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Old 03-03-2012, 12:29 PM
GhostPepper5K GhostPepper5K is offline
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I’m writing this brief story as an experience and the lessons learned from the experience and how it relates to prepping. It was very eye opening on many levels. First the story, then the lessons:

So, I went to go hike about 25 miles in 2 and a half days with a friend of mine who is in pretty good shape and experienced at back packing. I’m in my early forties, about 20 lbs overweight, and haven’t done much physical activity since I stopped mixed martial arts about 7 years ago. On top of it, I have smoked about 25 of the last 30 years, with the last year being quit.

I didn’t have a lot of time this week to think about the trip, so I focused on making sure I had all the gadgets and gear I needed. We left a vehicle at each end of the route and headed out, hitting the trail at 0900. Within the first 15 minutes we had to make an elevation change of about 500 feet. I huffed and puffed my way up until it leveled off. I was fine for the level and downhill grades. The uphill grades were brutal on me and I had to take my time.

At eight miles in, my thighs were screaming at me, I was winded, and my plantar fasciaitis had returned (microtears in the heel ligament). By this point, the rain had moved in three hours early, we had spent through our water, needed to eat and we were still 6 miles from the shelter at 1400. After eating/resting for almost an hour, we headed back to the trail. The rain had picked up and I had no rain gear with me. Note: The forecast before we left in the morning said the rains were supposed to move in around 1700 and move out by 0800. The weather report was wrong – a very common occurrence in the Northern VA region.

Looking at our pace – by now about 1 mph – there was no way we were going to make it to the shelter before dark. And physically, I didn’t think I was going to make it. We did not want to be on the trail in the dark and in the pouring rains. We took a chance on a trail club owned cabin less than a mile away. We knew it would be locked, but hoped it had an overhang or a way to get in. We got there and it did have a small overhang but it was locked up tight with no way in. Plus we also had our two dogs with us. Within 15 minutes of getting to the shelter, four guys (the occupants) showed up. We explained our predicament and they were beyond understanding and accommodating. They took us in the cabin, which accommodated 8.

We had a great time. All of the guys were like minded, including two who were preppers. No one had any candles, so I figure problem solved, I have a 12 hour chem light I’d contribute. It was dead. I then fire up my flashlight for another task and the batteries died within five minutes. I figured no problem, I’ll throw in a new set. Those were dead in 15 minutes. Bed time comes and I get out my Snugpak sleeping bag – great, the zipper was stuck a third of the way up. Another fail. So we made it through the night. Thankfully the cabin had a great wood stove in it. This morning, the kind folks gave us a lift to one of the vehicles and we came home. At first, I felt defeated and a little embarrassed for cutting short the trip. Then I realized all of the lessons learned and thought about how they could help me, and hopefully others.

Now, the lessons learned:

Lesson 1) TEST YOURSELF – I had no idea if I could do it or not. But being the type of person I am, I figured “piece of cake.” How wrong I was. I made it 10 miles and petered out. What would happen if I had to get home or bug out, covering 30 miles over terrain, in two days? Could I do it? I now know what I can and can’t do and have a baseline to improve from.


Lesson 2) KNOW YOUR HEALTH AND FITNESS LEVEL – My medical issues came out when pressed. And regardless of how committed someone is to accomplishing something, there are times when your body just won’t let you do it. Plan and make adjustments to accommodate for physical limitations. If it is something that can be improved, then do it. I need to lose twenty pounds and improve my stamina. Plus build my thigh muscles back up. Being overweight with no stamina is one of the quickest ways to succumb in an emergency/SHTF situation.


Lesson 3) TEST YOUR GEAR – Having a chem light, sleeping bag, and flashlight fail during an overnight backpacking trip is bad, but not life threatening. What if this had been a real SHTF scenario and the temperature had been 20 degrees and not 40? It could have been much worse.


