Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stormproof Matches That Meet Expectations

I've tested a lot of matches that are labeled "waterproof" or "stormproof" and only one has met my expectations.  You can see details of the UCO Stormproof Matches in my "Videos" section.  In summary, they burn hot for about 10-15 seconds and after lit, can be dunked in water and they re-ignite.  That's pretty impressive.  A few notes: when matches were wet (submerged in water) before I tried to strike them, they did not ignite.  Same goes for the striker...when it was wet I did not get ignition.  However, when the wood stem was soaked in water but the head remained dry, it ignited and burned for about 10 seconds. 

My video shows UCO matches I found at REI and they come in a box with extra strikers.  I've also seen them sold at Sportsman's Warehouse.  I found the same matches in a blaze orange waterproof container with a striker attached to the side at Bass Pro Shops for $7.  It's a great item for your survival kit.  I'm not trying to promote Bass Pro, but it's where I found it.  The orange container is durable, watertight, and visible in ground clutter if you set it down.  Plus, attaching the striker on the container solves one minor dilemma, and that is having something firm to strike against....the strikers that come in the box version can be awkward by themselves. 


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cold Steel "Survival Edge" Knife

Hollow-handle "survival knives" have been an item since the movie First Blood drew attention to them in the early 1980s.  This is the first one I've tested that seems to get the idea right: lightweight, tough, and capable.  The blade is 1 inch wide, 5 inches long, not too thick and not too thin, and has a clip saw-teeth on the back: pure functionality. 

The handle is polypropylene and has rubber O-rings to help with grip if hands are wet or slippery. If the O-rings are removed or damaged, the grooves in the handle where they fit are still effective for helping maintain a solid grip.  The knife comes in two color options: black and (pictured) orange.  I prefer the orange for the simple fact that it is more visible if set down in ground clutter (intentionally or don't want to lose you knife).  The hand-guard is wide and prevents fingers slipping onto the blade.  The threaded butt cap is grooved for easy gripping to twist-off.  The handle compartment is big enough to take (in my testing) 20 strike-anywhere matches wrapped in plastic and 10 tinder tabs. NOTE: using super-glue to hold a piece of sandpaper inside the butt cap ensures you have a dry strike surface for matches no matter what...

The sheath is made of "Secure-Ex" polymer which is durable, weatherproof and lightweight.  It is designed to clip onto a belt, but it also works very well hung as a neck knife from a length of 550 cord.  The knife secures into the sheath with a solid tension will not shake it loose.  Actually, you have to literally "open" the sheath to withdraw the knife...there is no quick retrieval/deployment.  One of the best features of the sheath is the added fire-steel that is secured on the side, also with solid "can't lose it" tension.  The fire-steel is big enough to work with a hard stroke to get good sparks and it has a lanyard hole to allow for retention to the sheath/knife. 

Overall (unloaded) the knife weighs just three ounces.  That is pretty amazing given the strength of the system.

MSRP is about $35, but you can find it cheaper if you search online auction sites.  Even at full price, it's a great deal and a fantastic survival tool.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Some highlights from the December 2013 Survival Skills Workshop in Albuquerque

Placing a sturdy ridgepole for a natural shelter

Just the right size to protect me and let my body heat warm the shelter....not too big, not too small

Building the framework prior to adding insulation

Inside of natural shelter framework before insulation

Working on the perfect snare set

Young students learning how to ignite tinder using a fire steel
Our workshop was well-attended by volunteer Hunter Education Instructors, their families, and members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  We discussed key aspects of constructing a survival kit and proper clothing selection, as well as shelter construction, fire-building, utilizing water sources, snaring, signaling, and a variety of other topics. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Map and Compass Navigation - Great Tutorial Video

The Backcountry Hunters & Anglers are a dedicated conservation organization.  They have been putting some great videos on YouTube and the link below will take you to an outstanding tutorial on basic navigation with map and compass -- a must see for anyone, novice or experienced.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

This is a story of perserverence and survival mindset. But let us never, EVER take for granted the unwavering dedication of the Civil Air Patrol and volunteer Search and Rescue teams.

James Glanton, his girlfriend, Christina McIntee, and four children disappeared Sunday in the frigid, remote mountains of northwest Nevada.
RENO, Nev. — A desperate search for a couple and four children missing for two days in the below-zero cold of Nevada's rugged mountains turned jubilant Tuesday when rescuers guided in part by cellphone signals and footprints in the snow found them alive and well near their overturned Jeep.
About 200 people had searched by land and air after the group of six failed to return Sunday from a trip to play in the snow near their hometown of Lovelock, in Nevada's high desert.        
 "They stayed together and that was the key that allowed them to live through this experience. You don't see that that often in search and rescue," said Paul Burke, search-and-rescue coordinator for the state. "They did some pretty inventive things, heating up rocks and things. Staying together, that was a big deal."

