Adventure Medical Kits - Adventure Discussions
     Posts Tagged ‘Backcountry Survival’
« Older EntriesNewer Entries »

Thermo-Lite Bivvy Helped Save Eagle Scout From The Elements, But Not From NH Government

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

It’s always gratifying whenever we hear that an Adventure Medical Kits’ product has helped someone out of a major jam. Such was the case last April, when we received a call from Mike Mason, who informed us that, thanks in part to AMK’s Thermo-Lite 2 Bivvy , his son Scott was able to survive three chilly nights in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

The younger Mason had been solo hiking near Mount Clay when he hurt his ankle, tried to take a shortcut through a river pass and got lost. Rapidly melting snow had swollen the river, making it impossible to cross and Mason was subsequently forced to hunker down for the next three days, before being found by rescuers.

scott mason

Mason after 3-day ordeal in White Mountains

What’s not so gratifying, certainly for the Mason household, was when the N.H. government slapped Scott with a bill for $25,734.65 to cover the cost of a three-day search and rescue mission it had initiated after he was reported missing. Even though Mason, an Eagle Scout, showed tremendous survival savvy — at night he slept in the crevice of a boulder for shelter and used an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to start fires — the N.H. government determined that he was negligent because he veered off of a marked path and did not adequately anticipate the problems that melting snow would pose in finding a route back down the mountain.

Mason has since hired a lawyer to negotiate a settlement. One of Mason’s scoutmasters also started a Facebook page  — “Rescue Scott Mason – Again” — to help raise money to offset the hefty fine and the family’s legal costs, which according to a recent wall post now total $5,000.

Currently, New Hampshire is one of eight states with laws on the books that allow it to recoup the costs of search and rescue missions. However, lately New Hampshire is the only state that has attempted to bill people. Last year, it strengthened the law, allowing it to suspend the hiking, fishing and driver’s licenses of individuals who refuse to pay.

In a recent AP article, New Hampshire State officials argued that the threat of a fine should encourage outdoor enthusiasts to be better prepared before they head out on the trail. Not all in search and rescue (SAR) services, however, are convinced of the benefits of this policy.

Dr. Chris Van Tilburg, editor of Wilderness Medicine magazine and a member of Crag Rats Mountain Rescue, located in Hood River, OR, says the law is highly problematic.

“If hikers or climbers are concerned about the costs they may face, they may put off calling for help, which can hinder their chances for survival,” says Van Tilburg, who was part of the team that attempted to rescue three climbers who became stranded on Mt. Hood, in 2006.

“We don’t charge people requiring law enforcement or fire department services, so charging for SAR services seems unfair,” he added.

What do you think? Should outdoor enthusiasts who aren’t prepared be charged for search and rescue missions? Should Scott Mason have been fined?

AMKs’ BPA-Free S.O.L. Survival Water Bottle

Friday, September 4th, 2009

AMKs’ BPA-Free S.O.L. Survival Water Bottle – The Only Bottle That Can Save Your Life Even When It’s Empty!

The recent admission from SIGG that the aluminum bottles it had produced prior to August 2008 contained the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) has once again put into sharp focus the safety of all water bottles. There is one way, however, you can be sure your next water bottle does not contain BPA or any other potentially harmful chemicals — that’s to select one made from stainless steel, like AMK’s new S.O.L. Survival Bottle.

Made of tough food-grade, 201 stainless steel, the BPA-free S.O.L. Survival Bottle will not dent nearly as easily as aluminum bottles, which contain inner linings which, if broken, can leach chemicals that can potentially contaminate water. AMK’s S.O.L. Survival Water bottle will hold up to 750 ml of water, but its much more than just a liquid container.

Unlike most water bottle manufacturers, which emblazon the exterior of their bottles with a logo or design, AMK used this otherwise ignored real estate to offer valuable information on everything related to water and hydration.

Printed on the outside of the bottle are a multitude of tips and facts — ranging from the useful (“How to find Water in the Desert”; “How to Purify Water”) to the novel (“Number of years it takes for a plastic bottle to decompose”; “Number of plastic bottles thrown away each hour”) — which lend the S.O.L. Survival Water bottle an added level of utility not found in competitor bottles. In reality, it truly is the only bottle that can save your life — even when it is empty!

