Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Number One.  You have to accept the fact that, as good an outdoors-man or women as you may be, sometimes things happen that precipitate you into a crisis when you least expect it and you’d better be ready to cope with, what will be one of the most difficult challenges to your life that you have ever faced.
Number Two.  Never say “I am just……”  Saying “I am just going to….” (You fill in the blank) is a denial of the possibility that anything will go wrong and a denial of the need to carry an emergency kit or protective clothing with you.  After all “what could possibility go wrong?”   A lot can go wrong, it can go wrong quickly and you can die!
Number Three.  Always carry the means to shelter yourself, to start a fire and to attract the attention of people who are looking for you and, perhaps more importantly, people who are not looking for you but might be in your vicinity.  To that end your emergency gear should include a waterproof, windproof shelter that you can crawl into or crawl under.  If you expect to be able to construct a shelter from natural materials as advocated by many outdoor writers you will be sadly disappointed. To build such a shelters take skill, time, resources and an able-bodied person.  Save yourself the trouble – carry a large orange or royal blue plastic bag to crawl into when you need protection.
Carry a metal match and a supply of cotton balls saturated with Vaseline.  This mixture is the most reliable combination of fire starting aids available to you.   Practice building a fire
Carry a whistle and purposefully made glass signal mirror.  You can blow a whistle as long as you can breath.  With a mirror, given that you have sunlight, you can bounce a beam of sunlight to a passing airplane, boat or person on a distant hillside many miles away.
Number Four.  Prepare for the five scenarios that commonly result in a person having to spend a night out:
1. Becoming lost
2. Not making it back to camp or vehicle before the sun sets.
3. Becoming stranded when the vehicle that took you into the back country malfunctions.
4.  Becoming ill or injured to the point that you are unable to make your own way out.
5. When weather makes it dangerous to continue traveling.
In each situation finding the safest campsite possible and then using your emergency equipment and survival skills to defend your body temperature is your best course of action.
Number Five.   Don’t let the concerns of others and what they might be thinking affect your decision-making.  Don’t let the promises or the commitments  you made to others drive you to continue trying to make it back in the face of darkness, rough terrain or inclement weather.  Do what is in your best interest and survive.
Number Six.  Always tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back.  Better still leave a trip plan with two people who you have briefed on what to do in the event you do not return.  Remember that having left a trip plan you are obligated to stick to the plan.  If you fail to leave a trip plan, or don’t update the plan, days may pass before an active search begins in your location.
Number Seven.  Be ready to deal with fear and the panic that usually results when you are confronted with a crisis.  It is ludicrous to say “don’t panic!” Everybody is going to panic.  Even the most experienced outdoorsman or woman will experience a momentary twinge of discomfort when faced with a potentially life threatening situation.  But, unlike the novice, an experienced person will recognize the discomfort for what it is  – a warning that things aren’t right!  A warning to back away and reconsider the situation.  Remember the “get-off-your-feet, have drink of water, stay put for at least thirty minutes” routine described earlier.
Number Eight.  Keep faith.  In yourself and your ability to survive based on your preparations.  Keep faith in the search and rescue system and the ability of the searchers to find you.  Keep faith in your family.  The strongest catalyst you have to keep you going, when everything appears to be against you, is your desire to be reunited with your family and friends.  Carry something to reinforce that desire – a photograph works.
The time is sure to come when you will have spend an unplanned night out. When that times comes it’s not important “what Peter would do” but what is important is “what you will do!”  Your life depends on it

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Survival & Navigation Class June 13-17 2013

 I'd like to put in a pitch for the outdoor safety class that Ralph Wilfong and I teach for the US Forest Service each year at the Nine Mile Heritage Center, Huson, Montana.  This is the only class I teach where I set the date and invite others to attend.  Normally I go  wherever I am invited to speak, present the class and then go back to Colorado.

