basics down rock solid in proper sequence.
The following gear presented here is ‘Real” gear we take with us on “Real” wilderness adventures that has been well used and tested on our past, present, and will be used on many future adventures to come. So don’t expect to see photos out of the REI catalog or any other store product shots that are intended to be pretty and attractive, what you see is the exact same gear we use on every backpacking trip to Yosemite, the High Sierras, Capital Reef, the Grand Canyon, and at least a half dozen more of our favorite places on the planet to back pack for days or weeks in the depths of the wilderness with bears, deer, moose, wolf, elk, rabbits, marmots, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, and hundreds of other wild species of creatures that we embrace as all gods creatures that allow us the privilege to live among them on our visits to their home. We will break down the components for you so you can best understand the gear component preparation process, and end up with a complete gear package that will provide you with days, or weeks of wilderness survival supplies under any and all weather conditions. Dryer Lint, Char Cloth, Cotton Balls in P-Jelly, Gun Power
Pine Bark Tinder
Basic Fire Making Kit
The “Pocket Rocket” Single Burner Stove
Rain Poncho (keep this handy)
Home made First Aid Kit, with Signal Mirror
H2o Bladder (Buy a good quality bladder)
Leather Hat with chin string
Buff & Ear Warmer
Lock Blade Folding Knife with Serrated Edge
550 Military III Para cord (get the real thing)
Fleece Sleeping bag liner ( get one)
Sleeping Bag (as seen in compression sack)
Outdoor Rescue Emergency Whistle ( get one)
High Volume, Quality Water Filter
General Use Gloves for Camp or Trail
Cold Weather Gloves
Map and Compass
Bear Vault (Mandatory in National Parks with Bears)
Note: We typically both cook and eat from this cup, simple, fast, and EZ.
Portable Kitchen Sink
We use this set up as a back up PCS (Personal Cooking System). The stove is a cat food can with holes punched from a common paper hole punch from any office supply store. The stove runs on many types of fuels including truck air brake anti-freeze. We use denatured alcohol you can buy at most any hardware store. This is the same cooking FUEL used on boats as it is non explosive and burns a nice hot blue flame. Back up Alcohol Fuel Stove System (home made) The “SUPER CAT” stove as seen above is a very efficient and clean burning stove that has been used by back packers for decades. The original idea is base on Marine stoves as boats cannot carry explosive cooking fuels due to U.S.C.G. regulations for safety. We carry an 11 ounce fuel supply and TWO super cats, one has only a single row of holes, thus it produces less heat, and is aptly called a “Simmer Cat”. The stoves are fly weight, but the fuel is heavy in terms of back packing considerations. You can carry a half can (5.5oz) and have plenty of cooking time for the trail and camp. The stoves are very sensitive to wind. So you have to consider this before you plan on using one in the open. A primitive wind screen can be used, or you can buy a wind screen in many outfitter stores. 3/8 of an inch of fuel will give you aprox. 4.5 minutes of cook time. Enough to boil 8oz of water at 10,000 ft. in altitude. A short priming cycle is required, fuel must burn until it’s reached it’s boiling point.
One of the authors Personal Gregory Denalii Back Pack This is a $500.00 back pack that I picked up for only $150.00 on Craigs List. It is like new and the previous owner took it on only 4 trips, never learned how to pack it property and over loaded it beyond his 25% pack to body weight ratio. Common newbie mistake. The true value of quality back pack cannot be overstated. When you are on the trail, miles from civilization, and your back pack contains all the essential life sustaining supplies and gear you need to survive, a well made quality back that fits you properly is a must.
<>Step 1: Hip belt • First make sure all the pack’s straps and hip belt are loosened. • Put the pack on your back so that the hip belt is resting over your hip bones. • Close the hip belt buckle and tighten it. • Check the padded sections of the hip belt to make sure they wrap around your hips comfortably. Keep at least 1” of clearance on either side of the center buckle. • Note: If the hip belt is too loose or tight, try repositioning the buckle pieces on the hip belt straps. If this doesn’t solve the problem, you may need a different pack (or hip belt). <>Step 2: Shoulder Straps • Pull down and back on the ends of the shoulder straps to tighten them. • Shoulder straps should fit closely and wrap over and around your shoulder, holding the pack body against your back. They should NOT be carrying the weight. • Have your helper check to see that the shoulder strap anchor points are 1” to 2” inches below the top of your shoulders. <>Step 3: Load Lifters • Load-lifter straps are located just below the tops of your shoulders (near your collarbones) and should angle back toward the pack body at a 45-degree angle. • Gently snug the load-lifter straps to pull weight off your shoulders. (Overtightening the load lifters will cause a gap to form between your shoulders and the shoulder straps.) <>Step 4: Sternum Strap • Adjust the sternum strap to a comfortable height across your chest. • Buckle the sternum strap and tighten until the shoulder straps are pulled in comfortably from your shoulders, allowing your arms to move freely. <>Step 5: Stabilizer Straps • Pull the stabilizer straps located on either side of the hip belt to snugt he pack body toward the hip belt and stabilize the load. <>Step 6: Final Tweak • Go back to the shoulder straps and carefully take a bit of tension off of them. Now you’re ready to go!
Always Remember these 6+ Points About Backpacking - Your backpack will be mistreated in ways you never thought possible on most every wilderness adventure - Assume that your backpack will get wet and use dry bags - Pack modular in “kits”, dry bags are just perfect for this - Never, ever, ever, pack to capacity! (Fill only 80% or less) - No Wasted Space, pack tight to prevent load shifting - Pack larger and heavier objects first with your pack laying down
Lite & Compressible
*Dense & Heavy
*Alternative packing style places heavy items more towards the top of the pack, experiment and do what works for you. You will find both methods claim to be the “best way” ☺
As you can now see and understand, hiking and backpacking is not as simple hoisting a back pack with a few power bars and a spare sweater thrown in at the last moment before a trip. Donâ€™t forget the compass and map as these tools will keep you in track and help you navigate the trail with way points, distance scales, and directional landmark information critical in good weather, life preserving information in fair to poor weather conditions. The wilderness trail can be challenging to follow at times under the best conditions, add in the common geological activities such as mud slides, rock slides, rain washing out trail crossings, water crossings that can be waist deep in spring and summer thaws, tree falls, slippery ground conditions, and even a bear with cubs in the spring that you may have to take a detour around, and you will better appreciate the simple map and compass that you may have thought you would never need on an established hiking /back packing trail in any National Park for example. Yes, a map and compass may be a luxury carry item under idea conditions, but you happened to pick up this book and decided to be a smart and prepared hiker or back packer that will have the tools to get to your destination and back out under the most challenging conditions that may turn 180 degrees from ideal in a few minutes if a mountain storm front comes racing in and takes you from a warm and dry sunny day into a cold, wet, windy, and directionally challenging situation faster than a New York minute. Plan on these events, hope to avoid them when possible, but understand you will not be in charge of the weather out in the wilderness and nature will pull rank on you as nature has no compunction to take your CEO title and stuff it up your back side before you even get half way to the only camp site for 3 miles up a 30 percent grade, and perhaps will throw in a washed out walking bridge and add a mud slide just to demonstrate the fact that you only have the options to deal with the situation and you have no say whatsoever on the terms and conditions of your situation. If your boss is a control freak in the work place and drives you crazy, invite them to you next back packing 4 day adventure and select the most challenging route plan you can possibly design. Then tell them as they are the boss, they can lead the 4 day adventure for the group.
You will be running the show for the rest of the trip and the work place will never be the same after the boss was relived of their duties and you had to take charge of the group to get the program back on track. Have the detour back to the more civilized trail mapped out and keep this to yourself and the rest of the group members that all were in on this from the beginning. You may even get a raise for the leadership skills you demonstrated, and who knows, you may even get the bosses position if the powers to be get wind you had leadership skills that saved your parties back side on the office wilderness adventure. If you are the boss and you are reading this, use the outdoor experience as a moral building tool after you realized the workers set you up to get owned on the first outing, then gave you this book to make their point that you need to take it down a few notches in the work place because other than the control freak thing, they actually really like you. You see, a group wilderness adventure can mend fences and be a very powerful bonding experience to get all the players back together and on the same field once again, and you thought this was just a book on backpacking and hiking:-) So getting back on point, having your gear package in place, the trip profile in place, your game plan squarely organized, and preparation for contingencies in place once under foot, you will be in good shape on any trail route plan you option to take as your core. foundational system will not fail you once your ducks are in a row and you understand how to pack for any adventure like a pro. Oh, by the way, all that trip planning scenario I outlined the beginning of this chapter and you were thinking I drifted away from. Well the moral of the story is, never plan your trips, routes, or adventure on a frame work that will always have totally unpredictable weather conditions and challenges that the best laid plans cannot depend upon. Your lesson in this chapter is hope for the best, and full well plan and pack for the worst possible case scenario any mountain trail hiking and/or back packing adventure may have in store for you and your group. If and when the S#:+ hits the fan hard, you had better be able to reach into your back pack and pull out the tools to deal with it like you life depended upon it, because it just may be the cards you are dealt on any given day, way deep in the wilderness.
We wanted to elaborate just a little here on the importance of properly fitting a back pack. If you are a new backpacker, we doubt you understand the mission critical importance of proper pack adjustments. So we will do all we possibly can with instructive words to guide you to doing the right thing to assure a nice balanced back pack is sitting on your back which will make a substantial positive difference in your wilderness experience. First let us tell you that some things in this book may sound repetitive, and you may think you have it all figured out and are good to go, problem is, every backpack adventure is unique in terms of HOW you will be gearing up for your trek. You can be 100% prepared in most every department of you trail plan down to a science, we hope, and still get placed in the house of pain due to a backpack that was not put together (packed) property for your specific adventure. We are not talking about contents as we are sure after completing this book you will have this wired and dialed in, we are talking about LOAD and WEIGHT distribution. Once you have your pack out items all neatly laid out, organized, packaged, in your dry sacks and compression bags, ready for the final step, loading, your back pack CHOICE will come into play. Yes, you may need to consider having a few choices in back packs as just one backpack is not going to be ideal for every wilderness adventure. If you are about to embark on your very first wilderness trek and have been professionally fitted at your local outdoor adventure store, it is a safe bet to say you most likely do have the right backpack for your adventure, but what about the dozens or perhaps hundreds of future wilderness adventures? Here is the low down on back packs, it all depends upon how efficiently you personally can pack your gear, your style of backpacking in terms of bare essentials vs luxury items you like to travel with, and the terrain you will be dealing with. Naturally your physical conditioning, age, and tolerance to weigh bearing over distance, inclines, declines, and across water is a huge factor to consider. As we like to say, starting out, â€œdo it right by going Liteâ€?, this is the basis of all backpacking carry theory and even though you may feel you have this all under control, things change fast on the trail and a back pack that was your friend can become a beast of burden quick.
We have 5 backpacking systems each, and use specific backpacks for specific hiking and backpacking treks. Loading a 65 liter pack to 25% capacity for example will not carry as it was designed and lead to load shifting and/or improper weight distribution issues, which can lead to imbalance mobility issues, and on steep or narrow trails this becomes very dangerous near sheer drop-offs to make a point. If you get the outdoor adventure bug, we hope you do or already have, it will only be a matter of time before you have two, three, four or more backpacks for trip specific use. This is when you really get your backpacking MOJO dialed in to a science, and when you have perhaps had a backpack malfunction on a previous trip, it only takes one of these situations to clearly see the light of day and get exactly where we are coming from, which is a place of been there done that. Been in the house of pain with backpacks and we have been cured of this insidious mistake in the brutal early days of the backpacking learning curve. Follow our simple, sound, voice of experience and suggestions, and you can totally avoid the house of backpack pain. Five miles into a trail you will be 100% sure if your backpack is loaded and fitted property as this truth will become self evident. If your thoughts start racing through your head you should have invested that extra $80.00 for the backpack that felt just perfect on your back but not on your wallet, you purchased the wrong backpack and that $80.00 is a non issue to you in this moment and you would gladly pay $200.00+ more just to have that backpack magically be on your back at this moment, but you will have the house of pain on your back now and will be forced to deal with it for the duration of your trip, talk about a major wilderness trek adventure buzz kill. With some trail experience under your belt, a 45 liter backpack gets you 2 to 3 days of wilderness trekking adventure going basic. STARTING OUT, we needed a 75+ liter backpacks for 3 days on trail. So your backpack capacity requirements change with your experience level and personal needs over time. You would be shocked at how little you really need and how compact you can pack out once you dial in your unique style into the wilderness adventure equation. If you find you take a liking bare bones primitive style trekking adventures, a properly packed out 65 liter backpack will be sufficient to take you from the Mexican border to Oregon on the P.C. Trail!
Chapter Review+ • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Expect the unexpected, in nature, this is to be expected Gear up properly to avoid most gear malfunction isssues Stick with the tried and true basics in all gear selection One single aluminum cup is all you really need to cook & eat Use a simple lite-weight cooking system that performs flawlesly Simple comon scense is your best friend in the wilderness Drink a lot of water whenever you can and keep reserves A simple home made fire kit is a proven life saver in the wild A simple home made first aid kit, also a life saver in the wild Pack a backpack property, test carry, adjust to fit perfectly Always use a map and compass in the wilderness, ALWAYS! Buy a good quality back pack, this is your life preserver pack Get a whistle, keep it handy, use it without hesitation in need Bear containers also keep out all other hungry wild animals Open food invites Bears, things can go badly, and very fast If you get your food eaten my animals, you are SOL, period If your food gets eaten, you go hungy without survival skills All natures animals want your food, and they will take it Have fun and hold a deep respect for nature at all times In the wilderness, you are in the animals domain, in their home Never tease any animals, wild animals attack when cornered You go your way, allow all animals to go their way as well Plan, plan, plan, then execute the plan, as planned, on the trail Nature is never against you, nature just “IS”, remember this Keep you back pack weight as low as possible Never feed wild animals, they may stalk you wanting more Wild animals left alone and undisturbed will not bother you Keep a good distance from wildlife, 200’+ minimum is good All food must not be in, or within 150” of your tent at night No lotions, creams, or perfume in your tent at night, ever No open coffee, sugar, or creamers in your tent No power bars or wrappers in your tent No food crumbs in your tent, ever, invitation for unwanted guest Animals can and will claw into your tent if they smell any food
Chapter 3 Clothing Considerations As you learned in the previous chapter, being prepared with your gear bag (back pack), is key to being a smart hiker and/or backpacker, so clothing is the next logical step of progressive trip planning. You need to know the basics of layering, how to layer, what to layer, and why to layer your clothing in a specific way that will provide maximum protection with minimum weight, a fine line to walk. The following layering system will never change for any environment, only the thickness of the materials and the number of layers will change with temperature and moisture conditions. The system is as follows... 1. Under garments must be a man made fiber, polyester, rayon, and other exotic blends will be found on the label of garments that specifically designed for hiking and back packing. 2. Socks for hiking will also be made from polyester, rayon, and other exotic blends as undergarments, only much thicker with added material to the heels and toes. 3. Tops are also made from polyester, rayon, and other exotic blends, however top will be very thin material designed to wick perspiration away from the body fast in order to avoid core temperatures from dropping in cold weather when you may be working hard and sweating, where the sweat will do what it is designed to do, cool you down, and turn into a chill suit once the cold outer air gets a chance to amplify this natural condition with core dropping results that your body cannot recover from taking you into a hypothermic state if the moisture cannot be lifted off your skin and brought to the outer surface of the garment where it can evaporate without the bone chilling effects. 4. Next layer is your thermal layer, this layer is the insulation that keeps the warm in and the cold out. Wool based materials work well, and again, man made fibers and blends are best.
Outer layer needs to be a nylon wind breaker material that can effectively protect you from wind, rain, sand, contact moisture from trees, bushes, any mist from waterfalls, morning dew, etc. Rain gear for when the nylon is not enough to repel the water from driving rain, heavy mist, etc.
Ponchos are typically enough rain protection, however you may need a full rain suit if the weather is really unrelenting and if the rain is being pushed by high winds and/or strong gust. This last outer layer is your life saver when the rain is coming on strong, and just knowing you can keep dry and warm is a major psychological check in the win column when out in the wilderness. Cold wet weather is not a big deal when you are prepared for it, but if you are not prepared, cold wet weather is a ticket to the house of pain that can put a big pinch on your fun factor. Just don’t ever forget that poncho. We were on one of our Yosemite trips and the rain was really pouring down starting from the minute we entered the park. After driving for 8 hours, all night, and then arriving at 7:30 am, we were tired, hungry, and just wanted to have a hot breakfast and catch a little sleep. At Currry Camp we found a nice parking spot with a table and decided to cook some sausages. Our ponchos were the only thing keeping us form getting soaked to the bone as we were still in our travel clothing, light weight jogging type clothing, and out in the pouring rain cooking with the trusty pocket rocket back packing stove on high burn, with a 6” cast iron base camp pan cooking our much needed breakfast. The rain was basically a non issue and we were snug, warm, and dry as the rain danced on the cooking oil, popping and crackling as our sausage fried to a tasty hot delight. A lite weight clothing inventory keeps your pack from getting overweighted, this is very important if you pack 2 weeks of clothing for a 4 day vacation in the civilized world, this same thought process will get your back pack into the “red zone” fast in terms of weight. If you pack heavy with half your wardrobe, rent a mule, lama, or even a goat, but never over pack what you carry on your back. The number one mistake most every newbie back packer makes is pack overloading. Clothing, only second to food, is where weight gets piled on to excess.
Many hikers and seasoned back packers alike take a ground up approach to their gear weight control. As we are talking clothing, letâ€™s run up the ladder on how this is done by the pros so you can benefit from this infinite wisdom. 1.
Shoes, you will require 2 pairs, one pair for the trail and another pair for water crossings and back up. Your trail boots should be of good quality, have a good rigid soul to help prevent ankle twisting, have a good aggressive bottom tread, provide good overall ankle support, have good breathing properties, be water proof, temperature rated down to 32 degrees F or lower, have added exterior toe box protection, a simple lace system, and have the ability to easily accept a para cord replacement lace system with no eyelet hole modifications required. Secondary water crossing shoes must be of good quality, be very lite weight, have good soles with a sure grip tread, have an open design to not trap water or mud, and have a good strap system to keep the shoe securely attached with no slippage whatsoever. Socks must be hiking specific with nice thick padding. Pants need to be durable, yet lite weight and have good pockets for trail food and offer good protection from cuts and scrapes as you traverse over and around trees, bushes, rocks, and harsh brush. Also offer good protection in the event of falls. A good leather or cloth belt can become a good tool, aside from keeping your pants on as itâ€™s primary function. Under garments are going to prevent chafing from friction and moisture. Always have good quality trail made specific under garments on at all times in the wilderness as moisture and fric- tion will put a damper on your fun adventure in a hurry. A good quality top will serve as protection and provide you with warmth to keep your core temperature under control as you want to regulate hot and cold, as well as dry and wet weather condi- tions with a top, or a layered top system that keeps you in a good state of mind, which is a state of warm and dry at all times. A wind breaker acts as a sun screen, dirt and dust shield, and of course, a wind chill and wind burn barrier. A good hat, scarf, and gloves worn as needed tops off the list.
Weight control of your clothing is essential, so keep all your clothing requirements in sync with your trip plan. A daily change of clothing is a good thing, but you only need 2 changes of the essentials to make a multi-day or a multi-week trip. Experienced hikers and back packers carry a lite weight cloths line and a package of environmentally friendly soap to wash and dry their clothing on a rotating basis. Typically every 2 days they do laundry on the trail, which is minimal in terms of volume, and easy to get into the habit of doing as a part of good hygiene practice. We use para cord for our cloths line (we use para cord for basically just about everything) and organic specialty soap in our portable kitchen sink, also used as a portable washing machine. Clothing can be very inexpensive to pick up for your adventure by just reading the labels on any rack sale department store being sure that cotton is not in the material blend list. You would be best off going to an outfitters specialty store as they will only carry the proper blends of clothing, but you will pay a little more for the luxury of not needing to read any of the labels knowing you are in a place that will prevent you from making the wrong clothing selections. We always buy at a local outfitter here in San Diego as the selections are very outdoor specific and the selections of clothing is very diverse and cover every outdoor protective need, all under one roof. The time and fuel we save is well worth the slight premium in price, but the cost is not what you should be focused upon as the value of the quality of the clothing is what counts on the trail. If you understand the concept of an added $25.00 for a really top of the line, quality pair of trail pants that will last you for 3 plus years of comfortable wear opposed to a cheap pair of pants that may fail on the first trip out, then you will buy the good pants and have no regrets and end up not needing to buy the good pants after you learned this lesson and realized you wasted a great deal of time and good money trying to save a few dollars, only to end up paying more in the end. This goes for all your trail gear in fact. People never regret buying quality anything, but always regret buying cheap merchandise, only to end up with a greater appreciation for the true value in quality, which applies to anything and everything in life. We know, been there, done that. Youâ€™re call, but in the wilderness, you cannot go to the customer
Service desk to return the cheap pants, shoes, shirt, or underwear that has you in the house of pain with chaffing, blisters, or a hole in them that you have to walk another 8 to 10+ miles in with no relief in sight. We have seen this on most every trip out on the trail when newbies set out with all the wrong clothing gear and they are not hard to spot when they are walking funny and with a strange gate to attempt to escape the discomfort and skin rashes that resulted from poor clothing selection(s). Even all the right gear is not a 100% guarantee of zero clothing malfunctions, but a little mole skin will patch you up and keep your trail adventure in the comfort zone. The correct fitting clothing is essential, not too tight, and not too loose. Remember you are not out to make a fashion statement in the wild, the tight pants and tailor fit tops that you may wear at home in thee civilized world are not going to cut it in the wilderness. Only your trail shoes need to be a snug fit to secure your foot from slopping around in them and having any blister issues. Just be sure your feet stay 100% dry, because even a perfect fitting sock and shoe with water in it due to a step in the creek that went over the top of your boot with generate blisters. Learn for my mistake on this fact as I stepped over the top of both my trail boots crossing the same stream as I did not feel like changing into my water crossing shoes on one trip. I had 50% of both big toes rubbed raw and blistered up in under 2 hours of walking after that event. Even the mole skin did not work on blisters this large. So again, learn for the mistakes of others and you will avoid the house of pain by plugging into the wisdom and mistakes of tall those that blazed the trails before you. The big pay off is doing all the little things right, as you by now may be getting wise to the concepts of hiking and back packing. The veil of mystery is lifted and you see there is a very logical and progressive step by step process that needs to be adhered to. Although not rocket science, there is a little general science behind the scenes. Clothing is your very first, and may well be your very last defence against the elements in the wilderness should you get lost or separated from your partner or group.
Think of how you would survive if you had 5 minutes to dress for a 3 night under the stars stay in the wilderness with no tent, no sleeping bag, no sleeping pad, no warm fire, no stove, and no spare gear to layer up for the cold nights. This is called getting â€œLOSTâ€?. If you get lost you will have the cloths on your back and perhaps a water bottle, knife, and hopefully your fire kit, but you packed lite for a day hike and thought these items were not part of your day trips realm of possibilities, and how wrong you were to assume this, and here you are in quite the predicament with no paddle to row up s#i+s creek. Day hikers are always the very least prepared for emergencies and end up in the most serious and dire compromising situations when unplanned overnight stays become life or death survival situations. Clothing is your one and only default survival tool of necessity if you get forced into any unplanned overnight camping. Add rain to this unplanned event, and hypothermia is assured, chances of survival of even one rainy night in cold wet weather is 50/50 at best, not good odds for you to walk out or even be carried out alive day hiker. Has the point of proper clothing been clearly made? People die every single day, somewhere in the world, due to outdoor exposure. It is one thing to be caught off guard by a tornado, but to go on any hike or backing trip, knowing that you may have to depend on the clothing on your back well in advance for your possible survival is critical. One trip to the outfitter store and a few basic pieces of outdoor clothing gear is all it takes to be a survivor in the wilderness, so either get on line or go to your outfitter ASAP and start planning your trips clothing gear requirements. You can take the ground up strategy, the top down strategy, or the piece by piece when my budget allows strategy approach to your clothing gear package, it really does not matter how you assemble your clothing gear, just be sure you hit the trail with clothing that takes into account the season, all the possible variables, High and low temperature swings, rain forecast, rain not forecasted, winds, and all the elements blended together in a cocktail of cold, wet, windy, dark ugly weather possibilities to be sure your gear bag has what you need to keep warm, dry, protected, and secure without any fire as fire in a rain storm is not going to happen unless you find a natural shelter like a cave or large rock overhang.
