Force Multiplier Forrest & Kyle “The Prepping Academy” Audio in player below! Force multipliers. If you’re not familiar with what these are this is a good show to listen in on. The essence of a force multiplier is any tool or tactic that gives you the upper hand. It’s a very broad term and can … Continue reading Force Multiplier!
Privacy with Dr. Katherine Albrecht on Off Grid Preppers Host Barbara Fix “Off Grid Preppers” Audio in player below! Most of us have heroes. Mine happens to be Dr. Katherine Albrecht who is considered one of the world’s foremost privacy advocates. If you want to know how smart phones, GPS, RFID, facial recognition, and remote … Continue reading Privacy with Dr. Katherine Albrecht on Off Grid Preppers
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There is no substitute for a good compass, and the ability to use it. Since getting lost is generally the reason for most wilderness emergencies, stay found to stay out of trouble!
In this article, navigation expert Blake Miller tells you how to check out and make sure your magnetic compass is safe and ready to go.
by Blake Miller
Recently, I was watching a rifle expert on one of the many outdoor cable shows. This gent is a noted ballistics expert, writer and occasional backcountry guide. During a segment of the interview he was demonstrating what was in his day pack. It kept my interest, had the ten essentials, and all was going just fine until he brought out his compass.
It looked like a wonderful antique, might have come across the Great Plains and Rockies with Lewis and Clark –but in terms of reliability- it was questionable. The sad part is, he spent absolutely no time discussing key factors of having a reliable compass. He touched his compass and quickly put it down.
And touching a compass is about all that most people do too. Hunters preparing to go afield will spend hours with their rifle at the range evaluating their zero, adjusting optics, and measuring the initial velocity of that hot new round. Navigation takes time to get dialed in, too.
Navigation is not “rocket science” but it takes practice. It is a perishable skill. The analogy that I use in my wilderness navigation classes is that you can hop on a bike after not riding one for ten years and head on down the road. But trying to triangulate after ten months can be a chore.
For starters, you need a decent compass. Leave the $5.00 compass on the shelf at the store. (For more information on buying a compass check out my article on selecting a compass.)
Here are a few recommendations for a compass tune up:
- Store your compass in a safe spot. Keep the compass off the dash of the rig, away from flashlights and the GPS. Let’s not take a chance that an electrically induced magnetic field will degrade your compass.
- Compare your compass with another to verify that the red needle is pointing to magnetic north. Take it a step further and find a road in town that is aligned north/south. Most likely it will be aligned in degrees true; as in true north. Again, verify that the compass is pointing correctly. Do this for every compass you own.
- Is the compass leaking? Is there an air bubble floating in the compass housing? I “deep six” (toss) those units.
- Brush up on your compass navigation skills. June Fleming’s book “Staying Found” is a excellent read. Visit www.landnavigation.org. Practice shooting a bearing, triangulating your position and orienting your map and compass to your surroundings.
- Review the components of a Topographic map. Start with the USGS’ site here.
- Insure you have the compass adjusted to the correct declination. Practice with your children. Give them a good education with a map and compass before you give them a GPS.
Don’t depend on your friends being the navigation experts. Make it a goal to exceed their skills. You might find that your initial impression was mistaken. Instead of a “sense of direction” develop the skill of navigation.
Practice with a compass is essential to safe wilderness travel. To quote Fleming, “The key to knowing where you are, is constant awareness.”
Blake Miller has made a career out of staying found and knowing where he is at all times. His formal navigation training began when he joined the U.S. Navy in 1973. He served as an officer aboard several Navy ships over his
20-year career; many of those tours included the duty of Navigator. Blake began working with satellite navigation systems at sea in 1976, culminating with the then-new satellite positioning systems aboard the Battleship WISCONSIN in early 1990.
In 1998, Blake started Outdoor Quest, a business dedicated to backcountry navigation and wilderness survival. Blake has taught classes to wild land firefighters, state agency staffs, Search and Rescue team members, hunters, hikers, skiers, fishermen and equestrians. He regularly teaches classes through the Community Education programs at Central Oregon (Bend) and Chemeketa (Salem, OR) Community Colleges.
As a volunteer, Blake teaches navigation and survival classes to students in the local school districts, and conservation groups. He is a member of a Search and Rescue team.
If you have any questions about land navigation or wilderness survival, you can contact Blake through SurvivalCommonSense.email@example.com, or you can go to his website.
To hear the Blake Miller interview about choosing a magnetic compass and GPS on SurvivalCommonSense.com Radio, click here.
The other day my wife sent me on a mission to China to recover an important tactical item. That would be China, Maine and the item was a coffee table she found on Craigslist. Anyway, I jumped in my trusty pickup truck, fired up the GPS, and headed inland from the coast to grab the package. The GPS, a literal device, took me on the shortest route. Which, as you’ve probably discovered, doesn’t always necessarily mean the fastest. I was going up over mountains, down back roads, and twisting back and forth on an old dirt road that made me happy I have survival gear in the back of my truck.
Now, the coffee table was in South China, and when I got to an intersection where I could go left to South China or right to China it took me right. Confused, I stopped and checked it out a little closer. It took me north over China lake and down the other side. Ok, I thought, maybe they consider “south” to be on the west side of the lake. People and directions are funky and I was willing to give my GPS the benefit of the doubt. With a few misgivings, I followed the GPS.
