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Surviving the Backcountry: Tips on Training, Gear, & First Aid Supplies from Expedition #BeSafeGannett

Tuesday, July 10th, 2018

#BeSafeGannet – 3 Days to Go!

This Friday, July 13th, #TeamTender will board a plane with all their gear and head out for Wyoming on the #BeSafeGannett Expedition up Gannett Peak. To say we’re excited would be an understatement! Although our expedition won’t physically begin until we reach the trailhead on July 14th, for our team the journey began over 8 months ago, and each day of training and preparation has taken us one step closer towards reaching the summit, a goal we hope to have achieved in less than 10 days from today.

Team lead Joe Miller here to give you a snap shot of how our team has prepared themselves to #BeSafe on this expedition with months of planning, including everything from physical training to gear considerations to choosing a medical kit. I’m going to give you a look at what questions, criteria, and rules I use to help me and my team travel safe and prepared.

8 Months of Preparation

#TeamTender has put in a huge amount of effort preparing for this expedition. Trip logistics planning kicked off 8 months before the expedition start date, and training plans were initiated 6 months prior. If you have read my previous blog post on trip safety, you know just how much effort should go into any backcountry excursion. A trip this remote forces you to perform a lot more preparation in order to #BeSafe.

One of the most important pieces of our preparation was building and executing our training plans, as the best thing you can do to ensure safety on the expedition is to be fit and fast.  If you’re looking for a good resource on building your first training plan, I highly recommend “Training for the New Alpinism” by Steve House and Scott Johnson.  In addition to the physical training, a lot of preparation has gone into choosing our gear, building our first aid kit and preparing for emergency scenarios.

Gear Preparation

Besides fitness, gear is the next piece of preparation in trip safety.  I love gear. I mean I really really love gear. You should check out my truck: its gear central. From packs, to sleep systems, climbing gear, boots, layering, biking supplies, avalanche travel necessities, cooking systems, fishing supplies, first responder gear, and especially first aid and survival gear, my truck is a rolling closet of anything you could ever want on any adventure. I love to be prepared for everything.

New gear for two of our team included investing in a large pack capable of hauling 40+ lbs.

When picking out gear I look for a few specific criteria:

  1. How well does the gear support your goal?
  2. How much effort does this gear take to use?
  3. How reliable is this piece of equipment?

Criterion 1: How well does the gear support your goal?

Look at everything you are bringing and determine how well it supports and/or limits your achievement of your goal. The latter is fairly easier to determine. Does it weigh a ton? How much “just in case” logic did you use to justify that in your pack? How does it directly support your goal? Your goal should be 1) whatever objective you’re gunning for, and 2) getting back out alive. As the great Ed Vestures said “Getting to the top is optional – getting down is mandatory.” However, while “what if” thinking is sometimes helpful, it shouldn’t encourage you to pack for every extreme.

Criterion 2: How much effort does this gear take to use?

“Ultra-lighters” live by this one. Ounces add up to pounds, and that weight ends up on your back (or your adventure buddy’s pack). The lighter the better, but also refer to criterion number 1. Some things are absolutely worth their weight. If you’re trekking across a glacier like we will be, a rope and other glacier gear is mandatory weight (falling in a crevasse doesn’t need to be life ending). That being said, if you can minimize weight and/or use items for multiple purposes, you can cut weight elsewhere. For instance, I know I will need some cordage for anchor building material in crevasse rescues; this can also double as tent tie downs, splint material, and gear straps.

#TeamTender getting in some post-work rope training in preparation for glacier travel.

This criterion also holds true for ability to use – simple, easy-to-use items work better for a team. For example, while some super-duper ultralight stoves can shave grams off your base weight, it can take over an hour to cook dinner.  When you’re in need of some necessary food and cook time prevents you from going to bed earlier, is it really that helpful?  Everyone will have different views and gear priorities, and as with anything in life, a good balance is key.

Criterion 3: How reliable is this piece of equipment?

This is really a combination of criteria 1 and 2, but it warrants its own attention. On one of my earliest trips as a leader, I remember hauling back an old stove which had definitely seen many years of abuse. 3 days into the trip the stove stopped working in spite of copious amounts of fuel. Five hungry and tired boys waited impatiently as I stressfully dismantled, fixed, and reassembled our stove in an attempt to feed us all. Emergencies don’t happen when you’re alert and ready for them; they happen when you are tired, hurt, or have already made one or many bad decisions.

When heading out on a big trip like #BeSafeGannett, you should already know you can rely on your gear. This is not a time for testing out new products or systems.  You should know how your gear works, inside and out, and have relied on it before.  This way, you will know how to use it when you’re tired, injured, or just plain hungry.  I like to slowly work changes into my backcountry systems one at a time so nothing feels too foreign. If you’re going on a big trip, you better have your systems (and your teammates’ systems) figured out well in advance.

First Aid Kit Preparation

Because I want to know everything in my pack and limit my gear to the essentials, I personalize and rationalize everything I’m bringing with me – this also applies to my first aid supplies. I start with a base kit (for this trip I used the Mountain Series Explorer) and customize it out from there based upon what my team needs for a specific trip – in this case to safely climb Gannett Peak.

The Mountain Series Explorer kit contains first aid supplies to equip a team of 4 headed out for up to 7 days, which exactly fits our expedition.

When building a kit, it’s essential to consider the gear criteria I detailed above, but it’s more important to remember – you have to get out of this alive. Remember:

  1. Your #1 goal is getting out alive
  2. Your medical is important enough to be heavy, but not unnecessarily so
  3. Your first aid supplies need to be reliable

1. Get Out Alive

In the backcountry, medical support is very limited, and your #1 goal needs to be to get out alive. You should categorize every medical situation as life threatening, long-term debilitating, or minor. The first two categories should yield an immediate decision to evacuate and get to better medical attention. During anything life threatening, the goal is to support life until front country medicine is available. For life threatening scenarios, knowing CPR and what supplies should work to combat major bleeds, circulation problems, allergies, and environmental issues is imperative.  Any potential long term debilitation from an injury should be minimized. This includes spinal issues, preventing infection, and immobilizing fractures to prevent more harm. Anything minor should be addressed quickly so it doesn’t escalate into a bigger issue. I’m speaking in broad terms here, but looking at your first aid kit and analyzing whether its contents will help you get out of a bad situation alive is a useful exercise.

