Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Teaching Children What to DO When They Get Lost

There's not a lot of reliable guidance around for parents to refer to when teaching their children what to do if they were to get lost.  Gaye Grabill's book Jace Gets Lost goes a long way towards providing parents of younger children the knowledge they need.  The fifty-five page book begins with the story of Jace's experience when he walked away from his home and got lost.  The story, written at a young child's level of comprehension, with accompanying pictures, is a story that every parent should read to their children.  The story serves as a springboard for further discussion with your children on what they should do in the event that they ever become separated from family members on a outing.  Grabill even provides a list of topics to cover.  I recommend this book.  It is the only one of its kind that I know of. 

As Gaye says on her website "I decided to write my first book “Jace Gets Lost” when I looked for a safety book for little children telling them what they should do if they get lost in the woods - and could not find one.  With the generous help of North Oregon Regional Search and Rescue – NORSAR and Clackamas County Sheriff I put together Jace Gets Lost.  

As parents we hope that we will never be faced with a situation where one of our children is missing but it would be comforting to know that, if this were to happen, the child has been taught what to do.  Go one step further than just reading Gaye's book and talking about what to do.  Take your children to the woods and have them practice building a nest.  Make sure they understand the concept of staying in one place. Take them out at night, a dark night, and sit under a tree with them.  Let them hear the "night sounds" and then explain those sounds to them.  There's nothing more terrifying than a sound in the dark that can't be identified!  It is also a good idea to provide each child their own survival kit.  Parents should take heart in the fact that kids are a lot tougher than we sometimes give them credit for.  Spend some time with them now before a crisis happens and then, if it should happen, the outcome of the event can be a happy reunion.

For a copy of Jace Gets Lost and other books in the  Jace series contact Gaye Grabill at www.gayegrabill.com

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fire under survival conditions may save your life by Leon Pantenburg

Review: Peter Kummerfeldt’s ‘A Better Way to Build a Fire’

Posted on November 13th, 2011 by Leon in Make a Fire, Peter Kummerfeldt: Tips

I met Peter Kummerfeldt several years ago at the Deschutes County Sportsmans Show, in Redmond, OR after I dropped in during his “Myths of Survival” presentation.  With no idea of who this guy was, or his abilities, I sat in on the seminar out of curiosity. (After all, I had a survival kit, and had been knocking around the backcountry for decades while backpacking, hunting and fishing. I knew what I was doing…I thought!) At the end of the hour-long session, and numerous “ah-ha” moments, I followed Peter back to his booth and plied him with questions.
Later, Peter became an expert source for a winter survival guide I wrote for the Bend, OR “Bulletin.”  Since then, Peter have become my friend, mentor, guest contributor for SurvivalCommonSense.com and my main go-to source for any question about wilderness survival. Peter is also on the short list of people I like to hang around with.  Read more

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Getting Yourself Rescued/

This morning I listened to the hospital interview of an elderly man who had just been rescued after spending five days stranded in his car in the Arizona mountains.  He survived – his wife did not!   The couple, both in their eighties, had become stranded when their car broke down while taking a short-cut on their way home between Chandler, Arizona and Albuquerque, New Mexico.   The road, a US Forest Service Road that is not maintained in the winter, is seldom traveled at this time of year.  They stayed with the car until it ran out of fuel and then, after five days, decided to walk out.  Mrs. Davis collapsed and died shortly after leaving the car.   With the electronic equipment that is currently available Mrs. Davis’s death could have been prevented.  If they had had a SPOT ™ beacon or one of the other brands of beacons that are easy to use and very effective for alerting family members, or the authorities that they were in trouble they would have been found quickly and rescued.  Read more

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Surviving Lions and Beetles

My wife and I spent the past month in South Africa and Zambia participating in a photography safari.  Had a wonderful time.  Also had a few "interesting times" too.  One of which is describe below.  Typically, when you are on one of these photo-safaris, you go on two "game-drives" each day.  One in the morning, often leaving before sun-up, and then returning for a late brunch. And then one in the late afternoon that extends into the night.  After the sun sets one of the guides, "the spotter" brings out a large spotlight and, as you travel slowly down the road, he searches for the eyes of any nocturnal animals that might be out and about.  When he sees the reflections the vehicle stops and for a few moments you watch the nighttime activities of whatever animal you have discovered.  A good spotter, once he has detected the animal never shines the light in the animal's eyes again but illuminates it using the edge of the beam of light - plenty to see the animal without disturbing it. 
It was on one of these evening drives that the following happened:

The evening started rather unspectacularly with not much being seen except a few impala.  Long after dark the spotter saw some eyes that turned out to be two, and then three lions about fifty yards away.  When turning off the road to get closer the driver didn’t see a very large warthog hole into which the front end of the Land Cruiser disappeared!  The lions came closer.  The driver got out to see what could be done about the situation while the spotter tried to keep tabs on the lions and at the same time illuminate the hole so that the driver could see what needed to be done. What was hilarious was watching the antics of the two staff trying pay attention to the whereabouts of the cats while at the same time fend off the insects which were attracted to the headlights and the spot light.  It had rained earlier in the day - the flying ants were swarming and the air was thick with beetles and other assorted insects that crawled all over the driver and his helper.  It got so bad they had to cease their efforts to get us unstuck and go into the dark and strip off their clothing to rid themselves of the insects.  For the four of photographers sitting in the back of a completely open vehicle in the dark it was both scary and hilarious at the same time.  Because we were mostly in the dark the bugs didn't bother us as much as the others.