I should have listened to my instincts. I got to the other side of the lake and all my warning bells were now going off like a five-alarm fire. I pulled over, looked, and sure enough the GPS was taking me to the wrong address. I put in the address I wanted and it pointed to another area. I won’t use the real address, but here’s an example of how it appeared. Address I typed into the GPS: 83 Fire Road #45, China Me. It decided I really wanted to go to: Fire road 45, no number address. Ok, they give addresses very oddly in China, so I tried this instead: Fire Road 83, #45. It then decided I really wanted to go to Fire Road 11. WTF?
I poked at it for a few minutes with rising frustration then did something I haven’t had to do for awhile. I asked for directions. There was a guy across the street playing with his dog and I pulled in and asked if he knew where Fire Road 83 was. He rubbed his chin for a minute while his friendly black lab sniffed my leg. I patted the dog (best part of the whole trip) while he thought about it. He then pointed me to the other side of the lake with some head scratching, giving me low confidence in his directions.
At a store on the top of China lake, I stopped and asked directions. Nope. They had no idea. I called the woman I was getting the item from and she asked where I was. When I told her I was at the top of China Lake, she said, “What are you doing there?” She then gave me some confusing directions on how to get to her house. I finally asked her what she was near and she gave me the address of a bank. When I put that in to the GPS, it worked and I followed it there. Of course, when I got there, the GPS told me I was at Fire Road 83, #45, just where I wanted to be. Really? Thanks a lot!
Not Just Road Directions Either
A few years ago I was hiking behind my house following my GPS. As you know, driving and hiking are two very different forms of navigation, so being the paranoid survivalist that I am I was keeping track of my location with a map and compass too. At one point I looked down and it showed my location in a town about fifteen or twenty miles away in a completely different county! There was a moment of “congnitive dissonance” as I looked at both map and GPS. Finally I put the GPS away and followed the map and compass. I knew exactly where I was even if the GPS didn’t. I told a friend about this and he said, “Yeah, sometimes that happens.”
So, I did what any self-respecting human being would do and turned to Google. Turns out this is a pretty common issue. Wow. I’m no Luddite. I love my phone and my laptop. I use Linux. I understand computer networks. I get it. But after a little study, I’ve determined that if you’re going to trust yourself to a technology that works “most of the time,” you might find your ass lost in the woods crying about your GPS.
Carry a Compass
I’ve written about this before and I’ll write about it again. If you’re going to go out in the wilderness, carry a map and compass. Carry it, know how to use it, and at the very least be able to follow a cardinal direction. A few years ago Geraldine Largay went off the Appalachian Trail and got lost. Her body was found a couple of years later. She had a compass but didn’t know how to use it. A compass is not an ornament. If you put it in your pack, at least know the basics of how to use it.
In my opinion, the best way to operate in the wild is to use your GPS as primary navigator with a map and compass as backup. This accomplishes two things.
- You’ll learn map and compass reading almost as well as how to use a GPS.
- If your GPS fails for whatever reason, you’ll know where you are and how to get out safely.
Use a Bailout Azimuth
I coined the term Bailout Azimuth. If you’re lost and can’t go point to point, you can at least follow your compass until you hit a road, stream, river, or landmark. Refer to the map on Geraldine Largay. Look carefully at where her remains were found and then look where the Appalachian Trail is. A little common sense and some very basic map reading skills could have saved this woman’s life, but she chose to walk north looking for a cell phone signal instead of following her compass south back to the trail. I’ve been in this part of the Maine woods before and it would be quite easy to walk off the trail and get lost. That’s why a compass is a critical piece of equipment.
Related: GizzMoVest GPS Cases
In this case, she moved north of the trail. The moment she discovered she was lost, she should have pulled out her map and compass. She would have seen that she was hiking east on that particular piece of trail. With a little study, she would have found that moving south or east would bring her back to the trail. Instead she made a fatal error and moved north. This really breaks my heart because a small amount of time spent at a compass class could have saved her life.
There are many stories where a GPS led people off road in their vehicles and they wound up stranded in the wilderness. Sometimes they get rescued, sometimes they don’t. Don’t be a statistic, folks. Learn how to read a map and compass and be a survivor. That’s why you’re here isn’t it? To learn how to survive? Trust me, if there’s one skill you can learn that trumps everything else, it’s how to navigate in the wilderness with a map and compass.
Use your GPS! Like I said, I love mine; however, I try to be critical of it when traveling because it’s not always 100% accurate.
Here’s a little challenge for you. The next time you decide to go on a trip take out a map and plot it by hand to see if you remember how. I’ll bet when you look at the route you selected and where your GPS wants to take you, you’ll be thinking, “Why the hell is it taking me that way?” Questions? Comments? Sound off below!
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I have often wondered about the accuracy of my Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver.
The accuracy inherent in my receiver has generally been “good enough for me.” That said, I was interested in finding technical information to build on my field experience.