Even a seasoned outdoor expert cannot magically produce a fire under certain weather conditions even if they had a gallon of gasoline handy to throw on a semi dry log pile. Fire is not a substitute for a well planned clothing gear package. Even a raging fire will die off when you go to sleep, or pass out due to fatigue, so it’s back to square one and clothing, with or without the luxury of a hot glowing fire. There is an old adage “Cotton Kills” that outdoors experts have touted for many years, and this is a fact. As tamping as you may fine the path of least resistance to wear a seemingly harmless cotton Tshirt, a quick little test of the ability a cotton T-shirt has to strip your body of 3 degrees in core temperature in under 15 minutes is a test that will cure you of this fatal temptation. Wait for a 50 degree or cooler night and darn your cotton T-shirt, have a friend throw a bucket of cold water on your front and back side, allow to soak in, no jumping jacks or squats to warm up, this is cheating. Without any fast movement, crouch into a ball as you stay on your feet and remain perfectly still for 15 full minutes, if you can. This is how you will feel on a cold night in a survival situation long, long, long, before you slip into a hypothermic state where you will actually start to begin feeling warm again, shortly before you pass out, or black out as your core temperature sinks below as little as 96 degrees, and you will be unconscious when your core temp drops to 89 degrees, and heading towards dead when you drop to 84 degrees. The human body is a very fragile instrument Rambo, and you are not immune to the ravages of hypothermic shock. You may be able to 10 rep a 400 lb. Bench press at the gym, but just one single cold wet night with even a soft 5 mph wind with suck the life from your bones and own you. I went swimming in the Eastern Sierra one August day in 50 degree (perhaps colder) water with a lycra one piece bike suit, and although I was in semi shock hitting that cold water, the lycra suit acted like a very thin wet suit and I had no problem, and no real discomfort dripping dry in the sun till I was dry as a bone in about 30 minutes. Clothing selection can be life or death in the wilderness. Note: Cotton is ok to wear over 80 degrees F when you need cooling.
I strongly recommend you skip the cotton T-shirt test and not jump into a cold High Sierra lake as I did, twice in a row, but I do hope the point was made that clothing selection is not to be taken as an afterthought when hiking an/or back packing. I also find it very comfortable to back pack in that same lycra one piece bike suit, in fact the photo on the front cover is the same suit I did the Sierra lake dive with, on the same day, and then proceeded to break down camp and hike out in that day. I got a lot of very strange looks with the lycra bike suit, and a few double takes from many people we passed on the trail, but I am not concerned with these things, I had a 72 lb. back pack on and hiked out 4.5 miles on some serious switchbacks down slopes, so I really did not care about what anyone thought, said, or their opinion. I was comfortable, had my temperature regulation under control, had plenty of water, and we made it to the car to go eat pizza and drink a tall beer in Bishop that evening, and then slept in a real bed that same night. Works for me, you do what works for you. We generally keep a small inventory of 3 tops each, one flannel shirt, one thinly lined nylon jogging suit, 3 pairs of hiking socks, one lite weight wool sweater, a rain poncho, 3 pairs of lycra pants, one pair of shorts, and one military pair of walking pants with a cloth belt. All layered up, go to go down to just below freezing when under way, even though we were 50 degrees plus at night, the margin of safety is always kept in play on ever trip. This clothing gear package is designed for one of our 3 night 4 day back packing trips in 12,000+ ft. elevation High Sierra Mountain adventures. Desert crossings are a very speciality adventure, and not one we would suggest you even consider on your first few hiking or backpacking adventures. The clothing requirements are every bit as critical as mountain trips as you will have 100+ F. day time temps, and drop down to close to freezing at night as the desert is a very poor in retaining heat with little if any rocks in some locations. Desert crossing is a technical speciality and the dangers are high at all times. Aside from the scorpions and rattle snakes, the desert is difficult to navigate even on a trail in some cases, low lying areas can be prone to flash floods, and cross country (off trail) trips are where serious navigation skills are not an option.
Desert clothing is so important as the hot blazing sun can give you a case of sun poisoning in a matter of a few short hours without the proper protection. Sun screen is a luxury item and should never be used as a primary level of protection, clothing is your primary protection first foremost and always. Layers of thin white silk work well for sun protection in the desert, but you can use any thin white material, even thin white cotton is acceptable in this harsh environment as the one exception to the â€œno cotton ruleâ€? in the wilderness. Best to keep out of the sun and travel after dusk, but this is also when rattle snakes and scorpions come out to hunt at night. So stepping in the desert sand at night is a very precarious situation and the conundrum is, you will be best to sleep at night when the heat is turned off, but you cannot walk and sleep at the same time. So your sleep and travel time in the desert is going to really mess with your sleep patterns and throw you into a totally different rhythm that you may or may not adjust to very well. I would count on the NOT adjust very well to mode and prepare for many short naps in between travel time as the hot days will be difficult for sleep, even when you have shade and shelter in place, if you get this lucky. We are mountain back packers, not desert rats, and the desert is not our cup of tea for wilderness adventure. This said, there is nothing wrong with the challenges of a desert crossing, and the clothing required for desert specific travel under foot is a very inexpensive and basic addition to your gear package. If you are bold enough to attempt a desert crossing, cover up every inch of your exposed skin, start out with a short crossing under 5 miles where you can see your destination landmark at the starting point, i.e.; Mountain peak, and set out with a lite pack with all your essentials reserving all your weight allowance for water. 8 liters per person for a moderate 85 degree F daytime temperature high trek is a minimal water supply carry. Walking in soft sand is very energy consuming and will work you ankle complex into failure fast if you are not conditioned for this terrain. Clothing will protect your skin, but your water intake and ankles will need to be very closely monitored. A GPS is highly recommended in the desert as the terrain can be impossible to use for land marks and your visual destination will be much further away than you think it is due to the hot dry air.
The mountains have elevation, the deserts can have elevation and terrain challenges combined with the extreme temperature highs in day light hours and extreme temperature lows in night time hours substantially adding to your overall energy expenditure and affecting your sleep cycles. High desert with altitudes over 7,000 ft. add the possibility of altitude sickness to the mix. Clothing is even more critical in the desert for core temperature regulation as you will be exposed to conditions best suited for camels, and not well suited for human beings. Over heated core termeratures can kill faster than hypothermia in the cold nights. If you run out of water in the desert, you had better have some survival skills far exceeding beginner level hiking and back packing in your grey matter tool box as you can fry like an egg in day time and freeze to death at night in the desert as this is a place of extremes. I hope you have gained a little more respect for desert hiking and/ or backpacking as we know how to deal with and traverse cross country desert adventures, but due to the additional challenges, we elect to be mountain people and stick to mountain adventure back packing. Not that mountain travel is safer, it is not, however mountain travel has more diversity and an abundance of water in most places where the trails are very challenging and can be quite technical to climb and decent. This is a beginning hiker/back packing book remember and it is very important you are exposed to and understand various terrain and the clothing requirements to protect you in any outdoor trek, but you need to â€œhard wireâ€? all basic elemental skills in your head first to assure you will have sufficient survival skills to deal with your first few adventures, gain both the real world knowledge and experience with the aid and guidance of this book, and if anything, be over prepared for safe and fun outdoor adventures. Once you have a trip of two under your belt, and you have connected all the dots, in a short time you will have the insight of a seasoned, competent happy camper. ******************************************************* Dress to impress at home, but you must dress to survive in the wilderness with an entirely different mind set. Once you grasp the outdoor clothing concepts, you will instinctively know how to pack
the clothing gear component package for virtually and outdoor wilderness adventure. Go on line to â€œamazon.comâ€? for virtually every need you have as they carry a huge selection of hiking and back packing outfitting supplies and outdoor adventure specific clothing. Go to your local outfitter if you have one in your area for hands on shopping and for fitting of any article of clothing before you buy any fit specific clothing on-line as this will save you many days of possible item return delays. If a particular brand and article model name fits you well in the store, chances are 99%+ an on-line order will fit like a glove. The physical outfitter stores will also have an on-line store where they typically carry additional items the store may be out of, and in some cases, the store may not carry on the shelves if the item is a low volume seller. The stores will typically only carry medium to high volume merchandise that is in high demand and moves of the shelves fast. Clothing in my opinion is always best purchased in the store as I can get any article of defective or damaged clothing returned and replacement in a matter of only minutes, not days. As stated earlier, I like the hike in lycra biking suits, so bike shop can also be an outfitter for hiking and back packing if you elect to share my unconventional wisdom in outdoor adventure clothing gear. One downfall to this selection is mosquito bites, thin lycra requires a good application of an effective bug repellent as this material is just as attractive, and as easy to penetrate as bare naked skin to a hungry mosquito. Elastic bands are also handy to cuff off pant legs and shirt sleeves if your garment does not have draw strings to get the job done. We always carry 4 home made para cord ties each with spring loaded sliding sinches available at every outfitter for this express purpose. A few knot, bend, and hitch tying skills, these can be made with just the raw cordage alone less the spring loaded sinch, but the spring loaded sinch is fast, simple, and fool proof method to get the job done. Thin white gloves are require gear if you are concerned about skin cancer or have had issues with this. You must keep in mind that as you ascend in altitude, the earths protective layer for UV thins and exposes you to far greater UV rays both A and B. When you are at altitudes that are above 7,000 ft., you will notice this as when the sun
breaks through cloud cover you will feel more like someone turned on and infrared food warming heat lamp and not just the sun breaking through the clouds at or near sea level, or at the beach. It is not your mind playing tricks on you nor is it a perception illusion, you are feeling the sun without the 1+ to 2+ miles of atmospheric filtering which normally is present where you have taken it for granted all those years at or near sea level. You perception is accurate and correct, the sun is more intense as you ascend in altitude, so protective sunscreens of 50+ and protective clothing are essential tools to combat the thinly filtered UV rays you feel. If you are fair skinned, you will notice tanning is significantly accelerated at altitude. Not healthy tanning however as the UV rays are not conducive to safe exposure to UV radiation levels, so limit your exposure with a layer of clothing to play it safe and be smart about how you allow the sun to directly come in contact with your skin. Sure, you can come back from a 4 day Outdoor adventure with the equivalent of 6+ days at the beach in terms of tanning value, but the skin exposure damage is not worth the risk and we strongly recommend you cover up and sun screen frequently. Even a 30+ sun block will only be a 15 to 20+ level sun block at 10,000 ft. as sun blocks and tanning lotions are always tested and rated at â€œSea Levelâ€? not at mountain altitudes. So you will still get a good tan at 10,000 ft. even with a 30+ sun block and 6+ hours of trail hiking. Good protective clothing as you now clearly understand is far more important for many reasons beyond the basic common sense of providing the basic foundation of promoting dryness and warmth in the wilderness. The trip plan you select can have a wide scope of terrain with mountains, desert, flat land, meadows, water crossings, and even a little boulder hopping or basic rock climbing along the journey. Clothing requirements will change with the terrain which can be 2 or 3 times a day if your trail profile adventure is designed to be thus challenging and diverse. The first 2 or 3 adventures you make will best kept to one or two terrain changes as you adapt and adjust your gear package with more focus on basic clothing modifications and changes rather than complete clothing gear change outs. Even seasoned back packers typically try and keep their clothing requirements on the trail limited to basic modifications.
In summary, be mindful of your clothing gear requirements, match you clothing gear to the trip plan and duration of time you will be in the wilderness. Pack your clothing gear lite, but have enough clothing to adapt to any possible weather changes and to have contingencies for up to 3 unexpected nights in the wilderness if you find yourself lost or stranded. This is especially true for day hikers that get caught of guard with the highest frequency in the wilderness and are rarely ever prepared for unscheduled overnights in the wilderness. The clothing on your back and in your pack must provide you with the necessary protection for 1 to 3 cold, wet, windy nights in the wilderness as a rule of thumb to play it safe and to be a smart day hiker that will likely come out alive should an emergency strike. Cell phones, 2 way radios, and GPS units can and do fail in the wilderness, so never think you are safe and secure with any electronic gear that you may press into service as emergency rescue gear. Signals are lost, batteries die, and moisture can kill cell phones fast. Any common consumer 2 way radio is also highly susceptible to moisture, signal loss, and battery failure, and GPS units also can, and do experience signal failure, so a dry high capacity battery will do you no good whatsoever if the line of sight required for satellite acquisition is out of range due to terrain issues. Try to acquire a GPS fix inside your house with that nice fresh new $500.00 Garmin unit you just purchased, OPPS! no signal found to lock on. Sure you can climb to a high point and just maybe get a signal, but not with a twisted ankle or a broker leg when you 100% require rescue. If you hold a high respect the wilderness, be smart, and gear up correctly, you will be a safe and happy camper, be careless and unprepared, and any wilderness adventure can end very badly. Be very sure to take the step by step proper planing sequential linear preparations outlined in this book so that your every adventure concludes on a very positive and cheerful upbeat note with rich and rewarding shared memories, tons of adventure photos, fun trail stories, and just play it safe out there in the wilderness.
Chapter Review+ • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Cotton, not for trail use under 80F as a general rule Learn to layer clothing to control perspiration Water crossings should be expected on every adventure Water can be waist high and freezing cold, be prepared Be very sure your dry goods stay dry, use dry bags Always wear man made fiber clothing in the wilderness Adjust clothing layers as and when needed on the fly Keep you feet warm and dry at all times on the trail A good quality hiking boot is a very smart choice Wear hiking specific socks, they have added padding Wear a specially made thin silk sock under you hiking socks Foot friction = BLISTERS, a bad situation on the trail Protect you feet as this is your only way out of the wilderness If you gear up from the feet up, this works best for most people Never go backpacking in cheap hiking boots, a big mistake Never go backpacking with flip flops on the walking trail Protect your ankles with a good “high top” hiking boot A buff is a multi-use clothing item, always have one with you A scarf is required for “cool or cold” weather backpacking Bring a bandana or two with you, an invaluable accessory item Cold weather requires warm gloves as “must carry” clothing Hot sun, high UV sun exposure requires 100% skin cover DESERT TRAVEL REQUIRES SPECIAL SKILLS & ATTIRE Cold, heat, and moisture must be controlled when in the wild Zippers and buttons can break, always carry a few safety pins A small compact sewing kit is highly recommended to carry Always have a spare top and pants with you on every trip Webbing and plastic snap-in pack straps make a good belt Para cord is very useful to quick fix on clothing rips and tears Lite weight clothing with FAST wicking ability is ideal Sweat can freeze, so keep your skin dry and warm at all times Change our wet clothing ASAP, never wait to get dry and warm A good quality rain shell with a hood is also a great wind breaker Walk at a moderate pace to avoid sweating as a general rule Keep warm at night to get that much needed deep recovery sleep.
Chapter 4 Shelter in The Wilderness When you think about wilderness shelter, the first thing you think about is a tent with nice warm and cozy sleeping bags and a nice soft mattress to lay upon as you rest and count sheep before you doze off into a deep sleep after you day of trail adventure behind you. In most situations, this will the case. There can be situations that the tent is not going to happen and you will be directly under the stars for the night. We will start out with the tent option and go down the list of other alternate overnight options you have in the wilderness. Tent camping is the same concept weather you are base camping or back trekking camping. Base camp camping can be based in a camp site where you pay a park for a spot in a managed camp ground or a base camp can be your first camp set up on the trail before an extended hike or continued trek into the wilderness with more lite weight and compact gear for over night stays. There can also be a 3 step system in place where you set up base camp #1 in an established camp ground with all the creature comforts of home that has no weight carry considerations, perhaps a trailer or a pop-up trailer camper, then a Base camp #2 after a trek into the wilderness to a designated map location, and after the base camp #2 is set up, you trek further and deeper into the wilderness with only the bare survival essentials, a bivey ( a specialty type water tight bag that you slip your sleeping bag into for overnight sleeping, just as rock climbers use), to cut down on tent weight and intentionally sleep under the stars. Letâ€™s move past the camp ground base camp as this is not a subject for a hiking book, and set up a base camp 5 miles into a day one hike. This is base camp #1, and base camp into a hike profile has many benefits as you can venture deeper into you wilderness experience with a much lighter back pack and thus cover more ground faster and easier. All you will need to include in your gear package are one BIVEY per person for your personal tent if you will. Your base camp tent should be a good quality tent with a reasonable weight profile, usually 4 to 8 lbs., the lighter the tent the more expensive they become. We purchased a 3 person tent that is a
three person, 3 season model with a nice rain fly and two outside storage compartments, weighs in at 8lbs., and cost us a grand total of $25.00 on Craigs List, like brand new, used once. We could have purchased a 4 lb. tent for $400.00, but the added weight, added durability, and features of the $25.00 were just what we wanted in a tent with a very heavy duty floor not found in the exotic lite weight tents. Purist back packers travel with either just a bivey, or minimalist tent to cut weight for more food capacity. We are not purist, and the tent weight is a calculated trade off that get factored into the gear package. We like the added space for our back packs to fit into the tent at night, and still have a little more floor space left over for organizing gear inside the tent. If it is raining out side and you have 2 people in a two person tent, it is not practical to have one person stand in the rain as the other deals with the two gear packages. So the 3 person tent is a must have tent system for our style of backpacking. Each party of 2 in your group would be happier campers with the extra space to move about, get dressed, and organize gear. This is all a matter of personal choice and style of camping you feel good with. I like to sit inside the front of tent and cook on a flat rock with my legs outside the tent as I serve food and hot drinks to the other person sitting inside the tent warm and cozy out of the elements. The tent is a luxury you may not have time or location to set up however. If you get a trail malfunction, like someone gets a case of altitude sickness, ankle twist, fatigued, muscle cramps, headache, or just gets too tired to move on to the planned camp site, you must stick together and make he best of it as a group or team. When were on the trail at 10,000+ ft. on the South lake High Sierra trail, Ania got hit with altitude sickness and hit the wall hard in terms of total energy loss, a common symptom of altitude sickness that cannot be predicted and has not one single quick fix. So we camped out on a rock ledge outcrop out of sheer necessity as the walk to the planned base camp location only less than a quarter of a mile further up the trail was not going to happen that day, so we broke down our required overnight gear and camped right there, on the spot, in place, less than 5 feet off the very narrow mountain trail. We did not plan on this, but we were prepared for such events and made the best of it, which turned out to be a great story and a great
test of out resolve and ability to take situation could not be planned for, and make it work out quite well and in relative comfort for an emergency camp set up. We always anticipate these events, so we just acquiesced and went with the flow as it was no big deal, and ultimately added a totally unexpected new page to our adventure that now brings back only great trail memories as we see this as the highlight of the trip as we were hit with a challenge out of the clear blue. Clothing gear was basically our savior as we had no place to pitch the tent, no bivey on this trip plan gear selection profile, and had to sleep like two sardines on a very narrow shelf under a sheer cliff face. We did have fuel (Wood nearby from a fallen dead tree) and about one square foot of space to have a heat reflective fire that was bounced off of a primitive bush made rock reflector system. Crude but effective heating system that got the job done. Back to tent shelter, tent shelter keeps the body heat in and keeps the cold and wind out, but remember you cannot seal a tent 100% from outside air ventilation. All tents have a open top for air flow and a rain fly to, well, keep the rain out. I tents were air tight sealed, the moisture from breathing would get trapped in the tent and form dew drops inside the tent, not a good thing. Dew drops inside your tent will allow your sleeping bag to wick up the moisture like a sponge and you can wake up in the morning with a very wet sleeping bag that may have kept you up most the night sucking your body heat out, like a heat sucking sponge. Touching a zipper is a big no, no when camping as zippers are like a moisture wick. Ania had this happen on a Yosemite trip where she had the bottom of her sleeping bag in contact with the tent zipper all night and after a sleepless night, it looked like 2 full 8oz glasses of water were poured on her sleeping bag, it was soaking wet enough to wring out like a wet towel after soaking in a bucket of water, that wet. Added to the freezing temperatures that night, she barely slept that night and we fixed this problem for the next 2 nights of the trip with a simple bedding modification solution. So as you see, even tent shelter has itâ€™s challenges and adaptive solutions must be made on the fly.
Bivey sleeping is a alternate solution in the wilderness, and in fact there are back packers that do not use tents and only use biveys on their entire trip plan. A bivey is only the outer water prof shell with a water tight zipper system to provide a sealed barrier between your sleeping bag. You use your standard sleeping bag that gets inserted into the bivey, and you slip inside your sleeping bag, then zip up the water proof bivey seal to keep warm and dry for the night, just that simple, you sleeping pad can goes under the bivey. Not a complicated set up, and this set up is where many Alpinist mountaineers use, and also what rock climbers us to sleep hanging hundreds of feet up sheer rock faces where you do not want to roll out of bed at night. Biveys also become your hiking in overnight shelters when you set up an on the trail base camp as a second tent is going to be heavy for one, and secondly, you want to have a great deal of flexibility in overnight hiking that can place you in situations where there are no tent sites, even if you had a tent to pitch, and not having to search for 30 minutes to an hour or more for flat ground to pitch a tent is a huge time saver, especially important when you may be dead tired and just need to sleep ASAP. We bivey it whenever we set up a trail base camp and trek onwards with the lighter gear package, or somewhat lighter as we also rappel down sheer rocks and mountain peak razor back drops that can be 1,500+ feet drops and requires a lot of technical equipment and skills we will not get into in this book, but you can read about in the ADVANCED back packing book where we explore the higher levels of wilderness adventures. As we mentioned, a tent is a luxury item in the wild, and natural shelters may be your abode for an overnight with your group. Caves, tree falls, thick forest tree stands, and rock ledges also make good shelters. If you get separated from the pack, these are your only options, with the added option of being scared and helpless and freezing to death without any shelter, not the best option. So when you are walking a trail, be pro-actively mindful of any natural shelter you see along the trail or on your cross country trek. As you are going to have sufficient clothing on and /or with you as covered in the previous chapter, shelter is the icing on the cake to keep you out of the wind, cold, and rain, although plan on some cold at night.