After finding out that digging with a jack handle (no shovel was available) wasn’t going to cut it and that the small bottle jack (that might have allowed a tire to be changed but I’m doubtful) wasn’t going to work we came to a standstill.  Meanwhile the three lions, two male and a female were even closer and now lying under a bush watching the goings-on!  Long story short – Mark and I eventually got out of the vehicle and, assisted by the spotter, grasped the bumper bar and lifted the front-end out of the hole!  I think the lions were disappointed!

We watched the lions for about another thirty minutes and then made our way back to camp.  By now we were late for dinner and the camp staff were wondering where we were.  The four hyenas and the porcupine we ran into along the way made us even later for dinner!

It is the unexpected situations like this that make our annual trips to southern Africa memorable.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Iodine or Chlorine?

There are still far too many people using iodine tablets to disinfect their water when there is a much better product on the market - chlorine dioxide.  There are also too many people drinking water that has not been disinfected simply because they don't like the taste of iodine not knowing that there is a new product on the market that doesn't leave an after taste.
Chlorine dioxide tablets made available by the Katadyn Company and also by Potable Aqua have been around for several years now but have not been embraced enthusiastically by those who recreate or work in the outdoors.  Old habits die hard I guess.  Or perhaps it's just ignorance!  Either way you are putting your health at risk by drinking water that has not been disinfected.

If for no other reason you should consider using tablets that release chlorine dioxide because of its effectiveness in killing cryptosporidium, an organism commonly found in water - something that iodine was never able to do effectively.

Regardless of the manufacturer the tablets are individually packaged in sheets of ten tablets per sheet and are sold in containers of twenty or thirty tablets for $10 - $13.

Disinfecting your water is easy.  Simply drop a tablet into a quart or liter of water and the chemical will destroy viruses, bacteria, Giardia and Cryptosporidium leaving no chlorine after taste.

For more information on Micropur tablets go to Katadyn.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Better Way to Build a Fire

This ebook is available now!
I attended the Photographic Society of America conference last week here in Colorado Springs and learned a lot. Also met some great people.  Always fun to interact with like-minded people!  One of those that I interacted with was Mike Moats (www.tinylandscapes.com) who, in addition to being a wonderful photographer was willing to share his "lessons-learned-along-the-way."
 It seems like the three hours we spent together over dinner one night flew by.  Of all the topics we discussed "eBooks"  and how to produce them really caught my attention.  To that end I have spent much of my time since the conference developing my first eBook titled "A Better Way to Build a Fire." 
This seventy-two page book is now finished and will be available on my website in the next week or so.  Initially it will only be available as a CD ROM.   My website manager (Brian Hinderberger of Buzztouch Designs) is setting up a way to download it directly from the shopping cart.  Stay tuned.

The eBook takes you through why a fire may be needed, the tools both good and bad that are available to facilitate fire starting, a way to build a fire that is different from anything you've seen before and one that works better than any method you've used before.  The eBook finishes up with a look at the many myths and misconceptions surrounding fires and fire craft.
I'm happy with this first of what I want to be a series of eBooks covering the most important practical aspects of surviving a wilderness emergency.  Check my website from time to time and if you decide to buy "A Better Way to Build a Fire" please let me know what you think.  The beauty of an eBook is that it is easy to go back into the book and edit it.  Easy to correct mistakes and easy to add new information!  I want to provide an informative, easy to read book not another bookshelf space filler! (To read a review of the ebook, click here.)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NEVER SAY "I AM JUST....................."
I spent this past weekend roaming around Rocky Mountain National Park photographing the glorious fall colors and the antics of the elk in the early stages of the rut.  I also spent time observing the thousands of people from all over the country there to participate in what has become an annual ritual.  With regard to the people I came home with two impressions.  Firstly it amazed me how few people of those in the park over the weekend actually set foot on the ground and walked anywhere other than the few manicured walkways around two lakes. The mentality seemed to be "If I can't drive there I ain't going there!"  Secondly, of those that did get out of there car how few had given any thought to the possibility of how quickly the weather can change in the Rockies.  Other than those that were obviously headed out to climb the tall peaks the rest of the weekend warriors were under dressed, under equipped and under skilled to cope with a weather change - or any other emergency situation that might have occurred.  Slip-on shoes, shorts and a tank tops were the name of the game.

