Showing posts with label Emergency Kit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Emergency Kit. Show all posts

Sunday, 13 November 2016

My tramping gear: Navigation, communications, survival, and first aid

My tramping survival equipment reviewed...

 I thought I would give you an idea of the type of navigation and safety gear I carry with me.  I have a small selection of tools to help keep me safely on track: my criteria (in order) is functionality, light weight and ruggedness.

  Navigation: GPS, compass and map

 Like many trampers I own a GPS unit, mine is a Garmin eTrex 20 GPS. It is a fairly basic unit but has the functions I require: GPS co-ordinates, way point setting, basic map/topographic information. What I generally use it for is fixing my location on a map and finding tracks in mist/heavy bush.

The Garmin eTrex 20

 When I first started tramping GPS units, as we know them now, did not exist. We had a GPS locator in my Army unit, it cost $20 000 and like the cell phones of the time weighed 1 kg & was the size of a brick. As a pleb, I was not allowed to touch it, let alone use it!

Remember this was before Desert Storm, the moment when GPS had its baptism of fire....

An early military GPS unit, the SLGR or 'Slugger"
In the Army I learnt to navigate using a prismatic compass and map, I think these are still fundamental skills every outdoor person needs. A GPS unit can break or the batteries can fail. If you do not have a back up compass, or do not know how to use it correctly you could end up in a world of hurt.

 I use a Silva Ranger compass calibrated for the Southern Hemisphere, yes there is a difference between a northern and southern hemisphere compass. It is "workman like" and does the job without too many fancy frills that can break.

The Silva Ranger compass

 For maps I have access to a program called Map Toaster at work (one of my few perks....), I just print colour copies of the maps I need and either laminate them or carry them in a plastic zip lock bag.

Topographic map in a Ziploc bag

I have also been using the free maps available on the Topomap website. Just a point: if you are using Topomap add the longitude and latitude markers as these are not shown when you print them out. Got myself in a spot of bother not doing that one time....

Topomap page view...note how the maps were loaded on a bit of an angle.

  This works for me.....

For a master class in using map and compass to navigate check out Ashley Burkes website. This is an Australian site but the information is also relevant to New Zealand conditions. 

Communications: Smart Phone

  Yeah...Ive got a smart phone, although I seldom if ever carry it with me on the trail. It is a Samsung Galaxy S3 and because it is a smart phone I have downloaded some useful apps. I have a digital compass, GPS locator and map software loaded which all work without cell coverage. 

Samsung Galaxy S3

I'm not a massive fan of phones, in fact I have only had a smart phone for about 10 months now.....I just don't see the point really.

(Jon you dirty Luddite...wash your mouth out!)

Survival Equipment:The Emergency Kit

Everyone should build themselves an emergency kit containing the vital equipment you need to keep yourself alive for a couple of days. I carry this kit on my body whenever I am separated from pack i.e. if I drop pack to take some photos or have a "comfort stop". 

My emergency survival kit

My emergency kit includes:

  • Fire Starting materials: 4 waterproof matches and a small mini "Bic" lighter + cut up inner tube as a fire starter. 
  • A cutting tool:  A small folding Gerber knife.
  • Signalling: In my opinion you can use the tin lid itself for signalling. 
  • A small whistle
  • A button Compass
  • Duct Tape:  I wrap a couple of metre's worth around my walking pole.

Example of duct tape wrapped on trek pole

  • Needle & Thread
  • Note Paper & Pencil
  • Wire
  • Safety Pins
  • Fishing Hooks
  • Flashlight
  • Water Purification: 4 x Aquatab tablets
  • Medical Supplies:4 Band Aids, 4 Panadol and 2 Antihistamine tablets
  • Random Items: Salt Pack,  Sugar Pack,  Paper Clip,  Barley sugars
  • A tin to hold it all, mine is an old Altoids tin from the US, it needs to be light weight.
Go and read my previous post to see how to make a kit and how the elements are used.....

Survival Equipment: Personal Locator Beacon

 This has been covered in a previous post, suffice to say I own and carry a Personal Locator Beacon or PLB. A PLB is a electronic device which can send a distress signal to an satellite network, a message is then sent to your local rescue services. People have been rescued in under an hour using a PLB, but the usual response time is 3-6 hours.