Shelter in the emergency situation with adequate clothing should not be that difficult to find, hopefully your mental notes of natural shelter along your path of travel will provide the added protection you may need. Be on the alert you are not intruding on the den of a bear or other territorial wild animal, snakes are also in the recesses of rocks, so use your trail light to look before you leap into a conflict with and animal, you will never win a battle for shelter with any wild animal except perhaps a rabbit, and chances are good you will not fit in the rabbit hole, but if you ever did find a rabbit hole you could fit in, you positively would not want to engage in a territorial turf war with any rabbit of this size. So look for wind sheltered natural overhangs of rock, fallen trees, and any cut out in the terrain that will work. Never sleep in a desert eroded terrain cut out that was formed by water, if the rattle snakes donâ€™t kill you first, a flash flood can wash you away, well, in a flash, and you will never hear the rain and thunder as the rain may be 10+ miles away and the ensuing flood water will give you no warning before it hits you like a ton of bricks in an instant. You will be swept away before you ever knew what hit you, and chances of survival will be zero if you are zipped in a bivey, and near zero even of you are not. No sleeping in desert flask flood washes, ever. A hammock is another good sleeping option, providing you have two opposing objects to tie of on. Hammocks are a very bad idea in a thunder storm however as lighting likes treed and tall rocks, and if you are tied of on a nice fat tree, you may well become a human french fry wrapped in a hammock, just a different twist of pigs in a blanket. So hammocks are a great sleeping solution on a starry night, and can be deadly when lightening is present. Dry lightening is also a threat, although not common, dry lightening packs the same punch as wet weather lightening, just less the wet weather part. Also remember your basic Jr. high physics class, sound travel at 1,100 fps, lightening, being electricity, travels the same speed as light, 180,000 miles per second, just under the 200,000+ thousand miles separating the earth and the moon in one second, so you are juiced and fried crispy long before the thunder clap, which is why nobody ever remembers what hit them if they survived the hit in the first place.
Now you see shelter comes in many flavors in the wild, some shelters are far safer than others, and proper clothing with even basic shelter saves your life in the wilderness. In the next chapter we will explore fire, as clothing, shelter, and fire together are your friends for survival. Shelter alone can save you in a pitch, as shelter provides an envelope of security and safety in the wilderness just like in civilization, only in the wilderness, nature may be the shelter as any man made shelter may fail (such as a ripped tent) and nature may only offer some very limited choices, but you have to take what you can get if what you have to choose from is all you get on the shelter menu that day and/or night. Fire will give you more shelter options, like a coal bed sleeping pit for example. But this is getting into the intermediate to advance survival skill tool kit, but I will touch on this in chapter 5 on fire, as it is important to understand all basic forms of shelter survival. Once you have clothing, shelter, and fire basics all glues together in you cranium and hard wired in your grey matter nuro network, the wilderness will not be such a scary place any more as you will understand how the tree of survival will be strong as you build your knowledge base roots into wilderness confidence and inner security. A peace of mind will blanket you like a shroud of protection once you apply the information you have learned and see through your own eyes that everything you studied really works exactly as outlined and explained in these pages. You will be surprised at your knowledge base and how all the components interlock like a jig saw puzzle. There is much more to learn, but you already know more than 95% of ant other newly starting hiker or back packer just by getting these lessons on fundamental real world basics thus far. We have seen many so called experienced pack packers in the field that have only a collection of bits and pieces of the core survival skills to be safe in the wilderness, and many hikers and back packers would be without fire without the invention of the bic lighter, and I personally met one back packer that travels the world back packing and openly admitted to me he used liquid fuel and a bic lighter to start all his camp fires. This works, sure, I can show a 5 year old how to light a fire this way, this is cheating in my book unless in an emergency situation, IF you had the fuel available, which is highly unlikely.
The following photos are various forms of shelters, in the wilderness they all work equally as well. Any of the shelters below work the same as they all will provide survival protection to allow you to live another day if you ever find yourself lost and alone out in the wilderness.
3 Person Tent with rain fly in the Eastern High Sierras
Large 8 Person Group Tent
Basic one person Bug Shelter Good for warm calm weather only with no rain fly
1 Person Bivey, a Waterproof bag, Sleeping Bag goes Inside. Good for any weather, get a -20 F rated sleeping bag for cool to cold weather conditions as this is limited shelter that is in direct contact with all outdoor elements.
2 person Bug Shelter Good for warm calm weather only with no rain
Basic one person tent with the Rain Fly Attached If you solo (no recommended) get a good quality tent that is rated for 4 seasons, just in case. A Bivey can be used as added protection inside any tent.
You can use a Bivey inside any tent or bug shelter for added warmth and protection from the elements. Bivey’s are designed to be used with a sleeping pad under them and a sleeping bag inside them. Some people mistakenly think a Bivey is a all-in-one sleeping system, but this is not how a Bivey works. The Bivey is only the waterproof shield that keeps you sleeping bag dry, and keeps the rain and moisture out. DO be very selective on your Bivey selection however as moisture can be an issue with any Bivey system and it is up to you to do your homework on the best selection for your Bivey investment dollar. We have researched a wide variety of makes and models, and one thing is clear, expensive Bivey’s can have the same moisture issues as a cheap Bivey. How you allow the Bivey to breathe by keeping proper air openings for circulation may be the biggest factor to staying dry and avoiding the condensation from breathing getting trapped inside this very confined sleeping space. Remember what happens to a cold milk carton when it hits the warm air as soon as you take it out of the fridge is the same thing that often happens in the wilderness to tents and bivey’s when the cold surfaces hit warm air “Condensation”. If you are in a high humidity outdoor environment, condensation is always a threat to keeping dry. Cold nights and warm sunny mornings in any humidity will produce condensation, you know this as “dew” as seen on the grass. Dew is a very good thing when you need to gather water if none is available, but dew is a very bad thing when it gets into your sleeping space and soaks down your sleeping bag. Many times is it “How” you set up and use your gear rather than the gear itself. I have read reviews on gear that performed perfectly with 8 out of 10 users for example and 2 people had a very negative experience with the exact same gear. Weather temperatures, humidity, rapid temperature spikes, rapid temperature drops, wind, and fog are good examples of variables that can affect the performance of most any gear in your back pack or bag. How you use your gear in these various weather conditions also has a direct affect on gear performance. So more times than not, the harsh truth told, many gear malfunctions are frequently more user related rather than actual gear failure related. If you went out and purchased the cheapest gear you could find, this is also user related as your choice of gear set you up
for failure before you even get started on your hike or back pack adventure. Cheap gear is only asking for trouble and good quality gear selection is the smartest decision you can make. No need to buy a $279.00 Katadyn Water Filter when a good quality $100.00 water filter will get the job done, but if you go ghetto and buy a flimsy tent and a cheap sleeping bag, you will regret this decision unless you have perfect 72 F weather, 15 percent or less humidity, and no wind. This is basically something that is not happening in the real world of any wilderness trek, but only if you set up camp in the middle your living room, which is the only safe place for a cheap tent and a cheap sleeping system. Look for deals, sure, but good deals on quality gear only so you can enjoy your experience with proper sleep and not freeze to death your first night out in the wild. I like Craigs list for deals on camping gear as so many people buy good gear and have no clue how to use it property, they bail on the hiking and back packing life after only one trip or two. Just as the seller of my Gregory Denali Pro back pack did selling this top of the line gear for 30% of the retail value. You can find tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, cooking stoves, back packs, and even hiking shoes and clothing on Craigs list for cheap, however, you first must know your gear brands, models, and specifications so you donâ€™t end up with junk gear that will not perform in the wilderness, this is not a good deal at any price. When you see piece of gear that you know is quality for a fair price, jump on it fast, as many seasoned hikers and back packers also shop Craigs list for replacement gear due to age, wear, trail damage. Gear gets a lot of wear and tear. Shelter can also be a rock ledge, fallen tree, or a cave in a pinch, you just may not have the luxury of a man made portable shelter on a cold wet night with 30 mph winds and 50 mph gust. Always have a mental map of where you see natural shelter on every trail walk as this reference may prove to be your survival shelter in an emergency, and no one ever plans on having an emergency, but you should always plan on having a plan for an emergency shelter. If every day hiker had a basic bivey, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad with them, almost 100% of lost day hikers would live to hike another day. Only $50.00 in basic survival gear can be the difference between a totally survivable night in the wilderness or freezing to death, your choice.
Chapter Review+ • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Shelter = survival and security in the wilderness Shelters must be thought of as “flexible” in configuration Emergency shelter is with no tent in most situations A one piece TARP can make a very functional shelter Comfort may not be part of an emergency shelter’s function Natural shelters are fast and take minimal energy, if available Fire and shelters go hand in hand, you need fire at night A bivey alone can act as a shelter in a pinch if fully clothed A shelter can be a simple as a bug net in warm weather A hammock makes a good shelter when there is no lightening FOUR season tents are best, but a little heavier in weight THREE season tents work well for most backpackers needs Hot summer nights typically are comfortable with just a bivey Bivey’s can attract snakes seeking your body heat, use caution Ultra lite weight tents are prone to ripping & tearing, also pricey 8 lb. Tent is about the highest carry weight for backpacking A bivey bag can act as a tent substitute, just over 1 lb. Some hard core backpackers us only a TARP as their tent A good ground protection pad is primary shelter from cold A property temperature rated sleeping bag is KEY to warmth A flannel sleeping bag insert adds much comfort for sleeping Always use a protective layer “base footprint” under any tent Never sleep on the ground without a foam pad, sucks body heat Two person sleeping bags are available as an option Keep your sleeping bag from touching tent zippers at night Fire is your primary shelter if you get lost with no gear bag It is a good idea to be observant of natural shelters on the trail Shelters work best at mid mountain altitude locations Shelters on mountain tops are prone to harsh winds and weather Shelters in deep valleys are going to get all the cold heavy air Lightening likes to hit tall trees and strike at the high elevations Stay a safe distance from trees whenever possible in lightening Cold nights and a warm morning sun = lots of moisture (dew) Day hikers should always have an emergency shelter with them All backpackers (the smart ones) also carry an emergency shelter.
Chapter 5 Fire Making an Essential Wilderness Skill If you forget ever thing else you have read and will read after this chapter in this book, this chapter alone will pull you through most, but not all, outdoor overnight wilderness adventures. Fire is life in the wilderness, just like breathing and a heart beat in your normal daily life that you take for granted. Three legs of fire should be well imbedded into your memory banks before you ever step into the wilderness. Fuel, Oxygen, and Heat (or hot spark, which is heat). All three must be present before you get fire, and fire is not as simple and straight forward as lighting the stove in your kitchen which requires only a quick twist of a knob and presto, you have fire. Out in the wilderness you may have no liquid or pressurized fuel, you may not have any matches, nor a lighter, and this only leaves you with one single leg to stand on, OXYGEN. So you will need to overcome the elements and very real possibilities of a back to basics fire making solution as your one and only fire making solution to fend off a bitter cold night. A fire kit is your starting point for survival, and a fire kit should be attached to your side like a life preserver would be your only hope in a open water bail out in the middle of the ocean as a cling on item with the properties to save you from drowning, if you were to fall into warm water in the tropics that is. As I have said before, I intentionally do not carry matches with me in the wilderness, as a hard and fast rule. Not that do not value this luxury fire making tool, I just do not have any confidence in matches and their ability to perform with 100% fail safe reliance. Even waterproof matches can go missing and be compromised. My only fire starting tool of choice is the ferro rod, also called a metal match by some. I use a â€œgobs of sparksâ€? model from www.firesteel.com. This tool will shower down 3000 degree sparks to light my tinder bundle and my trusty fire steel is 100% water proof, performs with 100% dependable consistency, and with dry wood and proper tinder, will give me a 99% chance of dependable life saving fire every time I call on it to produce heat and light for warmth and comfort.
The FIRE Triangle HEAT
IMPORTANT: We need to be very instructively clear right up front that a “fire steel” is a tool that “SPARKS” a fire starter. Your tinder bundle is your fire starter, after your fire steel has successfully given you the red hot ember to act as your fire (primer), ie; Char cloth. A fire steel does not magically produce fire directly. Char cloth is one of our favorate ember producing fire “primers” as it take spark fast and easily, then burns for over 1 min. to ignite your tinder bundle (fire starter). Fire steels work best when the sparks are showered on a fire primers in your tinder bundle. Common Primers are: Char cloth, cotton balls with petroleum jelly, or magnesium bar shavings. *Fire steels produce a 3,000 degree shower of raining hot sparks.
The kitchen stove will work for this, however have very good ventilation as the cloth will produce quite a bit of foul smelling smoke as the chemicals and dyes that were used in the manufacturing process flash off inside the can where there is not enough oxygen for the cloth to burn and turn it into nothing more than ashes. So what is left behind is a carbon based cloth that will glow red once a spark hits it from your fire steel, and then placed into a tinder bundle so as you gently blow on the red ember as the char cloth burns without flame, it produces enough radiant heat to combust your low flash point dry tinder via “spontaneous combustion”, AKA, FIRE STARTER. As simple as fire is, weather conditions can very quickly put a pinch on your fire making process and make your fuel too wet to burn, which is the #1 challenge you must know how to overcome. Wetness and even dampness can make it almost impossible to get your heat values high enough to even start a tinder bundle. Knowing how to overcome moisture will be the difference between cold and warmth at camp, and generating warmth is always to be your #1 goal at camp or whenever you need warmth and a fire burning. Solutions to over coming damp tinder are as follows.... • • • • • • •
Magnesium Bar (www.firesteel.com) Dryer Lint, one side dipped in Petroleum Jelly Cotton balls, one side dipped in Petroleum Jelly Fat Wood (pine resin saturated wood) www.firesteel.com Birch or white pine bark ( dry in zip lock bag) Pocket Rocket camp stove Liquid fuel ( denatured alcohol)
All the above tricks and techniques work well, but be sure to keep dry tinder bundle and kindling with you at all times as wet weather is not fire friendly and getting heat values high enough to sustain and then grow your fire to log burning BTU’s is will take more time and effort, and if you are cold and tired, this added time will feel like more time than it is worth, but it will be time well spent as the results are far more appreciated and rewarding, knowing that you started a fire that provided much needed warmth when most others could not.
The Snow Creek fire that I had given up on, but caught on and developed into a full size log burning fire that night after a hard rain with wet wood was testament to how much fire can be appreciated in low 40 F night air. Despite my abandonment of the fire for the night, even after using my pocket rocket like a blow torch to dry the kindling for about a minute, that fire was a God send once it caught. Although I still think that was divine intervention at some level with only a small flicker of flame that I walked away from which them caught on to burn a fully respectable camp fire. As far a what I call cheating, as in using liquid fuel and a pocket rocket to get ignition, it is all fair game in the wilderness as the fact that you brought whatever you did to your camp site on your back and this added weight (in terms of the added liquid fuel) paid off to deliver fire, thus providing intelligent logical fire making options that could save your life, so itâ€™s not really cheating, it is using your IQ and available resources intelligently and effectively. My personal agenda is always minimalist worst case scenario resources and skills just in case I am without the luxury materials that make fire starting less challenging. There are many other hard core ways to make fire, but a fire steel is as hard core as I like to go personally, and for me, a fire steel is the very best fire tool ever invented by man. Before I step into the wilderness, my fire steel, magnesium bar, and knife are all placed around my neck, each strung on para cord, and worn as though they were mandatory wilderness jewelry. If for any reason my pack goes missing from a river crossing accident or a bear grabs my back pack, both of these events can happen, I have the means to start fire and a knife to make fire starting shavings attached securely to my body. Remember that the fire steel and magnesium bar are 100% forever water proof, so if I trip and fall in the water, this will have no affect on my fire making from a technical standpoint, physically, if you are wet and cold, this is going to slow you down and cloud your thinking and judgement. Having a separate belly bag or sling bag for your fire kit is a good idea. If you are a day hiker, have two commercially made foil survival blankets in your fire kit as I carry. Fire and a emergency blankets together are very recommended â€œcompanion itemsâ€? for all back packers and day hikers.
Day hikers need to be proficient fire makers just as back packers due to the fact that any wilderness overnight does not play favorites. If you get forced into an overnight stay, fire is your default #1 priority and water priority is #2. Practicing your fire making skills enough so that you are able to produce fire at will take time, and it will not be as simple as you think in the wilderness. Having a fire kit will make fire making substantially less work and much less time consuming, but not easy by default. Wind and moisture will typically conspire to keep you cold and fireless, plan on this happening and you can over cone these two common challenges and successfully be a fire making master. The following pages will show you how to make fire in virtually any wilderness setting, even in the rain if it comes down to this. A home made fire kit is the best possible fire kit you can have with you in our opinion, as the fundamental process of preparation in making your own fire kit actually becomes part of the foundational basis for competence in the art of self reliance in fire starting in the wilderness. Keep two bic lighters with you on every trip as back up. Other than burning the ends of cut para cord I never use our back up bic lighters, but I will swallow my fire making skills and pride in a heartbeat if I am cold, tired, and/or flat out too fatigued to get a fire going. Although I never needed to use a bic lighter to make fire, I am a survivalist, and as a survivalist, one must use any and all resources available and set ego and pride aside in the wilderness. If you have a broker finger, wrist, or arm, you better have liquid fuel and a bic lighter ready to produce fire because the fire steel is no longer functional for fire making once one becomes disabled in the wilderness. We carry liquid fuel and a bic lighter on every back pack to be prepared for whatever circumstances arise. The emergency trail side camp we made in the Eastern High Sierras had a liquid fuel fire starting component as we needed fire ASAP. One ounce of fuel and one strike of the fire steel was a 15 second fire starting process that provided us with hours of heat with the fuel wood I had pre-gathered. Knowing how to start fire with the bare raw essentials is comforting to have in your skill sets, but there is no need to go out of you way and make fire making a longer process than required in most situations you will encounter. If you have the resources, use them.
The “Gobbs of Sparks”Fire Steel from www.firesteel.com In the wilderness this one single $7.50 tool will save your life and provide the survival requirement to maintain core temperature. You could have a T-shirt and shorts on and survive a 40 F night with this one single tool. I would not count on any sleep as you will be stoking a fire all night, but you can sleep when the warm sun comes up as needed in the morning. A fire steel is an exotic special blends of various metals that will never let you down once you learn how to form a tinder bundle and initiate the step one process of elemental heat generation. You can use “Char Cloth”, “Cotton Balls”, and store bought petroleum jelly to kick off your tinder bundle. I carry a zip lock bag with “Dryer lint”, “Char Cloth”, “Cotton Balls in Jelly”, “Dry white pine bark”, and “Pine bark shavings” as my fire primers. Char Cloth can be made with placing a 2” x 2” squares of 100% pure cotton T-shirt material stacked 6 high in a metal altoids can with a hole punched by a sharp knife in the top, then placed on any open flame until the cloth is charcoal. The flame will stop shooting out the top of the can when it is it have converted into char cloth. The remaining black cloth will take a spark very easily and produce heat.
Cotton Ball + Petroleum Jelly smeared on just one side Substitute: Char cloth, requires you to blow to ignite tinder to flame
Dry hay, bunch, twist, fold in half, then open center like a birds nest
One strike of the fire steel ignites the cotton ball primer
Half inch (super dry) pine kindling will ignite fast
Fold the tinder bundle over the burning cotton ball If the flame goes out, gently blow on this to re-ignite
The fire nest layering sequence A few quarter inch twigs mixed in with half inch pine
Best to use wire around the top, WET para cord will work also
Alternate Tee Pee, also a method to dry out kindling wood out if damp
Many wilderness experts prefer the TEE PEE fire method at this configuration has the distinct advantage of drying damp kindling wood as you get your fire going. Be sure to have at least 10 good handfuls of very dry tinder ready to go as it can take 5 to 10 minutes to get damp wood to hit itâ€™s flash point, if you are lucky on a warm night. Start getting another 10 handfuls of small twigs ready before you even light the fire primer (cotton ball or char cloth). Getting a fire started is always much more challenging that keeping a fire going. Once a fire is going and has a nice bed of red hot embers (charcoal), there are enough BTU;s being generated to dry thin wood fast and get it to flame, and thus produce good heat. Wind and moisture are always you nemesis in fire starting. This is the reason we carry a sealed bag of dry pine chips and very thin dry bark with us at all times. Bone dry tinder is your most hardest to come by commodity many times and this fire starter material is essential to have on hand for those wet and rainy days where dry tinder can be hard, if not impossible to find when you need it most. We are tinder scavengers on every trail adventure and fill our pant pouch pockets full with dry tinder starting in the morning as soon as the sun has burnt off the moisture of fallen leaves, branches, and any other dry, thin, crisp fire catching debris for that evenings camp fire. In the desert, fire just may not happen, period as wood is not available and cactus will not burn. So in a harsh desert backpack, fire will only happen if you pack in your own wood, just not practical at all. In national parks however, bundles of fire wood are available if used in designated fire rings, which is ok if you are near a ranger station with this luxury in your trip planning agenda. We like to go deep off the beaten path, so wood carry is out for us and we do not hike very close to Ranger stations nor campgrounds when we can avoid then in our trip plans. As a new backpacker however, you may want to take advantage of having running water, wood bundles for sale, and real toilets. This is not real backpacking however and a far cry from wilderness self reliance that we live for on each and every adventure. Most people reading this are seeking the self reliance style of backpacking, but options are on the table for any and all wilderness adventure seekers, which is a good thing.
This handy specialized fuel container can hold any fuel you select to have with you, we use denatured alcohol due to the highly combustible, but non explosive properties of this fuel source. You can even lay kindling over the top of the super cat stove to dry it out. Place tree bark in tin foil and then place it on a super cat stove to make improvised charcoal for use another day. Fuel is a great fire starter, but fuel can and does run out, so using fuel to make various other fire starters such as char cloth, charcoal, and to dry out wet fire starters for the future can be a very smart strategy and a good way to stretch your liquid fuel reserves. Never depend on liquid fuel alone as a fire starter. Practice your primitive fire making skills first and foremost. When the fuel runs out, your real fire making skills will need to be there for you to produce heat. Like everything else in life, fire making is a learned art, most people departed from their fire making roots thousands of years back, but actually, we were still using primitive fire making skills in the 1800â€™s with fire steels and flint rock. The American Indians were fire masters with bow drills, and in fact even today tribes in Africa, the Amazon, and the out backs in Australia still today rely on primitive fire making skills as a part of daily life. A pygmy can make fire with a hand drill in about a minute with what appears to be very little effort and to see this done, looks so natural and simple. If you take the time to practice fire making, the rewards are so empowering to know you have reconnected with such a skill that so fundamentally core to human development as man is the one and only creature on earth that can make and control fire as a tool of survival. This is also why fire is a great animal deterrent as animals have a natural born fear of fire, a tool no other animal has ever used.
Fire is heat, light, a cooking source, security, and a form of power in the wilderness. When you master fire, you can learn to master all the other survival skills much easier.
Authors personal custom made Fire/Survival kit Minimal carry for all hikers and back packers alike *** Contents of our FULLY stocked personal fire/survival kit. 1. Zippered Pouch with one inside mesh pocket (red color) 2. Cotton balls, Dryer lint balls in petro-jelly, and Char Cloth 3. Knife (stays on the neck on trail) 4. Fire Steel (stays on the neck on trail) 5. Magnifying lens (small) Day time fire starter in direct sunlight. 6. Gun Power (black power from ten+ 12 gauge shot gun shells) 7. Pine tinder (outer bark that has resin, 100% dried out) 8. Pine bark (white pine, 100% dried out) 9. 50â€™ hank of Military 550 III para cord 10. 50mw green laser signal device (with 2 extra AAA batteries) 11. LED Head lamp (with 3 extra AAA batteries) 12. Magnesium bar with striker (stays on the neck on trail) 13. TWO foil emergency thermo blankets (in outer zippered pocket) 14. News paper to assist as a tinder bundle fire starter
Chapter Review+ • Fire is life in the wilderness. • Only fire making solution fends off a bitter cold night. • All fair game in the wilderness to get a fire ignited. • A “fire steel” is a tool that “SPARKS” a fire starter. • A “fire steel” requires dry combustable tinder to light a fire. • Ember producing fire “primers” take spark to start a tinder bundle. • Fire steels produce a 3,000 degree shower of raining hot sparks. • Wetness and even dampness can make fire almost impossible. • Like everything else in life, fire making is a learned art. • Magnesium Bars are 100% waterproof fire primers. • A Magnifying lens requires direct striong sunlight to work. • In the wilderness, one single $7.50 tool can save your life. • Cotton balls, one side dipped in Petroleum Jelly, good fire starter. • Fat Wood (pine resin saturated wood) www.firesteel.com. • Fire steel, www.firesteel.com. • Magnesium Bars, www.firesteel.com. • The American Indians were fire masters with bow drills. • LEARN THE ART OF PRIMITIVE FIRE MAKING SKILLS.
