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Posted 3/2/18

There is nothing better than a hike in the woods and wilderness areas. However, you must be prepared for all possibilities, especially with extreme weather conditions.

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There is nothing better than a hike in the woods and wilderness areas. However, you must be prepared for all possibilities, especially with extreme weather conditions.

James Chapman, an  outdoors expert, noted, “When humans go up against Mother Nature’s wrath, Mother Nature wins.”
“Soon people will be taking to the outdoors and a chance for disaster is always there,” he noted.

A scenario he used was people who go hiking or hunting with friends. When they started, the weather was pleasant and a light jacket was all that was needed. The plan is to get back before sundown.

As the group hikes the trail, one member steps off for a pit stop. A heavy thick fog moves in and he has difficulty finding the main trail. The friends didn’t realize he were not with them so they moved on. As he call out, no one answers. He tries his cell phone, but in the mountains, it doesn’t work.

Chapman noted, as the sun goes down, usually the temperatures also go down. The fog will make clothing damp and now hypothermia is possible.

“Hypothermia occurs when the body gets cold and loses heat faster than the body can make it,” Chapman said. “What many don’t know is records show the average temperature that people die of hypothermia is 50 degrees.”

Chapman said, “Knowledge is the best survival tool. Your life could depend on it.”

He recommends individuals spending time in the outdoors take the time to learn some basic skills so as to handle the above situation.

He said basic survival items in a daypack, adds only about 3 pounds.

“There are other items you may need, such as extra medicine or anything else unique to your needs. Think what would I need if I got lost,” Chapman said.

Basic tools may include:

• Map and compass. Yes, you can use a GPS, if it will work and the batteries don’t run down. A topographic map (accurate representation of the physical features) and a compass should be part of the survival plan. Learn how to use them, have fun learning by making it a family project. When you start out on your hike, put the objects in a zip lock bag to keep them dry.

• Bring plenty of water. Include water purification tables or a personal water purifier in case you get lost. Since our bodies are 60 percent water, we can live up to three weeks without food, but only a few days without water.

Waterproof and windproof jacket and pants, waterproof boots and merino wool socks should be part of your tools.
Wool clothing is usually a good choice as it wicks moisture away. Hygroscopic fiber retains heat after it gets wet. There are other quality fibers for outdoor also.
Bring a wool cap. A person will lose 25 percent of heat through an uncovered head, Chapman said. “One reason your brain takes over and tells the body to shiver and shake uncontrollably is to warm you body’s core to get warm blood to the brain. After the shivering period, if need be, the brain will redirect blood from your extremities to the body’s core by restricting the veins in the hands and feet. That is why fingers and toes get frost bit first.”

A pair of gloves in the backpack can also be a good idea.

• Include wind and waterproof matches — or a small cigarette lighter. Instant fuel such as cotton balls soaked in Vaseline, or another chemical fuel source are useful. Fire starters can be bought in outdoor shops.

• Bring a survival “emergency blanket bag.” This is a tough bright silver film, which will reflect heat to your body keeping you warmer. Chapman said he carries two in his pack. They are only $4 and come in a tube-like shape that opens up like a plastic leaf bag. You can crawl inside to cover your entire body.

• A tarp is also very handy. Get the smallest size. It can be used as a quick tent or to work under while you build a fire.
• A good quality thick spine knife (fixed blade top) about 8 inches long should be carried on your belt. Chapman said he also carries a pocketknife.

• A small folding handsaw that fits on you belt can also be useful.

• Strong cord — 50 feet of Para cord, about 4 ounces is good. This cord is extremely strong, cheap and light. Get the blaze orange for visibility.

• A metal whistle (not plastic) can help signal help. While you can yell a surprisingly short period, you can blow a whistle as much as needed to alert rescuers of your position.

• Glasses, if you need them, and an extra pair in a hard case should be included.

• Toilet paper should be included. You don’t need a whole roll, just some folded in a zip lock bag.

• A metal signal mirror (not glass). Remember three flashes at a time.

• Small but powerful flashlight and extra batteries are a necessity. Again, signal with three flashes.

• Bug repellent is helpful.

• A couple of Band-Aids, antiseptic, tape and gauze should be included.

• Before you start on the trail, be sure someone knows where you plan on going.

If you get lost, Chapman said, the first thing is not to panic. “Sit down. Stay put and keep calm. The goal is to get out of the situation alive and healthy.”
First you need to build a shelter and fire to stay warm and dry, as well as keep the animals away.

Survey the area. Find a place where water will not run toward your shelter. Don’t set up your shelter near a dead tree. If bugs are out in warm weather, build your shelter on  hill. The breeze will help keep them away.

Since a shelter will be built with sticks, leaves and pine straw, you need to find your supplies before it gets dark and place them near the spot selected for your shelter.

Chapman said the day before he goes on a trip, he will use “Deet” to repel mosquitoes or “Permanone” to keep ticks and chiggers off. He does not put it on his skin, but on his clothes the night before the trip. This way the chemical will be dry by the time he puts the clothes on. He reminds people to always read the warning on bug sprays of any kind.

Chapman said the way to build a shelter is straightforward. The accompanying photos show one he built step-by-step.

First you need three one-inch thick sticks or larger; two of them need to be 5 foot and the third eight-feet long. Take two 5-footers and the 8-foot piece, tie them all together at one end, prop them up against each other where they hold each other up and become like a tree-legged tripod.

The first two shaped like an A will be the entrance to the shelter. The 8-foot piece is where you body will lay underneath (photo No. 1). Next build a bed underneath the 8-foot stick with a layer of small cedar boughs and then pile on the dry leaves. The cedar boughs are the box springs and the leaves the mattress. Take the tripod and brace it with wood pieces down along the 8-foot stick. Chapman said his grandson described it as ribs of a whale’s skeleton (photo No. 2).

Next use cedar boughs or pine boughs on the outside walls, placing them against the ribs to give it something to cling to (photo NO. 3). Now pile on your leaves, pine straw and anything that sheds water. The more you pile on, the warmer it will be.

Put heavier large logs vertically on the outside walls to keep wind from disturbing your shelter. The tarp could be thrown over the shelter with heavier logs to keep wind from blowing it.

Chapman warns do not tie the tarp to the shelter. The wind could catch it and you could lose your shelter.

After building a shelter, start a fire. Find small branches — the size of a pencil— to break off and use to start your fire. You need a dead branch that will burn. If it bends, it is still green. Put pieces in a teepee shape around and over your nest of twigs. Under the nest put the cotton balls soaked in Vaseline or a fire starter under the fire.

The next thing is to signal for help. A universal help signal is three of anything — three blasts on the whistle, or three flashes of light. Blaze orange pieces taped to your tarp that spells help can be seen from the air easily.

Chapman said the information above is basic survival techniques. There are other useful survival actions.

“It’s important to get outside, but go prepared,” he said.

Chapman is a certified instructor for hunter education programs, is trained and instructed in orientation of company and topography maps. He also teaches hunter safety,


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