Wilderness Survival


The word "Survival" can cover many things under different circumstances and to different people.  I guess that in the simplest terms, can you encounter a bad situation afield and yet make it back home to tell about it later?   Your best survival tool is your thinking brain, but a little bit of preparedness surely can help.

Survival does not have to be miles from the trailhead, as you could also encounter a survival situation in the back 40 while cutting your winter's wood and get a bad cut or even 100' off a logging road if it gets dark or you break a leg.  However this article will be more directed toward a hunting related outings.

I have been a scoutmaster many years ago, a Department of Fish and Wildlife hunter education instructor for 30 years teaching firearms safety and survival, among other required subjects and just a plain hunter or fisherman for over 65 years.   Some things just happen, while others could possibly be prevented.  So using the old Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared" rather makes sense in a potential survival situation.  Avoiding a bad situation would be more important which could just mean using your brain and think things out before getting excited.   A little bit of forethought and a minimal amount of survival gear surely can not hurt either.  Remember, good judgment comes from experience, which is usually the outcome of bad judgment for the average person.  You will not forget the bad things, but may well forget what led up to the good happenings.   In this case, we hope to help guide you along the good judgment trail a bit by sharing the experience of others.

Physical Condition ;  A number one criteria for your actual chances of survival may be your physical condition (or lack of it) in relationship to just what and how you can personally handle an outdoors emergency situation.  This is not to say that you need to be a body builder, or run a mile every day.  But your age, physical condition, (heart or lung problems, hip, knee or feet problems) overweight, or anything that may slow you down or can put an extra strain on your body COULD be a major hindrance or even a life-threatening one.  Eyesight problems could be a handicap here if you happen to loose your glasses.  This said, if eyesight without glasses could be a problem, be sure to carry an old pair of glasses or find a cheap drug store generic to put in your pack.

Another thing that you may encounter if you decide to carry a heavy backpack, is that have you had a old shoulder injury, bursitis or arthritis that may come back to haunt you after carrying a pack for a few days afield.   If so, you may have to go to some pain killer pills and shift to a smaller back pack or go to a fanny pack on your belt if you feel you can't leave camp without something.

If you are in normal physical condition, getting into a routine of walking at least a couple of miles each day, or using a indoor stationary bicycle exerciser can be a great help to build up your leg muscles.   Remember if you walked in, you are going to have to walk (or crawl) out.   On a Alaskan Dahl sheep hunt when I was only about 50 years old, the bicycle exerciser that I used for about 3 months prior to the hunt put me in better shape than our young guide 1/2 my age.  It did not take long before I realized that some of those frequent stops we made going up those steep rocky ridges was not entirely for my benefit.  

In 2013, I had to cancel a Montana deer hunt because of low back and hip pain.  The pain was so severe many times if I bent over just a bit wrong, that if there was nothing close to hang onto I would have went down.  The problem seems to be that of getting into medical specialists in a timely manner.  And then the Physical Therapist tried to reposition my hip joints, probably to where this 77 year old was when I was 20, which did not work out well at all.  There was so much pain for a week later, that after 4 weeks of therapy, I called in and cancelled out.  But it took another 3 weeks to get in to see a back specialist.   By then my planned hunting trip was over, but learning to cope in the meantime was an experience.  I was afraid that even if I could have driven that far alone, and while hunting, if I got down, that I would have been a liability on the hunt for my nephew and grandson.  The outcome was that by being careful, wearing a back brace, and no prescribed exercise,  then I was able make the trip later near the very end of the season in November.

Communication ;  There is no doubt that it is best to fish or hunt with a partner and have some form of communication between each.  This can be simply a mouth whistle code system.  Some hunters may use a crow call with a code system in order to not alert game.   Short range hand held personal CB radios can also be a very good method if they have a beeper to notify the receiver radio.  Or turn them on every 1/2 hour.   Carry spare new, or charged batteries.   And if you are also using a GPS, try to purchase units that share the same size batteries as your camera and flashlight.

Some of the new expensive hand held GPS units are also a CB radio (if using matching sets) also are set up to indicate on your screen where your partner is when he calls you.  Some states do not allow you to use these for locating game, but are OK for safety.  To me, this could be keeping track of the location of your hunting partner.

Do not rely on cell phones unless you have satellite service or are sure there is reception in the area you plan on going into, as deep into a canyon will probably have no reception.  It is also beneficial to be at least somewhat prepared before you leave the vehicle or camp.  Leave a note in camp or in the vehicle, but if you leave one in the vehicle be discreet about where you place it.  Sure you may want it found, but you do not really want to broadcast it to the world of thieves how long you plan on being away.

If you are hunting with a partner, decide beforehand, what you, (they) are to do if you become separated. 
You may set a rendezvous for 2 hours, but if you fail to then not be back at the vehicle at a specified time, what to do then is more important than anything else at that point.  The point is to communicate with your partners, as it may cut down a long walk for you or even save your, or their life.

I guess here could also be included if you are hunting with partners to advise them of where spare keys to the vehicle may be kept or give them a set if by chance they may need to move your vehicle.  Don't do the hiding of it when you drive in and stop for the hunt, as someone may be watching and you may not have a vehicle when you get back.  I personally keep a spare set in a magnetic holder placed in a specific location on top of the vehicle's frame.  Another common place is to put the key inside the gas cap cover.  I have also known one person who placed his key on top of a front tire (not that smart however). 

Orientation ;   This will usually be in the form of a map or chart and a compass.   It however does you no good to have these essentials unless you understand how to use them.   And even if you do know how, it does you no good unless you know where you left from AND where you wanted to go.  One thing to remember is that all maps are laid out with the top of the paper being North.  Most of the western states have very detailed hunting/hiking maps printed by a company named Green Trails maps, which have topographical lines, helping to distinguish contours.

I have been in numerous situations where I was not exactly sure where I thought I was, either from following a bull elk in a snowstorm or circling across my own back-trail again in a snowstorm, or while hunting in large sections of primitive area big old-growth fir timber (4' and 5' diameter).   Here they all looked the same with no limbs for the first 50', I could not see out and had not looked at the compass for a while. 

Once while hunting elk years ago with my dad in this old growth fir, we left the road from a wide spot and were just going to make a short 1/2 hour 1/2 circle coming back to the road a bit farther down the ridge.   We stayed on the ridge and when we got to when we had just made the turn, starting our circling back to the road, (we thought) for some reason, I looked between the timber thru my binoculars to the small creek in the bottom of the canyon in FRONT of us, the way we intended to go back.  This creek's water was running UP HILL.  We had no map, but decided that we had made more of a circle than we had anticipated, so we turned and went back basically opposite from where we had intended to go.  Sure enough this time we came out on the road, otherwise we would have been WAY deeper in virgin timber and deep canyons than we had bargained for with no other roads for many miles AND no backpack and by then it would have been getting dark.  Lesson learned.

Young thick second growth fir or hemlock trees on flat ground can even be worse.  Here ridges and creeks are a blessing.  I have never been LOST, however maybe unsure of where I was for an hour or so, and ultimately LATE a few times in finally getting back to where I really wanted to be, but not what I would really call lost.  And a snow storm or fog makes things look all together different.  Trust your compass, there may be iron deposits in the ground that pull it off somewhat, but eventually you will SHOULD come out somewhere if you keep going in supposedly a straight line.

