Summer is a really wonderful time to enjoy the great outdoors. As a Dad, I can certainly tell you the value of getting your kids to put down the iPads, iPhones, and the video games and get back to nature.
But also as a Rescue Professional, I have to remind you that even a simple day hike can lead to disaster – if you are not prepared.
All it takes is a slight miscalculation of direction, a momentary wander off of your marked trail, or a sudden turn of weather for you to find yourself helplessly lost in the wilderness.
“Helpless” that is, only if you have failed to take a few simple precautions, that all begin with being prepared.
The best way to be prepared for any unexpected eventuality whenever you venture into the woods, even a well-marked recreational facility – is to carry a survival kit with you. By taking a few pieces of essential survival gear with you whenever you are backpacking, you can turn any potentially life-threatening situation literally into a “walk in the park.”
You have probably all seen the kind of survival stories on TV and in the movies, where people survive being lost in the woods by relying on primitive survival skills, to make fire, shelter, and obtain water. Don’t get me wrong, these are great skills to have – and you should try to learn them – but the fact of the matter is – you won’t need to, if you take a basic survival kit along with you.
At the very least, your Survival Kit should contain:
- A Compass – Wherever you happen to be, whether you are stranded in the ocean, caught in a blizzard, or lost in a deep, dark forest late at night, a simple compass in your hand will always point North, and help you find your way.
- Fire-starters –Being able to start a fire can make all the difference in a survival situation. Having a fire provides comfort and can also help signal your location to rescuers. Have a few different ways to start a fire in your pack: Simple disposable lighters, waterproof matches and a magnesium rod and striker.
- A Flashlight – A reliable light source is essential in any survival situation. A flashlight can help you to complete your shelter or other critical survival tasks into the night, and is a way to signal for help.
- A Heavy Poncho – A heavy-duty poncho can be used for many purposes other than being worn to protect your body from cold and rain. It can be used to build a shelter and gather water.
- A Whistle – Simple easy to pack, important signaling device. Stainless steel or plastic is better than low-grade metal to avoid rusting.
- A Signal Mirror – For obvious reasons.
- A Survival Knife – A good knife is quite possibly the most important outdoor survival tool you can have in any kit. A sturdy, non-folding, “full-tang” knife with a three-inch blade is easy to carry and very versatile.
- Provisions – Three days of water and food rations
The Kit and Kaboodle
Besides always having your kit with you, here are a few other things you need to do to be prepared before any outdoor adventure.
- One of the most important things you can do before you go, besides packing your Survival Kit, is to always let someone know where you are going, and when you are expected back. No one is going to look for you unless they know you are missing.
- Leave a very detailed trip plan with someone — a reliable friend or relative every time you go outward bound, whether, for a day hike or an extended fishing trip.
- Let them know as much about your planned route as possible. Tell them about any side trips you might plan on taking, make sure they know how many people are in your party, and the make, color and plate number of your vehicle.
- Ask that person to check, and make sure that you arrive home safely at the day and time you said you would.
NOTE: Telling someone your travel plans will only help you if you stick to them. Unless you are in immediate danger — if you do get in trouble, try to hunker down and stay put. It will be much easier for Search and Rescue Teams to find you if you stick as close as possible to your planned itinerary.
Of course, make sure that the person you gave your trip plan to, knows your mobile phone number. However, keep in mind that today’s technology can be great, but do not make the mistake of relying on it to get you out of a jam. Smartphones and similar devices are fabulous when they work, but batteries die, and signals can be sporadic, especially in wilderness areas. Not to mention, they can get lost or damaged.
In the best case scenario, even if you should manage to reach help on your mobile, it can still take them a while to reach you – that wait can be made a lot easier if you have the items along to keep you safe, and warm and dry.