Thursday, February 23, 2012

Understanding Hypothermia

Hypothermia is a a real threat that faces everyone who enters the wilderness and it can manifest itself at any time. Hypothermia is underestimated by many hikers and many of those hikers fall for common myths associated with hypothermia. A few myths about hypothermia are as follows:

One myth is that a quick drink of alcohol will quickly warm a hypothermic person. The truth is that alcohol actually dilates the blood vessels causing a "warming" feeling but also causes accelerated heat loss.

Another myth is that you can develop hypothermia in a matter of minutes if the circumstances are right. The truth is that even a victim that falls into an icy lake would have up to 30 minutes before they developed hypothermia.

Myths like these could potentially derail any first aid efforts in the wilderness. It is important that everyone understands the early warning signs of hypothermia to help prevent a life threatening condition miles from help.

Hypothermia is generally described as a state in which the body's mechanism for temperature regulation is overwhelmed in the face of a cold stressor. Hypothermia is broken down into several categories and degrees including, intentional and accidental, primary and secondary, and by the degree of hypothermia.

IntentionalIntentional Hypothermia is used in the medical field to slow down the body during a trauma.

Accidental Accidental Hypothermia is the most common form of hypothermia and is typically caused by an unanticipated exposure by an unprepared person. Examples of accidental hypothermia include being caught in a winter storm, inadequate shelter in the wilderness, or even getting exposed to rain in a mild environment.

SecondarySecondary Hypothermia is generally not experienced by hikers since it is caused by an underlying illness that lowers the bodies core temperature.

PrimaryPrimary Hypothermia is caused by exposure to the environment and not an underlying illness.

It is important to note that even severe hypothermia can be reversed so the early recognition of warning signs will help prevent a medical emergency.

Moderate Hypothermia: Symptoms of mild hypothermia may be vague and can be easily overlooked. The following symptoms may occur:

  • Shivering
  • Rapid Pulse
  • Rapid Breathing (20+ breaths a minute)
  • Mental confusion
  • Cold or pale skin
  • Tiredness

Moderate Hypothermia: In moderate hypothermia symptoms become more pronounced and visible. It is important to get the victim warm immediately if any of the following symptoms occur.

  • Violent, uncontrollable shivering (at lower temperatures shivering may stop since the body can no longer produce heat)
  • Unable to concentrate on normal tasks
  • Loss of judgement (Some people try to push on since they stop shivering)
  • Increased drowsiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow, shallow breathing

Severe Hypothermia: Medical attention should be requested immediately if a state of severe hypothermia has been reached. A severe hypothermic person may appear to be dead but may be in a deep state of severe hypothermia.

  • Unconsciousness (Comatose)
  • Shallow or no breathing
  • Weak, irregular or no pulse
  • Dilated pupils

Treatment of Hypothermia: These treatments should never be used over actual medical treatment when available and should only be used in an emergency.
  • Insulate the ground
  • Get into pre-warmed sleeping bags
  • Start a fire to warm up near
  • Drink warm liquids with sugar (sugars help fuel shivering to warm the body)
  • Apply heat to neck, armpits, and groin (Use warm rocks or water bottles, warm but not hot to the touch)
  • Skin to skin contact with a warmer person (Get inside a sleeping bag together)
  • Seek medical treatment

Hypothermia is a life threatening condition that should always be taken seriously. Always seek medical attention no matter how confident you are about your state of hypothermia. Anyone in any weather condition can be sent into a hypothermic state. Always stop and address your situation regardless of your destination or plans. A comprehensive understanding of hypothermia could be the difference between life or death. I hope everyone takes the time to learn about hypothermia before adventuring into the wilderness. Learning the fundamentals of hypothermia can help you explore your surroundings safely, ensuring that survive another day.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Family Outing to Boulder River Trail

Waterfall at our campsite.

I recently visited Boulder River Trail  with my daughter, Elizabeth, and loving wife, Ashley. It was our first family outing and we planned to stay overnight at the end of the trail. We started pretty early on a Saturday morning and arrived on the trail with plenty of time to make it to the end. The drive in was a bit rough because the road was full of potholes. The trail is supposed to be good for small children.