Lesson 4) THINK ABOUT ALTERNATIVES – Had I not realized that I physically couldn’t make the last 4 miles we could have been stuck in the pitch black, with a failing flashlight, physically debilitated, and socked in with fog so thick, visibility was 10 feet – literally. Think about what could happen from consequences and what you can do to avoid being put in a worse situation than you are currently in.


Lesson 5) COTTON KILLS – All the guys had on synthetic jackets and pants. I had on cotton pants and a mixed material top. I am home now, but my gear is still wet. Think about what clothing you have on hand in a get home or bail out situation. It could save your life.


Lesson 6) TRAVEL LIGHTLY – While I am a gearhead and like to pack everything but the kitchen sink, sometimes it is best to forego the goodies. When I got home, I weighed my pack – it was 46 lbs. Waaay too much weight that probably took two miles off of my range. Start to think about what you REALLY need in a bail out/get home situation. Losing 10 lbs of gear may make all the difference.


Lesson 7) COOKING VS. EATING – I had packed nothing but dehydrated meals and Clif bars. This is great if you are camping. But if you are on the move, cooking is not so convenient. We lost thirty minutes waiting for my water to boil and letting the food reconstitute. My buddy ate his cold MREs was ready to go within 10 minutes. Think about what you have to eat and make sure you can do it on the fly.


Lesson 8) KNOW YOUR ORGANIZATION – I spent a lot of time trying to find what pocket I put which piece of gear in. It was a new pack and I had no system of organization. Know where your items are. If you have a sleeping bag, put it on the bottom, not the top as I did.


Lesson 9) GEAR MATTERS – Compare notes with people. I have about three liters of water in my GHB. What a pain in the ass to get to while on the move. Thankfully, my buddy lent me a spare 1.5L hydration bladder and I was immediately a convert. I had originally planned to put a big bottle of water in my pack and get to it when I needed. This thing saved me. Another fantastic device my friend brought along was the Platypus Gravity Filter (http://cascadedesigns.com/platypus/f...filter/product). This thing was awesome. After screwing with MSR, Katadyn pumps, etc. the Platypus outperformed all in this scenario. Especially when we were out of water, resting in a seasonal picnic area and the only way to get more H2O was to collect it from the rain coming from the downspout. It also worked well to scoop out water from a spring and a creek. It filtered 4L of water in under 5 minutes and easily transferred it into the hydration bladders. And another invaluable device all of the other guys had were clip on visor lights. Much easier than holding a Surefire in your teeth. The lesson here is LEARN FROM OTHERS.

In addition, I brought along a bottle of the MiO water flavor enhancer energy version. It packs caffeine and several B vitamins. It is awesome – highly recommended – and WalMart has a version that is a buck cheaper.

I hope this little tale of mine resonates with at least a few people. It was a humbling experience and I write this tale while nursing my very sore thighs, hips, and foot. It was a real eye opener for me and has caused me to rethink one critical aspect of prepping – getting home. It also caused me to reconsider another important aspect – making the 66 mile round trip walk to get my kids from their mom’s WTSHTF (she knows I am better prepared). Hopefully, my experience can help a few.
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Old 03-03-2012, 01:00 PM
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Good thoughts.

I am often amused by people who talk about driving to BOLs hundreds of miles away, or who say a BOL should be something like at least a hundred miles away from a population center. That's all fine and good, but what happens if you have to walk part or all the way there?

For every hour that it takes to drive there during a normal drive you can pretty much count on it taking you a WEEK to walk there, and that is if you are in decent shape, not sick or injured and you don't have to carry a lot of supplies with you.

Those people with BOLs that are 4 to 6 hours drive away are just not going to make it if they have to walk, unless they are in super shape and have caches along the way and even then I would not want to depend on them making it. If they have children or elderly, then they will have to slow way down.

I know personally I am badly out of shape. I huff and puff just walking up more than three flights of stairs. I have health problems (bad back/neck) that will make it hard to haul a lot of gear and walking any distance, especially downhill, causes back pain (sometimes enough to make it difficult to walk any distance). If I have to walk more than a day or two I am doomed.

