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Essential Gear for Getting Out on the Trail with Small Children

Tuesday, April 12th, 2016

Hikebaby

Heading out on the trail for the first time with small children can be intimidating, whether you are headed for a short hike near or far. We know. That’s why we hike together and count on each other to help bring things we may have forgotten. It’s important to be prepared for emergencies of all kinds.

Remember that being prepared when heading out with a baby is important, but having this stuff isn’t going to save you in an emergency situation! So start by first really prepping for your hike. Know where you are going and what the weather is doing in your area. A hike that once may have been an easy day outing for you can become a much longer journey with a cranky baby on your back.

Here are our recommendations for the top 10 things to think about to keep your load light, but also so you are properly equipped for getting out there with your little one. And don’t forget to join us for the April Hike it Baby 30! This is a Challenge we put on to motivate you and your loved ones to spend more time outside. Get to know families all across America (and beyond) and motivate each other throughout the challenge.

  1. Light shelter – you can sit through a sudden wind storm or rain storm with a cheapo throw away plastic poncho or bump it up and invest in a small emergency blanket. This can be a very minimal investment and be used for many things without adding a lot of weight.
  2. A whistle – Not only can this be used to scare an animal or alert people to your whereabouts, but your little one will love blowing on it when they are bored or you can also use it to distract them if they are upset. Strap one onto your pack.
  3. Water – Don’t skimp on water. This is a critical element to have. If you spend a lot of time hiking in an area with a lot of water (lakes, creeks or rivers) consider getting something that easily sterilizes water on the fly. There are all kinds of options from infrared pens to water bottles with filters, like products by Life Straw and Grayl.
  4. Compass – You don’t have to be a Boyscout to use a compass. They are pretty simple and even the most basic one is very helpful on a trail where there are no views and you are deep in the trees. It’s easy to get lost if you start bushwhacking.
  5. Lightweight food – If you under-pack food you might end up with a cranky toddler so just think light, not limited. I love turkey jerky, fruit leather and dehydrated whole fruits because they offer quick energy boosts without a lot of weight or bulk. You can find small but filling trail bars from a variety of companies. Candy bars and trail mix with chocolate are yummy, but if you are in hot weather think about the melt and mess factor.
  6. Waterproof matches or Firestarter – they are light and they can be crucial if anything goes wrong. Even if you end up back at your car with a dead battery and you have to sleep over, might as well have something to make a nice fire, right? Consider keeping some of these in an emergency first aid kit always in your car too!
  7. Small emergency first aid kit for trail – a few bandaids, butterfly stitches, some antiseptic wipes and surgical tape should do it. You don’t necessarily need a huge kit for a day hike but kids bang themselves up easily. One stick puncture in your kiddo’s hand can be quickly bandaged up if you have a little kit . Check out the products made by Adventure Medical Kits for inspiration and easy pre-made kits to purchase.                 AMKKidkit
  8. Duct tape – Ok, so no emergency kit? Bring duct tape. This can be a fix all of everything from a broken pole to a shoe sole that comes unglued to a cut on your arm to a backpack zipper that breaks. A hiker’s best friend!
  9. Sunscreen – It’s so easy to forget sunscreen and then get out there and think you won’t be out long. With a baby, you may not want to use sunscreen because they are too young (although there are some great brands that are fairly chemical free), so carry a muslin cloth that you can drape over baby. We did this in Mexico with our son when he was six months on a very hot hike and he slept the whole time and didn’t get burned.
  10. Headlamp – You never think you are going to be out past dark, but a baby or toddler who won’t cooperate can make your day longer than you anticipated. Carry a headlamp always so that getting back to your car is a fun adventure versus a scary mission.

Hiking with your little one is fun and a great way for you to see nature through your child’s eyes. Whether you get out there with a 6 week old, a 16-month-old or a 6-year-old, it’s never to late to start encouraging your little one to love nature. Your trail smarts will also rub off on them, so take the time to prep before you get out there and it will make the day more fun for everyone.

By Shanti Hodges, Founder of Hike It Baby

Photos: Top: Yanna Bennett, Middle: Tais Kulish

Shanti Hodges is the founder of Hike it Baby. She and her hubby, Mark, are on one big adventure raising a little boy named Mason River to love and appreciate the outdoors. Shanti hopes her son will continue on the path of knowing the names of more animals and trees, than cartoon characters.

Downloads

Monday, October 19th, 2009

FIRST AID AND SURVIVAL DOWNLOADS

Download first aid and survival instructions (PDF) by clicking on the links below:

Wilderness First Aid Pamphlet

Rescue Flash Signal Mirror Instructions

Accident Report Form

Amazing Bug Facts!

Tips for Enjoying the Outdoors

West Nile Virus Fact Sheet

Tick Reference Card

It’s Tick Season! Learn How To Protect Yourself

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Ugh, it is tick season. As we all know, they are nasty little buggers that carry Lyme Disease and other viruses. Do you know how to protect yourself against ticks?