 My daughter is two years old and had an alright time walking on the trail and she listened well. We had to pick her up in various spots but all in all she was able to walk easily. The elevation gain was more than I had expected in certain areas. We moved slowly on the way in so we could enjoy the wilderness and our trip together. We reached the first set of waterfalls that were just off the trail quickly. It was an amazing set of waterfalls that flowed right into Boulder River. Boulder River follows the trail most of the time. My wife was having a bit of trouble with the trail since she has a knee problem so we agreed that we would set up camp at the first available spot. I was extremely proud of how well she did with her knee and how well she did on her first time. The first camping area was about a mile in on the trail, so it could easily be reached with small children. The camping area is directly in front of the second waterfall, which is four times larger than the first waterfall. It was an amazing camping spot on the trail, one of the best ones I've seen in quite sometime. Once we set up camp and pitched the tent I attempted to make a fire. The area was saturated from earlier snow and intermittent rain in the week prior to our arrival. I tried my hardest and was unsuccessful at keeping a fire going. There just wasn't enough dry wood in the area. I put out the small batch of coals that had formed from my attempt. I made some food on my stove and went into the tent with my wife and daughter to eat. The sun was on its way down and it was going to set in a couple hours. My wife was already cold and I was having trouble keeping her and my daughter comfortable. It was their first time in the wilderness so it was understandable that they weren't used to the weather. My wife and I made the decision to leave before the sun set since she wasn't comfortable. Even though I really wanted to stay I had to do what was best for my family. I wasn't upset that we had to leave since I knew my wife had given it her best. It important to remember that you always have to do what is best for the team and you may not always reach your goal. Even though it didn't go as planned I still had an amazing trip with my family that I will always remember while I'm on future hikes. 

I hope everyone has the opportunity to get out with their family this year.
My daughter riding on my backpack on the way out.
Elizabeth and Ashley as we enter the trail.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

How To: Bug-Out Bag

A bug-out bag is a portable kit that contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster. The point of the bug-out bag is that it is used to evacuate and not used as a long term survival tool. The bug-out bag also has been called the 72 hour pack, GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge), or the PERK (Personal Emergency Reloaction Kit). It is used to carry everything you would need to survive for 48-72 hours but with basic survival skills you could use it as a supplement and survive for much longer if you had to.

When designing your own bug-out bag you should consider your local environment, your skills, who you'll support, and other various details unique to only your situation. You want to customize this bug-out bag for you since your the one who will have to use it. It is also important to put you bag to the test by testing it on the trail or druing a mock evaluation. This helps your identify weaknesses in your bug-out bag.

Alot of people design thier bug-out bags using large duffel bags that can be transportsedwhile they excape in thier vehicle. I personally don't like this idea since there is always a chance that your car won't be available and your limited by fuel range. I personally like the option of using a typical backpacking backpack or similiar military pack from a gun store. It allows me the comfort of knowing that I can carry my pack as far as my legs will take me.

What you will bring in your bug-out bag is different what I'd bring in mine but the following is my recommended list for what I'd bring in the Washington State Area or United States Pacific Northwest.

Fire Making:
For this catagory you want to bring everything that would be needed to hep support fire making.


In this catagory you want everything you would need to boil water, carry water, and sterilize it. It is recommended that you bring 1 gallon of watrer per person per day.


This area requires that you bring everything you'd need to establish a shelter and everything needed for sleeping.
  • Backpacking Tent
  • Tarp for emergency shelter and to protect your tent
  • Tent Repiar Kits
  • Sleeping bags equal to the areas weather
  • 40-50 of 550lb paracord
  • Duct Tape Roll


You need to ensure you can navigate you desired excape route so great detail must be put into planning your route and ensuring you have a back up routes as well. Also, it is importtant to practice your routes so you don't get lost. It may seem easy to follow on your map but the execusion might not go off as planned and you don't want that to happen during an emergency.

  • Maps of your local city area
  • Topographic maps if you heading to the wilderness
  • Compass
  • GPS (may not work during an emergency but always good to have.)


A base set of clothes is a great start here that way if you can add to it during an emergency. Carry everything you'd need to stay dry and warm.

  • Wool socks (will still be warm even when wet)
  • Beanie or Hat
  • Gloves
  • Pants and shirts (not cotton since it takes all long time for it to dry)


Personal protection is always a personnal choice when choosing what to bring but I recommend some basics since during a emergency situation normal people could act quite crazy to be frank. People riot after teams win championships so it's not impossilbe to think that this will happen in an emergency.

  • Pepper Spray (Used to fend off less agressive individuals)
  • Fixed blade Survival Knife
  • Multi-tool
  • Gun (Carry extra ammo and a cleaning kit)
  • First Aid Kit with medication
  • Whistle to signal rescuers

Miscelaneous Items

The catagory covers anything that should be brought that doesn't fit into one of the main catagories.

