Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Make this effective firemaking kit: A special section from the Bend Bulletin

The ability to build a survival fire for warming, light or signalling can be critical during a wilderness emergency. Here are some proven techniques from the Bulletin Winter Survival Guide.
by Leon Pantenburg
Click here to buy survival kits
Click  to buy survival kits

In October, 2007, The Bend (OR) Bulletin published a special winter survival guide for Central Oregon, which I researched and wrote.
Being able to make a quick campfire under survival conditions can save your life. (Pantenburg photo)

There was a real need for practical survival information at the time. In November, 2006, veteran snowmobiler Roger Rouse, 53, of Bend, died of hypothermia in Deschutes National Forest, about 10 miles west of Bend. He and his son had intended to only be out for a morning ride when a fierce snowstorm overwhelmed them. (To read the complete story, click here.)
Less than a month later, in December 2006, Californian James Kim, 35, died in the Rogue River Wilderness after leaving his wife and children to get help. The family car was stuck in snow on a remote road. (To see Larry King’s coverage of the Kim tragedy, click here.)
Shortly after the Kim tragedy, I was asked to research, write and put together a practical winter survival guide. Long story short, the next fall, the Bulletin published the guide. It received some awards and a lot of attention.
The Bulletin is publishing the three-part series as a public service, and this week's section features emergency firemaking. Check out Part Two.
For more survival gear information, click on making your own survival kits!
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Use different levels of survival kits: A special section from the Bend Bulletin

Nationwide attention was brought to winter survival because of a stalled vehicle tragedy in 2006.
by Leon Pantenburg
The genesis of SurvivalCommonSense.com began after two fatalities in Central Oregon in late 2006.
Click here to buy survival kits
Click here to buy survival kits
A survival situation can start with a vehicle sliding off the road in bad weather. (Pantenburg photo)
A survival situation can start with a vehicle sliding off the road (Pantenburg photo)

In November, veteran snowmobiler Roger Rouse, 53, of Bend, died of hypothermia in Deschutes National Forest, about 10 miles west of Bend. He and his son had intended to only be out for a morning ride when a fierce snowstorm overwhelmed them. (To read the complete story, click here.)
Less than a month later, in December 2006, Californian James Kim, 35, died in the Rogue River Wilderness after leaving his wife and children to get help. The family car was stuck in snow on a remote road. (To see Larry King’s coverage of the Kim tragedy, click here.)
Shortly after the Kim tragedy, the editor of The Bulletin in Bend, Oregon, asked me to put together a practical winter survival guide.
“Talk to (Deschutes County) Search and Rescue, find out what the trends are, and what gear people need to take with them,” the editor said. “Then, come up with a practical survival kit for our readers, based on the experts’ recommendations. This is an investigative assignment. Check out all sources, and test everything.”
The survival guide was received very well, and got a lot of attention. At that point, I figured out that there needed to be more practical survival information available, and I started the SurvivalCommonSense website. Now, more than a million views later, we're pleased to continue our common sense approach to wilderness survival.
As a public service, The Bulletin is reprinting the winter survival series.
Thank you, Bulletin! Here is the original survival guide.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Eight reasons why you need notebook in your emergency gear

Part of my everyday carry gear is a notebook and a pen or pencil. Here is why these are important.
by Leon Pantenburg
For decades, I have carried a pencil or pen and small pocket notebook as part of my everyday carry gear.
I always carry a pencil and notebook in my compass setup. (Pantenburg photos)
I always carry a pencil and notebook in my compass setup. (Pantenburg photos)
As a working journalist, these are tools of the trade, and this is a no-brainer. Part of my job is gathering information and interviewing sources. I always have a larger notebook in my briefcase or car and a pen and pencil.
But the small, pocket-sized notebook that fits in my hip pocket gets used way beyond what you'd imagine. In my urban lifestyle, that's the notebook I use constantly to write messages, grocery lists, notes to put under windshield wiper blades, and reminders of things to do.
But the most important aspect is convenience. If the notebook is easy to carry, you won't leave it behind.
You might want to invest in a notebook with waterproof paper as some foresters or emergency personnel use. But whatever size you carry in the backcountry, make sure your notebook is carried in a plastic bag, or something that keeps it dry in the rain or after a dunking in a creek.
And no electronic gee-wizardry, please. Anything powered by batteries is as reliable as the power source. Cold weather can kill batteries in your whatever-phone, leaving you with a paperweight.
In a survival kit, your notebook can be more important than you could imagine. Here are some uses:
Write a treatment note: Suppose you have to administer first aid to someone, and the victim must be passed on to a Search And Rescue or Emergency Medical Technician. Medical personnel will really appreciate a brief note, documenting what treatment you have already done. Use the five Ws: Who, What, Where, Why and When to explain what treatment was given and any observations. An effective note can save precious time.
The 30-year old note shows my canoeing partner, John Nerness, finished next to last, while I took second place in this Pitch game.
This 30-year-old note shows my canoeing partner, John Nerness, finished next to last, while I took second place in this Pitch game.

