On a hike

This topic contains 9 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Mouse Wizard 2 weeks, 3 days ago.

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    Mouse Wizard

    I have a lot of search and rescue experience. What I see most often is people going out with nothing but a tank top and shorts in the summer. Then they get lost and spend a really cold night or two before the search teams find them. They’re cold, hungry, dehydrated, and most likely will never go into the woods again.

    Now, this is not about survival in the wilderness for days to weeks. There are a ton of youtube videos on that. This is about getting out when lost, or getting found fast when you or your partner breaks an ankle or leg. This is for grid up survival.

    Minimal basic equipment:

    • Sheath knife – 4-5″ blade will do. Doesn’t have to be a $200 “survival” knife. A K-Mart special will do fine as long as you can see the metal of the blade extending all along the top and bottom of the handle (this is known as a full tang knife).
    • Bic lighter.
    • Sweater or light jacket.
    • Water bottle.
    • A few energy bars.
    • A cheap water filter or filter straw.
    • A cheap compass. You don’t need a surveyors or orienteering compass. A little bitty round key fob type will do.
    • A cheap plastic poncho.
    • A cheap AA-powered maglite. K-mart special again. Change the batteries each year.

    All of the above will fit in the bottom of even the smallest day pack.


    • Splitting wood using the Baton method. youtube is your friend. And this is why you have a full tang knife.
    • Feathering a stick as a fire starter. youtube again.
    • This leads to the ability to actually light a fire. Practice in yours or someone’s barbecue grill. Don’t bother with the “start a fire from an ember” survivalist skill – you have a Bic lighter.
    • Actually using the water filter (don’t use it on tap water).

    What to do:

    • LEAVE A NOTE IN THE CAR or with friends/family.
    • Keep track of which general direction you’re going. If you find yourself lost, use the compass to turn around and go back generally in the other direction. If you don’t see something familiar in a half hour or so, then:
    • STOP
    • Eat an energy bar, drink some water.
    • Relax a bit and calm down. Panic does strange things to the mind.
    • BUILD A FIRE (if it’s safe to do so)

    If you do this, SAR will find you. And fast. FLIR from a helicopter can find a campfire in a hot minute. A person wandering in the trees, not so much.

    Once we have your coordinates the team can walk straight to you.

    With youtube and a barbecue grill, the necessary skills can be acquired in one day. There is no excuse.

    The above advice was distilled from the following:

    • Most of the time our teams have to chase down the subject even after the dogs find their trail. They just keep walking trying to find their own way out. Then they fall down a gully, get trapped in a snowdrift, or in general get injured somehow. If they fall in a river they generally turn up dead.
    • One mountain biker got trapped by a sudden snowfall. Where he had clear trails in the morning he had 14 inches of snow by evening. He had the gear and skills, so built a big fire to keep warm. The helicopter spotted him around midnight and dropped a forest penetrator. Lifted him out and everyone was on their way home before we could even unpack the incident base gear.
    • One guy was an Amateur Radio Operator (Ham) and had an APRS-equipped talkie. He had nothing else. No compass, no matches, whatever. But he was able to walk up to the top of a ridge and connect with a repeater to call for help. We got in contact and told him to stay put. He turned on his APRS beacon, it got picked up on http://aprs.fi, and the search team walked straight to him.
    • One was drunk on a hunting trip, shot at a deer with a pistol and chased it over the ridge line. That was the last anyone saw of him. His body turned up three weeks later tangled in some bushes on a river bank 12 miles from where he started. It was 5 miles straight line just to get to the river from where he was last seen. Basically he walked clean out of the search area. Once it rains, the chances of the dogs or man trackers finding you drop significantly. Especially if you keep moving.
    • This topic was modified 3 weeks, 1 day ago by  Mouse Wizard.
    • This topic was modified 3 weeks, 1 day ago by  Mouse Wizard. Reason: cleaning up bad markup

    James Mitchner

    Great advice, all.

    I carry a carbon steel blade and a ferrous rod as a back up to other fire starting items.  Stainless will not “throw a spark”.  I also carry a Gerber compact saw that stays retracted in the handle until you unlock it and extend it out. Little weight but great capability for cutting small dried branches for starting a fire.  A set of Mechanic work gloves.  I prefer one of the Energizer head lamps than a handheld light, but its personal preference.  A few yards of paracord takes up almost no room but can come in handy tying out your poncho for a hasty shelter.  I also use paracord for my boot laces to use in a pinch.  A Sierra cup (stainless steel) and a few light packages of tea, instant soup, etc. will be comforting while awaiting rescue.



    Really excellent post. Could I use this on my website as an article with credit to you?


    Peppy P

    Great info.  Happens all the time here.