  • SD Card with pictures of important documents (Social Security Cards, Birth Cetificates, Etc)
  • Toilet Paper
  • Cash (power may not be avaialable so bank cards will be useless)
  • Crank Operated Radio / Battery Operated
  • Flashlight or lanterns with extra batteries
  • Standard ID's (Drivers Liscence, Military ID, or the equivalent)

It's important to remember to bring everything you would need for your child or pet as well. Remember when building your bug-out bag that you can't take everything but you need to bring only what you'd need to survive for 72 hours using no outside support. What would you bring in your bag that might not be listed above?

Learn. Explore Survive.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tree Identification Guide

Pacific Northwest Tree Identification Guide

I've compiled information on trees within the Pacific Northwest and made it into an easy to read PDF file. You can use this in the field if you upload it to your phone, ipod, or ipad. Its covers over 20 trees in the Pacific North West area. Knowing these trees could help you in a survival situation. Feel free to share this with your friends. I hope it helps you during your adventures.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How To: Fire Building Materials

In this brief discussion I'll explain the three essential materials needed for any wilderness fire: Tinder, Kindling, and Fuel.

1. Tinder

 Tinder is the most important material needed to ensure your fire started the way it should. For tinder you want to find dry leaves, grass, bark, moss, or paper. Your tinder must be completely dry since it needs to light with just an ember or spark. Spend a good amount of time gathering enough tinder to get a good start. Once you're ready to start you want to break up the material as much as possible so you have a lot of surface area. You want to make a tinder ball to catch your spark or ember so you can blow it into flame. A good tip is to collect tinder as your hike and put it inside your coat so it drys before you get to camp.

2. Kindling

Kindling is the next material you need to have on stand by. Kindling consists of small twigs and sticks. They should be no bigger than your pinky in width. You can also use wood chips from larger pieces of wood if dry twigs aren't available. Once your tinder ball ignites you want to start adding kindling to it. Start slow so you don't put out your fire. You want to have a lot of kindling ready before you start so you can get your fire started. Once you get enough kindling burn your coals will build up and your fire will produce a lot more heat. Start with the smallest kindling you have and move up until you get to the next martial: Fuel.

3. Fuel

The final material used in fire making is fuel. This material is one of the most important when it comes to sustaining your fire. Fuel should be around the size of your wrist or bigger so that it burns slower but also burns completely. If you use larger logs make sure your rotate them so they burn evenly and completely. A good source of fuel are dead trees, look for those along your path to camp. If you want to keep your fire going all night make sure you have enough fuel to make it through the night. The worst thing to do in a survival situation is for you to head out at night and leave your partner. Even the most experienced backpackers can get lost in familiar areas at night.

The time spent gathering and preparing materials will determine how successful your fire is. The more time your spend at the beginning will offer the greatest pay off in the end. 

Learn. Explore. Survive. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

How To: Double Layer Paracord Survival Bracelet

Double Layer 550lb. Paracord Survival Bracelet\

In this how to I'm going to show you how to make a Double Layer 550lb Paracord Survival Bracelet. With this bracelet you can easily carry an extra 15-20 feet of 550lb Paracord for emergencies. The following tools and materials are needed:

1.  (2) 10 Foot Lengths of Paracord (different colors if you want contrast like the one above.)
2.  Scissors or Knife
3.  Lighter

Step 1: Cut 10-12 feet of paracord depending on the size of your wrist. If you worried, it's always better to have to much. Once you cut it, use the lighter to burn the ends of the paracord so it doesn't fray. You can smooth the ends out while its still hot so you don't get giant blobs on the ends. WARNING:  Melted paracord is hot, smooth the ends with quick motions or use gloves.

Picture A

Step 2: Double up the paracord and measure your wrist with it. You should be able to loop it around your wrist and then fit 3 fingers under the band. Cut and burn the ends once you've measured it. Now tie a knot in the end of the paracord like in photo "A".  An easy way to be safe is leave extra to the right of the knot so you can loosen later if it to tight.

Step 3: Loop the first color around the backside of the wrist piece you made. 

 Step 4: Pass the left side under the wrist piece.

 Step 5: Pass the right piece under the left piece, over the wrist piece and then pass it through the loop on the left side. 

Step 6: Tighten the knot around the wrist piece to secure it. Leave about 1/4 - 1/2 inch from the top knot so it can swivel and secure correctly at the end.

Step 7: Now your going to make a knot on the right side so you can alternate the pattern. Pass the right line under the wrist piece. Then pass the left piece under the right piece, over the wrist piece and through the left loop. Tighten the knot.

Step 8: Continue alternating the pattern and stop once you get close to the end. Repeat steps 3-7 to get to the end. If you forget which side loop you just did just look for the lowest side loop (as seen in the left picture) and that's the side you just did so you need to start on the opposite.  Once you finish cut off any extra and burn the ends on the bracelet to prevent fraying. Again, push them in while still hot to smooth them.