If you have any doubts about the compass, you can use an average hour-hand type watch as a compass.  In use, point the hour hand at the sun, halfway between that hour hand and 12 will be very close to south.  OK you say I can not see the sun, well, take your knife out and place the opened blade point down on the top of the watch crystal or even your thumbnail.  Twist it around, even in foggy days you will be able to see a shadow on the shiny surface.  Keep twisting the blade until you can see little or no shadow.  The shadow you see will be opposite of the sun and if in the northern hemisphere will be toward the south.  If it is the morning the sun will be in the southeast, noon will be about due south and afternoon will be in the southwest.   Then if you need to know where north is, well it is opposite of south.

Illustrated below is the method of finding South using a dial type watch.  OK, you now know where South is, need I say that North is opposite of South.   As the sun goes across the sky, the hour hand is then then aimed at a different location.  No matter the season, and on the northern hemisphere, at noon, the sun should be pretty well in the South.  This method is pretty close, at least enough to get you out if need be.

View of watch being used as compass

Years ago as a young elk hunter in heavy timber of Western Washington's coastal range, I was told if you got lost, go down hill and a creek will lead you out to somewhere.  Well it could also lead you into an impossible swamp.  If the area is not extremely rugged and there is, or has been any logging in the area, there will usually be a road on the upper sections of the ridges.  If you find one of these roads, but do not know which way to go to get out, when you come to an intersection, look at the Y.   Logging trucks with trailers CAN NOT make sharp corners, so the road intersection's design will give you a clue as to which is the easiest for these long loaded trucks to navigate thru.  That direction will be the way out, or at least get you somewhere other than deeper/farther away on a dead end.

Now with the internet, if you are planning on hunting in a new area, try using the website Google Earth where you can get a birds-eye view of where you intend to hunt at elevations of even down to 2,000' with minute detail if taken from a recent satellite photo.  In an area I have hunted in Colorado one year, I could see old logging roads, fences, down trees, water holes and could identify range cattle by color.  Print it off and carry it with you.  The new 3 Dimensional viewing is something that really helps also.

Those of you who hunt in timber, brushy country where you can not see a lot, or unknown country, may consider purchasing a handheld GPS unit.  Prices can vary in brands and models from $75 to over $400.  You need to be sure the one you get has a good enough receiver antenna that it will pick up the satellites even in timber.  I also recommend you get one that does not use proprietary battery, but uses AA batteries and carry a few spares in case the ones in it expires.  My Garmin unit seems to devour batteries at a rate of a set for 10-12 hours of on time, which I think is not that bad.  Don't get caught up in that you will only turn it on occasionally when you want to ID a location, thinking you are saving batteries.  Turn it on when you leave the vehicle (but also create a waypoint of your vehicle location) and turn it off when you get back.  Batteries are cheap and you will be amazed at what it can tell you, even elevation and sunrise/sunset, but most important is they give you a back-trail to follow out.   They also have a built in compass with most coming with a neck lanyard.

Many of these units have a minimal map already loaded, or you can download a topographical map that gives you contour lines, roads and creeks, even some known locations.  These units can be invaluable and after you understand what they can do, you may even get addicted.   The neat thing is to record where you started from as a waypoint.  Then be sure to have the "Trails" option turned on.  This allows you to see a trail where you went, and gives you a reference point to get back to.  Or you can use the start position part of the trail to reference a cut across country instead of a exact backtrack.  After using it for a while if you are hunting in the same area, you can mark locations like a line fence, water hole, hunting blind, or better yet, the kill site of your animal.

One suggestion, get to know your unit and when you mark a waypoint out in the field, immediately overwrite the assigned waypoint number with your assigned name or number otherwise if you mark more than one or two, you will forget which is which.  Also do not rely heavily on Google Earth's Latitude/Longitudes completely, as I have found the Longitudes can be off 1/4 of a mile in some areas.

Garmin etrex 10

Clothing ;  The wrong clothing can be disastrous.  Weather can change in the matter of a few hours during the fall when most hunting is taking place.  If you went out for a short hunt after work on a sunny afternoon wearing only a light cotton shirt and jeans where the weather changed and it started raining heavily, you could be in for a wet and cold time before you could get back to your vehicle.  I made this mistake only once when a rain storm came from nowhere, but I was glad to be carrying a lightweight poncho in my small backpack that saved the day for me.

Clothing needs to be picked in relationship to the area and weather you intend to be out in.  Clothing you would use in a coastal wet/rainy area would would probably not be a wise choice if you were in Canada, Montana or Colorado.

Wool clothing would be preferred where rain could be expected.  With the new lightweight raingear, even a poncho can save the day.  Or you could even take a 30 gallon plastic garbage can liner and cut a hole in the center bottom to stick your head out which will keep the rain off.    I do not like to wear baseball caps hunting in inclement rainy weather, but something with a brim all the way around (even a short brim) is good in that this keeps the rain from going down the back of your neck.   I can withstand a lot of uncomfortable situations, but when water starts running down my back and below my belt, I am ready to call it quits.  Lightweight waterproof jackets can get expensive, but are well worth the price when you need them.

In cold freezing weather you need to dress for it.  A wool ski type mask is good for keeping the head / face warm,   Or even a wool Navy type skull cap can be pulled down over the ears if it gets cold.  The new insulated pants / bibs and jackets can be a lifesaver in this cold weather.  I like to wear layers so that if the day warms up, I can remove a sweat shirt and place it in my pack (or lashed to it) if needed.  I remember one day over 50 years ago when I was working in the logging industry, in the spring when the weather started to warm up and I was still wearing my wool black long-handled winter underwear.  It got warm enough that I finally found a large stump on a steep barren hillside, stood on it, stripped down and pulled my wool underwear off.  I looked kind of odd at the end of the day coming up that hillside with those long-handles over my shoulder.  That was my first experience of dressing in layers.

The insulated pants that work best are ones that have zippered legs part way up so you can get your shoes in thru the legs.  The good ones also have straps around the bottoms to tighten the pant leg openings around your shoes to keep the loose snow out if you happen to be in this type of terrain.  If not, then Gaiters are useful that can be used around the leg bottoms and up to about the knee.  Gaiters even help keep the seed burrs off your pant legs if you are hunting in an area where they are prevalent.

I like both the insulated coat and pants to have plenty of pockets if possible.  For you men over 60ish, it is critical to have these bib overalls or pants to have a zipper in the right location.

For those of you who hunt in warmer climates much of the above will not apply.   However it is best to plan for the worst in any situation.  But that type of hunting has it's own different requirements.

Shoes ;  Good shoes are another thing to purchase the best you can afford that fit you for the purpose intended.   Sometimes a high priced pair may not be the best for you if it doesn't fit properly.   I like leather boots that are at least 8" high and have laces that lace up giving my ankles support.  I have had badly sprained ankles before and these higher leather shoes give more support.  Having a sprained ankle is something you do not want to contend with in the backcountry.  Be sure the shoes fit, if you happen to be like some of us miss-fits, my second toe is longer that the rest, and if my shoe does not fit right, when I go down a steep hill, my feet slide forward just enough, putting pressure on this toenail.  I have lost MANY toenails because the down hill pressure pushed that toenail rearward enough to create a blood blister under the whole toenail.   This can get so painful that the only thing to do is get your Leatherman tool out, then work what is still attached of the toenail loose, then pull the nail off.   Rather painful, but that only hurts for a while and you will get a little blood in your sock, but this is way better than trying to put up with a bad situation the rest of the day that will only get worse and the final answer is to take it off anyway.

