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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.

Illumination

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.

Footwear           

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.

Clothing              

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

Packs

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.

Conclusion

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.

SheJumps’ Wild Skills Junior Ski Patrol at Crystal Mountain

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

Written by Wild Skills Director, Christy Pelland

On December 16, 2017, SheJumps Wild Skills hosted Junior Ski Patrol at Crystal Mountain a day camp where girls learned mountain safety and first aid while working with the strong women of the ski patrol community and SheJumps volunteers. Throughout the day, participants were taught a range of outdoor skills that are utilized by ski patrollers to keep the mountain safe. Topics included first aid, avalanche control, snow science, weather stations, toboggans, avalanche rescue techniques, avalanche dogs and much more. There was also plenty of snack breaks, high fives and unicorns delivering hot cocoa!

The day started at 9:30am with registration, meeting team members, filling our pockets with snacks (Thank you Clif Bar!) and making Junior Ski Patroller cards. Teams consisted of 8 participants, 3 SheJumps volunteers and 1 Crystal Mountain pro patroller.

At 10am, the teams headed to ski patrol headquarters located at the base of Crystal Mountain. We entered in through the ‘Ski Patrol Only’ entrance and cozied up in the patrol locker room for a briefing by ski patrol director, Kim Kircher. Kim talked about what ski patrol does, how they educate the community, the skier’s responsibility code and more. After a Q & A, teams toured the aid room and witnessed patrollers in action as a skier was cared for.

By 10:30am, Teams Blue & Orange were headed to the summit and Teams Purple & Green over to Campbell Basin. All teams started the morning station set with First Aid which was housed in tents provided by our generous partner, Big Agnes. Patrollers led demonstrations in prevention and care of injuries – role playing situations which included making splints and stopping bleeding. A big thank you to our program partner, Adventure® Medical Kits for providing all the gear needed in order to create this part of the event. Also, for giving each participant a first aid kit & emergency blanket!


Next up, teams learned about snowmobiles, toboggans and why patrollers cache gear on the mountain. This station set included finding caches and learning how to load & maneuver the toboggans. Many girls I talked to said driving and riding in the toboggans was their favorite part of the day!

I bet you’d like to know the secret to pulling off successful youth events in the mountains? Well, get ready for it: UNICORNS DELIVERING HOT COCOA! That’s right, our team of 4 unicorn delivered piping hot cocoa complete with whipped cream & sprinkles to our 32 participants, 20 volunteers and 6 pro patrollers.

Lunch was included in this event and consisted of everyone’s favorite: PIZZA! Crystal Mountain recently installed a wood fire pizza oven in Campbell Basin Lodge and OH is it amazing! Our crew annihilated 12 large pizzas and 2 giant bowls of pasta before heading back out into the snow.

After lunch, each team was greeted by a unicorn carrying avalanche beacons, probes and shovels. The unicorns gave instructions about the Buried Treasure Hunt and patrollers lead the team in how to properly conduct a search. At SheJumps, we strongly believe in education and fun – our events blend both of these elements to make for the safest and most entertaining adventure possible. After tracking down the buried treasure each team uncovered their booty: a BCA beacon & box full of donut holes. Special thanks to Backcountry Access (BCA) for providing all the beacons, probes, shovels, slope meters and crystal cards for this event.

Once the girls had their fill of donuts, all teams hiked thru the trees into a secluded area of Campbell Basin. This was a challenge for some of the girls who have never done this level of side stepping and technical skiing/snowboarding. Yet all made it and were greeted by enthusiastic high fives. After all were settled into the snow, Kim Haft led a presentation on the avalanche dog program at Crystal Mountain sharing many interesting aspects about the dogs such as how they are trained and how the dogs like to spend their summer vacations.

Once Kim was done answering questions, we turned our attention to Christina Hale & Kala who were located on the slope above us. Everyone sat in silence as Kala charged across the hill searching out the scent. In seconds she’d found it and began frantically digging – pulling up the sweater that had been buried earlier that day. Christina loudly praised Kala as did the rest of us – it was quite the sight!

As we exited the area, we were treated to a stash of fresh pow!


The afternoon station sets included touring the weather stations and avalanche prevention. At the weather stations, teams learned how data is gathered and how to find & read weather reports. This station also included lessons on snow crystals and the science behind them.

The avalanche prevention set included seeing the different control routes at Crystal Mountain as well as stories of past avalanches. Teams discussed terrain assessment, the human factor and the importance of making good decisions.