Step 9: Repeat step 3-8 with the other color, just add it over the first layer. Once you get to the end of the second color and burn the ends just like before. Once you've finished the entire bracelet, size it one more time and adjust your knot so it fits to your liking and the cut off the extra and smooth it. 

Congratulations, You've Completed Your Survival Bracelet.

This bracelet will help ensure you always have rope when you need it. You don't even need to remember to pack it. This will help you survive the worst. Feel free to leave comments and thoughts on how to improve your survival bracelet. 

Learn. Explore. Survive. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Gear Review 2: Storm Proof Matches

REI Stormproof Matches, Coleman Waterproof Camp Matches, UCO Stormproof Match Kit (Left to Right)

I chose stormproof matches for my next review since they are an excellent addition to anyone's pack. I reviewed three popular brands at home, Coleman Waterproof Matches, REI Stormproof Matches, and UCO Stormproof Matches. All three matches advertise that they will light even after being submerged in water. The following are my thoughts on each match set:

Coleman Waterproof Matches:

Strikers: The strikers on the side of the box are the only ones that come with the Coleman. Once your box becomes wet the strikers become utterly useless. Even when they're not wet the strikers feel very cheap.

Matches: The matches themselves are just as cheap and made of extremely flimsy wood. Also, the matches are stored loose inside the box just like a normal box of matches. This offers no protection from submersion or heavy rain.

Burn Test: During the burn test I was less than impressed by the burn time. During serveral burn tests the aveage burn time was 18.4 seconds even when I let the flame burn the etire match. Also, the flame produced was very small compared to the other two matches.

Submersion Test: In my submersion test I placed the matches in water for 15 minutes to see if they would light after heavy saturation. The coleman failed miserbly with this test. The tip turned to muddy match dust then just streaked acorss the striker when attempting to light it. 4 out of 4 matches failed to light and 2 of them borke in half from the cheap wood obsorbing water.

Overall: Honestly,  I wouldn't trust Coleman waterproof matches any more than I would trust normal matches in a wet enviroment. I wouldn't recommend these matches to anyone who is serious about a reliable fire producing backup.

REI Stormproof Matches:

Strikers: The match box comes with two strikers on the side just like a normal match box. It also came with 4 spare strikers in waterproof sealed plastic bags. The side strikers are thicker and of better quality than the coleman but would most likely fail if wet. If it wasnt for the extra strikers, the REI would leave you in the same situation as the Coleman.

Matches: The matches are signifcantly better qaulity than the Coleman. These matches are thick and made of qaulity materials and the burning portion allows for longer burn times and bigger flames. The matches themselves are stored in a non-sealed plastic bag inside the box to help safeguard them from moisture.

Burn Test: The burn test was successful with the REI matches, offering larger flames and a longer burn time than the Coleman. The average burn time for the REI match was 25.1 seconds.

Submersion Test: I submerged the REI match for 15 minutes and it lit easily and quickly with little problems. I submerged another match for 30 minutes and it acted just as the Coleman did at 15 minutes, turning into mushy dust when I attempted to strike it.

Overall: The REI stormproof match is a good match compared to the other matches. My only issue is that its not completely stormproof since the matches aren't in a sealed bag. These matches will survive a downpour but not a fall into the river.

UCO Stormproof Matches:

Strikers: The strikers are almost identical to the REI matches as they come in a fully sealed plastic bag. The only diference is the UCO strikers can be installed on the case and removed so they can be stored safely inside the case when not in use.

Matches: Again, the matches are identical to the REI stormproof matches. The matches are made of sturdy wood with a long burning tip. The only difference is that they are stored inside a 100% waterproof case that keeps them dry no matter how much water they're introduced to.

Burn Test: In the burn test the UCO was the best performer out of the three. It had a significantly larger flame than any other match. It had a slightly shorter burn time than the REI match at 24.9 seconds.

Submersion Test: The UCO acted exactly like the REI match test. It lit easily at 15 minutes but failed at 30 minutes. In the end the UCO matches are stored inside the waterproof case and would only be exposed to water for short durations.

Overall: The UCO stormproof match is a bright burning, exceptional match. It has a large, long burning flame that helps ensure your fire is started easily.

The Final Descision:

The best match out of the three is the UCO Stormproof Match. All three matches are under $6 and at that price the UCO matches is the best choice. For $6 dollars you get a waterproof case that keeps all your components dry. The removable striker pads are a plus as well so you can save them from the rain. Also the matches are sturdy and reliable even when wet. I would recommend this match set to everyone, this is a great choice for any survialist.

Learn. Explore. Survive.

Used these products before, feel free to leave your thoughts.