One thing I also found is do not just buy shoes by the size that you have been wearing for years.  Manufacturers sizes may not be the same, especially those made in China.  I have for years wore a size 10 1/2 Medium shoe.  I have leather hunting boots that size that I have worn for 20 years and can even wear two pairs of wool socks in them.  But when wearing my Chinese made slip on Romeos, I have had to go up to a size 11 Wide and that still binds my feet, so up another 1/2 size.  I still can wear my old shoes, so they have not changed, therefore it has to be these Chinese sizes are not compatible with the American shoe sizes.

Break new shoes in before you go hunting or hiking.  This does not mean wear them for an hour or even a week-end around home.  You need to wear them long enough to be sure they are comfortable and on preparatory long hikes take along your old shoes if possible, as blisters are not good in situations like this where your feet are your means to get back to the vehicle.  Carry Band Aids to place over those blisters even if you think you did get the shoes broken in enough.  Mole skin patches could be a foot saver to carry for installing inside a shoe that has a rough seam.  Even Duct Tape can help on a blister or covering a inside welt that is causing an irritation.

Weather Change ;  Weather change.  As mentioned previously, weather may be one of your most important things to be aware of and on the outlook for changes.  Learn to watch the clouds, wind directions etc.   If you do this long enough, you can start to get a sense as to what the weather will do.  Follow your intuitions.  Look at the newspaper or the TV weather reports beforehand.   Get a handheld VHF marine radio and tune in to the weather channel for a NOAA weather report.  These reports not only cover the marine areas but many inland areas also.  They run continually 24 hours a day then repeat themselves usually about every 10 minutes.  However some inland areas may not have reception to receive this info.  The best and most current weather reports will come from airports close to cities.

I have even seen a sudden summer cold rainstorm come upon us on a horseback deer/elk scouting ride in the high Cascade Crest country in a warm sunny July day that can leave you drenched and cold if you are not prepared.  And many times in this high country there is no shelter anywhere close by when needed.  If there are any trees large enough for shelter, they could also be a target for lightning strikes in this high country, which is something that you do not want to be under at that time.

Depending on the area you are in, an impending snow storm would be another situation where you may need to be alert and head back to camp if it looks like a storm is moving in.  Learn to identify those low snowstorm clouds across the valley.  YOU might fair OK, but will your vehicle get snowed in 20 miles from no where, or if you have to go over a bad or icy pass to get out, or slip off the mountain road turning around?  Hunting in weather with snow on the ground, a temperature of 10 degrees F to Zero and lower with the wind even blowing at 10 MPH is a place that if you are there, you need to be well prepared OR stay home.

In the fall of 2011, my cousin and I were elk hunting in Colorado.  He had been a small airplane pilot and had lived there 15 years before so he understood high country (10,000') weather much better than I.   When the dark clouds started coming in one mid afternoon and then LOUD thunder, he suggested we had better head back to the vehicle which was over a mile away.  We had just got our afternoon hunt started, but his experience there said to get out soon.  Good thing we did, as a good sized thunder/lightning storm moved in within an hour, pelting down pea sized hail and LOTS of rain for the next few hours even down at 7,000' where we had went back to our travel trailer base camp.  The next morning it was still thundering occasionally and of course snowing in the high country.  Some of those hunters that were experienced in that area, who were camped up there, had pulled their trailers out in the late afternoon and moved them down to lower ground, probably because the year before some who stayed in a like situation had to dig out of 2' of snow and chain up on all 4 of the 4X4s to get their trailers out.  Those who were tent camping would have had an easier time of pulling camp and most of them stayed during this storm in 2011 that only dropped 3"-4" of snow. 

Sometimes you may be in an area where it is cold in the morning in the valley, but within a couple of hours, has warmed up on the hillsides to where you will need to shed some of your bundled up clothing.  Another place for a back-pack.  However the valleys will also get colder as the sun goes behind clouds or goes down in the evening.

Also if you are camped out nearer the hunting area, take along a thermometer and even a barometer or at least a battery operated weather radio.  If you happen to be in an area where there is a major windstorm approaching, you very likely could be isolated by downed trees.  Take a small chain saw or at least a hand bucking saw an/or a axe just in case.

Here in the Pacific Northwest, in the fall of the year, we can, and usually do get lots of rain.  Good lightweight raingear is essential if you are going to be afield.  Be prepared.  Even with noisy raingear on, I have walked up on many bedded down deer in the rain, where they are in the protection of heavy timber or brush, as they do not seem to get bothered when a hunter is moving slowly thru it or possibly sounding like another animal or even a logger.  Shots at 30' can be possible.

Also keep a survival pack in your vehicle.  If you get stuck or broke down, a wool blanket, a propane stove, some water and some food along with minimal cooking gear may be the best thing you have along.  This does not have to only pertain to survival for you, but tools, gear to change a flat tire, a jack or come along, to pull your vehicle out of a ditch or mud hole.  And a shovel may well be helpful.

Don't Travel on Foot in the Dark ;  This is one fundamental backwoodsman rule that should be adhered to, unless you know exactly where you are going (like on a road with the moon out), or you are on a known main trail and have a flashlight.  If you do not know where you are and it is dark, you could stumble over a log or fall off a cliff or even into a creek or river.  Some hunters who want to get into an area before daylight, will attach small reflector type buttons along a trail, so a dim flashlight will illuminate them as a guidance system.

First Aid ;  First Aid is important enough that it would behoove you to attend a First Aid class and get a card if you have not already.  Even reading a First Aid book could be helpful.  I am not saying you need to be an EMT or MD, but you need to be able to do basic First Aid on yourself or your partner.  Probably the one item used most would be a simple LARGE Band Aid.   A small First Aid kit would be very beneficial.  This First Aid kit should also be waterproof for obvious reasons.  It is not unlikely for you to fall, and possibly sprain an ankle or even break a leg out there, so keep calm and think things out.  You can get a lot of essentials in a small container and make it waterproof with Duct Tape.

Also under this heading, if you are on medication that needs to be taken at regular intervals, be sure to carry some in a small sealable package.  A diabetic should also be aware of the need to have food or at least some sugar candy in case it is needed.   Even if you yourself do not fit in this diabetic category, carry some just in case you come on someone who is and happens to be in dire need.  A diabetic who is slipping fast can not walk, they can get very weak and you can not even assist them stand in this condition, a bit of sugar or chocolate candy does wonders in this case.

Also learn the symptoms of heart attack.  Possibly for other hunters along with yourself.  Carry a few Aspirin tablets and pain pills with you.

I have seen many hunters cut themselves with a knife when gutting out an animal, so be extra careful when doing this job.  One way I help prevent this is to, when reaching inside the body cavity to cut out the heart and lungs, is to put my index finger on top of the knife blade, where it is more instinctive like guiding the knife like pointing and keeps your finger on top of the blade.