My plan is to not have to walk at all, but rather have a BOL that I live at, and is close enough for my daughter and her husband to walk to in a day or two in the worst of conditions.

That may mean that I am within 25 miles of a population center, but having something that close and is reachable is better than having something much further away that is not reachable. I plan to possibly have a secondary last ditch BOL up in the hills - maybe. I don't really think it is all that likely that I would have to bug out in the first place.
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Old 03-03-2012, 01:06 PM
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Originally Posted by GhostPepper5K View Post

Lesson 7) COOKING VS. EATING I had packed nothing but dehydrated meals and Clif bars. This is great if you are camping. But if you are on the move, cooking is not so convenient. We lost thirty minutes waiting for my water to boil and letting the food reconstitute. My buddy ate his cold MREs was ready to go within 10 minutes. Think about what you have to eat and make sure you can do it on the fly.
You can get various water heaters for FD food. MRE heaters work, as does stuff like the "Mountain Oven" (a variation on the MRE heater. You just pour the water in and then you can walk along while the food heats up. Also, you can eat most FD cold - it is already cooked usually, you just pour the water in and let it reconstitute. Not as nice a hot meal, but it works. Some of the FD food you can eat without reconstituting it.

I like FD food for emergencies since it is much lighter, compact, lasts indefinitely (even in the foil packages) and you can eat it on the go.
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Old 03-05-2012, 09:31 AM
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Doing some more thinking on this issue. Besides starting to run and train with a weighted pack, I am going to make some gear changes. My thinking is that backpacking is very close to a get home situation. My plan is to make my GHB and my backpack kit pretty much one in the same. So, gearwise:

- Switch to LED flashlights, including visor light
- Add light rain shell
- Change sleeping bag to a very lightweight and small one, versus my 0 degree Snugpak
- Get some decent waterproof bags - Ziplocs suck
- Switch to MREs from dehydrated food, or at least for daytime usage

My goal is to get my GHB/backpacking rig to 25-27 lbs.
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Old 03-05-2012, 09:49 AM
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lightweight gear over long distances is key... on my longest hike, i did about 22 miles in 1.5 days on the AT in virginia... i had a etool and a hatchet with me (i generally way overpacked) and i was smoked by the end of it, we actually called it quits about 8 miles shy of our goal. we had a great pace the first day, but were smoked on day 2.

my pack was up into the 50 lbs range, which is the load i was used to from rucking in the army, though we only went 6-12 miles in training... this was way beyond that, and over harsher terrain than roads on our training areas.

all good lessons learned, thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-05-2012, 09:55 AM
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An e-tool AND hatchet. Awesome. I looked at my Gerber hatchet and my buddy said don't even think about it. What I carry now is awesome, light, and on sale: http://www.botachtactical.com/sogf10focasa.html.

22 miles on the AT in one day is quite impressive. Especially carrying 50 lbs.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:02 AM
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I would definetely suggest doing some shorter rucks before trying a 25 mile.

The best lessons will always be learned from trying out your gear though. Be it your BOB/GHB or your rocket stove or bio fuel maker. All the planning in the world only gets you so far.

All good lessons you learned though, thank you for sharing.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:33 AM
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It is day two that always seems to kick my butt.

One lesson I have learned is to stop the first day before you are completely shot. An extra hour to make the night more comfortable is worth more than the extra distance you might gain...

A light pack is king. I would rather wing it without something I left behind than carry
something I didn't use. A first aid kit might be my one exception...

Good report.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:43 AM
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Thanks a lot. Lesson number 7 gave me a lot to think about. Even though I'm planning on bugging in, I think I will replace all the mountain house in my BOB with more mre's.
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Old 03-05-2012, 10:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GhostPepper5K View Post
An e-tool AND hatchet. Awesome. I looked at my Gerber hatchet and my buddy said don't even think about it. What I carry now is awesome, light, and on sale: http://www.botachtactical.com/sogf10focasa.html.