The S.O.L. bottle is also safe to boil water in and comes with a sturdy screw top and carabiner, allowing you to attach it to your backpack for your next outdoor excursion.

Surviving a January Night in Point Reyes Using My Pocket Survival Pak

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Dear AMK,

I am happy to report that your survival kit helped me to survive an unplanned night in Point Reyes this past January. A friend and I went hiking around Abbott’s Lagoon. At the end of the trail, we walked along the beach. It was an overcast, cold day and we didn’t realize how late it was and so it was almost sunset when we headed back towards the trail. It seemed simple enough to follow the beach along until we saw the trail that went around the lagoon. But we got completely disoriented and were not sure where to pick up the trail. We tried to follow close to the lagoon to pick up the trail but this didn’t work (In the morning we realized that had walked to a much further end of the lagoon.) We were lost. And it was already cold.

Before we left for the hike, I returned to my car to get my hat. When I went back I noticed my Survival Kit, which I usually leave in the car. I bought it after I read about the Kim family who had been trapped in the wilderness, in their car, which scared the heck out of me. I took the kit along with me as an after thought. Afterall, it was only a 4 mile hike and it was on a well marked trail in Point Reyes. I rarely bring the survival gear with me for such a short adventure.

Well, we spend thirteen hours there in the darkness as it was January. It got down to the low 20s. We were right near the ocean so we didn’t have a lot of coverage. Luckily we found a little area that was mostly protected from the harsh wind that was blowing. It took us a long time but we were able to build a fire with your kit and keep it going all that time. It’s amazing how much wood it takes to keep a fire going that long.

The sky was cloudy and at one point it started to drizzle. But that only lasted a little bit. Very early in the morning, the clouds passed and we could see the star filled sky. I’ve never felt such relief! In the morning, we were able to find our way back to the trail. We weren’t that far from it, but who knows what would have happened if we had kept wandering around the night before.

Bringing the kit was a last minute decision. I don’t know what instinct made me do that or what angel was looking out for me, but I am so thankful that I took it. I know that hypothermia in windy, cold weather can set in quickly. And there is no more vulnerable feeling than being disoriented in the wilderness at night. I am thankful that we were able to stay put for the long night and set out in the morning. The tools in your kit helped save our lives. So thank you.

Also, it says that if we use this kit, we’re eligible for a replacement. We used most of the tinder, pencil, duct tape. I’d love to get a replacement!

Thanks for the life-saving kit!

Tara, Oakland Ca.

AMK Response:

Tara- Thanks for passing this story along to us.  We love to hear that our kits are helping people enjoy the outdoors safely, and it’s great that you were able to stay warm during a very challenging situation.  We’re based in Oakland and familiar with the Pt Reyes area (and its winds), so you impressed everyone in the office by being able to get a fire going in that environment.

I’ll put a package of some replacement supplies together and send it your way.

Thanks again! The Team at AMK

Heatsheets Bivvies in Action at Eco Primal Quest

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

As the Eco Primal Quest continues – teams are faced with cold temperatures and rain.  Below is an update from the official website with a photo of our Heatsheets Bivvy in action – keeping the teams warm and dry on a cold morning.

Heatsheets Bivvy at Primal Quest

Here’s a photo taken just minutes ago from the checkpoint.

Teams Brace For More Bad Weather!
Posted on 08/19/09 7:53 AM| by Kraig

Wednesday morning brings us another round of incliment weather, as Primal Quest Badlands presented by SPOT stretches into its fifth day. The forecast calls for cooler temperatures today, with rain a distinct possibility. The combination of the two can make for a long, cold, miserable day out on the course.

At the front of the pack,, Salomon/Crested Butte, and Merrell/Zanfel Adventures are venturing into the Badlands at last, but many teams are still reaching the waters of Angostura Reservoir, where they face a swim and paddle orienteering course. The waters of the reservoir are a constant 75º F, but the air temperatures are currently quite cool and could play a part throughout the day.

You can follow AMK’s Kyle Peter and Team iMoat on their website.