I did a bit of google surfing and found a fine article from Outside Magazine writer Erin Beresini titled Your GPS Is Lying to You About Distance, Outside Magazine, Dec. 7, 2015. She distills a complex scientific paper by researchers into understandable terms.
The bottom line for backcountry hiker is that GPS receivers overestimate distance. There are three reasons for this:
- “The first is positioning error, or the fact that there’s a difference between where you actually are and where your GPS thinks you are at any given point in time.
- The second error is the variance of the GPS measurement. Even if you don’t move, the samples your GPS takes won’t each be in the same location. In other words, your samples will form a cloudlike cluster of points around your actual location. The smaller that cluster and the closer it is to your actual location..,
- The third is the autocorrelation of GPS measurements. If each measurement is off from your actual location by approximately the same amount, they’re said to be highly autocorrelated, ” Outside Magazine, Dec. 7, 2015.
There are many other factors that impact the accuracy of a GPS receiver. These include atmospherics, solar flares, heavy treed canopy, terrain masking and freeway overpasses. ]In discussions with serious back country hikers ( Search and Rescue members) heavy weather can impact accuracy.
To improve GPS receiver accuracy consider enabling the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). Newer units can also take advantage of the Russian satellite system known as GLONASS. It is similar to our GPS system. Enabling WAAS and GLONASS combined offers a significant increase in available satellites for navigation process and give the receiver the time needed to establish solid positioning information.
Hard numbers are only vague estimates. For example, a basic recreation receiver should be accurate to +/- 15 meters. With WAAS enabled accuracy could become as good as +/- 3 meters.
A GPS receiver is great to have but don’t leave the map and compass at home.
It is not be that long that we’ve had smartphones and GPS enabled devices, but for many it’d be unbearable to live without them and getting lost would be a daily pain. Not so long ago we were completely reliant without this technology.
There are still going to be times that it wouldn’t be that bad to know how to use a map or other navigational techniques. It doesn’t even have to be in a scary situation but due to everyday circumstances. There’s the possibility you’ll need to navigate without GPS. You might find you have no Internet access, the battery has gone out or you’re in a foreign place with no streets.
Mastering the Map
There are a large variety of maps out there that have differing uses. There are road maps for people driving through the city or other residential and country roads. They have maps for famous tourist attractions that are good for sightseeing or famous landmarks. Then there are maps for hikers and anyone out exploring the country. We’ll explore all of these maps and what works best for you.
Many people are familiar with the all-popular Google Maps, that isn’t always available though without the Internet connection. You’ll have to learn a few things about choosing a map and picking the one that best suits your environment.
Check the map’s orientation. Most maps are drawn with north located at the top.
Sometimes this may be depicted using a compass rose. Or, it might simply be stated to be the assumption of the map. If there is no indication to the contrary, presume it is north at the top.
Mapping the Journey
All maps have key figures to take note when you’re going to be using them. All maps should have a legend. These legends are a key of symbols denoting things on the map itself. So they’ll be different if you’re traversing the wild in a car like the Jeep Renegade or heading down a bustling street in the city.
Lines can depict roads and routes from a side street to major artery of a highway. They’ll vary in size and color depending on the environment.
Natural & Artificial Topography
Forests, parks, and grassy areas will be denoted in green. The same goes for the symbolic relation between bodies of water and other natural objects. Cities are usually shown in shades of grey and black tones. It’s always a good idea to keep a backup map in your car or offline version on some kind of device for whatever environment you may be entering into. If the place isn’t familiar then you can’t rely on just the map forever.
By driving around without GPS you can then use the technology and eventually paper or offline maps for reference. It really comes down to knowing what type of map you need, being able to understand the symbols and finding your way around by current location and being able to check out the area around you beforehand.
Julian Mitchell is the king of gadgets, be the internet enabled or more old-school; he couldn’t live without his Swiss army knife! Julian writes about technology, apps, and all the clever-but-never-used-again gadgets certain humans seem to collect!
Frequently I am asked what is the best GPS receiver to buy? To answer that question I went to Rich Owings’ website to find what are the best selling receivers in the “sport/hiking” category..
Garmin eTrex 30
Garmin Oregon 450
Garmin Dakota 20
I would add to this roster the GarminGPSMap 64s or 62s.
All of the above models are fine models to buy but I like the size and push button reliable characteristics of 60 series. I feel that the buttons are more resilient to the rigors of the outdoors.
To read more about buying a GPS:
Buying a GPS Receiver
Buying a Used GPS Receiver
Not selecting the correct map datum could induce an error of over 100 meters/yards. I emphasize that hiking groups should all be on the “same page” regarding the set-up options of their GPS receivers.
While planning a journey or at the trail head, taking the time to adjust settings among hiking partners is critical. Before departing, validating map datum and coordinate format should be a priority.
First, match the map’s datum. A topographic map identifies datum in the map key. Once the datum is identified ensure that all GPS receivers are set to match the correct datum. See the illustration below.
For more information on GPS setup setting check out:
Improving GPS Accuracy, Setup Your GPS
What kind of maps do you need to function in urban and/or wilderness situations? What happens during a disaster where you are forced to evacuate and need to travel by road, then go off road and finally cross country?
by Leon Pantenburg
I never go anywhere off the pavement without a compass and topographic map of that area.
