Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Next Time You're Stranded in the Wilderness...


While the snow cave adventure was clearly the keynote focus of a weekend titled "Wilderness Survival", there was a lot of information to be learned about making the best of being stranded in the wilderness. Though my readership probably doesn't plan on getting stuck in an area with no communication, transportation or people of any kind, you can never be "too prepared", as the following bits of info will surely convince you.

First off, there were many a lecture that started with "One thing you should always carry with you in your backpack is..." Clearly I need to get myself one of these backpacks. These things will literally save your life five times over. I'm not sure that my "leftover from college" pack is cool enough to carry all of the following gear. And if it is, I'm not sure I want to carry it with me everywhere I go. But maybe that's me taking my life into my own hands.

1. Flares: We practiced setting these suckers off under a clear night sky on a nicely frozen lake. A local "outdoorsy" store had donated a box full of expired flares of all shapes and sizes for us to set off--after letting the local authorities know that we were neither celebrating New Years Day a week lake, nor were we stranded with more than our fair share of attention-seeking devices. Lesson #1: Expired flares don't always work. Don't count on them in your hour of need--they might be duds. Lesson #2: Even when it's below zero, they may still catch things on fire. Luckily, our fire went out. Lesson #3: Make sure you have someone on hand that isn't afraid of explosives, fire or loud noises. Basically, I should never travel by myself in the wilderness.

2. Wire: After a twenty minute lecture on all the different ways to set traps with a certain type of wire (which I now, of course, can't remember) I am quite confident that if I were hungry enough, I might be able to construct something that resembled a trap to catch rabbits. Or mice. Or something. Being that I was listening to this lecture with a whole bunch of doctors, the mention of catching a rabbit led to a whole litany of diseases you could catch should you not properly remove "the innards" or cook the meat to a sufficient temperature, or skin it properly. Basically, as long as I'm carrying a backpack, I should also carry a meat thermometer to go with my wire. That, and wire cutters.

3. Knife: This one seemed obvious, but with Curtis and I were preparing for "Wilderness Survival Weekend", we realized we own no knife. We have knives to cook with, but nothing to take "to the wilderness" to use for things like peeling bark off of trees and fashioning mukluks--but I digress. The knife is necessary for obvious reasons. Apparently everyone should have one, and sharing one (like we did) might not be safe. What if we get separated?

4. Steel wool, a nine-volt battery, vaseline, flint, etc: Basically, bring something to start a fire with. I aided in starting a couple fires without matches, lighters and such and learned one very important thing: be ready to blow. A lot. I also learned that you have to get your face really close to the flame to keep it going, especially when it's below zero and everything you try to use for fuel is covered in frost.

5. Plastic bags, foam, carpet: Apparently these are things you can find in your everyday vehicle or plane (you know, for those of you that own one). I know where to get the carpet, and I'm sure I could dig up some foam under seats or something, but the plastic bags? What if you keep your car pretty clean? Perhaps this is where I blame my childhood for my inability to survive. If only I were allowed to leave plastic bags sitting around, I would have survived...but I digress. These materials are used to construct "mukluk" boots for the person that forgot a sturdy pair of boots or shoes and is now stranded. Basically you wrap the foam around the food, cover with bad, and then wrap carpet. It makes for a sturdy (albeit awkward) pair of shoes. An orthopedic surgeon helped me construct mine, and I was amazed at a) how talented he was at cutting the carpet to fit my foot b) the fact that he had two knives on hand for different uses and c) his knot tying abilities. I would personally recommend you keep a surgeon on hand for constructing these.

So, if you've been taking notes, items you need for "your backpack" include non-expired flares, wire, wire cutters, a meat thermometer, two knives, steel wool, a nine volt battery, vaseline, flint, plastic bags, foam, carpet and string. I would also recommend a surgeon, and someone not afraid of fire, explosives, or really loud noises. Put it all together in your (exceptionally large) backpack, along with a shovel and candles for snow cave construction, a sleeping bag for 0 degrees or below, and you should be good to go and get stranded in the wilderness.

Go get 'em, folks. Make sure to report back on how the rabbit turns out, and let me know if your own mukluks turn out nearly as stylish as mine:



  1. As soon as I saw your header, I knew this was Alaska! I love it!

  2. And if you want a list of what to have in store at your home in preparation for a nuclear attack or what my brother fears the most, a complete takeover of the US by Democrats at every level, I can send you his insane survival list...