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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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Invest in Your Gear … You Life Might Just Depend on It

Invest in Your Gear ... You Life Might Just Depend on It

Take a good look at the two compasses in the photograph below.  Can you see any difference between them? Even though these compasses are each made by different manufacturers, their difference may only be negligible.  After all, they are both lensatic compasses with the same basic frame.  They each have sighting features.  They both have phosphorescent markings.  They are the same color.  And they both have a magnetic needle that points North. I will suggest that one big difference is the price.  One costs about $75 and the other about $25. So, let’s consider that you are in the aisle of a big-box retailer, eyeing these compasses for your next outdoor adventure.  Which one would you buy?  Would the choice be easy? … Buy the cheaper one and save $50? Would you be willing to stake your safety, and the safety of those with you, while out in the woods? Presumably, […]

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Top 10 Survival School

Top 10 Survival School

True North is extremely pleased to announce that we have been included as one of the top ten wilderness survival schools featured in the Spring 2016 issue of Survivor’s Edge. As outlined in its article, Masters of Survival, the folks at Survivor’s Edge write, “Here are ten well highly regarded schools that will teach you what you need to know to survive and live off of the land.” We’re not exactly sure if we are comfortable being described, even indirectly, as a “master” since it’s extremely humbling to see our name alongside so many other nationally known and well respected survival schools from all around the United States in their list.  Still, if this attention in any way reflects how hard we continue to work to provide you the finest training in wilderness survival, emergency medicine, and land navigation so that you are best prepared to protect yourself, and others, in an emergency anywhere, anytime, then that’s fine […]

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How to Preserve a Tooth

How to Preserve a Tooth

I realize that first-aid for teeth isn’t as exciting as more lifesaving procedures, like using a tourniquet or providing CPR, but, let’s face it, if your tooth happens to get knocked out — root and all — I’m going to bet that it’ll feel almost as important.  After all, the potential of such a tooth injury is a relatively common consequence of many outdoor activities like rock climbing, skiing, and, of course, mountain biking.  On the upside, it can be fairly easily implanted by your dentist with a high probability of lasting success.  But if you are in a wilderness location with delayed access to a tooth doctor, how then can you best preserve it in the meantime?  That’s because the dislodged tooth is really not much different than any other amputated body part, like a finger … It must be kept “alive” until it can be reattached.  Here are […]

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Active Shooter Preparation

Active Shooter Preparation

Yesterday’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, at a center for people with disabilities which left 14 dead and 21 others injured, is a shocking tragedy which words cannot fully express.  Adding to my disbelief, though, was my surprise when reading this morning in The Washington Post about the details of the shooting. That is, it reports that, not only was this mass shooting in the California only the second one yesterday (there was an another in Georgia), but it is the 355th for the year. Honestly, I find this difficult to comprehend, and, frankly, I have no meaningful commentary to offer.  But since at True North our mission is to help prepare you for emergencies, I can at least confidently write that the key to best dealing with the unexpected — anywhere, anytime — is preparation. So, here are two resources that I have shared several times already this year, but think that it […]

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