There was a lot of information covered during this day but teams still found time to do a bit of free skiing – some even ran into unicorns!

At 3:30pm, all teams gathered for wrap up which included certificates for completing the day and a sweet swag bag filled with a watertight first aid kit from Adventure® Medical Kits, SheJumps lip balm by EcoLips, and Clif bar notebook.

Our goal with SheJumps Wild Skills is to see girls learning, having fun and connecting in an encouraging environment with amazing instruction and support from female mentors. We want Wild Skills to be an experience they will remember, one that will spark a lifetime of passion for the outdoors and will remind them that they are capable of anything. Giving participants, young and old, the opportunity to learn skills in a fun yet challenging setting develops perseverance and fosters confidence. Thanks to all that helped make this program come to life!

This was the first event of it’s kind for Wild Skills and we’re looking forward to bringing it to other mountain communities this season including Big Sky, Sun Valley and Alta. If you’re interested in bringing Junior Ski Patrol to your local hill – contact Wild Skills Director, Christy Pelland cpelland@shejumps.org

Special thanks to our partners:

Crystal Mountain Resort

Crystal Mountain Ski Patrol

Clif Bar

BCA

Yukon Trading Company

Big Agnes

High fives to our photographers:

Ryan French

Blake Kremer

Big up to our videographer, Max Chesnut for capturing the magic!

Hilaree O’Neill: Remote Expeditioning with Adventure® Medical Kits

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Skier, climber, mother, and the first woman to climb Everest and Lhotse in a single 24-hour period, Hilaree O’Neill is an adventurer like no other! This spring, Hilaree accomplished her personal goal of climbing and skiing the “Peak of Evil,” a 21,165-foot mountain in the Indian Himalayas. Her team is the first party to ever complete a ski descent of the mountain. We asked Hilaree what the experience was like and how she prepared for the expedition. Here’s what she said: 

“From a Skier’s Perspective, Papsura Was Absolutely Perfect”

For most of my adult life, I have been a professional adventurer. Climbing, skiing, and generally clinging to the side of big mountains has always been my medium of choice. Often to access many of the places my passion leads, myself and my partners must be well versed in self-reliance. Expedition-style travel is especially tricky to plan for due to the length and remoteness of the undertaking.

Just this last May, I returned to a mountain that I had long been obsessed with in a very remote region of the Indian Himalayas. Along with two partners, I set out for a month-long journey to climb and ski Papsura Peak, aka the Peak of Evil. I had first seen the twin peaks of Papsura and Dharamsura back in 1999, on my very first expedition. From a skier’s perspective, Papsura, the taller of the two peaks, was absolutely perfect. This last May was my second attempt on the Peak of Evil and my 5th expedition to this region of India.

Photo Credit: Jim Morrison

It was about a four day walk to get from the nearest village to the mountain’s basecamp at 14,000 ft. From there, it was another 8,000 ft and nearly two weeks of acclimatizing and route-finding to reach the summit.

So How Does One plan for Such a Trip?

One of the first, and most important, things to consider is your medical kit. There must be some balance between being your first and best source of medical treatment should something go wrong and packing a manageable weight and bulk, as well as the effectiveness and accessibility of your supplies.

This is where Adventure® Medical Kits comes into the picture…

Prior to any expedition, I will take several different parts of my medical kits, pull everything out, and compile them into 2 to 3 different systems. In the case of our Papsura Expedition, I doubled down with Adventure® Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight Pro, as I knew we had porters to assist with our gear all the way to basecamp, and therefore we could have the relative luxury of a very extensive kit. From there, however, we were on our own.

Photo Credit: Chris Figenshau

At that point, we left behind the bigger medical resources at basecamp and brought individual smaller kits like the Ultralight/Watertight .7 that each of us carried all the way to our high camp. The experience I had in the area from my previous trips helped me know how to narrow down not only our supplies, equipment, but even our route to such an extent that we were able to laser focus on the objective at hand: a remote 3000ft, 50 plus degree face of snow and ice at high altitude.

When it came time for our summit push, we planned on paring our kits down even further to just one fist-sized medical kit, the Ultralight/Watertight .5, that would go in one of our packs as group medical supplies.

