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Cold Weather Injuries

blizzard survivalWorking in a cold weather environment presents many new challenges as well as more dangers. Understanding and recognizing these dangers may save your life or the life of a family member or comrade.

Here are some Injuries and Conditions associated with working/living in a cold weather environment.

Types of Injuries

Chilblain

Definition:

Chilblain is a medical condition that is often confused with frostbite and trench foot. Chilblains are acral ulcers (that is, ulcers affecting the extremities) that occur when a predisposed individual is exposed to cold and humidity. The cold exposure damages capillary beds in the skin, which in turn can cause redness, itching, blisters, and inflammation. Chilblains are often idiopathic in origin but can be manifestations of serious medical conditions that need to be investigated. Chilblains can be prevented by keeping the feet and hands warm in cold weather. A history of chilblains is suggestive of a connective tissue disease.

Chilblain

Symptoms:

  • Ulceration of the digits and toes
  • Red nose
  • Skin redness
  • Toe skin inflammation
  • Finger skin inflammation
  • Earlobe inflammation

Treatment:

  • Keep area warm.
  • Seek medical attention.

Prevention:

  • Avoid rapid changes in temperature.
  • Wear gloves and socks.
  • Use warm footwear.
  • Keep hands and feet warm.
  • Avoid tight fitting socks/shoes.
  • Place cotton wool between the toes to improve circulation.
  • Healthy diet.
  • Exercise to improve circulation
  • Avoid alcohol before going out in snow.

Read the rest of this entry »

Maxpedition Backpack Giveaway

Every month Survivalist Boards tries to hook up with a merchant to offer some kind of giveaway or contest. This month (August 2010), Maxpedition is giving away 3 packs. One pack will be given away on August 14, the other 2 will be given away on August 31.

The Prizes:

Maxpedition Condor-II – August 14 (OD GREEN)
Maxpedition Noatak – August 31 (KHAKI)
Maxpedition Vulture-II – August 31 and grand prize (DFC)

How to enter:

send entries to: SB @ Maxpedition.com Take out the extra spaces around the @ symbol.

Entries should include:

Name
Address
Email
Phone#

Pictures and videos are for examples only, the actual prize may differ.

Maxpedition Condor-II:
*Main Compartment: 17.5″(H) x 14″(W) x 6.5″(D)
*Upper Front Pouch: 5.5″(H) x 9″(W) x 2″(D)
*Lower Front Pouch: 8″(H) x 9″(W) x 2.5″(D)
*Approximate Overall Capacity: 1950 cu. in. / 32 L
*Hydration: Fits up to 100 oz / 3L Reservoir (sold separately)
*Support: 1″ Sternum Strap, 1.5″ Waist Strap (min 14″ strap alone / max 42″ strap alone; min 28″ loop / max 56″ loop)
*Optional accessories: Hook & Loop Modular Accessories and Grimloc Carabiner
*Empty Weight: 47.8 oz.
* 1000-Denier water and abrasion resistant light-weight ballistic nylon fabric
* Teflon® fabric protector for grime resistance and easy maintenance
* high strength zippers and zipper tracks
* UTX-Duraflex nylon buckles for low sound closures
* Triple polyurethane coated for water resistance
* High tensile strength nylon webbing
* High tensile strength composite nylon thread (stronger than ordinary industry standard nylon thread)
* #AS-100 high grade closed-cell foam padding material for superior shock protection
* Internal seams taped and finished
* Paracord zipper pulls
* Stress points double stitched, Bartacked or “Box-and-X” stitched for added strength

Maxpedition Noatak:
* Main: 11” x 7” x 4” with numerous internal pockets
* Front: 7” x 7” x 2” with internal keyper and sleeve pockets
* Front sleeve: 6.5” x 6.5” with anti-theft device on zipper
* Rear compartment: 8” x 12”
* Water bottle pocket: 7” x 2.5”; fits 32oz/1L bottle
* 1000-Denier water and abrasion resistant light-weight ballistic nylon fabric
* Teflon® fabric protector for grime resistance and easy maintenance
* high strength zippers and zipper tracks
* UTX-Duraflex nylon buckles for low sound closures
* Triple polyurethane coated for water resistance
* High tensile strength nylon webbing
* High tensile strength composite nylon thread (stronger than ordinary industry standard nylon thread)
* #AS-100 high grade closed-cell foam padding material for superior shock protection
* Internal seams taped and finished
* Paracord zipper pulls
* Stress points double stitched, Bartacked or “Box-and-X” stitched for added strength