Chapter 6 Food Your body fuel selection for a long day hike or a multi-day back pack is going to be mission critical for you energy reserves. As weight is always a major concern for back packers, one must focus upon trip specific food reserves. On the trail you will be eating power bars, nuts, raisins, peanut butter, dried fruit, and perhaps a little chocolate. At camp, you will be cooking top ramen, packaged beans, MREâ€™s (packaged Meals Ready to Eat), hot cereals, or bush breads for example, and drinking hot teas, coffee, coco, or even just plain hot water to maintain a comfortable core temperature on cold nights and/or mornings. We have a very simple meal plan that keeps our energy and reserves at safe and healthy levels. Before the hike in, 3 days in a row before in fact, we eat a generous portion of pasta for dinner to max out our carbohydrate reserves, a marathon runners secret for sustained energy reserve fueling of muscles. Only difference is, we do this for 3 days prior to a hike in, marathon runners only carb load the night before a run as they need to stay a light as possible, backpackers need to perform 8 hours a day of load bearing walking and climbing, but also can take breaks to refresh in a 3 day to 2 week trip covering 8+ miles a day. A two week backpack is 100+ hours of walking with a 25% backpack to body weight ratio. Far more energy requirements than any marathon runner running for 4 hours with zero pack load and wearing a few ounces of clothing, including the running shoes. Go food in what you eat under way after carbo loading to preserve your carbohydrate fuel levels, nuts, power bars, raisins are best. Trail hydration is so critical yet many hikers end up becoming dehydrated at some point during a wilderness trek. Thirst tells you your body has reached a 2% dehydration level and this is your bodies biological gas gauge telling you to refill your tank with essential fluids. Pure water is what most people drink on the trail, we drink a mixture of purified water and gatoraide in our bladders to maintain the bodies electrolytes in an electrically charged and balanced state for added safety.
Liquid gatoraide works, but powered gatoraide is better as we can carry this on the trail in it’s relatively lite weight form in a zip lock bag and when you are using a hydration bladder with a wide fill mouth, it is very fast and easy to get the exact ratio you like for taste and/or proper electrolyte requirements. Many outfitters sell salty snacks for this purpose, but the gatoraide is far less expensive, offer a liquid delivery system for fast absorption into the blood stream. Logically speaking, pro football players use gatoraide to maintain their electrolytes for intense physical activities and they also take a lot of short breaks that allow them to recover. Backpackers can at times be climbing many thousands of feet in elevation with 45 to 70 lbs. of weight on their back, in thin mountain air, under hot or perhaps very cold weather conditions, they use all the major muscle groups in the body for power and locomotion, and also should be taking at least one short break every 20 minutes of strenuous activity, so gatoraide works very well for backpackers and hikers too, for all the same reasons professional sports players need electrolytes. At camp, this is the time to relax and recover for the night, and this is where you will be breaking out your cooking gear and preparing the much needed, and much appreciated warm meals. We like the packaged soy beans as they have all the essential amino acids for muscle recovery, carbs, and just plain taste great at camp. Rather than pay for the expensive MRE foods in foil pouches that taste ok, but not quite like the real food you eat at home, we opt for real food that comes in sealed pouches and requires cooking in a pan, bowl, or cup, whatever gets the job done basically. We always have two blue enamel coated cups and two blue enamel coated small bowls with us. The trusty bowls can be cooked in directly on any fuel stove or in a hot bed of coals in the fire. As we like to eat before firewood gathering and preparation, the trusty “pocket rocket” single burner fuel canister stove gets our chow hot, our bellies warmed up with recovery fuel, and a hot tea or cup of joe gets us in the mood for building a camp fire. If we are still a little hungry after getting a fire going, we will eat a cup of chicken flavored top ramen sitting at a toasty warm camp fire. A small 6” cast iron skillet is an ideal cooking device, but they are heavy and not the first choice for seasoned backpackers.
The most common mistakes beginning backpackers make is going overboard on the food supplies. Weight is not your friend on any backpacking adventure. Go lite is the mantra of any seasoned backpacker. The quick and dirty way to calculate your pack weight is no more than 25% of your body weight. Food is one area where many beginning backpackers over estimate their needs, over pack, and end up suffering on the trail with more weight than their bodies can carry comfortably over distance, hills, inclines, over water crossings, and sometimes through water crossings that can be chest high when the going gets rough. The worst thin you can do os gorge yourself to cut the pack weight down because you do not want to throw out good chow that you took so much time to plan on packing in with you in the first place, and getting sick from overeating and vomiting will dehydrate you fast and make a bad situation worst. So food planning is very important and critical to pack weight control. As a general rule of thumb, 33% of your pack weight should be reserved for your food supply. If you are 175 lbs., you will be carrying a 25% body weight ratio of 43.75 lbs. Total pack weight, including the pack itself, for a grand total of 14.44 lbs. of food. Now comes big question â€œ How many days can I trek with 14.44 lbs. of chow on my back?â€? Not a straight forward answer however. In cold weather, where you body will crave more energy and thus calories, you can Easily burn through 5,000 to 6,000 calories a day in the mountains. In warm weather, you body can easily burn through 3,500 to 4,500 calories a day trekking, and on hot days, where you will need to go slow and steady, with less walk time under load, perhaps as little as only 3,000 to 3,500 calories a day, but not less. Read your food labels, calculate the total daily calories you will need, and get busy with the calculator in hand, the result will tell you how many days you can trek in the wilderness before you will either need to get back to your starting point, get a food resupply, or start living off the land, you will have one of the three choices to consider, so plan your food supply accordingly, and remember to always have at least one added day of food reserves with you for emergency rations. You can stretch out a one day food reserve for 3 days if the going gets rough in an emergency or on the last 3 days of an extended backpack, but avoid this last ditch scenario whenever possible.
Temptation will lead you to consider bringing foods that will only end up going bad in your pack. Cheeses, chocolate bars, that large jar of peanut butter, the big jar of jam, comfort foods like canned soda, canned veggies, canned anything is heavy, all are mistakes and back breaking weight on your back that will suck life and energy out of you and buzz kill your great outdoors wilderness adventure fast. Lite weight breakfast cereal mix with nuts and raisins in the morning, packet coffee, tea bags, one single a packet of beans to split between two people for dinner, and 4 or 5 power bars on the trail per person, per day, and one package of top ramen per person, split twice a day, is all you need to take with you to stay full, energized, happy, and have no digestion complications. If your specific trip plan caloric needs are not met with this simple tried and true trail menu, supplement with a peanut butter fix, almond butter, or even a soy butter fix if you are alergic to peanuts for a caloric fulfillment top off that will meet your energy needs and keep your spirits high from start to finish on every our door adventure. Cereal, nuts, raisins, power bars, top ramen, beans, coffee, and tea are all you need to keep going on any trail. Beef jerky is a great trail treat, but this snack food will increase your water intake requirements, so hydration requirements must be considered when eating high protein foods on the trail. If you have an abundant clean water supply along your trail plan, bring all the beef jerky you can carry, but we advise you leave the beef jerky in the car for eating on the way home, or for eating between the parking lot and driving to your favorite after hike restaurant you will be heading towards for that large piazza with everything on it, and a tall cold beer waiting for you with your name on them. Be sure you are eating a steady food intake throughout the day on the trail. Under eating will give you a low blood sugar energy drop, and overeating can make you lethargic or even sick at the higher altitudes. Also, higher altitudes can and frequently do suppress the appetite. So keeping your daily food reserves each in a separate zip lock bag numbered 1-2-3-4-5 etc., will prevent you from under eating and hitting the wall on the trail due to loosing track of your intake requirements, and this is deceptively easy to do as loosing track of time and eating in the wilderness does happen frequently in fact.
Over time and with a few wilderness experiences under your belt, food intake balancing will become second nature for you just as the basic survival skills such as fire making begin to feel natural and comfortable to adjust to in the wilderness. The more you get out into the wilderness, the more you will feel like the preparation phase of backpacking is being placed on auto pilot. Always use a check list and never pack your food or any other category of your back pack supply gear without one. We use a checklist for each and every adventure, and it is shocking how easy it is to overlook essentials when the excitement of the moment in getting ready for another adventure has the adrenaline pumping. Items like cameras, spare batteries, spare memory cards, sun screens, bug repellents, and even essential food items very can get left at home where there is no turning back if you have a tight trip plan and early morning permits to pick up for example after a long drive or flight into your trail head starting point. Many locations we start from are 20 plus miles from civilization, so any essential items not in your pre-packed back packs would either compromise our plans, or perhaps even force you to cancel or shorten your plans with a last minute re-routing. Any re-routing at the last minute is the last thing you want to encounter as you must have maps for your trek into the wilderness without exception and it is never a good idea to walk into any wilderness that you have not studied for in advance due to the fact even a well studied route plan will typically look and feel different that your research led you to believe. We have met with hikers from all over the planet on our trail adventures, some loaded to the teeth with maps and a compass, and still not sure where they were, semi lost, or claim the maps were wrong, which is called lost, disoriented, frustrated and basically clueless in trail speak. A little spare food reserves are smart to have is the bottom line, just donâ€™t plan on getting lost for a week in the wilderness, but have a rationing plan to get by just in case you end up walking for 3 days in the wrong direction and 36 miles off course like a back packer we read about in one of the outdoor magazines that claimed he studied the trek route plan for months, somehow got off the trail, and proceeded to walk for 3 days in the wrong direction nearly dying of exposure because he did not use the map, compass, nor take the time
to boil water for drinking as he became so incensed with trying to get back to his original trail head, common sense and all the tools he needed to safely course correct were never placed into service with a simple action plan as basic as stop, re access, get relative bearings, direction of travel, and at very least return to the relative corrected direction of travel to hit the inbound trails once again. All went out the window and he almost died, in this specific particular case, cause of death would have been sheer utter blind stupidity. Needless to say, his food reserves were zero and after day one of getting lost, and after 2 straight days hoofing it 12 miles a day with no food, seriously dehydrated, the brain is not exactly working in a fully rational not functional capacity any longer and chances of survival plummet to less than 5% at the point someone found this poor sap dazed and confused at a trail marker 36 miles off his route plan. It is impressive however he covered 12 miles a day on 100% lost mode, as this is a lot of ground to cover on any trail for 3 consecutive days. We have to give this guy a well deserved “A+” for cardio conditioning and general fortitude, but an “F” for common sense. As for his navigation skills, “MIA” missing in action, he never pulled his map and compass out. Survival skills, D-, as he lived to talk about it, we can’t fail him on this one. Please strive to be an “A+” in all you do on the trail in the wilderness because it only takes 5 minutes to get a general map fix on your location to at least head towards the nearest location for help with intention. A star map sold at any outfitter that matches the latitude you will be trekking in will get your bearings straight on any cloud free night as a last resort to hit your general directional heading. No food, no water, and no common sense will get you in the dead zone very fast in any wilderness setting. Add in a shake of cold, rain, and wind, it’s game over with no reset button. Food is your fuel, and fuel keeps most people thinking clearly and supplies the energy for walking out a survivor, even in a worst case scenario wilderness trek gone sideways, food is an essential survival tool.
Lamaâ€™s on the hiking trail in Eastern Sierra near Bishop Pass
Chapter Review+ • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Food is your fuel, so eat small meals frequently on the trail Plan out, package, and then stage you daily meals in advance Water is a big part of your daily food requirement Always have extra food for 3 days of emergency rationing Keep your food weight under control, canned food is heavy Lite weight food with high caloric value is best for trial use Eat your big meal at night, late evening for warmth Appetite loss is not at all uncommon at the high altitudes Dried jerky requires more water consumption to digest Nuts are a perfect trail food, healthy and calorie rich Getting lost is serious business when food reserves are low Survival skills may be required to live off the land a few days Never eat any vegetation you are not 100% positive is edible You will be eating less volume of food in the wilderness No spicy foods are the best bet when backpacking Seasoning food with care is perfectly fine Keep you cooking supplies to a bare bones minimum One aluminum cup is all you really need for 2 people You can cook and eat well with a 4 piece cook set Fuel-Stove-aluminum cup-spork (4 piece cook set) Think small and lite on your food packaging to control weight On return from your trip, only your emergency food is untouched Dial in your daily food consumption lime a science is smart Junk food should all stay at home, not go with in the wilderness Alcohol is best for consumption after your trip has completed MRE’s (meals ready to eat) are great backpacking foods Package you own foods and you can save much $$$ Dried foods are the only smart way to go when backpacking lite You local grocery store has all you need for backpacking foods A vacuum sealed plastic bag system is just ideal for trail food Use the numbering system for you trail food packaging Your local outfitter will have many pre-packaged food options Save 50% or more custom packaging your own trail food Packaging your own food is actually fun once you practice MRE’s are perfect if you are too busy to package your own food
Chapter 7 Survival Skills The more skills you have the more fun you will have in the wilderness. There are key skills to master, basic skills you should understand, and many other skills to be familiar with to make you a well rounded outdoor adventurer. As covered in chapter 5 on fire, you already know one of the most important skills, hopefully you practiced fire making and are at least comfortable with this by now. We shall cover the survival skills in this chapter that you are most likely to encounter, and several you may be forced to deal with and must understand to be an asset to yourself and others in your hiking and/or backpacking party. Fortunately you will not need to be a wilderness expert to be a wilderness survivor, but you will positively be a better survivor if you do watch any or all of the survivor programs on TV as they all have important lessons to teach and every episode has at least 3 or 4 tips you may need to have in your mental survival library system to draw upon in a pinch. One thing is for certain, the one single technique that you need to have that saves your life or the life of another is the million dollar technique that will be in your personal lifetime log book of wilderness success stories and one to be forever proud of. We hope you understand there is no one single source of infante survival wisdom as even this book may not have the total cure for your dilemma in the wilderness, we do know however this book will raise your awareness to be more receptive to all survival skills that you read, hear, watch, or come in direct contact with in the present and future, and this awareness is what will save a life, and very possibly your own life in fact. Just remember your outdoor backpacking or hiking adventure will not be in the company of paramedics, doctors, emergency rescue professionals and services, guides, and/or helicopters standing by like the TV shows. You are on your own, literally, and this is where the rubber hits the road and your basic survival skills are imperative.
Common sense will get you by where skill may fail you, always use your best logical judgement in the wilderness and not launch into a technique or bush craft move that you have not personally practiced is a good rule to live by, but if the S#IT hits the fan, and you are out of options, use whatever tool and techniques you can muster to keep a bad situation from going terminal. A best attempt with some fore thought is better that doing absolutely nothing and getting FUBARâ€™ED, (F##ked up Beyond All Recognition) due to not trying something to improve your situation and improving your odds of survival on at least some measurable level or to some degree. Many rock climbers as a good example have turned up royally FUBARâ€™ED after falling for many hundreds of feet only because of lapses in common seance and exercising the skill sets they have practiced for many years in some cases. Forgetting to tie off simple and basic and fundamental beginner level stopper knots on their ropes on decent and poor anchoring techniques due to even minor distractions have killed may talented and accomplished rock climbers and also many accomplished Alpinist mountain climbers. These people exposed themselves to high danger risk, however their training was also matched to these same high risk factors and yet they ended their accomplished careers in a body bag. So moral of the story is, know your skill level, never exceed it, and practice a new survival skill until it becomes a reflex action as natural and comfortable to you as breathing, even if you have to practice it 5,000 times to get it right, if it save a life, what a small price to pay you time invested in mastering even just one critical skill will have been in retrospect after a life had been spared by itâ€™s single action and following success story. Survival skills in hiking and Backpacking are basic for the most part as most groups will be trekking on National Park trails or in National Forest. The magnitude of most National Parks for example can be greatly under estimated and often misunderstood. People may think a National Park such as Yosemite as a nice park with stores, restaurants, public showers and a swimming pool with showers such as can be found at Curry Camp. Yosemite is a major tourist attraction in the great US of A, it is also a vast wilderness with black bear and some of the most beautiful and equally dangerous attractions.
Over half a million visitors come to Yosemite every year, and a few dozen are killed falling into waterways and go over waterfalls never to be seen alive again. Others just go missing. So survival skills start by keeping a safe distance from fast moving water in Yosemite as the water is biting cold and one slip into this water can end in disaster. We were at Vernal Fall in the summer of 2011 only two weeks before 3 people were swept over the fall and never seen again less than 20 feet from where we were standing. We stopped at the rail with the “do not cross” signs, they went over the rail and into the drink, then down the fall on to the rocks below to met their fate. The trails are so vast and go deep into the back county where it could take rangers days or weeks to find you, maybe even months in the more remote places. Ironically, the black bears are not any problems or threat to you, they will just take your food and be on their way, the wilderness and mother nature is the threat with rock slides, mountain storms, and the many possibilities of injury on the granite drop offs. The Rangers are quick to note that you are in wilderness the moment you are 200 feet off the roadway, and one should never get a false sense of security just because you can take one of the free shuttle buses to many of the trail heads and go straight into wilderness. It’s a little weird to step off a shuttle bus and go directly into a vast deep wilderness area, but this is Yosemite. After half a day on the trail, the isolation sinks in and you know you are on your own where those survival skill you were practicing at home take on an entirely different substance and meaning. At home you were just playing make believe in a sense, suddenly, the hard cold grip of reality sets in that you are now totally dependent on these skills being placed into a daily functional use with a soft bed, heating, and running water no longer a part of your daily life in a beautiful but primitive experience where your back pack and your minds ability to cope, adjust and adapt are fully immersed into this suddenly real survival experience. As you will be prepared, the experience will not feel so foreign, but to a day hiker getting lost in the wilderness can be shocking. Survival skills are essential to any outdoor person and kids alike. We certainly hope every parent has their children wear a survival back pack with proper training on how to use all it’s precious contents for signaling, communication, food, water, shelter, and clothing.
We have been working on a special children’s survival back for a year or so, the challenge is getting qualified hands on training to compliment the survival system as an instruction book, regardless of how well written, cannot replace the hands on functional use and skills required to get a child’s confidence up to speed and able to mentally adapt to the isolation of getting lost in the wilderness. Most adults initially freak out once they realize they are lost, so a child will have more fears as they realize they are not as strong and mature which can lead to panic, and this is not a state of mind that is conducive to survival skills execution, situational assessment and control. Even a full grown adult can break down and fall apart in a matter of a few short hours if they do not have the training, tools, and skills to cope with wilderness seclusion. You will have these tools and skills, which is why you will always walk out of any wilderness situation with confidence it was a when you would get back and never for a split second an “if” you would get back out after getting lost. So here we go, let’s get you ready for a lost night in the wilderness with your all the survival tools in action. First, you have your fire kit with you, you have water, food, signal whistle, map and compass, clothing, a hat, buff, bivey, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and the sun is falling fast, you just realized you are separated from your trail partner or group. As your trail partner has the same gear and training you have, you can rest assured they are perfectly ok, and making the same plans for the night to be safe, warm, dry, and as comfortable as possible for a morning retrace plan back to a pre planned meeting spot. First thing you are gong to do is find a flat piece of ground with some trees or bushes for a wind break to set up camp for the night. You get your fire kit rolled out and start the evenings fire after gathering your tinder and fuel for about 30 minutes. Then after you have a nice fire going, time for a hot tea and a hot top ramen dinner. You roll out your sleeping pad, get your bivey laid out, insert your sleeping bag, and relax as you study your map and get a compass reading, then estimate your relative, or general position for a morning hike out to a meet spot, trail head, street, or high point for signaling. If you have a green laser with you, you will likely be in contact with your group or partner after dark, but should stay in place for the night. A basic signal system should be worked out in advance so
there can be an understanding between the parties as to the status of each person, OK or Injured, If you have a fire made, and a safe place to sleep for the night. A personal Morse code, waiving motion of the laser beam, and a combination of flashes and waving can be a very effective communication method. A 50mw green laser beam on a clear night can travel for 15 to 20 miles easily, so a separation under 5 miles will be a piece of cake to reconnect in the morning, or perhaps even at night if you are only a few miles apart or less and not in a dangerous walking path for night travel. Two way radios are nice to have, but not the end all of wilderness communication solutions. Moisture, batteries, hills, valleys, rain, and possible damage due to a fall can all put a quick end to this tool or render it useless. We always have a small lite weight two way radio clipped to our back pack rig, but never count on it to be a fail safe communication tool. A $5.00 whistle is 100 times more dependable than a $100.00 high end two way radio system any day of the week, hands down. We always have a bright orange high decibel emergency whistle clipped into the front shoulder harness of our back pack, right next to the two way radio. A whistle is a fail safe provided you can provide the lung power to blow it in an emergency. Smacking two rocks together in a basic code works if you have a problem with breathing and blowing a whistle. Not as effective as a whistle, but far better than no signal at all in a pinch. The laser pen is the most human energy efficient signal system in the signal making bag of tricks, but you need be in a location that allows the beam to be seen at great distance, and even more important, you potential rescue person, team, crew, or fellow hikers need to be vigilant of you light beam signals and in a location that they can respond back to you, not always the case with hills, mountains, valleys, and tree cover. So if possible, both parties should seek a wide clearing when and if even possible for laser communication where both parties can provide a two way communication. Laser is strictly a late dusk, pre morning light, and best a night time signal device. Signaling, with multiple methods, including the human voice and even the human whistle are skills to use, know, and understand.
When I think of survival skills, tools, and techniques, I focus on the basics in my core fire making kit in the backpack. My custom fire kit is actually a super compact self contained survival kit actually. If I were to become lost or separated from my trail partner or group, my fire kit becomes my core tool. Everything needed for making shelter, fire, signals, and to stay relatively dry is in my fire kit. My fire kit grew into and became more a total survival kit as time evolved my fire kit into the survival pack it is today as each trail expedition both “defined and refined” the core of survival tool needed if I lost all my trail gear and had only one small kit under 4 pounds to depend on and only the cloths on my back, lost in the wilderness. If you can survive, create fire, stay warm and dry, signal, and have water to drink for 3 days, you have yourself a very compact and effective survival kit, whatever you want to call it is irrelevant, I call it my fire kit as this is where my survival kit started out from. I figured fire is the logical place to start any effective survival kit as fire is the core survival skill and tool kit any respectable back packer must have. You have likely noticed all these chapters have a common thread and the topics intermingle and intertwine with each other, and for good sound reason, survival skills “DO” in fact intertwine and are always intermingled together as a homogenous blend of holistic oneness. Each skill is always a part of the other as survival is a blanket statement or word that encompasses the process of sustaining life. Out in the wilderness, sustaining is what you do, at all times, good or bad as situations are or become. Having fun and keeping safe is always you #1 goal, as it should be. This a book of adventure and enjoying the process of “cleansing the soul” and “relaxing the mind” in the depth of the vast wilderness areas wherever you roam, but these positive things we strive for are even more vivid and enjoyable with your survival skill sets dialed in as you know you can not be defeated by mother nature and unforeseen events the wilderness can spring on you in an instant, like running into a swarming bee hive, because S#it happens, and when the S#it hits the fan, you must deal with these issues and maintain your composure to walk out or the wilderness with your stories and tales to share and pass on in your life as adventure success stories of how you coped with challenges and lived to tell the tale(s).
