Wilderness Guide

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The National Outdoor Leadership School’s “Wilderness Guide” is a wonderful book to add to your backcountry library.

“The classic backpackers handbook – revised and updated with information anon new equipment and techniques-providing expert guidelines for backpackers, hikers, campers- anyone who loves the outdoors.”

Author Mark Harvey is a NOLS instructor and  freelance writer.

This book is an excellent first step in the planning process for backcountry  travel.

Available at Amazon.

Your Backcountry Travel Plan

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There are lots of articles and posts about letting the responsible person know about your travel plans.  Should you not return home on time they are the trigger to begin the search process.

This may be the most comprehensive plan made yet!!!

After the loss of James Kim in the Oregon back country in 2006 I wrote a hiker’s trip plan and posted it on myblog.  I had input from several valued sources.  I wanted something better for the wilderness traveler than a note to a neighbor.  My intent was to provide the search responders something valuable to go by.

In far too many SAR missions, the reporting party has little information for the searchers to go on to begin their search.

My plan can be found here.  It is a basic .pdf form.

Suggestions are certainly welcome.

911 Call center

Still, that responsible person plays a huge role in contacting authorities to begin a search.  My recommendation would be to pick a person that will make the 911 phone call without hesitation.

Travel safely.

Magnetic Compass Accuracy

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Navigating with a magnetic compass is a skill that takes study and practice.

When plotting the hiker’s position on a map the objective is to have three lines of bearing intersect just like in the image below; this is a position fix.  That is “pin point” accuracy. This is hard to do with a magnetic compass and may not be achievable.

Blake Miller/Outdoor Quest Image
Many factors impact accuracy.  Some the hiker will have no control over.  
These include:

  1. Visual acuity (e.g., how well the hiker can see.)

  2. Polarity of the compass’ magnetic needle – does it point in the right direction? Polarity may change over time such that the magnetic needle may no longer work accurately.

  3. Smooth movement of the magnetic needle.

  4. Alignment of the compass dial to the compass housing.

  5. Local attraction – Similar to declination, local attraction is magnetic interference unique to a specific location.  It may be caused by buried metal objects or an unusually high concentration of iron or nickel in the ground.

  6. Lack of distant objects to sight on.

  7. Weather (e.g., Fog, clouds, and smoke.)
  8. Terrain may hide the objects that the hiker wants to sight with the compass.
The hiker does have control over the following.

  1. Purchasing a quality compass such as the Silva Ranger.

  2. Correctly adjusting for declination.

  3. Staying away from iron and steel objects such as a car, high tension power lines and a hunting rifle.

  4. Practiced sighting techniques.

  5. Practiced with the procedures of plotting the various lines of bearing.

Blake Miller/Outdoor Quest Image
 The image above closely represents what the hiker will have to deal with and accept.  The crossed lines of bearing provide a rough approximation of a position plotted on the map.

Terrain Association will further “dial in” the hiker’s backcountry position.

Blake Miller/Outdoor Quest Image

The image above represents the error of the plotted lines of bearing.  Notice that the lines of bearing have poor angular separation. But by using terrain association the hiker might be able to refine the position fix.  If the hiker is near the river and on the on the river’s east side then the position close the road  will better define location.

Navigation is not hard but it does take practice; it is a perishable skill.

When in the wilderness compare both map and compass with a GPS when possible.  Hiking companions should compare their work too.

Read other compass related posts:

     Buying a Magnetic Compass


A solid reference is June Fleming’s Staying Found and Bjorn Hjellstrom’s Be Expert With Map and Compass.


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 Many outdoorsmen measure distance in the backcountry by using a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver.   GPS receivers are reasonably accurate, real time, and provide distance traveled and distance to a destination.
But what does the hiker do if they don’t have a receiver, the GPS fails or batteries die?

A proven method for estimating distance is known as pacing.  Pacing is not as accurate as the GPS receiver, but it can give a reasonable approximation of the distance traveled.  Together with a map and compass, pacing is an important component of evaluating a hiker’s track through the backcountry.  In darkness or periods of low visibility pacing helps to determine the hiker’s location through a process known as dead reckoning. 

Pacing is a method that begins with measuring one’s stride, with the intent of determining an individual’s length of stride. A pace is a measured two steps; a complete stride.  As illustrated below, every time the right foot hits the ground is one pace. Each pace (two steps) normally measures out to almost 50-60 inches.

Perhaps the best method to determine a hiker’s pace is to record it over a specific distance to determine an average.  Before embarking on the trail, the individual should develop a “pace average” over a controlled area first. 
For example, measure the number of paces for a known distance of 100 yards.  To achieve this, go to a high school foot ball field or track.  Walk along a sideline from end zone to end zone.  Count how many paces it takes to go 100 yards.  Do this eight times and record the total number of paces for each 100 yard event.  Determine the average for all eight 100 yard lengths completed.  The result is that the hiker may determine that the average 100 yard pace count to be 58 ½ paces.  (With children compensate and be mindful of their strides being significantly different, including a skip here and an off trail discovery there.)

Whatever the “pace average” may be, do keep the stride natural and smooth.  Don’t try to exaggerate and unnaturally lengthen the stride.

Don’t get too bogged down in the estimation of the accuracy of the average pace. Of larger importance is to understand the complexity of the terrain and how it will impact stride and a hiker’s “pace average”.   Anticipate strides being different.  Take the time beforehand to imitate a 100 yard course on sloping ground.  Further, try a 100 yard pace in soft soil and hard soil, smooth ground and rocky ground. Move to other locations once an average pace is found on a controlled level environment (football field).  Layout a 100 yard course on sloping ground. 