But let’s assume an urban disaster scenario, where you need to leave your home. What maps do you need to get to safety? (And don’t just plan to rely
on a GPS. They are as reliable as their batteries, and constant use could mean the unit is soon powerless. Also, any electronic device can break or just quit working.)
Start your navigation plans with a good compass. I prefer one with a clear baseplate that is designed to work on maps. Invest in a good one with declination settings, and then learn how to use it. The smaller compasses that come with some survival kits are only useful as backups and for giving you a general direction.
City map: Your evacuation from your home will start with this map, so get one with the finest detail possible. This map can help you figure out alternative street evacuation routes if bridges and/or overpasses are closed. Also, gridlock on major highways and freeways is a given, so you might need to plot a course around them.
Topographical map: A topo map is a three-dimensional view of an area. Looking at it, you can get an idea of the terrain. Here’s a good description.
According to the Geospatial and Analysis Cooperative of Idaho State University: “The concept of a topographic map is, on the surface, fairly simple. Contour lines placed on the map represent lines of equal elevation above (or below) a reference datum.
“To visualize what a contour line represents, picture a mountain (or any other topographic feature) and imagine slicing through it with a perfectly flat, horizontal piece of glass. The intersection of the mountain with the glass is a line of constant elevation on the surface of the mountain and could be put on a map as a contour line for the elevation of the slice above a reference datum.That allows me to create a custom map of wherever I want to go.”
I have the National Geographic mapping software for my home state of Oregon, so I create a custom topo map for every outing. I print them out on standard-sized letter or legal-sized paper. These sizes fold nicely in half and fit in a quart Ziploc plastic bag. This bag, in turn, rides in the thigh pocket of my BDU pants. The map is easy to pull out and check, which means it will be.
During an urban evacuation, you might need to go cross-country through a park or open space to avoid crowds or other potential dangers. The city map may give street details, but it may not show water obstacles or other physical barriers. With your topo and compass, you should be able to plot a course effectively.
State Highway map: This gives the big picture of your situation. It shows major highways and roads, and gives general directions. It is useful for figuring out where to go once you escape the urban scene.
Forest Service map: I carry this in my car in central Oregon. Commonly referred to as a fire road map, this is a large overview of the national forests and public lands. Most importantly, it shows fire and logging roads. The map doesn’t show if the roads are improved or not, so don’t depend on this map to tell you if you can drive on it. In some instances, the roads may have overgrown into trails. You may be able to hike or ATV them in the summer, or in the winter, snowshoe or operate a snowmobile.
These maps are particularly useful for big game hunters. Kill an animal, and you need to know where the nearest road or trail so you can get the meat out. It can also help you figure alternative routes in wilderness areas. Once you get to the rural or wilderness areas, a good compass, this map and the appropriate topos will be worth their weight in gold.
These four maps should help you get out of town. Here are some others that could also prove to be useful:
History maps: I combine my map and history obsessions and buy any historical map I come across. Some of them, such as the Oregon Trail or Lewis and Clark maps show the routes used by historical figures. While the trails may be obscure right now, that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. Overland pioneer routes were established because wagons or pack trains could cover them. Those trails might be a good thing to know at some point.
River charts: My fishing and map nerd-ism combine again with these charts. Every navigable river in the United States has detailed charts showing river terrain, danger areas, and topography of the stream. These charts allow a traveler to plan a river evacuation or trip. I carried a set of Mississippi River charts on my end-to-end journey in 1980. It was easy to plan overnight stops, or decide where to pull out.
On smaller rivers, such as Oregon’s John Day, or the Deschutes River, the maps can show take-out points, landings and water dangers.
Hunting maps: Put out by your state fish and wildlife departments, these are useful to anyone who goes into the wilderness areas. I carry one to see the boundaries of my hunting unit, road closures and to some extent the terrain.
None of these maps are of any value if you don’t know how to read and use them. A good training activity that includes some exercise could be to take your compass and maps, create a possible evacuation scenario and practice navigating somewhere using alternate routes, streets and cross country travel.
So check out these maps, practice with your compass, and give some thought to how you might get out of town if you had to.
You don’t have any wilderness experience, but you want some. So what do you take along to make sure you get back?
by Leon Pantenburg
One of the most common questions from wilderness newcomers is: “What gear will I need?”
And that’s a really good question! Walk through any sporting goods store and you’ll notice a bewildering array of gear, stuff, doo-dads, knick-nacks and junk. The buyer must decide which is which.
Depending on what store it is, and the salesperson, you could end up buying some very expensive – and unnecessary – items. In some stores, the salespeople work on commission and push high-priced gear. Or you might end up with a clerk who is covering the counter for somebody at lunch.
So, here’s where to start. The Boy Scouts of America have been preaching the gospel of survival common sense for 100 years. Who actually coined the term “Ten Essentials” is probably unknown. But there is no question that a facsimile of this basic list is the basis of all emergency preparedness kits. Get your Ten Essentials first.
Here is a list of the Boy Scout Outdoor Essentials, and product suggestions. Check out the links for more info on any of the topics. Look at these ideas, and then decide what will work best for you.
- Knife: The best knife is up to your personal preference, but you must have some sort of cutting edge along. The only survival knife you have is the one you have along!