We believe outdoor wilderness walking, hiking, and backpacking communes with nature and the human spirit in a way that is impossible to connect with in civilization. Nature “IS” harmony, and when we walk in nature, we become part of the songs that play as the winds play in the trees and the water that runs through the valleys. So this song is part of the wilderness survival experience, whatever may come your way is the unique song your experience will play to your all you senses, not only in your ears, but in your spirit. You become part of the wilderness every time you step on to a trail and your spirit inspires the songs that play around you, this is the connection that nature brings into concert with every breath and every step. Survival skills are an extension of this connection, listen to the winds, smell the air, feel the trees, touch the rocks, look at the grass blow and absorb the flowers in bloom, observe the animals, insects, bugs, fish, etc., gather all these things together with the power of the sun and the magic of the moon, your survival skills compliment nature and blend with natures way. This can feel like a battle when mother nature takes a sharp turn, but think of this as a test of your readiness to cope and overcome these challenges as a “test” of your resolve and preparetivness to adapt, and then you will understand the big picture in a way perhaps you will bring enlightenment and even a moment that delivers that epiphany. Survival can become a feeling of thriving, self development, personal growth, and pure euphoria when all you reflex skills are honed and trained to the way the wilderness. The animals all have this connection naturally, they are the wilderness and the wilderness is their domain. Humans on the other hand have to learn, understand, and develop this spiritual connection with nature, so each adventure you take, regardless of how short or long, all combine and develop the connection over and with the space that is “you” and time that you spend in the wilderness which fills your “space” with the pure essence of this spiritual level of connection to all elements on earth. The more connected you get, the more fun you will experience in the wilderness on your adventures as each successive exposure to nature becomes part of the foundation you walk on to the next adventure. So the more you are prepared, the stronger will grow and your connection becomes with the wilderness.
As you see, survival skills are part of any adventure, but never the goal of any adventure. You goal is to just become the adventure and let the cards fall as they may, be flexible, roll with the conditions of the environment, deal with the weather, wind, sun, water, heat, cold, etc., and let the wilderness fill your senses with harmony and joy. Not what you were expecting from a hiking and backpacking book? Good, expect the unexpected here and in the wilderness and wilderness wisdom lesson #1 is behind you. Being alert to your surroundings will always be your primary survival tool in any wilderness setting, your gear bag is your second point of defence, and your ability to adapt and overcome is your third point of survival skills. All three of these elements need to be in play and never letting your guard down tops off the four corners of the survival square. Even a casual day hike can end badly if you are not prepared for the worst before you set out, so even before your leave the house, get your survival gear in your back pack, tell someone you can depend upon where you are going, and when you can be expected to return, then double check that your cell phone battery is fully charged and turn off your phone to keep a 100% charge on the battery. Your shoes should be hiking shoes, designed for rough terrain and the wear and tear that only a well made hiking shoe can endure. Taking a hike with flop flops or any other open toe shoe is a huge mistake that many hikers with little or no hiking experience have learned the hard way. Once the perfect weather turns bad, the cold rain starts, temperatures drop like a rock, and a thorny bush meets open toes, it gets ugly fast. If you have been walking without shoes for 20 years and have build a tolerance to walking barefoot, maybe you will be ok, but for the rest of us, hiking shoes are not optional foot gear. Ironically, even with the repetition we are hoping to infuse you with to be sure all that read this book digest and learn by the information provided, there will be the few that just skipped a step or two, and trust me, the step you skip will be the one that kicked your ass and your will never repeat due to a harsh lesson on the trail. Survival is heavily based upon common sense and understanding of how to pack and use gear properly. If you follow the lessons taught here and just be sure to triple check your pack before every trip.
We recently took a day hike to the Laguna Mountains and started out on a perfect day, bright, sunny, warm, clear, and began a 8 mile loop at 10:00am. As we approached â€œGarnet Peakâ€? around 11:00am we could smell a fire had broke out. Being on high ground is great to see your surroundings, bad when there is a fire in full blaze. The Northern sky soon was filled with brush fire smoke and the source of the fire was less than 3 miles away, far too close for comfort as a fire can travel over 100 feet per minute. So the first thing to consider is an escape route, we really did hot have a good one in this location. Second thing is the emergency stay in place plan, which means get away from the fuel, get wet, and break out the thermal blankets. So we did a gear check and mentally prepared for the fire to come over the ridge as we walked very cautiously. As we reached our destination, a group of 18 hikers passed us and mentioned this was a controlled burn by the local fire department. This news was semi-comforting but controlled burns have been known to become uncontrolled burns and then progress to raging forest fires, so we did not let our guard down, and considered this a semi-controlled fire at best. Moral of the story, never think a perfect day hike will remain perfect because in nature, a perfect day can also bring unexpected fire, flood, a flash flood, rain, cold, and even a heat wave. A confident and well prepared backpacker or hiker keeps the radar beacon on every step of the trail in such a way it becomes more of a reflex and second nature and not a buzz kill for enjoyment of the trek. Keeping up you guard will become an automated unconscious process with practice and experience. Just knowing your gear bag is complete should induce a feeling of euphoria knowing that you can protect yourself and others from harm with the tools and skills you brought to the party. When we hike, the gear bag and mental game are aligned for a night out in the wilderness because twisted ankles happen as a very common trail injury. When you know you will be warm and dry in the event of a 30 degree or less night, you know you will likely walk out, or get help to walk out in the morning. Never count on search and rescue to come get you when you first need help, itâ€™s not going to happen as a rule to count on with a high degree of certainty.
Our survival students get homework before we allow them to go out on an expedition with us. A great way to get a survival check up is to spend a night in your back yard, of the back yard of a friends with all your gear for an overnight. If you cannot hack a back yard overnight and stay warm, dry, and remain comfortable to get a good nights sleep, a wilderness adventure is just not in your near future. Many people will wake up at 2am or 3am and sneak into the house to crawl into their warm cozy bed, not a good sign of wilderness readiness. The tent, sleeping bag, flannel bag, and night clothing should keep you toasty warm and dry if you followed the sleeping system correctly. A cheap sleeping bag is typically the problem as this will not keep you warm enough to get the proper rest you require. A thin cheap sleeping pad will also do you in fast. Plan on spending $100.00 to $300.00 for a proper sleeping bag that is rated for a warm night sleep in the coldest temperature you can possibly expect to be sleeping in on your adventure, and be sure you buy a sleeping pad with at least a 2.8 “R” rating that will keep the ground from sucking the life (core body heat) out of you. A fleece liner is a must have as this will increase your sleeping bags thermal rating down to another 10 degrees of comfort protection. Fleece socks and a Sherpa hat will provide added insulation, and if you have done all your sleeping gear correctly, you will feel the need to peel off some gear during the night, or at least not feel the need to add any further insulation. Nothing will wear you down faster than sleep deprivation, so be sure you are as snug as a bug in a rug at night to wake up refreshed and clear in thought in the morning. A cup of hot Joe and hot cereal will get your mind and body in alignment after a good nights sleep. Go on-line and carefully select your gear with research and though before you buy anything. For items such as sleeping bags, you really need to go down to your local outfitter and get expert advice and guidance before you invest in your sleeping gear as there are many options to consider. Goose down sleeping bags are the warmest, but Goose looses all it’s thermal value once wet, where synthetic fibers retain thermal value. We use synthetic specifically for this express reason , but this is “your choice”, so select what you feel works best for your needs and wilderness adventure evening hours comfort.
We like Marmot sleeping bags best as the value and quality is very high in our opinion, but the choices are always a matter of personal preference, and we never endorse any name brand product as a general rule. Any high quality sleeping bag will get the job done equally well at the end of the day. Itâ€™s only a matter of budget as one can drop $600.00+ into just a sleeping bag alone. We like to shop for value in all our gear and have found that a $180.00 or less sleeping bag with a fleece liner, fleece booties, a Sherpa hat, and a layer or two of lite weight sleeping garments, like a fleece pajamas will easily get you the exact same insulation value of a $600.00+ sleeping bag (or better insulation value) at one third the cost or slightly less. The savings can pay for your tent, sleeping pad, and an entire cooking system, with some change left over for trip fuel to get to your trail head. Ingenuity reigns supreme when it comes to being frugal with the hiking adventure budget, and not compromising on safety or comfort. Just be sure to buy gear that is meant to last more that a trip or two as gear failure in the wilderness is positively a major buzz kill and can lead to a serious matter of life and death under certain circumstances. A shoe blow out in the desert for example with no duct tape, no glue, or a simple $15.00 sewing awl can lead to inviting a snake bite and/or dehydration real fast. You would be restricted to night travel when the rattle snakes are active in the desert as an example, and finding water at night is not likely. You would basically be royally screwed unless you could fashion a pair of shoes to protect your feet fro the scorching burning hot sands by day if you were on a late spring, summer, or early fall desert adventure. A cold weather shoe blow out can lead to a quick case of frostbite, and with no functional toes, walking is no longer on your options list. Packing your back pack is a delicate dance of weight vs needs, so having all your emergency repair gear and core survival gear in place comes before the essentials of water, clothing, food, and any comfort products will basically determine your trip plans, this is how it works as a survivalist in the wilderness. Plan your trip around your smart survival planning and you will then have your true top priorities (smart thinking ducks) in a row.
Chapter Review+ • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Survival skills are empowering to possess in the wilderness Master the art of fire making first Be a student of TV survival shows, a wealth of skill sets Survival is a mind set, know you core skills, and you walk out Never get shaken if lost, just get busy following your exit plan The map and compass are your main security in the wilderness Lost? Relax, have a small meal, catch a nap, then get busy A $5.00 whistle is your first tool to use in the tool box for rescue Gather fire wood as soon as you get lost and get a camp set up Get on the 2 way radio ASAP, before your party is out of range Get to your pre-determined group meet spot if you can ASAP If you are separated and injured, laser pen, whistle, or radio Bang rocks together as a last resort for rescue, 3 strikes, stop, etc. Keep warm, dry, and get rest if needed to clear your head Refrain from night travel, just too many possible hazards Try the cell phone, just don’t expect it to have any signal Get your survival tent ready to set up Find a safe location away from any potential rock fall area Getting lost can make you a stronger survivor, more confident Remember, you are more misplaced from the trail, not really lost Most people are less than 1/4 mile from a main trail when lost Just focus on getting back on the trail nearby Stop and listen, frequently you will hear voices of other hikers Survival is simple once you understand the principals Your safety is rooted in you survival confidence level Just maintain focus on all your learned camping skills Open this book and start to review all your notes and thoughts
Chapter 8 Contingency Planning This chapter is core and central to survival, hiking and backpacking. Contingency planning is your life preserver in the wilderness and this life preserver is not on you, it is planted deep in your head. Yes, your mind is your life line we hope by this point you took all written before this point to heart and plan to incorporate all into your wilderness adventure because you need a health clear mind to know your life preserver will be there to act as your contingency safety valve when called upon. You know most of the basics by now, you understand the importance of preparation, hydration, body fuel, rest, first aid, and planning, but contingency planning encompasses ALL of the skills bundled into one package now. Fun and adventure are always included, as this is a hiking and backpacking book where a lifetime of warm adventure stories are born and cherished, but contingency planning is that added layer of the adventure process so very few hikers and new backpackers consider important, in fact, most people donâ€™t ever consider contingency planning at all, which is a scary thing to omit for the survivalist among us that bring another level of awareness in every adventure. Running low on food or a shoe coming apart 15 miles in rough back country trail is serious business if you came to the party unprepared and void of addressing these issues with contingency solutions as a very basic example of common situations in back country travel. Either of these situations can indeed lead to a most serious conundrum with no contingency plans on the survival menu. As we always travel with a sewing awl, para cord, shoe goo, and duct tape, the shoe problem is typically just an hour or less pit stop, maybe an overnight rest stop worst case scenario. A low food problem is quite another matter, unless you have knowledge of how to eat and prepare inner tree bark from pine trees, which are found in most all forested wilderness areas as an example, or know what bugs and insects are edible, problem solved to get out alive and breathing as contingency planning is both an art and a science in the wilderness.
What is plan “B” if a bridge gets washed out? What is plan “B” if a rock slide blocks your return route plan “A”? How about a flash flood that threatens your life in a tight narrow canyon pass? All these things and at least 500 other complications can command you have contingency plan in your play book, and your contingency planning must be in concert with your specific location, route, potential threats, and wide range of potential weather possibilities and even rare weather abnormalities that nature can spring on you. How about talking to the Rangers at any national park visit for example. Rangers are a veritable wealth of local knowledge at you disposal and just a few minutes with these professionals can give you a heads up on many contingency awareness issues you can greatly benefit by, and even be life saving information in fact. Only a fool would not take advantage of these resources, but yes, many people die every single year in National parks because they elected to be the village idiot that is too smart to ask a Ranger any questions and become educated on their wilderness adventure key environmental precautions and situational awareness points. The same people that fall over the waterfalls, fall into the frigid waterways, slip off cliffs and fall to their death, and go off trail without maps and even the most very basic navigational tools. Contingency planning is situational awareness, study of the lay of the land, planning, pre planning, and preparation, both mental and physical, plus enough common sense to stay out of trouble in the first place. If you really follow the basic information shared in this book alone, you have already taken ownership of contingency planing 101, PLAN your trip and FOLLOW you PLAN. This becomes contingency for many adventure seekers that get off route, discover they bit off more than can chew, fear sets in, panic takes over, all sense of direction gets lost, and then the original route plan thus has become their new contingency plan! For most of your readers, we hope that you contingency planning is covered by adhering the good planning practices we hope to hard wire into your grey matter. For the other people that are going to go of the reservation and invite disaster where disaster could have been either diminished or avoided all together, the following information will serve to get you back alive, perhaps only in need of a hospital
visit and a week or two of recovery time, perhaps a splint, cast, and/ or a series of medical corrective procedures. Situation #1: Hiker runs out of water, hot dry day, no water in sight, what does one do? First thing, seek shade and stop walking if possible. Get still, cover up all exposed skin, get under the sand if possible and the scorpions are not there first to stay cool as well. Drink you own urine, breath slow and shallow to preserve moisture, and get ready for a night walk to the nearest sign of vegetation, like a cactus. We do hope you had enough sense to bring a knife, use this tool to cut a piece out of cactus and suck the moisture from the cut cactus branch, slice open if this fails and lick the inner juice, slime and all, moisture is moisture. Situation #2: Freezing cold weather rolls in, you are wearing flip flops and a tie die cotton T-shirt, and a hip pack filled with nothing of any functional mention to provide any protection from the elements, you are 6 miles out in the wilderness and basically screwed, blued, and tattooed. Get under a tree (unless it is a lightening storm) which makes you double screwed, look for a rock overhang, hollow tree, bear den (one with no bear in it is highly suggested), yell for help, look for any old cabins, get under a large pile of pine needles for insulation, take off the T-shirt if is got wet as this will suck the heat out of you and accelerate hyopthermia. Get a fire going if you brought enough spare matches to smoke that next joint and they are still dry, or use that lighter you carry to burn you pipe of hash to get a fire going ASAP. Gather all the dry wood you can as fast as possible under any shelter you can find and get a fire burning without any delay. As crazy as tis may sound, the brain child of situation #2 is not unusual not is it uncommon to see in the wilderness. People that got into the wilderness unprepared are all too common place and keep many good Rangers busy that would otherwise be available for emergencies people get into that they did not ask for, real emergencies. Anyone that ventures out into the wilderness in flip flops and no survival gear whatsoever should be required to carry a SPOT locator that sends out a message to the local SAR team which reads â€œ village idiot here, I am lost, dazed, and confused, please pick up my sorry stupid assâ€?. The wilderness is not a place for brainless people.
Contingency planning is 50% common sense and 50%, well, planning. Whenever you venture into the abyss of the wilderness, have enough common sense to tell a few responsible people where you are going, your time lines, trip plan, and return ETA. Just a little common sense can save your life. Also give the parties the local ranger station contact number(s) how hard is that? So simple, yet people go missing and get lost all the time in the wilderness every year without any, very much, and sometimes very little information that would have possibly saved their lives had they just taken 15 minutes to print out an itinerary and emailed it to a friend or family member or two, such a basic and simple task. You may hit the wall with fatigue and your personal contingency plan may go up in vapor, and this is when that 15 minutes you invested can save you life, big time. Once you are mentally and physically prepared in the wilderness, you positively minimize your potential need for a contingency action plan, but in the wilderness there are a great deal of possibilities that lead to potential complications beyond your control at this is when a seasoned professional (SRT) search rescue team may no longer be an option, and you want to be rescued and not recovered as recovery entails coming back in a body bag. On the trail, standing on your two feet, and thinking with clarity is the mode you want to stay in when a contingency situation presents itself. If you packed your gear correctly and practiced your survival skill to a point of reflex, and if you have the physical and mental tool kit packed, your contingency planning can be an exciting challenge rather than a gut wrenching freak out episode that will only get worst once you loose your composure. Confidence and competence will get you a long way in the wilderness, and these attributes will get you out alive provided your gear bag is well stocked with options. Just staying put and finding shelter with a warm fire so you can rest is step one in your contingency plan. Scared of the dark? Get a fire going and get warm, fire is manâ€™s best friend after sunset, and a fire is a huge moral booster and companion in the wilderness. Get a shelter built and hunker down for the night so you can get moving when day breaks with a good nights sleep to think straight and plan a exit strategy if you are lost. In fact, you are never really lost, just disoriented and in need of a solution.
When you really think about it, how lost can you really be? Are you a matter of minutes, miles , or many miles from a self rescue? Most people are 3 miles or less from rescue in the wilderness, which sounds like nothing right? Wrong, you are in the wilderness not driving on the freeway where 3 miles is a three minutes away, three miles in the wilderness can be half a days walk in rough terrain and a day or more if you have to walk 5+ miles or perhaps more to get around an obstacle or two or three, or four or five. Three miles stone cold lost can be a very serious problem, and not one to take lightly if you are smart enough to understand how terrain can cut you off from getting another 20 feet across a fast moving water way to rescue in a flash. Yes, three miles, even one very rough mile can feel like an all day hike in the wilderness once you get to a point of feeling disoriented and confused. Weather awareness, area variables, waterways, terrain, and research, in conjunction with a stop at a local trip plan area Ranger station will set the stage for most contingency plans and ensure your relative safety. Never too safe is the best plan to follow. Always have spare food, one day per person minimum, spare batteries for any communication device, a whistle (a very loud whistle designed to carry a signal over half a mile in calm weather), a laser pen with a green beam is best, and a weather radio or 2 way radio with a weather channel can be a big plus. Again, do to count on any radio communication to work in the wilderness, ever, because dependency on a cell phone or two way radio is crap shoot at very best. Direction and intention should lead the way back to either help or get you back on track to your initial established trail provided you have a map and compass with at least a relative idea of where you are in reference to the map in hand. Everyone in your party needs to have a map, compass, and know where they are at all times relative to the map to be safe and secure in the wilderness, but only less than 5%, if that follow this sage advice and wisdom which is why the other 95% will end up lost, dazed, and confused if and when separated from the pack, if you are solo hiking, no compass and map can be your death sentence in the wilderness. Ironically, tracking your trek on a map is always fun and exciting to those that get the hang of it, so practice this skill and have fun!
By now you are likely feeling far more confident as you are being exposed to all the safety points that make backpacking and hiking the ultimate outdoor adventure experience it should be. A little fear is a good thing in the wilderness as this emotion keeps you sharp and tuned in to your surroundings. But the full immersion into the fray of the call of the wild is most peoples primary goal when heading into the wilderness. All this planning and preparation, caution and precautionary measures are to insure you a safe return with a heart and camera filled with fantastic experiences of natures wonder and the spectacular experience the wilderness never fails to deliver. If you take contingency planning serious up front, as you should, every adventure will be even that much better as you can relax far more knowing that you have the solution in your head and with the basic gear you carry to survive where many people before you did not come out alive because they were careless, unprepared, unskilled, and had little if any gear resources at their disposal in time of dire need. We reasonably calculate that 98% of fatalities in the wilderness could have been avoided due to the No.#1 killer, exposure, if the poor souls only had basic comprehension of survival skills and a gear bag with just the few critical essentials on them. Such a travesty to understand that a family member, friend, and/or loved one could have been rescued or found their way out of the wilderness with a handful of survival skills and less than 3 pounds of survival gear and just the proper clothing on their back before they hit the trail. Children are natural survivors in the wilderness as they naturally seek shelter as their primary instinct and hunker down as soon as the dark sets in at night. As we get older, many of us try to reason our way out and think too much about the details of our minds complex thoughts rather than do the smart thing children do instinctually, get into a secure, dry, warm, safe place. This is why so many children are “rescued” (get out alive) and so many adults are “recovered” (come out in a body bag). Few children will try to walk out of a lost situation at night in the wilderness, and rule #1 is get calm and STAY PUT, and this is what children do. Only adults with no survival savvy try to walk out to rescue or get back on a trail in the dark and typically end up in a far more dire situation that they first started with before they started the panic walking. Stay on one place is the best
solution to get rescued for anyone not prepared to survive in the wilderness. If you were smart and had a group with you, the rescue always starts at you last known location, which will typically be less than a few hundred yards from where you were separated from the pack. If you keep walking lost, the odds of a fast rescue go down very rapidly and the likelihood of a night or two, and perhaps three to five unplanned overnights in the wilderness go UP. So beat you stay put and blow your whistle with 3 burst intervals until you get found is our best advice. If you are compelled to self rescue, and if you are armed with a map and compass, know where you are, and can head to a known trail or destination, and you have daylight on your side, by all means, this is a sound strategy and can be a very intelligent solution for you to take action upon. We just know from statistically collected data over the decades pertaining to survival vs fatality ratios after 5 or more days in the wilderness, those that were wise enough to know their limitations and stayed in place were typically rescued, and those that exceeded their capabilities and walked until they dropped due to exhaustion died. If you are prepared and confident, posses the proper survival skills and are grounded in the basics of self rescue, there is no logical reason not to walk out under your own power providing you have no injuries to impede natures obstacles to get back on track. The rub lies in the unfortunate fact that many people overestimate their skills and underestimate natures challenges in the wilderness to a substantial degree in many cases. Only practicing your survival skills will give you a tool box of functional survival skills in the wilderness. Reading this book will get you up to speed on the skills you need, buy only practice will hone and polish your survival skills in the wilderness. If you cannot get a fire started in your back yard with primitive survival skills, what would posses you believe you will get a fire going in the wilderness under host of common adverse conditions? Sure, this is ludicrous you say, however this is exactly what people do, read the book and think it stops there, no, wrong, it all STARTS HERE. You must provide the effort to practice these skills and proven techniques with your own personal time invested. All these skills each take a little time to learn by repetition.
As of the writing of this book, four people got lost just over the past 4 weeks on Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State. As the reports come in, two weeks lot in sub freezing weather are not survivable scenarios in 99.999% of the cases. All these souls were claimed to be experienced mountain climbers and all had good gear with them as the reports state. Yet it is to our understanding the cell phone services failed to produce even one single a distress call. So out the window went the land based radio signal options, and apparently no one had a GPS spot signal device with them, and no global satellite phones. As the weather turned horribly bad for over the first solid week these people got lost, SRT (Search and Rescue Teams) were not able to launch a full effort to locate them for 5 days. Even if they had a pin point locations a SPOT beacon locator, they were unable to get an air crew to them due to weather conditions. So this is a sad but common situation that takes lives every day in the wilderness somewhere in the world. Two of these lost souls were only in their late 30â€™s, young, healthy, and in the prime of their life, living it to the best in a wilderness with challenges they faced and planned to overcome for a safe trip back to family and friends. This mountain however is well known for violent winter weather conditions that come in fast, even in the summer months on the top third of the summit, so were these people really 100% prepared? We say positively not, they should have had at least a SPOT locator with them to send out a satellite signal for their apparent distress call out to the SRT teams, a family text message SMS call, a call out to local Park Rangers with their specific coordinates that are automatically broadcast when activated. A $50.00 SPOT locator tool purchased on-line or at REI for example would have saved their lives with a 99% chance of certainty if they were able to just hold out till the storm passed in a basic snow shelter. As this mountain has very predictable weather patterns, which basically are known to be virtually unpredictable and hostile at any time, proper safety precaution should have been taken to increase the odds of rescue and survival, a satellite rescue signal SPOT locator beacon is just not an optional piece of gear to take with for a trip to Mt. Rainier up to the Muir snow field, and it is not a required carry item, in fact, only bear canisters are required in some National Parks.