The class is five days long.  Two and half days of survival training followed by two and a half days of of map, compass and GPS training.  I lead the survival phase and Ralph leads the navigation phase.  It is a very comprehensive program and, by the time you graduate, you will have a very solid foundation in those skills you need to survive an unplanned night out and the knowledge and skills to effectively navigate the back country.

You can take either the survival training or the navigation training - or both.  You save yourself $50 if you take both!  The cost for each phase is $250 but again if you stay for the full five days it will only cost you $450.

The program is designed to prepare you to spend a night out with a minimum of gear - but the right gear!  We do not teach aboriginal skills (rubbing sticks together to start a fire) but focus on quick shelters, effective fire building techniques, signaling techniques that work and the steps you need to take to keep yourself warm and hydrated.

In order to keep the costs down Ralph and I camp out at the Heritage Center and invite those who attend to do likewise.  You can also stay at one of the local B&Bs or motels if you wish.

If you are interested give Ralph or me a call.  If you want to sign up give the US Forest Service a call.  Also keep in mind that we only accept twelve people in the class so it tends to fill quickly

Peter Kummerfeldt   - 719-650-8925
Ralph Wilfong  - 509-993-0092
Nine Mile Heritage Center - 406-626-5403

Follow-up on Battery Leakage Problem

It is always a pleasure to have someone respond to my blog or other piece of writing with a constructive comment or addition to whatever topic I was writing about.  I received an email several weeks ago from Andrea Hill who had read a blog entry I wrote about leaky batteries.  Andrea had solved the problem!  She wrote "I found a great trick to keeping batteries in the actual device but keeping leaking from happening over long periods of inactivity.  I cut a small round of thin plastic (the cheap tupperware you get with lunch meat is a good thickness) and place it in between the battery and the connector to stop the phantom flow of electricity that circulates even when you aren't using the device.  Just remove the plastic piece when you are ready to turn it on!  I haven't had an issue since starting this."  Thank you Andrea.  I'm sure this suggestion will save a lot of battery powered electrical devices.

I am sure many of you who read this blog also have other great ideas regarding making our equipment work when we need it to work - and to work well especially when our lives are on the line.  Please feel free to send them my way.  I won't promise I will publish them all but will make others aware of your suggestions if they have broad application.  Sharp, well exposed photographs would be welcome too.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stay With Your Car


It’s officially winter!  Have you given any thought to what it might be like to spend a night in your car stuck in a ditch somewhere?  Today’s news broadcast reports on the search for a woman who walked away from her car after it slid of the road.  As I write this she is still missing and presumed to be dead.  I’m would hazard a guess that more people each year end up in survival situations after a car accident than do in the backwoods of America.   To continue that thought a step further I would also guess that those people that end “surviving” after a car accident are less prepared than those on a backpacking trip.  We have complete faith in our vehicles ability to get us from one place to the next without incident.  Few people “dress to survive” they “dress to arrive.!

Here’s what I think you should have in your car:

Cellular phone with a charger
4 - quart water bottles
Dehydrated meal with heating element (Military MREs)
Carbohydrate food bars
Toilet paper
Tools (jacket, lug wrench, shovel. windshield ice scraper, multipurpose tool)
Road flares
Tow strap
Booster cables
Blankets or sleeping bags
Chemical warmers
Light sticks
Metal cup
Basic first aid kit
Additional warm clothing to include warm gloves and work gloves.
Winter footwear
Two empty #10 cans (one for melting snow and one for sanitary purposes)
Sack of cat litter (to improve tire traction)
Personal Emergency Beacon
Spare personal critical medications
Flashlight and spare batteries
Portable radio with spare batteries
Ski goggles
Duct tape or Gorilla Tape
Book to read
50 feet of cord
GPS receiver (provides latitude and longitude coordinates)

If you're stuck in your car stay with your car!  Alert someone. Bring all of your supplies into the car where you can easily access them.  Stay warm.  Be patient.  Help will come!