2. Weight vs. Contents

How heavy does a medical kit have to be? This tends to be the hardest part of building a first aid kit; it’s truly a balancing act. Often, first aid kits are too large, and used by those with little understanding of how to properly use the components of the kit.

Recently, I vetted my personal first aid kit with a combat medic.  Through this, I learned that proper training allows greater resourcefulness. As with athletic training, if you have proper medical training you can do more with less. Anyone intending to spend time in the backcountry should take a Wilderness First Aid course, such as those offered by SOLO Wilderness Medicine. For those wanting to peruse further backcountry medical knowledge, the Wilderness First Responder and Wilderness EMT courses are intensive and thorough.

Regardless of what medical training you have, ensure that you know how to use the items in your kit and that you are prepared to use them to take care of potential medical issues on your trip. Basic, easy-to-use supplies are often best, as you (or your team) may be able to use them without much training and for a variety of issues. Beware of having a single, bulky item that will only help you in a very specific scenario, especially if it is easy to misuse. Building your kit is a balancing act, and only you know what will work best for you.

3. Reliable Contents

You need to rely on your first aid kit more than any other piece of gear in the back country. You need to audit and refill your kit before and after your adventures. It takes a lot of thought and practice to maintain a reliable kit to ensure that you and your team know how to respond if any life threatening or debilitating event happens. Everyone on your team should know where the first aid kit is and how to use the supplies inside. Ensuring your components are worthwhile is very important; sterility for wounds, strong bandages that hold in place, and non-expired medications are key. Having quality medical components is something Tender Corporation takes great pride in.

Building a First Aid Kit for #BeSafeGannett

As I said before, I took the Adventure® Medical Kits Mountain Series Explorer kit and customized it for the specific risks we will encounter in the Wind River Range. I prioritized supplies that will address life-threatening issues and found ways to use those same supplies for minor issues. I also added some items for more specific scenarios because I’ve personally justified their use-to-weight ratio.  Here’s some of what I’m packing for the group kit for the Wind River Range:

Emergency Plan: The first thing that goes into my first aid kit is a documented Emergency plan. I put this in a zip lock bag so it is still legible if it rains. This holds route information, evacuation routes, individual medical information, and primary insurance information. For Gannett, everyone has secondary backcountry rescue insurance as well. (If you’re an American Alpine Club member you get this with your membership!) Creating an emergency plan helps keep everyone on the same page.  Leave a copy of your emergency plan with a loved one, so that they can give it to the responsible rescue parties should they need to. Having an emergency plan should stimulate a conversation with your team on any pre-existing medical conditions that might impact care on the trail. This will also help you decide on any other specific items for your kit.

Gloves: Providing medical assistance can get messy.  Clearing an airways and dealing with other bodily fluids should not be done without a pair of gloves.

Diphenhydramine: Having Diphenhydramine medication is important for any allergic reactions which cause swelling to close airways. If someone is seriously allergic, they should have an epi-pen and you should know where they keep it. I also have some NSAIDs in my kit in case a patient’s personal preference is to take them. Having some form of anti-diarrhea medication is key for overnights. For longer backcountry trips, I also carry a few days’ worth of antibiotics in case something does get infected. You’ll need a prescription for these and should use under the direction of your doctor.

Dressings: Supplies to stop bleeding take up most of the space in my kit. Any major bleeding will cause issues in circulation, so it needs to be addressed immediately. I pack a few sets of rolled gauze, a couple triangle bandages with safety pins, self-adhering bandages, elastic bandages, medical tape, Easy Access Bandages®, tincture of benzoin, moleskin, and an Advanced Clotting Sponge. With this, I can take care of any major or minor bleeding issues. I’m not going to go deep into the intricacies of wound care, but here’s a reminder of the basics: apply direct pressure to stop bleeding, (if you need to go hands free create a pressure dressing), clean the wound to prevent infection and protect the wound from further risk of infection.

Support for Sprains and Strains: For major sprains and strains I utilize triangular bandages (remember, the ones I can also use to stop bleeding?) and straps from my pack. Beyond that, you can use your hiking poles, or sticks to splint and stabilize. I abide by the “RICE” approach for most issues that are not life threatening: Rest, Ice (or cool), Compress, and Elevate. More major issues that require immediate hospitalization are splinted, immobilized, and evacuated.

Shelter and Warmth: In case of hypothermia or for a make shift shelter, I have a Survive Outdoors Longer® Emergency Blanket. I can hypo wrap a patient with this, or create some shade or protection from rain if necessary. I’ll also have some strike anywhere waterproof matches for quick fire starting. If I’m not already on a climbing trip, some p-cord makes good use for splints and traction. Other survival gear includes a compass and water purification.

Signing Off

We hit the trail July 14th and will be sending updates from the trail whenever we can, which our trip coordinator will be sharing on social media. Make sure to be checking our hashtag #BeSafeGannett for the latest updates. We can’t wait to put all our training to good use and share this experience with you! – #TeamTender


Trip Safety: Don’t Get Stuck in the Dark

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Embarking on a backcountry adventure can be one of the most rewarding experiences. When all the planning, anticipation, and physical effort culminate in awe-inspiring views, you receive a feeling of escape not available in the front country. While one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself is to continually go deeper and find more remote settings, it’s not without its own perils. As a Search and Rescue (SAR) Member, I’ve seen firsthand how a potentially fantastic day can turn into the worst day of your life for you and your loved ones.

Adventures – no matter how amazing – are not without peril

Preparation is crucial for trip safety in your backcountry expeditions. This simple statement has so many layers to it; it’s easy to brush it off and assume you have done enough. Route planning, properly packing your bag, and even preparing your physical and mental fitness all go into preparation. Today I’ll touch on a couple trip safety tips that, when applied, can help prevent common mistakes for everyone traveling in the backcountry.