Maxpedition Vulture-II:
* Main Compartment: 20.5″(H) x 16″(W) x 7.5″(D)
* Front Pouch: 15.5″(H) x 12″(W) x 2.75″(D)
* Slip Pocket: 15.5″(H) x 12″(W)
* Capacity: 2810 cu. in. / 46 liters
* Weight: 3 lbs , 8 oz
* Hydration: Up to 100+ oz Bladder
* Support: 1″ Sternum Strap, 2″ Integrated Belt (min 19″ strap alone / max 52″ strap alone; min 34″ loop / max 67″ loop)
* Optional accessories: Hook & Loop Modular Accessories and Grimloc Carabiner, Hydration reservoir.
* 1000-Denier water and abrasion resistant light-weight ballistic nylon fabric
* Teflon® fabric protector for grime resistance and easy maintenance
* high strength zippers and zipper tracks
* UTX-Duraflex nylon buckles for low sound closures
* Triple polyurethane coated for water resistance
* High tensile strength nylon webbing
* High tensile strength composite nylon thread (stronger than ordinary industry standard nylon thread)
* #AS-100 high grade closed-cell foam padding material for superior shock protection
* Internal seams taped and finished
* Paracord zipper pulls
* Stress points double stitched, Bartacked or “Box-and-X” stitched for added strength

By entering the contest, you agree to receive promotional emails from Maxpedition.
Your information will not be shared with any other company or person.
You can un-subscribe from the emails at anytime

International winners – Winner will have to pay for Intl’ shipping cost.

Terms and conditions can change at anytime.

Void where prohibited by law.

Post your comments in this forum thread about the Maxpedition August Giveaway.

Maxpedition Vulture-II

Looking for a good quality 2 – 3 day pack?  The Maxpedition Vulture-II might be just what your looking for.  When your looking at backpacks, there seems to be small, medium, large and super large.

Small – good for day hikes and short trips

Medium – good for day hikes or overnight trips

Large – good for 3 – 5 day trips

Super Large – good for 5+ days trips (think expedition)

The problem I have, I need a pack that fits right in-between medium and large.  These are the ones where you can pack enough for a 1 – 3 day trip, but not too big or too small.

This medium sized pack is where I’am trying to fit the Maxpedition Vulture-II.  I need something for warm / hot weather camping, and just big enough to carry some food,  one man tent, rain poncho, hammock, poncho liner,,,, but not too big that I’am tempted to carry gear that is not needed.  If your like me, and if there is spare room in your pack, your going to find a way to fill it up.  A half full pack just does not look right.

Before a pack is taken out on a hiking or camping trip, it needs to be loaded, tested and checked out.  So before my Maxpedition Vulture-II was taken on a real hiking / camping trip, it was loaded up and taken on a trip to the deer camp.  Inside the pack I was able to fit – hammock, one man tent, 3 legged stool, couple of MREs, compass, map, and topo map compass.

From the Maxpedition website:
* Main Compartment: 20.5″(H) x 16″(W) x 7.5″(D)
* Front Pouch: 15.5″(H) x 12″(W) x 2.75″(D)
* Slip Pocket: 15.5″(H) x 12″(W)
* Capacity: 2810 cu. in. / 46 liters
* Weight: 3 lbs , 8 oz
* Hydration: Up to 100+ oz Bladder
* Support: 1″ Sternum Strap, 2″ Integrated Belt (min 19″ strap alone / max 52″ strap alone; min 34″ loop / max 67″ loop)
* Optional accessories: Hook & Loop Modular Accessories and Grimloc Carabiner, Hydration reservoir
*1000-Denier water and abrasion resistant light-weight ballistic nylon fabric
* Teflon® fabric protector for grime resistance and easy maintenance
* High strength YKK zippers and zipper tracks
* Triple polyurethane coated for water resistance
* High tensile strength nylon webbing
* High tensile strength composite nylon thread (stronger than ordinary industry standard nylon thread)
*AS-100 high grade closed-cell foam padding material for superior shock protection
* Internal seams taped and finished
* Paracord zipper pulls
* Stress points double stitched, Bartacked or “Box-and-X” stitched for added strength

The 2 complaints that I have about the Vulture-II – it needs a couple of small pouches on the outside of the pack, and I wish it was just a “little” bigger.  2,810 cubic inches is nice, but 3,000+ cubic inches might have been a little better for a 3 day pack.