I have long maintained that the most dangerous trip that you can go on is the spontaneous "Let's take the kids for a walk this afternoon" type of trip.  Little thought goes into the possibility of something bad happening and even less goes into the preparations needed to cope with an accident or incident that place people in danger.  They fall into the "I am just............."  trap! We're just going to drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park this afternoon and walk the loop around Bear Lake.  What could possible go wrong?  The sun's out.  We won't be very far from the car and if we get in trouble we'll just call the ranger for help!  A lot can happen and sometimes people die before help can arrive!  Never say "I am just" going to do anything!  Again, you are setting a trap for yourself.  Instead, in anticipation of a trip stop for a moment and consider all of the "what ifs."  Think about the things that might go wrong and ask yourself if you're ready to cope with the consequences of a walk-in-the-park.  And if not then don't put yourself or the lives of your family or friends at risk. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Survival Myths and Misconceptions

Much of the information available to people who want to learn more about survival and surviving is based on material that is outdated and in some cases totally incorrect. Unfortunately the early outdoor writers created a problem for those of us interested in learning how to survive a wilderness emergency today.  Techniques and procedures that were once state-of-the-art are no longer practical.  What was once thought of as an effective procedure is now not only inappropriate but in some cases dangerous.

The times have changed.  The needs of a hunter who gets lost today are different from the needs of the mountain-men who trapped beaver in the American west and lived off the land while doing so.  The individual who gets in trouble today is unlikely to be able to spend a night out in the open without great discomfort.  They will not have devoted sufficient time to practicing survival skills - skills that were once second nature that could be counted on when difficulties arose.  Even a once commonplace skill such as striking a match to light a fire is no longer commonplace.    

If you were to read some of the currently available “how-to-survive” books you would find techniques and procedures that date back to those who survived by manufacturing what they needed from the natural resources on hand.  The question is “How appropriate are these techniques and procedures today?”  In many cases they are not!   However, despite the passing of time, the fact that the material is still in print implies that the information must still be valid. In many cases it is not.  New and better procedures have developed.  New equipment is available.

The result of all of this misinformation is that inexperienced people finding themselves in trouble  still believe that they can rub sticks together and start a fire.  They believe that a waterproof, wind proof shelter can be built from natural materials.  They believe that they can live off the land until they are rescued.  It must be so – it’s in the book!

Many current, popular outdoor writers perpetuate the problem.  Much of the rubbish that is published today would never be published if the writer (or the editor) first went out and tested the procedures they write about.  Instead they “Google” the topic or go to their bookshelf, remove a survival or woods lore book written fifty years ago, extract from these questionable sources some procedure used by Jim Bridger to build a fire and present it once again as if the procedure is still valid today.  Sometimes it is but most often it isn’t

More confusion results from the contemporary experiences of those who survived traumatic incidents.  They quickly become the newest “survival expert!”  They survived therefore what they did to survive must be valid!  Again - sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes people survive in spite of what they did.  They got lucky!  Choose your role models carefully! Read more

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New class graduates

Another class graduated yesterday from the US Forest Service/OutdoorSafe Inc. Survival and Navigation training program.  Seventy-two hours of intense training in the methods of surviving an unexpected night out followed by seventy-two hours learning how to use a map, compass and the Global Positioning System to navigate around the back country effectively.   After five days the students walked away from the US Forest Service Heritage Center, Huson, Montana much better equipped to enjoy the outdoors and to survive in it should the need arise.

Here's what they said about the training:

"Very good course.  Teaches real world, practical skills."
"Very good training.  Used simple techniques that anyone can learn and use."
"Fantastic.  A very practical program which will save your life.!"
"Great.  A lot of practical application."

Contact Linda Carlson for information on next years class to be held 31 August - 4 September  2012

Ninemile Ranger District
20325 Remount Rd.
Huson, MT  59846
(406)626-5410  Fax: (406)626-5403
Email: lrcarlson@fs.fed.us

Blue crinkly tarp emergency shelter

Which way's home?

Instructor and student in plastic bag shelter

Platform and brace Fire

Learning the shortcomings of a space blanket!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Staying Found is Better than Being Lost!

All outdoor users should carry and know how to use a map and compass before they go off into the backcountry.  The first step in staying found is locating your position, and marking that position on your map, before you leave your vehicle or camp.  Then identify the boundaries that surround the area in which you will be traveling.  These boundaries could be prominent roads, railways, power lines or large rivers.  Preferably you should identify boundaries on all four sides of the area you will be in.  Having located yourself on the map and knowing the boundaries, you can then leave camp with the knowledge that, if you get lost, all you have to do is determine which boundary is closest and walk a straight line to it.  Then relocate yourself and return to your vehicle or camp.  Sometimes this can be a very long walk out! Read more to see how to "Stay Found."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Signal Mirrors – an often under appreciated piece of your survival gear

There may come a time when you will need to attract the attention of a rescuer.   It could be because your car has broken down and left you stranded miles from help.   You might be injured and unable to get back to family and friends.  You might be lost and have no idea which direction to take to get back to your vehicle or perhaps your camp.  In situations like these you need to be able to draw attention to yourself, to signal quickly and effectively.  Not being able to do so could place your life in danger.   With emergency signaling several things must be remembered.  First, if you haven’t left a trip plan with a couple of reliable family members or friends indicating what your intentions are, where do those who will be looking for you, search?  Second, if no one knows you are in trouble, your attempts to signal for help may be totally ignored.  Third, even if search and rescue personnel are looking for you it may still be very difficult to locate you unless you do something to increase your chances of being seen or heard. A good signal mirror can make your stay a short one!  Read more.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Survival Christmas Island Style

The guide catching our lunch

Tony preparing a fire

Lunch being cooked

It doesn't get much better than fresh fish for lunch!