Their Jeep had overturned just off a road. A member of the rescue team said the engine would no longer start, but the group stayed in the upside-down vehicle for shelter, burning the spare tire to keep warm.

"Their father kept them alive and well," said Patty Bianchi, CEO of Pershing General Hospital, where the six were taken. "Everybody is in good shape. There was no frostbite. They are stable. They suffered a little exposure and dehydration, but that is all."

About 100 well-wishers lined the street outside the hospital and broke into cheers when two of the smallest children were taken from an ambulance. The others walked into the hospital on their own.
"The mood where I'm at's ecstatic," said Col. Tim Hahn of the Civil Air Patrol, which used several planes to search for the group. "We are thrilled beyond words."

Rescuers began scouring the Seven Troughs Area wilderness on Sunday night for James Glanton, 34; his girlfriend, Christina McIntee, 25; their two children, Evan and Chloe Glanton; and Shelby Fitzpatrick and Tate McIntee, a niece and nephew of McIntee's. The children range in age from 3 to 10.

The situation grew more dire as overnight temperatures in Lovelock dipped to 16 below zero.
A cellphone forensics team analyzed which towers the woman's phone was in contact with during their trip, giving searchers a better idea of where they might be, Hahn said. They were so far out in the wilderness that they apparently were unable to call for help, although there was enough signal strength to leave a basic electronic trail from the early stages of their ordeal, air patrol officials said.
Search volunteer Chris Montes said he and two rescuers with him first spotted children's footprints in the snow Tuesday morning, then followed a set of Jeep tracks until they found the flipped vehicle and the family beside it.

Race against clock, cold in search for Nevada group: Lovelock, Nevada is located.AP

"They just said that they knew somebody was going to find them," Montes said.  The discovery prompted a wave of relief on social media.  "Very glad to hear the missing family in Lovelock has been found and they are safe!" Gov. Brian Sandoval tweeted. "Thank you to all who worked so tirelessly to find them!"

The Seven Troughs area is named for seven parallel canyons below Seven Trough Peak, elevation 7,474 feet. It is about 20 miles southeast of Black Rock Desert, where the annual Burning Man counterculture festival is held. Most of the roads are dirt and more easily traveled by ATVs or other off-road vehicles.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Great Story About a Hunter's Survival Ordeal - Excellent Teaching Points

This article has a lot of important lessons and also many good examples of how someone improvised, persevered, and overcame a difficult situation.  Most importantly, I think, is the message of 1) avoiding panic, and 2) maintain a will to survive.  This took place in October 2013.  Read below (I've added highlighting to parts of the text):

ASSOCIATED PRESS - The 72-year-old hunter who was lost for more than two weeks in a California forest survived by eating squirrels and other animals he shot with his rifle, and by making fires and packing leaves and grasses around his body to stay warm, his family said Monday.

Gene Penaflor of San Francisco was found Saturday in Mendocino National Forest by other hunters who carried him to safety in a makeshift stretcher, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.  Penaflor disappeared after heading out with a partner during the first week of deer hunting season in the rugged mountains of Northern California, a trip he takes annually. The forest is about 160 miles north of San Francisco.
"He goes hunting every year, and he comes home every year," his daughter-in-law Deborah Penaflor said Monday outside Gene Penaflor's small home in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. "We'd gotten a little complacent that he would always come back." Gene Penaflor separated from his hunting partner for a couple of hours as usual to stalk deer. While they were apart, Gene Penaflor fell, hit his head and passed out, Deborah Penaflor said. He woke up after spending what appeared to be a full day unconscious, with his chin and lip badly gashed. He noticed fog and morning dew and realized he'd been out for a while, Deborah Penaflor said.
Gene Penaflor had a lighter, a knife and water with him when he went hunting. But his daughter-in-law said the knife and water bottle somehow got lost in the fall. She had no further details.
Still, he was able use his rifle to kill squirrels to sustain him while he awaited rescue. He also found water in a nearby drainage. To stay warm, Gene Penaflor made small fires and packed leaves and grasses around his body. When it rained or snowed, he crawled under a large log and managed to stay dry, authorities said.
"He knew at some point he was going to die, but he figured he'd last as long as he could," sheriff's Detective Andrew Porter told the Ukiah Daily Journal.  The sheriff's office said an initial search involving several agencies was called off when a storm was on its way and there was no sign of the missing hunter. The family returned to San Francisco dejected. "We were depressed," Deborah Penaflor said. "We were walking his dog and hoping the search would start up again." The search was reactivated Saturday, and a group of hunters found Gene Penaflor when one of them heard a voice calling for help from the bottom of a canyon. He was found about 3 miles from where he disappeared. The family returned north to aid in the search late last week. They distributed missing-persons flyers around the area hoping other hunters would be on the lookout. When they heard he'd been found alive, they rushed to the mountain to meet him. "There were tears of joy on the top of that mountain," Deborah Penaflor said.
Gene Penaflor arrived home Sunday looking weak and wearing a hospital bracelet. "I didn't panic because panic will kill me right away. I knew that," Gene Penaflor said to a KTVU-TV reporter upon his arrival home.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Great Off-Road Vehicle Tips