Only a bear canister with a SPOT rescue beacon in it or a satellite phone would have permitted a successful rescue outcome. So you can clearly see, these souls simple did not have the correct contingency planning in place and unfortunately it is likely the efforts will terminate in a BODY RECOVERY discovery, after the snow thaws out sometime in spring. How can we more strongly suggest you prepare every single week into the wilderness with a property matching contingency plan that is in concert with your geographical location, trip duration, and specific route plan. Being an experienced mountaineer means nothing whatsoever if you do not take all the precautionary steps to deal with natures unforgiving and sometimes relentless hail of furry. Contingency planning is just plain smart to do before every trek and never assume you will be spared and allowed to escape natures wrath and return to your daily life in civilization anywhere on earth in the wilderness as nature will take your life without emotion nor care about your existence on this planet. Realty check time. These souls broke the most basic contingency planning rules and paid the ultimate price for their careless actions. Even professional mountaineers die every year with a wealth of experience and understanding about severe mountain weather conditions, so please do not think you are smarter than the mountain, you are not, no one is. Mountains deal with visitors on their terms and under conditions created 100% by their control, you only get the go along for the ride, and nothing more. If this does totally humble you and command every fiber of your respect, then you also may very well become a statistic some day in the history books at a National Park, forest, or any other wilderness location anywhere on earth. Nature will out wit you, out think you, and out maneuver your every single time given a fair chance to take advantage of your weaknesses and being able to catch you off guard to send you back to your maker in a pine box. So be a contingency planner and execute a contingency plan as a hard and fast rule, never as an option.
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Always have a contingency plan in place, long before the trip Consider a PLAN “B” one that must be fully executable Most wilderness fatalities could have been avoided An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure backpacking Learn from the follies and failures of others, not your own There is a big price to pay for minor oversights in the wilderness Always stay alert, many, if not most all problems are avoidable The wilderness feels 10 times bigger the moment you get lost Safety is in numbers, stay with your group and do not wander If you are backpacking alone, you need to be hyper aware Solo backpacking requires a satellite phone and a SPOT device All backpackers should have a SPOT messenger and full service Satellites are not 100% dependable, just “as good as it gets” You can rent Satellites phones, not cheap, but worth every penny A child can (and many have) survived a week, all alone Minimize all risk by not needing to employ the contingency plan No one is immune to wilderness dangers and complications Professional mountaineers over shoot their capabilities and die A strong team leader keeps his or her flock safe and sound Lead by example, everyone will have a great time and be safe People that wander from the pack can and do go missing fast Stay in the proximity of your group, this cannot be overstated If you go missing, get lost, you are on your own in a nut shell Your group may or may NOT be able to locate you, big problem If you cannot find your group, get 100% into survival mode If solo survival scares you, think first, and do not wander off Some people think they are stronger than they really are Some people discover they are stronger than they thought Others panic and shut down, this is the worst reaction to have How would you react to total isolation in the wilderness? One never knows for sure until it happens to them is the answer! Got to the woods for one full night alone, then you will know May be time to re-read this entire book and take it seriously Backpacking is totally safe and fun if “YOU PLAY IT SAFE”.
Chapter 9 Signaling in the Wilderness Being in touch with potential rescue professionals was a point well made in the previous chapter, but signaling in the wilderness takes on may different options under most situations where the weather conditions are less than brutal and severe. You must have the following items in your gear bag......
1. Whistle 2. Green laser pen 3. 2 way radio 4. Fire making tools 5. Mirror 6. Magnifying glass 7. Cell phone (turned off)
These seven tools will give you only the basics what you need to effect a rescue call out. All these tools may be options, and none the these tools may work for you under certain circumstances. Whistles work best in calm dense cold air, laser pens work best on clear nights with no moon, 2 way radios are never 100% reliable, fire is best at night, but by day smoke works well on a calm day. A mirror needs bright sun, a magnifying glass needs direct sun to start a fire, and last but not least, a cell phone must have a charges battery and a clear signal, and a clear signal is almost never the case in the mountains. A basic fundamental understanding of rescue techniques is enough for a beginner to understand and be able to use effectively. Three shrills of a whistle followed by a 30 second pause is a rescue signal. A simple SOS with a laser pen ...---... (DOT, DOT,DOT, DASH, DASH. DASH, DOT DOT DOT) is a universal morse code SOS (Save our Souls) rescue signal. Same with a rescue mirror signal. Fire, three in a row works or one huge fire with copious smoke generated by fresh pine needles will work. You just need to pick you locations where the maximum exposure to your signals will reach out to the eyes and ears of either a SRT team or fellow hikers.
Signaling is pretty straight forward, but not as simple as one may think. Weather plays a huge factor in your signaling options and weather can kill all you signaling options in a flash as well. You may be waiting out rain, fog, snow, and cloud cover, day, and night time factors, and your location should typically be at a high point of your terrain to signal to be most effective. Weigh this on the fact that water, the low points, will most likely to get you foot traffic and personal hydration, and now comes the decision making factors, high ground for rescue vs low ground resource gathering time for life saving hydration needs. So the balance must be determined by you specific wilderness terrain options. Water can be had by trees at any altitude and a plastic bag. But no trees kills this option, but no trees gives you an opportunity to make a high contract rescue marker, three in a row remember. Make an arrow pointing in your direction of travel works, unless you get further lost and change your direction, which compounds your conundrum. As you effect rescue efforts, be mindful of your water and food reserves, if you have none, you will need to divide your time to addressing the primary rescue signal and staying alive long enough to come back alive once found, a delicate dance in most any wilderness rescue situation you may ever find yourself in, and it will never be perfect nor pretty. This is would be nice, but it is totally unrealistic to hope this will be your luck. Factor in your survival need for shelter, and you will most likely have your hands more than chocked full of busy time that must be very much focused into productive time. Even banging rocks together will work for a signal if done in a deliberate pattern people will not mistake for am animal, like a bird, as in wood pecker. The human voice is also a very effective tool, but this tool wears out fast with screaming for help and without a voice that got strained and horse from overuse, you are in an even bigger pickle if your voice is needed, stick with the whistle, it works 100% of the time and never wears out. Glow sticks can be used as an effective signal device when tied to para cord or any other cordage you may have and spun in circles as a night time situation. You do need to be in an area of high visibility, and hope that unusual light pattern attracts the attention of other hikers or an SRT helicopter ideally as most of these rescue aircraft
will have FLIR cameras that will light up a glow sticks relatively weak light like roman candle fireworks. In the absence of a full moon however, a glow stick spinning on a string is going to attract attention if seen. If you have a ferro rod firestarter and see or hear an aircraft at night, start striking this with your knife as fast and with intention as the ferro rod shoots out 5,500 degree sparks that will also light a FLIR camera like a sky rockets spark trail. Resist the strong and natural temptation to yell, if possible, as this will only strain your voice because a helicopter will never hear you unless it has already landed to make your rescue. Same goes with any other aircraft. Only light at night or a contrasting ground signal in daylight is going to be effective. Radios can work, sure, but the chances you and the aircraft will have a matching radio frequency is about 1 in 1,000 unless you have a specialized scanner in your hand, and chances of this are about a million to one for all practical purposes. If you can make a ten foot size message, ie: ( Ch - 5 ) made in high contract with your background, and you have your radio turned to this frequency, yes, perhaps you will make radio contact. But of your two way goes out with dead batteries, you are right back to square one again. A SPOT GPS device is really the way to go, and the $150.00 one of these little modern miracles will set you back is insignificant and the best investment you can make for an effective rescue signal to reach for help. There are also models of GPS rescue beacons that pair up with cell phones, but personally, we would never use any rescue beacon that depended on two separate devices to function effectively in an emergency. You can go blow $350.00+ real fast on one of these nifty little hybrid devices, and they will work well if your cell phone battery is charged and your software does not glitch. The KISS principle ( keep it simple stupid) works for us and it is a wise principle to subscribe to in any wilderness survival / emergency situation. A $2.50 glow stick swinging on a string will work better than a $350.00 rescue device paired with a $600.00 I-Phone with a dead battery or software malfunction. There are tools and there are toys that pose as tools, we rely on the tools that have minimal potential
possibility to malfunction and only become dead weight. For nighttime rescue especially, light is your best tool, a radio and GPS are totally useless at night for signaling aircraft that must see you, hearing you is good, but getting a fix on your location is virtually impossible. A $3.00 signal mirror in good sunlight is an excellent rescue tool, better than fire as a mirror can get you spotted from 10 to 20 miles out by aircraft or ground rescue teams. Aircraft are you mirror signaling targets though as you will most likely have little likelihood of a mirror effecting a ground rescue unless you have a very clear line of sight, and this ideal situation is going to be far more rare that hens teeth in the wilderness. Fireworks are really the best, as in rocket flairs at night. Just as long as you donâ€™t shoot your flair too early or too late when spotting an aircraft, and are signaling a low flying rescue aircraft and not a commercial airliner at 35,000 feet which will most likely not see you at all at this altitude and at this high angle relative to your ground orientation. If this is your absolute last ditch effort, it is one with a very high risk of failure, but sure, your situation could warrant this under extreme circumstances. A few basic road flairs can also be very effective rescue tools at night as you can set the flair on a rock for example and use your two hands to block and unblock the bright burning chemical light as a moose code signal, as in SOS signal. Road flairs are cheap, stable to carry, and light virtually instantly when struck, getting them to go out and relighting them again is the problem, so when you light a road flair, plan on letting it burn until its fuel is spent. You can get road flairs in quite a variety of burn times however, 15 minutes flairs are best in our opinion as they are relatively compact and lighter to carry, and you can keep 6 of these in a backpack without adding too much weight. Road flairs also cannot be beat to light fires in damp or wet weather. If you have a little gun powder and place a few piles on a rock, then touch this with the flair, you will positively get a good bright flash effect, but this should be done with the utmost and extreme caution if at all, and is not recommended. Cooking fuel can work well as you can get a fast signal fire going in seconds with fuel and a ferro rod ignition source on top of any dry fast burning tinder.
A boat type flair signal gun is a great rescue tool, jut too heavy for the weight conscious backpacker under many circumstances, but hard to beat as the most effective all round signal tool that can even be effective in broad daylight to attract rescue attention. These signal tools also deliver a good report (loud sound) when fired. A starter pistol or hand gun shot in 3 round burst will get attention and effect rescue, providing you are not in a hunting area where the gun shots will be mistaken for sport and not 911 assistance. Regular guns and ammo are far too heavy for backpacking, and cannot be used by children naturally, so a starter pistol is the ideal audio signal for a sharp report. If you are in a National Forest or National park where hunting is banned, certainly you will attract the attention of the any Park Ranger if they hear gun shots. A typical hand gun with blanks will shoot a good burst of light as well, you will need to use a revolver as a semi auto hand gun will not cycle with blanks and you need to shoot 3 round burst as a distress signal. If you do carry any guns into a National Park, you will need a gun permit issued that is valid for the state the park is located in, otherwise you can be charged with a consealed carry weapons charge, which is felony possession. A starters pistol is a safe legal carry and this would be your best bet for audio signaling, just donâ€™t be careless and pull this out of your jacket near any Police Officer or Park Range that are armed with real guns as things could end very badly for you very quickly. Please be very careful with any fire device as well because if you start a forest fire with any device, even in the pursuit of effecting a rescue, you can still be held liable if you create a situation that gets out of control. So please exercise common sense, good judgement, and be mindful that your rescue efforts need not start a fire that can kill the animals home you are visiting as you do not ever have this right, even if you are in the very most dire of dire straights. Audio signals work great day or night for ground rescue, and ground rescue will be in daylight hours from dawn till dusk typically. The whistle cannot be beat for this audio signal as a general rule as even a gun shot can be very hard to use as a directional fix, and a whistle does not need a supply of ammunition and will work indefinitely providing you have the lung energy to blow into it. A mirror is you silent signal, and a great day time signal device with sun.
In daylight, a mirror and whistle used together for ground rescue is a good combination of rescue tool use. At night a laser pen and road fair together can be very effective. Being creative in your signaling is allowed, just keep your wits about you and do not get into a rhythmic pattern, you want your signal patterns to be a clear message of distress first and foremost, never to be mistaken to randomness such as children playing games or entertaining themselves. You must be very deliberate in your signaling, three whistle burst followed by 30 seconds of silence for example. SOS light signals of dot, dot, dot, dash, dash, dash, dot ,dot dot, and not just random flashing easily mistakes foe hikers with something shooting off a reflection as they are walking, like a watch face as your arms are swinging.
A high decibel whistle, your best land audio rescue tool.
Binoculars, an indispensable sighting tool for survival Never underestimate to utility of even the most basic of signaling tools. Most people would never think of binoculars as a rescue tool, but this is such an important tool that is cannot be overstates it is a must have carry item for every hiker and backpacker. Compact binoculars are the overall best for trail carry, but the larger and more powerful binoculars are best, So this is a personal carry choice and the weight vs power factor is up to you. A 10 power magnification is a good choice, but an 8 power will get the job done in most every situation. The whistle and a good set of binoculars are a powerful signal tool for land rescue, the mirror and binoculars are equally as powerful in air rescue as a set of tools that work very effectively when used together. You should positively have a set of binoculars on you at all times in the wilderness. This is one of those items that are frequently set aside as optional carry, but should be with you in every trek as standard carry. Get a lite weight pair or even a monocular to save on weight, but one or the other at all times on any trail. Navigational sighting is dramatically improved with visual magnification, and seeing people that can help you is a huge advantage.
In a signal and rescue scenario, the macho men will want to be right more than be correct in effecting rescue. Get past this illness in the wilderness and do what gets you out alive. No one wants to be rescued in a litter basket on their wilderness adventure, letâ€™s face it, this can be embarrassing to some, but only a fool will risk death over a SRT team rescue that saves your live and ends the suffering of limited survival options. Allowing a SRT rescue team to do their job is all good in our opinion as every rescue makes an SRT team stronger and their next rescue could be a friend or loved one of yours. Any rescue is a successful rescue. So go with the flow and learn from your experiences. If you get rescued you are the most luck person on earth that day, you live to plan more adventures and become a better person for the experience. Many backpackers and hikers were rescued before they became life long dedicated wilderness adventure seekers. The fact that your signal systems got you out alive is something to be very proud of as all lost backpackers and hikers do not make it out alive, never forget this harsh fact of wilderness reality. National parks are such a beautiful experience, and so many people are lulled into a false sense of security in these majestic settings. The average person thinks there is some sort of invisible protective layer of security with the park rangers all around and a sense of peace and harmony that exudes from these very special places. Oh how very wrong you are my friend, National parks are primitive places preserved as a frozen place in time with all the natural hazards in place as nature intended. Signaling for help becomes very real when you are even just a few miles off the main road as these parks are very wild places even a few short steps into the very beginning of the baron wilderness. Rangers are only very few and very far between in the more remote wilderness of National parks. You are all alone and on your own essentially, you and mother nature. You may never see a single Ranger on a month long backpack as an example. If you just think of rescue signaling as a part of the adventure, you will be a natural in time of need and can skip the panic mode and get straight into action planning, and this is a huge plus for you and all in your group. If each person in your backpacking troop has at least two or three rescue skills that are well practiced, the group will be a strong an cohesive unit if and when rescue efforts are needed.
A spectacular vista in the remote Eastern High Sierra Mountains
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Always carry signal devices., if one fails, try another, etc. Signaling can be very effective day or night Sight, sound, radio or fire, pick the best for your situation Yelling at aircraft is 100% useless, mirror, fire, or laser can work Large contracting letters can work well for aircraft rescue Binoculars can be a huge asset to have to spot, then signal help Be sure all in your group have a basic signal system worked out High decibel whistles can carry for over a 1/4 mile on a calm day Whistles work better than a human voice most every time SOS with a whistle, light, or laser pen can work for rescue Flairs work well, but not many backpackers carry flairs Light stick on a string spinning can attract attention at night A basic flash light can be a good rescue device at night Striking your fire steel can attract attention at night for a mile+
Chapter 10 Weather When it comes to the #1 killer in the wilderness, weather is the king of all that breeds chaos. As you will have the proper gear with you and shelter making skills, weather should never become the grim reaper come calling, but you may feel this is the case in a biting cold wind storm with rain pounding your face hard enough to actually be of much discomfort. Blinding snow is no fun either, the lofty little flakes can cut visibility down to zero which is not a good situation to be in where sheer drop offs may become invisible, and yes, people go down slippery slopes and cliffs in every mountain snow storm as a hard rule with great frequency around the globe. Severe weather will take the seasoned mountaineer out just as fast as the newbie hiker or backpacker. No one is safe in erratic weather patterns created to deliver turmoil on mountain trails. As we write this book someone, somewhere, is getting the life sucked out of them on a mountain under winter like conditions, even when it is summer at the base of the mountain. City folk just have no clue what the mountains can do to a day hiker unprepared for a 50 degree temperature drop that can hit in a window of 30 minutes or less. If you are dressed for a summer day in the morning of your hike in, you may be frozen hard as a carp before you even have time to turn around and go back to your start point. This is mountain weather that holds no equal in terms of giving visitors frostbite and bone numbing cold when the day starts out like a dream in the morning. Hikers are the hardest hit victims due the “A” typical day hiker syndrome with shorts and a T-shirt, flip flops, and a slurpee in one hand, trail map in the other, and rarely a compass. If you ever have lived through a 50 degree temperature drop, you never go out unprepared again, or you got gun shy and don’t hike mountains any longer. Although we are huge mountain trekking adventure enthusiast, we also have to respect anyone that is smart enough to know when they met their match after a mountain trip dealt them a life changing experience, and the mountains will do this sooner or later to everyone that takes the dare. It’s just like the kid at school that we all knew,
on another kid poking his finger in his chest telling him “What cha gonna do” over and over again, weeks go by, ma be months, then one day, a year later the same kid picks on his victim again in the lunch line, little did he know, the victim had been taking martial arts lessons for the entire year, just waiting for the moment the bully goes just that little bit too far, and today was that day, next thing you know the bully gets kicked in the balls so violently his body flies back as he does a half gainer in the air and comes down hard on the concrete floor on the back of his head and that’s the last day the bully ever touches this kid again and he will not ever get within 30 feet of him after the week he spent recovering from getting his head handed to him and life lesson was learned the hard way. Mountain trail walking is a lot like that, think you are the king of the hill and you will get your head handed to you as the mountain will kick you in the balls and finish you off in under an hour if you challenged the mountain and came unprepared that day, that will be the day you get owned by the mountain big time, and you may not live to tell the tale. Weather is no joke, not to be tempted, not to be toyed with, and never to be challenged, you will never beat the mountain at it’s own game, all you can do is come fully prepared to deal with the potential wrath that may be unleashed upon you when you least expect it. Rule #1, expect the unexpected in the mountains, rule #2, Always be 100% prepared for the worst possible, most brutal weather mountains are known to deliver in the area you are backpacking in, and gear up for 50% more potential furry. This is how you walk out alive after disaster strikes, and this is the only type of preparation that a seasoned backpacker will plan on running into. You had better know how to build a functional snow cave and build one fast if the weather snaps a cold front on your ass. You can be challenged from happy go lucky trekking mode to full throttle survival mode in a flash in mountain territory. So have all your gear and supplies stocked up, fuel for 3 to 4 days more than you planned, food reserves, and that mountain survival contingency plan ready to put into action in a split nano second. There was recently a couple, one guy from San Diego that took a mountain trek to Mt. Rainier in January 2012. The were headed to the Muir snow field, but never made it as severe weather set in and
a solid week of arctic like weather with winds up to 100 Miles per hour. After a week, the weather broke a little and the SAR teams went out, to no avail, last report in early February, the search was off and they figured the bodies would be found in the spring thaw at some point in the future. Can you hear me now? Do not ever take the mountains on and challenge then with weather reports of adverse conditions rolling in. This couple had a cell phone, had mountain experience, were in their mid to late 30’s, and in peak condition. There is no surviving in 100 MPH winds in freezing to sub-freezing temperatures without a solid shelter in place, food to eat, and a warm secure snow cave to wait out a week long violent storm, even a few hours in these conditions will be certain death. A weather check and/or a visit to a Ranger station may have adverted this disaster before it had a chance to ever happen. Just a tragic situation that could have been avoided with proper pre-planning and a weather forecast LEADING the trekking decision making process. Never throw caution to the wind, ever! If you have traveled for 10 miles or 10,000 miles to take a backpacking trip, you base the decision to move forward and trek on based upon the weather forecast and your level of experience to deal with the conditions, and never should you never press on just because your plans would be buzz killed by the weather. Better the plans get buzz killed than you get killed from exposure for an adventure buzz you could not possibly handle at your experience level. This all comes back to that common sense we talk about over and over, and over again like a broken record. People just don’t want to ruin their trip plans, and then willfully proceed to bite off more than they can chew trekking into National parks every year. Yellowstone NP has Grizzle bears that attack and have been known to eat humans when provoked and/or with cubs in Spring. So perfect weather with all the meadows in their majestic bloom and splendor will buzz kill your trip if you just step within the bears boundary perception. Careless people is the problem however, not the bears, as you are always in the bears domain in the first place as a visitor. Keep in mind you are also on the bears “B list” as a potential food source. Only a village idiot gets positioned between a mama
As we follow our own rules, all risk are calculated and mitigated by factoring in and ALL circumstances before each trek. A spring time Yellowstone adventure requires a few extra gear pieces for example, TWO large bear spray canisters and a Ruger Super Red hawk Alaskan 454 Casull six shot revolver with 300grain ammo is a smart special gear selection. Just go talk with the park Rangers before you head out with this hand cannon strapped on and DO NOT EVER walk into any ranger station with a gun (even unloaded) to show it off to them, this is a very bad idea. Only if the Ranger on duty ask you to see your gun should you even think about showing it to them. You will need a valid carry permit in the State you are in to legally carry a gun with you into the park. Just be smart and donâ€™t be a show off, conceal your gun on the trail if and when possible and donâ€™t play cowboy. A gun is a survival tool and bear protection in the wilderness and should be carried only 100% legally and very discretely. If anyone tells a park Ranger a gun wielding village idiot is waving a hand gun around on the trail, your trip will end fast the second the Rangers helicopter comes to find you and remove you off the trail for a fast trip straight to Ranger jail. If you only get thrown out of the park with a hefty fine for public endangerment, you would be lucky. Getting back to the weather...be sure your gear and the season match, if the area you are in has wide temperature swings, be sure to gear up accordingly. Hot weather is extremely dangerous when it comes to dehydration, and most people hike in hot weather with only half the water, or less, than half the volume they need to keep fully hydrated. Weight is typically the excuse, but weight is the necessary evil you must accept as required gear, this is part of the deal. If you are in an area that is hot but has abundant water supply along your route, water carry is not an issue at all basically, just fill as you go. If your route is very arid with few if any water holes, you need to camel up and carry a much larger volume of water, simple a that. The route dictates your water carry reserves, and if your route leads to large open areas with no water and little shade, and the temperatures are over 80 degrees at mid day, you only trek as far as one gallon per one hour of walking will take you, remember, you may have to backtrack and will need water for the return walk. We see people walking that are seriously dehydrated in many park
settings all over the world that have water holes everywhere, they just don’t think and drink enough to keep their body hydration in check with the evaporation factors. You need to drink very frequently when the weather is hot as perspiration and aspiration in breathing is depleting your bodies water balance 5 times faster than normal, so you can get hit with headaches, cramps, and fatigue 5 times faster that your normal city “sitting around at home lifestyle”. The human body does not, and cannot ever adapt to dehydration, so you have to consciously make the added hydration effort and develop frequent hydration habits on the trail at all times. A water bladder with a bite valve is the simple solution, just train yourself to take a sip or two at frequent intervals. Easier said than done for most people, but this new habit is one that absolutely must be mastered in hot weather conditions, especially when the relative humidity is under 20 percent. Factor in higher altitudes, and dehydration sensitivity can double due to lower oxygen levels above 7,500 feet. Altitude sickness itself can be fatal if not recognized and dealt with quickly, if you are dehydrated and get hit with altitude sickness known to kick in at elevations starting as low as 8,000, you can pass out and go comatose, it’s nothing to take lightly as each individual has their own sensitivity to these conditions. As you see, weather is both your nemesis and your friend, safe trekking depends on your personal bodies conditioning level, personal psychology, Air pressure, altitude, humidity levels, hydration level, being rested and fresh, taking time to adapt to higher altitudes before a high altitude hiking and backpacking, and being in tune with the weather forecast as the linchpin to calculate the hitting the train head with the odds stocked on your side of a safe and pleasant trip. We all know weather is not an endeavor into rocket science level formulations to know if you are not exceeding your experience level. Should you have even a sliver of a doubt you can handle the weather forecast on your route plan, just stop and hit the reset button, reassess, check your ego out at the door, go over your gears thermal ratings, access your comfort survival skill level honestly, and then see if the hotel of the trail will be your destination choice that day. We have no hesitation to ditch a trek that a bad weather forecast predicts will exceed our risk reward considerations. If the weather tells us the
that the evening temperatures will be down to -10 degrees, and our gear selection at the home front base camp packing station only called for +30 degree sleeping systems, we camp out either in the car or a hotel, that simple. Even though we can get a +30 degree rated sleeping bag down to a -10 degree sleeping system rating with a fleece liner and specific clothing layering, this just may not be worth the added risk and potential added discomfort. If it is only a night or two, and the weather is forecasted to get back on track in a warming trend with decent conditions, sure, we can gear up at the locations base camp, either at the hotel or a tent based camp, and set forth. It is ultra rare for us to hotel base camp, but sometimes this is desirable when we have a large gear selection to pack out with that our contingency plan factored in on the home base trip planning pack out. We can at times take up to 3 times the gear we actually backpack out with. This allows us a huge scope of route plan modifications so 99.999% of the time we hit a destination, we can backpack on the original trail and time line, trek on an alternate trail, and/or change the duration on the original trail mileage for example. So we always remain 100% flexible, fully prepared for variations, and enjoy whatever trek the weather conditions dictated as the smartest and most predictable trek plan to follow. This is always subject to the sometimes totally surprise visit weather variables we often encounter as the weather is never guaranteed to hold out as forecasted. The best and safest way to test your weather endurance factors and gear selection is to wait for inclement weather to hit your local neighborhood, gear up to deal with it, and walk for 5 miles straight up and down the steepest hills you can find in your area to see if your gear and tolerance is up to the task, even if the hills are on the streets. After your 5 mile trek, re access your gear, your personal tolerance levels, and make the appropriate adjustments. Remember that being painfully uncomfortable is not normal, but mildly out of your comfort zone is to be considered very normal, and this should be fully expected. Being wet, in pain, excessively cold, and/or hating life in general is not normal, and you either need a gear adjustment, more time to adapt to backpacking with weight loads, more time invested in learning how to property pack your backpack, or perhaps seriously consider renting a mule or goat under ideal weather conditions only.
