by Todd Walker
Part of our Self-Reliant Summer series
It’s Summertime! A season where families and friends hit the trails and waterways for hikes, boating, and outdoor adventures. Sounds fun, right?
But here’s the thing…
Well over half of all survival scenarios occur on short outings in the woods or on the water. One wrong turn and you’re lost. Or an ankle sprain hobbles your partner. Your two-hour day hike turns into an over-nighter. Fly fishing that river in your canoe becomes a survival trip after a late-day thunder-storm.
Have you seen the Naked and Afraid show on TV? Apparently, people volunteer to be hurled into a jungle or tropical island with only one tool and their birthday suit.
My only question is… WHY?
I get it. Survival TV is a booming bonanza for network executives. But quite frankly, some of the drama on these shows will get you killed!
When was the last time you took a day hike naked? You may add color to your butt cheeks, but it’s neither realistic nor smart. It’s hard for me to wrap my mind around a scenario in the wild where I would voluntarily spend twenty or so days without clothing.
Wait! Just thought of one. Maybe a mischievous woods gnome hides in the brush to snatch my clothing while I skinny dip in the creek (now that is realistic and enjoyable!). A gnome stealing my clothes would happen before I’d voluntarily leave my protective clothing at home. But I digress.
To make it out alive during an unexpected survival scenario, you need every advantage available. Here are my top tips to remain clothed and confident on your next outdoor adventure this summer.
Note: I can’t lie. I stole the phrase “clothed and confident” from a fellow bushcrafter (grierwolf) on his excellent Youtube channel. He’s working on a whole series of videos to debunk or confirm the drama portrayed on the many survival TV shows, survival blogs, and video channels. I love that he’s trading theory for real-life action!
You can check out his entire Clothed and Confident series by clicking this link.
How to Have a Clothed and Confident Summer
1.) Clothing (Capt. Obvious here)
Or the lack of appropriate clothing and footwear. Those new hiking boots you’ve never tested in the field could become your Achilles heel. Think of the painful blisters that may become infected and hobble your chances of self-rescue. You can’t grin and bear bad shoes! Test and break in new footwear before heading out.
Wear appropriate clothing to protect you from the sun’s blistering rays and extreme conditions. Due to a skin condition, I wear a wide-brimmed hat when in the field. I also wear a buff around my neck with built-in UV protection. Know your individual needs and environment before heading out.
Have multiply methods to make water potable. At over 8 pounds per gallon, you can’t carry enough water in your backpack to keep you hydrated on multi-day treks. At a bare minimum, you need a metal container and a way to make fire to boil water for disinfection.
Commercial filters are available and weigh next to nothing. I’ve become very fond of the Sawyer water filter. Whatever you choose, become proficient with your method. Summer heat saps your body of hydration goodness. You’ll need more than you think if your ever have to self-rescue!
Know your limitations. Loving a good challenge is one thing. However, taking adventures that are not in line with your physical condition or fitness level is an invitation for disaster.
Once fatigue crawls on your back like an angry gorilla, you’re more prone to serious injury and bad decisions. There are no short cuts or magic pills to increase your physical conditioning. Time, effort, sweat, and soreness are involved. Your outdoor ambitions should line up with your skill/fitness level.
Being lost in an unfamiliar wilderness or body of water kills the fun factor. Always leave a written itinerary of your adventure with a trusted friend or family member before the journey.
Your plan should include at least these three W’s:
- Where and when you’re headed out. Including a map of the trails and area would be very useful to a search and rescue team.
- When you plan to return. A written itinerary isn’t much good if your family knows where you are but have no clue when to expect your back. If they think you’re camping for a week, when you really only planned a two-day outing, the extra five days could leave you in a world of hurt.
- Who and how many are in your group. Are there any special needs in the group (age, special needs, health conditions, male/female, etc.). If rescuers are tracking you or your group, this info would be very valuable.
More people die of hypothermia in the summer than in the winter. This is probably due to people not being prepared to control their core temperature on hot summer days. Hypothermia begins when the human body’s core temperature drops below 95º F.
If you have to hunker down to wait out a storm on a ridge, know the enemies of thermoregulation…
My brother-in-law and I were caught in a thunderstorm on a large lake in my small Jon boat years ago. We saw signs of the gathering storm and headed back to the truck which was located two miles away. We couldn’t outrun the storm with my 7.5 horse powered engine and almost capsized hitting the 3 foot wind tossed waves.
The July heat in Georgia hit the mid 90’s before that storm. By the time we made it to the boat ramp, we were soaked and shivering – an early sign of hypothermia. We weren’t prepared for unpredictable weather or the bone-chilling cold that followed.
Take along some type of covering like an emergency space blanket or contractor trash bag on short fishing trips or day hikes. A more substantial cover (tarp/tent) would be warranted on overnight trips in the outdoors. Being drenched from a summer thunder-storm may be refreshing at first but can lead to hypothermia in extended situations. The key here is to be prepared for thermoregulation. Lightweight plastic can be folded to fit inside a tackle box or pant pocket without adding much weight.
“It can’t happen to me” attitude gets people killed. The more I learn about any subject the more I realize how much I don’t know. The moment we know it all is the most dangerous time.
Stay humble, my friends!
And keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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