Of course, at each point along the climb we would further specialize what we carried with us based not only on size and weight, but also on being able to treat the most likely type of injuries, given our activities. For example, the trauma pack and the C-splint would make it all the way to high camp, while the burn pads, allergy meds, and bulk of the blister kit might get left at basecamp. The summit kit would include ibuprofen and other altitude meds augmented from the pharmacy at home, steri-strips, a single Survive Outdoors Longer® Survival Blanket, plus maybe the trauma pack and tape. We would rely on our ice axes or ski poles to fill the need of a C-splint, and extra clothing to act as tourniquets or slings should there be a need.

Of course, it’s impossible to plan for everything so, again, it’s a balance, and the best case scenario is to never have to use any of it. Fortunately, the most use we got out of our medical kits were the ibuprofen, lots of blister stuff mostly for our porters, along with triple antibiotic and the occasional Easy Access Bandage®!

On May 15th, We Went for It.

 

Photo Credit: Jim Morrison

Without a doubt, our trip to the summit proved to be one of the most intense and committing climbs I have ever done. For two weeks, we pushed hard every day until we felt we were ready to tackle the west face in single day push.

We arose in the darkness at 3am. We started the climb two hours later and moved continuously up the face for 9 hours before we finally reached the first reasonable spot to take off our packs and rest – this spot happened to be about 50 feet below the summit. After a long pause where we drank and ate and waited for the monsoonal clouds to lift, we finally tagged the summit and started our ski descent. While conditions were amazing for climbing, they were pretty rugged for skiing, and our descent took another 4 hours. All in all it was about a 20 hour day.

Photo Credit: Jim Morrison

By the time we crawled into our sleeping bags, we were exhausted – tapped both physically and mentally.  It took a few days of recovery for the enormity of our effort to be fully appreciated.  We were the first Americans to summit Papsura Peak and the first party to ever complete a ski descent of the mountain. More importantly though for me, I had stuck with my obsession and seen it through to the end!

 

Photo Credit: Chris Figenshau

About Hilaree O’Neill

The first woman to climb both Everest and Lhotse in a single 24-hour period, Hilaree O’Neill’s mountain adventures led Outside Magazine to name her one of the most adventurous women in the world of sports. For Hilaree, skiing is the gateway to possibility. She started skiing at age 3 at Steven’s Pass in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. She took a leap of faith shortly after graduating from Colorado College and moved to Chamonix, France, where she was introduced to the world of big mountain skiing and climbing. From there, the place for Hilaree was anywhere she could cut turns on mountain slopes: volcanoes in the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia, in Mongolia, India, Lebanon, and first descents of the tight couloirs of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic.

Between expeditions, Hilaree O’Neill spends her time as a mother, adventuring with her two sons. In addition, her writing has been published in National Geographic Adventure, National Geographic’s “The Call of Everest”, the Ski Journal, Outside Journal, and several other publications. Hilaree continues to travel the globe, always looking for new ski objectives and honest suffer-fests.

3 Useful & Life Saving Items You Should Take On Your Next Adventure

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Reflection of mountains and trees in water, Moor Lake, Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

3 Insanely Useful & Life Saving Items You Should Take On Your Next Adventure

So you are heading out to explore the Allagash Wilderness of Maine, backpacking in the Sierras or mountain biking an old logging road. You’ve got the gear packed and the posse assembled, but have you thought about the fact that you’ll be 20 miles from a road? That means your crew will be depending upon each other in case something goes down.

Prepare for anything and get #AdventureEquipped. Channel your inner Scout with a few simple items that could make you the hero if you and your buddies are stranded out in the wilderness. Trust us, you’re friends will thank you for taking these along.

 

The Doctor is in

Accidents can happen. Carry a first aid kit and you’ll be ready for bee stings, punctured wounds, sprained ankles and a host of other emergencies. The Ultralight watertight .9 is an easy take- along filled with all the supplies you’ll need. It even comes with a handy first aid guide and is housed in a waterproof zip lock bag in case your canoe capsizes.

0125-0290 AMK Ultralight Watertight 9 RT copy

A $20 Box Could Save Your Life

Who ever said $20 doesn’t buy anything? Then they haven’t explored the immensely useful items inside the Survive Outdoors Longer Traverse survival kit. Packed into the small tin are essentials like water purification tablets and water storage container, fire starter with flint, emergency blanket and signaling mirror. The box covers the basics of water, shelter, fire and signaling. The Traverse is easy to slip in your bag and weighs about 6 ounces.

0140-1767_SOL_Traverse_STRT

A Knife with a Purpose

About the size of the palm of your hand, the Phoenix incorporates 8+ survival tools into a small pocketknife size multi-tool. The contents include a fixed, serrated and drop point bladed knife, 3-7mm wrench, flat head screwdriver, fire starter and flint striker, LED light and signaling whistle.