My PLB in its waterproof Sil-Nylon bag

I think every outdoor person should own a PLB, in an emergency it could be the difference between life and death.

ACR ResQlink PLB

My PLB is a ACR ResQLink, it cost me $600 two years ago and IMHO is worth every cent in terms of security of life. The battery in mine lasts until 2020, at that time I will need to send it away for a replacement battery which normally costs about $200.

The beacon and the neoprene flotation pouch you get

Note: I have a color coding system for the stuff sacks containing my gear:
Blue = Clothing
Orange= Safety/survival gear
Green= Cooking/food preparation
Yellow= Food/snack items

Register your Locator Beacon with  registration is free and takes all of 3 seconds. If it is not registered it will still be notified, but it can take an additional 12 hours for the messages to get through to New Zealand Rescue Services as the satellites are U.S. owned.


Survival Equipment:Fire starting kit

I always carry a small fire starting kit, this is a small plastic bag with water proof matches, a striker, cut up inner tube and fuchsia bark. Inner tube wrapped around dry twigs makes an awesome fire starter and super light fuchsia bark is the best native tinder I know of. 

Bark on a native New Zealand Fuchsia tree

I grab handfuls of bark every time I pass a fuchsia tree and dry and bag it for future use, I probably have about 2 kilos of it. Fibre waste gathered from the filter on your clothes drier is also a good option.

Survival Equipment: Ancillary Gear

 When you go tramping you should ideally have some form of shelter with you in case you find you cant quite reach your hut/car/home before darkness falls.

This is what the old timers call being "be-nighted".  

I ran out of time: Fly camp set up on the side of a  track
If I am doing an overnight tramp I will be carrying a sleeping bag, air mattress and either a tent or fly sheet. On a day tramp this would be too much to carry - but you still need some shelter.

The SOL breathable Bivy Bag

On day tramps I carry a SOL Escape Bivy Bag and a plastic pack liner to provide materials for building an expedient shelter. The SOL Bivy is made of a waterproof, heat reflective material (think space blanket) but has the advantage of also being breathable. I would put some branches/tussock/pine needles etc. down to insulate me from the cold ground and climb inside the bivy.

SOL Bivy looks something like this in use.....

 I would use the man sized pack liner and the 2 meters of lightweight tent cord I carry to fashion a shelter that keeps the rain off my body.

Lightweight tent cordage

This expedient shelter in concert with my wet weather/warm clothing would be enough to stave off hypothermia in all but the worst weather conditions.

Pack liner used as a makeshift shelter
It would not be a comfortable nights sleep by any measure but at least you would survive.

First Aid kit

  There are many fine pre-packaged first aid kits on the market but I actually think it is a good idea to build your own. Building your own allows you to customise it to suit your style of tramping.

A typical commercial trampers first aid kit

 Once when walking a Port Hills track I fell and injured my elbow and my leg: all I had to assist me were half a dozen plasters and it was not enough. Since then I carry comprehensive supplies any-time I am walking or tramping. 

I do a lot of solo tramping, for this reason my first aid kit is bulkier than those other trampers carry. The first aid kit weighs 180 gms and is packed in a waterproof bag.

My First Aid kit removed from its protective bag

Bear in mind the worst thing I usually have to cope with are splinters, blisters or a small cut/abrasion. I'm not performing life saving surgery, I lack both the supplies and skills to do so.

My first aid kit contains:
A triangular bandage
 a selection of plasters, band aids and medical tape
 2 blister plasters, 3 antiseptic wipes
 2 x 2m gauze bandages, 2 x gauze pad
 a prepacked suture kit
 a phial of saline solution
 anti histamine tablets, paracetamol, Imodium tablets, water purification tablets
 examination gloves, tweezers, scissors,  a needle, 6 small safety pins (I once assisted someone using safety pins as sutures on a injured it was not pleasant!)
  a mini Bic lighter.
a CPR card and small first aid sheet

Contents of my First Aid kit

This covers all of the minor injuries/ health issues you face on trail, if I need more gear than this I would require a rescue would be time to fire up the PLB!

So there you go, a quick glance at my safety/survival equipment.