Leave a note in your car: Always leave a note with someone, again elaborating on the five Ws, when you take off on an adventure. This note should be left at home with a responsible adult. At the trailhead, if there are any changes in plan, a note should be left on the dashboard, or under the windshield wiper, where it can be easily read. This can save Search and Rescue teams countless hours of searching if you don't return as planned.
Directions you took: If you get in a complicated or confusing area, write notes to yourself about which turns you took and what landmarks were noticed. Later, if you're returning in the dark or the weather gets bad, you don't have to wonder which way to go. If you are stressed or under duress of some sort, there is a propensity to forget directions. A clear note will help.
Notes on the trail conditions: It is helpful to record trail conditions in some cases, so on the return trip you don't forget about an icy spot or a hazard on the trail.
Trace a map: On one snowshoe trip, I noticed a new trail on the kiosk of a warming hut. It was easy to trace the route on a piece of paper, along with GPS coordinates.
Photo specifics: As a photographer, I'm always interested in what works under challenging situations. If you're tackling a particularly tricky shot, write down what you did so you don't have to reinvent the wheel the next time. It's also nice to record GPS coordinates of a particularly nice area or landscape.
Tic Tac Toe: Or other games. A danger in the wilderness is getting bored while waiting to be rescued or for the weather to clear. I take along a deck of cards, and a note book allows keeping score. Anything that keeps your mind occupied in an emergency or disaster situation is a survival tool.
Make a plan: Every survival situation should have a plan of action for getting you out of it. Write down your plans and how you intend to implement them. That way, under stress, you won't forget to do something important.
That's eight uses for a notebook, and there are a lot more if you use your imagination.
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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Survival gear review: The Platypus collapsible water bottle

Carrying enough water to prevent dehydration should be a no-brainer. But suppose you don't want the bulk and weight of extra containers? One option might be the Platypus collapsible water bottle.
by Leon Pantenburg
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Many survival manuals devote space to improvising water containers. And if you haven't planned ahead, or get into an unexpected situation, that may be necessary.
This combination of water bottles works well. The rigid Nalgene in the middle is used for drinking and the Paltypus soft bottle are used to store extra water in the pack.
This combination of water bottles works well. The rigid Nalgene in the middle is used for drinking and the Paltypus soft bottle are used to carry extra water. (Pantenburg photo


But one of the easiest way to carry extra water storage bottles is to get a collapsible Platypus. These range in size from a few ounces to multi-gallon sizes.
I've been carrying some variation of the Platypus bottle for several years. Here are some aspects I like about the collapsible containers:
Price: A Platypus will set you back about $12 for a 1.2 liter bottle. That's cheap for a water bottle that can last years with reasonable care.
Durability: I've been using a couple of Platypus bottles for several years, and they are holding up fine. In my case, a Platypus is generally carried rolled up as a backup in desert hiking. If there is a need to gather extra water, it will work well. You can break anything, of couse, but as long as you take reasonable care not to puncture it, the bottle should have an infinite lifespan.
Portability: With a collapsible, you can push the air out, and the bottle takes up only the space that the water needs. This
The Frontier Pro water filter gravity system worked really well to filter some strong coffee! The filter fits on the end of a Platypus collapsible and allows gravity water filtering from the Platypus. (Pantenburg photo)
Add captionThe Frontier Pro water filter gravity system worked really well to filter some strong coffee! The filter fits on the Platypus collapsible and allows gravity water filtering. (Pantenburg photo)

means you can pack it in oddly-shaped empty places in your pack. A Platypus also has a flat bottom, so it will stand by itself.
Convenience: You can carry a rolled-up Platypus in a brief case or purse, and breeze right through an airport security station. Once past the Homeland Security people, you can fill the Platypus from a water fountain and carry water with you. I can carry a couple rolled-up Platypus bottles (weight: about an ounce or so) in my daypack or briefcase and never know they're there.
A Platypus is one of those unique survival items you'll never know you needed until you get one. A Platypus is a sound investment for your urban and wilderness survival kits.

