Archive for July 2013

Paracord – The Wonder Tool!

Paracord - The Wonder Tool!

In my opinion, every survival kit should include at least a 50′ hank of parachute cord.  As it is  exceedingly strong and exceedingly versatile, parachute cord has, almost quite literally, a 1,001 uses.  In terms of wilderness survival it ties together all seven survival priorities.  Among other things, it can be used, then, to: form a ridge line for my shelter and tie down the ends; fashion a bow string for a primitive fire; construct a litter to evacuate a patient; and sew a ripped jacket.  It can even be used to make a fishing lure! To show you how, I have provided the following video.  I thought it a good one so decided to pass it along. Moving on … What is parachute cord?  Parachute cord was originally developed during World War II solely for use as the suspension lines in a parachute.  However, because the nylon cord is strong, […]

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A Real World Lesson in Survival

A Real World Lesson in Survival

Last week, I relayed the story of Heather Barnes, a college student studying marine biology, who had just survived 16 hours treading water in the blazing sun, all the while being stung by jellyfish, after being swept out to sea off the coast of Honduras. Her story is a good one.  Certainly because it ended happily, but also because she offers us many good lessons for the time when we might need to fight for our lives. What are the lessons?  It is helpful mix of what to do, but, maybe more importantly, what NOT to do.  For such a smart woman, she did several really dumb things that created her problem in the first place.  But, then again, we all could have probably made the same mistakes, and I’m not so sure that I could have lasted as long as she did to make it back to shore. Anyway, […]

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Knife Review – Fallkniven F1

Knife Review - Fallkniven F1

Anyone who has taken one of my wilderness survival courses, or has spent time with me in the backcountry, knows full well that I have a penchant for equipment that is of Swedish origin.  There are probably several reasons, but the overriding one is simply that I love equipment that is well crafted and built to endure.  Sweden, then, is lucky enough to be home to many such products. In as much, my primary survival knife is the F1, manufactured by Fallkniven, a company based in — Yes, you guessed it — Sweden. With a total length of just over 8 inches (the same size and length as my folding knife), the F1 certainly doesn’t fit the image of the typical “survival knife,” but, trust me, looks can be deceiving.  It is an extremely versatile knife that can be used, not just for slicing, but chopping, prying, and pounding.  Which […]

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Hydration – The Real Value of Sports Drinks

Hydration - The Real Value of Sports Drinks

It is again summertime, and if you are like me or many of my wonderful friends, you are spending as much time outdoors enjoying it as fully as possible.  But it has been warm, and over the last month or so, even very hot and humid.  Not that I am complaining mind you, after all summer should be just that, summer.  Still, it helps to remind us of the importance of being properly hydrated.  This is something of which we as a nation are certainly well aware thanks to the marketing efforts of large multinational corporations that manufacture electrolyte drinks.  The problem, though, is that by and large their messages are misleading and their products not necessarily as helpful as advertised. The real value of taking a wilderness medicine or survival course, isn’t so much learning to deal with a problem as it is to prevent the problem in the first place. […]

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Adventure Race Results – Congratulations Becca!

Adventure Race Results - Congratulations Becca!

Congratulations to a great friend of True North, Becca Mix, who competed today in the Friends of the Riverfront “Pittsburgh Triathlon & Adventure Race,” which started and ended this morning on the North Shore of Pittsburgh.  To write that her performance was outstanding would be an understatement. The “Adventure Race” portion, which was comprised of 122 racers, included three stages: first a 2 mile paddle up the Allegheny River and back, followed by a 20K bike ride up and back along the HOV lane of Interstate 279, and ending with a 5K run. It was definitely a challenging race. So how did Becca do? She finished 11th overall at 1:28:22 … “Overall” meaning men AND women! She was 2nd of all the women. Moreover, Becca finished 1st in her age group! True North had been considering recruiting Becca for Team True North, the adventure racing team that it sponsors, but […]

