Photo: A fist-sized survival item gives outdoorsmen a sense of comfort in the backcountry. Tip Editor Tim H. Martin knows all too well — shown here moments before getting slammed by an ice storm.
Thirty years of elk hunting in the mountains of Western Washington have taught me an important lesson every hunter should practice: Be prepared to stay in the woods longer than planned.
I’ve learned you should always go into the wilderness ready to spend the night whether you expect to or not. This means having the necessary articles for survival should you get lost or unexpectedly find yourself detained in the woods.
Here are several essentials for sustaining life in an emergency situation; I always keep them in my backpack.
Always have a good, sharp knife. Its uses are too many to name.
Obviously, fire is vital for providing signals to rescue parties, as well as heat and cooking, yet so few hunters bring gear to start a fire. A cigarette lighter could save your life, although they run out of fuel. Keep a magnesium-block fire starter or a bottle of waterproof matches with dry kindling.
Twine or parachute cord is a lifeline with multiple uses, such as building a shelter and setting snares for small game.
Another vital item is a large contractor-size garbage bag(s). These can provide an extra layer to block wind and retain heat when pulled over your body’s core.
The bag can be used to construct a small tent-like shelter by stringing your twine between two trees and draping the plastic over them. Rocks can be used to weigh down the sides — simple, yet effective.
Although I carry a map and a high-end GPS, I always carry a compass. Should my GPS fail, the compass will give me bearings. Plus, it never needs batteries.
Last, and possibly most important, is water. I carry a lightweight backpacker’s water filter; however, water purification tablets might be best for the average hunter. The tablets take up no room and can be used to purify water from almost any water source found in the outdoors.
Whether you are hunting, fishing, backpacking or hiking, be safe, but be prepared.
Editor’s Note by Tim H. Martin
While preparing for a backcountry trip in Colorado, I researched survival gear and found packable emergency kits can be found in most sporting goods stores. They are perfect for hunters!
The fist-sized kit I bought for about $10 has a space blanket, waterproof matches, a whistle, a compass, water purification tablets and more.
On two occasions I thought I was going to have to use it. Once when I got caught in an unexpected ice storm on the Continental Divide, and once when I mistakenly took a wrong turn deep in the Rockies.
Both situations were life-threatening, but I had comfort in knowing I was prepared if I had to spend the night in the wilderness.
— Photo Courtesy of Tim H. Martin
Read Recent Tip of the Week:
• Aim Small, Miss Small: Try incorporating aim small, miss small into your practice routine. You’ll save yourself a lot of misses and a lot of time tracking wounded animals.