 

0140-0838_sol_phoenix_open_light

 

How NOT to Get Stranded Out in The Wilderness

North, South, East, West, you thought you knew where you were going but now you’re lost. Of course, knowing the terrain, watching the weather and knowing how to use your compass is key in the wilderness. Check out these links below to learn the skills, scout the terrain or get a read on the weather.

Learning Map & Compass Skills

http://www.adventuremedicalkits.com/blog/2009/04/navigation-basics-map-and-compass/

Learning Wilderness First Aid and Rescue:

NOLS http://www.nols.edu/wmi/courses/wildfirstaid.shtml

REI https://www.rei.com/outdoorschool/wilderness-medicine-classes.html

National Weather Service http://www.weather.gov/

 

 

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.

 Heatsheets

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?

0140-1701-SOL-Survival-Blanket-LT

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 Building Emergency Snow Shelters

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Buck Tilton

By Buck Tilton

Not all snow is created equal—it can be soft and dry, heavy and wet, hard as rock—but most snow can be shaped into a quick shelter and, in an emergency, a shelter may save your life.

Make Use of What the Terrain Offers

First, look around: an emergency shelter in snow-covered conditions can sometimes be found. There may be a hollow space under a downed tree, as long as the tree is held firmly in place by something other than snow. If snow supports a large tree, you could find yourself buried or squashed, or both, especially if you get a fire going. Space often lies beneath the low-hanging limbs of a large, dense evergreen. In rocky terrain, you may be able to crawl into a space created by an overhang. Some movement and shaping of snow is often required to make one of these natural shelters fit you better.

Construct Shelter out of a Snow Drift

You can dig a small snow cave in a drift, one just large enough for you to fit inside. Forget an official tunnel entrance—but if you can start low and dig up slightly before scooping out the room, you’ll trap more body heat within the finished product. Without a shovel, improvise: dig with a pot, a ski, a snowshoe, a signal mirror, a limb, even your gloved hands. If you have a pack, place it in front of the entrance hole as a door. A candle would be great, brightening the interior and adding several degrees of warmth. Remember: if you light a candle in a snow cave, you’ll need a small vent hole above it. Without a sleeping pad, you can lie on extra clothing or, if you’re in a forest, evergreen boughs.

Create a Snow Trench

In the open or without a drift, dig a trench in the snow. If possible, make it about three feet deep and as long as your body plus a few inches. Pile the snow from the trench on the windward side of the trench as a break. You can roof it with blocks—if you have the leisure time and know-how to make them. You can roof it with evergreen boughs. You can roof it with a tarp, an emergency blanket, a large garbage bag. Cover whatever roof you create with snow to add insulation, leaving an opening on one end just big enough to squirm through.

Dress Appropriately

Pace yourself as you dig. Prepare by losing a layer or two of clothing to reduce sweating, but wear a waterproof, or at least water resistant, shell to stay as dry as possible from melting snow. A damp body from either sweat or snow will make survival more problematic.

If you think people will be out searching for you, make your shelter site as visible as possible from the ground and the air by placing bright-colored clothing nearby or stomping an unusual pattern—such as H-E-L-P–in the snow. Remember when you are inside the shelter your ability to hear what is happening outside will be reduced to almost nothing. The temperatures may drop and the storms may rage, but if you construct a simple shelter–and carry basic emergency gear– you can be safe and secure in your shelter in the snow.

Recommended Gear List

Heatsheets Survival Blanket – This 2-person survival blanket retains up to 90% radiated body heat and doubles as an excellent ground cover or shelter for a snow trench. The blanket’s bright orange color, which features survival instructions printed on the exterior, makes it easy for rescue craft to spot from the sky.

Pocket Survival Pak PLUS – Includes essential tools for fire starting, food gathering and signaling – all contained in a 5 oz waterproof pouch that will fit in your breast pocket.

Buck Tilton has authored 36 books on outdoor safety, including Wilderness First Responder, which won an award for excellence in medical writing from the American Medical Writers Association. For the last 20 years, Buck has contributed hundreds of articles on wilderness safety to Backpacker. In addition to his writing and journalism, Tilton also co-founded the Wilderness Medicine Institute (now WMI of NOLS), which remains the largest school of wilderness medicine in the world.