I spent a week in the Republic of Kiritimati earlier this month.  If you don't know where this republic is look at a map of the Pacific Ocean, travel 1300 miles south of Honolulu to a position two degrees north of the equator and there you will find a coral atoll called Christmas Island or "Kirimati" which, by the way, is pronounced "Kiri- bass."  Kirimati is one of thirty-three small islands scattered over two million square miles of the Central Pacific Ocean which make up the Republic of Kiritimati.  Enough geography.  I went there for two reasons: one to fly-fish for bonefish and trevally and secondly to photograph seabirds both of which I manages to do successfully.  So what does all of this have to do with survival and surviving?

During the week that I was there I witnessed an exercise in "survival food procurement."  While out fishing one day the truck that was transporting us from one place to another didn't show up at the appointed time with lunch!  While this was not truly a crisis the guide and I were hungry and thirsty after a long morning of stalking bonefish on the flats and were ready for some food!  After an hour of waiting the guide took matters into his own hands, asked to borrow my fly rod, walked down to the nearby coral reef where he promptly caught a snapper and a small grouper.  Returning to where I was sitting under a tree in the shade he gathered up a pile of coconut husks and some dead palm fronds and built a fire.  As the husks were burning down to coals he found a piece of old sheet metal, propped it up on rocks and couple of pieces of pipe over the fire and then, when it was hot, put the two fish on it to cook.

Ten minutes later he pronounced the fish done and they were served to me on a platter made from a nearby broad-leafed tropical plant.   At that moment nothing could have tasted better!  They were delicious.

This certainly was not a survival situation but it was a "survival vignette" that reminded me that often the survival resources we need are present all we need to do is know how to exploit them!


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What Gear I Carry in the Wilderness

High tech gadgets are no substitute for proper training and preparedness!
During nearly 45 years of wandering around the world’s backcountry I have developed a collection of equipment that has frequently saved my bacon! Equipment that, on more than one occasion, changed a potentially life threatening situation into an inconvenient night out.
Some would call my collection of gear a “survival kit.”  The mountain men of the Rocky Mountain West would call it a “possibles kit. I call the collection “my emergency gear” and always have it with me – what good is your emergency kit if you don’t have it along?
Over the years the contents of my kit have changed. As new equipment came along that was better and lighter than the gear I used it replaced the old.
To read the rest of the story, click here.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pressing on in the face of adversity

The last time I got in trouble I was in Big Bend National Park in Texas.  This time the location was far less exotic!  In fact my wife and I were at the intersection of I-125 and I-80 on the south side of Cheyenne, Wyoming.  We were on our way home from a week of photographing the red rock country in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and were headed for the RV campground at Warren Air Force Base.  As we topped the hill headed east towards Cheyenne, monstrous black storm clouds stretched across the horizon in front of us. 

Without giving the weather conditions the attention they deserved, we forged ahead anxious to get our 5th wheel set up and bed down for the night.  The closer we got to Cheyenne the worse the weather became until the driving rain and hail forced us over to the side of the road.  Initially we were unconcerned but as the minutes passed, and the storm intensified, our lack of concern quickly evaporated and our anxiety ratcheted up with the increasingly large hail that was now pounding my truck and the 5th wheel behind.  It got so large, and the noise so great, that talking was nearly impossible.  At any moment we expected the windshield to cave in.  I-25 was brought to a standstill with the heavy summer traffic lined up along the shoulders of the road sweating out the storm. 

For fifteen or twenty minutes the storm raged and then, as quickly as it began, it drifted east and the cars and trucks began to move again.   It was time to take stock of the damage.  It was quickly obvious that my insurance company was going to be getting a call on Monday morning!  The hood and the roof of my Dodge truck were a mass of dents.  I didn’t even want to think about the roof of my thirty-foot RV but as it turned out the roof itself was largely undamaged - it fared better than the truck.  The plastic vent hoods, the air-conditioned cover and the external running lights took a beating and would have to be replaced.  All in all it could have been worse.

In retrospect what bothered me more than the damage was the fact that I had placed my wife, my vehicles, and myself in harms way.  I didn’t recognize the looming hazard.  I wasn’t tuned in enough to see what was about to happen.  I didn't turn back! Despite the obvious storm, the thought of hail and the damage it could cause never crossed my mind.  I was focused on getting to the campground as quickly as possible.

