During one of the summers of my youth, my grandmother asked me if I wanted to spend a couple weeks at summer camp. I was in the middle of baseball season, so my answer was an emphatic and resounding “NO.” We compromised, and I was off to the North Woods of Wisconsin for two weeks.
I was sure that the two weeks were for my grandparents benefit and not mine, especially when my Grandmother packed for my trip. She was an early “prepper” of sorts, making sure I had everything necessary, for any type of situation that may arise.
If a hurricane blew through Wisconsin, I had a hurricane lamp. Should a freak July blizzard strike, not to worry; I had a snowsuit and snowshoes. She even sent extra food with me, just in case the camp kitchen ran out.
My grandmother packed so much stuff for me that I was convinced she was moving me out. I just knew I would return to an empty house. My grandfather dropped me off at camp in a U-Haul to carry my stuff. I was the only kid to arrive at Camp Long Lake with five duffel bags, three suitcases and a double hernia, but I was ready for anything.
Regular readers of this column know that I annually write about the importance of a survival pack. The pack is mentioned 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 nauseum.
The survival pack that I preach about endlessly does not have to be overwhelming. Mainly, 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.
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, and all the other things needed for the days activities. The emergency stuff is in there, just in case you have a Murphy moment, from my old buddy from Murphy’s Law fame.
I change packs throughout the year to match the conditions and the type of trip or hunt I am going on. My winter pack is obviously larger, and has much more stuff, because of the harsher environment I will be in, compared to my summer daypack I use for a hike with the wife.
Admittedly, 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, and I am forced to remove all the contents and reassess their importance. Sometimes, the pack gets so heavy it arrives at camp 20 minutes after I do, that’s how I know it is time to clean it out.
What I have assembled here is a list of the things you should start with. Feel free to add other things as you see fit. Medications, extra prescription glasses, dry clothes and many other things can be added for the type of trip, and the possible emergencies you may face.
The truth is, 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.
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
•Flashlight and extra batteries
•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.
•Cell phone - keep 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.
Some other items you may consider if space allows:
•Solar blanket bivy. You can crawl in one of these to keep warm.
•Toilet paper, a must
•Duct tape – for first aid and repairs, wrap some around an old credit card
•Pencil and paper, pens never work outdoors when you want them to
Carry extra ammunition for your firearm. I have seen many cases where a hunter was able to signal for help firing the universal three well-spaced shots, and we were able to respond.
One other item that you should carry is 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 over 3,000 operations each year in the Rocky Mountains of the United States. Over 2,000 people lose their lives annually in those same mountains. Many would be alive today had they been better prepared.
This year let’s all build a survival pack and spend some time training/practicing the use of the items contained therein. Try and visualize any emergency you may encounter, and what your response will be. There is no such thing as over preparing or over training.
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, as my Grandmother did, just enough to see you through the emergency. I don’t want another double hernia, so I really lightened up my packs.
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 email@example.com
For outdoors or survival related questions or comments, feel free to contact him directly at his email elkhunter77 @bresnan.net