Grizzly Bear Country ;  If you plan on hunting in country that Grizzly bear inhabit, it may be to your advantage to go to the library and check out a couple of books to acquaint yourself with what you can do and to understand the normal situations of Grizzly bear encounters.  Consider purchasing bear repellant spray.  OK, this stuff is expensive, like $50 a canister, but if you just bought a new motorcycle and picked out a used oversize $10 crash helmet instead of a new $85 one that really fit, you pretty much have set the value of what your life is worth to your family.  It is not really reliable to think that a firearm is bear defense because by the time you decide to use it in a legal defense a charging mad sow bear can be on you VERY FAST.  Recently I have heard that the Freon hand held boating horns in the smaller size usually used on jet skis also can work well.

Most of these bear encounters can be avoided if the hiker/hunter is observant.   It is usually a sow bear and in her mind just trying to protect her cubs.  However if you as a hunter are returning the next day to finish packing your animal out, be very observant as you approach the kill site because a bear may have taken possession of what you left of the carcass.  In Grizzly country if these bears have been observant and have fed on gut-piles left by other hunters, the sound of a gunshot is like ringing the dinner bell and they may want to take possession of the animal you just shot while you are working on the carcass.

Can Not Go Any Farther ;  There may come a time where it is obvious that you are either physically unable to proceed or that you are so late in the day, or both, that you will have to stay overnight.   Now survival begins to take on a different meaning.   By this time you more than likely have performed most of the above situations, so you may have to dig deeper into your back-pack.

If you carry a cell phone and you are in a area that has reception, this might be the time to make a phone call and warn the person you are hunting with or your wife at home that you will be not showing up at the vehicle or at home that night.  Tell then where you think you are and your plans for the next day.  Also tell them you will be turning off the cell phone to conserve the battery, but will turn it back on at specified intervals.

Water & Some Food ;  This is all leading up to your need to have some means of carrying survival items, which usually means a back-pack of sorts, which will be covered extensively later in this article.  It is strongly suggested that you carry at least some water, but if you do not, and there is water in the area, then you WILL NEED to carry some water purification tablets if you are in an area where there are streams.   You can use common household liquid bleach (if it contains  5.25 % sodium hypochlorite) to disinfect unknown water by adding 16 drops per gallon of water then letting it stand or at least 30 minutes.

You should also consider purchasing a water filtration unit.  Prices and size of these units have come down considerably in recent years.  I just picked up one of these called LifeStraw by Vestgaard from Cabelas for $19.95 .  It is about 1" in diameter and possibly 8" long.  This one, you just put one end in the water, and suck on the other end.

Believe me, you can not tell how pure the water is even if it is bubbly clear and running out of hole in a steep rocky hillside.  You do not know what it ran thru upstream.  Giardiasis (sometimes called Beaver Fever) is something you do not want to experience, (been there-done that).  You get a explosive head-ache, a gut ache and diarrhea all at the same time.  If it gets really bad, you will have to get to the hospital ASAP because of dehydration.

On the other hand, if the weather is cold enough, you may not find any water where you would expected it, everything that was water at one time may be iced over or dried up because of extended cold.

Food, can be simply some candy bars or the newer energy bars which can get you by for a couple of days if need be.  "Trail mix" (a mix of M&Ms, peanuts, almonds, raisins etc.) that gives you a more rounded form of energy works great.  This can be purchased in bulk or in small separate sealed packages. 

You will notice that if you only carry sugary type food, that the energy level will drop off after awhile.  It would be best to ALSO carry a food that is sustainable to your body over a longer period of time.  One of the best here would be to also include beef jerky.

I also carry some tea bags, chicken bullion cubes and some Lipton instant soup packets plus a small heat source.

In addition, I also like to carry a few hard peppermint candy or cough drops in case I start coughing as this is an unusual sound in the outdoors that animals can easily pick up on.

Light Source ;   A lightweight flashlight is another important item that you may want to add to your pack.   I am not impressed with some of the newer CHEAP imported LED ones, they are bright but a different type of a light than what I am accustomed to and anything beyond a few feet is dismal on the ones I have tried.  The small flashlight, Mini-Mag lights have worked great for me for many years.  In the off season take the batteries out, as if they get old and leak into the flashlight body, there is no salvaging one of these flashlights once this happens.  Also be sure you have a spare flashlight bulb in the receptacle in the base of these.

I make a point of ensuring that my pocket cameras use AA batteries, that when the battery drops low enough in power that the camera will not come on, of course when I replace them with new batteries everything is OK.   Now if I can put these partially depleted batteries in my Mini-Mag light or headlamps they continue to work for a considerable time.  Nothing like recycling.

The new headlamp lights seem to be a good thing, as you are not handicapped with having to hold onto a light under your chin while doing what needs to be done with your hands.   I would suggest however that if you do get one of these, that you get one that use the same AA batteries as the Mini-Mag lights do and your small always carried camera, so having a couple of sets of spare batteries will fit either is a good idea.  However, again change batteries every year so that you have fresh ones when really needed.  I have found that if I use these batteries during the off hunting months in my digital cameras, I get a twofold service.  One headlamp that I have found works fine is Coghlan's #8720 which sells for $6.99.  It uses (4) AA batteries, but will operate on only 2 if need be.  And it uses the standard PR2  2 cell flashlight bulb.

The new tactical flashlights could also be an option.  They come in Lumens of from 600 to 1200 and priced from $50 to $230. The more economical ones usually use three AAA batteries but the run time could be about 1/2rd of the other special, or even rechargeable batteries.  But how often will you use it for more than just a few seconds on high power and if just looking for something, you can use the lower power setting, further saving the batteries. And these alkaline batteries are economical and readily available.  Most will have at least 3 light functions, High, Low, and Flash. Others may offer High, Medium, Low, Flash and SOS.  A suggestion is to buy "Made in USA" instead of cheap imports when it comes to possible life or death situations.

Another light source is Calumine light sticks.  These are made in a stick form about the size of your finger and are 6-8" long, then sealed in a foil plastic wrapper.  In use, you remove them from the wrapper, bend them until they break internally which allows different chemicals to mix together, creating a glowing light for many hours.   A very good item if you need to set up a camp after dark.

Miscellaneous ;  There are a lot of small miscellaneous items that can be valuable at times IF you have the space and can carry the extra weight.  These can include, flagging tape, calumine light source sticks, a small file or diamond sharpening stone.   Ka-Bar makes a lock blade knife called the "Outdoor Diner" that also has a spoon and fork blade that sells for about $20.00 and Coghlan's makes a economy knife/fork/spoon snap together combo.  A couple of 1 gallon Zip-Lock bags can come in handy even for packing water.  A referee's style whistle, (better yet a marine survival whistle) and a small signal mirror can be invaluable when needed.   The list can go on and on, but it is up to you to decide just how much you think you may need depending on where your travels may take you.

Some thermal reflector survival blankets are not as good as they are advertised, especially the small cheap ones.  Most of us take what we see or hear as the gospel as advertisements and since these blankets are usually in a sealed packet, we never take one out to see exactly well made they are not until we need one.  This is a mistake that could cost you your life, or at the least a very uncomfortable night.  These small cheap ones are usually so light that they can be prone to tearing if close to sharp objects or if you move inside them a lot.   It is probably best to consider these as throwaways if you do use one as you will never get it back into the pouch it came in.  Don't get me wrong, any survival blanket is better than none, and they can be multi-purpose being invaluable, especially the more heavy duty ones.