Download our Tick Field Reference Guide to learn more about:

  • How to protect yourself.
  • How to identify a tick.
  • How to properly remove a tick.
  • What to do if you have been bitten.

Tick Reference Card

Tick Reference Card

(Click image to download)

You can also read our blog about Lyme Disease to learn more.

Don’t forget to use Ben’s 30 Deet Insect Repellent or Natrapel 8 Hour Deet-Free Repellent to protect against ticks and other biting insects.

Lyme Disease: The Biggest Health Threat To Outdoor Enthusiasts This Summer

Monday, May 11th, 2009

By Christopher Van Tilburg, MD

I’ve been chomped by a tick multiple times, as have most people who regularly tramp in the outdoors. It’s creepy — the tick drops onto your skin, burrows in painlessly, and sucks. Its anticoagulant can cause tick paralysis, and these arthropods carry all sorts of infections: Colorado Tick Fever (a virus), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (parasite), Tularemia (a bacteria), and the more commonly known Lyme Disease.

Lyme Disease can be scary. Lyme Disease is caused by an inoculation of the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Ticks around the world carry it:  In North America it’s transmitted by deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis) and the Western black legged tick (Ixodes pacificus). It was first identified in Old Lyme, Connecticut, after a group of kids complained of having a strange pain in their joints and an odd rash. So one might think, No problem — bacteria can be killed by antibiotics. But, there is a problem: Lyme is hard to kill and it can turn chronic. A single bite from a Lyme-carrying tick can require years of treatment and recovery.

THE REAL SCOPE OF LYME DISEASE

Lyme Disease is a widespread, global disease that is poorly understood. According to the CDC, in 2007 there were 27,000 cases in the U.S. and, because of the sometimes-vague symptoms, it may be dramatically underreported. While West Nile Virus, Dengue Fever, and even Swine Flu have gotten press lately, they account for much less illness. For example, in 2007, there were only 3,600 imported cases of West Nile Virus.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

Outdoor adventurers should follow standard insect, tick and arthropod preventions when traveling in the backcountry or abroad. Ticks don’t jump or fly, they drop or fall onto humans from trees or grasses. So, long sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into socks is a great start.

Insect repellents, including ones containing DEET like Tender’s Ben’s 100® pump and Ben’s® 30 wipes, work well at warding off Ticks. For people looking for a DEET-free alternative, repellents like Natrapel® 8-hour, which contains 20% of the active ingredient Picaridin, provide protection that’s as effective as DEET. Insecticides with Permethrin also work, and can be sprayed on clothing or impregnated into the fibers of garments.

When in tick country, remember to check your entire body after the day’s hike. Often you have two or three hours before a tick burrows. If it does, your chance of getting Lyme is low if you remove the bugger right away.

HOW TO SAFELY REMOVE A TICK

Once burrowed, ticks are tricky to remove. Don’t try those old wives tales like fingernail polish or a match. The best technique is to use tick or splinter-removal forceps, grabbing as close as possible to the head, and pulling the tick out with slow, gentle pressure. Sometimes I’ve had to wiggle the head gently to unclasp the tick’s pinchers. Unfortunately, many people sever the body from the head. I’ve had to dig out many tick heads in the emergency room. Like all wounds, clean thoroughly with soap and water.

RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS OF LYME DISEASE – WHAT TO LOOK FOR

How do you know if you have Lyme Disease? First, you will see a circular rash that looks like a target or bull’s eye called erythema migrans, which slowly enlarges. Then, the Lyme bacteria can spread to your body causing fever, fatigue, malaise, muscle and joint aches, headaches and swollen glands. Some patients have these symptoms for several months or years. That’s the big problem with Lyme Disease: It affects multiple parts of the body and may be difficult to diagnose if the initial symptoms go unnoticed. The symptoms can take anywhere between three days to one month or longer to emerge. Twenty percent of people who do not receive treatment develop severe complications within weeks or months after the bite, ranging from heart and neurological problems to severe attacks of arthritis.

If you think you need treatment, see your doctor and let him or her know that you have been bitten by a tick. Antibiotics are the mainstay of treatment, but don’t try to treat yourself at home with an old prescription in your medicine cabinet – treatment requires a specific antibiotic, like Doxycycline, with a longer course than typical.

For more information on avoiding bug-borne diseases, visit www.tendercorp.com.
Christopher Van Tilburg, MD, is the editor of Wilderness Medicine and the author of eight books on safety in the outdoors. His most recent book, Mountain Rescue Doctor: Wilderness Medicine in the Extremes of Nature, is now available in paperback.

Navigation Basics: Map and Compass

Thursday, April 9th, 2009

Navigation Basics: Map and Compass

Check out these great tips found on REI.com

Map and compass in the field

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

Seek Instruction

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

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

Basic Tools

Map

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

So know your maps:

Basic (planimetric) maps:

Basic (planimetric) map

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

Topographic (topo) maps:

Topo map

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

Compass

Parts of a Compass

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

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

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

Understanding Topo Maps

Parts of a Map

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

How Do Topo Maps Describe the Terrain?