- First Aid kit: (A first aid kit should go along on every outing, even if you never use it.)
- Extra clothing: (This will depend, of course, on the climate, time of year and where you are. Clothing needs for my high desert area are much different than for those people in the tropics.)
- Rain gear: You have two choices for protection from the rain: rainsuit or poncho. I use both, depending on the circumstances. I hiked the John Muir Trail with a poncho for rain protection. It rained nine days straight! The poncho kept me dry, even though I was expending a lot of energy to hike. I prefer a rainsuit while hunting or fishing, because it won’t flap in the wind, and a rainsuit offers better protection while sitting or standing for long periods of time. Decide what’s best for your needs.
- Water bottle: Water is an absolute necessity. I generally carry a Nalgene or other rigid water bottle to drink out of. In my pack, I’ll carry several soft bottles to replenish my Nalgene. The soft bottle are protected in the pack, and
when empty, can be rolled up. The softies weight virtually nothing, and take up hardly any space. And if you find a water source, and need to re-supply, you’ll have ample containers along.
I’m not a big fan of the water bladder systems, for no really good reason, but they are great for kids because the drinking tube encourages drinking. (And the novelty of using a bladder water system will keep them well-hydrated until the newness wears off!)
- Flashlight or headlamp: (I field-dressed a deer shortly after darkness fell one evening, holding my mini-maglite in my teeth. It was pretty gross – talk about drooling on your gear…) Anyway, ever since that experience I carry a good headlamp. A headlamp leaves your hands free if you are spelunking, end up walking out to the car in the dark, scrambling over rocks etc. Besides, if the lamp is on your head, chances are less that it might be dropped and broken.)
- Trail food: This is another personal preference. I like to make most of my own, because of my inherent cheapness and a Depression-era mentality inherited from my Dad. But in all my packs, I have several Clif bars, some jerky, sardines, and hardtack. The gourmet food comes from the Dutch oven. The emergency food is fuel.
- Matches and firestarter or other methods of ignition – you should have several different types.
- Sun protection Sunscreen is an item that needs to be in every survival kit, regardless if you’re in the arctic or the tropics. I carry the tube type, because it is less messy to apply.
- Map and compass A GPS is also useful, but not without a map and compass! Always include spare batteries for your GPS!
This is the bare bones list, and you should expand and add categories to fit your individual needs. For example, my Ten Essentials includes some method of shelter, such as a tarp, trash bag, bivey sack etc., and I always carry at least 50 feet of parachute cord or light rope, and four aluminum tent stakes.
Neither the scouts, nor I, recommend including fishing gear as a survival tool! Many of the items, such as the knife, first aid kit and Clif bars, have multiple memberships in my different specialized survival kits. Another necessity is the proper size spare batteries for any device that is battery-powered. It’s a good idea to get battery-operated items that all use the same size.
Your outdoor essentials list can also vary seasonally. I always include a snow shovel and insulite pad on my winter showshoe treks.
My summer and winter extra clothing choices would also be different. An extra stocking cap is always a good thing to have along, but in the summer, a broad-brimmed hat for sun protection is a necessity.
Some items you shouldn’t cut costs on are boots or hiking shoes; a sleeping bag, and a reliable shelter.
Use this Outdoor Essentials list to form the basis for your own survival kit, then read and research to get new ideas. Your survival kit, if it’s anything like mine, will probably end up being an evolving project. After every outing, think about what you used, what you didn’t need, and what you wished you had. Then adjust accordingly.
The best survival kit or gear in the world is worthless if you don’t know how to use it, and just having a survival kit won’t save you. In fact, it might give you a false sense of confidence that could be deadly!
Start your wilderness preparation by reading a credible survival book, or taking a class from a competent instructor. Be wary of any survival-related internet blog or website. Just because someone has a website, doesn’t mean they know anything! Don’t get your survival training off a prime-time survival “reality” show.
Then practice with your equipment. Learn how to make a fire, or pitch your shelter in your backyard. Try out your sleeping bag on a chilly night on the deck to make sure it’s going to be warm enough. Make your mistakes at home, so you won’t in the backcountry, where a screw-up can kill you.
And let this be your mantra: “My survival kit won’t save me. My equipment or gear can’t save me. I will save me.” And include common sense with every outing!
From the site Life’d which say’s “Guys like gadgets, whether for fun or for self-preservation. And when tech combines with tactical, it’s just cool. These days, with natural disasters seemingly on the rise and the threat of worldwide terrorism growing, keeping tactical gadgets handy is more than cool. It might be a necessary precaution. What do you carry now? Will it help you in state of emergency? Here are six tactical gadgets engineered for guys who want to be prepared for every day…and for when the pressure is on.”