It is this mentality that gets people in trouble in the outdoors.  As a society we have lost the ability to sense danger - the ability to detect the “edge of the cliff” and back off.  So the next time you are faced with a situation where pressing on in the face of threats to your safety is ill-advised, pause for a moment.  Evaluate your situation objectively.  What are the threats?  How able are you to cope with threats to your safety?  What are the consequences of continuing?  Is it time to turn back?  Don’t let external issues influence your decision.  You can always climb the mountain another day – but you have to be alive to do that!

For me?  Next time I am going to try to listen to my own advice!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Near Misses

There have been many times in my life, and I suspect in yours, that something has happened where your life was placed you in danger but you managed to avoid a catastrophe by sheer luck.  Perhaps, just in the nick of time, you realized what was about to happen and you stepped back from the brink of disaster.  Or, more commonly, someone else recognized what was about to happen and intervened.  These are the “near-misses” in our lives that we all experience from time-to-time. 
When an accident happens, especially a serious accident where people are injured and sometimes killed, an investigation usually follows.  An accident investigation board is convened. Witnesses are called.  Experts testify as to how the accident happened and how it could have been prevented.  Then recommendations are published hoping that a similar situation can be avoided in the future.  Seldom does the same train-of-events take place following a “near-miss!”  But it should!  I suspect that for every accident that happens there are probably dozens, if not hundreds, maybe thousands, of “near misses.”  Situations that we seldom hear about but situations that we could learn a lot from if we were made aware of the details.
Sometimes someone else causes the incident that leads to a “near miss” and there’s probably little that we can do to about that except to be as observant as we can and then react quickly enough to avoid a problem.  Sometimes the problem is of our own making and when it is, the situation is particularly dangerous because we are often completely unaware of what is happening.  In this scenario, whether or not an accident occurs, depends in large part on the awareness, vigilance and ability of the others involved to take the necessary action to avoid an accident.  
If we were honest we would have to admit that sometimes we just get lucky and nothing bad happens.  But I for one don’t want to go through life depending on “luck” to keep me safe.  I want to be aware of what’s going on around me.  I want to be able to detect the precursors of life endangering situations and avoid them.  I want to pay attention to the “near misses,” learn from them and then, in similar circumstances, recognize what is about to happen and back-off before something bad happens!  As much as possible I want to be in control of my destiny and not depend on chance or the activities of others to determine my future.
So the next time you have a “near miss” take the time to analyze the events leading up to the incident.  Identify the conditions that existed that played a role in creating a situation where you (or someone else) could have been injured or killed.  Objectively and honestly determine your part in the scenario.  And then, after you have evaluated the evidence, determine the “lessons-learned.” Remember that unless the “lessons-learned” result in a change in your behavior you may be doomed to have another “near miss” and this time you might not be so lucky!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Be Seen and Be Rescued Quickly!

Leave your  trip plan on the back of a copy of the topo map you will be using.
The single most important step in getting rescued quickly is to leave a trip plan with two reliable people you can count on to raise the alarm when you don’t show up on time.
Your job as the survivor is twofold.
First to survive! To maintain your body temperature of 98.6ยบ F. for as long as possible, to keep yourself hydrated and to treat any injuries as best you can (thereby giving the SAR forces a chance to recover a grateful, living survivor.) Secondly – to make yourself more visible so that they can find you quickly.
Leaving a trip plan is the most important step to get yourself rescued quickly.  The next most important step is to remain in one place and wait for rescuers to arrive.  It is very difficult for those trying to find you if you are constantly moving – or as one rescuer put it “It’s hard to hit a moving target!”  So be patient, sit tight and make yourself more visible.
Here’s how you do it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Disaster at Eleven Mile Reservoir

 Eleven Mile Reservoir

I was reminded once again this weekend how tenuous our hold on life is.  My wife and I spent the weekend at a nearby lake relaxing in our 5th wheel travel trailer.  It was a stormy weekend with lots of wind but we were comfortably tucked away in the RV surrounded with all of the accoutrements of a modern home on wheels. 

A fishing tournament was taking place on the lake.  Boats were coming and going.  Fishermen were checking at the dock area to report their successes.  The playground was full of children enjoying the outing while a parent tried to catch the winning trout.  As I said it was windy.  The lake was white-capped.  The sun was trying to break through but was loosing the battle.  From all appearances it was a normal weekend out.

But everything wasn’t normal.  Out on the lake, unseen by all, a husband and wife and their two dogs were fighting for their lives!   We will never know exactly what happened because neither the people nor the dogs survived.  Their boat was found capsized washed up on a rocky island.  The lady’s body and the dogs were found; her husband is still missing presumed drowned in the 40° F. water.

I’m sure the last thing on their minds that Saturday morning was the possibility of an accident happening. I’ll bet they were excited about spending the weekend at the lake.  Excited about the possibility of catching a few fish.  I know they fully expected to return home after a couple of enjoyable days in the Colorado mountains. I know nothing of their level of boating experience nor how well equipped they were to cope with a capsizing.  I don’t know if they were wearing life jackets or not.  But what I do know is that from time-to-time in our lives “bad things happen!”  Sometimes it’s a case of “wrong place, wrong time” and sometimes we are the catalyst for an accident.  Regardless, we need to pause periodically and consider the possibility that we might be the ones that are in trouble.  We need to pause and evaluate our level of preparedness to cope with a crisis. And after an objective assessment of our ability to handle a life threatening situation we need to strengthen those areas where we come up short.