Pacing over long distance can become quite boring and the hiker easily distracted.  This is especially true when the pace count is in the hundreds.  Was that pace 545 or 554?  In such cases pacing beads may be a useful tool.  Pacing beads can be purchased from online venders or made at home using paracord and simple beads. 
A quick Google search will turn up several methods for using pacing beads.  For example, Wikipedia states that “As users walk, they typically slide one bead on the cord for every ten paces taken. On the tenth pace, the user slides a bead in the lower section towards the knot. After the 90th pace, all 9 beads are against the knot. On the 100th pace, all 9 beads in the lower section are returned away from the knot, and a bead from the upper section is slid upwards, away from the knot.”
Pacing beads can be an important asset when Dead Reckoning (known as DR) with a map and compass.  Vigilant compass sighting and a steady “pace average” helps provide a rough approximation of both distance and direction when moving through the backcountry.

Overnight Survival Backpacking Checklist

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Overnight Survival Backpacking Checklist Do you have a tendency to forget things at the worst moments? Nothing is more annoying than having that awful feeling that you are missing something only to find out hours later that you were, in fact, forgetting an important item. Like when you get to a hotel and realize you …

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Stowing Your Clothes In a Pack

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A few weeks ago a family friend asked me to go over what should be in their son’s pack and review a few backcountry  techniques.

So, three days later Nick and his buddy Daniel are at my door with a surprise guest, Nick’s 

We had a great three hour session.  Very straight forward.  Perfect for a summer hike.

Towards the end of our time together, Daniel showed me a novel way to stow ones clothing in a pack.  A day’s collection of clothing rolled up into a simple bundle.

Step 1 – Layout the gear.  All the clothing is light weight.

Step 2 – Fold up the gear.  Place clothing so that it can be rolled from bottom to top.  Note that the sock’s opening is outward.

Step 3 – Begin rolling.  Keep it tight.

Step 4 – With the bundle tightly rolled, roll the sock backward over the clothes.
That’s it.

Knots In the Backcountry

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Several years ago I had the opportunity to take an abbreviated wilderness survival course conducted by Emergency Response International (visit www.eri-online.com).  One component of their presentation was emergency shelters.  Key to emergency shelter building is the ability to tie a reliable knot.

First, the hunter needs to carry shelter material.  This can range from a poly tarp (with numerous grommets) or one of the many nylon tarps sold through high end retailers such as REI.  A tarp of 8’ by 10’ is adequate.   Secondly, 50 feet good quality parachute cord is needed to tie the shelter to a tree or pole.  Quality parachute cord has a breaking strength of 500 pounds and can be found at a surplus store or on-online.  (There is some junk para cord out there so be careful with your selection.)

An excellent resource for knot tying is an online web site animatedknots.com.  This site offers downloadable apps for the smart phone and categorizes knots by topic (such as scouting, boating and fishing.  The instructions are concise and easy to understand.

There are hundreds of knots that the hunter can choose from.  I recommend learning just a few knots that expand beyond tying your boots or the square knot.

A great knot to start with is the timber hitch.  Wikipedia claims that the timber hitch was first mentioned in a nautical source around 1620. 

“The timber hitch is a used to attach a single length of rope a cylindrical object. Secure while tension is maintained, it is easily untied even after heavy loading.”



The timber hitch is a friction knot.  The many wraps of rope or parachute cord hold firmly under tension.  It’s simple and easy to use and can be the anchor of a tarp.  Best of all, after being placed under tension it won’t become next to impossible to untie; we have all been there.

For complete instructions watch the video at animated knots:


6 Must Haves for your Next Mountain Backpacking Adventure

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Backpacking can be a real high when you are prepared for the trip. However, being halfway up a mountain is not a good time to wish you had packed a certain item. Being in the fresh open air of nature can raise your awareness level ten-fold. This is when you consider all of those items that you wish you had brought along. Here are some great ideas for staying well, comfortable and able to enjoy the trail even more.
Improving the Sights – Green Binoculars

Binoculars are a given on any backpacking adventure, but if you are practicing all the benefits of nature, why not choose a pair that cares about the environment? You can find sturdy binoculars that are free of lead and arsenic in the optical glass. Other items to look for are a non-chloride rubber body that is free of inks and dyes, a compact size, waterproof with fog-free lenses.
Preventing Altitude Sickness

While climbing up a mountain can sound awesome, the change in altitude can cause illness known as altitude sickness. Being in the fresh air does nothing to help when the inspiratory oxygen pressure diminishes. Symptoms can include headache, nausea, fever, dehydration and shortness of breath. Always pack ibuprofen and ask your family physician for recommended medications for high altitude backpacking.
E-Cigs & Vapes

Taking a break while on a trail calls for water, but what about a few of life’s other joys? Some cheap vape mods can satisfy that nicotine craving without causing you to become winded. The different flavors can also make that water taste great. There will also be no cigarette butts polluting Mother Nature and e-cigs and vape tips can easily be stored in a pocket.
Healthy Snacks

It is also hard to know what type of treats should be taken. Never pack sweets as they can make you tired. It is best to select snacks that do not have preservatives, additives or dyes. Homemade jerky, sunflower seeds or hemp hearts are full of protein and will give you that extra burst of energy needed.
How to Avoid Sore Feet