If you need more room, just add a few extra Maxpedition pouches on the outside of the pack.  Even though the pack has a place for a water bladder,  I added a mini-rolly polly dump pouch and a Maxpedition water bottle holder.  The water bottle holder has an extra pouch built onto it that large enough for a GPS or map compass.

In pack design you have 2 basic types – the panel loader and the top loader.

Panel loader – this is when the pack fully unzips and makes it easy to organize the contents.  This type of pack is good for people who like to organize stuff.

Top loader – just as the name describes, you load the pack from the top.  This design is good people people who like to cram stuff into the pack, and when its full stomp on the contents, and pack some more.

Strength – by design top loaders are usually stronger then the panel loaders.  Panel loaders are limited by the strength of their zippers, top loaders are limited by the strength of the fabric material and stitching.

The Maxpedition Vulture-II seems to be a combination of a top loader and a panel loader.  The pack unzips down both sides, but not all the way.  To help hold everything together there are 2 compression straps on each side, and the classic Y strap at the top of the pack.

Please post your comments in this forum thread about the Maxpedition Vulture-II.

* Disclosure: The Maxpedition Vulture II used in this article was supplied free of charge. But that did not influence the authors opinion.

The large MOLLE pack

After about 15 years of using the medium ALICE pack as my primary warm/hot weather backpack, I decided it was time for a change. So I got on Ebay and after looking through some of the listings, I decided to go with the large MOLLE pack with internal sleep system carrier.

There are 2 versions of this pack on the market – one where the main pack is separate from the sleep system carrier. And the one like what I bought, which is just one large pack.

First Impressions:
Its slimmer then the large ALICE
Its easier to get into then the medium ALICE
It has more webbing then the large ALICE
The map case is larger then either the medium or large ALICE
The map case has a mesh bottom, so its easier to see the contents
The internal sleep system carrier has a zipper for easy access – lets talk about that just for a minute.

The way may pack is packed – the stuff to make camp is at the bottom of the pack. The ground cloth (6X8 tarp), tent, poncho loner or sleeping bag, hammock – all go in the bottom of the pack. When you reach camp you have to dig everything out of the pack to get to your camp gear. The bottom zipper access makes it easy to get your gear out without having to take “everything” out of the pack. Unzip the sleeping bag compartment and start pulling your gear out trough the bottom of the pack. Since the tarp (ground cloth) was put in the pack first, its the the first to go out through the bottom. Once the ground cloth is in position, its time to set the tent up, and spread the sleeping pad out. Once your finished getting everything out to make camp, zip up the sleep system compartment, and the pack is sealed up again.

Two things the large MOLLE is lacking – internal pouch and external pouches.

Internal Pouch – After having using the medium ALICE for about 15 years, I got used to having the internal radio pouch at my disposal. It makes a nice storage area for small items – such as my contact lens case, personal hygiene case, flashlight, FM 21-76, burner for a 1 pound propane bottle,,,,, and other small gear. Not having a place to store my small stuff puts the large MOLLE at a disadvantage. I do not want to dig through the whole pack just to find a bottle of matches. So now I have to look at getting some kind of pouch that will go inside the large MOLLE.

External Pouch – When your out in the woods, and the bottom drops out (it starts to pour rain), the last thing you want to do is open your pack and look for your rain poncho. The skys are black, its pouring rain, my gear is getting wet, I’am getting drenched and I’am having to dig though the contents of my pack to find a rain poncho – not the type of situation I want to be in. Every pack should have some kind of external pouch to store your rain gear and first aid kits in. Those are the 2 things you want to be able to find without having to dig. Since the large MOLLE does not come with external pouches, I ordered 6 sustainment pouches off Ebay last night – 2 for the large MOLLE, 2 for the MOLLE with external sleep system carrier and 2 for the large or medium ALICE pack. I also have a Maxpedition clam pouch on the outside of the MOLLE. The clam pouch is just right for small items like my wallet, keys,,,, stuff like that.

Plastic Frame: – Unlike the large and medium ALICE packs, the MOLLE packs use a plastic frame.  Its “supposed” to be lighter and stronger then the aluminum tubing frames of the ALICe family.  But I have heard a lot of people talking about how their plastic frames broke.  If my frame breaks, I’ll be sure to report it.