The headline in a local paper read:
Colorado Springs woman dies of accidental drowning at Eleven Mile Reservoir. Search continues for husband.

What do you want your headline to read?  What you do from this moment on may determine the words that some newspaper news-writer will use to describe your story.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Fork in the Road: To Stay Put or Continue On?

If someone knows where you have gone, the search will be quicker and easier for the Search and Rescue teams!
Past articles have defined the word survival and discussed the importance of being prepared.
We arrive now at “the fork in the road” where you, the survivor” will have to decide if it is better to remain where you are and allow search and rescue (SAR) forces to find you or to attempt to make your own way back – in essence, “rescue yourself!”  For the survivor, this is a critical point. To read the rest of the story, click here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Thickness of a Piece of Paper...................

 I was driving up to Soda Springs, Idaho this past week to present a risk management program.  My wife was driving and at one point we were following several other slower vehicles while waiting for a chance to pass, when an oncoming eighteen wheeler drifted toward the double yellow line before returning his side of the road.  I got to thinking about the thinness of the margin that keeps traffic flowing safely.  When two vehicles pass on a two lane road the space between them can be as little as a few feet!  As long as the vehicles stick to their side of the road everything works well but a moments inattention can result in catastrophe.  The more I thought about it the more I realized that this concept could be applied to many other scenarios. The difference between surviving and dieing, especially in the outdoors, is indeed a thin one.  In fact I believe that we are the thickness of a piece of paper away from a disaster at any given time! 

As a society we have become so dependent on technology to keep us safe that we no longer think about the threats to our safety and what we would do in the event that our lives are placed at risk. We have come to depend on others to keep us free from harm. The Federal government, state governments, our employers, family members and others have a role in keeping us all safe but ultimately we each have to recognize that no one is more responsible for our safety than we are.  That "buck" cannot be passed!  Our safety is dependent on the preparation we accomplish before an event.  Our safety is dependent on our ability to recognize danger and react quickly enough to ensure our safety. 

Is it possible to guarantee personal safety in the outdoors?  Of course not! But you can increase your knowledge, improve your survival skills, outfit yourself with reliable equipment, thoroughly evaluate the risks and then measure your skills against those risks before undertaking an activity in the outdoors.  A comprehensive analysis of the threats to your safety must be followed by an honest, objective appraisal of your skill level and ability to cope with those threats.

It is easy to talk about the impact of weather, or terrain hazards or perhaps the threats posed by animals when you recreate in the outdoors but the part of risk management and accident prevention that is hard to come to grips with is what the academics call "human factors."  

Here are a few "human factors" that you should think about:
            Complacency -  a product of boredom, distraction, lack of awareness, or failure to question old  habits results in a belief that "I've done this before successfully therefore there won't be a problem the next time!"  Not necessarily! Sometimes we are suckered into complacency by our past successes!
            Risk perception - a situation that is familiar, controllable, pleasant, predictable and avoidable is perceived to be of less risk.   Consequently when an activity becomes routine the likelihood of an accident increases.  Also keep in mind that to be able to deal with a dangerous situation you must first be able to recognize a dangerous situation!
            Overconfidence - an unrealistic belief in one's ability to cope with life threatening situations.  Men are particularly prone to overestimating their ability to cope with a crisis.  Sometimes brute strength isn't enough!   
            Goal setting - the inability to adjust goals as situations change often leads to accidents.  You must get out of the "summit or die" mentality.   Remember - it is never wrong to turn back!
            Impatience - patience is a virtue, impatience can be disastrous.  Continuing on in the face of bad weather, rough terrain, darkness or other hazards in an effort to "get-back-at-all-cost" can be fatal.
            Commitments - do not allow previously made commitments to influence what you should do when you are in trouble.  Do what is in your best interest and don't worry about what your spouse is thinking or your what employer  is going to think when you don't show up for work.  Their concerns are no longer important.  Keeping yourself safe is.
           Peer pressure.  Don't concern yourself with what others may think.  You can survive teasing, ridicule, and the comments of others but you may not survive the impact of the environment if you fail to protect yourself.  Do what you have to to be alive to be teased!
           Failing to test.  Nothing gets people in trouble quicker than accepting, at face value, the advice of others,   Test everything before your life's on the line.   Practice your survival skills and experiment with your equipment before you need to use them in a crisis.
           Experience can help you through a tough situation or it can betray you by setting you up to fail when your experience doesn't take into account a new situation.  Put another way "people are often setup for a disaster not by their inexperience but by their experience."