AMK’s Frank Meyer on KGO AM 810’s “On The Go” SF Travel Show

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Adventure Medical Kits’ marketing director Frank Meyer appeared on San Francisco’s KGO AM 810’s “On The Go” Travel Show on Saturday April 18th.

In the first segment Frank discusses with host John Hamiltion the Ultralight Series, the Adventurer, the S.O.L. Pak and other essential gear for camping in Northern California.

In the second segment on KGO AM 810,  Frank talks about the World Travel kit, Ben’s & Natrapel 8 hour insect repellents, AfterBite and other must-pack items relevant for adventure travelers.

What’s in Your Survival Pack?

Friday, April 17th, 2009


I took an Ultralite .5 First Aid kit and added these Adventure Medical Kit items: 1 person HeatSheets Blanket, Signal mirror, Firestarter, & Whistle.

It is compact, fits easily in a pocket and weighs about 7 oz. Plus it looks cool!

My two cents. Kurt


Thanks for the comment Kurt! Our Product Development team loves to hear feedback from our customers about how they use our products.  Keep the ideas coming….

If you have a story or product idea to share with us, you can submit the info using this form.

Navigation Basics: Map and Compass

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Navigation Basics: Map and Compass

Check out these great tips found on

Map and compass in the field

Together they form the first of the time-tested Ten Essentials—map and compass, the indispensible twin tools of navigation. Even in this high-tech GPS era, nothing replaces the value of a magnetized compass, a paper map and the understanding of how both can help you find your way in the wilderness.

Seek Instruction

This article and accompanying videos provide an overview of 2 primary navigational tools, map and compass. But even watching and reading every word will not turn any person into a skilled backcountry navigator.

REI strongly encourages outdoor adventurers to take a course in navigation with ample field practice to build up your skills and confidence. The REI Outdoor School offers such classes in selected U.S. cities. Local outdoor and mountaineering organizations also offer similar courses. Be sure to seek one out.

Basic Tools


Simple trail maps, the line-drawing variety often found in guidebooks, are useful for trip planning but NOT for navigation in the field. To safely find your way in wilderness terrain, you need the detail provided by topographic maps.

So know your maps:

Basic (planimetric) maps:

Basic (planimetric) map

  • Examples: Traditional road maps; hand-sketched trail maps provided in visitor-center handouts.
  • Appearance: Flat, 2-dimensional, horizontal view of land areas showing roads, rivers and trails.
  • Attributes: They display points of interest (viewpoints, trail junctions) and routes that connect them, but offer no perspective on elevation variances. Thus they may make the distance to your destination appear to be modest, but they will not indicate if a deep valley or high ridge must be crossed in order to reach it.
  • Usage: OK for following a simple nature trail or making a short trip on a well-defined trail system, but insufficient for navigation should you head deep into the wilderness or step off an established path.

Topographic (topo) maps:

Topo map

  • Examples: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) quadrangles; customized commercial and downloadable map products.
  • Appearance: Areas of varying colors (or shades of gray) are overlaid with “squiggly” contour lines. Together they combine to give trained eyes a mental picture of the elevation variances in a landscape. Tightly spaced contour lines, for example, indicate steeper terrain.
  • Attributes: Their ability to convey the physical relief (the highs and lows) of a landscape enables you to orient yourself in the field by identifying prominent natural features—peaks, ridgelines or valleys. They also show the location of prominent man-made features such as roads and towns.
  • Usage: Always the best choice for any type of wilderness travel, from day trips to extended expeditions. Even if you’re hiking on what you believe is an established, well-signed, can’t-get-lost trail system, a topo map remains a helpful tool when you reach a viewpoint and want to identify peaks and landmarks with certainty.


Parts of a Compass

Every backcountry explorer needs at least a basic compass that includes a magnetized needle floating within a liquid-filled housing.

More sophisticated compasses offer useful features such as a sighting mirror or declination adjustment, but a basic compass includes all the essentials needed for navigation—magnetized needle, rotating bezel ring, orienting lines, index (degree) lines (north is 0°/360°, east is 90°, south is 180° and west is 270°) and line-of-direction (orienting) arrow.

