Showing posts with label Survival kit. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Survival 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.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

My tramping gear: ACR Res Q Link 365 Personal Locator Beacon

My Personal Locator Beacon

I usually carry a Personal Locator Beacon or PLB with me went I'm out tramping. Up to now I have been hiring one for each trip but I have finally managed to save enough shekels to buy my own.

My ACR 365 Locator Beacon

I brought myself a ACR ResQLink PLB so that I will always have one with me when I'm out tramping. In basic terms, PLB use a satellite network to send a distress message to your local Police force who then coordinate any Search and Rescue operations.

ACR ResQLink 365 PLB

 These are the same used by the Southland PLB Charity and are one of the brands recommended by New Zealand Search and Rescue (SAR). The cost was $550 from the Hunting and Fishing store here in Christchurch, this was $50 cheaper than any other domestic supplier.
That's one of the reasons everyone doesn't own one, they are bloody expensive!
Instructions for use on the back of the ResQLink PLB
I think most people recognize the usefulness of carrying a PLB, especially if like me you do a lot of solo tramping. Although it is not a "get out of jail free card" it does give you a small measure of added safety in the outdoors.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Wilderness Survival Kits: Make an outdoor survival kit

One kit to save them all...

A popular challenge within the outdoor community is to build a small and thorough Survival Kit.  Building a kit of this type is an interesting project with some very valuable rewards. First, it’s fairly inexpensive to build. Second, it puts you in the survival mind-set and forces you to think creatively about how and what you need for surviving. The small size of the kit helps you get your priorities straight real fast. 

Using the kit

Small survival kits are perfect for carrying at all times.  They are small & lightweight and fit in a small bag or jacket pocket. If you are going on a day walk or you take your pack off carry your survival kit with you. I chuck mine in my pocket EVERY time I walk more than 5 metres away from my gear.

My lightweight Survival Kit

I have use an old Dunhill cigarette tin, but any small light metal tin will work. I have sealed mine with insulation tape. The kit needs to be sealed to stop water getting in, you only open it when you have an emergency.

My wilderness survival kit

Below are my general thoughts about the main contents of the kit:

Fire Starting:
I like to pack at least 2 methods for starting a fire. I packed in 4 waterproof matches and taped a match strike strip on the underside of the lid. I also packed a mini "Bic" lighter and 2 different types of tinder – 1 cotton based and some old bicycle inner tube.

Cutting Tool:
A sharp blade is useful:  a small folding knife, a razor blade or small Exacto blade. I have a small 27 gm Gerber folding knife in mine. For it’s size, it is a very solid and reliable knife. It’s perfect for many typical camp/survival/bushcraft chores. I have also taped a box cutter blade to the lid of the tin.

Survival kit contents: Gerber Paraframe I

In my opinion you can use the tin itself for signalling. It’s not quite as shiny as a mirror but should do just fine. Just buff up the inside silver a bit and you’re ready to go.

I have a small survival whistle in my kit which I received free with a first aid/survival kit I brought for my car.

Survival whistle similar to my own

This is an important item, you should pack a small compass! You can often find one of these on a cheap key chain or purchase one.  Mine came free with a Vaude pack I brought in 2014.

Free Silva button compass

Duct Tape:
Very useful survival tool for cordage or random repairs to everything. You can tear it into strips to add length. I wrap a couple of meter's worth around my walking pole but also have a small rolled up length in my survival kit.

Survival kit contents: Duct tape wrapped around trek pole

Needle & Thread:
Use these for clothing or gear repair. Pack a strong nylon thread – it can double as fishing line, snares or other cordage needs.

Thin Wire:
Think picture hanging wire can use this for snares, repairs and many other applications. I have about 1.5 metres in my kit, I wrapped it around 3 fingers and then tied it off to take up less space. 

Picture hanging wire...$7 NZD for 7 metres at local store

Safety Pins:
Can be used for temporary clothing/gear repairs and as an emergency suture (ouch!!!...I have had to do this on someone before...not pleasant!). 

Safety pins: fish hooks, clothing/gear repair and suture all in one!

Fishing Hooks:
Self explanatory – you can a pack a few sizes for birds/fish, etc…you will probably never use them but they are a worthwhile addition.

A compact button LED light is a good addition. These are bright and cheap, they also last a long time. Some people prefer to pack small candles.

Water Purification:
You can boil water in the tin itself. I prefer to pack 4-6 chlorine tablets. It takes 1 tablet to purify 1 litre so 4 tablets can purify 4 litres of water.

Aquatabs: Chlorine based water purification tablets

Medical Supplies:
Adhesive bandages are small and easy to pack. I also pack 2 pain reliever pills and alcohol wipes for disinfecting a cut/wound.

Note Paper & Pencil:
You never know when you need to leave a note. I bought a pad of waterproof paper and cut it to size to fit my tin. Also added a small HB pencil to write with.

Other Random Items:
Salt Pack – take with water to fight dehydration.
Sugar Pack – take for quick energy
Paper Clip – use a binding/button/hook/light weight 'biner etc…
Barley sugars– quick energy (or some other hard candy)
Medication – any necessary medication you need

Classic fare: Heards Barley Sugar

The Tin Container Itself:

The tin itself is both a container and part of your survival kit. You can use it: 

  • to make char cloth
  • as a drinking/cooking/boiling container
  •  as a signal mirror

There are countless other items to consider packing in a mini survival kit.  As long as the key survival bases are covered, your creativity is the limit.

  These are suggested guidelines only…there are no right and wrong contents. If you think it is important then add it, just try to keep it lightweight.’s YOUR kit.