Overall: I’am pretty happy with my new large MOLLE pack, but I’am probably going to be a lot happier when the extra pouches have been added.

Do you have something to say about the ALICE or MOLLE pack? If so, post your comments in this forum thread about comparing the MOLLE and ALICE packs.

Related Forum Post:

List of forum threads about MOLLE packs

Thoughts on the large MOLLE pack

After about 15 years of using the medium ALICE pack as my primary warm/hot weather backpack, I decided it was time for a change. So I got on Ebay and after looking through some of the listings, I decided to go with the large MOLLE pack with internal sleep system carrier.

There are 2 versions of this pack on the market – one where the main pack is separate from the sleep system carrier. And the one like what I bought, which is just one large pack.

First Impressions:
Its more slimlineed then the large ALICE
Its easier to get into then the medium ALICE
It has more webbing then the large ALICE
The map case is larger then either the medium or large ALICE
The map case has a mesh bottom, so its easier to see the contents
The internal sleep system carrier has a zipper for easy access – lets talk about that just for a minute.

The way may pack is packed – the stuff to make camp is at the bottom of the pack. The ground cloth (6X8 tarp), tent, poncho loner or sleeping bag, hammock – all go in the bottom of the pack. When you reach camp you have to dig everything out of the pack to get to your camp gear. The bottom zipper access makes it easy to get your gear out without having to take “everything” out of the pack. Unzip the sleeping bag compartment and start pulling your gear out trough the bottom of the pack. Since the tarp (ground cloth) was put in the pack first, its the the first to go out through the bottom. Once the ground cloth is in position, its time to set the tent up, and spread the sleeping pad out. Once your finished getting everything out to make camp, zip up the sleep system compartment, and the pack is sealed up again.

Two things the large MOLLE is lacking – internal pouch and external pouches.

Internal Pouch – After having using the medium ALICE for about 15 years, I got used to having the internal radio pouch at my disposal. It makes a nice storage area for small items – such as my contact lens case, personal hygiene case, flashlight, FM 21-76, burner for a 1 pound propane bottle,,,,, and other small gear. Not having a place to store my small stuff puts the large MOLLE at a disadvantage. I do not want to dig through the whole pack just to find a bottle of matches. So now I have to look at getting some kind of pouch that will go inside the large MOLLE.

External Pouch – When your out in the woods, and the bottom drops out (it starts to pour rain), the last thing you want to do is open your pack and look for your rain poncho. The skys are black, its pouring rain, my gear is getting wet, I’am getting drenched and I’am having to dig though the contents of my pack to find a rain poncho – not the type of situation I want to be in. Every pack should have some kind of external pouch to store your rain gear and first aid kits in. Those are the 2 things you want to be able to find without having to dig. Since the large MOLLE does not come with external pouches, I ordered 6 sustainment pouches off Ebay last night – 2 for the large MOLLE, 2 for the MOLLE with external sleep system carrier and 2 for the large or medium ALICE pack. I also have a Maxpedition clam pouch on the outside of the MOLLE. The clam pouch is just right for small items like my wallet, keys,,,, stuff like that.

Overall: I’am pretty happy with my new large MOLLE pack, but I’am probably going to be a lot happier when the extra pouches have been added.

Do you have something to say about the ALICE or MOLLE pack?  If so, post your comments in this forum thread about comparing the MOLLE and ALICE packs.

 

Related Post:

MOLLE Pack VS ALICE Pack
Internal vs external frame backpacks
ALICE, MOLLE II or Maxpedition backpack for a 2 day trip
Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger Review
Molle Gear
List of forum threads about MOLLE packs

Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger Review

The Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger is unlike a lot of other backpacks, as it only has one shoulder strap. Its designed so that the user can disconnect an under-the-arm strap, and then spin the pack so that its in front of them. Thus, making the pack easy to access without having to dismount it.

Maxpedition makes 2 packs in its gearslinger series – the Sitka and the Kodiak. In this article we are going to be looking at the Kodiak.

The single shoulder strap supports the weight of the pack, while the under the strap helps to keep the pack in place.