Trip Safety: Pack the Right Gear

Gear is sexy. You can read a million and half blog posts or YouTube videos on gear.  From reviews to proper load-outs, there is a lot to learn and it seems to keep getting more complex. However, the basics maintain true. Pack your 10 essentials (Don’t know what these are? Go check out REI’s great post on them). While I firmly stand by my alpine “light and fast” style and agree that the ability to move quicker adds safety, there are certain things that are worth the weight.


Last summer, there were multiple rescues to aid hikers stuck in the dark. Even if you’re setting out at sunrise and you feel overly confident you can get your hike done in just a morning, please still bring a headlamp. It makes my wife happy when I get to eat dinner with her on a Sunday night, instead of setting out to rescue hikers stuck in the dark.

Pack a headlamp so you don’t get stuck in the dark

In that same vein, bring extra batteries, especially if you’re working on a big day. Fancy headlamps that use built in lithium Ion batteries definitely help cut weight, but when it dies, it’s dead until you get back to a charger. My climbing partner was the victim of exactly this scenario coming down a 30 degree scree pitch off Mount Temple (BANFF, Canada) at 3 am. Our fast decent turned to a crawl when we were reduced to one headlamp. Learn from our mistake.

First Aid Kits

First aid kits are our specialty here at Adventure® Medical Kits, and I love the fact that I have so many supplies at my disposal to build kits. I’m a huge fan of our Mountain Series Day Tripper Lite kit. It’s perfect for day trip adventures and isn’t overloaded with unnecessary supplies. It also has great organization and labeling; in a rush, you can find exactly what you’re looking for. Another option is the custom bag from the Mountain Series, which lets people like me build their own kit and label it as needed.

My med kit for day hikes: the Day Tripper Lite, QuikClot®, an elasticized bandage, and a C-Splint™

Regardless of if you build your own kit or use a premade version, go through it often. It’s incredible how quickly you forget you used something in the middle of your climb when things start going well again.  A couple things that I mandate in even the smallest med kit are an elastic bandage, some form of a splint, Diphenhydramine, Ibuprofen, a couple big gauze pads, a small roll of medical tape, and an emergency blanket. Knowing what is in your kit is almost as important as knowing how to use it! I highly recommend that every backcountry enthusiast takes a Wilderness First Aid course (WFA), where you’ll learn the necessary skills to administer basic first aid in the backcountry. This can make the difference between a scary and stressful hike out and a confident, enjoyable return to your car.


The Mountains are a rugged place. They require rugged footwear. Most likely your road runners are not going to cut it, and your designer flip flops won’t make it even half a mile. Choose a stiffer, more supportive shoe to give you better protection. Unless you have seriously trained your body, a minimalist shoe can cause you long term issues. Not only does having a supportive shoe protect your feet, but your knees, ankles, and hip will also thank you. Having proper footwear ensures your body is taken care of. There are tons of debates on whether it’s better to have waterproof shoes or not in the summer. Some argue the non-waterproof will dry quicker and breathe better.  In the winter it’s almost no question – go waterproof.

Allow stiffer boots and trail shoes some time to break in. Once they do, you’ll never want to buy a new pair.  The break in process shouldn’t be overlooked; the first couple outings should be a bit easier than your usual hike, as both your feet and shoes need to adjust. Definitely bring some extra moleskin or GlacierGel® for blisters during your break-in period. At the end of the day, waterproof or not, find a shoe which really protects your foot and ankle, gives you good traction, and fits well.


Dressing for a hike is similar to dressing for other athletic activities; however, you must take exposure into account.  Your clothing must work well for extended periods in inclement weather, high wind, or extended sun exposure. The age old saying in the backcountry is that “cotton kills,” as once cotton is wet, it doesn’t insulate anymore.

Take into account ridgeline walking, where exposure to the wind and weather can be intense

In the mountains you can get hypothermia year-round. To combat cold any time of year, dress like an onion – layers layers layers! There are three basic layers: a base layer to move sweat away from body, an insulation layer, and an external layer to protect from elements. The specifics obviously all change depending on the season, but the principals stay the same.

Pest Control

Know the pests in the general area. Bug bites are a really annoying. A bear bite can be catastrophic. Understand that you probably should bring some form of deterrent for bugs and bears if they are known in that area. Ben’s® Clothing and Gear is fantastic to treat you gear before heading out.

From bear spray to head nets to bug repellent, pack for the pests in the area you’re visiting


One thing the 10 essentials fails to bring up is how to carry all those things. A good fitting backpack is necessary. It’s worth investing in a durable pack to get you through years of adventures. The biggest aspect of any pack should be its fit. Different disciplines have slightly different requirements. For instance, my hiking bag has large, cushioned hip straps, so that the load will sit on my hip bones. My technical climbing pack has minimal hip straps as it will get in the way of my harness. Figuring out the proper size pack is also important (I’ve blown zippers in the backcountry from stuffing my pack too tight). I’ve also had back pain from under-filling a big pack and having the contents rattle around on a decent. Having a number of packs for different outings will keep your back happy and pain-free.

Choose a pack appropriate for your activity – consider both size and fit

Trip Safety: Know Before You Go

Having fun and enjoying the outdoors is best achieved when you are properly prepared. While carrying the proper gear will help mitigate potential issues, there are intangible things that are invaluable in preparing for a hike.

Know what the climate is like where you are going.

In the early spring my SAR team might have 4 rescues in a day, while mid-summer we get 1 in a weekend. Why is this? In the White Mountains, we’re only 2 hours away from Boston on the interstate.  On early spring weekends, weather in Boston may be sunny and warm, with no snow; however, weather in the Whites includes waist-deep snow and raging rivers fueled by the spring melt.  Check the weather and trail conditions where you’re going – don’t assume it’s the same as what you see from your front door.

Seasons can look quite different in different places – like snowy springs in the White Mountains

We live in a wonderful age where Facebook communities, Sub-Reddits, and Instagram posts can help you deem what true current conditions are.  Weather has different patterns in different locations; do some research and see what generally occurs in the area you will be traveling. The weathermen do their best but are often wrong. Getting caught in a surprise summer thunderstorm in the alpine is life threatening. Learn the basics in reading the weather and apply those skills with knowledge of the local weather patterns.