Blisters are a problem for most hikers. Understanding what causes blisters can help you to prevent a flare-up on your journey. The two largest contributors of blisters are heat and moisture. Always take a small bottle of rubbing alcohol and some cotton swabs with you. Before putting on your socks and boots, dab the alcohol between your toes, on heels and the soles of your feet. Rubbing alcohol keeps feet dry and prevents moisture from gathering. Also, give your feet a rest at least once a day, maybe on the lunch break. Remove your boots and socks and shake out any loose pebbles or dirt that has built up inside.
It is Going to Rain

Trying to plan your backpacking adventure around the weather is an impossible feat. If you are out for any length of time you are going to encounter some rain. Packing rain gear can get quite bulky and cumbersome. You always want to travel as light as possible. So is all of that rain gear really worth the bother? Fold up 4 or 5 large leaf trash bags and place inside of your jacket pocket. They will be close enough to access should a downpour occur, and the light weight will make them unnoticeable while hiking.
Mountain backpacking can be great fun, but the little annoyances can pile up in a hurry. Sore feet, a rainy day, and altitude sickness can ruin that great adventure. It only takes a little planning to head off these problems. And of course, making it to the top is only as worthy as your ability to sit, gaze and relax with a great pair of binoculars, a tasty treat and your favorite vape mod.

Essential Backpacking Gear Checklist

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Essential Backpacking Gear Checklist Sometimes you just need a good old fashioned list. This is a great one. It doesn’t come from a prepper or survivalist website. Rather I thought we go to the source. As peppers we may practice a bugout a couple times a year but for backpackers they think about backpacking every …

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Emergency Bags Every Prepper Needs to Have

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Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: This post has been contributed by Daniel. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter the Prepper Writing Contest today.

Prepping is not an easy job as you always have to be prepared for the worst. Still, while everyone talks about the supplies you need to carry no one actually specifies what to carry all this stuff in. Your emergency bag is just as important as the supplies inside it, so pay close attention to what you are buying.

The good news is that there are tons of bags out there that will do well as emergency bags. The bad news – it can often be intimidating when deciding which one to choose. This is why we’re going to go over the basics of emergency bags with you, so you know exactly which type you should purchase for different situations.

The Features You Should Be Looking For

Make sure your emergency bag has the following properties:

Lightweight: The importance of an emergency bag’s weight cannot be over-stressed. You don’t know how long you’ll be carrying it around, so you need something which is lightweight and thus will not hinder your movement. You need to put a lot of survival gear in there, so the bag itself should not add much to the weight.

Some bags can weigh as much as one-third of your body weight, once filled. While these bags are spacious and you can pack a lot of supplies in them, they are difficult to haul around for a long time. It is better, therefore, to choose a lighter model.

Subtle is Best: Sure, pink or orange is your favorite color, but when it comes to choosing an emergency bag, go for a dull, solid color. Your bag should not be screaming, “Look at me!” Black works perfectly because it is not visible at night, and also it does not draw attention to itself. In an emergency situation, you do not want people to focus on your gear and blending in with the surroundings is your best bet.

Internal Frame: An internal frame backpack is a better option because it lets you move freely. You can walk, run, jump or climb without the bag hindering your progress. This kind of bag hugs your back and thus feels more comfortable.

Waterproof: Make sure your bag is waterproof. After all, you do not want all your supplies to get wet when it rains or snows.

Size: Don’t go for something which is too big. Again, it draws too much attention to itself and you might find yourself in trouble as people try to rob you thinking you have a ton of supplies in there. Also, the larger the size, the more difficult it will be to carry the bag. At the same time, the bag should be spacious enough that it lets you carry everything inside.

Rush 24 by 5.11 – Great option for a Go Bag.

A good idea is to measure your own height from shoulders to the torso. Your bag should be around this big. If it is bigger, it will ride below your hips and thus bang against them every time you move. If it is smaller, it will be too high up on your back and will not feel comfortable.

Durability: The bag you buy should be built to withstand the elements. If a zip breaks, or a strap tears, you will be in huge trouble. Never compromise on the durability of a bag, even if you need to spend more. The fabric of the bag should also be tough.

Compartments: Bags which have many zippered compartments are easy to handle as you can organize your goods. That way, whenever you need anything, you do not have to turn all the contents topsy-turvy to find it. It also lets you prioritize your stuff so you know where the important things are.

Comfort Level: Your emergency bag is something you will be wearing for extended periods of time, as in a bug out situation you will constantly be on the move. Before you purchase your bag, wear it to see if it adjusts well to your body shape and structure. The straps should be adjustable and comfortable; they should not dig into your shoulders and waist. The bag should lie comfortably across your back and not bounce around too much when you move.

It should also be easy to wear and remove your bug out bag. You don’t want to spend ages putting it on and adjusting the straps every single time.

Types of Bags

Gerber and Maxpedition make smaller but tough as nails bags to hold plenty of survival gear

Let’s talk about the different types of emergency bags in the market, and which one will suit your specific needs.

Go Bag or 72- Hours Bag

This bag will sustain you for three days, and is best used in case of a natural disaster, when help might be on the way. The go bag is only large enough to carry three days’ worth of food and water supplies. You can also pack some essential tools (like a knife) and a first aid kit, but that is basically all you need.

Car Bag

This kind of bag is meant for people who travel via car a lot. The bag will have tools and supplies to repair your car, like a jumper cable and tire repair tools, so if you are stranded on the road, you can fix your vehicle and get going. The bag should also have other essential items, like food and water which will sustain you for about a day, in case you cannot fix your car and thus have to wait for help.