While the tangible risks can usually be managed, the subjective, intangible issues, the human factors, are much more difficult to come to grips with.   To be a survivor you must prepare for what you hope will never happen while accepting the possibility that a crisis can happen at any time.  At some point you need to ask yourself "What do I want my newspaper headline to say?"  "Survived in Style" or "Deceased?"


Monday, May 2, 2011

Prepare for Bad Weather Outdoors

Dehydration caused by hot or cold temperatures is just one potentially deadly situation. Carry plenty of water and know where and how to find more!
Why is it so many people come to grief each year in weather-related accidents? 
Why, with all of the weather information available, that people still find themselves trapped by storms, isolated by blizzards, caught out away from home or base camp by weather conditions that endanger their lives?
Part of the problem is arrogance. Our belief is that “we can handle it” whatever “it” happens to be.  Many have an unwavering belief in their ability to overcome the difficulties that wind, rain, plummeting temperatures, scalding heat and other extremes that weather may bring – some of these people die!
Here are several different types of  weather situations, and how you can best handle them in the wilderness 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Preparing to Survive a Flash Flood

Flash floods are named that because they can happen almost instantaneously! (NASA photo)
Flash floods are the number one weather-related killer in the United States! Here are some of the things to look for if you know you are in an area that might have a flash flood! To read more about it, click here!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Winter Survival Blankets and Vests That Work

The Blizzard vests work well!
Blizzard Products – vests, blankets and sleeping bags. I had actually come across these products several years ago but didn’t pay them much attention to them because of my bias against anything made from “space blanket” material.
To read the review, click here.

Injury and Illness in the Wilderness

As I have analyzed stories of survivors and the survival situations they found themselves in I have come to the conclusion that there are two underlying causes for the difficulties the survivors experienced.
First: There appears to be a lack of understanding of the physiological threats to the human body and the body’s reaction to the threats.
Second: Survivors, lacking specific survival training, appropriate clothing and survival equipment are left to cope with the situation as best they can relying on their will-to-survive, their ability to improvise and luck!  Not a good situation.
This article will look at some of the physiological threats to the body and suggest ways to minimize the impact of the threats.
Click here to read the entire story!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Flashlight Versus Night Vision

Prairie Chickens.

Flashlight versus Night Vision.  This past week Mary and I had the opportunity to photograph Lesser Prairie Chickens in Kansas.  The first morning went well.  The blind, situated on the edge of a lek, (the strutting ground where the male and female chickens get “hooked-up”) was located about one hundred and fifty yards from the road where we left our cars.   So as not to disturb the birds viewers must be in the blinds before dawn.  When the sun crept over the horizon, and even a bit before, we were able to see about sixteen males “strutting their stuff” to four females.  It was very entertaining and I managed to get some great pictures.

The next morning was a bit different.  The weather forecast the night before had predicted high winds, cold temperatures and rain.  When I awoke at 4am the next morning guess what?  The wind was howling, the temperature was about 30° F. and while it was not raining yet the sky looked ominous.  Despite the forecasted weather we had agreed the night before to go out.  This was our last chance to photograph the prairie chickens and the first chance for two “Brit” birdwatchers who had come over from England specifically to see the chickens do their thing!  We parked as we had done the previous day beside a barbed-wire fence, loaded up our gear and in the face of some very nasty weather, (it’s raining now!) led by one of the guides, we started off across the prairies to the blind.

We were just at the point where I was saying to myself “We should be there by now” when I looked off to my right and there about fifty yards away silhouetted against the dim skyline I could see the shape of the blind.  Our guide in the meantime is plowing ahead with the two Brits behind him, looking for the blind with his flashlight.  Rather than use a flashlight I was using my “night-vision” to navigate.

The problem with flashlights is that they limit your vision to the area that is illuminated and, as our guide found out, it is very easy to overlook what you are looking for.  Night vision, the use of your peripheral vision on the other hand enables you to see better than you might expect.  Rather than looking directly at an object look slightly off to one side of it.  It takes about thirty minutes for your eyes to adjust to the low levels of light at night but once adjusted and using your “night vision” it is amazing, even on a moonless night how much you can see.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stranded In an Urban or Wilderness Emergency: Now What?

The very word “stranded” brings to mind the story of Robinson Crusoe’s lengthy stay on his tropical island or the plight of the Donner Party. Or the experiences of the Uruguayan rugby team who survived a crash landing in the Andes as told in Piers Paul Read’s book “Alive” also come to mind.
If the truth be told, you can become stranded in far less exotic places!  You can become stranded, and find yourself having to survive, in the woodlot behind your home.; You can become stranded when driving to work or as a result of other scenarios where suddenly you are unable to continue - or to return to safety.
Unless you have experienced the emotions of finding yourself stranded a long way from help it is difficult to explain in words: The gut wrenching fear felt when you realize you can’t get back, you’re cut-off, you’re alone without anyone to help... YOU MIGHT DIE!
Let’s look at “becoming stranded” objectively, find  the problems faced by the victim and then identify some practical solutions to those problems. Click here to read the rest of the story.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wilderness Survival Skill: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark!