Set a turnaround time before leaving the house.

This should be a firm time in which you know you need to turn back. A turnaround time keeps you honest with how quickly you are actually moving. The mountains will be there another day, and setting the time before leaving the house keeps the emotions in check.

Let someone not on the hike know of your planned route.

Text/call right when you set off and right when you return. In some places people will put detailed notes on their car dash. This is especially helpful for technical routes, as it lets other parties know what line is going to be most crowded.

Account for elevation change.

Elevation gain is not easy, neither is elevation loss. Remember getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory.

Don’t just check the mileage – check the elevation change!

Don’t discredit what elevation change is on the hike. The general rule of thumb is every 1,000 feet of elevation change will feel like another mile on the hike. For example, if I hike 4 miles to the summit with an elevation change of over 2,000 ft., that will feel like 6 miles. So a seemingly 8 mile roundtrip hike can really feel like a 12 miler. Plan your hike accordingly. Know your party members and what constitutes a fun day.

Be realistic on where you and your party is at physically.

If you haven’t had a cardio day in months, and you don’t know what leg day is at the gym, pick a more introductory hike. Check your ego and build up to that big hike. There is no shame or pain in hiking something under your threshold. A carry out on rugged terrain with broken bones is pretty miserable. Even hiking a couple miles hungry and exhausted will make you not want to return to the mountains for a while.

Plan for sunshine, prepare for thunder.

You may blow through your hike as fast as you think, but you might not. Bring enough food and water for some extra hours. Think about exposure to the elements: some extra time in the sun or wind or getting caught in a rain storm can make for a miserable outing.


Backcountry travel is no easy task. There are so many variables which go into a good adventure. I’m constantly re-evaluating gear and travel techniques to help keep me safe and have a good time. From gear to pre-adventure prep, there are plenty of trip safety actions you can take to ensure you have a great next adventure.

About the Author

Joe Miller is an alpinist residing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. He serves on the Pemigewasset Search and Rescue team, which has received some fame from the television show North Woods Law. Joe loves everything about the outdoors and can be found taking full moon laps up Cannon Cliff, ice climbing classics in Crawford notch, and slaying powder on his splitboard. Joe started working at Tender Corporation in 2015, as he loves the proximity to the mountains. When not outdoors, Joe lets his inner geek flag fly; he can be found holed up with his dog and cats tinkering with electronics and computer systems.

SheJumps: Teaching Outdoor Safety with Adventure Medical Kits

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

We’re excited to partner with SheJumps in their efforts to get more women and girls involved in the outdoors and educated about outdoor safety. They used gear from Adventure® Medical Kits and Survive Outdoors Longer® at many of their events in 2017, including their Junior Ski Patrol. Check out this review to learn more about their mission, see photos from their events, and hear about their favorite gear! – Adventure® Medical Kits

Getting Girls Outdoors

SheJumps is a non-profit whose mission is to increase the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities. We do that through helping women of all ages Jump In, Jump Up, and Jump Out. And what we mean by that is:

JUMP IN: Never-evers

We create activities and events that directly help those who might never otherwise have the chance to experience the benefits of challenging oneself in the outdoors.

JUMP UP: Already Active

We provide opportunities for women looking for a supportive community to try new things, get better at what they already do, and give back and share what they know and love.

JUMP OUT: Elite athletes who are positive female role models and are looking to give back through sharing their skills and stories

We are a voice for the up-and-coming athletes and a place to share with the community. These athletes have the opportunity to be directly involved in encouraging other women to take a ‘jump,’ with the goal of offering young girls real role models through story and action.

We believe in the Girafficorn- half giraffe, half unicorn, all magic. This mystical creature represents preserving and keeping your head held high above all chaos and drama while keeping your feet grounded. She’s there to remind us to follow our dreams in the outdoors and beyond… with the support of a hint of magic that helps us to lighten up and play along the journey.

Unique Initiatives to Help Get Girls Outdoors

SheJumps is unique in that our programs are designed to fulfill our promise to not only increase female participation in outdoor activities, but also to ensure that younger generations have the resources they need to get outside through adventure, education, and community building. We have:

Youth Initiatives: SheJumps’ Youth Initiatives are geared towards building life skills and empowering ownership and confidence through exposure to positive female role models, supportive communities, and the outdoors .

Outdoor Education: Our Outdoor Education programs focus on providing technical skills for all abilities and endeavors in the outdoors.

Get The Girls Out: Our ‘Get the Girls Out!’ Program focuses on connecting girls and women in our communities with inspiring and dedicated female outdoor enthusiasts.

Wild Skills: SheJumps’ Wild Skills youth events teach young girls the survival and technical skills they need for outdoor adventuring.

Community Initiatives: Our Community Initiatives are social events that focus on the SheJumps mission and team building.

Every single program looks at safety. We spend anywhere from 3 months to a year planning programs, depending on the program, so we are always preparing and looking to make sure we cover all of our bases.

She Jumps & Adventure® Medical Kits: Teaching Outdoor Safety

Adventure® Medical Kits is a good fit for SheJumps because we both have missions to encourage preparedness. The Adventure® Medical Kits mission is to provide innovative, high quality first aid and preparedness products for work, home, and your next adventure. SheJumps is creating the same sort of preparedness in women for all adventure in life at home, at work, and in the outdoors. Both organizations have similar goals, and when they combine forces, the preparedness through education speaks volumes and brings confidence.

Product Review

Building Skills with Adventure® Medical Kits and Survive Outdoors Longer®

Some of our favorite products are the Survive Outdoors Longer® Scout, the Ultralight/Watertight .5, and the Mountain Series Day Tripper.

These products are essential for our Wild Skills Program because SheJumps’ Wild Skills youth events teach young girls the survival and technical skills they need for outdoor adventuring. These skills can be applied in any season or region and include first aid, navigation, leave no trace, 10 essentials, shelter building, and more.