We love backpacking in the rain and cold as the feeling of being warm and dry where most others run and hide is testament to wise gear selection appropriate to maintain relative comfort levels that are easily tolerable for 8+ hours of trekking. We would not want to trek for a solid week in the wilderness under such adverse conditions, but knowing with supreme confidence that a two week trek plan with one week one of trekking into the wilderness under perfect conditions and a bad turn in the weather for the entire week two back out would not be any problem whatsoever is very comforting and a challenge that we could endure without incident nor any risk of exposure. Nasty weather should always be factored into a trip plan, just as long as you do not get in over your head itâ€™s all good. Our very first trip into Yosemite was welcome by heavy rain, winds, and a massive rock slide within less that a half mile from us. If we had been under the rock slide we would have been mashed like a ripe grape, but fortunately, we were only dealing with wind, chill, and rain, not enough to even stop us from cooking a nice hot meal of tasty fresh hot sausage cooked in extra virgin olive oil with hot tea on the side to warm us up, all in relatively complete creature comfort in fact. Adapting mentally to adverse weather is more the case for most people, not the physical aspect of the experience as physically we can easily gear up and stay comfortable. Just think about the shower you take every day of your life (hopefully every day), the water is refreshing, warm, and just feels great. Outside we see rain and run for cover to try and avoid getting a drop on us, how ironic this is. Sure, we do not shower with our cloths on, and rain is generally cold, but rain is just an outside shower system, and most people do not have a fear of showers. Take your trail clothing gear, suit up, and get under your shower as cold as the water can get full blast for 5 solid minutes to test your gear, your personal tolerance levels, and then access your level of wilderness wet weather resistance tolerance. If you cannot handle 5 minutes in your shower, you need to get to a point where you can do so and feel ok with another 15 minutes after the 5 minute test is up. You should be warm, dry, and cozy after this test to pass. Be patient, it is 20 times harder that most people think it will be at first, but gets 19 times easier after your gear and adaptation adjustments all get dialed in. If you get caught in this test by a loved one
family member, or roommate, assure them you are not stupid blinding drunk, having a bad acid trip, ate one too many mushrooms, or have just lost your mind with a sign taped to the outside of the bathroom door stating “ GEAR WEATHER TESTING IN PROCESS”. Getting a grip on weather is a huge plus for all wilderness adventurist. In fact, the weather is never a challenge you cannot deal with if you are simply prepared to deal with it, and you will always need to deal with less than perfect weather on at least 3 out of every 10 trips as a good ratio to factor into your contingency planning 101. Having a good hank of climbing rope, say a 50’ length piece is optional but advisable in any snow conditions as you can tie off on each person in your party to avoid getting separated in white outs, very common in mountainous trekking. Also handy to rope up a fallen hiker that may have slipped down a hidden drop off, hopefully not a long drop off. A full 60m or 70m of climbing rope will allow you to rappel, climb, and traverse many hazards in all weather conditions, snow and ice being the most dangerous typically. The weight of most climbing ropes is between 56g to 68g per meter, so we are back to the always present weight carry considerations once again. Whatever you do, be sure to only carry a “Double Dry” climbing rope with you as this special type of rope will tolerate cold wet weather conditions very well. Normal rope will absorb water, freeze up, and become virtually inflexible (rigid) and totally useless when wet and in freezing weather. Be prepared to throw down up to $260.00 for 70m of the good stuff. Cheap regular hardware store rope is a good way to get yourself or others killed in the wilderness under conditions that happen frequently in the mountains. Buy a book on knots, bends, and hitches one you way out to the checkout line, rope is almost useless without understanding how to use it to it’s maximum potential properly. One improperly dressed knot can turn a bad situation worst with a secondary slip or fall. Weather requires much gear selection forethought, likely far more than you imagined as most people only think about an added jacket or sweater, and a decent hat selection, now you see it gets far deeper down the rabbit hole in process and preparation. If you hike or backpack only in nice weather, you can just eliminate many gear considerations and preparation processes, but if you get the backpacking
passion in your blood, you will be subjected to many weather conditions most would never dare trek in and you will be loving every step of your journey like the character “Captain Dan” in the movie “Forest Gump” where he was on top of the boat mast screaming at the top of his lungs looking skyward in the pouring rain in a thunder and lightening storm“HA.....IS THAT ALL YOU’VE GOT!!!” Just please do not try this one in the wilderness, or anywhere else for that matter, this is only a metaphor my friend, remember what happened to the school bully that one fateful day :-) How about adverse weather as your friend and ally for a twist? Yes, adverse weather can be a god send to a survivalist. Rain in a dry arid environment is a blessing if you are low or out of water, providing you know how to collect it. Heat can be equally as positive if you are freezing, wet, and cold. A glimmer of a warm bright sun after a long cold night is almost a spiritual experience some would say. We have been there, done that, and we say it is so in our trail travels. Just consider the fact opposites attract, if you are cold, you will absorb heat, if you are hot, you seek cold water to drink to cool off. Anytime you are at one end of an extreme weather condition, you will automatically seek to find balance moving towards the other end. Too far on either side of the spectrum and you instinctually will think and act on any impulse to find center again. Just like when I jumped into an ice cold lake (literally) in the Eastern Sirerras, twice in a row, that warm morning sun that came breaking through a cloud felt like a tethered life line linking me directly to heaven in my mind. Weather temperature swings can also provide you with water where no water can be found by extracting moisture from plants. The two most common way are a solar still and just wrapping a plastic bag around a tree branch with lots of green vegetation in the early morning and allowing the sun to create condensation in the plastic bag. Dew is taking moisture from thee air, and dew forms on grass and leaves during warm months shortly after sunrise and the temperature starts climbing creating condensation, exactly as a milk container does when taken out of the cold fridge once exposed to warm air. Water from snow is a no brainer, and once melted, is all you need for hydration. Mountain glacier water is best, but any clean snow will get the job done. When we backpack in the High Sierras
fresh Glacier water, it is the best water on earth, pure, healthy, and a real treat. Just be sure you are above the stream water line or cut snow directly from snow pack. If the water is from any stream, it must be boiled to drink. If the water is dripping from high glacier melt and has not touched the ground or any standing water, it can be consumed directly without boiling as it is untouched and still pure. Snow pack is also safe to drink after melting, just as ling as the snow is not yellow from animals, including human animals reliving themselves and there are no trail cookies on top (shit), just scrape off the top layer with your knife which typically has dirt from trail dust or tree debris on it, cut a cross hatch pattern in the snow, not touching the ground, scoop is up like making a snow ball, and get it inside either a pan for melting over your stove or into a Nalgine bottle for a natural solar powered melt down. Hot sun baked rocks are great to gather together and use a heat after the sun drops down, large rocks will generate heat for hours and even smaller rocks can be places into pockets as hand warmers, inside sleeping bags, and warm your blood directly when held on the side or front of your neck near the Carotid Artery . A hot rock will ease muscle soreness just as well as any commercial hot pack will, and also help draw out toxin in an infection, which is a very, very last resort remedy. Rocks can be rubbed together to make a base power that will work as a sun block or even war paint as used by the Native Americans when mixed with a few drops of water if mud or clay dirt is unavailable. The sun can even heat rocks in a plastic bag to make a very Primitive/Hybrid hot pack in a pinch. Indeed weather can be your friend even when your friend is behaving badly. If you can draw out the best of what mother nature doles out, you are a true survivor with the skills to extract gold when others will only see the dirt at their feet. Such is the way nature works its miracles before you, your job is to learn how to harness weather to work for and not against you whenever practical. These skills take time to master, so learn these skills one it a step at a time and be patient. Even the simple survival skills can be challenging, weather is the supreme survival skill test and using the weather to your advantage is an art and a science only very few can master.
Learning to read the weather is another fine skill to learn that takes time, primitive tribes in the world can read the sky with amazing accuracy and some say they can even taste the moisture in the air as elephants are known to have the ability to do from 20 miles away from a water source. As you get in tune with nature, you senses will tune into the subtle changes in moisture and air temperature, barometric pressure, and even the smell of the air. All wild animals do this naturally, even insects are in more tune with nature far more than us humans are at this way point in our evolutionary cycle.
Mule train on the return leg from â€œBishop Passâ€? Eastern Sierras
Chapter Review+ â€˘ q
Chapter 11 First Aid In the wilderness first aid is really FIRST aid, what this means is, precaution is what you need to rely on, your first actions to avoid infections are critical as a good example of what most people overlook. Even the smallest cut and scratch can lead to serious infection. You always need to be 10 times more observant to any small cuts as it is the little benign things left unattended that can and often lead to medical situations escalating into to rescue level scenarios. Water, air, and dirt can carry many nasty little insidious, invisible to the naked eye microbial invaders, some even ravenousness flesh eating strains. In this edition, we will just keep focused on the very fundamental basics, common, and non life threatening situations you may encounter on the typical hiking and/or backpacking adventure. Cuts, scrapes, scratches, and burns are all part of wilderness adventure, so get use to these normal trail tribulations and always give even the most minute scratch the respectful attention of first aid as this will nip infection in the bud. The following items are the foundation of any field first aid kit. • A rugged semi-rigid zipper case - RED • Mirror -liteweight - 2 space blankets • Tweezers - scissors - nail clippers • 2” magnifying glass ( we keep one in our fire kit) • Gel antibiotic - alcohol wipes - iodine - lip balm - foot powder • Band aids - (good assortment of sizes) - SPF 50 sun block • Butterfly bandages - (work in place of stitches on the trail) • Gauge pads - (assorted sizes) • Aspirin - pain killer lotion - anti-ich cream • Medical tape (two full rolls) • Any personal prescription medication • Eye wash and eye wash cup • ACE bandage wrap ( x 2 suggested)
Once you get the basics in your kit, there are many other first aid “nice to have” items you can add to your first aid kit. As always, be mindful of the weight as a first aid it can grow into a 2 or 3 pound beast very quickly. No need to take a full bottle of aspirin when 12 tablets or capsules will get the job done for example. The tendency to over back is a constant battle in backpacking especially, with virtually everything, the first aid kit is not immune to this tendency, and in fact, the first aid kit can get out of control fast. No need to take your entire medicine cabinet on a 3 to 5 day adventure, just overkill. So get all your essentials together, and sure, a few extra band-aids and a spare lip balm will not weight your down on the trail, just keep the kit simple, functional, and filled with the bare essentials. On the trail, altitude headaches are common, strained ankles can be expected in very rough terrain, cuts are common, and bugs can and do bite, so just be prepared with a first aid kit that address all the common trail miladies on should expect on any wilderness adventure. Being mindful of your surroundings and footing on the trail will minimize your first aid requirements, but you will be visiting the first aid kit at least 2 or 3 times on every trip as a general rule of thumb. So consider the first aid kit a go to “TRAIL TUNE UP” kit, as this is what you will find the first aid kit soon becomes on the trail. Most people think of a first aid kit as only an emergency kit, when in fact it is not used for true genuine serious emergencies in 99.00% of any outdoor adventures you will ever go on. You will quickly learn that a trail first aid kit is an important tool you will use quite frequently in the wilderness. A real medical emergency is one where you are hitting the SOS button on your trusty “SPOT LOCATOR” as you tend to a medical issue that will require paramedics and a helicopter rescue to a hospital. You will not have the experience, training, nor the tools in your trail first aid kit to handle serious emergencies, and sending out a rescue call to professionals “IS” your first aid in such cases. Just stop any bleeding, calm the victim, and keep them warm and dry is all you do for first aid as you await professional rescue for any and all serious injuries. Last thing you want to even consider is going into Rambo mode by not calling for a rescue and trying to tough it out by making a bad situation potentially a deadly situation by overriding common sense.
As guys will often do, the macho mind set can easily turn a professional rescue solution into a SAR team body recovery mission. Better to come out alive than in a body bag due to poor decision making by unqualified buddies that are well intended that can very easily underestimate the true and genuine serious of any given situation in the wilderness. People can, and frequently do underestimate medical situations when out on the trail. Reasons for this are many, but most common is all the planning and packing that proceeded the adventure drive people to push on out of a psychological need to live out the whole adventure you have planted in your own mind as though it was a live or die Military operation that you must complete as you envisioned it to play out in your head to become your reality. This is the first mistake people new to the sport of backpacking make, the “MISSION” mind-set, and this leads to invite problems rather than the pleasure you really desire to experience. So what does this have to do with first aid you say? In a word “Everything”. We say this because many medical emergencies are more frequently invited into your world rather than random accidents. Hiking is all about going with the flow, being flexible in terms or route changes, and letting the experience happen rather than forcing your adventure to fit into your expectations, which may have been beyond your ability, or level of readiness. If you suddenly realize you are ready to pass out because your body suddenly got hit by altitude sickness, STOP, chill, relax, take a few aspirins, drink some water and just go with the flow bro. Park it for the night if you just don’t feel like you are recovering after 30 minutes, it’s wise to just chill out and give your body the adjustment period it needs to function. Pushing on to avoid holding your friends back is the last thing you should be doing, let them trek on if they need to, you can always catch up with them later, or just trek back to the trail head and relax, and plan a trip at a lower altitude on a future trip, or set up your personal camp and sleep it off. You should never feel pressured to trek on when your body tells you to just stop and hit the reset button. If you stopped, because you just passed the first aid 101 test with flying colors, you did what you knew was the best and right thing to do for your own best interest, health, and safety, congratulations!!!
Perhaps now you are seeing the picture of what first aid is a little clearer? First aid is listening to your body and acting on what you feel you need to do to be safe and healthy on the trail. If you are taking your very 1st or 20’th adventure, same rules will always apply. Listen to your body, rest, stop, turn back, sleep, or trek on at a slower pace are all options you must keep open to at all times on the trail. Never be pushed or prodded into getting so far out of your comfort zone as to invite injury, it’s just not worth it. Typically a 15 minute rest is all it takes to reset, but it may take you an hour or an overnight pit stop. So first aid is more in your hear than in the kit you carry with you for the common, minor, typical first aid solutions. Many times we had our trail plans diverted, inverted, converted, and retrofitted into new trail plans on the fly. This is how you play it safe and still get the full adventure experience with minimal chances of injury and virtually eliminate most all potential for true emergency situations. You remember the young couple that was climbing Mt. Rainier in 01-2012, and paid the ultimate price with their life on their fun adventure trip. A “spot locator” SOS call, turning back at the first sight of bad weather, or just staying at the lodge when the weather forecast indicated the big storm was rolling in would have spared two lives that day. But no, they pressed on, threw caution to the wind, and could not have possibly even carried enough survival gear to endure the severe weather that came in with 100mph winds at times, there is no possible chance of surviving in this severe weather, at any expert survival level. First aid was stay at the lodge and just chill out and relax in this case, but this is not how it played out. Do you see the big picture now? Let common sense lead the way. First aid is a mind set more than a red box package you carry with you. Much like exercising and preparing your body for walking with a 40 pound backpack, another form of first aid so to speak, better know as pre-habilitation preparation, exactly as all professional athletes do weeks, and typically many months before an event or new season begins. First aid is always an integral part of all trail trekking, it is up to you how much risk you are taking and to what degree you will be needing to visit the trusty first aid kit along your journey.
You should be up to speed on all your basic first aid techniques and we strongly suggest you read up on first aid with books that specifically address such topics as we are not doctors, EMTâ€™s, nor first aid specialist and this book is for beginners and intermediate hikers and backpackers that want to brush up on, refresh, and get up to speed on being a well prepared and safe hiker/backpackers and all that heed our sage advice should minimize their need for first aid beyond the daily basic first aid kit visits to cover your basic trail needs. If you are gun-ho, and like pressing the envelope, chances are you will need an emergency rescue at some point on your future wilderness adventures, and in such cases, a â€œSPOT LOCATORâ€? for your style of wilderness travel is the very best advice we can offer you as all the first aid reading you can get your hands on will never qualify you to set broken bones in the field nor deal effectively with severe trauma from falls in a professional capacity. So an SOS call to Search and Rescue would be your smartest move as you only make the victim comfortable as possible as the professional help you will need to employ is summoned. Most of your first aid tasking will be limited to quickly dressing cuts, abrasions, dispensing aspirin, applying sun screen, messaging sore muscles, and having the common sense to stop and wait out any fatigue issues along the trail, and watching for any signs of altitude sickness, which can, does, and has turned deadly for individuals trekking over 7,000 ft. above MSL (Mean Seal Level) that have not had sufficient time to acclimate to the altitude changes. There is no way to gauge in advance how susceptible anyone will be to altitude changes. Fitness level, gender, and experience in climbing at elevation has no bearing on the susceptibility to altitude sickness, so observation of the effects and symptoms are all you can do to avoid complications. Feeling faint, weak, short of breath, and getting a headache are the common altitude sickness signs, but keep in mind that dehydration symptoms are almost identical. If you are 100% hydrated, and these symptoms are presenting themselves, you are most likely seeing the beginning stages of one succumbing to altitude sickness. Keep in mind that any prescription medication you are taking can also present the effects of sickness at altitude, if you become concerned, STOP, retreat to a lower altitude if stopping does not seem
to abate the problem. Altitude sickness is serious business, take no chances of pressing on if a 30 minute rest period does not begin to abate your complications. If it does not heal with rest “REGRESS” back down the trail to lower altitude without a moment hesitation! Just as divers get the bends from surfacing too fast and have to be placed into pressure chambers, you are essentially doing the identical procedure by getting your trail buddy back into a higher atmospheric pressure by lowering your altitude and thus increasing the ambient pressure to relive the altitude sickness symptoms. Just keep going down until the symptoms go away. If the symptoms do not appear to be diminishing “HIT THE SOS BUTTON” on your SPOT LOCATOR and stay in place. Better safe than sorry. Not to state the obvious, but a ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure as a standing rule when it comes to first aid. Some people get it and others just need to learn this the hard way via trial and error. If you follow the suggestions herein, you can avoid the rough road and travel on the road paved with knowledge of those that came before you and eliminate the hard road of travel, it’s up to you to be careful and thoughtful in your conduct out in the wilderness. If you don’t get in front of yourself by pushing the boundaries, chances are very good you will be a very safe and sound on the trail. The moment ego, macho, or the “know it all” attitude enters the equation, 99% of avoidable troubles and complications are bound to enter into your world and bring grief to you entire group adventure as it only takes one wing nut to throw a wrench in the works that can effect everyone. So if you know in advance one of your parties falls into the danger zone category, go with your gut and just don’t invite them to your wilderness adventure party. Your instinct will be right every time, just don’t go against your better judgement when selecting people to go with on your journey as the last thing you want to be doing is playing caretaker for a village idiot that broke a leg playing the fool by exceeded their limits and blatant failure to use basic common sense. Many a fool has lost their life needlessly by pushing their limits to a point of terminal endings with fatal skull fractures in the wilderness. Your selection of safe hiking companions cannot be overstated as the very first intelligent step to implementing precautionary first aid.
The “SPOT LOCATOR” Every Hiker and Backpacker should never leave civilization without this invaluable tool in your backpack in our opinion.
A field expedient hot pad is a very simple and fast to make for any wilderness injury need, or just as a body warmer. This will stay very hot for 45 minutes, and very warm for just over an hour. 1. Take a large saleable plastic bag, a thick 3 or 4 mil bag is best. 2. Heat a full cup of water to rolling boil. 3. *Open the plastic bag and place a piece of clothing, or better yet, a face cloth folded, flat in the bag (a light weight camping towel will also work). 4. Carefully pour the hot water in the plastic bag with the cloth until the cloth is 100% saturated, and then just a little more. 5. Seal the bag, double check the seal, wrap in another bag, a trash bag is ideal as a secondary seal in case the zip lock bag opens. 6. Place inside a knotted pant leg or wrap in a shirt so you will not get accidently burned by direct contact, and you are done!