The Kodiak Gearslinger has 5 compartments on it:
Place for the water bladder
Small outer pouch on top outside
Medium outer pouch on outside
Zipper pouch on outside of medium pouch
Main compartment

Some specs from the maxpedition website:

* Single shoulder backpack designed to maximize utility when rotated towards front of body
* Main compartment: 17 high x 10 wide x 4 thick with internal organization
* Top front: 4.5 high x 9 wide x 2 thick with internal organization
* Bottom front: 10 high x 9 wide x 2 thick with internal organization
* Approximate Capacity: 1100 cu. in.
* Fits up to 15.4″ (diagonal screen size) laptop computer.
* Bag can be worn in front and contents comfortably accessed while sitting down
* Water bottle pocket sized to fit 32oz Nalgene bottle
* Compatible with 100oz hydration reservoir
* Theft deterrent devices built-in to capture zipper pulls
* PALS modular webbing throughout to for attaching accessories
* Top and side handles

 

Before the pack is taken out on a hiking / camping trip, I wanted to get a feel for it. So I grabbed some Eversafe meals, GPS, topo maps, water filter, map compass, hammock,,, and put everything in the Kodiak.

Top smaller outer pouch that is on top of the pack – bug spray, topo maps, GPS and map compass fit in there just right.

In the larger outside pouch, my first aid kit and water filter fit in there just right.

In the main compartment, I had the 2 Eversafe meals, rain poncho, rope, and hammock. If this pack was being fitted for a real camping trip, I would have to strap a poncho liner or fleece sleeping bag to the outside of the pack, add a multi-tool, and a couple of other things and it would be ready to go.

I like the pouch on the side for a 32 ounce water bottle. Plus, there is a compartment for a water bladder. So if your heading out in hot weather, you should be able to carry plenty of water.

The strap that goes sunder your arm has an emergency whistle on it – which is a nice addition.

Things that I would like to see changed:

The Kodiak Gearslinger really needs some straps on the bottom. I found it awkward trying to strap a fleece sleeping bag to the pack – when the bag was put on the top of the pack and strapped down, the pack deformed so that it would not have fit my back properly. Having some way to strap something to bottom would really be nice.

Take a couple of the straps on the side and turn them vertical – this would make strapping something to the side much easier.  Lets take a tripod for example, I’am not quit sure how I’am going to strap it to the pack.

Other Maxpedition articles:
Maxpedition Falcon-II and Pygmy Falcon-II
Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger Review
Maxpedition Falcon II Pygmy
Maxpedition Proteus Versipack
List of forum threads on Maxpedition

If you have any comments, please post them in this forum thread about the Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger.

Internal vs external frame backpacks

Internal frame VS external frame backpacks, ask a group of backpackers which one they prefer and your sure to get a variety of answers. The truth is, asking about internal and external frame packs is like asking about:

chevy or ford
dodge or toyota
apples or oranges
iron man or spider man

This article is based on my personal opinion, established through years of hiking, backpacking and camping.

There are pros and cons to every argument – some of it depends on what you like, and what your going to be doing with it. Personally, I do not think there is a “right” or “wrong” answer here. All I can do is tell you why I pick my packs and go from there.

Cool weather -   Having the pack right up against your body helps retain some of your body heat in cold weather.  Depending on how cold it is where your hiking at, this may or may not be a big deal.

Hot weather – Here in east Texas summer temps can get stay in the 90s, day and night.  In July and August day time temps can easily reach the lower 100s.   The external frame allows your body heat to escape from around your back. Just having that little bit of air space can help out a lot.

I have seen people carry an internal frame pack during the summer. When they drop the pack, their back and their pack is drenched with sweat. Just having that little space between your back and the pack can really help out when its 90+ degrees.

Strength – External frame packs feel stronger then internal frame packs – it might be just me, when I have a heavy load, I like having something solid to grab onto. Internal packs just seem flimsy and week – but I know that is not the case.

Military testing – the military test a lot of stuff. So there has to be a reason why they continue to pick an external frame pack over an internal frame. I do not know the “exact” reason, but there has to be something there.

Heavy loads – When you start dealing with heavy loads, the closer you have the pack to your body, the better. Extending the pack off your body just a few inches can put more strain one yourself.

Its like when you carry something that is heavy. Do you hold it at arms length, or do you get it as close to your chest as possible? The same goes for your back. The closer you hold it, the better it carries.

To counter the “having your load next to your body” debate, external frame packs seem to handle heavier loads better then internal frame packs.

