Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Essential Survival Gear

Not every piece of outdoor equipment is equally critical to your survival.

Some items are simply more versatile and valuable than others. And here's a surprise — one of the most important pieces of equipment is also one of the least expensive.

I'm talking about a cheap little rain poncho that costs only a couple bucks at your local WalMart, and is compact enough to fit in a shirt pocket. It might be small and lightweight, but when the weather turns bad this little sheet of plastic might save your life.

The truth is that most outdoor survival victims end up suffering some level of hypothermia, commonly referred to as "exposure."

You've probably read the headlines in which the media announces that someone was found dead of exposure. What they're really talking about is hypothermia, which is a lowering of the body core temperature. It doesn't take much of a drop in core temperature before you start losing the ability to do necessary tasks to keep yourself alive.

The biggest cause of hypothermia is getting wet. Damp clothing acts like an evaporative air conditioner, sucking away the warmth from inside your body. That's why, when I teach outdoor survival, I use a key phrase that says, "Stay dry or die." That's really the heart of the problem. If you get wet, it will be almost impossible to stay warm, so one of the most important principles of survival is to stay dry.

And that's where the cheap little pocket poncho comes into play. If you use the poncho to protect yourself from rain or snow, you are taking the biggest single step in avoiding hypothermia.

The second biggest factor in hypothermia is the wind. Even a slight breeze will chill you in a hurry, especially if your clothes are wet. The poncho is very effective at shielding you from the wind. So with this one inexpensive piece of equipment, you are well on your way to protecting yourself from two potentially deadly survival problems — wet and wind.

As a bonus, this is a versatile piece of gear. Other than wearing it as a poncho, you can spread it out on the ground as a rain collector for gathering drinking water. Or you can use it as part of a shelter roof or wall. Or you can wrap up in it as a lightweight blanket. Or you can use it as a signaling flag to attract attention of rescuers (especially if it is brightly colored). You can even use the thin plastic in a traumatic first aid situation to close a sucking chest wound.

I recommend that everyone carry a pocket poncho when venturing outdoors, and even carry a couple of them in the vehicle. You never know when you might break down and end up walking on a dark and stormy night.

1 comment:

  1. I'm getting too damn old to get more than a few thousand feet from my 5th wheel, and my box of wine.