Archive for the ‘Equipment’ Category

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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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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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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Equipment Review – Axe

Equipment Review - Axe

If you are in the market for a survival knife and spend time perusing the various online catalogs, you will quickly notice that the manufacturers and distributers give much attention to their particular line of machetes.  For good reason: the machete has a long history of being a robust, versatile and dependable tool that can be used in a wide variety of ways under even the most extreme conditions.  Still, I can’t help but believe that they are being used nowadays as more of a marketing gimmick.  It is a shame to see such a fundamentally wonderful tool too often being designed to put style over substance — That is, to offer the general public what it believes a “survival” tool should look like, rather than provide it a tool that can be most effectively used in actual reality.  The frequent use, then, of “Zombie” in product monikers, like the […]

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Survival Kit – A Suggested Starter List

Survival Kit - A Suggested Starter List

I am often asked by students or those with whom I am engaged in general conversation, “What is the best survival kit that you recommend?”  My response is typically, “There are no ‘best’ survival kits … In fact, I can’t recommend any.”  This almost always generates a quizzical look so I then must follow with a more detailed explanation.  The short of it is that the “best” survival kit is one that you make that best reflects your intended activities, level of training, and budget.  Thus, no off the shelf survival kit can suffice. For example, someone who typically hikes in the desert likely needs a different inventory than someone who typically hikes in mountains; or someone who skies the backcountry will have different priorities than someone who sea kayaks.  Besides, how many survival kits come with such important items (for those, like me, with terrible vision) as prescription eyewear? […]

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Suggested Resource for Land Navigation

Suggested Resource for Land Navigation

Yesterday, at Hartwood Acres County Park, I spent the day teaching “Basic Wilderness Navigation.”  The main goal of this course is twofold.  First, of course, is to provide our students with the fundamentals of using a compass and map so that they can begin to feel more confident as they prepare for, and engage in, their chosen outdoor activities.  But, the second, and arguably the most important goal, is to provide each student with a solid foundation of understanding for their continued self learning.  That’s because, as I stress at the conclusion of our various land navigation courses (not to mention many of our other courses, like wilderness first aid), their training hasn’t ended, rather, it has only just started.  In short, and in common parlance, if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it.  So, I very often recommend the book, Be Expert with Map and Compass by Bjorn […]

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First Aid Tip: Burns

First Aid Tip: Burns

Now that Summer is almost here, many of us will be spending more time in the out of doors.  That often means either camping, hiking in a local park, or even just lazing around in the backyard (which I fully hope to be doing).  While, certainly, the risk of injury in any of these situations is low, problems can manage to arise.  So, a little knowledge and preparation can go a long way should something happen.  One type of typical outdoor injury is burns, and, in fact, the most common cause arises from cooking accidents. Whether it is caused by your backyard grill or your camp stove, minor burns to your hands may be caused by inadvertently grabbing hot metal; and potentially major burns may arise from stove flare-ups and scalds from tipping over pots of boiling liquid.  In fact, these kind of burns can be more serious than that […]

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Gear List: The SAM Splint

Gear List: The SAM Splint

While I teach survival and wilderness medicine courses, I really don’t like to refer to myself as an “instructor.”  In fact, each time that I do, I cringe inside.  Certainly, I understand the appropriate context of the word, but, to me at least, it purports that I know it all.  Which I don’t.  Every time I teach a class, no matter whether its advanced or beginner, I learn something new.  And in between classes I continue to try to learn.  Which is frustrating sometimes because it seems that the more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know!  So the process of learning never ends.  I see myself, then, as a student. While teaching a Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course last weekend to a group of Scout leaders, one asked me a question about the SAM splint that we were using at the time.  I was able […]

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Communing with the Dead

Communing with the Dead

On Saturday, my postwoman handed me the latest version of Accidents in North American Mountaineering (ANAM) that I had ordered earlier in the week.  When I get home tonight from a meeting with my friend, J.C., I fully intend to crack open a beer, plop down on my couch with my fresh copy, and, soon after I start to read, begin heavily marking the pages with my highlighter and pencil.  Since it is the sixth year in a row that I’ve been reading this journal, I know that it will probably take me about a week to finish — And I will appreciate every minute of it. Whoa, wait a minute, Erik, isn’t it a little weird to “appreciate” page after page of death, injury, and mortality statistics?  I wrote “appreciate,” not “enjoy.”  Besides, I read it … and often recommend it to my students … for very good reasons.  After […]

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