A lightweight poncho is also a good thing to have along, matter of fact it would be one of the last items I would eliminate if I had to start cutting down.  A spare set of wool gloves and a wool knit skull cap in the pack might also be a good idea.   Another thing would be the ski type pull over ear protectors.

Start a Fire ;  OK, now possibly here is a time when a fire may be a welcome and needed thing.   Over the years I have carried so many different types of fire-starters that I can not even start to remember.  They all were toted as being the best at the time that I bought or made them.   I have also used a few that were OK.  Old-growth pitch soaked wood has been the old standby of outdoorsmen for years.  However this needs to be shaved off in fine parts in order to get it started.  I would not place all my eggs in one basket and try to rely on only one type of fire-starter.  You might consider using a couple different methods in combination to each other. 

Also if the weather is on the really cold side, your fingers may not respond as you would like them to.  What was normally a simple matter to perform when it is warm, now can get rather difficult, if not almost impossible.

Now a word of advice, do not rely only on the Butane lighters for a fire starting source, as if the weather gets cold, (even near 35 degrees or so) or you climb to a high altitude, they usually do not light, they will still send a shower of sparks, but apparently the Butane does not vaporize enough to ignite if it is colder and/or at a higher elevation.   However one report from Alaska is to keep one of these lighters in your inner front pants pocket, so that your body heat keeps it warmer.  This is supposed to keep it warm enough for it to function at a lower temperature for long enough time to get a prepared fire started.  Anyway as simple as this, it is worth a try.

A few years ago I attended a survival class taught by Peter Kummerfeldt at a major west coast Sportsman Show.  This man is a retired military survival instructor and now teaches survival on his own plus he and his wife sells some of his recommended items thru www.outdoorsafe.com.   I learned a great deal from him, even though I thought I already knew about all I needed to survive.   I would recommend if you have the chance to attend one of his classes in that it would be beneficial to do so.   Thru his business he also has for sale some of the specialty products he talks about.  I have now fine-tuned some of the stuff I had been using.   He gave us some insight that I will pass along here.

Many old-timers used to use matches inside a military type round metal screw on lid waterproof canister.  These older GI units are now even in the collectable category.  These old GI units were not that bad, but the imported aftermarket ones are not near as good, not enough good gripping area to unscrew them is the problem.   However either of these are about impossible to open if you fingers are cold and unresponsive.   The aftermarket one I have had for over 30 years says made in Hong Kong on the bottom.  This screw on lid can be very difficult to get off even under normal conditions.

Peter's suggestion is to use (2) of the newer orange plastic match containers made by Coghlan's, tape them together with with duct tape with the threaded caps protruding on each end.   He says this way if your hands are cold and you may not be able to get a good grip on the cap to unscrew it, put this double unit under your arm pit to hold the unit by squeezing it and you then can usually unscrew these larger caps even though you fingers are like clubs.   Put strike anywhere matches in one, and Vaseline soaked cotton balls in the other.  More important, this also places your fire starting kits together as a unit.   Also these newer containers have a magnesium strip epoxyed into the outer bottom.

Now something that I have found is how many times have you tried to strike the "strike anywhere" matches on a rock or something that just pops the white striking head off and does not ignite the match itself.  Your match is now useless.  My solution is to remove the side of the box of "strike on box" type that you need to strike these matches on and place about 1/2 of it inside the container with my regular matches.  Now if the white head gets popped off, you can still ignite the match by using it on the striker off the side of the box.  Just don't get this striker pad wet, plus over time and use it will wear out.  But even trying to find these old matches anymore is about impossible, just the strike on the box variety seem to be the only thing available.

Peter recommends purchasing waterproof matches from REI.  They are advertised as Stormproof Matches.   They come in 2 packages of 25 each for a price of $4.50.  The burnable section is quite long,  (1 1/2").   They are strike on the box type, the box has this provision on both sides and also come with a separate striker strip inside enclosed in a plastic envelope.  Once this match is struck it will burn until the complete orange compound has been consumed.  Once it is lit, you can immerse it in water which will temporarily extinguish the flame, but when you remove it from the water, it will sputter for a bit and then relight itself and continue burning until it has depleted the orange compound.

Shown here is the old strike anywhere matches on top , the REI in the middle & the standard strike on the box below.  You will note on the top match that the white head is very small.  These are the ones that when trying to light that the head will usually pop off & not ignite the match

If you have to use the old style matches, you can improve the burn time by using the OLD TIMERS trick of with a sharp knife, lightly cut the wood close behind the tip into numerous thin lengthwise curls.  

Newer plastic waterproof match containers taped together

Older metal match container

Fire-Starter Assistance ;  Do not get misled by the demonstrations of the benefits of Magnesium fire starters as the best fire starters even if it is wet.  Yes, this will make a bright shower of burning sparks but you need a lot of these scrapings together with fine tinder and in a location out of the wind to get a fire started.  For an advanced foolproof form of fire starting, read below.

I had heard that cotton balls could be used as a fire starter, but never understood what or how they were prepared/used until I attended this class of Peter's.  To make the cotton balls into a fire starter, purchase pre-made cotton balls as they are about the right 1" size.  Take them individually and smear, rub, squeeze ordinary Vaseline into the balls so that they are completely saturated.  Then squeeze the excess Vaseline off as much as possible.   Many of these balls (about 5 or 6) will just fit easily into the one of the above plastic match container units.  In use, pull the individual ball out and try to tear it apart so that you form a VERY FUZZY, HAIRY like ball.  The fuzzier the better. 

If the matches get blown out or do not light while trying to light it, then use a magnesium striker throwing sparks on this fuzz ball.  Or your inoperative Butane lighter that still showers sparks.   This cotton ball will start burning even if it is wet AND IF the cotton fuzz is fine enough.  Peter recommends you place some object like a piece of bark under the cotton ball to collect any melting / dripping Vaseline so as it melts, it is contained and will allow the fire to burn long longer (about 5 minutes) which should be enough for you to pile sticks etc. on top to get the fire larger.  Instead, I went the next step and carry a cut off bottom of a soda can that I can turn upside down, place the fuzz ball into, allowing the bottom cone to make a shallow metal cup to collect the melting Vaseline, prolonging the burn time.

Vaseline impregnated cotton ball fuzzed up in the inverted  soda can bottom The same Vaseline impregnated cotton ball as seen on the left photo, but on fire

Now after I get a match or some other fire-starter to produce the initial fire, I have added another variation, by using a form of a wax candle as the main fire element.  What I do is take what is left of the wife's scented candles, melt then into the small Dixie cups which I then add semi-course sawdust in before the wax solidifies.  I have found that using the alder chips designed for electric smokers also works fine if you pick out the larger pieces.   Alder seems to have more of the finer chips needed here than the other exquisite smoking wood chips.

In the photos below you can see the pan on the Bar-B-Que with the heated wax.  You need to turn the heat down to low after the initial melting, as it will get so hot it will melt the wax sealed bottom of the cups.  Pour in the melted wax until you have about 5/8" from the top.  I found it is best to now place the hot wax cup in a shallow pan with 1" of cold water in it to help cool things down and protect the cup's bottom wax seal.