Why not rely exclusively on a watch or GPS receiver that includes a compass? Because those are battery-reliant devices, and batteries may expire or electronic circuitry can malfunction. You need the dependability of a compass that relies only on earth’s magnetic fields.

Understanding Topo Maps

Parts of a Map

A topographic map helps you envision the appearance of terrain between 2 points. Such knowledge enables you to plan the best route of travel between them.

How Do Topo Maps Describe the Terrain?

Contour lines: They connect points on the map that share the same elevation, providing a 3-dimensional perspective of the landscape. Tightly packed contour lines indicate steep terrain; widely spaced lines indicate relatively level terrain. Contour lines never intersect.

Contour interval: Contour lines are separated at specific elevation intervals. Intervals may vary by individual map, appearing every 20, 40, 80, 100 or 200 feet. But the interval used on a single map (say, 80 feet) remains consistent throughout that map. A map’s chosen contour interval is identified in the margin of each map.

Index contour lines: Every fifth contour line is the index contour line. Usually the line is slightly bolder and intermittently includes the elevation (usually the number of feet above sea level) of all points on that line.

Scale: Beyond the ratio scale (described later in this article), a map includes a horizontal graphic scale. It displays how a measurement on the map (1 inch, for example) equates to miles/kilometers of terrain covered by the map.

Topo map definitions

Colors and shading: Darker colors (or shades of gray) represent dense vegetation. Lighter colors (particularly greens) or shades of gray indicate comparatively sparse vegetation. Lighter colors (such as beige) or no colors suggest open terrain. White spaces with blue edges indicate permanent snowfields or glaciers.

Magnetic declination diagram: Printed in the margin of the map, this diagram shows the difference (declination) between magnetic north (indicated by the MN symbol) and true north (or polar north, indicated by a star symbol).

Grid: Numbers displayed around the edge of a map represent two grid systems that can be used to determine your location.

  • Latitude and longitude: Exact L&L numbers are displayed in the corners of maps and at equal intervals between the corners.
  • Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM): This system, used primarily by the military, divides the earth’s surface into a number of zones.

Combined, all of the above can enable you to determine your elevation, the ruggedness of the terrain around you and the most desirable route to travel to reach a destination.

Choosing a Topo Map

Two factors play a role when you evaluate maps: Scale and content.


A map’s ratio scale conveys the relationship between a measurement on the map and the distance it represents on the terrain. The most popular USGS maps offer a scale of 1:24,000, which means 1 inch (or foot, or any unit of measure) on the map represents 24,000 inches on the ground.

Mapping software makes it possible to create customized maps that offer a larger scale (say, 1:12,000 or lower) to provide greater detail. Customized commercial maps are also sometimes created at these larger scales. This is especially useful for off-trail explorers who want to choose passageways through saddles or passes that offer the least resistance.

The downside: Such maps cover a small area. People who undertake 1-way, multiday trips along a linear route often choose small-scale maps (1:50,000 or 1:62,500, for example). These maps cover a lot of land area but offer less detail. When terrain becomes very steep, contour lines runs so closely together that they appear almost as blobs rather than lines.

So if you’re a long-distance traveler, a small-scale map will give you a good overview of the territory you’re exploring (much as a road map does). The good news: You don’t have to carry a dozen or so maps to cover your trip. But if you decide to go off-trail in a certain area, all a small-scale map may offer you is a clot of tiny, tightly packed lines—likely not enough detail to make wise navigational decisions.

Note: The terms “small-scale” and “large-scale” can be confusing to beginners since ratios get smaller as their denominators get larger. Remember this: 1:24,000 is a larger scale than 1:250,000, since the fraction 1/24,000 is larger than 1/250,000.


Some commercial (non-USGS) maps include additional features that can be valuable to some users. They include:

  • Highlighted trails
  • Elevation call-outs
  • Distances between trail junctions and landmarks
  • Primitive trails
  • Backcountry campsites
  • Springs
  • Highlighted boundary lines

These additions, even GPS coordinates and personal notations, can be inserted onto maps when created using mapping software.