Bug Out Bag

A bug out bag is something which will sustain you for a long time. This bag is meant to carry supplies which will help you survive in any dangerous situation. The bag not only has food and water, it also has supplies which will help you make it on your own in the wilderness.

If the situation gets so bad that you need to leave your house and go to the wild to survive, alone, you need this bag. Here, you will have cooking supplies, hunting gear, change of clothes, fire starters, a knife, medical kit and other goods which will help you.

Duffel Bag

A tactical duffle is another option to quickly store a lot of gear.

A duffel bag can be used as an emergency bag if you have nothing else at hand. It is spacious and large and thus you can fit a lot of your gear inside. However, keep in mind that it is not the ideal option. You cannot compartmentalize the goods in a duffel bag, and just have to stuff everything in the same big space. This can prove to be rather cumbersome if you need something which you packed in the bottom of your bag.

Get your Emergency Stuff Ready

You never know when disaster might strike, so there is no time like the present to prepare yourself. Get a great bug out bag and pack your supplies so you can be ready to leave in a few minutes, if you need to. Remember, surviving in the wild is difficult, but not impossible. If you have the right equipment, you can certainly make it.

Do you have any particular bag you want us to know about? Let us know your preference in the comments section.

About the Author: Daniel Carraway knows everything there is to know about survival, hiking, camping and backpacking materials. If you want a review of any gear, he would totally be the best person to ask and he can also tell you a lot more about the best bug out bag backpack. Daniel learned a lot from attending REI Outdoor School, and one day he hopes that all his knowledge will help him in climbing the highest peak in the world.

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Keeping Yourself in Shape for Your Next Backpacking Trip

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A new post by Lee.
If you have a big backpacking trip planned for the near future, you definitely want to be in the kind of shape where you can enjoy it. You won’t have nearly as much fun if you’re huffing and puffing after the first mile. It doesn’t take training like Rocky to be ready for backpacking, as all you need to do is follow a few simple steps to keep yourself in good condition.
Go on Walks, Runs, and Hikes

The best way to train for a physical activity is to mimic that physical activity as closely as possible. For backpacking, your best option is going on hikes while wearing a backpack, since that’s exactly what you’ll be doing on your trip. Do this frequently enough in the weeks and months leading up to your trip, and you shouldn’t have any issues.

You may not be in a situation where you can hike much, if at all, depending on where you live and the weather. If that’s the case, running and walking are both good alternatives, with running being better since you need to work harder. You can wear a backpack or substitute it with a weight vest so you still get the feeling of carrying weight.

Stick to Healthy Eating Habits

What you eat is a huge part of your overall health. The key to eating healthy is to make it part of your lifestyle, instead of looking at it as a diet. If you don’t currently have the best eating habits, start substituting healthier food choices one meal at a time. By changing your eating gradually instead of all at once, it’s easier to commit to the changes.

As far as what you should eat, you should focus on natural foods, which means anything that comes from an animal or the ground. Healthy food choices include lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. You can usually find the natural foods towards the outer edges of a supermarket, while the processed junk food will be concentrated in the center aisles.

Work on Any Bad Habits

If you’re smoking a pack a day or drinking heavily, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get in good shape for your backpacking trip. One different alternative to tobacco is vaping. You may find that getting a vape helps you cut back on cigarettes. The nice thing about vaping is you can try all kinds of different flavors. Online sites like the e cig juice page from Halocigs can give you a variety of many flavors you can check out.

When it comes to drinking, alcohol isn’t an issue if you use it in moderation. If you find that your drinking is getting out of hand, you may want to commit to staying sober for a certain amount of time or at least cutting down on your alcohol intake.

Get Enough Rest

Make sure you don’t push yourself too hard to the point where you end up injured or burnt out before it’s time for your trip. Whenever you start a new workout routine, take it slow and gradually build up to higher frequencies and intensities. Get at least six to eight hours of sleep every night, as that’s when your body will dot the bulk of its recovering.

If you start feeling very tired or sore, that’s a sign that it’s time to slow down. Take a couple days to let your body recover from everything. You may also want to do some lighter intensity work, such as yoga, on occasion. Remember that you want to be at your best for your trip.

The sooner you start preparing for your backpacking trip, the better. In the leadup to your trip, try to get a workout in at least three or four days per week. Eat healthy, reduce those bad habits, and rest up so you’ll be ready to go when it’s trip time.

Backpacking: Why Preppers Should All Do It

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Backpacking is often thought of as this out of reach, extreme sport that only people in top physical condition undertake.  That’s just not the case.  Backpacking is as much a skill builder as it is an activity for the adventurous.  And the best part is that anyone can do it.  It can be as simple

How to Make a Waterproof Altoids Tin Spice Kit

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Waterproof Altoids Tin Spice Kit

Variety is the spice of life especially when it comes to your food. So if you’re looking for a great way to spice up your food on the trail this is an excellent way to bring some of your favorite spices along and it won’t cost you more than 5 bucks for a package of straws and a tin from your favorite Altoids mints.

So check out the graphic below and remember that this method can be used to make all sorts of different Altoids kits, the possibilities are endless. Sealing items in the straws keeps everything sealed and dry the ranger band is optional but just adds protection. Some things you can seal in straws are matches, tinder (cotton balls with vaseline). Keep in mind straws also come in a few different sizes you can use the larger 1/2 inch straws to seal larger items too.