22 miles on the AT in one day is quite impressive. Especially carrying 50 lbs.
Awesome. Thanks for the link.
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Old 03-05-2012, 11:00 AM
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great thread. reminder that this is all about fitness and not about guns. I keep a tarp and paracord in my get home bag. I'd like to add foot pain is a weakness you can't beat. Plantar faciatis is awful. Did you have stiff soled shoes?
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Old 03-05-2012, 11:07 AM
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@KaBar: No, it has been coming and going over the last few months. Ironically, one of the hikers that let us in their cabin was asking me about it. Said he had the surgery to repair his. I then mentioned intermittent tennis elbow. He asked me if I was on cholesterol medication (statins), which I am. I asked him how he knew. Apparently, 30% of those on statins develop some form of tendon/ligament issue. My plantar fasciaitis started about 2 months after getting on the meds.

To answer your question - no - I wasn't wearing stiff soled shoes. I was actually wearing a comfy pair of broken in Garmont T8 assault boots. Light and flexible.
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Old 03-05-2012, 11:14 AM
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I didn't see anyone here mention this, but caffeine is not your friend. Sure there is a slight pick up of energy, but there is also the "crash" when it is over which makes you feel more tired than you would have been without the caffeine. Also, caffeine is a diarrhetic, which means it actually dehydrates you as you drink it.

All good lessons to learn. At least you discovered these BEFORE they were life or death. I have been saying for two years I want to go out camping with nothing more than my backpack and see how it goes. Time/Life just never seems to allow for it. Maybe this year...
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Old 03-05-2012, 11:26 AM
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@Rand: good point on the caffeine. I'm not a serious caffeine user. I used it more as getting going in the morning. During the hike/ruck/Bataan death march, I am strictly a water guy.
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:01 PM
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What is that link to? It is blocked for me for some reason.

I can go to botachtactical.com but not to that link.
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Old 03-05-2012, 12:27 PM
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@shelback - Botach has SOG folding saws on sale for 11.48 out the door.
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Old 03-05-2012, 01:54 PM
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@shelback - Botach has SOG folding saws on sale for 11.48 out the door.


AHhhh. When I go to their home page and search for 'folding saw' it takes me directly to the page originally linked to. Not sure what is preventing a direct jump.

Thanks

That does look like a useful item. I have a handle designed to hold sawzall blades and a log pruning saw blade for it. Right now it's just wrapped in newspaper to protect the world from it's sharp teeth. It cuts like a champ, but I have yet to find a good solution for carrying it.

Maybe a folding saw is the answer. I so far have not found any that are sturdy and light.
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Old 03-05-2012, 03:33 PM
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Originally Posted by GhostPepper5K View Post
An e-tool AND hatchet. Awesome. I looked at my Gerber hatchet and my buddy said don't even think about it. What I carry now is awesome, light, and on sale: http://www.botachtactical.com/sogf10focasa.html.

22 miles on the AT in one day is quite impressive. Especially carrying 50 lbs.
you had me at sale... thanks
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Old 03-05-2012, 05:30 PM
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I agree strongly with the importance of testing absolutely EVERYTHING! There have been a large number of threads, from people having unexpected power or water outages, to folks making their first test run with their BOB. Every single thread was full of important, even critical, lessons learned. Just like this excellant thread.

I remember a thread about a member making his first test run with his BOB. His first trip ended short because of severe blistering. Something he hadn't anticipated. He also had issues with biting insects. His second attempt went much better. Imagine if he had never made that first test run and had to bug out for real. It may have ended fatally.

Yet so many people don't test their gear and theirselves. I think threads like this one are invaluable in trying to wake people up to the huge importance of testing everything before counting on it.
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Old 03-05-2012, 05:31 PM
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Quote:
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What is that link to? It is blocked for me for some reason.

I can go to botachtactical.com but not to that link.
Google reviews for Botach before sending them your money. A lot of us have been screwed over in a big way by them over the years. There was just a recent thread here about it in fact. I think it was in one of the gun forums.
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