Map Options

USGS Quadrangles

The USGS is the major supplier of topographic maps in the United States. USGS maps cover rectangular areas of land called quadrangles. The borders of these maps are determined by latitude lines, longitude lines and the smaller divisions between them (minutes). Every square mile of the U.S. is covered by USGS maps, and each map lines up flush with the others around it.

  • Pros: USGS quads are easy to find, easy to use and easy to fit together when your trail crosses over onto an adjacent map (the borders match exactly, and the titles of adjacent maps are printed on the borders of each map).
  • Cons: They typically provide limited trail information. Plus their information is sometimes dated. It’s not uncommon to find that the location, even the existence, of roads, bridges, trails and shorelines have changed since the map was printed.

Commercial Maps

Private map companies sometimes enhance existing topographic maps with highlighted features or, more commonly, create customized maps that focus on popular areas that attract lots of visitation (and therefore potential customers).

  • Pros: Such maps not only have key features (primarily trails) highlighted, they are updated regularly. Release dates are usually found near the scale or the magnetic declination diagram.
  • Cons: Higher cost; some remote yet scenically worthwhile areas are not covered by such maps.

Mapping Software

This is an exciting, ever-evolving category of products that allows computer-savvy adventurers to create customized maps. Choose a scale that best suits your needs, insert notes and reminders, toss in GPS coordinates, print it at home on waterproof paper. Nice.

  • Pros: It’s hard to beat a map customized to the exact scope of your trip.
  • Cons: Higher initial cost; some degree of computer sophistication is required.

Local Maps

Many government-owned public lands (national parks, national forests, state parks, recreational areas) produce their own maps to cover the land inside their boundaries. Some are free handouts (but usually planimetric). Some handouts focus on a specific trail.

  • Pros: An entire park or area is encompassed on a single map, usually with information about roads, attractions and trails. Some get regular updates.
  • Cons: If they are topographic, they usually are small-scale (meaning minimal detail), and they can be expensive.

Taking Compass Bearings

A compass makes wilderness navigation possible by enabling you to accurately gauge directions from your current position to identifiable landmarks throughout the terrain that surrounds you.

The most basic function a compass provides is pointing north (magnetic north, that is). An orienteering-style compass allows you to assign a numeric value (a “bearing”) to any direction in the 360° circle around you. This means you can head toward a specific spot rather than simply ambling “south-southwest” or “due east.”

The rotating bezel of a compass is used to convert general compass directions into specific bearings. A bezel’s outer edge includes index (degree) lines that breaks down the 360° circle into 2° or 5° increments.

A bezel measures the direction towards a given object in terms of an angle—specifically, the clockwise angle between a straight line pointing due north and a straight line pointing toward the object. This bezel allows you to express any specific direction as a number between 0° and 360°.

Why is it useful to know that your campsite lies on a bearing of 40° instead of “to the northeast”? Because precise navigation results in efficiency, safety and speed.

Following a bearing off by just 1° can translate into almost 100 feet of error after 1 mile. That means that after a 5-mile hike, you could miss your target by almost 500 feet. In the wilderness, a few dozen feet can mean the difference between spotting a campsite or other landmark and missing it completely.

Transferring Bearings

On most backcountry excursions, especially those planned by beginners, compass navigation is seldom necessary. Simply following the trail carefully and checking your map from time to time should get you from campsite to campsite safely.

But if you become disoriented, or are just feeling confidently adventurous, a compass becomes a splendidly useful tool.

Bearing from Map to Compass

For example, if you know your location on the map, you can take a bearing on an unseen target elsewhere on the map and head toward that destination simply by following the bearing—even though your objective is not yet visible. Check out our video for a visual demonstration of how to transfer a bearing from map to compass:

  1. Identify your position and your objective on the map. Connecting those two points creates a line on the map (which you can either visualize or physically draw on the map).
  2. Align the edge of your compass with that line.
  3. Rotate the bezel so its orienting lines run parallel with the map’s orienting lines (which point to true north). This means the actual bearing have been captured at the front of the compass.
  4. Take the compass and turn your body until the magnetic needle lines up with the orienting arrow on the compass. At point, you will be facing the direction that will lead to your chosen objective.

