A man stranded for three days on a snowy mountain road in Montana attributed his survival to God, a rationed supply of beef jerky, and the game that he played on his cell phone to keep his wits. David Heatherly stated that his sports-utility vehicle became stuck Sunday afternoon on a back road in the National Forest, where he had gone to photograph the scenery and wildlife.
After discovering that he had no phone reception and concluding that nobody else would come by, the 42-year old took stock: he had a pouch of beef jerky, some water, and a litde coffee. Eventually, the weather cleared and the guy took off walking, leaving his water and remaining beef jerky behind (stoooopid!).
He walked six or seven miles and found a house, where he was taken in and fed. Meanwhile, searchers from four counties had spent three days looking for him.
Had I been in his shoes, I'd have been screwed—God hates me, and I don't play video games, on the phone or elsewhere. I'd rather rely on having supplies with me everywhere I go.
My former boss was a young trooper when he was assigned to Northway, Alaska. He was on his last patrol before calling it a night. It was 60 below zero, dark, with no traffic on the highway when he saw a set of tire tracks leaving the roadway. He backed up and found a family of six down the embankment, standing there shivering. They had plenty of cold weather gear, but it was all in a trailer that had overturned, and they couldn't get to any of it. Had Trooper Godfrey not stopped, they would have all died. Godfrey was adamant that we keep survival gear in every vehicle, and I still do.
The first two things you need are shelter and water, and in lousy weather, shelter should come first. Your car is shelter, and survival rule #1 is, stay with the vehicle! If you do decide to leave your car, do it before all your supplies are gone. If you have adequate supplies, the vehicle is good shelter, and it's easier to see a car in the middle of the road than to see a guy walking. The battery and fuel will eventually be gone, so you need enough stuff to keep you going until the cavalry arrives.
"Stuff" means water, food, and clothing.
In an earlier article 1 talked about water for one day. I said a minimum of one liter, since you were hoofing it. In a vehicle, take more. I usually carry four gallons, which could last me two weeks in a pinch.
In my part of the world, there are hundreds of streams of clean water, so I can get more. I did contract giardia once in Alaska when I drank from a tundra pond. I don't want to do that again, so my kit contains a Katadyn water filter. I can pump gallons of water into my bottles and it will be drinkable.
Of course if you're in the arid Southwest, you will need to keep water in your vehicle.
In cold weather, you should plan on 3,000 calories a day at the very minimum. Forget all about your low-carb, low-fat, no-sugar, gluten-free organic diet of the week—carry a mix of carbs, protein, fat, vitamins, and electrolytes. It's not a bad idea to carry a treat, just to lift your spirits, so some chocolate would be good. Candy bars are OK, but they only provide a short burst of energy followed by a letdown—eat them sparingly.
The one-gallon Ziploc* bag shown in the photos contains three meals and a couple of snacks, plus powdered electrolytes, which will keep one person going strong for a day. I keep ten bags in the kit. The bag has freeze-dried food, Power Bars, etc. It also has good instant coffee from Starbucks, called Via - even lost, cold, hungry and scared, I'd get pissy without some decent hot coffee.
Speaking of hot, hot food is better than cold food. In cold temps, hot food helps keep your core warm, and was always a morale booster for me. You can eat MREs and canned or freeze-dried food cold, but they go down harder. I have a couple of old Coleman Peak Stoves. They are simple to use and can burn unleaded gas in a pinch. I set up the stove during a March snowstorm and had water boiling in six minutes. The pot holding the water doubles as a case for the stove. Coleman still makes a similar single-burner stove called a dual fuel, and it looks like the usual great Coleman quality. Do not use the stove inside a closed car - the flame burns up all the oxygen and you will die.
My vehicle kit is divided into two parts, both packed in Maxpedition bags. The larger bag, the Sovereign load-out duffel, was selected because an AR carbine will fit in it. I throw in a mag bag and have adequate weaponry, kept out of sight. It also contains bulky sleeping bags, gloves, showshoes, boots, and other cold-weather gear, which I can swap out as the seasons change.
The smaller bag, the Doppelduffel, is a grab-and-go bag if I have to leave the truck. It has shoulder straps and can be carried as a backpack if necessary. It's not designed for carrying a big load for long periods, but will do in a pinch.
This bag contains the water filter and bottle, stove, three meal bags, knife, first aid kit, and the best shelter/sleeping system I've ever used - the Ionosphere sold by Proforce Equipment.
Remember, if you abandon the shelter of the vehicle, you need to take shelter with you.
I won't tell you gear is good until I test it. I set up the Ionosphere bivvy bag with fly, multimat sleeping pad, rain fly, silk liner, and sleeping bag in late February. Even under a cedar tree, the system was hammered by wind and snow. The ground was wet when I set it up, so I wanted to see if it were really waterproof - after a week, it was still dry. I slept in it for two nights at 27 degrees, and the system was great. The really good news for a guy my size is that all the sleeping bags are 86 inches long, meaning I don't have to shop around for a long bag. Outstanding.