Sprinkle the sawdust in a little at a time as the concoction will want to foam and will boil over if you fill the wax too high and or add the sawdust too fast.  Stir the wax and keep adding more sawdust until the wax has pretty much taken all of the sawdust it will take.  You do not have to hurry here as this large amount of wax does not harden anywhere close to immediately.   Leave 1/2" or  5/8" or so unfilled so after it has hardened you can the cut the cup lips 1/2" apart down to the wax and then fold the lips in to somewhat protect the lips.

The ingredients preparing a wax fire-starter

The starter on the lower right is folded over ready to be put in your pack.

Even IF you have a very understanding wife, DO NOT try to do this in HER kitchen.

In use, you can light the wax lips with a match or use the above mentioned Vaseline fuzz ball and magnesium as a initial starter.   As the lips burn the wax starts to burn and the sawdust acts as MANY wicks.  This will burn as a concentrated 2" flame for between 15 and 20 minutes as one LARGE candle.  You can even start a fire without a lot of fine tinder using this method as it gets hot enough and burns long enough to get limbs the size of your wrist burning if they are not real wet.

As mentioned before, do not rely only on one fire starting source.  Again a Butane lighter can still be used as a fire source even if it is so cold that the butane does not light.  I have tried standard strike anywhere matches that at times do not light when needed, too much wind or the striking surface was wet.  But I have taken the Vaseline soaked cotton balls, use only about 1/4 of one, fluff it up to a hairy unit and then using the Butane lighter when it was so cold that the lighter would not light, but would still throw a shower of sparks and have gotten the Vaseline ball to ignite, then transfer this ball of fire to the Sterno canister or the above illustrated wax fire starter.

Shelter ;  A shelter can be from as simple as curling up under a big log or tree with some small limbs under you, as an insulation, and over you where you shiver all night, or to carrying some form a shelter in your pack to ensure a little more comfort.  You may still shiver if it is cold, but being wet is another thing.  I usually carry some form of a tarp and a poncho with me.  Huddling up with your back against a large tree, your knees pulled against your chest and wearing a poncho can at least allow you some comfort. 

What I have also found as a light weight thing to carry is a painter's drop-cloth.   They are cheap, lightweight, usually about 8' X 10' and do not take up a lot of room.  Another thing that has proved a winner is a "tube tent" if you can find them anymore.   This is essentially a plastic tube about 8' long that can be made into a triangle with 3 sides about 3' wide when put in place.  When assembled, this is essentially a "pup tent" with no ends.   By using a small pole or rope down the top middle and small logs inside on the bottom corners it can be a blessing.  The ends will be open, but lower one end or place it against a big tree or log, even put the drop-cloth over one end of a log to block that end of the tent.

If nothing else, take 2 of the large garbage can liners, crawl into one feet first, cut the hole for your head in the other and pull it over you.   This will keep most of your body heat in.  But it also will trap moisture from your body's normal evaporation process, so you may have to cut another hole in the top to let some of the moisture out.   Try to find some form of protection, like a large log, tree roots, large cedar tree with droopy limbs, cave, creek bank etc.   A hollow log would be ideal, but not many of them exist when and where you really need one.

And the possibility of finding any manmade shelter of any kind when you need it, like the photo below can be pretty slim, but if you do, it may need some rudimentary repairs before usage.  But anything like this, is better than nothing when you are in need.  Your painters drop cloth used on part of this structure would surely give some protection from the harsh  elements.

Remnants of a old miner's or trapper's cabin in North-Eastern Washington

Personal Core Kit ;  Some survival experts recommend that you carry a core kit at ALL times that is attached to your belt or a cord around your neck that never leaves your immediate control.  This would be a dire emergency unit that you never got into, UNLESS it was an emergency.  Ideally it would also be waterproof.  It could be a small unit, consisting basically of fire starting/first aid essentials and a knife, or a larger size unit depending on your needs/ideas.  This makes sense in a way, but more-so if on a float trip where the boat could get capsized and all of your other gear got lost.

Back Pack ;  This can be a small fanny pack up to a large back-pack or both, depending on your situation.  The important thing is to put in it the essentials that you think you will need and "Don't Leave Home Without It".   I also have a fanny pack for walk in fishing that has a section for survival, plus 2 sections for tackle, and then I use 2 other back-packs, one medium and another a large one for hunting or my hunting fanny pack. 

I have personally carried a back-pack when hunting and wore out many over a 50 + year period.  However much of this was in Primitive Country along the Cascade crest where there were no roads and we were many times over 5 miles plus in from a trailhead where if a situation arose, we had to be self sufficient under all circumstances.  My son and I hunted as partners, but would split up when hunting a drainage, but with a rendezvous location and approximate preset time.  Our policy was in areas like this, "if I do not come out by dark, don't worry as I carry enough with me to stay the night.  However I should be out to a road by noon the next day, but it may not the one I started from or intended to make it to".

My large hunting pack is a Blaze Orange color helping me now qualify for most all states when hunting requiring hunter orange.  It is made of a soft outer material that softens any noise in the brush and is a rubberized on the inner side.  

It goes without saying that carrying a combo knife, Leatherman type survival knife/tool is a good idea.  I carry a lot more than survival stuff in my hunting packs because a lot of it would also aid me in taking care of game, as a small rope hoist, saw, sport axe, a rifle speedometer cable type cleaning rod, spare ammo, first aid kit, medicine etc. 

The sport axe is something my wife bought for my birthday in 1972, that in those days it was called a Skachet.  It looks very similar to a Tomahawk head with a 1" course threaded hole in it so that you can cut your own stick handle and screw it into the head.  It has a hatchet style blade on one side with a gut hook, a hammer head on the other.  Without the handle in, you can hold onto the body and use it for a heavy duty Alaskan Eskimo style knife.  It came with a leather belt sheath.  This axe was originally made by Gyrfalcon Co. and was painted red.   Later Charter Arms Corp made it in a black color and the last ones I saw in about 1995 were sold by Stansport under the name "Sport Axe" were painted red again.

I have recently found out that the original Skachets now are in a demand by some backpackers who stay for extended periods of time in the backcountry, or those crazy knife collectors.  Check them out on eBay.  You may also get lucky and find them at gun shows. 

I have used mine to chop out a 6" pine tree that fell across a hiking trail we were riding horses on in high country, early summer before a trail crew made it in.  This narrow trail was in a location on a steep side-hill which would have been very hard to safely turn the horses around on.   After that I carried a single bit cruisers axe in the saddle bag.

The original Skachet still in good shape after 40 years of use Here a stick handle has been whittled down using the Skachet itself & then threaded onto the head for use as a trail axe.

Also a old GI canteen with metal cup liner can be a desirable item.   I have recently progressed from the old Sterno fuel canister to the newer Butane type backpack stoves for my large backpack.   I also carry bouillon cubes in chicken or beef, tea bags and sugar packets.  Even light rain gear ( Dura Ducks or Frog Togs), wool gloves and of course a First-Aid kit.  And there are always a couple of butane cigarette lighters in the pack.  

It may be beneficial to put in an extra pair of lightweight wool socks and gloves in the pack as you never know where your travels may take you.  And it seems prudent to have along a deer drag if that is what you are pursuing.