With the help of these different kits, we are able to introduce and encourage more girls to take on new and exciting challenges. The Wild Skills youth initiative is now in its 3rd year of providing outdoor education to girls ages 6-12 from across the country. In 2016, we hosted 5 events serving 222 girls with the help of 190 mentors. And every new opportunity to introduce young girls to a variety of skills and products to use with the skills only increases their confidence in the outdoors.

Easy to Use Medical Kits

Our favorite features of the products are the simplicity and ease of use. Each product comes in its own storage, allowing for everything to always stay more organized. It’s everything you need and nothing you don’t to be prepared. We work a lot with day trips, so that is mostly what we are working with, but having these kits for girls to look at and see and open up to discover what is in them and why is crucial to getting more people exposed to not only the product, but introducing them to how to use it properly.

Gear that Provides Peace of Mind

Our trips are easier knowing that we have the ease of mind from having all of our bases covered. You can never be too prepared for any event. I never travel without a first aid kit of some sort for any adventure – It could be a 30 minute stroll up a mountain in town or a full multi-day trip. I will always have something, because it is better to be prepared than not, and just to always avoid any issues.

Overall: Would You Recommend?

YES! It’s the same as the question before – everyone (and I mean everyone!) should have a first aid kit of sorts for every single adventure! There are no questions- just be prepared for the worst, and the best should typically happen.

“Seriously, You Guys Saved Our Lives”

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Read below climber Paul Warman’s first-person account on how Adventure Medical Kits’ Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy helped save his life and that of a friend, after the two had become stranded near the summit of British Columbia’s Bugaboo Spire.


I would like to take a moment to give a heartfelt thanks to you guys. If it wasn’t for your HeatSheets Emergency Bivvy, we would not be here today.

Paul Warman on Bugaboo

Click image to view video of climber Paul Warman’s rescue near summit of Bugaboo Spire.

Long story short, in August 2008, myself and a friend were trapped on the top of Bugaboo Spire in a bad storm awaiting rescue for 56 hours. When pulled, we were hypothermic, out of food, water and hope. The silver emergency blanket we had taken along was shredded by the wind and we were forced to spend the final 20 hours on a super narrow ledge with your Heatsheets blanket “bag,” which we sliced to cover us both.  It was probably about the most intense field test one could subject a product to — high altitude, UV,  snow and rain, windy as hell, etc. I still have the tattered remains of the bag. It did the job where the others had failed miserably the first night. This thing kept going – providing a 20 degree increase in temperature, I’m guessing — and was enough to keep us alive.

As a climber who tends to be a bit on the cheap side, I had seen your bivvies at Mountain Equipment Co-op before the climb and thought that they were too expensive. I opted instead to buy a cheapo silver one – BIG MISTAKE.  Following my experience on Bugaboo Spire, I don’t even let friends go out without your Heatsheets Bivvy on trips. If they complain about the price, I calmly pose the question, “How much is your life worth?” and then slap a new one in their hands.  Because there is no doubt that the durability of the silver ones just doesn’t hold up.

In fact, I still have both blankets from the trip (or what’s left of them) and the silver ones look like a shredded sheet of clear polyester. Yours, although no longer really usable (crampon spikes don’t like anything soft), would still work in a bind.  The bright orange coating helped greatly in enabling the helicopters to locate us when the whiteout cleared for a few quick seconds, allowing for a quick extrication off of the mountain.  By “quick,” I mean there was only a four-minute window for the next bunch of days, which means if we hadn’t gotten off the ledge when we did we would not be here today.

My message to you fine folks is of genuine heartfelt thanks. Your Emergency Bivvy Works! Others just fail in comparison.


Paul Warman,

Cochrane, Alberta

What’s the Difference between a Space® Blanket and a Heatsheets® Emergency Survival Blanket?

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

When a company is the first to bring a new product concept to market, the brand name can become so well known that it becomes synonymous with the product itself. Xerox® did it when it invented the copier, Kleenex® did it with tissues, and Band-Aid® is known the most for bandages. In the outdoor industry, some might consider the “Space® Blanket” brand to have managed this same feat.

While the Space® brand may be the name people use to refer to this line of products, there are remarkable differences between the Space® brand blankets and AMK’s line of Heatsheets® Emergency Blankets.


The only real similarities are that they both reflect your radiated body heat back to you to help keep you warm.  But even the amount of heat reflected back to you varies between the two brands. Here are the main advantages of our Heatsheets® Survival Blanket:

  • Heatsheets® metalized poly-blankets reflect up to 90% of radiated heat back to you versus the 80% capability of the Space® brand polyester metalized blanket.
  • Heatsheets® Survival Blanket has survival instructions printed directly on the blanket to help you survive the unexpected night outdoors.
  • Heatsheets® Survival Blanket is 20% larger and able to fit two people inside.
  • Heatsheets® Emergency Bivvy has taped seams, has enough room for on person plus their gear and is waterproof.
  • Heatsheets® Emergency 2-Person Bivvy is larger enough for two full sized adults.

You can further compare our entire line of Heatsheets® blankets and Bivvies to other Space® brand Metalized polyester blankets and bags:

Heatsheets Material

  • Heatsheets® are 30%-50% thicker and more durable.
  • Heatsheets® are puncture resistant and do not shred apart when they are edge-nicked, as metalized polyester blankets do. They stand up better in wind and tears don’t have to turn into disasters.
  • Heatsheets® color coding (orange on the outside, silver for inside) ensures high thermal return. Without the color coding, you run a 50% risk of wrapping yourself with the heat-reflective side out which results in losing 34% of design performance.
  • Heatsheets® metalized-poly blankets are softer and quieter. Mylar and Space® blankets rattle and crinkle (very noisy) and can be an extra annoyance in a survival situation.
  • Space® blankets are difficult to open especially when wearing gloves. They are rolled-and-fold and form hard creases that often grab and tear while opening, particularly after they’ve been stored for long periods.
  • Heatsheets® LDPE-4 blankets are easy to open – even with gloves on – because they are center-fold and flip-folded without hard creases.
  • Heatsheets® LDPE-4 blankets can be recycled with produce and carryout bags at grocery store collection points and recycling centers. Mylar (Space®) blankets are not recyclable.