Buck Tilton’s Winter Survival Tips

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Buck Tilton

A simple fact towers above all others: if you aren’t prepared to survive an unexpected night outside in winter, you probably won’t. In ideally bad conditions, cold will suck out enough body heat in a couple of hours to disable you—and chill you off beyond recovery in three.

How did you get in this situation? You were backcountry skiing, or hunting, maybe hiking on a pre-snow, cold afternoon. Your story could be like CNET reporter James Kims whose drive in Oregon mountains with his family on a winter day, almost exactly four years ago, turned fatal.  You didn’t anticipate the snowfall, or the blinding wind—and wasn’t the sun supposed to be up at least another hour?

Plan Ahead & Prepare

Yes, you can predict the weather. Or at least someone can, and you can read the forecast. Leave home prepared for the worst possible conditions. If your intended route has ever had six feet of white and 40MPH winds, it could have them again while you’re there. And how do you know the record snowfall and wind speed? You chose and investigated your route well in advance of setting foot, ski or tire on it. Then you left a copy of your route, with details, in the hands of some trustworthy people. They know when you are expected back, when to call for a search, and who to call.

Personal Protection

Winter survival is all about personal protection: your clothing first, a shelter, and, in the best-case scenario, a fire. Dress like an onion—okay, something like an onion. It seems as if everyone who wanders outdoors on purpose should know this by now, but just in case: wear layers of loose-fitting clothing. The clothing needs to be synthetic (or perhaps wool) so it holds in body heat even when damp. The layers allow you to ventilate and take off clothing, then add the clothing back on, in order to control sweating. (Sweat equals wet! Stay dry to stay warm.) You also want to add layers back on before you chill off. It’s easier to save your body heat than to restore your body heat.

Snow, especially when it’s old and compacted, provides material for the protection of excellent shelters. But that’s a tale to be told later. For now, pack something—a small tarp, a small sheet of plastic, an emergency blanket —that you can erect as a wind and/or snow break. Twenty feet of strong cord will make that job easier. Add an insulating pad to sit, or better yet lie, on so you don’t lose heat into the cold ground. A piece of an old sleeping pad, cut to fit in your pack, will work fine. Or, heck, pack the whole pad.

Relatively unprepared folks have survived mighty cold nights out when they got a fire blazing, and kept it blazing. Be sure you always have two means to start a fire. At least one of those means should be waterproof. And pack a fire starter that burns even when wet. Properly dressed, with snow and wind blocked, and a fire burning, you will survive.

On Drinking and Eating

You can survive extremes of cold without a fire if you’re dressed right, sheltered, well watered and well fed. The body heat you’re striving to preserve comes from metabolism of the things you swallow. Simples sugars (say candy) burn quickly, and complex sugars (starches) more slowly. Fats burn the slowest of all, like large logs on well-made conflagration. Good metabolism requires adequate hydration—so drink up, from the water bottle. To keep the water bottle full, pack a small metal container, something in which you can melt snow.

When dawn breaks, you can follow your tracks through the snow back to your vehicle. If the tracks have disappeared under a blanket of new white, and you’re not absolutely sure which way to travel, stay put and wait for the rescue your trustworthy friends set in motion.

Recommended Gear List:

Heatsheets Survival Blanket – Made from a tough, rip-resistant vacuum metalicized Polyethylene-based material, this 2-person blanket reflects up to 90% of radiated body heat. It can also be used as a wind shelter or as a snow-trench cover.
SOL 3 – The hybrid SOL 3 kit contains essential gear repair, first aid and survival components, including a flint steel fire starter and windproof and waterproof tinder.
SOL Survival Bottle – This stainless steel BPA-free bottle, featuring hydration and water purification tips printed on its exterior, is an ideal container for liquids and can also be used for boiling water or melting snow in.

Buck Tilton has authored 36 books on outdoor safety, including Wilderness First Responder, which won an award for excellence in medical writing from the American Medical Writers Association. For the last 20 years, Buck has contributed hundreds of articles on wilderness safety to Backpacker. In addition to his writing and journalism, Tilton also co-founded the Wilderness Medicine Institute (now WMI of NOLS), which remains the largest school of wilderness medicine in the world.

End of Summer Camping Safety Tips

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Labor Day Weekend, just before the kids go back to school, is typically the last gasp of camping in many parts of the country. But the unofficial end of summer doesn’t mean the potential hazards that exist in the outdoors at the start of the season are any less of a threat. In the second of his two-part piece on camping safety, AMK’s wilderness safety blogger, Buck Tilton, tackles bears and the basics – starting with how to choose the right campsite.