This gear is primarily made in England, was developed for Spec Ops troops, and has been tested from the tropics to Antarctica. Weight and space are at a premium, so this stuff really compresses. All six items weigh a total of 15 pounds, not bad for the versatility it offers. The best thing is the attention to detail: all stakes, lines, line tighteners, and even repair kits are included. It comes in colors suitable for military missions, and costs the same as recreational gear available from the big stores. I'm so impressed I'm ordering a three-man tent for longer wilderness trips.
In our trooper cars, we carried a crowbar, axe, and shovel. If you get caught in a natural disaster, trees will fall across the road - hence the axe. If you travel in sand, snow, mud, or gravel, the car can get stuck - hence the shovel. We carried a standard short shovel, but if space is at a premium, there are a couple of other shovels worth looking at. The effectiveness of a shovel depends on leverage, which comes from a long handle. Unfortunately, a full-size shovel is hard to stow in the trunk of a sedan, so all shovels are a compromise.
Any former ground-pounder will remember "tool, entrenching." A surplus shovel is fine if you can find one. Glock makes a great shovel that is light, compact, and with a very good saw that fits inside the handle, but either will do in a pinch. There is a new tool that combines a shovel and a crowbar, but I have not seen one, so can't comment on its quality.
The idea of a shovel as a weapon is nothing new—I'm pretty sure a Roman legionnaire in Gaul killed a German or two with his shovel. There is documentation of shovels used as weapons dating from the Civil War, and lots of GIs sharpened the edges at Bastogne. One U.S. Army bayonet was also designed as a spade. But the shovel is designed to dig, and should be considered a tool first and a weapon second. I also carry a standard single-bit axe. The back of the axe is a hammer if I need to pound something.
Kalso carry a couple of quaint items: a map and military compass. I know that your iPad, iPod, tablet, and smart phone all have GPS capabilities, and you can Google Earth to see what's there. I also know that GPS has sent me to places that no longer exist, and that roads get closed or washed out. A Canadian tourist died in Nevada last year because his new GPS told him to turn left to get to Reno.
If I know where I was and can see on a map where I went, I'm pretty sure I can orient the map with a compass and get out Batteries die, and unless the earth's axis shifts, magnetic north will always be there.
I keep both bags on the back floor of my extended-cab pickup. I strap them down so they won't become missiles if I go off the road. If I'm taking a different car. I can easily throw them in the back seat where they're accessible. I plan to add a canopy and some dedicated boxes in the bed to store the gear and some standard tools such as jumper cables, along with a winch and other goodies. This is my primary vehicle, so I'll have everything I need anywhere I go.
A couple of fine troopers I worked with became scapegoats when a family died through stupidity. The grandfather, grandmother and grandson told family members they were going to drive south from Anchorage toward Seward. Instead they drove north to Cantwell and onto the closed Denali Highway (past the "road closed in winter" sign) and eventually froze to death.
A little common sense and preparation would have kept this from happening. Carry good gear and let someone know where you're going and when you'll be back. All survival gear is a compromise, but it's better to have too much in the rig instead of too little. Your actual load depends on where you live, where you're going, weather, terrain - the list is unending.
Just like fighting in any form, there is no one solution for every situation. That's why Jeff's rule for what you need is "It depends."
KATADYN NORTH AMERICA MC. nvww.katadyn.com
PR0F0RCE EQUIPMENT, INC www. proforceequipment com
Having a decent first aid kit in your training rue is an absolute must; although there are numerous civilian kits easily available from good quality outdoor stores it's worth considering a military grade one as they tend to go just that little bit further.
You need to be able to sort yourself or your buddy out if things go wrong and an injury is sustained, and you need to ensure that you have the requisite skills to be able to use what is in your kit effectively. We'll cover this off in one of our Survival Essentials articles at a later date. You also need to ensure that you regularly update your personal first aid kit as certain items, such as drugs, do have an expiry date; many folk just purchase a kit and then only refer back to it when they need to.
The Military First Aid Kit from BCB international is pretty comprehensive. It comes in a useful DPM pouch with zip closure that when opened reveals a number of separated compartments, which contain a variety of first aid products suitable for the treatment of minor injuries.
The MFAK includes Tweezers, Antiseptic wipes, Waterproof Plasters, wound Closure Strip, Resuscitator with one way valve, Various dressings, Paratulle, Triangular bandage, Crepe bandage, Anchor dressing, Conforming bandage. Disposable gloves, Safety pins, Scissors, Plaster strip, Microporous adhesive tape, Zinc oxide tape. Razor blades, and Paracetamol.
Priced at a wallet from a friendly $45 the MFAK from BCB most certainly gets our recommendation!
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Whatever time of year you're out training one vital piece of equipment is a decent sleeping bag. However what you need in mid-summer can be drastically different to what you need in the winter months so looking for a sleeping bay system that is purpose made to work together is a very sensible option.
For the last year or so I've been using the excellent Special Forces System from Snugpak, and it really does cover all the bases! This system has been designed for ultimate versatility, and to suit any trip in any environment. You can use the sleeping bags individually or layer them together to cover all conditions. Snugpak's innovative Softie insulation and the Snugfit hood make sure you are as warm and comfortable as possible, and this sleeping bag's anti-snag, 2-way centre zip means that it is always easy to get in and out when you're in a hurry.