Waterproof Spice Kit

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Pack Your 72 Hour Emergency Kit by Category

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Pack Your 72 Hour Emergency Kit by Category This article is a list of the various categories that should be considered when you are building your 72 hour bag. The uses for a 72 hour bag are varied and the bag should be tailored to the specific task. Is this a camping bag, bug out …

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Basic Survival Gear for Long Term Treks

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By Jack Neely, The Tactical Guru. As a hiker, outdoorsman or a survivalist enthusiast, you’re basically as safe as your survival gear. The same way a fisherman cannot go fishing without a good fishing rod or a hunter without a crossbow, you also shouldn’t venturing out in the wild without a survival gear. And in this case, we are talking about a homemade survival gear. The best thing about creating your own survival gear is that it allows you the […]

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50 Essential Backpacking Tips You Need to Know

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50 Essential Backpacking Tips You Need to Know Trouble has gone down. You’re in the wilderness with a backpack on and no contact with the outside world. You don’t know when you’ll next see the sparkling lights of the city, or what kind of state the city will be in. Or, perhaps not. Perhaps this …

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Lost In The Woods: 5 Tricks For Finding Your Way … Without A Compass

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Lost In The Woods: 5 Tricks For Finding Your Way ... Without A Compass

Image source: Pixabay.com

After numerous fishing, hunting and backpacking trips, I’ve found myself lost more times than I’d like to admit. Over time I learned the hard way and spent a good amount of effort learning some basic techniques for those occasions when I simply assumed I wouldn’t need a compass.

We all know a compass points north. At least to magnetic north, which is close enough to true north to help you get where you want to go. But if you don’t have a compass, there are a few other ways to make sure you stay on course:

1. Know that the sun rises in the east. Or at least very close to true east. Figure out where the sun is rising and the opposite is west. If the sun is rising to your right then straight ahead is north. You should be able to figure out south and west from there. The same rules apply as the sun sets in the west, but if you’re still lost you’ll probably want to make camp rather than wondering around after sunset.

2. Know that the North Star is in the north. It’s actually true north. If it’s not cloudy, then you’ll find it at the tail end of the Little Dipper. Lay a stick on the ground with a couple of small sticks to make an arrow so you can wake up in the morning and remember the direction. The sun rising to your right in the east also will confirm that your arrow is correct.

Get The Essential Secrets Of The Most Savvy Survivalists In The World!

3. Drive a stick into the ground about 12 inches high. Assuming it’s sunny, it will cast a shadow. Put a small pebble at the end of the shadow. Wait about 15 to 30 minutes and the shadow will have moved. Put another pebble at the end of the shadow. Now draw a line through the two pebbles. You now have an east/west line. Look at which side the shadow is pointing over that east/west line. It will be pointing in a northerly direction given the sun favors the south side of the sky. Draw a line through the east/west line at a 90-degree angle and you’ve got your coordinates: north, south, east and west.

4. Make your own compass. You’ll need a needle, a piece of wool or silk, a leaf and a puddle of water. Rub the needle with the wool or silk about 100 times and the needle will actually acquire a magnetic charge. You also can (carefully) rub the needle through your hair. Place the leaf delicately on the pool of water and place the needle on top. If there is no wind, the needle should align with magnetic north. The thicker end of the needle (the side with the eye) will favor the northern direction. You also can use shadows (shadows tend to favor north) to determine which way your needle is pointing. From there, you can figure out your coordinates.

Story continues below video

5. Look for moss on (certain) trees. There are a lot of skeptics about this technique, but it can work if you find the right tree. Look for a solitary tree that is openly exposed to the sun. Moss likes shade, and the northern side of a tree is typically in shade most of the day. If the tree is deep in a forest, it will be a far less reliable source to base direction on, as shade is more common there and the appearance of any green or moldy growth could surround the trunk.

One Last Thing

Knowing which way is north, south, east or west has little value if you have no idea what lies in any direction. Before you depart for that casual walk in the wilderness, take some time to understand the general location of key landmarks like a road, river, lake or highway. If you know there’s a road to the north and a river to the south, you’ll at least have a chance of finding your way back when you arrive at that landmark.

What survival advice would you add? Share your tips in the section below:

Learn How To ‘Live Off The Land’ With Just Your Gun. Read More Here.

Backpacking For Emergency Preparedness

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Backpacking For emergency Preparedness

Article shared with us by Urgent Survival

In the prepping community the term “Emergency Preparedness” is used a lot but what does it really mean to be prepared? There is more to being prepared than just stocking up on food and water. In order to have a good idea of what it really takes to take care of your family you will need some type of experience under your belt. A backpacking trip can be a great way to get the experience needed to help with being prepared.

When planning for emergency survival situations you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want. We’ve all seen the prepper shows where people have underground bunkers, guns & ammo, tons of provisions, water plumbing systems, sealed and filtered air systems, etc. Most Americans have no interest in prepping on that kind of level nor can they afford it.  Realistically, your emergency preparedness items will consist of  basic food, water, shelter, and miscellaneous items stored in a closet or in a small room.

Emergency preparedness can be narrowed down to three basic scenarios that covers everything from a basic power outage to the infamous zombie apocalypse. Really? Yes, really, and if you plan for these three scenarios you should be good to go for whatever comes your way (within reason of course).

1. The first scenario is when you are in survival mode at home (bugging-in). This may happen for any number of reasons including long term power outages, road closures due to flooding/earthquakes/wildfires/ice storms/etc., civil commotion (riots, protests, unrest), home being severely damaged from a storm and you are camping out in the yard until it becomes livable again, and the list goes on and on – I’ll spare you the zombie examples:)

2. The second scenario involves vacating your homestead for any number of reasons. This can range from evacuating with your vehicle due to a flood or wildfire, to hiking out to the woods and living off the grid for a while.