Bearing from Compass to Map

You can rearrange the process and use a compass to take a bearing off a real-world object (one that is known to be on your map) and transfer that information to the map to identify your location even if you are uncertain of your whereabouts in the field. Our companion video illustrates these steps:

  1. Hold the compass level and aim the front of it at an object.
  2. Rotate the bezel until the magnetic needle is aligned with the orienting arrow of the compass.
  3. Locate the object on the map and place the edge of the compass on that object.
  4. With the edge still tight against the object, and without touching the dial, turn the entire compass until the orienting lines within the bezel line up with the orienting lines on the map.
  5. The edge of the compass forms a line on the map, and you now know you are somewhere along that line.



Triangulation is a technique that involves a map, a compass and 2 separate landmarks. It can pinpoint your position on your map even if you have no idea where you are. We demonstrate the following guidelines in our companion video:

  1. Pick 2 distant landmarks that you can easily identify on your map. They should be at least 60° apart.
  2. Take a bearing off of each object.
  3. Transfer those bearing to your map.
  4. Each bearing will form a line. Where the lines cross marks your location.

Magnetic Declination


As stated earlier in this article, the magnetized needle of a compass points toward magnetic north (abbreviated MN), but topo maps are oriented toward true north (or polar north, sometimes represented by a star symbol). Depending where you are located, the difference could be substantial—10°, 15°, 20° or more. Learn how to compensate for it by watching our video.

  1. Find your map’s magnetic declination diagram, usually in the margin’s lower-right corner.
  2. The original goal when taking a bearing is to align the magnetized needle with the orienting arrow.
  3. The magnetized needle must then be adjusted to the degree indicated by your map’s magnetic declination diagram. Use the index (degree) lines on the edge of the bezel.
  4. As you navigate, ensure that your needle is not pointed at magnetic north, but to the declination degree.

RSN Picks Up Adventure Medical Kits’ ‘Be Safe’ Videos

Monday, March 30th, 2009

The Resort Sports Network (RSN), a national television network that specializes in creating and distributing outdoor content to America’s premier resorts, has announced it will begin airing AMK’s ‘Be Safe’ video segments starting in April. Hosted by high altitude mountaineer Ed Viesturs, the ‘Be Safe’ vignettes were designed to provide viewers with useful tips on first aid, safety and survival in the outdoors.   Based in Portland, Maine, RSN broadcasts content into 125 mountain and beach destinations across the country. Currently, RSN has affiliates in the following markets:

Aspen, CO
Bend, OR
Crested Butte, CO
Destin, FL
Key West, FL
Killington, VT
Lake Tahoe, CA
Loon, NH
Mammoth, CA
Mount Snow, VT
Myrtle Beach, SC
North Conway, NH
Panama City, FL
Park City, UT
Salida/Buena Vista, CO
Smugglers’ Notch, VT
Snowshoe, WV
Steamboat, CO
Stowe, VT
Stratton/Bromley/Okemo, VT
Sugarbush, VT
Sugarloaf, ME
Summit County, CO
Sun River, OR
Sun Valley, ID
Sunday River, ME
Telluride, CO
The Hamptons, NY
Vail, CO
Winterpark, CO

Your Feedback: How I use my AMK Survival Products

Sunday, March 1st, 2009


My medical background ranges from First Responder, Medical Missionary,HAM Radio Operator and Special Operations Medicine First Responder (Civilian).

I bought several of your Heatsheets Blankets to put into my medical kits and bug out bags.  I have used them and they have not let me down.

I bought your SOL kit and added it to my bug out bag and getting a few more to put into to put into my travel bags.

Thanks for great kits and products.
Jerimiah G.

Survival kit in my hydration pack – best options for under $50?

Friday, January 16th, 2009


What are some good components for a survival kit to put in a medium hydration pack?

Thanks, Zach


When I am going light and space is tight, I carry The Pocket Survival Pak and Heatsheets Bivvy. The Pocket Survival Pak has everything you need but a shelter, hence the addition of the Heatsheets Bivvy. I carry this setup whether I am backcountry skiing in the winter or mountain biking in the summer.


Frank Meyer, Marketing Director/Co-Founder