Timing is Everything

If the sun is fading fast, you have already broken the first rule of safe campsite selection: do your selecting and setting up while you have plenty of light. Whether you are in the backcountry or a national park campground, if you can’t see well, you can’t do well. Yes, you’re looking for comfort, but even more you want a site free of hazards.

Look Up, Look Down, Look All Around!

Look up for “widowmakers,” large dead limbs that could fall. No tents or kitchen sites go under widowmakers, or underneath dead trees that could topple in a high wind. Look down for signs rain has puddled or run through your choice of campsites. Even if you don’t anticipate precip, choose another site with more elevation, just to be sure. If it’s thunderstorm season, do not set camp in the open, on ridges, or near tall trees where your site could be a target for lightning. Avoid being too close to the tops of cliffs that someone might stumble off or the bottom of cliffs that rocks could tumble off.

Location, Location, Location

You want to be near a source of water but not too near. The Leave No Trace program asks you to be at least 200 feet (about 70 adult paces) from water to reduce the chance of impact. With children along, you also want to avoid banks with sudden drop-offs into deep water and/or fast currents. Keep your campfire area clean of all objects – wood, kindling, rocks and anything else that may trip you up for a fall into the fire. Stack wood and kindling far back from the fire ring or pit.

The Bear Facts

If you see bear signs—bear scat, bear tracks, claw marks on trees, juicy berries, salmon leaping upstream, gnawed deer carcasses, or big furry bruins—you are not at a safe campsite. If you are in the backcountry and you find your designated campsite littered with tent stakes, cooking utensils and rope be aware the previous occupants could have left in a hurry do to a nearby bear or other wild animal raiding the camp.  Find a different spot. If you can see a long way from your site, good. Bears will see you a long way off and you can see them a long way off. Bears do not like surprises. Generally speaking, bears do not like noise either. This is the one time when a heavy snorer is a welcome addition to your tent! In bear country, don’t shush the kids too often.

Your trash is bear treasure. Practice clean camping. Consider all garbage attractive and keep it separately bagged within your food bag. Cache all food and anything else fragrant, such as toothpaste, soap, and chewing gum. You have three cache choices in the backcountry:

  1. You can hang your food and other fragrant items in a tree.
  2. You can store it in a bear-proof container.
  3. When trees are scarce, you can double bag your items in plastic and store it on the ground at least 300 feet from your tent.

When car camping, store everything in the car – camp stove, water bottles, cooking utensils, food and coolers. And lastly, check yourself and your kids to make sure no one is wearing food from dinner on their clothes or is carrying a spare candy bar in their pocket.

Bear-Proofing Your Food

Trees for hanging food should be located at least 300 feet from camp

I recommend packing about 60 feet of strong cord or light rope for hanging a bear bag. The trees you choose for hanging the bag should be at least 300 feet (91.44 meters) from your camp. Although you can toss the line over a high limb and haul it up, food is safer depending from a line stretched between two trees with the bag ending up at least 10 feet off the ground and at least four feet from the nearest tree trunk.

With Small Kids

With the site selected, the kids need a safety briefing. Establish the boundaries across which they are not allowed. Point out any obvious dangers: poison ivy, attractive berries that should be avoided, plants that can puncture. Then see if you can get them to help set up camp!

Recommended Safety Gear List for Your Camping Trip:

First Aid Kit – Adventure® Medical Kits’ Day Tripper.
Bug RepellentBen’s® Deet-based repellent or Natrapel® 8 hour Deet-Free.
Bite TreatmentAfterBite® – America’s #1 brand for effective bite relief.
Survival Blanket – The Heatsheets® Survival Blanket . Can be used as an emergency shelter or as a ground cloth for your tent.
Hand Sanitizer – Alcohol-free Adventure® Hand Sanitizer. Using it will reduce the chance of contracting a stomach ailment in the backcountry.
Body Wipes – Rinse-free Fresh BathBody Wipes. Specially formulated to kill odor causing bacteria while also helping to moisturize the skin. Next best thing to a shower!

For more great camping safety gear go to: www.adventuremedicalkits.com

Buck Tilton is a wilderness medicine and survival expert and author, who has written 36 books on outdoor safety. Over the past 20 years, he has contributed hundreds of articles and a regular column to Backpacker. Tilton also co-founded the Wilderness Medicine Institute, now WMI of NOLS, which is the largest school of wilderness medicine in the world. This month he joins AMK as a regular blogger.