3. The third scenario is car survival. Car survival could also be considered for workplace survival. If you are stranded at work and can’t get home you should be able to rely on your car survival kit to provide you with the basic essentials.

Going on a backpacking trip can help get you prepared to handle all three of the above mentioned scenarios. I recently went on a 2.5 day / 13 mile backpacking trip with a couple friends (Chris & Derek) and realized how little you really need and also realized that what works for one person may not work for another. Below are lessons learned while on the trip, the goal here is for you to learn from our experiences and apply them to your emergency preparedness plans.


Filtering water from the creek

The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold but the terrain was very challenging. My backpack weighed over 50lbs on the first day and over 60lbs on the second day. Due to the less than desired terrain and the heavy pack I consumed a lot more water than I thought I would while Derek barely drank any water. I started the trip with 1.3 gallons of water, on the first day I drank about half of it and then topped off at a creek about half way to our camp. I ended up running out of water by the next morning while Derek still had plenty water left. On day two we topped off at our water cache and then packed more than an additional gallon each (hence the 10lb weight increase on day two).

Lesson Learned:
Water was a much bigger issue for me than I thought it would be. I will need to make sure that I always have plenty of water or have access to a place to filter water on a regular basis. Some people require more water than others. There is really no way of knowing this until you get out there and experience it for yourself.


Darrens Setup: REI Bug Hut Pro 2 with Kelty Noahs Tarp

Derek’s Setup: Hammock with cold weather barrier in the bottom and tarp over the top.

APN recommends Snugpak Jungle hammock with mosquito net

My shelter was the REI Bug Hut Pro 2 Tent with enough room for me and my gear. To shed some weight I left the rain-fly at home and packed a Kelty Noah’s Tarp to use as a wind break, sun shade, and a makeshift rain-fly. Derek used a lightweight hammock with a tarp over the top for cover and lightweight barrier on the bottom to keep the cold from coming up underneath. Chris used a one person backpacking tent, the Eureka! Solitaire Tent, but he didn’t like the fact that there wasn’t any room for his gear inside. We all had lightweight shelter options but they were all very different from each other. Some people with back issues may not be able to sleep in a hammock while others would love it because they don’t like sleeping on the ground.

Lessons Learned:
I was comfortable and had room for my gear inside my tent but it weighed more than the other guy’s set-ups. Derek liked his hammock setup but learned that he will need some type of netting to keep the bugs off of him and a larger cover tarp to keep his gear dry in case of rain. Chris learned that one man backpacking tents are lightweight but there is no room for your gear to keep inside for easy access or to keep dry in case of rain.


Just like the shelter, we all had different thoughts on food so we each brought something different. I ended up bringing freeze dried backpacking meals as they were super lightweight and I was able to pack along a lot of food without adding a ton of extra weight. However, even though my food tasted good and I was full, I found myself wanting something more, something to satisfy a craving I was having. That’s when I remembered that I had a few packets of apple cider and hot chocolate. After drinking one of each the cravings I had went away. Maybe it was the sugar or maybe it was in my head but I was satisfied afterwards.

Lesson Learned:
Food is a huge morale booster. Obviously you need your regular food for the calories but be sure to pack something to satisfy your “craving” whether it’s a piece of candy, hot chocolate, coffee, dried fruit, or whatever, be sure to include these type of items. They may not seem important now but when you are in survival mode they are definitely worth it!

Staying Warm

In addition to what I was wearing I had only planned on packing extra socks (keep the feet happy!) and extra underwear. Since the temperature was expected to get down to the upper 40s and lower 50s I wanted to pack my sleeping bag but I didn’t have room for it. So instead I left my sleeping bag at home and packed long underwear, a long sleeve shirt, wool socks, a beanie (stocking cap) and a pair of insulated gloves. These items weighed less and required less room than my sleeping bag. With the help of a poncho and an emergency blanket I stayed nice and warm.

Lesson Learned:
Thinking outside the box and improvising can really save you a lot of weight and space. Try to use items that can serve multiple purposes. For example: Should you pack that large and heavy survival knife or a lightweight Gerber multi-tool that has a knife, pliers, wire cutters, saw, and other items built into it?

I can give several more examples of lessons learned but this article is already long enough and you get the point. Once you learn what works for you and other members of your family you can then determine between what is actually needed for emergency preparedness versus what you think you need. After you’ve had some minimalist camping/backpacking experience under your belt you will know exactly how to pack your car survival kit and your evacuation kit within the space allowed in your pack. A minimalist backpacking trip forces you to be resourceful and will help tremendously in survival situations, including bugging-in at home.

About the Author:  Darren Gaebel is a U.S. Army Veteran and has a decade of experience with natural disasters as a catastrophe claims adjuster. During Darren’s catastrophe experience he has seen the toll it takes on families who are unprepared. For this reason he created this blog (blog.UrgentSurvival.com) to help educate and spread awareness for disaster preparedness. Darren also created UrgentSurvival.com to provide a way for individuals, families, and disaster relief organizations to have access to a stress free solution for getting prepared.  A portion of all proceeds from the website are donated to non-profit disaster relief organizations.

The post Backpacking For Emergency Preparedness appeared first on American Preppers Network.

Equipment Review: Solo Backpacking Stove

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Rourke: This post was originally published back in July of 2012. It can be seen HERE in its original format.


I was recently contacted by the folks at SoloStove.com about testing out one of their Solo Backpacking Stoves. Of course I said “Yes!” and within days arrived at my door was a small cardboard box containing the stove.