How do Heatsheets® keep me warm?


The reflective insulation layer of Heatsheets® brand blankets reflects up to 97% of your body’s radiant heat to form a warm ‘envelope’ of air. This is achieved by wrapping the blanket around your torso to reduce the risk of hypothermia. Anyone can become hypothermic, even in mild weather conditions. The best way to prevent this is to trap body heat in BEFORE core temperature begins to drop.

Can my Heatsheets blanket be recycled?
Yes! Heatsheets® blankets are made from metalized low density polyethylene (LDPE) and carry the recycling code Type 4. While Type 4 film plastics are not normally collected at curbside, your community may offer recycling opportunities for number 4 plastics at a central collection point like grocery stores or community recycling centers.

Are Heatsheets® environmentally safe?

  • Our printing partner holds an EPR Certification (Environmentally Preferred Rating). Heatsheets® are printed in California, where state law (AB 455) prohibits the use of heavy metals in inks or materials. Most of the inks used are water based (as opposed to solvents), minimizing air pollution. During film extrusion and the printing process, scrap and waste are recycled whenever possible.
  • Heatsheets® are produced from FDA food-grade LDPE-4 resin.

Can I reuse my Heatsheets® blanket?
Yes! We encourage you to be environmentally conscious and save/reuse your Heatsheets® blanket. The Heatsheets® material is definitely durable enough to use more than once. It can be placed in your car and used if you are stranded in bad/cold weather. You can fold it up and take it in your backpack while hiking or stash it in your coat pocket while skiing.  Please consider the environment before throwing away your Heatsheets® reflective blanket.

Tips for Assembling a 72-hour Emergency Preparedness Kit

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

By Christopher Van Tilburg, MD

Dr. VanTilburg

When I was a boy, I watched Mount St. Helens explode from the front yard of the family home. It was both thrilling and terrifying. The Toutle River overflowed Interstate 5, and school was canceled due to ash fallout. Hurricane Katrina, the Spring floods that devastated Northeastern states, and now Hurricane Earl — which at the time of this post was threatening to hammer much of the Eastern Seaboard — prove that natural disasters can hit close to home. So, everyone should prepare a 72-hour emergency kit for Mother Nature’s worst.


Ideally you need two kits: a large plastic bin for home and a small portable kit for your car. A good disaster kit has 5 components: water, food, first aid kit, extra clothing and bedding, and survival gear.


You’ll need a gallon of water per person per day, and a method of purification, in case you refill from a tainted municipal source. The simplest, easiest water storage is gallon jugs of commercially bottled water. I keep a supply of chlorine dioxide purification tablets, which I find lighter and more compact than a filter or ultraviolet light pen. Non-perishable food should be no-cook, ready-to-eat canned or dry goods with a good source of protein and carbohydrates. Simple, heat-and-eat meals are great, but you’ll need to add a small camp stove and fuel to your kit.


For first aid supplies, I like the Fundamentals for home because it has enough components for multiple people for many days, with room for extra medications and tools. A combo kit, like the SOL 3 which comes with essential first aid, survival and repair tools, is ideal for the car, when time and space are in short supply.


Select a kit with enough supplies to cover all the members in your household for a minimum of three days.


Have a spare sleeping bag, or a lightweight bivvy which is always a mainstay in my SAR pack, car kit, and household bin. Toss in an old raincoat, fleece sweater, a hat, and gloves for everyone in your household.


Survival supplies are of paramount importance. Start with a personal survival kit that includes a whistle, fire starter, signal mirror, cord, wire, compass and other essentials. Include a headlamp with extra batteries, a pocket tool like a Leatherman Juice, hand sanitizer and body wipes for personal hygiene, insect repellent, sunscreen of SPF 25, and a battery operated AM/FM radio.


Don’t forget personal items like spare prescription glasses; extra prescription medicine; baby formula and diapers, if required; hygiene sundries; family documents, like photo ID and passports stowed in a waterproof travel case; and access to cash and credit cards. Make a list of emergency contacts and emergency utility shutoff valves in your house.


Toss in instructions! Even the most skilled benefit from reminders, such as Dr. Weiss’ excellent Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine 3rd Edition , which includes life-saving tips on how to improvise treatments when you don’t have ready access to professional medical care — a common occurrence following a major disaster.

Storing the whole shebang is pretty simple. For your home kit, get a large waterproof plastic bin like a Rubbermaid Action Packer. Make sure everyone in your household knows the location. Rotate the food and water out every 6 to 12 months as expiration dates recommend. Add an empty backpack to the bin so you can grab gear in a jiffy. For your car, stash the gear in a soft kit in the trunk or under a seat. In your car, you should always carry repair tools too, including: a jack, spare tire, jumper cables, extra oil, a flat repair kit, basic tools, a tow strap, duct tape, and a small folding saw.

Check expiration dates on your kit's food and water supplies every six to 12 months.

Check expiration dates on your kit’s food and water supplies every six to 12 months.

Let’s hope the natural world will calm down for a while. But when the seas heave, the winds blow, and the earth rattles, access to a complete disaster kit will make life easier and safer.

Chris Van Tilburg, M.D., is the editor of WMS’s Wilderness Medicine and the author of eight books on the outdoors. His most recent book is Mountain Rescue Doctor. Van Tilburg is also a member of Hood River Crag Rats Search & Rescue Team. He lives in Bend, Oregon.

DIY Gear: Using an Emergency Shelter to Create a Vest

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Here’s an interesting question that came in over our blog today:

Q: I’d like to make a vest out of the SOL Thermal Bivvy-  should the seams be sewn or will an iron work to weld seams?

A: My advice is to sew the seams, rather than trying to weld them.  If using an iron to weld seams, I would be worried about excessive heat weakening the fabric or causing the two layers of the fabric to separate.


Does anyone else have any good stories about using our products (or anyone else’s products, for that matter) to make their own clothing or gear?  If you ask me, some of the best ideas in the outdoor gear have their roots in DIY-specialists or the cottage industry, so we’re always interested to hear how people like to use our products.  I’ve received emails from people that have used Heatsheets blankets as solar heat reflectors inside their cars or as insulation inside coolers, so I know there are enthusiastic innovators out there taking our products beyond what we imagined when we made them.  If you have a story, please share it with us in our comments section.