Another thing to consider is no matter how much neat stuff you may carry, unless you understand how it works and or have actually tried to start a fire under nasty circumstances, with what is in the pack, chances are it will not function well, if at all.  Your learning experiences should not have possible life or death associated with them.  A nice summer day trial in the back yard is not the same as a wet, rainy, windy day, approaching darkness where you are so wet and cold that you cannot get the lid off the match box and are in an area where you have little protection from the elements.  And in situations like this, your brain seems to not function as well as it should.  However, getting any kind of practice would be a start, but you really need to try to start your fire in BAD weather scenario also.

One thing I can tell you is that occasionally you need to go thru the pack and eliminate some of the neat stuff that seemed just crawl in there and hide.  Before long it will grow like a fungus to the point that you will have to evaluate just how much weight you will accept for carrying all day afield.

My smaller (actually more of a medium size) back-pack is used for a short day hunt of up to a mile or so off the road.  In it, I carry more bare essentials like a small first aid kit, fire starters, space blanket, lightweight rain gear, lightweight painters drop-cloth, toilet paper (also known as Mountain Money in some circles), candy bars etc.   I usually leave in the Sterno stove and metal cup and some form of dried chicken soup like Liptons (as I have kind of gotten spoiled).   And I may leave a deer drag in.  This one has a lot of extra space where I can stuff a sweat shirt later in the day if the weather warms up.

But I normally leave out the canteen, rope pulley, extra knife, rifle cleaning kit etc. of this pack.  I do leave in a bottle of water.  These back packs can usually be picked up economically at the end of the summer camping season, or after school starts sometimes for less than $15.00 each.

The newer backpacks can have a pretty flat inner plastic bladder for carrying water inside the bag.  These units have a small reservoir in the bottom and a 3/8" plastic tube with a "bite" closure valve on the outer end.  The tube extends out a hole in the top of the pack and hangs down being attached to one of the bag straps.  In use, all you need to do is place the valve end between your teeth, bite down a bit and suck what water you want without taking the pack off.  If your backpack is the older style, you can purchase a aftermarket bladder unit for about $10 then install it in your old bag.   You will have to devise a method of securing the bladder and also probably make a slit in the top between the strap mounting for the tube to exit.  Just be cognizant that the fuller you fill this bladder, the heavier your pack will be.  You may have to decide just how much water you need each day to cut down some weight.  Do do not really need a full bladder for an afternoon hunt, BUT be prepared.   I have also found that when the weather gets below freezing, the suction tube/end valve will become frozen.

As I get older, I seem to downsize a bit more, especially if I am going with someone else.  Enter a fanny Pack.  These will usually feature a nylon web belt with a quick disconnect buckle.  The one I use has 2 1/2 compartments.  The reason I say the 1/2 is that it is the outermost one and only enough room for thin items like hand warmers or a small candy bar or two.   This pack is not small, being about 11" long, 6" wide and 7" deep, and is stuffed to where the zippers are being strained to get all my required items in.  Sure I had to leave some out, as I had to make priorities due to size limitations.  Listed below on the right are the items that are in it.

My large Cabalas back country back-pack

Medium size back-pack

Here is my hunting Fanny Pack


An inventory list of the items in my large backpack

And those in my medium backpack

And those in my Fanny Pack
Inflatable seat cushion
Dura Ducks rain gear (both jacket & pants)
Painters plastic drop cloths (2)
First Aid kit (waterproofed)
8'X10" polypropylene tarp
Survival blanket
Large plastic survival bag
Calumine light sticks (2)
Mini-Mag flashlight (uses AA batteries)
Head lamp (uses AA batteries)
AA batteries (at least 4)
1 gallon Zip-Lock bags (4)
Butane burner, folding hikers style (stored inside coffee can)
1 fuel tank (stored inside coffee can)
Kar-Ram-Ba folding knife/fork/spoon
Granite coffee cup (34 oz)
Granite coffee cup (12 oz)

Water bladder
Water purifier tablets
Water filtration system
Butane cigarette lighter (2)
Wax fire starters (4)
2 Waterproof match containers (taped together)
Magnesium fire starter

Aluminum mess kit
Aluminum foil
Instant soup/lunch (stored inside coffee cup)
Tea/sugar/bullion cubes (stored inside the coffee can)
Eucalyptus cough drops
Hunting knife
Folding knife
Ka Bar Outdoor Diner knife (knife/fork/spoon)
Leatherman type combo tool
Sport saw
Deer drag
Toilet paper (in waterproof sandwich bag)
Marine style whistle
Wool skull cap
Wool glove liners
Survival mirror
Electricians tape
Flagging tape
Latex gloves, (2 pair)
Bug dope
Rope pulley set
Gun cleaning rod (speedometer style)
Gun oil
Mechanics wiping rag
Dura Ducks rain gear
Painters plastic drop cloth (2)
First Aid kit (waterproofed)
Large plastic survival bag
Calumine light sticks (2)
Head lamp (uses AA batteries)
AA batteries (4)
1 gallon Zip-Lock bags (2)
Water bottle
Water purifier
Butane cigarette lighter
Wax fire starters (2)
2 Waterproof match containers / cotton balls
Sterno stove  & fuel
Granite coffee cup (12 oz)
Liptons dried chicken soup
Eucalyptus cough drops

Folding knife
Coglin's knife/fork/spoon set
Leatherman type combo tool
International orange distress flag
Wool skull cap
Wool glove liners
Knapp sport saw
Deer drag
Toilet paper
Electricians tape
Flagging tape
50' of parachute cord
Mechanics wiping rag

Bug dope


Painters plastic drop cloth
Water bottle (used plastic water bottle)
1 gallon Zip-Lock bags (2)
Butane cigarette lighter
Wax fire starter (1)
2 Waterproof match containers/cotton balls
Eucalyptus cough drops
Leatherman type combo tool

Folding knife
Toilet paper (in waterproof sandwich bag)
Electricians tape
Flagging tape
Candy, (small Halloween treat size)
Wool gloves
Head lamp (uses AA batteries)
AA batteries (4)
Granite coffee cup (12 oz)

10' wire (soft)
Aluminum spoon
Tea/sugar/bullion cubes
Band Aids
Deer drag
Survival blanket

International orange distress flag
hand warmers
30' of parachute cord

As you can see from the above list my large pack is extensive, a little on the heavy side by some standards (19#), but packable all day long even for a 77 year old geezer. 

My smaller backpack weighs in at 10 1/2#.

And the Fanny Pack weighs in at 4#.

Depending on where I am going and the pack involved, if I add a 20 power spotting scope and tripod, I gain another 3#.

Now after my 2011 Colorado elk expedition, I have found that a old motorcycle accident shoulder injury started popping it's ugly head around the corner when packing my large backpack over 5 miles in hunting country every day for a week.  Once that shoulder became sore, even carrying the rifle slung over it caused pain.  With limited pain pills on hand, the only solution was to lighten the load by transferring some to a fanny-pack.

Pack Board/Frame/Bag ;  For those who are old enough to remember, or have had acquired from your older hunters in the family, you may still have the old style pack boards.  These (if still functional) will still carry a lot, just like they did years ago.  By functional, I mean inspect them to see if all the ropes, hooks, eyelets, straps, retainer rings etc. will hold up when you need them.  It is rather hard to do needed repairs out in the brush that would have been easy at home.