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

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

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

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

Topo map definitions

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing a Topo Map

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

Scale

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

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

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

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

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

Content

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

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

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

Map Options

USGS Quadrangles

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

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

Commercial Maps

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

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

Mapping Software

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

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

Local Maps

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

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

Taking Compass Bearings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Transferring Bearings

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

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

Bearing from Map to Compass

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

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

Bearing from Compass to Map

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

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

Triangulation

Triangulation

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

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

Magnetic Declination

Declination

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

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

Myth of the Month – Lightning Strikes

Monday, March 16th, 2009

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MYTH: Lightning can strike you only when the thunderstorm is in sight.

FACT: Lightning may travel up to 15 miles horizontally and strike out of the clear blue sky. Get into a protected area before the thunderstorm passes overhead and wait 30 minutes before heading back outside after the last thunder is heard or lightning is seen.

Backcountry Grub: What’s Safe to Eat and Drink?p

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Dr. Chris VanTilburg

BACKCOUNTRY GRUB: WHAT’S SAFE TO EAT AND DRINK?

Christopher Van Tilburg, M.D.

In October, a solo climber on Washington’s 12,276-foot Mount Adams fell on Suksdorf Ridge, and broke his ankle. It’s just what every climber fears: being alone on a high mountain with a disastrous injury. Unable to walk, he dragged himself down the snowfields. After five days and nights, he was found at 6,200 feet suffering from frostbite and dehydration. He survived on creek water and an eclectic mix of creepy crawlers: ants, centipedes, spiders, mushrooms, and berries.

Sooner or later, if you spend time outdoors, you may find yourself without food or water on a wilderness outing; hopefully it’s just a short distance to your car and you are uninjured. But in survival mode, if you are lost and injured, you may need to eat and drink from the wilds.

You can live several weeks without food. But you won’t last much past five to seven days without water, even fewer if you are in the desert or at high altitude. Finding water is a paramount priority.

Drinking from creeks, like the Mount Adams climber, is probably a risk worth taking in prolonged survival situations. Yes, you can get protozoa infections like Giardia and Cryptosporidium, as well as bacteria and viruses. However, it takes just one day for you to begin to become incapacitated from dehydration.

When you find a source, ideally you should have a means to purify water before drinking. That means boiling, filtering, or chemical treatment. I carry water purification tablets for emergencies: they are compact, light, and easy to use.

Remember, when in the mountains, eating snow can cause hypothermia, because you need to use vital calories to melt it in your mouth first. So you should carry a lightweight backpacking stove to melt water. When in the desert, locating water can be extremely difficult, so if you find a source, consider staying put until you are rescued. If you do get a gastrointestinal infection from drinking backcountry water, see your doctor A.S.A.P.

As for food, if you can’t identify it, don’t eat it. You can get seriously ill from toxins and infections. My friend Greg Davenport, a survival expert, said critters with eight or more legs like centipedes and millipedes are often toxic. He recommends sticking to insects, which have some nutrition, but not much. A typical 100 gm (3.5 ounce) serving of fish, for example, yields 22 g protein, 1g fat and 0g carbos. The same weight of crickets yields 13 g protein, 6 g fat, and 5 g carbos. But that’s a big pile of crickets to scrounge for.

Wild plants—leaves, roots, bark, nuts, seeds, and berries— can be energizing or deadly. Use caution: even a small bite can cause stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and rashes. Mushrooms can kill you. Davenport said aggregate berries, like thimbleberries, raspberries, and blackberries, are generally safe to eat. Purple, blue and black berries, such as wild huckleberries and cranberries, are 90% edible. Red berries are about 50% edible, so it’s probably best to avoid those, as well as any berry white, green or yellow, which are not edible.

Remember: always take enough water and food (an extra bottle of water and a few extra energy bars) to spend at least one unexpected night in the wilderness. And stash some water purification tablets in your survival kit.

Christopher Van Tilburg, MD, is the editor of Wilderness Medicine and author of Mountain Rescue Doctor: Wilderness Medicine in the Extremes of Nature now available in paperback.

BE SAFE Tip – Lightning Strike Prevention

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

BE SAFE Outdoor Tip – Preventing Lightning

  • A lightning bolt can travel up to 15 miles
  • Seek shelter indoors or inside a vehicle
  • In a tent stay as far away from the poles an wet clothes as possible
  • Do not stand under a tall tree in an open field or on a ridge top
  • Get out an away from open water
  • Get off bicycles and golf carts
  • Stay away from wire fences, metal pipes or other metal objects that could carry the lightning bolt to you from a distance
  • Avoid standing in small isolated sheds or other small buildings out in the open
  • In a forest seek shelter in a low area under a thick growth of saplings or small trees. In an open area go to a low place such as a valley or ravine.
  • If you are totally in the open, stay far away from single trees to avoid lightning splashes. Drop to your knees and bend forward, putting your hands on your knees. If available place insulating material between you and the ground. Do not lie flat on the ground.