The leadhead jig: The do-it-all survival fishing lure?

Is there a do-it-all lure for survival fishing? My money is on the plain lead head jig. Here's why.
by Leon Pantenburg
Check out this Altoid tin survival kit kit with knife!
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After my first week on the Mississippi River, I sent three fishing rods and a large tackle box home. After seven days of fishing and catching many walleye, smallmouth bass, northern pike, crappie and bluegills, I didn't anticipate needing anything but a medium-action, fast-tip, seven-foot spinning rod, a Mitchell 300 reel
The basis of a very effective group of survival fishing lures is the simple, leadhead jig. From top is a quarter, eighth and sixteenth ounce jig (Pantenburg photos)
The basis of a very effective group of survival fishing lures is the simple, leadhead jig. From top is a quarter, eighth and sixteenth ounce jig (Pantenburg photos)
with six-pound line and a box of spinners and leadhead jigs.
This selection served me well the rest of the way down the 2,500 miles of the river. I never went hungry because I couldn't catch a fish and my go-to lure was a 1/8-ounce jig, tipped with a three-inch yellow Mr. Twister. (To read the story, click on my end-to-end Mississippi River canoe voyage.)
When putting together a survival kit, you must to carefully weigh the value of the components. A common question is about fishing lures: Is there one lure that can catch everything?
First, though, remember that survival fishing is not sport fishing. If you must catch fish to survive, use the most effective method available, legal or not.
Hook and line sport fishing techniques may not be particularly effective in a survival situation. In fact, it may be a waste of really valuable time if you're fishing when a better choice might be to gather firewood, improve a shelter, or set up signals.
You also need to figure out the return on your calorie investment. If you must expend 300 calories to catch a fish that can only supply 100 calories, you're going to end up with an energy deficit.
So the choice of the best survival lure depends on the situation, location and water conditions. Talk to several fisherpeople and you'll probably get that many opinions.
My best all-around nomination is for the leadhead jig, and here's why:
Inexpensive: The jig is nothing more than a hook with a gob of lead near the eyelet. I pour my own, ranging in weight
These leadhead jig lures were improvised from available materials. The body in both are composed of wool yarn. The tail on the top lure is made of a marabou feather, and the bottom tail is part of a pheasant feather. Both these patterns are proven and effective.
These 1/8-ounce jig lures were improvised from available materials. The bodies in both are composed of wool yarn. The top lure tail is a marabou feather, and the bottom tail a pheasant feather. Both these patterns are proven and effective.

from 1/32-ounce to 1/4-ounce, in several styles. Several years ago, the guys in the print shop at the newspaper gave me about 20 pounds of old linetype lead. My jigs cost the price of the hooks, and whatever electricity it takes to run my melting pot.
You can buy bulk leadheads at any sporting goods store, and the bodies are so inexpensive, you can stock up on different colors, styles and sizes.
Versatile: I tip jigs with virtually anything, from plastic twister tail grub bodies, to hair and feathers. Since I hunt, I have a lifetime supply of deer, elk and squirrel tails, and the feathers from a variety of game birds. Depending on the species of fish and circumstances, I can make just about any type of jig necessary. Part of the fun of fishing is catching something on a homemade lure!
Effectiveness: The jig is designed to mimic a minnow, or represent some other food source. Sometimes, a properly-fished jig will cause a reflexive strike for a game fish. While I have a tackle box full of various lures, I generally start out with a jig, and seldom have reason to switch.
Color: Start out with a basic selection of black, white and chartreuse, and those colors will probably do the job. My favorite color on the Mississippi River was yellow. My top producer color on Oregon's John Day River is motor oil or brown. Black is always a contender. Experiment in your area, and you'll be able to dial in your color preferences.
This pocket-sized box holds all the lures I need for a day of smallmouth bass fishing on Oregon's John Day River.
This pocket-sized box holds all the lures I need for a day of smallmouth bass fishing on Oregon's John Day River.
Fishing technique for a jig can depend on the circumstances. The most effective method, IMHO, is to cast the lure out, and bounce it off the bottom. You will lose a lot of jigs like this, but if you aren't hitting snags or rocks, you aren't prospecting where the fish are.
Another method is a steady retrieve, with periodic twitches. A favorite panfishing method that also works well for steelhead trout is to attach a jig a few feet under a bobber or float.
Like any survival technique, the more you practice, the more effective you will be. And to be required to practice fishing...well, worse things can happen!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Gear Review: Boy Scout Hot Spark survival fire starter