The early pack boards were made of Oak or Ash by a company who sold them under the name Trapper Nelson.  Then after WWII there were some surplus formed 1/4" plywood units available.  After that in the mid 1960s, you saw a number of welded tubular aluminum pack frames units.  Then later they added a padded belt that took a lot of weight off the shoulders.  Some also had a fold up lower shelf and a removable bag like in the photo below.  They all use wide nylon webbing across the tubing to from a basis for resting on your back.

The new ones I looked at in the store a year ago added a few new ideas, sold for $85.00 but did not include the bag.  The one shown below on the right has been in service for me for 30 years and is still going strong, (the old bag has been replaced by a new rip-stop bag however).

These were not normally worn all day, however I have done it many times when hunting deep in primitive country.  When I do in this type of country, I usually also carry my regular daypack attached to the upper main frame tubes because there is little duplication here as the packsack has more equipment for caring for meat.  However usually these pack-frames are left in the vehicle and came back for after the game was down if the distance is a mile or so away.

An early style commercial  "Trapper Nelson" packboard with bag which is held onto the frame by metal rods running thru grommet eyes on the edge of the bag and thru screw eyes in the frame. Aluminum pack frame with a Nylon bag, note the fold down rear shelf & padded hip belt.  Also note the tubing is contoured to fit your back

New Style Combo Back Pack ;  Below is is my grandson with his back-pack that has been well thought out, being a combo day hunting pack which can also be used to pack out game.  It has many pouches, a internal water bladder, a internal slightly flexible aluminum vertical frame, a foldout meat bag, and a pull-out roll up hunter orange cover that gives the hunter some color protection.  It also has access from the front into the bag without totally dropping the bag by slipping out of the shoulder straps, rotating the bag in front of you and unzipping a access allowing you inside for small items.  The belt and side hip pouches provide support which gives comfort when carrying this all day.  This is for the serious back-country hunter.  The company offers smaller versions than this, all of which have a unconditional lifetime guarantee.  This model retails for $200.00 but for the dedicated backpacker/hunter it has viable benefits.

I found one very close to the above (without the camo) being sold at a local gun show, by a military surplus survivalist for $50.  This would in my mind, be more of a summer camping pack.

Pictured below is a Badlands 2200 pack Rear view

A Warm Picker-Upper ;  Many times when it is raining or cold, I will find some protection like a large cedar tree, get the Sterno fuel can and the fold up metal Sterno stove frame out, a 12 oz. metal granite coated cup or the GI canteen liner, heat some water and dissolve a bouillon cube in it for a "quick picker upper".   

In the photo below,  I was on a look-out rock outcropping part way up a ridge looking into a secluded wooded canyon, north of Boulder in central Montana, the last week of the general hunting season at end of November 2009 with snow on the ground and the wind blowing.  I took shelter out of the wind on the lea side of this rocky point, found a small protected pocket where I set up the fold up Sterno stove unit out of the wind as much as possible and by using my backpack as a windbreak on one side, leveled the stove with a few small rocks, heated up a cup of water and converted a Maruchan Instant Lunch (this Styrofoam cup has freeze dried chicken flavored noodles with 3 vegetables (that only costs about $.50 each) into a warm lunch while still being able to watch the terrain below.

It was so cold and some wind gusts that I could not protect the stove from even slight swirling wind, that the water never did boil, so I poured 1/2 of the warm water from the metal cup, to the waxed paper cup of noodles to soften them enough to pour them all back into the metal cup along with the rest of the water.  Then I kept the metal cup on the Sterno canister until it got warm enough to be satisfying, not real hot but worth the effort.  It just took a longer time with the higher elevation, wind and cold weather.

Sterno fold-up stove & fuel canister, heating water for a cup of soup
That patch of white stuff in the foreground happens to be snow

Getting There on a Quad ;  Quad riding and carrying your survival gear takes on a different meaning.  Here you do not have to worry about the extra weight, just the space to carry it.   A minimal tool box would be a must to have on any mechanical transportation device.  In addition to my normal pack-pack I even carry a old Coleman military type (WWII) #530 canister type gas stove and some cans of Campbell's soup.   You will even find some MREs, a small buck saw, single bitted axe, shovel, machete plus a tow rope in one of the 2 school type backpacks or in the front box I have attached to the quad as shown in the RH photo below.  Also notice the blue duffle bag with a tarp, tools, cable pulley and shackles, ski mask, rain gear and cans of stew inside.  All this plus a 2 gallon fuel can are attached with bungee cords.

Also some form of tire pump, either a hand one or air in a can, even a small electric pump may save the day.

I have added handle bar muff type covers and electric heater grips for when we hunt coyotes in the snow in the winter.  I even have a cigarette lighter plug in receptacle to charge my cell phone, power a hand-held GPS or electric tire pump.

The new electric winch is mounted on the front by (4) 1/2" bolts, which can be removed allowing the winch to also be unplugged from the power source and moved to the rear of the quad, re-plugged in, with a remote switch be able to pull the quad backwards out of the problem area it may be in.   I carry a couple of 3/16" galvanized stranded wire cables laying coiled up in the front plywood box, 1 being 100' and the other 300' long.

Old Coleman 530 canister type gas stove complete with all it's accessories.  These stoves will burn either leaded or unleaded automotive or regular white gas (Coleman fuel)

Here I was hung on a small stump that was obscured by ferns when I entered the creek, so I had to use the come-along to help get out.  It was then when I decided that an electric winch might just be worthwhile


Conclusions ;  With all the above said, being comfortable in your "wilderness" surroundings would be critical.  If you are someone who would get lost in a city park, then there might be some concern that you do not go out alone.  You need to be level headed if some unforeseen thing happens or you get mixed around and wind up in a different watershed than you intended (easily done).  There can be no scatterbrained, unorganized thinking if you hope to walk out of a predicament smiling.

Years ago we took a hunting partner along.  This guy, according to him, was an accomplished hunter/outdoorsman.  We found out later, when he did not show up at our pre-arranged rendezvous.  Much later, after our looking for him, he arrived at our camp in a vehicle of a person who had picked him up miles from where we were.   

Setting up a makeshift camp or shelter, or even starting a fire in conditions that are not favorable, like wind or rain are something you have to really learn firsthand, and all the book learning you can do may be of little use if you do not have the ability to put them to use because of one minor item left home.  It is suggested that you do this at a time when your life may not depend on a favorable outcome.  Do some hiking and or camping during the summer.  Prefect your fire starting techniques.  Take a First Aid course.  Break those new boots in.   Make a itemized list of needed items and check them off before you leave home.  Leave a note as to where you intend to be and when you plan on returning.

I have tried to put together a lot of proven ideas that can help prepare you, BUT it will be up to you, and the way you handle a trying situation on how the outcome plays out.

Mental preparation is one thing that you need to consider if/when you find yourself "disoriented", even for 20 minutes, or you happen to have an accident that effects your physical ability to perform 100%.  If you have qualms about being out in the "bush" alone at night, then it is suggested that you consider tagging along CLOSE with an experienced partner.

Copyright 2009 - 2018  LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved

Back to Ramblings

Originated 9-19-09, Last updated 01-11-2018
Contact the author