The Complete System gives you the Special Forces 1 Bag for use in above freezing temperatures and the Special Forces 2 Bag for use in temperatures right down to -10°C. Then, when you're in extreme conditions, you place the Special Forces 1 Bag inside the special Forces 2 Bag and join them together with the extra zip baffle, so you're protected in conditions right down to -20°C. Ingenious!
When joined in this way, you retain the convenience of closing and opening with one central, quick release zip. Both bags have a reinforced foot area and come with their own stuff sack to keep everything together. You can buy this as a whole system for $300.00 or the system can be built up from two separate Special Forces sleeping bags which are available individually. The system is available in Black, Olive, Desert Tan, but if you want to be right up to the minute you can have A-TACS AU or Multicam for an extra $75! Combined with one of Snugpaks excellent bivi bags, this system will have you sorted year round.
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Even during the south's relatively mild winters, we still hear of people dying from 'exposure', a rather inaccurate name for the condition known as hypothermia. 'Exposure' is more akin to leaving some part of one's clothing unfastened in public and, while often shocking, it is unlikely to prove fatal. When the body's core temperature drops by only two or three degrees, hypothermia (meaning 'too little warmth') is the outcome. This condition must be treated immediately or death can result. Keeping warm seems to be one survival skill that does not receive the attention it warrants.
One reason hypothermia is such a killer is because when the body's core temperature falls, vital areas of the brain cease to function efficiently, making the victim unaware of their plight. Sometimes they even feel euphoric while the dangerous symptoms advance. Common outer effects of hypothermia are complaints of being cold, shivering, stumbling and uncoordinated actions, slurred speech, bad judgement and irrational behavior. The combination of these indicates an extremely dangerous situation.
If the victim can be returned to camp quickly, this could be the best course of action, but it may be necessary to create a shelter on the spot. Exchange wet clothing for dry clothing. Build a fire with a wall of snow or 'space blanket' as a reflector. Heat water and give warm drinks - never alcohol. If the patient is placed in a sleeping bag, it must first be pre-warmed by another member of the party or heat will continue to be lost. The sleeping bag is only an insulator, not a heater.
During WWII, downed fliers rescued from the cold North Sea revived rapidly when placed naked in a sleeping bag with two nude members of the opposite sex. This may not be practical in your group, but it has saved lives. Use branches or bundles of grass to insulate the sleeping bag from the cold ground and make sure that the victim's head and neck are insulated.
As the body warms, heat sensors in the skin can fool the victim into believing that they have recovered. However, it is safer to allow some rest for several hours to ensure that the body's core temperature has stabilised at a normal level.
It takes the body about three hours to regain the warmth lost in less than one hour, making it obviously more efficient to retain the warmth that we have rather than to warm up after drastic heat loss. Therefore, of the four necessities for survival, the two most important in cold weather are warmth and shelter. Food and water can take a lesser role, but prior adequate intake of these two helps prevent hypothermia.
To prevent hypothermia the body needs adequate insulation. This is usually provided by several layers of clothing. The outer layer should be water- and windproof. It is important to keep the body dry. It can be difficult to manage one's clothing so that sweat evaporates from the inside but water and wind remain outside. The outer shell need only be worn when necessary and can be kept in a small bum bag until needed. Keep yourself well fed and properly hydrated and pace yourself to prevent fatigue.
During supervised survival exercises I learnt how branches of ti-tree stuffed into a jacket and trouser legs provide welcome insulation from the cold. On the floor of an alpine hut I discovered how crumpled sheets of newspaper held between open sheets of the same publication with staples and packaging tape make an effective sleeping bag. These were exercises designed to test one's ingenuity, but I assure you, it's better to spend money in your favourite outdoor shop than to improvise in an emergency.
THE Ultimate Survival range of tools was originally designed to meet the rigorous demands of the US military' and their Ultimate Deluxe Survival Tool Kit is boasted to be a collection of some of the world's finest outdoor survival tools.
Packaged in a fibreglass reinforced ABS plastic case which is waterproof and crushproof, the tool kit contains essential tools to meet the demands of surviving outdoors and recreational disasters. The kit includes a Blast Match Fire Starter, Wet Fire Tinder, Star Flash Signal Mirror. Jet Scream Whistle, and Saber Cut Saw.
The Blast Match fire starter is a one handed, all weather fire starter which was originally developed for use by pilots.
Combined with the Wet Fire tinder you'll have a roaring blaze in any conditions, even driving rain. The tinder is a non-toxic, smokeless and odourless substance which actually burns longer when wet. The Star Flash signal mirror is unbreakable, floats and can accurately signal for comms over a range of 100km.
The Jet Scream whistle produces a ear-piercing shriek and is very useful in emergency situations while the Saber Cur saw (really a flexible hand chainsaw) will get you out of most predicaments. Compact, razor sharp, bi-directional and self cleaning, the saw can be used for cutting at almost any angle and in almost any position and is particularly useful in situations where clearance space is minimal. Altogether a very tough package.
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