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How to Sleep More Warmly at Night

How to Sleep More Warmly at Night

With cold weather overnights having just arrived this week, and Winter just around the corner, I wanted to offer some often overlooked tips to help you sleep more warmly at night … Even if you use a winter-rated bag. They will not only help you to feel more rested in the morning, but help reduce the chances of a cold-related medical emergency. Put on a Hat:  While my grandmother exaggerated a bit when she told me that we lose “80%” of our body heat through our heads, research has indeed shown that we still tend to lose a lot of heat there through radiation due to blood flow.  So simply wearing a hat when we are cold will generally make us feel warmer, whether or not we are already wearing a warm coat. Wear Wool:  When it comes to clothing, wool is regularly disregarded in favor of cotton.  After all, […]

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Survival Training Technique … Learn From Other’s Mistakes

Survival Training Technique ... Learn From Other's Mistakes

On Saturday morning, I read the sad news account of the death of a South Korean exchange student a day earlier at the famous Seven Sisters Cliffs in England.  Business Insider reported that Hyewon Kim, who was touring the area by herself, asked someone to take a photograph of her as she “jumped” from the cliff. Kim walked by numerous posted signs that warned her of the danger along the cliffs to find the perfect spot for her photograph, which presumably she intended to then text to family and friends back home. However, her simple hop into the air caused the ground to crumble so Kim fell 200 feet to the shore below, suffering “catastrophic injuries.”  What most of us would have considered a typical lark in the outdoors is now a tragedy for a family Do you think that this is the first time that I’ve read about such […]

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Choosing a Satellite Beacon

Choosing a Satellite Beacon

I’m heading to Utah in a few weeks. For those who’ve talked to me for more than 10 min, you know that Utah is my Mecca. So needless to say, I’m super excited. I plan on driving about 2,000 miles around southern Utah over nine days. One of my stops is the amazingly beautiful, Reflection Canyon. If you have not seen pictures of this place, do yourself a favor and google it now. Here’s the kicker — getting to Reflection Canyon requires driving down a very rough and unpatrolled “road” for about two hours. From there, you have to hike in complete wilderness (no paths, signs or guides of any kind) for 10 miles. Needless to say, there is no cell coverage and no water access of any kind the whole time. Despite me being overly prepared with tools and skill sets, I am concerned about the inability to call […]

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Making Water Potable

Making Water Potable

One of the most fundamental elements of life, and to potentially surviving a wilderness emergency, is potable water.  Yet, the methods to making contaminated water safe to drink is often misunderstood. The process involves two steps, not just one, as many believe or are told, even by the staff at big-box outdoor retail stores.  So, remember, making water potable involves both filtration and purification. Both steps are needed because, depending on your chosen methods, not all necessarily remove the pathogens that will make you sick, namely parasites, bacteria, and viruses.  Most manufactured filters will remove relatively big critters, like parasites and bacteria, but not viruses.  In turn, many purifications methods will not be fully effective if water hasn’t been initially filtered. There are several methods to filter water, whether it is a piece of equipment or some improvised means. Such examples include: Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System Lifestraw Bandana Improvised three-stage […]

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Even Small Things can be Powerful

Even Small Things can be Powerful

Whether we are hiking, fishing, paddling, or enjoying the beauty of the Great Outdoors in any number of others ways, emergencies can occur.  If you ever found yourself in the woods in need of help, what type of signaling device do you think would be the most helpful? Consider a study by the National Park Service conducted in 2014 which summarized the most common reasons why people needed to be rescued in its parks.  The single most common activity in which the subjects of a search were engaged was the “Day Hike” (42%).  This far outpaced the next activity, overnight backpacking, at 13%.  Other activities represented low single digits, where even “Technical Climbing” only accounted for a mere 2% of rescues.  And during these activities, the most common factors that contributed to the need for help were “Fatigue / Physical Conditioning” (23%) and “Error in Judgment” (19%).  I would submit that this study is representative […]

