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First Aid: Treating Lightning Injuries

First Aid: Treating Lightning Injuries

A 45-year old man was struck by lightning earlier this week while playing soccer at a local park in Pittsburgh.  Bystanders found him unresponsive and not breathing so they immediately dialed 9.1.1. and began CPR.  Paramedics soon revived the man, and by last report, he remains in critical condition, though still alive. While such incidents may be statistically rare, for all practicable purposes, they aren’t necessarily uncommon.  Just this week alone, there have been several such incidents reported across the country where the victim would have died but for first aid received from bystanders.  Better yet, a few of them were soon happily giving interviews on television from their hospital beds. But what if during your next hike, paddle, or other outdoor adventure, you saw someone in the same condition after a lightning strike, would you know how to help them? SCENE SURVEY The mantra of all rescuers should always […]

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Survival Question: Should You Eat This?

Survival Question: Should You Eat This?

A few weeks ago, during our previous Advanced Wilderness Survival course, as J.C. and I talked with our clients, we all noticed a very large millipede boldly stroll across a nearby log and scramble down to the ground in front of us.  At that point, one of them asked, “Could we eat that in a survival situation?”  It seemed like a good teaching opportunity so I suggested that, based on the training that they had so far received from us, they were quite capable of answering for themselves whether they could, or should. Consider taking a few minutes to read the following information, then determine how you might answer. Your Primary Food Source In all of our wilderness survival courses at True North, we teach our clients that in a survival situation, their primary food source should not be wild edibles, like berries, roots, and leaves, as is more commonly […]

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Wild Animals – Dealing with the Unexpected

Wild Animals - Dealing with the Unexpected

The purpose of this article is to share with you three easy tips on how to best deal with — better yet, altogether avoid — a surprise encounter with wildlife that could mean the difference between a great story to share with friends and a bad outcome. Still, it’s important to know that unprovoked wild animal attacks are exceedingly rare.  Consider that more people die in any given year from bee stings in urban locations than by animals — like bears, cougars, snakes, even sharks, combined.  In fact, as own Senior Instructor J.C. McGreehan is quick to point out in our survival courses, the animal most consistently responsible for the greatest number of deaths in the United States each year is the humble cow.  In short, based on my thousands of hours spent in wilderness locations, I’ve learned that wild animals generally just want us to leave them alone.  They simply […]

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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 minutes, 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 Urine Really 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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