Upon initial inspection the fit in finish was immaculate. I deal with Quality Control in my regular job and am used to looking at  things with great detail. I was pretty impressed.



Additionally, I was surprised at just how light the stove was at only 9 ounces.

The stove is in two pieces plus a lightweight carrying case.  The bottom piece is the base which holds the fuel and the top piece – which fits inside the base during  – extends out the top to hold a small pot or pan.



The Solo Stove works on the same principle as a rocket or volcano stove. Basically wood fuel is burned within the base. At the wood burns and heat rises air (oxygen) get sucked in through the bottom holes of the base – feeding the flames. This allows the stove to burn hot to lessen cook times.


    To test the stove out I gathered a small pile of dry twigs and sticks. For tinder I used a packet of dryer lint in the bottom of the base. Placing a few twigs above the lint making sure air can flow through the stove – I lit it.  

You can see from the picture above the Solo Stove going. On the front of the top insert is an open space. This space provides an opening which to drop more fuel (small twigs and sticks) while cooking.  

I  boiled some water to see how easy it was. I used a small pot containing two cups of water. Within about 5 minutes the water was at a rolling boil (see below). Success!! Honestly – this was very easy.

Overall Impression:  Very positive. Lightweight. Easy to use. Portable. I am certainly incorporating the SoloStove into my survival system. Great for a bug out bag. Negative?  Hard to find. Rain can certainly have an impact on cooking.  I find this piece of equipment to be a great value.




How To Make Bannock Bread

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Bannock bread, one staple recipe no self respecting outdoorsman/survivalist/prepper can live without. I hate to call this a recipe post, as the bannock recipes are as numerous as flame wars over the best rifle for TEOTWAWKI. Basically, bannock is a quick bread – it can be applied to any flat roundish food made out of […]

The post How To Make Bannock Bread appeared first on Shepherd School – Home for DIY Prepper Projects.

Six Lessons From the Ultralight Backpacking Movement

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Written by Guest Contributor on The Prepper Journal.

Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from Phillip Meeks.   I declared myself a backpacker in sixth grade. I bought an army surplus pack, a Sterno stove and a ten-dollar Rambo knife from the flea market. I subscribed to a magazine on the topic, checked out all the relevant […]

The post Six Lessons From the Ultralight Backpacking Movement appeared first on The Prepper Journal.

Dragon Fire Tinderbox: The Secret of Pyro Super Heroes

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by Todd Walker

Some people make fire craft look easy. Rain, sleet, and snow doesn’t seem to effect their fire super powers. It’s like they’re the Superman or Wonder Woman of campfires.

Dragon Fire Tinderbox: The Secret of Pyro Super Heroes - TheSurvivalSherpa.com

There’s always a catch though…

Super heroes usually have a weakness (Superman ⇒ Kryptonite). Wet tinder is the kryptonite of every fire-crafter no matter their skill level. That’s why experienced outdoor guys and gals carry dry tinder material in their fire kit to give them an edge when Mother Nature pitches a hissy fit. I’ve been humbled by her more times than I’d like to admit.

The times when it’s cold and wet out there is the time you need fire the most. It’s also the hardest time to find dry stuff for your fire!

Here’s a solution that provides dry, reliable, natural tinder material that’ll turn you into a pyro super hero on your next outdoor adventure or emergency situation…

Dragon Fire Tinderbox

I first heard of this small family owned Wisconsin company about a year ago. Since then I’ve watched Daryl and Kristina innovate a simple concept to serve outdoor enthusiasts.

The products they design are all-natural (no petroleum-based accelerants) and packed in recycled pouches and boxes. Materials are harvested from dead trees, plants, leaves, fungi, and other natural sources. If you’ve ever collected these resources yourself, you know the amount of work it takes to find the best combustible material.

I ordered the Dragon Fire Tinderbox Extreme Pouch, Dragon Fire Cone, and one of their nifty t-shirts. Daryl also sent me a packet of Chaga Tea. I’m keeping the Dragon Fire Cone and Chaga Tea to use with my grandson for our next bushcraft outing as a fun teaching tool.

About half the contents displayed

About half the contents displayed


The Extreme Pouch is full of fine, medium, and coarse tinder material with several different fuel-size chucks of hardwood. A Dragon Fire Tinderbox match book, sealed in a separate resealable bag, is included as an ignition source. My pouch had a one inch section of birch limb covered with flammable resins and rolled in fine tinder to prevent it from sticking to other material in the pouch. This kind of hand-crafted item is a fire-ball in and of itself.

It even contains shavings and chunks of Osage Orange from a bow Jamie Burleigh built at this year’s Pathfinder Gathering.

Here’s a video review Dirt Road Girl filmed recently at the Dam Cabin:

Benefits of the Extreme Pouch

It’s called Extreme for a reason. This resource contains everything you’d need to start several sustainable fires in all weather conditions – ignition source, tinder, kindling, and fuel. The bag alone is a valuable resource in wilderness self-reliance. Made of thick, resealable food-grade aluminum, one could press this container into service for disinfecting water by stone-boiling (see Larry Roberts video), cooking dehydrated camp meals, or keeping small items dry.

Teaching Tool

You can’t take shortcuts when building a fire with natural materials. One of the challenges of teaching my 8-year-old grandson fire craft is the importance of processing his tinder into fine, medium, and coarse layers. The Extreme Pouch contains each of these, and, as an added bonus, there are tinder materials not found growing on our Georgia landscape… Chaga, flax tow, and white birch to name a few. I plan on using these to teach Max our local alternatives to our northern neighbor’s fire tinders.

