When Doom Approaches

Even a simple walk in the woods can be dangerous. Are you prepared?

This winter I had two reminders that IT is out there waiting for you. By IT, I don’t mean Information Technologies, the wonderful folks who can never quite seem to get your computer working, but the Rider Who Sits a Pale Horse. One reminder was a Maine man in his mid 30s, described as an experienced outdoorsman who, wearing a fleece, went for a walk in the woods near his home just before a succession of snowstorms hit. His body was found by a hiker about a month later. The cause of death was most likely hypothermia. That’s what kills people up he-ah. That, and getting turned around.

The other reminder was my chronograph, which was perfectly well behaved until I took it to the range on a day with a windchill of –20 degrees. No numbers came up on the LED screen. I called the company and asked WTF? and was told that it was simply too cold for the LED numbers to form. Sure enough, when I took it out in warmer weather, it worked fine again.

The moral of that episode is that if you count on high-tech gear to save you in extreme conditions, it will betray you. That’s why the definition of a flashlight is “a container for dead batteries.” It’s helpful when planning for the worst in the great outdoors to remember these numbers:

• You can live without air for 3 minutes. • You can live for about 3 hours when you’re hypothermic (or as little as 15 minutes). • You can live without water for 3 days. • You can live without food for 3 weeks.

Common sense is the best way to keep from dying outdoors. Equipment helps a lot, too, if it’s the right equipment If our hiker had a parka with him, just in case, and a compass, who knows? In the Adirondacks a few years ago, a hiker became lost, got a raging case of beaver fever, and became so sick he gave up and died about a half day’s walk from a road. If he’d had something in which to boil water, or halzone tablets, that might have made the difference.

With all this in mind, Industrial Revolution, in collaboration with survival writer Dave Canterbury, has put together a collection of gear called the Bushcraft Survive and Thrive Kit. It contains:

• A Morakniv Kansbol knife, about which I have writ. • A Pathfinder stainless-steel 32-ounce wide-mouth water bottle, in which you can boil water to kill off all the little bastards swimming around in it. • A stainless-steel hanger for suspending the water bottle over a fire so it will not fall in the fire and you can boil the little bastards to your heart’s content. • A copy of Canterbury’s book, Bushcraft 101, which you should read before you need it. • A Pathfinder 25-ounce stainless-steel nesting cup with lid and swing-out handles so you don’t burn your fingers. You can use it to make leech and birch-bark soup. • UCO Sweetfire Firestarter, which I have written about. • UCO Stormproof Match Kit, ditto. The MOAB of matches. • UCO Original Candle Lantern. Very compact, windproof, most likely waterproof as well. Works with a 9-hour microcrystalline-wax candle. No batteries. No switches. No fuel. You can get additional candles at Cabela’s.

Nearly all the gear in this kit is generally useful, and could probably find work in other than dire emergencies. But things will wander off if you do this, so I would keep it all together in your pack, or pickup, or canoe, or whatever you travel in. Everything here is very simple, very robust, and can get you out of whatever you get yourself into if you keep a level head.

The whole kit is only $99.95 from selfrelianceoutfitters.com.