Monday, January 26, 2015

Survival Gear

When I am prepping for a big trip do a lot of thinking about the gear I am packing. I have this fear, which is almost completely unwarranted, that I will be in the water with rescuers looking for me. They will fly right over me, or move past be in the water and never see me. I will see my rescuers slide off into the distance, having missed their goal - me - by a few hundred meters, and never know it. I will then die, slow, cold, and alone, bobbing in the water.

To fight this fear there are some things I do. On big trips I carry a spot device - if I do another big trip I will switch to an ACR personal locator beacon. I am also a big fan of strobe devices, which live in the pocket of my PFD. I am not a big fan of flares, because I have read too many times about them being discharged and not noticed. Also in the pocket of my PFD is a Fox 40 whistle, which is just ridiculously loud. I of course always leave a float plan with someone trust worthy, and in the cockpit of boat there is a dry bag, with power bars (of some sort, not actually powerbar brand) a headlamp, a compass, a chemical light stick... little stuff like that.

People are obsessed over survival gear. A quick peek at and you will find links to "the ten best pieces of survival gear" and knives designed by navy seals. (everyone wants to be a Navy Seal!) Head over to Reddit, and you will find r/survival with 60k subscribers and links to dozens of other related survival subreddits. This is from the sidebar of r/survival

r/survival defines Wilderness Survival as the philosophies, knowledge, techniques, and actions applied in a Wilderness environment, in a short-term survival scenario, which serve to increase the likelihood of survival of the individual or group.

So, the scenario is, your small plane crashes, you are lost at sea, you inexplicably get lost in the woods, or your cars satnav leads you of course on your way to your weekend getaway, and then the snow starts. By study, and patience, and what you read online you will be prepared to survive. 

There is another scenario, one that I saw frequently at my last job. The preppers, or as I prefer "end of the worlders." These are people preparing for the apocalypse, the government collapses, a dirty bomb is detonated, an EMP is detonated destroying all electronic equipment, or of course, we can't possibly forget... zombies. 

I think a big part of the reason for all the doomsday prepping we are doing is a combination of the culture of fear we have created, along with our rampant consumerism. I am afraid of this problem, therefore I will fix it by buying something that will make me feel safe. A $200 survival  kit, a glock 19 and 200 rounds. Better make it 300... Well, how about 500. Okay 1000. 

The Outdoor School I am working with has an amazing instructor. He teaches a wilderness survival class, and it is almost always full. He really is a great teacher - former US Military and taught survival for decades. The class is wonderful, and people really enjoy it. I think for most people it is a fantasy role play kind of thing - now, when the unthinkable happens, I will survive, and be famous... maybe for a few minutes. 

Here is the thing. I hate anything that begins with the word survival. I hate large impractical fixed blade knives, I hate paracord bracelets, and necklaces and bikinis  I hate any number of fire starting devices - if you can remember to pack a flint and magnesium, why can't you pack a lighter? 

I hate survival kits, that focus on weapons, but don't have any system for filtering water. I hate the whole concept of the bug out bag. If you buy a survival kit, or a bug out bag but don't know how to use any of the things in the bag, then it is useless weight. Likewise for first aid kits. You don't need that much, and you can improvise a lot with just a little knowledge. Take a Wilderness First Aid class. Please. 

I have spent a lot of the past 30 years in the woods or paddling on the water. I have never really been lost. I have dealt with cuts, and scrapes, and blisters, and one puncture wound - that's what you get for bushwhacking! - in the back country. You are never going to need quick clot, or a tourniquet, or even sutures. 

Want to be prepared for when things go wrong? Become skilled in the backcountry. Get to know a map and a compass. Learn to understand the weather, and terrain. Learn to dress appropriately for any environment. If you have gear for a weekend backpacking trip, you have the ability to cook, filter water, sleep warm, produce light, and just about anything else you will need to do. 

Spend some time in the woods, and you will learn the skills you need to make sure you never need a survival kit. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

You never know...

For the past month I have really been doing two things. Working, and editing. This morning while editing I noticed something interesting in the background of some footage.

We didn't know he was back there. from Paddling Otaku on Vimeo.

This is very rough footage, I just threw a couple of clips together to get a feel for what was going on. He is actually in two of the clips, not just the one shown twice at the end. This particular morning we had seen a lot of seals, and they came pretty close. At one point, while I was changing the mount on a camera, my boat got bumped, and when I turned around I saw a large fella submerging. We saw three or four of them this morning, they were with us as long as we were in the ice.

As soon as we left the ice, they stopped following us. What struck me as funny, was that I am now wondering how often they were right behind us, or under us. We would never have known, except we had this camera running off the back of Beth's boat.

With a seal it isn't a big deal, but how many other times are we spied on by animals without our knowledge. It is really Mountain Lions that concern me - not bears. Mountain lions are silent, and can be very aggressive, and cover a pretty big swath of the United States. At least in a  boat I know I am okay.

Note. You should probably go full screen with this video. Particularly to see the earliest shot.