Daryl and Kristina also make a product that’s sure to get young children interested in the art of making fire…

The Dragon Fire Cone! Kid’s love ice cream. What kid wouldn’t want to set an “ice cream” cone on fire? Max and I will let y’all know how it burns after our next outing.

Photo courtesy of Dragon Fire Tinderbox

Photo courtesy of Dragon Fire Tinderbox

Emergency Fire Kits

Winter is coming and we’re sure to read stories of stranded motorists on backcountry roads trying to survive ’til help arrives. A bag of Dragon Fire Tinderbox would be a great asset for all emergency vehicle kits. No worries about chemical accelerant leaching and spreading vapors in your car trunk. This stuff is all-natural material!

White Birch bark is loaded with combustible oils

White Birch bark is loaded with combustible oils

Oh, you don’t have to be a master woodsman to start a life-saving fire with this bag of natural tinder. Daryl hand-picks and processes the best material so it’ll ignite with one match (matchbook included in pouch), ferrocerium rod, Bic lighter, magnifying lens or other ignition source.



The convenience of opening a pouch of ready-made tinder is pure gold when I’m groggy and needing my coffee fix on the trail. I’m a much better camping buddy after I’ve had my cup of Joe. Weighing in at just over 9 ounces after this review, the Extreme Pouch won’t take up much room in your pack and stays dry in the heavy-duty resealable bag.

9.02 ounces

9.02 ounces 

Some state parks prohibit the collection of firewood and tinder material from camping areas. You have to bring your own or buy marginal tinder and fuel from the park ranger station. I can tell you they won’t have anything near as effective for lighting their bundles of firewood as you’ll find in a pouch of Dragon Fire. It’ll save you the time (and embarrassment) you’d spend rummaging through your neighbor’s trash looking for paper products to get your fire started.

What’s the secret of Dragon Fire Tinderbox’s pyro super powers?

It’s the people behind the product. What you don’t see when you open a pouch of Dragon Fire is all the prep this family owned company puts into the most important layer of your next fire… tinder.

Both Daryl and Kristina are experienced in the art fire-making. Years of camping in the style of early American fur traders, without modern camping conveniences, taught this couple pioneer skills… and the need to harvest the best tinder material.

By ordering from Dragon Fire Tinderbox, you’ll not only receive some of the best tinder on earth, you’ll be supporting an American owned family business. Click on this link for Dragon Fire Tinderbox products and ordering info.

They’ll make great preparedness gifts for Christmas!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


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Salazon Salted Dark Chocolate Bars – Review

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Is there anything better than chocolate when on an outdoor adventure?… besides bacon I mean. Well we had the chance to try so samples of some of the best chocolate I’ve tasted in a long time. Delicious dark chocolate with just the right amount of salt that comes in a variety of flavours. We are hooked on the quality and flavour: not too sweet, not too salty, just delicious.

We were sent the Trail Series of bars – carefully tailored for the outdoor adventurer.

What is Salazon?

Salazon is organic, fair trade dark chocolate sourced out of the Dominican Republic that has been salted with solar-evaporated sea salt.

What is the Trail Series?

The Trail Series is 3 different 2.75 ounce salted dark chocolate bars. Each supports one of three different scenic trails in the USA: The Continental Divide Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail. They do so by donating 2% of their gross sales to the different trail associations.

We received two of each:

  • 57% Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Caramel – Certified Organic and made with Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa beans
  • 57% Organic Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Coffee – Certified Organic and made with Rainforest Alliance Certified cocoa beans
  • 72% Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt & Almond – made with Certified Organic chocolate and Fair Trade Certified cocoa beans

Salazon has partnered with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy for its Caramel bar, the Pacific Crest Trail Association for its Coffee bar, and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition for its Almond bar. The packaging for each bar depicts actual scenery captured on the trails.

The bars themselves are pretty awesome to stare at too. They cry world explorer with their eclectic map.

Testing / Testers


The bars were shared between our explorers (junior and adult). We tried to be fair to them and to you by trying them at home, before the trip as well as on the trail.


What did we think?

Fantastic! These were all incredibly delicious!

The Salted Caramel had just the right level of Caramel. There are nice sized pockets of soft caramel that weren’t too sweet or overpowering. They complimented the dark chocolate very well, without making it taste artificial.

The Salted Coffee was the same. There was an excellent balance of flavours here.

The Salted Almond bar is a much higher cocoa content (72% instead of the 57% of the other two bars) and it was a good choice. It’s more savoury than the other two. The almond pieces, like the caramel are distributed well and add a refreshing crunch to the bar.

Due to the higher cocoa content, we didn’t have problems with melting. Well, there was one exception to that. One of the bars was carried against someone’s back in their backpack. The result was a bit deformed, but it in no-way took away from the deliciousness of the bar.


You won’t go wrong with these delicious salted dark chocolate bars. They are delicious and refreshing as a trail snack, or even as a late night snack at home when the kids have gone to bed. On top of being delicious, organic and fair trade (as well as being part of the Rainforest Alliance), 2 percent of the gross sales of these bars is donated to the support of  the Triple Crown of American Scenic Trails. You’re enjoying fantastic quality chocolate and you’re helping to keep these amazing trails open and enjoyable for future generations.

At $4 MSRP (Less if you buy more), these bars are more expensive than energy bars, but a fair price for the high quality chocolate that you’re purchasing.

I strongly recommend keeping your eye out for these bars and definitely recommend you give them a try!