Tips from the Posse

Now is the time to check the contents of your pack, in case you have to spend an unplanned night in the woods.

Mark Rackay is a columnist for the Montrose Daily Press and avid hunter who travels across North and South America in search of adventure and serves as a director for the Montrose County Sheriff’s Posse. For information about the posse call 970-252-4033 (leave a message) or email

For outdoors or survival related questions or comments, feel free to contact him directly at his email

I was in my office, catching a short power nap, when the high-octave screech from the other room startled me awake. Bolting out the office door, ready to go three rounds with the Cookie Monster, I clumsily came to the rescue.

What I found was my wife pointing at my hunting pack and screaming, “Something in there moved. I tried to pick it up and hang it back on the hook, and it moved. What poor creature do you have trapped in there?”

“Nonsense,” I exclaimed. Nonsense is an excellent word and I exclaim it every chance I get. In the interest of marital bliss, I grabbed the pack and headed back into my office with it, keeping any further exclamations to myself.

Upon closer examination of the backpack, I realized that something was definitely amiss. I normally go through my pack and update the snacks and survival gear at the end of hunting season, in December, to have it ready for spring and summer hiking season. I then redo the pack in September to get it ready once again for the hunting seasons.

Apparently, I neglected to remove the snack foods last spring from the pack. While I did find the beef jerky had evolved into a semi-intelligent life form, and was grazing on a half-eaten Snickers bar, I seriously doubt the pack actually “moved.” Nonetheless, it was time to clean out the pack and get it ready for the upcoming seasons.

Regular readers of my columns know that I annually write about the importance of a survival pack. The pack is necessary as standard equipment for just about all outdoor excursions and activities. It astonishes me that every year, people are stranded in the woods without equipment or skills to stay alive, even though it is preached at them endlessly ad nauseam from all outdoor people.

I try to convince people to carry some things in their packs for that “just in case moment.” These items should be geared for the time of year you are heading up into the woods and the particular activity you will be involved with.

Most of these items will fit in the side pockets or a separate small bag to be carried in your pack. This leaves plenty of room in the pack for the other things, like extra clothes, fishing tackle, binoculars, hunting gear, lunch, snacks, drinks, beef jerky and half-eaten Snickers bars.

The emergency stuff is in there, just in case you have a Murphy moment, from my old buddy of Murphy’s Law fame. I can promise you that if you spend enough time in the great outdoors, you are eventually going to run into the erudite Murphy.

I am one of those people who will constantly add new items to their pack. Every time I see something that will be useful, someday, it gets added to the pack. This gets out of hand when the pack gets too heavy to lift. This is the big reason I must go through the pack twice a year.

Begin with making a small survival kit. Keep it small and lightweight so you can carry it with you all the time. Keep it with you everywhere you go, as it will not help you if it is sitting in the truck. Probably 90% of the rescues the sheriff’s posse conducts are for folks who have no survival kit with them. Being unprepared turns a minor inconvenience into a life-threatening emergency.

Here is a list to get you started:

• Compass and GPS: It is most important to take a waypoint for your starting place on the GPS. This way, you always have a Lat/Lon number to head home to.

• Signal mirror and whistle: These are great for helping searchers locate you in the event of an emergency.

• Knife and Leatherman tool: I prefer a separate knife, not just the one in the multi-tool.

• Flashlight and extra batteries: Lots of extra batteries, preferably the lithium type over the alkaline. They work better in the cold and don’t leak.

• Waterproof matches, lighter, fire starter-fire can be used for signaling and warmth.

• Drinking water-some packs come with a hydration bladder built in.

• Food-power bars, trail mix, jerky etc. High energy snacks with protein. And Snickers bars.

• Cell phone: Keep the power off to save battery. The battery power will run out quickly searching for service. Carry a portable battery pack to recharge the phone.

• Small first-aid kit: Carry only essential items, such as a tourniquet, Israeli bandage, couple band-aids, etc., keeping weight in mind. Be sure that you have any essential prescription drugs you may require.

• Rain Poncho: Can also be used as a shelter or tarp.

• Solar blanket bivy. You can crawl in one of these to keep warm.

• Toilet paper: A must if you eat that bad jerky.

• Duct tape: For first aid and repairs, wrap some around an old credit card for easy carry.

• Pencil and paper: Pens never work outdoors when you want them to.

• Extra ammunition for your firearm: Many times a lost person was able to signal for help firing the universal three well-spaced shots.

• Extra warm clothing: In the mountains, the temperature can drop 30 or more degrees in a matter of minutes. Having some dry clothes along will help in case you get wet.

According to the Mountain Rescue Association, search and rescue personnel conduct more than 3,000 operations each year in the Rocky Mountains of the United States. More than 2,000 people lose their lives annually in those same mountains. Many would be alive today had they been better prepared. Most people, who are lost or stranded, are rescued within 24 to 36 hours. It is not necessary to pack enough equipment to survive the 100-year war.

The woods are not the place to give Murphy’s Law a test. Mother Nature has no sense of humor. She will change the weather in an instant, hide your visual reference points and partner with Murphy to throw an injury at you. While you are fighting for your life, the two of them are laughing themselves silly and eating the last of the cookies in your pack.

Actually, I think it was Murphy who ate the half a Snickers bar. I know it was not me, because I would have eaten the whole thing.

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