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Field survival kit essentials: you can take it with you – and should

"Don't leave home without it" is more than just an advertising cliché. There are a number of things I'll carry any time I can't see my truck:

1. Water and a way to purify more. I like a bota or the modern equivalent: you and your dog can share, and there's little waste when squirting it into the dog's mouth.

2. Compass, map, and the skills to use them. When I do seminars, I'll toss an orienteering compass into the audience and ask someone to show me North. About half the time, they show me South. (If the map is too big – like those from the BLM — make a photocopy of just the part you need.)

3. Fire starter: waterproof matches in a waterproof container, a serious lighter or other flame-producer. Cheap plastic lighters often won't work in low temperatures.

4. Weather protection: space blanket or even a plastic garbage bag puts an impermeable barrier between weather (especially moisture) and you, and contains most of your body heat where it will do some good — next to your body.

5. A whistle carries farther than a shout for help.

6. Aluminum foil carries water, allows you to cook, and serves as a signal mirror.

7. A multi-tool pulls porcupine quills from your dog's muzzle and cuts barbed wire he's wrapped himself around.

8. Duct tape bandages wounds, makes emergency dog boots, and repairs all manner of broken stuff.

9. Parachute cord makes a bootlace or dog leash, lashes shelter poles. In a pinch, tease out the inner threads for a fishing line.

10. Another fire starter. Yep, when you've taken a dunking or used up your matches, a flint and steel could save your life.

And a few tips: a friend and I counted five "Grouse Mountains" in our hunting bailiwick. Imagine the confusion had someone been searching for us. Besides telling someone where you're going, mark it on a map and leave it with them. Charge your cell phone battery. And avoid bucking snowdrifts on a road — they only get worse the farther uphill you go.

Common sense? Sure. But how common is it these days?

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