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The Little Things Matter

The Little Things Matter

You have all heard the maxim, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  But is it true? While I agree with it conceptually, I have never been able to completely embrace it in practice.  Especially when it comes to outdoor activities.  In my view, it is the small stuff which is most important. It is the small details on which everything else (that is, the big stuff) is based, and if that base is bad, everything else could quickly fall apart.  During my courses, I regularly remind students that they need to pay attention to detail because, otherwise, those oversights have the potential to combine to create a very serious situation for themselves, and others.  After all, a catastrophe does not result simply as the result of one single, isolated incident, but rather as a chain of seemingly unrelated incidents that reach a critical mass.  By sweating the small stuff, one can […]

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Drinking Your Pee: Survival Technique or Myth?

Drinking Your Pee: Survival Technique or Myth?

Last November, Ron Hutter, an experienced hiker and former Boy Scout set out on a 20 minute hike intended only to pass the time before meeting a friend for lunch.  As such, he left his backpack in his vehicle.  Not long after starting out, though, he realized that he had somehow missed the trail and was lost.  He spent the next four days and three nights fighting to survive. Towards the end of that first day, Hutter took stock of his meager supplies, which included just 10 ounces of water.  At this point he remembered, as he explained in an interview after his rescue on Tucson News, a “survival technique.”  That is, to stay hydrated, he would have to start drinking his own urine. Is Drinking one’s Urine a Survival Technique? One of the most common questions that I am asked during my survival courses and lectures:  “Is it okay during a survival situation to drink […]

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Snakebite Kits … Do They Work?

Snakebite Kits ... Do They Work?

One of the topics that True North covers in its various wilderness medicine programs, like Wilderness First Aid, is how to properly manage a snakebite.  While such injuries are not common, I still feel the need — almost an obligation — to cover this material for two reasons.  The first is, even if it’s just a 1:1,000 chance that you or someone else could be bitten, it still remains a possibility, so if it does happen, then you’ll likely be darn happy that I spent the extra time teaching you.  But the main reason is that I am routinely shocked by all of the misinformation and hyperbole that abounds (from newspapers to medical journals to first-aid manuals) and the still too common belief in old fashioned treatments and remedies, not just in lay persons, but even healthcare professionals. For example, big-box outdoor stores still regularly sell, people still regularly buy, and some first-aid […]

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Managing Fear

Managing Fear

Lately, I’ve been thinking about fear, a lot.  Initially, a client asked me a few weeks ago during a survival course how to best conquer it during a wilderness emergency, but I’ve continued to reflect on the topic for a mix of reasons, some practical, mostly personal. To be clear, I am not sure that it is possible, or even justified, to recommend to anyone some specific, or “best,” way to deal with fear.  After all, it is so situational, dependent on many factors, like personality, background, and events.  Besides, it seems to me so presumptuous to offer some catch-all answer. For what it’s worth, from my experience, I don’t think that it’s even possible to conquer fear, rather only to manage it.  Even then, it’s still hard, feels messy, and tends to leave one second-guessing the events for a long time afterwards. Personally, I take much from the writings of Persian jurist and […]

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The Most Dangerous (but Ignored) Wilderness Threat

The Most Dangerous (but Ignored) Wilderness Threat

If I were to ask you what kills more people in the backcountry than anything else, what would you guess? Based on talks that I have had with students in our various survival and medicine courses over the years, your answer might likely be some wild creature.  Topping the list of the usual suspects are bears, cougars, and snakes.  I certainly cannot blame them because deaths due to such attacks are featured most prominently in the news media, not to mention that they make a good plot thread in a screenplay.  After all, few movie trailers could be more dramatic and exciting than Leonardo DiCaprio fighting off a grizzly (even if it was computer-generated). But the simple (even if boring) fact of the matter is that what kills more people in the outdoors, either directly or as a significant contributing factor, isn’t wildlife (which is exceedingly rare), but rather an easily understood and […]

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