Many people are “scared of the dark,” or more accurately, they are afraid of what they can’t see because it is dark!  These people, when precipitated into an emergency, and finding themselves having to spend an unplanned night out, are incapacitated by their fear. They panic and do things that make a bad situation even worse!
Here are some ways to conquer those fears!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

STOP! You May Be Lost!

Past articles have defined the word survival and have discussed the importance of being prepared as opposed to trying to manufacture what you need from materials at hand.
Now, we need to look at some of the situations that people find themselves in where their knowledge of how to survive, combined with a basic survival kit and good clothing, can bring about a positive ending to their experience – or the lack of knowledge, equipment and clothing could result in tragedy.
To read the compete story, click here. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Preparing to Survive in the Wilderness

Will you be able to improvise a shelter during an emergency?
One of the most important lessons I learned during my survival career is: “Those who are prepared to survive an emergency usually will, and those who are not prepared probably won’t!”
We don’t want to admit we might be the one faced with a life or death situation or some other equally disagreeable circumstance.
Denial leads the list of the coping methods that people use — we deny anything bad is ever going to happen.  It’s often easier to deny than to prepare for a difficult situation and, as a result, we find ourselves totally unprepared when disaster strikes.
Consequently the vast majority of people find themselves facing a cold night out without adequate clothing, without basic survival equipment and without having practiced building a fire, erecting a shelter or signaling for help.
To prepare, potential survivors need to consider three areas: Physical, mental and spiritual preparation.
 Click here to read how to start that preparation to survive.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What is Survival?

The word “survival” conjures up a mental picture of a horrendous situation in some remote part of the world where the “survivor” has to “survive” under extreme conditions, without food, with only limited (or no) water while fending of the onslaught of predatory animals!
Let’s get real!  While some survival experiences do occur in such places, many more occur in the woodlots of Wisconsin; while duck hunting in Louisiana, or while tracking deer in Washington – in short, anywhere we recreate.While there are many book definitions of the word “survival,” none adequately describe the difficulties that outdoor people sometimes find themselves in. To learn more click

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sheltering in Your Vehicle

Anyone who drives faces the possibility of spending a unplanned night in a vehicle. Bad weather, breakdowns, running out of fuel, getting stuck are some of the more common reasons why a driver might have to bed down for the night (or perhaps for several nights) until the situation is resolved.

A night out does not have to be a life-threatening experience. Drivers who accept the possibility that the unforeseen
may happen are drivers who prepare  for the experience. On the other hand, drivers who deny the possibility may find themselves fighting for their lives!
Here are some things you can do:

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Survival Book Reviews: “Survive” by Les Stroud

Peter demonstrates firemaking  by rubbing two sticks together.
“Survive”  by Les Stroud.
I finally got around to reading this book and, for the most part, thought it a useful addition to a person’s survival library.
And then I got to the part where Les writes:
“A good signal mirror can also serve as a fire starter by reflecting the sun’s rays.” (Page 28)
How do you do that?How do you concentrate the rays into a spot hot enough to ignite tinder using a flat surface? A highly polished parabolic reflector can be used, but not a flat surface!
On one level, this kind of miss-information just irritates me. On a more serious level,  it angers me since it confirms for me that the writer hasn’t tested the process and has just accepted someone else’s information as factual!
To read the rest of the story, click here.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Pick the Best Saw For Your Survival Kit

Cutting tools, in all of their variations, have been an integral part of my life. In my world the term “cutting tool” encompasses knives, saws and shears.
It does not include axes and here’s why. Nobody knows how to use them safely anymore!
I have never found myself handicapped because I chose to carry a saw rather than an axe. There are many saws available some of which are very useful and others not so much. Let’s take a look at a variety of them starting with the least useful.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Survival is His Business: Kummerfeldt at the Deschutes County Expo Center

Peter gathers water from a vine.
Peter Kummerfeldt can demonstrate how to rub two sticks together to make a fire, and for years, has been using the old-fashioned flint-and-steel firemaking tools as part of his wilderness survival presentations.
But his point is not to teach you these primitive skills.
Peter will, however, show you how to plan and prepare so you can avoid getting lost in the first place, and survive a wilderness emergency if you do happen to get lost.
To read the complete story, Published in the Bend (OR) Bulletin click here.
Peter will be at the Deschutes County Expo Center this weekend. Check the Bulletin website for subjects and times.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How to Avoid Becoming an Altitude Casualty

When you travel to high altitude, above 8,000 feet, too quickly and are too active when you get there it is extremely likely that you will become "altitude sick."  Altitude illness can be a mild annoyance or a life threatening illness.

To learn more about altitude illness click here.

Wilderness Emergency Management

If you think you're lost, the first reaction may be panic.
Surviving a wilderness emergency  begins with being able to control your emotions.  Being able to resist the urge to panic and run. Sometimes the best thing you can do is nothing - do nothing until you have calmed down and can reason and think logically.
The eventual outcome of your event may very well be determined by what your actions in the first few moments.
To learn what to do, and for or more information click here.