Archive for the ‘General’ Category

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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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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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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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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Emergency Water Sources

Emergency Water Sources

In a wilderness emergency, especially one in which you suspect that you may not be rescued within 72 hours, potable water can be critical to your survival.  This is because by that point – perhaps even sooner depending upon certain factors like the weather, your level of physical exertion, and medical condition – your bodily functions begin to become impeded and your mental status impaired. So, while you may have the necessary equipment to filter and purify water, you have to first find it. Can you? Just in case you are uncertain, let me share with you a few ideas and tips to consider. Where to Look Here are a few suggestions on finding sources of water: Keep in mind the basic truism that water doesn’t flow uphill or run along the top of ridgelines, so you’ll have much better luck looking in low spots, like valleys and drainages. There, not only […]

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Preparation: The Key to Dealing with an Emergency

Preparation: The Key to Dealing with an Emergency

As I regularly explain to our students in our wilderness survival and medicine courses, one doesn’t need to be an Army Ranger or a medical professional to benefit from these types of emergency training.  After all, whether it’s a mountain top, a state park, a roadside accident, or a burning building, each of us may still at any moment be called upon to protect ourselves or the lives of others from some threat.  Then, thereafter, we may need to live with the consequences of our action or inaction — Or, heck, perhaps we won’t live. At the moment of truth, it really doesn’t matter so much the size of your backpack, the fancy equipment in it, or your general professional training (I’ve heard of a group cardiologists who froze when a colleague collapsed of a cardiac arrest during a conference).  Rather it is your head and heart that most matters. So […]

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Bugs, It’s What’s for Dinner

Bugs, It's What's for Dinner

As a wilderness survival instructor, every so often I have the sense that a client believes that I’ve let him down when I fail to cover wild edibles as a food source.  Such an expectation, though, is understandable since the general consensus certainly seems to be that a knowledge of wild edibles is vital to properly dealing with an emergency outdoors.  After all, consider the millions of television viewers who tune in each week to watch a wide mix of survival reality shows as their hosts and contestants busily forage for plants, berries, and mushrooms during their scripted emergency.  In turn, there are countless books, articles, and websites that vigorously promote the topic.  But the actual reality is that I truly would be letting down my clients if I continued to foster this notion. That’s because in a survival situation, wild edibles should not be your primary food source.  In fact, at the risk of further appearing […]

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“Cotton Kills” … Truth or Exaggeration?

"Cotton Kills" ... Truth or Exaggeration?

In any of the survival courses that I teach, very seldom do I make absolute statements to a client like “Definitely don’t do this,” or “Always do that.”  After all, if a client finds herself  in an emergency situation, it’s likely unique enough on some level that absolutes are not helpful, perhaps even detrimental.  And when it comes to buying clothing and gear, every client has his own guidelines based on various criteria including their particular outdoor activity and interests, perceived needs and wants, and size of pocketbook.  Instead, I generally try to offer recommendations, within a general range of possibilities and points to consider, supplemented with an explanation for context. Except in two cases.  One of them being … Don’t wear cotton. By this I mean, never, or at least be extremely reluctant to, wear cotton clothing during your outdoors adventures. This “absolute” is given with the best of recommendations as there is a very […]

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