*A common home face cloth was used for this discovery. This technique was discovered by one of the authors, Robert, on a backpacking trip in the Sierras when a backpacker hyper extended a knee and needed first aid ASAP in the field. An hour later this field made hot pack was still cranking out serious BTUâ€™s and actually came as a very good discovery born out of sheer necessity in the moment of need for this emergency. What a great tool for treating sore muscles, strained back, warming cold extremities, and inside a sleeping bag just to name a few common uses for a hot pad in the wilderness. I used a super cat (cat food can) home made alcohol stove (about 1+/- ounce of denatured alcohol) to boil the water in about 4 minutes. Kept the water hot just as long, if not longer, as a commercially sold hot water bottle for home use. Great discovery, if you need this tool for your camp or on the trail, it will serve you well and works like a champ! We decided heat was the best tool to use, there was tons of glacier ice all around camp for cold compress on this trip. So we had both hot and cold compresses readily available to press into service as needed. Backpacker made a speedy 100% recovery in two weeks.
Joshua Tree National Park on one of our desert Backpacking Trips
Chapter Review+ • Even the smallest cut and scratch can lead to serious infection. • Nip infection in the bud. • On the trail, altitude headaches are common. • Call for help if you think you need it, better safe than sorry. • First aid is a mind set more than a red box package you carry. • Avoid dehydration at all cost in the wilderness. • Your selection of safe hiking companions cannot be overstated. • ___________________________________________________ • ___________________________________________________ • ___________________________________________________ • ___________________________________________________ • ___________________________________________________ • ___________________________________________________ • ___________________________________________________ • ___________________________________________________ • ___________________________________________________ • ___________________________________________________
Chapter 12 Putting it all Together The time has come to take all this knowledge and put the zig saw pieces all together for a cohesive wilderness package and safe adventure. We hope you have assembled, or soon will, a complete gear package that will serve to bring you great comfort and security on the trail. Now that you have the big picture, we will give you a run through of â€œhow toâ€? glue it all together. As we are all individuals and we all have our way of doing things to suit our specific needs on the trail, keep in mind this is an outline that will cover all the basic framework of a complete backpack of gear that will support you on virtually any adventure in the spring, summer, or early fall in most regions. As winter wilderness travel is a dangerous endeavor at best, and only suggested for intermediate to advanced backpackers, we will focus on the months with no snow and above freezing temperatures we strongly suggest and all beginner hikers and backpackers should start out with as an adventure planning scenario. Desert travel in the summer should not be on the starter list of adventure destinations either, far too many advanced skills for the subject of this book as desert travel in summer heat presents many very advanced skills and advanced training that requires a qualified guide and hands on training in the field. Best you begin your outdoor wilderness experiences in the temperature zone of 50 to 75 degrees F. This will allow you to get dialed in without the need to invite the risk heat stroke or hypothermia. If you have really heeded all you have read thus far, and place caution in front of all your logistical calculations, you can explore a wider temperature window, but if this is your first trip into the wilderness, best you play is safe and keep in the suggested starter temperature window range of 50 to 75 degrees F. If you follow the basic packing list and suggestions, chances are you will have a comfortable and very rewarding wilderness adventure experience on each and every trip and adventure. We will start out with the 12 must have items and move forward from this point and then get into a little fine tuning of your gear package.
Top 12 basics 1. Water bladder , bottle(s), Water filter/purifier 2. Ample supply of food for your trip, plus 2 day reserve food 3. Proper clothing, shelter, and sleeping gear, sleeping pad 4. Fire making kit for dry and/or wet weather fire needs 5. Sun block, sun cream, first aid kit, sun glasses 6. Cooking gear - Stove, fuel, utensils, spork, cups, bowels, etc. 7. Compass, Map(s), trail plan, head light, contingency plan(s). 8. Properly fitting back pack, professionally fitted for comfort 9. Trail shoes that have been property fitted with good socks 10. Hat, buff, gloves, scarf, gators, spare batteries, knife 11. Your travel plans in the hands of at least 2 or 3 trusted friends 12. Signal gear - Spot locator, whistle, green laser light, cell phone The 12 topics above assure you keep hydrated, fueled, dry, warm, protected from the sun and elements, have a portable kitchen, directions, a carry pack that provides comfort, shoes to protect your feet and ankles, property accessories, trip monitoring for safety, and the ability to effect self rescue when and if ever needed. There are several variations of the top 10, top 12 etc., but this 12 topic list will cover all your bases conclusively. It would be advised to carry portable solar panel for recharging batteries, but this is optional, and you always turn OFF your cell phone with a fully charges battery before entering the wilderness, even though the chances are slim it will work, and the chances of cell phone reception in the wilderness should always be considered zero. The â€œSPOT LOCATORâ€? is your main communication tool as it is GPS connected, but you may well need to make an effort to get a clear satellite line of sight connection. If you can secure 4 or 6 sturdy plastic milk crates as we use, packing for your trip can be much easier and more organized, we use 6. 1. All Sleeping gear, tent 2. All hydration gear, dry bags, rain gear, trash bags 3. All Cooking gear, sealed fuel canisters, gel fuels, wet fuels 4. All accessories, hats, gloves, knifes, compasses 5. Fire making gear, First aid related, strapping, sealed baggies 6. All Misc. gear, tarps, tent footprint, odds and ends, cordage, etc.
Having a basic storage system for all your gear makes packing for any trip much more organized, and virtually eliminates searching for lost gear that can easily become misplaced. Weather we are going for a day hike or a 2+ week outdoor trek deep into the wilderness, the starting place is always the same, we lay out our gear boxes on the garage floor or in the living room, and run through the checklist for packing. Needless to say, the food supply is always first and foremost as the weight considerations follow ample food supply. As you need to keep your entire backpack at or under 25% OF YOUR BODY WIGHT, you will only take the food you require with 2 days slim reserve rations. Food can and will put you over the top in terms of weight very fast. On the trail you must eat 6 times a day, and only 500 calories or less per serving as a general rule of thumb to not get bogged down with digesting food when in motion, your evening meal should be the largest meal of the day as you will need this to generate body heat and there will be 8 to 10 hours for digestion at rest. If you are in BEAR country, bear canisters are not optional carry unless you want to wake up with no chow one morining afrer a friendly black bear finished off entire your food supply. National parks with bears require mandatory bear canister carry, and this is not optional gear. You can rent them from the ranger station for as little as $5.00 a week, or purchase them before your trip and bring them with you. We have our own as it os much easier to plan food carry this way. A good bear canister will run about $70.00 at REI. Once your food is squared away, you got directly to your gear check list and start pulling gear for the trip (see appendix â€œBâ€?). Packing a backpack is an art and a science, and it takes a little practice to dial it all in. Your most common issue will be weight control. It is a constant balancing act to keep pack weight in check with your body weight, and we assure you the first 2 to 6 attempts will put you over the top as a general rule for most people. Having a scale is a must, and even weighing your items in advance is not a bad idea. Hard core backpackers have each and every piece of gear broker down by the GRAM! At first you will think this is rather extreme and anal retentive, but after the first trip you take where you broke the 25% body weight to pack ratio, you will painfully first hand understand this all important concern, especially so at high altitude.
An overweight back pack will put you in the house of pain once you begin hitting grade and altitude. I scored my Gregory Denali backpack from a hurting beginning/novice backpacker that only took 4 or 5 trips with an overloaded backpack and told me he was done with backpacking for life and would be hiring a goat or mule for all future wilderness adventures. I was glad to hear he was going to continue his wilderness trekking, I was far happier that he was parting with his $500.00 backpack for only $150.00 however:-) It will take a few packing attempts to get in the zone with the right balance of gear and also get the weight just right as well. Be patient with yourself and understand that you will need a little practice and repetition to hit the numbers just right. We assure you that you can get by with much less that you will first think you will need. This is lesson one in beginning backpacking and you will just need to work through it a few times. When you have all your gear laid out, look at your backpack and see if logic tells you it will all fit. Backpacks come in many sizes and are measured in LITTERS of capacity. This ranges from 25 to 100 litters for hikers and backpackers. 65 litters is a good 3 to 4 day trekking capacity and you never should feel compelled to stuff your backpack to capacity just to fill the interior spaces. The trip always predicates the volume, never the packs capacity. I have a 100 litter backpack and rarely fill it to over 75 litters, maybe 80 litters max. I like the spare room, and if a fellow hiker needs to unload a little weight due to injury or exhaustion, I have the extra room to contend with this contingency situation, and this exact situation has happened more than once on the trail where the options are few and always limited. If you went to have a backpack professionally fitted, the first question will be â€œHow many days will you be trekking, and how many people in your party?â€? Experienced backpackers will be packing their gear much differently than new and inexperienced backpackers, so many factors come into play when selecting a backpack. Experienced backpackers pack out as a total team effort, each packing specific items for the groups needs, then individual needs. Inexperienced backpackers tend to first pack out for individual needs, and secondly for the groups general needs. Each style can work, but the packing
style is quite different between true expedition team travel and the typical average backpackers style. As we are advocates of self contained backpacking with each individual carrying all they personally need with a contingency plan for possible separation scenarios, we will back out exactly as we suggest you pack out will a self contained gear package, which is more like a Military style pack out and not the Everest mountain level expeditions pack out style where one person has most the food, one with most the sleeping gear, another with the cooking and communication gear. etc., as an example. The Military pack out style is best for most all backpackers as a general rule, and is the safest method for backpacking in general. When We pack out as a 2 person unit, we will however break out the packing with on person in charge of the food carry and the other in charge of the tent and sleep bag carry as this balances out the load favorably between two people, and this is designed to lighten the female carry load as the 25% PACK TO BODY WEIGHT RATIO must be in check. You can mix and match your loads as you see fit, there is no right or wrong way to carry in terms of gear selection carry balancing between your group members. The packaging of the gear in your backpack is however critical, and goes as follows.... 1. Light weight, lofty items go into your pack first, in the bottom of 1/3 your pack. 2. Medium weight items in the next, or second 1/3 of your pack. 3. Heavier weight items in the top 1/3 of your pack. 4. All frequently needed, and rain protection should be either hanging in the outer straps of your pack, and/or in the smaller outer pockets. 5. Whistles, and knifes may be worn on the neck with para cord, this is our preferred method, and we feel itâ€™s ideal for trail carry of these potentially fast need access items.
Compression sacks, mesh bags, dry bags, and zippered carry bags of various sizes all serve to keep you highly organized and also serve to make packing your back pack very efficient and structured. We typically have 4 dry sacks, 1 large as a primary gear internal dry system, ad then 3 smaller dry sacks for smaller items we want to keep handy and not inside the main dry bag which is a hassle to get into and open for every need. We also have 4 mesh carry bags, 1 for dirty laundry that will hang on the outside of the backpack, and 3 smaller mesh bags for items such an sun screen, personal cooking gear, and any other small items that are best to keep separated and organized so items will not get lost or misplaced in the main backpack, or even the outer pockets for that matter. There is also the benefit of keeping small items from clanging and banging around as you are hiking, which can get on the nerves and distract one from focusing on keeping an eye on the trail for the frequent trip over obstacles. Always use hiking specific dry bags and mesh sacks as these are specifically designed as feather lite accessories to keep your carry load minimized. Many new hikers and backpackers will use â€˜base campâ€? gear, or may be tempted to use whatever gear they have for camping in the garage, which is typically not designed for long distance carry, can be very heavy, and may also be bulky. Heavy, bulky, and awkward are three words that are the cardinal sin of backpacking 101. Pack lite, minimal, and compress all that can be compressed with compression sacks specifically made for backpacking carry. Never exceed 25% of your body weight in your backpack on your first trip, if you do, this could end your enthusiasm for wilderness travel very quickly. If you have 2 or three backpack trips under your belt, only then will you know how the weight of a loaded back pack will effect you, and how your body will cope with the combination of the added weight, altitude, trail profile, heat, cold, and a full day of trekking as real world experience. Starting out fresh and eager at the trail head can turn into a very different feeling even as soon as only 2 to 4 miles in the wilderness under moderate to steep trail conditions and at altitudes even as low as 5,000 ft. Resist the overwhelming temptation to overpack, as this is the most frequently underestimated calculation most every new hiker and backpacker will make, and pay the price for, big time!
Just to give you an example of how experience serves to dial backpack loads, I have a 100 liter Gregory Denali backpack that can handle 80 lbs. of gear very easily, the backpack can that is, not me. I also have a 30 liter Gregory-Z backpack, basically for our day hikes, but this back can also support a 3 day 2 night wilderness adventure with no problem whatsoever, property packed. The operative word is â€œPROPERLYâ€? packed. You know you have earned your dues and have mastered several skill sets when a 3 day 2 night trek can be done in relative comfort with a small 30 liter pack, and yes, it is not only possible, it is desirable to pack this way whenever possible. There are minimalist strategies which come into play, such as no tent (Bivvy and a small tarp), minimal lite weight sleeping system, MRE food rations, close to water source travel (keeps water carry weight to under 2 lbs.), and minimal navigation aids, map and compass only, ultra lite personal cooking system and one cooking cup for all heated food and water needs. This will keep you lite, moving fast, and allows you to conserve your energy for more challenging trail profiles. Digital TOPO maps such as National Geographic produces are invaluable tools for pre-planning any wilderness adventure as this software gives you pin point trail profiles so you can know well in advance the trail challenges which will be presented on your trip. A first time backpacker will likely not appreciate this software nearly as much as a backpacker that has been on 2 or 3 adventures with challenging terrain, and knows first hand how their body reacts to load, temperature, altitude, and trail conditions. Once you have the real word experience, the $50.00 for these software programs will have a substantial level of importance to you and you will never backpack again without the aid of these invaluable trail mapping programs which also allow you to print out your trail maps in the proper scale for precise navigation with both a compass an/or a GPS system. As pre planning is the key to every single wilderness adventure, computer trail mapping software ranks at the top of any adventure plan. Brush up on your fire making skills before you have to depend on them for trail survival as the trail is the very last place you want to be practicing fire making, this goes for all other survival skills for that matter. Hit the trail with all basic SKILLS mastered in advance.
It is very important to remember that this book is not the holy grail of backpacking mastery, only tried and proven teachings from our personal experiences and backpacking trekking skills and adaptations we feel will work for all hikers and backpackers, but each hiker and backpacker will have their own way of going about their gear selection, packing, and physical pre-conditioning needs and many other personal preferences. This said, we do feel our way will work with a high degree of consistent results in terms of comfort, safety, and security on any wilderness adventure and in most environments you will likely ever encounter. Never go into any wilderness, anywhere, ever, without consulting a local expert. This can be a Ranger at a National park or Forest, or a tribal bushmaster in a remote jungle or tropical Forest. Local knowledge is to be considered your primary obligation and duty to seek out for the safety of your group, family, and yourself. You can follow this book to the most detailed degree and still get yourself and/or other injured or killed by false survival confidence where local animals, plants, snakes, reptiles, insects, terrain, waterways, fish, and/or weather conditions are not factored into your travel preparations and hard wired into your situational awareness for each specific wilderness adventure. A very good and simple example of this would be mistaking a brown bear for a Grisly bear, due to the fact what predictably easily scares off most any black bear can in fact get you mauled and killed if the exact same technique is attempted in the presence of a Grisly bear. So knowing how to handle geographical specific situations is far more important than all your foundational base plate well honed survival skills combined. Local knowledge is not optional. Take whatever time you need to prepare, be it weeks or months to feel comfortable and also take whatever time required to acquire all your basic backpacking or day hiking gear and then time to develop your basic survival skills. Perfect practice makes perfect. If it takes you a week or a day to reliably start a fire, the time invested will pay off for you. Who cares how fast you pick up the skills, only the fact you know how is important. If you need heat and you have to depend on a buddy that took 3 months to master fire starting skills, all that matters is you will not freeze to death, and fire will happen, period.
If anyone gets impatient with your ability to pick up survival skills, this is a very good indication that such a person is not a person you want to go wilderness tracking with as this attitude can and has killed may people in the wilderness as you must be mentally strong, focused, and patient in any wilderness survival situation. People that get impatient can be the first people to loose focus and crack under pressure in a real world survival situation. Calm, cool, and collected thoughts get you out alive in a wilderness situation. Skill sets in survival applied with intentions and focus will work out solutions that get you out alive. Even though this book is not a hard core wilderness survival manual by any means, wilderness trekking can always land you in a serious survival situation. Once you enter this mode, if required or forced into a true survival situation, the skills contained in this book will serve to keep your survival rate very high. Only the level of individual survival skills you personally master and the degree of proficiency you demonstrate in each skill set will ultimately predicate your personal survival probability. If you are a day hiker, it will serve you well to be prepared for wilderness trekking at the skill set level of an avid mountain backpacker. Conversely, if you are an avid mountaineer or Alpinist backpacker, your survival skill sets level would be desirable at the level of proficiency of an Army Ranger or Navy Seal. This may sound extreme to the uninitiated, but not to the experienced individual that understands all the sound reasons why this is so. Go back through the chapters one by one, master the knowledge, skills, and each recommendation provided for you to have a fun and exciting wilderness adventure, then practice and test yourself until you feel comfortable with your skills. When you are prepared for anything, everything will be better for your adventure as you will be confident and competent, two attributes that are very empowering in all wilderness experiences. If you are going trekking with a group, be sure everyone has their own copy of this book so you can be confident everyone understands how important it is to make fire, build shelter, understand what first aid really is all about, and how to plan a trip, and have all the right clothing and navigational skills and tools, etc.
Test each others individual skills in a friendly competition can be fun, this also lets you know who is best suited to get the camp fire started at night and who has the best outdoor cooking skills come chow time. Make your adventure as much fun as possible for all, as this is what wilderness trekking is ultimately, and really all about. If all your group is prepared, the experience will be so much more enjoyable and all that much more safe. We hope that you will fall in love with the wilderness and the experience of trekking into the wild as this is the ultimate high in life for all those that embrace natures raw beauty.
Black Bear Cubs
Marmot as seen out in the higher altitudes of the Eastern Sierras.
Chapter Review+ • Start out with as an adventure planning scenario. • Best to begin your hiking in the 50 to 75 degrees F zone. • Fire making kit for dry and/or wet weather fire needs. • Your travel plans in the hands of at least 2 or 3 trusted friends. • Signal gear - Spot locator, whistle, green laser light, cell phone. • Entire backpack at or under 25% OF YOUR BODY WIGHT. • Resist the overwhelming temptation to overpack. • 65 litters is a good 3 to 4 day trekking capacity back pack. • Whistles, and knifes may be worn on the neck with para cord. • Always use hiking specific dry bags and mesh sacks. • Pre planning is the key to every single wilderness adventure. • Be sure everyone has their own copy of this book for reference. • __________________________________________________ • __________________________________________________ • __________________________________________________ • __________________________________________________ • __________________________________________________
Gear Check List <> Backpack Gauze pads Zippers all checked iodine Straps all good antiseptic Buckles all good medical tape Check for rips or tears Butterfly bandages Waist belt good Bug repellent Chest strap good Mole skin Load balance straps good Aspirin Stitching all good Personal Medication Rain Fly for pack Sun Block lotion Attachments points all good Nail cutters Tweezers <> fire Kit Mirror Fire Steel Topical Pain Cream Char Cloth Diarrhea medication Cotton balls in P-Jelly Blood clotting pads Magnifying glass _____________________ Dry tinder _____________________ Magnesium Bar or Rod _____________________ Bic lighter _____________________ Para cord _____________________ Dryer lint balls _____________________ <>First Aid Kit _____________________ Band aids _____________________ Alcohol cleaning packets
Gear Check List <> Rain Gear _____________________ Rain Pants _____________________ Poncho _____________________ Top rain shell w/ hood _____________________ Check all for rips or tears _____________________ Emergency poncho _____________________ Hat /optional with hood _____________________ Shoe check <> Cooking Gear Button / zippers checked Fuel Velcro checked Stove Pull Tie cords checked Cups Rain gloves Bowels <> Clothing SPORKS Under layers Cleaning supplies Middle layers _____________________ Top layers _____________________ Hat _____________________ Gloves _____________________ Socks + silk under socks _____________________ Shoes, trail <> Protection (elements) Shoes, water crossing Sun glasses Gators Sun block Bandana Body bug net Thermals Bug repellent
Gear Check List Sun hat Protractor Sun burn ointment Trail markers on map Body bug net Wrist watch _____________________ Flash light/ Head light _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ <> Communication/Rescue _____________________ GPS - SPOT Locator Device <> Protection (security)
Knife Bear spray firearm (optional) Ammunition Walking stick Bear Bells Whistle Flash light/ Head light _____________________ _____________________ <> Navigation
Phone 2 way radios Whistle Laser pen Mirror Flair gun Glow sticks Compass GPS Meet spots marked on map Flash light/ Head light _____________________ _____________________
MAP(s) Compass <> Sleeping GPS Tent, stakes, rain fly, pad Landmarks marked on map Sleeping bag
Gear Check List Bivey, waterproof Sleeping pad Fleece liner <> Emergency
Foil blanket Para cord 2 way radios *Whistle Laser pen Mirror Flair gun Glow stick Map with meet spots Hand gun (optional) *Emergency shelter *Food reserves *Water reserves SPOT LOCATOR DEVICE *Compass *Map(s) *Fire kit Flash light/ Head light _____________________ _____________________
<> Hygiene (daily needs)
Tooth brush Tooth paste Body wipes Hand sanitizer Hair wash, Bio degradable Cat shovel Toilet paper, Bio degradable Hair comb/Brush Eye drops Contacts Famine products Hair ties Moisturizer Make up remover Cotton balls _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________
Gear Check List <> Food _____________________ Power bars _____________________ Whole grain cereal _____________________ Dried blueberries _____________________ Dries Strawberries _____________________ Powered milk _____________________ Top Romin _____________________ Dried vegies for soup _____________________ Nuts _____________________ Peanut butter _____________________ Foil sealed MRE’s _____________________ Seasonings _____________________ Vitaimins _____________________ Sandwitches _____________________ Chocolate (keep cool) _____________________ Gatoraid power _____________________ Jerkey (great trail food) _____________________ BEAR CANISTER Req.? _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________
Gear Check List _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________
_____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________ _____________________
Gear Check Summery Review There may be an overwhelming temptation to OVERPACK the gear bag, in fact, if you are new to the art and science of backpacking or hiking, we are 100% certain your pack will start out 50% too heavy for a comfortable trail carry, and this is exactly what you want to avoid. If you put your fully loaded pack on and cannot do 100 deep knee bends, or squats without stopping and without discomfort, you need to start bailing on the weight. Remember that the 25% if your body weight rule has a very sound basis for backpack loading. If you go over this ratio, you are asking for a front row ticket to the house of pain on the trail. Over packing typically turns an adventure into a nightmare. So just try it our way first, and if you feel you can handle a higher ratio of backpack weight next trip, go for it! The very first trip however will be your personal benchmark, and we can tell you in advance that 25% will be you maximum pack carry for life once you walk any mountain trail rated between moderately strenuous to difficult with a property weighted and loaded backpack strapped on, you may even be compelled to go down to 20%, which can be done, and this is how most all of the more advanced long distance trekking backpackers load carry at the â€œseasoned and experiencedâ€? levels. I had to carry a 70lb+ load for 4.5 miles once in the Eastern Sierras due to a fellow hikers knee injury, same hiker I was leading on a Glacier that did not follow my lead path and hit a hole in the ice, almost breaking a leg. I basically loaded my 105 liter Denali pack to the maximum capacity and it was bursting at the seams full. Only due to my trip specific pre-conditioning exercise routine was I physically able to handle this overload the entire distance, and it was a 6+ hour non-stop carry moving in slow motion, up and down steps, both ways were very challenging and border line painful. When I sat down after taking that beast of a backpack off my frame, I felt nothing but pain from my hips and shooting up my back for a few hours that just would not go away, even after a dose of pain killers from my first aid kit kicked in. I was at 40%+ pack weight ratio, at 10,000ft, a very thin air elevation level. I will bail and bury gear in place for a future GPS recovery before I ever do that again.
~ TRAVEL as LITE as possible ~