Friday, April 25, 2014

Core Essentials For Outdoor Survival

TentIt’s that time of year when people start abandoning their couch and TV and heading outside in search of adventure. It doesn’t matter whether your brand of adventure is hiking or camping or fishing or mountain biking or river kayaking.

No matter what you like to do when you leave civilization behind and head into the backcountry, you should stop and think — "What if something forces me to stay longer than planned? What do I need to survive?" This is a key concept, because you never know when you will unexpectedly end up in an emergency situation that turns into a survival incident.

It’s so easy for that to happen. All it takes is a simple injury, like a twisted ankle, on some remote trail. Or getting turned around and not knowing the way back to camp. Or a sudden storm that strands you a long way from your shelter.

If a trip suddenly becomes a survival situation, there are some basic things to consider. These are core essentials to survival in the outdoors. So here we go. The number one thing to consider is that:

• Exposure to the elements poses a threat to human existence. In a survival situation, maintaining proper body temperature is critical. Shelter from the elements — rain, wind, heat, and cold is vital. Your clothing is the first line of defense when it comes to shelter. Clothing with long sleeves and long pant legs is important in both hot and cold weather, because it helps control body temperature and dehydration. Long clothing also helps prevent sunburn, scrapes, bug bites, and other minor injuries. Every person should have windproof and water resistant clothing (an inexpensive pocket poncho works), as well as insulating layers to help maintain the proper body core temperature.

• Food is important. Even though a healthy individual can survive for a prolonged period of time without eating, the problem with going too long without food is that you literally run out of fuel and can't function efficiently. It might take several weeks to actually die of starvation, but in the meantime you will be operating at a progressively lower level mentally and physically. No matter how long your trip is planned for, take along enough compact, high-calorie emergency food to last a few extra days. It's good insurance.

• Water is absolutely essential to survival. Each person should have a couple quarts of drinkable water every day — and more if there is much exertion or if the ambient temperature is high. Take three-times as much water as you think you need for the outing. For greatest safety, a portable water purification system should be included in your equipment inventory. Filters are available in backpacking stores or from outdoor equipment mail order catalogs. Get one that removes dangerous waterborne microorganisms, such as giardia.

• And finally, Fire — take redundant methods of starting a fire, so you can have one in your jacket, and your pants, and your pack. You don’t want to be without a means of starting a fire, even if you happened to leave your jacket or pack in camp, then wandered away and got lost. Fire can be used as a signaling method, or for cooking food, purifying water, for warming you up and drying wet clothing, and for cheering up a gloomy night.

• Before leaving on your trip, file a flight plan with trusted individuals back home. These are your family members and friends or co-workers. Tell them where you're going, when you'll be back, and any side-trips you have in mind. Include information about who you’re traveling with, what vehicles are being used, and what type of equipment you’re carrying. That way, if you don't show up back home in a reasonable time, a search can be initiated. Don’t alter the plan, unless you call and notify the people back home that you are doing so. This might seem like a lot of trouble, but it is nothing compared to being stranded for several days on your own because the search teams are looking for you in the wrong location.

• Once you’re in camp, don’t just wander away without letting someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return. Discuss your plans with a responsible adult who can organize a search if you don't return at the appointed time.

• Talk with everyone in the group about the rules of conduct in camp. If there are children along, make sure they understand that everyone needs to know where each person is all the time. If someone turns up missing, conduct an immediate search, looking for footprints and calling out to the missing person. If your efforts don’t result in finding the missing person quickly, don't waste any more time before calling for reinforcements. While you’re waiting for the search and rescue team to arrive, continue to search actively. But make sure every person in your party remains in contact with each other. You don’t want searchers getting lost and making the situation worse.

• Prepare each person with knowledge and basic equipment for survival alone in the wilderness. Each person should have an age-appropriate kit that could include some of the following items: a pocket full of emergency rations, a bottle of water, a small first aid kit, a whistle and a signal mirror, a means of starting a fire, an emergency shelter, a knife, and a small flashlight. That might sound like a lot of stuff, but believe it or not, all this can be carried in a small fanny pack or in the pockets of cargo pants.

• Youngsters of responsible age should be taught how to prepare an emergency survival camp, signal for help, use a pocket poncho for shelter, and make their position obvious to searchers through audible and visual signals.

• Get some first aid training, and carry a good kit that you have assembled yourself, so you know what’s in there and what to do with it. The most common injuries are cuts, scrapes, burns, sprains and fractures. You should know how to handle those kinds of medical emergencies. If someone in your group is sensitive to bee stings, you need to know that and be prepared to handle that kind of situation. If someone is diabetic, you need to know that and understand how to handle insulin shock or diabetic coma. Contact your local fire department and ask where you can get emergency medical training. They’ll point you in the right direction.

If everyone in your group is prepared like this, there’s a better chance of a positive outcome if something does go wrong and you end up in a survival situation.

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