The best survival gear doesn't have to be expensive. But it must be reliable and able to work under extreme conditions. One of the best ferrocerium rods for firemaking is the Boy Scout Hot Spark.
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by Leon Pantenburg
I like stuff that works. Some of these items include my Cold Steel SRK survival knife, Ruger 10/22, a Swiss Army Classic keychain knife, my Gerber folding saw and a 42-ounce enamelware cup. Included in this list is a Boy Scout Hot Spark ferrocerium rod.
Because of its reliability, a Hot Spark is included in my keyring and Altoid tin survival kits. Backup ferro rods are also scattered throughout my gear. They don't weigh anything, or take up any space, and the ferro rod firemaking technique, properly done is utterly reliable. (Check out the ferro rod firemaking video!)
The Boy Scout Hot Spark on my keyring survival kit costs about three dollars at any scout store. It has a good handle and the ferro rod is very effective. Because it is easily included and convenient, it will be taken along.
Here's why I carry a ferro rod:

  • Extreme reliability: A ferrocerium rod, when scraped with a hardened steel striker, will produce sparks with temperatures of up to 5,500 degrees. These sparks will readily ignite many forms of tinder. (Check out the video on finding tinder under survival conditions) A ferro rod is also good for hundreds, if not thousands of fires. Matches, lighters and many other methods are finite.
  • Compact and easy to carry: That means you can carry several as backups.
  • Work under conditions that would disable other firemaking methods: This is one of the
    most important reasons to carry a ferro rod. Butane lighters are easily disabled by cold and moisture or a grain of sand. Matches are unreliable and degenerate over time. Every firemaking method has some disadvantage, but I believe a ferro rod has the fewest.
Your only survival tools are those you have along! Check out the Hot Spark video review!



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Gear Review: The Solo Stove biomass backpacking stove

The quest for a reliable, easy-to-use backpacking stove never ends, and I have the collection to prove it! But the Solo Stove is really impressive, and worth taking a look at.
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(Disclaimer: This review is my opinion. I was not reimbursed for doing this review, nor does Solo Stove at the time of this review, advertise on SurvivalCommonSense.com or any of its affiliates.)

by Leon Pantenburg

I'm caught in the baby-boomer backpacker quandary. On one hand, I like gear that works, and proven items are hard to leave behind. But my aging, abused knees make going light mandatory. I've had to replace effective, proven gear strictly on the basis of weight.
The Solo Stove specifications: <strong>Fast to boil:</strong> 8-10 minutes to boil 34 fl oz of water<br><strong>Fuel:</strong> Burns sticks, pine cones and other biomass<br><strong>Packed size:</strong> Height 3.8 inches, Width 4.25 inches<br><strong>Assembled size:</strong> Height 5.7 inches, Width 4.25 inches<br><strong>Weight:</strong> 9 oz<br><strong>Materials:&nbsp;</strong>Hardened 304 stainless steel, nichrome wire
The Solo Stove biomass backpacker
But some things you can't lighten up and one of those is stove fuel. It is heavy and if you run out in the wilderness, your stove becomes dead weight.
Here's my stove philosophy: You don't need much. Probably 90 percent of the time, all a backpacker requires is boiling water to brew tea or coffee or rehydrate food.
So the idea of a lightweight backpacking stove, with no moving parts, that burns twigs, pine cones, sticks etc is very attractive. So, I contacted Solo Stove to do a test and review.
(Click to check out my Solo Stove review and video!)