Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

Gear Recommendation: Gaiters

Gear Recommendation: Gaiters

After arriving at the trailhead earlier this week to teach our Basic Military Land Navigation course to a group of soldiers preparing for Army Special Forces assessment (SFAS), the first thing that I did (as usual) was to take off my street-shoes and swap them with the hiking boots that I store in the rear of my Jeep.  Then, as I reached for a neighboring set of gaiters and started to clip them to my laces and wrap around my lower leg, I decided to make a short video sometime later in the day during a break which would recommend them.  After all, there is nothing glamorous or exciting about gaiters (so they are easily ignored) but they dutiful perform an important function, which is why I rarely fail to use them in the outdoors.  So, if you spend any amount of time in the woods as a hiker or […]

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We Practice What We Preach

We Practice What We Preach

In the last ten days, there were two search and rescues missions reported in the national news.  This, in and of itself, is by no means remarkable as I see at least a dozen such incidents reported each week alone as I scan the online headlines.  What is remarkable is how absolutely unprepared the parties were.  The first involved two brothers who set out for a “four hour hike” only to end up, after getting lost, spending three harrowing days in the woods — After their rescue, one of them stated to a group of reporters, “I didn’t think that it could happen.”  The second involved a lost hunter who, after already spending one night in the mountains, was left behind by a military helicopter searching for him because he didn’t know how to properly signal to it.  By contrast, whenever I head into the outdoors, no matter how short […]

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Bear Spray

Bear Spray

One piece of gear that I believe that you should get in the habit of carrying with you during your outdoor adventures in any remote or reasonably remote location, especially where you’re out alone, is Bear Spray.  It’s one of those pieces of gear that you’ll likely never need to use, but should the occasion arise, you’ll be extremely relieved that you had it. So, I’d like to explain to you what it is; show you how to use it; and share with you some tips and issues to consider. What is Bear Spray? Bear Spray is an aerosol made from the oil of hot peppers – the same ones that many of you eat in spicy foods – only far more concentrated. It’s effectively the same “pepper spray” or “OC spray” that police officers use in the front-county.  The main difference, though, is that Bear Spray generates a larger, […]

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Land Navigation Technique – Boxing Out

Land Navigation Technique - Boxing Out

Even if you are really skilled at using a map and compass, sometimes finding your intended destination can be a challenge.  So, I’d like to share with you a really useful tool called Boxing Out. Boxing Out can come in handy in many situations.  For example, a hiker could use it to help find a trail intersection.  Maybe you are competing in an orienteering race run by our friends at the Western Pennsylvania Orienteering Club and can’t seem to find one of their checkpoint flags.  Or perhaps you are a soldier training for Special Forces selection knowing that its landed navigation course is viewed by many as the toughest in the U.S. military and so is the key reason why so many fail.  Boxing Out, then, can be a really important tool to use. So check out this video to learn more: To learn more about this topic and other […]

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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.  Although, despite popular belief, such incidents are not common, and so few people actually die as a result, I still feel the need — almost an obligation — to cover this topic 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 even first-aid manuals — and the still too common belief in old fashioned treatments and remedies, not just in lay persons, but […]

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How to Find Your Declination

How to Find Your Declination

The essence of being able to navigate in the outdoors with only a map and compass is easy, but in practice it’s a bit more difficult.  For example, you typically need to adjust for magnetic declination when setting a bearing.  But fully understanding this concept can take some mental effort, and finding the most current setting for your location can be harder.  If you don’t, then you greatly risk finding yourself well off course.  So, let me share a tool with you that I am confident that you’ll find convenient and helpful. I regularly use the application What’s My Declination? on my iPhone because, in effect, it helps me to find North, the touchstone of land navigation. But you’re probably already asking yourself, “Huh? The needle of his compass should already be doing that.”  And, you’d be correct.  Sort of. The reason is, in effect, there are four Norths.  The […]

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Rescue Signaling: Tips to Consider

Rescue Signaling: Tips to Consider

Whether we choose to hike, hunt, paddle, or take part in any other number of outdoor activities where we can enjoy the harmony of nature, either alone or with friends, emergencies can occur.  While medical problems can be one possible reason, one of the most common is simply getting lost.  Regardless of the specific reason, it can be a huge boost of relief, after first instinctively reaching for your mobile telephone and dialing 9-1-1, to hear, “County 911, what is your emergency?” on the other end.  However, it can be absolutely crushing to discover that you have no signal at all, or just as badly, having your telephone battery die half-way through the call. Unfortunately, both happen all too often in the outdoors. So here are few important safety tips for you to consider … 1. Being Found is Mostly Your Responsibility You should be prepared at all times to “reach […]

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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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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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