-Jordan Hurder, Product Specialist

Ask the Doc Mailbag Round-Up

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Here are some questions that people reading our blog have submitted recently…

Q: How do I verify the expiration date on your oral rehydration salts?

A: The manufacturer of the oral rehydration salts we use does not include and expiration date on the package, as rehydration salts aren’t classified as a drug by the FDA.  Because this product is fairly inert (unlike a pharmaceutical), I wouldn’t have a problem stocking a packet that was a few years old in one of my own kits.  However, if you are concerned that your product is too old to be used safely, you can contact our customer service department and arrange a replacement.

Q: What are the differences between the SOL Thermal Bivvy and the Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy?

A: The Heatsheets bivvy is made of a single layer of metalized polyethylene, making it very lightweight.  It is a true emergency product in that, while being easy to repair and resistant to tearing, it won’t stand up to repeated heavy use.  Also, because the material doesn’t breathe, you will have condensation when you’re inside it, making your clothing wet.

The SOL Thermal Bivvy is made from a much more durable 2-ply non-woven fabric material with a metalized coating.  It will work as a primary sleep system in temperatures down to 50 degrees or provide about 15 degrees of extra insulation when used over a standard sleeping bag.  In emergency situations, this bivvy is much more comfortable to occupy, since you can use the Velcro side opening to regulate heat and moisture inside the bivvy.  Of course, the trade off with the Heatsheets bivvy is that the SOL Thermal Bivvy is bigger and weighs about 4.5 more ounces.

Q: Does your space blanket hold cold in and protect from the heat outside. I want to cover dry ice and boxes of bottles. If it can cool a little that would be better than nothing at all.

A: The Heatsheets blanket will help keep cold from escaping, although it is hard to quantify by how much.  The studies done on this material focus on heat reflectivity, although the same principle is used to make metalized heat shades like reflective cooler interiors or automobile sun shades.  If you do try it, I’d be interested to know how well it works.

Q: I have just ordered and received the Trauma Pak with QuickClot from LA Police Gear (excellent company).

I consider myself a fairly well prepared individual (various Red Cross First Aid, WMS Wilderness First Aid Course, CPR, AED, etc.) and intend to keep this small trauma pak kit in my shooting/range bag, along with other general first aid supplies (my heavily modified AMK Day Tripper – actually, it’s mostly just the bag any more with so many various add-on kits and items).  Fortunately, I live in Dallas and have excellent access to high quality emergency medical aid – but certainly would not want to just stand there for 5 to 7 minutes until EMTs arrive for a problem.  I intend to keep the kit sealed in the original package and watch the expiration date.  What I am writing about is the instruction sheet – was hoping that more information was on the exterior of the package or available on your web-site (if there I couldn’t find it).  Just don’t want the first time reading any specific, particularly new information to be during an actual emergency.

Is it possible to get a copy of the instruction sheet by e-mail or on-line?

A: You make a good point about not waiting until an emergency to read key medical information.  I will post a copy of the instructions on our company blog, located at

Q: Going to Botswana in June 2010.  Should I use DEET repellant or not?  I don’t know the pros and cons.

A: There has been quite a lot of research done concerning the safety of DEET – much more than can fit in this email.  To break down the basic issues: DEET is an extremely effective insect repellent, and it has been on the market for half a century with very little (if any) known toxic effects.  That being said, some have argued that DEET may have adverse health or neurotoxic effects.  The EPA, which regulates insect repellents and insecticides, has evaluated the merits of these controversial studies and concluded that DEET is still safe for human use, with 30% concentrations such as Ben’s 30 Wilderness formula being safe for use on children above two months of age.  One other potential downside of DEET is that it can melt synthetic fibers and plastic, such as Gore-tex jackets, fishing line, or nylon clothing.

If you are concerned about DEET, I highly recommend using Natrapel 8-hour, which is made using a 20% concentration of the ingredient Picaridin.  Picaridin has been widely used in Europe for around 20 years and has made its way into the US market over the last few years.  It is just as effective as DEET and will not affect plastics, so many people prefer it to DEET for that reason alone.

Personally, if I am on a backpacking trip in high infestation areas, I use Ben’s Max 100% DEET because it has always worked for me, and that’s what I trust, although some of my coworkers swear by Natrapel 8-hour.  As long as you’re using a CDC-recommended ingredient (such as DEET or Picaridin) and following the label instructions so that you’re applying it often enough, you should be able to keep insects at bay.

Q: We purchased the Suture/Syringe Kit from Adventure Medical Kits but were disappointed not to have instructions for use. Can you recommend a book(s) for those who might need to deal with the contents in an emergency?

A: Because this kit is designed to be purchased and used by professionals only, we don’t include instructions in it. Suturing wounds, administering injections and IV’s, and performing field surgery are not practices that are advisable for a novice to perform – these types of procedures require professional instruction with hands-on demonstrations and significant field experience. In a case where surgery or suturing is indicated, it is best to stabilize the patient as much as possible and either evacuate the patient so medical care can be obtained or await wilderness rescue. If you are traveling in an area where sterile supplies may not be available at a local hospital, this kit (or the smaller Suture/Syringe Medic) can be given directly to the medical practitioner to ensure the use of safe equipment.

Q: I have a Thermo-Lite 2.0 Bivvy and it is a bit stinky.  Can I put it through the laundry?  How do you recommend it be cleaned?

A: I wouldn’t recommend machine-washing a Thermo-lite 2.0 Bivvy (now renamed the SOL Thermal Bivvy).  To clean it, wash it by hand using warm water and mild soap, and hang it to dry.  Open the velco side-vents as far as they go to aid in drying.

Q:  Could you tell me yourself or direct me to a site that would explain the usual procedure to treat a deep open wound, especially using the products of AMK.  Recently I had an episode where I cut my finger with a chain saw and luckily I had some quickclot at home which stopped the bleeding quickly until I could get to the hospital. I was by myself and had to drive myself to an emerg. clinic nearby. They simply deadened the finger with a shot(wow!), soaked it in a Betadine solution and stitched it with 6 stiches. Then wrapped it in a splint and gauze.