    Crow Bar

    I have a day pack I take. It has some first aid supplies double wrapped in zip lock bags:

    -Mole skin

    -Band aids

    -4×4 gauze, 6

    -4 NSN vacuum packed roll gauze

    -Medical tape

    -Small finger nail clippers


    Other items:

    -Blast Match and I keep a tin of tinder and charcoal, also double wrapped in zip lock bags. Trying to find dry tinder after a sudden down pour is not easy. It can be done, but with your own tinder it makes it that much easier and increases your chance of a 1<sup>st</sup> time success.

    -Wire saw that can double as a snare.

    -Quality compass with mirror. More accurate in shooting an azimuth, and back azimuth. One thing a lot of people fail to do is mark a tree, make a rock formation, or similar marking. If you are in unfamiliar territory, one tree can look a lot like another. Mark the tree you are stand next to on the side you will be walking away from with your knife. Shoot an azimuth at a tree a 50/100yards away. Walk to that tree, and mark that one. If you have to back track/shoot a back azimuth you have marked trees as reference points. The mirror can be used as a signaling device too.

    -Headlamp. I have two old Petzl head lamps. Three different brightness settings and a strobe setting as a signal light. Some of the newer flashlights have duel fuel energy sources, Ion-lithium or a common AA or AAA battery. Makes them more flexable. Some not only have a strobe function but a actual SOS strobe function to be better seen from the air.

    -550 cord

    -Ka-Bar fixed blade. It is a Becker MachAx. Kinda like a heavy duty small ax. For me it is more a farm tool as I use it all the time out in the fields. And the sheath is really nice. Comfortable, does not chafe. Unfortunately they discontinued it. A lot of knife manufactures skimp on the sheath.

    -Water bladder, with a gravity filter. I use the Platypus brand, but I hear Sawyer is good too. We had a drought here a few years ago. If I had to hump it from town to home, a lot of the water sources had dried up. So, I could fill it in a few minutes 3L of water hanging from a small tree. I did not like the idea of trying to use a Life Straw to suck and spit a 3L water bladder full, call me crazy.

    -GORP, or Good-Ol-Raisins and Peanuts. Some grocery stores sell stuff in bulk. Load up on raisins, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pretzel sticks, and of course some kind of chocolate!

    -Jerky! I prefer to make my own, but if it is a hike on the fly, I will spend the $$ for the over-priced store bought stuff.

    -Bug juice, aka insect repellent.

    -Seasonal appropriate clothing, rain gear, hat, gloves etc.



    Should have a ifak at all times .

    <span style=”text-decoration: underline;”>if not have  blood cotter idf presure bandage and a few triangle </span> banadages good for broken and twisted limbs and super glue incase you need a instand one hand suture.

    Buy a better poncho have it with inside liner of mylar so it is a space blanket and can be used for signalling if in right area.

    Make sure Bic is in a ziplock, I also carry strike anywhere matches two wrapped together heads exposed then stem wrapped in toilet paper. Stem is shoved into a plastic straw excess cut off then dipped in parafun wax. Fire start and a little bit of fuel for fire start in one. Yeah I know burning plastic is bad but this is a life or death situation.



    Get a whistle you need it at signal as you cant yell for long,  having surveyor tape and a waterproof  sharpie to mark area if you are moving in leave in line of sight leave a a trail and increases chance of someone seeing neon tape. Wrap some duct tape around sharpie.

    I also carry some mineral salt, nothing worse than cramping from lack of salt.

    There is better stuff than para cord look for kevlar shoe laces they last forever and are much stronger.


    I also carry antihistamine tabs and water purification ones tiny but life savers.

    This is beating a dead horse bit if you are in venomous snake  country bring a venom kit.


    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 6 days ago by  namelus. Reason: Added items

    Crow Bar

    I get the idea of Bic lighters.

    But go to a smoking area and watch how many smokers Bic’s fail them.  Fun to watch them pass around the one lighter that works.  Same with Zippos.  They work great . . . until they dont.


    Mouse Wizard

    All the other suggestions are excellent, but my aim is to get people to at least start with the bare minimum. If you keep adding all the excellent suggestions that come up you’ll wind up with my “minimal” survival pack that weighs 16 pounds and has hundreds of dollars worth of gear. Presenting that to the casual hiker is overwhelming. So I recommend the minimum that I’ve observed would result in a successful rescue. After that it’s increasing comfort, more terrain flexibility, better comms, and so forth.

    And Daisy – if your question is to me, then yes.


    Crow Bar

    My pack, before water, might weigh 3lbs.  May be a pound or two more with cold weather gear.  Call it max 11lbs with water and cold weather gear.

    If you went cheap, generic or off brand, you might spend $100.  The gravity water filter being the biggest cost.  But I would rather go for a few bucks more for quality.  Especially if my life might depend on it.

    I use the head lamp, the flashlight, the Ka-Bar all the time in other functions in and around the farm.  They get well used.


    Mouse Wizard

    I agree with the cautionary tale about Bic lighters, but if the person buys the lighter and uses it to practice building a fire, then packs it away with the rest of the gear, it’s likely to work when needed. They typically fail out of the box, which is probably why they’re mostly available in packs of 3-5.

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