1. Shadowhawk X800 Tactical Flashlight
If Jason Bourne could pick his flashlight, this would be it. It packs military-grade LED technology into an aircraft-grade-aluminum-skinned cylinder. And it throws an astounding amount of light. You might be thinking that you already have a flashlight. But do the U.S. Navy Seals and the U.S. Coast Guard use the kind of flashlight you have? The Shadowhawk X800 can illuminate a field or blanket a work area with 800 lumens of glorious light. It can also blind an attacker. Don’t let its light weight trick you into thinking it’s not durable. Throw it, drive over it—it’ll still work. Drop it in six feet of water—it’ll still work. This tough gadget is also versatile. It comes with a strobe setting if you are stranded and need to signal for help, and you can zoom and focus its LED beam to see far, far away. The 3 AAA batteries give it 1,000 hours of life. That makes it ideal for reliable, abundant light during a prolonged natural disaster or emergency…and for lots of everyday uses. This is standard gear if you want to be prepared.
UrbanMan’s Comment: I prefer the AA flashlights as they run longer than the powerful flashlight that use DL123 or the commonly called 3v surefire batteries. Plus AA rechargeable batteries that can be recharged with a solar panel are common place.
2. TrackR Bravo
When you attach this coin-size, James Bond-style tracking device to an item, you have a 20,000-times chance of getting it back if you lose it. The accompanying app enlists the help of network TrackR users to locate your lost bag, bike or dog. Last count, there were over 20,000 strong in their Crowd GPS. Of course, you will probably be able to get your wallet or whatever back on your own. The TrackR app will display how far you are from the keys or case you dropped, and it will sound the alarm to help you pinpoint its exact location. If you realize you left your bag after you travel to another location, all other TrackR users in the network are notified, and when one passes your missing article, you’ll get an update sent to your phone. What if you can’t find your phone? Use TrackR to ring it, even if it’s on silent mode, and you’ll find your phone fast. TrackR helps you keep your stuff…especially if you’re a chronic (keys/wallet/bike/car/bag) misplacer.
UrbanMan’s Comment: This sounds useful, but if the internet is down such as in a collapse of the nation, you’ll have just a useless little device.
3. Shadow X Dual Beam Lighter
This is the baddest lighter on the market since ZIPPO set the bar for badass lighters. It is engineered to make you look cool, and cool you will be wherever you break it out: bar, ball game, backpacking, hunting. In fact, it might be worth becoming a smoker just to use the lighter. (Don’t actually start smoking just to use the lighter.) Forget harmful butane, because that’s not its fuel. Pay no mind to rain because water does not affect it. Don’t worry about blocking the wind, because there is no flame to protect. Get that? There. Is. No. Flame. Just an electric current forming a hot X that ignites anything in its crosshairs. Tactical, practical and flat out cool. You recharge it via a USB and you ignite it by pressing a button. Keep it in your pocket for those times you need fire and want to look cool. Real cool.
UrbanMan’s Comment: Hey, I’m always us for a new fire starter, but it needs to have replaceable batteries. If re-chargeable then a solar panel and cigarette plug adapter; will likely be needed.
4. Shadowhawk Military Tactical Laser
Another great gadget to have. It’s fun, it’s useful, and it could save your life. Simply speaking, it can help you point to that thing way over there, even half a mile away. Speaking from a safety standpoint, a blast of this beam of light can blind a person. Not recommended for use on friends, but on a would-be attacker or an intruder into your home, your Shadowhawk Military Tactical Laser lets you get all Star Wars on him. ZAP, and he’s on the ground or holding his eyes, letting you go to work on him or just get away. It’s also good in the woods if you ever lose your way. The powerful beam will point Search and Rescue to your exact origin. And on nights when you’re not walking the streets or wandering in the woods, your dog will get a kick out of chasing the laser point on the living room floor.
UrbanMan’s Comment: This is a visible laser. A laser is useful for pointing out positions however a visible laser can also point out your position! Remember the old adage about tracer ammunition,….it works both ways.
5. TL900 LED Headlamp
This Tactical Headlamp is survival gear at its best. It blasts a massive 1000 lumen beam, enough to light a field, an emergency work area or a basement. With five settings, you can focus the beam to pinpoint targets at a distance of 500 meters! (That’s over 1640 feet…or 546 yards.) The design is the result of multiple attempts at perfection. It seems these guys have nailed it with a 90° pivoting spotlight and a completely water-resistant head unit. The beauty of this equipment, though, and what it makes it a top-tier tactical tool, is the hands-free capabilities it gives you. You never know into what situation you might be forced to work or search in the dark, and being able to freely use both hands could be the difference between success and failure…even in mundane use when there’s no pressure.
UrbanMan’s Comment: Head lamps are useful, red and white lights specifically, but how about some battery info?
6. Garmin Tactix GPS Watch
This watch will not only make you look good, it will let you know when’s a good time to pull the chute. Even if you’re not a skydiver, the Garmin Tactix is gold for any guy who likes to go for a hike or to just explore the unbeaten path once in awhile. You can rely on Garmin’s GPS to get you home if things go awry. There’s even a TracBack feature. If you think you might lose your way, this is like virtual breadcrumbs, guiding you back to your origin along the path which you came. The design of the watch is not only sleek, but functional. The scratch-resistant lens is curved so there’s no reflection preventing you from reading the display. Even with night vision on, you can read the display which gives you real-time information about your surroundings including barometric and compass readings. It won’t, however, tell you when the boss is walking by your cubicle.
UrbanMan’s Comment: I don’t like GPS’s. We have become a nation of people not comfortable with a map and compass. The watch feature is good for synchronizing times, etc., but a $20 timex will work for this.