We can sit back and say – this pack does that well, while that pack does this well. But a lot of it boils down to which pack serves you the best. It might take you 3, 4, 5 or more packs before you get one that fits well and carries well. Regardless of what you buy, later on you might find something that you do not like.

My pack lineup:
Jansport cloth backpack – frameless
Fieldline – internal frame
Medium alice – external frame
Large alice – external frame
Maxpedition Falcon-II pygmy – frameless
Maxpedition Condor-II – frameless
Maxpedition Vulture-II – frameless
MOLLE-II 3,000 cubic inch with external sleep system – external frame
Large MOLLE-II 4,000 cubic inches – external frame
Kelty Big Bend, 4,000 cubic inches – internal fame
and a couple of others

Before I just grab a pack and head out into the woods, I’ll take the time to size up the situation.

How long will the trip last?
Cool, warm, hot or cold weather?
How long will the trip last?
Will I need extra clothes?
How much water and food do I need?
Is it a day hike, or camping trip?
Hammock camping or tent camping?
Sleeping bag or poncho liner to sleep in?
Am I bringing a camp stove or MREs?

Once some of those questions have been answered, then I will sort through my packs and pick one out. The pack will then be loaded and try it out to see how it fits. Mount the loaded pack, do some squats, pick something up off the floor, twist around a little bit and just get the “feel” for the loaded pack. If I dont like how that pack wears when its loaded with my desired gear list, I’ll try another pack. But most of the time the first pack is the one I go with.

Post your comments in the Internal Versus External Frame Backpacks thread of the forum.

ALICE, MOLLE II or Maxpedition backpack for a 2 day trip

The other day I received a question asking which one would make a good 2 day pack – MOLLE II Rifleman pack, ALICE pack, MOLLE II pack, or something from Maxpedition. In my opinion, there is no clear cut answer. The large ALICE packs are big, but their too “fat” – meaning they extend off my back too much and make me lean forward to balance the load. For this discussion, lets just talk about the medium ALICE pack, 3,000 cubic inch MOLLE II with external sleep system, the Maxpedition Vulture-II and the Maxpedition

For a 1 – 2 day warm – hot weather trip, I would have to go with either the Maxpedition vulture-ii, 3,000 cubic inch MOLLE with external sleep system or a medium ALICE pack.

The large 4,000 cubic MOLLE would be good for cold weather – where you need to carry a large sleeping bag, coat, change of clothes, 4 season tent,,,,,. But for a 2 – 3 day trip in warm weather, the large MOLLE will probably be too big.

A lot of it depends on where your going, temperature, and how much gear you carry. During the summer months, I can usually get away with an 1,800 – 2,000 cubic inch pack for an overnight trip. During July and August, I can get away with a 1,500 – 1,800 cubic inch pack.

Here is a video about the Maxpedition Falcon-II Pygmy that I use as a hot weather pack.

Read the rest of this entry »

Getting fuel after a disaster

As soon as the public gets information that a disaster is looming, people go into panic buying mode. Expect food, bottled water, camping supplies, bread, snacks, camp stoves, charcoal,,,,, well, if its on the shelf, expect people to buy it.

There is one thing that is sold out very quickly, and that is fuel. Before you know it the fuel lines are out to the street, and tempers start to flare.

This video was taken after hurricane Ike hit southeast Texas. People were blocking the roads so other traffic was not able to get through. I did not see any road rage, but its very possible it did happen.

Basic Desert Survival



At first glance the subject of Desert Survival seems deceptively simple. Find water and stay out of the sun; right? Not so fast, its a bit more complicated. To discuss desert survival properly we must ask ourselves a few questions. What is a desert? Why and how long will we be in the desert? And most important of all; what do we mean by desert survival? That is, what and tools supplies will we have with us.

There is no way we could write a complete desert survival guide in a short article. Here we will cover some of the basics precautions that should be taken while traveling or backpacking in the desert.

Just this year, the media covered several deaths caused by desert travel around the south western region of the United States. All of these could have been avoided by taking the proper precautions.