Courtesy of James Swann, from Outdoor Hub

Last fall I gave turkey hunting a shot in northern New Mexico. I’d scouted some birds earlier during the dusky grouse season, and as I turned off the main road, tracks in inch-deep snow were all over the place.

I slowly crept along the dirt road in my truck. There were patches of snow on the ground, but other places were bare ground. Four-wheel drive and oversized tires made me feel that I could handle single inch of snow with no trouble. I soon came to an area that was shaded by trees bordered by two silver dollar-size reflectors, one on both sides of the road. Then, all of the sudden, my wheels spun. There was black ice under the snow. The reflectors meant that a spring ran under the road here.

I got out and shifted into four-wheel. No go. Wheels that were oversized with good treads just spun. Before I knew it, I had slipped off the road into the soft caliche clay that’s found in many parts of New Mexico.

I got out and surveyed the situation. It didn’t look that bad, but I couldn’t get any traction. I cut some branches from nearby pine trees and slipped them under the wheels. No change.

I’ve been fishing and hunting all across North America since the 1960s and I’ve never not been able to get out of something like this, but the combination of black ice and caliche clay had me stymied. Frankly, it was embarrassing—my wheels were not sunk in that deep. It looked like I should be able to get out.

I got out the cell phone, but no luck. The absence of fresh tracks on the road, except for turkey tracks, made me begin to worry. The nearest town was 15 miles away. I hiked to a slightly higher elevation and again tried the cell. This time I got through to my home that was 125 miles away. I gave them my location and they said if things did not change, they would call the insurance company for a tow truck and/or come and get me.

Okay, now I had some back-up. But it was already mid-afternoon, and the temperature was starting to drop. I had a blanket in the car, a space blanket in my backpack along with a mirror and a whistle, plus some matches, energy bars, and water, so there was no immediate danger, but I did not look forward to spending the night in that remote area. It can snow at any time at such elevations.

More branches and some sand tossed in from bare ground 50 yards away had no effect. Almost four hours had passed since I got stuck. I was about to return to my cell phone spot when around the corner came a mountain lion hunter with chains on all four wheels.

The mountain lion hunter had a winch on his truck and in less than two minutes I was out. Then he sat me down and read me the riot act on being prepared in the mountains. It was a bit embarrassing, as I was supposed to be an expert on such things, but I took down notes.
In the wild West, snow may fall 12 months of the year and soils are highly alkaline. Clay, especially caliche, turns into lard when it’s wet. So, he gave me his “better to be safe than sorry list,” which includes the following:

Cell phone. Always carry one, but realize that it may not always work in the woods.

Hi-Lift Jack. These tall, extremely durable jacks weigh about 30 pounds and can lift up to 7,000 pounds a couple feet in the air to get your vehicle out of the deepest hole, and they can be used like a winch. They start at $82 on and can be purchased through many hardware stores and at most off-road vehicle stores.

Much cheaper than a winch is a Come-Along, which is a hand-operated ratchet lever winch that runs $37.97 at Home Depot.

Tire chains/cables (get some for all four wheels if you have four-wheel drive).

Tow rope.



First aid kit, space blanket or wool blanket, thermos, signal mirror, fire starter, and a box of energy bars.

The sun was setting as I hiked up to call back home and report that I was out. They said they had made some calls on my behalf. On the way out, I was met by a Forest Service truck and a State Police truck with a snowmobile, both coming to get me. As I got out to thank them for coming to my aid, a flock of turkeys ran across the road right behind me. I was tempted, but the mountain lion hunter had parked and was stalking them. He deserved them. I hope he got one.

Since then I’ve done some researching on stranded motorist conditions. In addition to the list, before you go out off the main road, check with local resources agencies about who can and will respond to stranded motorist calls. Game wardens will always respond, but there are not that many of them. Some federal agencies will respond, but others will not. County sheriff deputies and state highway patrol also may respond. A 911 call will respond to immediate emergencies, but things like stranded motorists may not get an immediate response.

The mountain lion hunter’s advice goes for hunters, wood cutters, families cutting Christmas trees, and sight-seers. Be safe rather than sorry, and have a great fall in the woods.