But what would I do if something like this happened out on a hike or wilderness trip? Could this be handled with substitute or similar medical products and medicine?

A: As you found out, stopping the bleeding is the most important step to take when confronted with a laceration, so it’s good to have a pack of QuikClot on hand at home and in your pack if you’re in the wilderness.  Once bleeding is under control, the best way to clean and close a wound is to irrigate it (preferably using an irrigation syringe) to clear out debris and then to hold the edges closed with wound closure strips (or butterfly bandages).  This technique is explained in detail in Dr. Weiss’s Comprehensive Guide to Wilderness Medicine, and you can see an improvisational technique, should you find yourself without the requisite supplies here:

Most of our most popular kits contain an irrigation syringe and wound closure strips, including the Ultralight / Watertight .9, Weekender, and Hunter.  If you already have a medical kit and just need wound closure supplies, we also offer the Wound Closure Medic, which you can find here:

“Ask the Doc” Mailbag Round-Up for April 2010

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Q:  used the heatsheets emergency bivvy (3.8 oz). next morning discovered a lot of moisture in the bivvy. this gave rise to an extra cold and damp start to the day. is this a common with the bivvy? many thanks for a small but important bit of kit. it may not seem like the back country but when i am here in northern ireland events can turn bad.

A:  Condensation inside the bivvy is par for the course with this product – since the material itself is not breathable, moisture accumulates fairly rapidly.  This is why we classify the Heatsheets Bivvy as an emergency product – since, in an emergency, it is necessary to preserve heat and get warm at all costs, even if condensation results.

Q: I have to prepare a medical kit for 40 people in a wilderness setting and being “waterproof” is a must so we don’t lose supplies.  What Adventure Medical Kit do I need?  My wife is a retired R.N., so we would also like something that has a stapler as well as sutures in it.

A: A kit for 40 people is going to need to be pretty large – I would recommend either our Guide I or Expedition kits from our Professional Series.  These kits have enough supplies to treat a wide range of ailments and injuries over a large group of people, and they are designed for professionals or individuals with advanced wilderness first aid training.  (For a more user friendly option, I highly recommend our Comprehensive kit, which features Easy Care organization so even someone without any first aid training can administer medical care.)  All of our kits in the Professional series use water-resistant fabrics, although they aren’t 100% waterproof – for a kit as large as what you’re looking for, I would recommend keeping it in a waterproof container such as a Pelican case, Otter box, or even a very large size Aloksak; alternatively, you can pack the inner components into zip-lock bags to keep them dry in the event that the kit is submerged.

As for sutures/surgical supplies, I recommend picking up a Deluxe Wound Cleaning and Closure module from our refills page – this module is for professionals only, and it contains sutures as well as a skin stapler and staple remover.

Q: Would it be safe to put the Quikclot sport silver after I’ve use neosporin on a gauze?

A: QuikClot (and QuikClot Silver) are designed to be used in an emergency situation when bleeding is heavy or life-threatening.  If the amount of bleeding has slowed enough for you to dress the wound properly (with gauze and antibiotic ointment), it probably isn’t necessary to use QuikClot.  In answer to your question, it is safe to use QuikClot or QuikClot Silver in this situation, but my advice would be to use QuikClot directly on the wound immediately, hold it in place using direct pressure for as long as is necessary to stop the bleeding, and then to use antibiotic ointment, non-adherent dressings, and gauze to dress the wound once bleeding has stopped.

Q: What is the best kit for horseback riding? We ride in the mountains often, and sometimes get far from camp.

A: I suggest either our Comprehensive or Outfitter, since these kits both have detachable inner bags that you can take with you on excursions from your base camp.  Both of the kits have enough supplies for large groups or extended trips, so if you’re venturing out with smaller groups on shorter trips, you may want to consider the Weekender or Sportsman kits instead.  The Comprehensive and Weekender kits are from our Mountain series, which will suit your needs if you just ride horses to get out into the wilderness, while the Outfitter and Sportsman kits are specifically designed for hunting/fishing trips.

Q: I will be directing an archaeological project in the lower Andean mountains of Peru (ca. 1000m).  We will have a crew of four people and will be working for about a month.  It is five hours by horse to the nearest road and then four hours by truck to the nearest town. We will have supplies brought in once a week and each crew member is expected to bring in their own basic supplies.  We can get most basic supplies in Peru (boxes of gauze, bandages, eye flush, antiseptic wipes, etc,) but I am concerned with a major machete cut.  Snake bites and burns are second and third on my list.  Any suggestions for kits.

A: I would recommend the Comprehensive kit from our Mountain Series for your needs (four people in a remote location for 30 days).  Although you can obtain basic supplies, it really is preferable to have everything contained in one kit, especially one like the Comprehensive in which the contents are organized by injury.  If you are particularly worried about major cuts/bleeding, pick up a Wound Closure Medic, which as everything you need to clean and close a wound, as well as some QuikClot Sport, which will stop bleeding within minutes.

-Jordan Hurder, AMK Product Specialist

Backpacker Picks Three AMK Products for Spring Gear Guide

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

Backpacker recently honored Adventure Medical Kits by selecting three of our products for inclusion in the magazine’s influential Gear Guide issue. BP”s editorial staff chose AMK’s Day Tripper kit (first aid kit),  Blister Medic (blister treatment) and the Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy (lightweight bivvy) for the Guide’s “Essentials” category. Here’s what Backpacker said about  each product:


Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy

“It packs down to the size of a kiwi fruit and weighs less than four ounces, but this lifesaver reflects 90% of your body heat.”

0100-0116 Day Tripper_Closed

Day Tripper

“Includes everything you need for trips up to a weekend. Bandages, blister treatments, anti-inflammatories and sting aids are organized by purpose, so you can find stuff fast.”

0155-0667 Blister Medic

Blister Medic

“Includes everything for preventing and treating blisters.”

Backpacker‘s Gear Guide (April 2010) will be hitting news stands shortly. Be sure pick up a copy.