OPSEC The Quiet Life!
D J Cooper “Surviving Dystopia”
So, you just bought a shiny new WonderMill grain mill. You ordered it online and it finally arrived in the mail today. Hastily you open the package and excited with your new prepper gadget you swiftly break out the grain and whip up a lovely loaf of bread. Thrilled you immediately begin snapping photos with your phone and plaster them all over your Facebook and Twitter.
These are the things we all love to share with one another and without even thinking we could have just shared exactly how the “Other” kind of prepper will find their preps. By seeking out YOU. The thing I want to talk about today is OPSEC. OPSEC? What is that?
Many know the meaning but for those who don’t, OPSEC is short for OPerational SECurity. This is important because of the guy who thinks that when TSHTF he is going to take the road most closely related to Mad Max and just seek to take the preparations you collected, worked and paid for.
Your phone is constantly asking to know your location, maybe you’re using the GPS or looking for a restaurant, no matter how it is on if it is then there is likely a little tidbit of information attached to your photo of that brand new grain mill you just plastered all over the internet. This information is called geotagging, it attaches the GPS location of where the photo was taken and a tech savvy Mad Maxer might just find out where you keep your precious new prep.
Operational security is an important part of our preparedness plan and should be something we consider as such.
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It’s really hard to think when there’s this awful, nauseating realization that you may be lost in the wilderness and you start to panic. Suppose you have a map and compass along, and a basic idea of how to use them. But maybe you didn’t think about using them…
by Leon Pantenburg
After all, the sun was out, the day was nice, the trail is clear, the scenery beautiful and you stuck the map and compass in the pack somewhere. It was hard to get to, so you didn’t check it.
And, the point was to get out in the woods and relax, and who can unwind when you have to fool around with land navigation tasks? Besides, you’re well prepared, with survival knife, a survival kit, tarp and…all that stuff.
But then it starts to get dark, or the weather changes, and you don’t remember which of the forks in the trail you took. At this point, many people will start to panic, and when that happens, you can’t reason.
But in this situation, remembering some common sense land navigation memory aides and acronyms will help calm you down. Once you can correctly orient the map, you can figure out where you are and where to go.
You can also decide if the smart option is to set up a shelter, build a fire and stay put while waiting to be rescued. Don’t try to make this kind of decision when you can’t think!
Humans are hard-wired to want an activity pattern. Creating a routine to fall back upon in this situation could help calm you down. It will hasten your ability to make good decisions.
Here’s a survival mindset exercise that uses simple, easy-to-remember map and compass memory aides. Memorize them, and the order they’re in, and you’ll have one more tool in your survival kit.
STOP: First and foremost, in any wilderness emergency is the need to focus on the situation. Stop (sit down while you’re doing this part), Think, Observe and Plan. Stay seated until you reach “P” and don’t get up until you have a plan. Then, get out the map and compass.
Red=N: Which end of the needle is north? Maybe you want to write this on the compass somewhere: Red = North.
Yeah – this is elementary stuff, but really important. Disorientation is a symptom of dehydration, fatigue, hypothermia and panic, and you can have all these problems at once. And maybe you also have to deal with pain, because of an injury.
Also – and this sounds really elementary – make sure the needle actually does point north before you buy a compass. Twice, I have found name brand, quality compasses where the red needle pointed south. (I’m not the only one – wilderness expert Peter Kummerfeldt relates a similar story, with a different brand of compass.)
The other instance wasn’t funny, and could have lead to tragedy. I happened across a compass, with a red needle that pointed south, on the shelf of a local sporting goods store. An unsuspecting customer could have bought the compass, assumed the red needle pointed north and gotten really, really lost. The salesman was appalled, and checked out all the rest of the compass inventory on the spot. Never, ever buy a compass that has anything whatsoever wrong with it!
Red in the shed: OK – you remember, and are positive, that red is north.
But, next, aren’t you supposed to do something with the pointy do-hickey in the bottom?
It’s probably more dignified to say “Box the needle” or “Align the red, north-pointing needle with the orienting arrow figure on the bottom of the dial.” But you’ll remember “Red in the Shed,” because it rhymes and the alignment box resembles, with a little imagination, a tall, skinny shed.
Two norths? There are two norths on a topographic map: Magnetic north and True North and the difference could confuse an exhausted, cold person.
Magnetic north is where the needle points to the actual magnetic North Pole. In 2005, that was about 800 miles from the geographic north pole, near Ellef Ringes Island in the Canadian Arctic (Latitude: 82.7, Longitude: 114.4).
True north is the direction to the top of your map. Since the earth is a pear-shaped object and a map is flat, inevitably, there will be some variations
So remember this acronym: MN to MN = Magnetic needle, magnetic north: The Magnetic needle on your compass points to magnetic north. MN-to-MN.
True north is always and truly at the top of your map.
But that’s not the only thing about true north and magnetic north you need to know.
The difference in angle between true north and magnetic north is called declination, and you’ll have to adjust your compass and map.
Which way to adjust for declination? How do you remember if you adjust for easterly or westerly declination?
