Wilderness Survival Essentials

April 23, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Late last year, I was asked by fans of my Facebook page what I typically carry in my pack. I'm going to answer that question in today's blog update!

Ultralight hiking is very popular these days, but it's still important to carry enough to keep you safe. I feel that if I get into trouble in the mountains, I should make every effort to get myself out.

Two stories spring to mind when I think of this subject - both of them featuring a senior citizen. In the first, a grandmother's car becomes stuck in a snowdrift, and she survives for multiple days by using the items she had in the car. In the other, a woman's dog runs out of her isolated house one fall evening. She runs after the dog into the fields beyond, until she turns around in the darkness and can't see her house. Hypothermia claims her that night.

There are no second chances in wild places, and they can be closer than you may think. Preparedness and presence of mind can make a vast difference.

My last update showed how to assemble a simple survival kit - something you wouldn't ordinarily touch, but that could save your life one day. You could arguably add to that list a first aid kit and 50 feet of paracord. I've used both in a non-survival situation, so they don't quite fit my definition of survival equipment, but they are certainly essential items. A small flashlight and a sharp knife also have a permanent place in my pack.

High calorie, non perishable food should be a part of any daypack. It's an easy way to supplement your supplies with spare calories - just in case. Water is a tough one. It's heavy and it's often a target for weight saving, but it's extremely important and will have a powerful impact on your performance long before it becomes a matter of life and death. Conditions and individual needs vary, so I will strongly suggest that you carry as much as you need to stay hydrated all day.

Clothing is more simple. I carry everything I need for the expected weather conditions - and one extra layer. if I'm stranded overnight or run into a storm, I'll be glad to have that layer!

If you're in unfamiliar terrain, be sure to carry a map and compass, and know how to use them. GPS devices are a useful alternative, but require a finite power source to function.

Many modern backpacks include a whistle, which is a clever addition. Throw one in your pack if you don't already have one. In a survival situation, signalling by whistle, reflective blankets and flashlights could lead rescuers to you.

It's important to tailor your wilderness equipment to your environment. In winter, the need for heat and shelter becomes more urgent, and I carry a spare pair of gloves. Why? If you lose a glove in a winter storm, your hands can rapidly become too cold to perform some important tasks. Similarly, if you use snowshoes or skis, be prepared to fix problems that arise with them.

It would take a whole book to explain every aspect of wilderness survival, and better qualified people have already done that, so I'll let my contribution end here. I've never been in a real survival situation, although I have learned to build shelters and fires, and to find safe water. I'm mentally and physically prepared for whatever the wilderness will throw at me, which allows me to concentrate on the photography and the outdoor adventure!

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