Mt. Ranier National Park 21 March 2008,
A three-day search for a missing hiker culminated on Wednesday morning with the discovery of his body about a mile from the Kautz Creek trailhead. David Ossman, 45, of Mukilteo, Washington, evidently arrived in the park on Monday morning for a day hike. He was not planning to be out overnight and was dressed lightly in blue jeans, a flannel shirt and a jacket. From the NPS daily report.
The above report is an actual excerpt from the National Park Service daily report and boils down to one cause of death, something happened he did not plan for.
America is blessed to have beautiful sprawling woodlands that we can enjoy for a variety of activities. I love the woods and love to hunt, fish, and hike really anything that lets me be out in the wild. Which brings me to my point, it is called the wild for a reason, even forests within a few miles of a city are dangerous places with the potential to injure or worse. While we want to be safe that element of danger is also what attracts us to the wild places. So how do you go to those places and enjoy yourself without falling prey to the dangers. The answer is simple but not easy you educate yourself and prepare.
To help you get started on being prepared and able to enjoy the outdoors safely I want to give 5 items that are small easy to carry and could very well save your life if you find yourself in an unexpected situation like the unfortunate man above.
1. Carry a Knife
I don’t care if you are a man or woman or if you usually carry one in daily life you should never enter the woods without a knife. I am not saying you need to lug a Rambo style survival knife in fact for most people please don’t. But a good pocket knife is invaluable. My personal preference is a Victornox Swiss army style knife with 2 blades, can opener, an awl, a couple screwdrivers like the one pictured here but any quality knife will work. A knife is the single most versatile tool you can carry in the woods giving you the ability to cut cedar branches to insulate you from the cold ground, Cut and manipulate cordage, shave tinder or any of a hundred other things that will help you if things go bad. Besides once you get used to having one you will be amazed you ever lived without it.
Victornox Swiss Army Knife
2. Carry a Water Bottle
Even if you just take a plastic bottle of water from the convenience store, you should always have water with you. You can live and function quite a long time without food but only a few days at most without water, and in hot climates sometimes only hours. I would recommend a metal water bottle (can be used with suggestion 4 to purify water found in the woods) like the one pictured. I also wrapped this one with my number three suggestion.
Whether it is just some nylon rope or the ever popular 550 Parachute cordage is high on my list of essentials for several reasons including it makes shelter construction a lot easier, and hundreds of other uses. Besides you can wrap it around your water bottle makeing a nice grip or make a bracelet etc so it stores and travels very well.
4. Fire, Fire, Fire
Never enter the woods without a lighter or two. The greatest threat to someone lost in the woods is exposure. With a little planning and a fire; a person can survive even extremely cold temperatures. The standard Bic lighter is great. I also like to carry a Zippo or metal match just so I have a back up.
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5. SOL 1-2 Person Heatsheets
This is the only specific recommendation I have and that is the SOL 1-2 person Heatsheets survival blanket. It is large and far more durable than the old cheap mylar blankets. At only around $6 it is an exceptional product and only weighs a couple ounces.
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All of these things will fit easily in a single cargo pocket or small day pack and weigh very little.
So that's my personal 5. With those 5 items and a little knowledge, your chances of staying safe until rescue goes up tremendously. That brings up one more thing. The greatest asset you can take to the wood is your mind. Staying calm and being careful has saved more outdoorsmen than having a whole survival store at their disposal would have.
Good luck and I hope to see you on the trails.