In the continental U.S. , just look at the Mississippi River. If you have to go east to get to it, then you adjust for easterly declination. If you have to go west, it is westerly declination. And, if you live in the zone along the big river, you probably don’t have to adjust for declination at all.
Anyone venturing out into the wilderness needs to have a good working knowledge of a map and compass. Never rely on a GPS alone. Any electronic device can fail, and the best GPS in the world is only as good as its power source.
These tips are a very small piece of staying found. A critical tool in your survival kit is knowledge and skill. Invest the time and money to take a good land navigation class, then buy a quality compass.
Another good idea is to make your own topographic maps. I use the National Geographic Topo! Outdoor Recreation Mapping Software, and make a custom map whenever I go out. There are other fine mapping programs on the market also, and don’t forget google maps as a resource.
Memorize these aids, and that potential panic attack will dissipate while you figure out where you are!
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Let’s assume for a moment that you’re out hiking or exploring. Or even a worst case scenario: you’ve been stranded due to an unfortunate accident or event into an unknown place, far from civilization. Even if you’re a bit familiar to the wilderness or have a clue where you are, it’s still bad; not knowing is even worse. The first reasonable thing to do is to try and locate where you are and start moving towards a safe zone. Many of you will consider the modern approach to navigation, based on a GPS system. But what if your electronic device (phone, tablet, GPS device) gets damaged or it simply runs out of battery? You should be fine as long as you remembered to pack a survival navigation tools, a map and a compass as a backup. Every serious prepper should have a compass in his private survival kit. There’s a great variety of compasses on the market, to suit the needs of even the keenest explorers. The beginners or light travelers could always get a basic compass, one that’s cheap, works great but it doesn’t have some bonus features, such as a mirror or a declination adjustment etc. For the more serious hikers and preppers, there are more advanced compasses, with many additional features (magnifier, mirror etc.) that make navigation easier and are perfect for those who wonder regularly into unknown territory. It all comes down to choosing the one that works best for you. Let’s have a look at what’s available on the market.
How a compass works
A compass has a tiny plastic bubble filled with liquid, a damping fluid, which is mostly oil based and treated with antifreeze so the compass can work even in low-temperature environments. Its role is not only to protect the pointer needle from outside interference, but also to prevent the needle from excessive jiggling and trembling caused by the magnetic forces of the earth. If you find yourself in a cold environment or at high altitudes, the liquid will contract creating a bubble inside the plastic casing, but this won’t affect accuracy. When you return to normal conditions, the air bubble will disappear.
The magnetized needle encased in the plastic liquid-filled transparent bubble is the one that’s responsible for telling directions. It has 2 pointy sides, one of which is strongly attuned to the earth’s strongest magnetic field, generated by the magnetic North Pole. So at any point, this needle (which is normally red) will point north. However, the magnetic north is different from the geographic north. The magnetic north is situated in a chain of islands in the Canadian Arctic. So you must compensate and calculate the differences when traveling by map and compass.
There are also electronic compasses available on the market, which are easier to read thanks to their displays. But they’re less reliable than traditional ones for the same reasons every other battery operated GPS device is: they’re fragile and are dependent on an external energy source that will run out soon or later.
Compasses to consider
The Suunto A-10 field compass is a very simple and efficient compass that works great. It’s lightweight, made from a scratch-resistant and shock-absorbing transparent material and it has an ergonomic design which makes it easy to hold and handle or to fit in a small pocket; it also comes equipped with a detachable snap lock. It supports a two-zone reading (covering the entire north hemisphere) for an extra accurate reading, which can be done in both inches and centimeters. The needled is not flooded in liquid, but this doesn’t seem to affect the overall performance of this compass in any way.
The Cammenga Phosphorescent Clam Pack Lensatic Compass is a very established name in the field. It’s a very sturdy field compass that is completely waterproof and it’s has a very tough aluminum frame. You can carry it tied to your wrist, clipped securely to your belt or just have it sit in its own carrying pouch. It weighs about 8 ounces and the dial includes both degrees and miles. It has phosphorescent paint to make for easy readings at night and for those who don’t mind spending twice the money, there is also a tritium version available. This tiny navigation gadget has been approved by the DoD, so that tells us a lot about its quality and efficiency.
The Suunto KB-14 360R Pro Compass it’s absolutely state of the art as far as accuracy goes. It’s a professional compass, which means great investments have been made and excellent materials went in the making of this particular model. It’s extremely accurate, down to a third of a degree or 0.5 degrees when it comes to graduated intervals. The shell is made from a durable anodized light alloy, it has superior damping fluid (which stay consistent even in extreme conditions) and a nylon pouch for protection. This model is highly used by professional cartographers, surveyors and foresters. It’d be the perfect compass if it had the declination correction feature; luckily this feature is available on the improved (and more expensive) KB-14D model.
There are still plenty of models out there for you to check out and chose from. But make no mistake about it: we’re far from that technical breakthrough, when electronics can replace classical gadgets in a survival scenario. I’m not saying that the GPS systems are completely useless, far from it. But when the computer systems fail, you’ll need to revert to a simpler way if you want to survive.
By Alec Deacon
The post Survival Navigation Tools: A Compass Will Save Your Life appeared first on My Family Survival Plan.