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The Power of PMA Witnessed

The Power of PMA Witnessed

At some point in all of my wilderness survival courses, I explain to my students the paramount importance of keeping calm and focused during periods of stress or privation.  This proper psychological balance is what I learned from Byron Kerns, a former U.S. Air Force SERE Instructor, to call “Positive Mental Attitude” — otherwise known as PMA.  The essence of PMA is that, when the chips are down, it doesn’t matter how much specialized training that you have, or how much gear that you have in your backpack, it is only what’s in your head and heart that counts. This is most often easier proclaimed, than actually done, as many may say that they have great PMA, or that they are cool under fire, but few seem to actually demonstrate it when it counts.  Trust me, I’ve witnessed first hand the scene of someone absolutely falling apart when someone else […]

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Wilderness First Aid – Snakebite

Wilderness First Aid - Snakebite

Despite common belief, death caused from the bite of a venomous snake in the United States is exceedingly rare.  The Wilderness Medical Society reports that, of the roughly 45,000 snakebites that are reported each year, about 8,000 are confirmed venomous, and of this number only around 10 actually result in death (typically because the victim was very young, very old, or suffered already from an underlying medical condition, like an allergy).  In point of fact, more people die each year from bee stings and from taking “selfies” — by literally walking off cliffs or into traffic to get the perfect angle — than they do from snakebites. Still, a venomous snakebite, in particular that of the most common one, a pit viper, is still nothing to belittle, as the injury, even if it means the low probability of death, may still be intensely life altering.  In particular, the high potential […]

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Survival Lesson – Learning from Other People’s Mistakes

Survival Lesson - Learning from Other People's Mistakes

In almost anything in life, there are many ways to learn and improve, but probably one of the most effective and lasting ways is through trial and error.  There is nothing like the proverbial 2×4 being cracked against your head to keep you from making the same mistake twice. The same is true when it comes to wilderness survival, but the problem is that sometimes that mistake that you make might literally be your last.  That’s why it is especially helpful (and far less painful or embarrassing) to learn from someone else’s mistake. So, one great resource that I encourage to check out is the National Park Service Preventive Search and Rescue “Lessons form the Field.” With a very similar approach to how the NTSB studies plane crashes to help make the airline industry more safe, so does the NPS PSAR.  Their blog is a collection of actual accidents that have occurred […]

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Allegheny River Sojourn 2013

Allegheny River Sojourn 2013

As I sit here relaxing on a Sunday morning, cradling a hot mug of strong coffee in my hand, I cannot help but fondly reflect on one of the most terrific programs in which I have been involved in a long time.  I spent three days, from Thursday of last week through Saturday, paddling along the Allegheny River with six amazing kids from the North Side and seven terrific instructors. The program was the “Allegheny River Sojourn and Program for Urban Youth.”  Envisioned and developed by Melissa and David Rohm of Paddle Without Pollution (PWP) the goal of the program was to introduce a group of urban youth to the beauty and wonders of the outdoors.  As they paddled their canoes and kayaks, they not only saw scores of Bald Eagles, but they learned about the important role of watersheds, they leaned about plant identification, they saw bear bear tracks and scat […]

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Snakebite – Treatment Costs How Much?!

Snakebite - Treatment Costs How Much?!

If you are ever unlucky enough to be bitten by a venomous snake, don’t panic and assume that you are going to die, because the chances are, despite common belief, you won’t.  In the United States, there are roughly 45,000 snakebites reported each year, of which 8,000 are confirmed venomous.  Of this, only about 8 people die, usually due to some complicating factor — the victim was likely very old, very young, or suffered from an underlying medical condition.  What, instead, is the greater likelihood, which most don’t seem to appreciate, is that the snakebite will cause you a major life altering change.  In particular, amputation of the bitten limb.  And a catastrophic medical bill. Just ask 11-year old, Benjamin Smith, who, as the Gainesville Sun reported, was bitten last month by an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. Thankfully, Ben will be just fine thanks to the excellent medical care that he received […]

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