So what is a desert? Close to a third of the world’s surface is considered desert. Most people think of the vast sand dunes of the Sahara as seen in Hollywood movies. But a desert is defined as any arid land area that generally receives less than 10 inches (250 millimeters) of rainfall per year. Most of the little water it does receive is quickly lost through evaporation. Average annual precipitation in the world’s deserts ranges from about 0.4 to 1 inch (10 to 25 millimeters) in the driest areas to 10 inches (250 millimeters) in semiarid regions. Antarctica and parts of the Arctic are considered desert, but we are going to cover what we could call a hot desert.

Other features that mark desert systems include high winds, low humidity, and temperatures that can fluctuate dramatically. Hot deserts often experience drastic temperature changes with very high temperatures during the day and contrasting frosty nights. The temperature ranges seen in the Southwestern deserts can range from 120 degrees during the day to freezing temperatures at night. The same cloudless sky that allows the sun to bake our skin during the day, quickly cools the ground at night by radiating the heat into space. This makes the desert a challenging place to survive in.

Unlike desert plants and animals, humans have not developed the extreme protective mechanisms needed to truly “survive” in the desert. So what that should tell us is that we must thoroughly prepare to travel or survive for a set period of time within this arid territory. Part of this preparation must include obtaining and using the proper protective gear and supplies.


So what can we do to improve our odds in case of an emergency? The same steps taken to avoid a survival situation in most cases.


* Plan the trip – make a travel plan
* Prepare your vehicle
* Know the possible dangers
* Have an emergency kit
* Understand the region


Plan the Trip

Whether you are simply driving through a desert to get to your destination or planning a backpacking trip, it is essential that you prepare properly. Using the rule of threes as a guide, we know that the body can only live three days without water under normal conditions. The higher desert temperatures and low humidity increase dehydration. The simple process of breathing causes fluid loss. Plan for at least a gallon a day per person preferably two. Remember, we can make fire, we can make a shelter, but we cannot make water.

Plan your route and share the information with several people you can trust. Let them know when you plan on going in, what locations you will be traveling through, and most importantly, when you plan to be back or check in! During our recent desert trips, we shared our location down to GPS coordinates. Set times when you will check in. Stick to your plan, and if anything changes take the time to call your safety contacts.

If anything happens, stay on your plan route. If you are traveling by car, stay with the vehicle. Try to make yourself visible. My emergency blanket is orange on one side and reflective mylar on the other side. This can be used for both signaling and to create a quick shelter for shade.

Signaling:

* Signal Mirrors:

A signaling mirror can be seen at long distances. Learn how to properly use one. If you do not have a signaling mirror, break a side mirror off your vehicle if needed. Learn different signaling methods. A distress signal can be 3 fires in a V shape or piles of rocks in a triangular shape.

A signaling mirror can help rescue see a person at a much greater distance. As the following images indicate, the glare from a mirror will be visible long after the human shape has blended into the background. If a signal mirror is not available try using different reflective objects. (examples: rear-view mirror, side mirror, CDs, Chrome plated items)

* Flares:

Flares can be used to signal at night and can also be used to start fires in an emergency.

* Signal fires:

Set up materials for a signal fire. Wood in the desert is scarce at times and will be very dry. It will not create dark smoke so other items have to be added to the signal fire. Your spare tire, oil from the engine or pieces of the car interior will make dark smoke.
Try to find shade. If there is no available shade, make some. We can use the reflective tarp or dig a trench under the vehicle once it cools down. Remember that some critters seek the same shade.
Note: If you have infants or elderly as part of the group, they will be affected by the temperature changes more quickly. Do whatever is necessary to get them in the shade as soon as possible. Pouring water on clothing can help to cool them down.

Prepare your vehicle

Prepare your vehicle. Check the fluids, the tires, and the electrical. A few basic items to carry in your vehicle include:


* Water! Several large blue plastic jugs (marked water)
* Shovel – in case the vehicle gets stuck
* Car jack – Exhaust air jack
* Sand ladders – pieces of carpet can sometimes do the trick
* Wool blanket
* Reflective blanket
* Portable battery booster
* Hose repair kit
* Signal mirror – flares – distress flag or ballons
* Fuel can (metal)
* On board air compressor
* Spare serpentine/fan belt
* CB radio if possible

These items are just suggestions. The type of trip taken and the length of time must be taken into consideration. Do some of the items seem extreme? Recently someone followed their GPS directions into unmaintained desert roads. Their vehicle was buried in the sand and they were stranded for days which lead to the death of one of the group members. This tragic event perhaps could have been avoided with extra water and a shovel.
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