Sunday, January 8, 2012

Emergency Gear You Might Need On A Winter Hike

Emergency Gear: Ok, here's another category that is quite varied from one hiker to the next so I'll give you my idea of what "emergency gear" consists of. Many people carry next to nothing others carry the kitchen sink. The one thing I ask myself if I'm going to be any further than a short walk from "civilization" is what would I need to survive an unplanned night out without too much discomfort. I by no means think that I'll be enjoying myself but I do want to have enough that I don't end up with frostbite! In that vane, here's what I may be carrying at any given time.
Food: A bit of chocolate & a few hard candies. I'm not looking to chow down I'm simply trying to have a little something to keep my metabolism up if I end up out for longer than expected.

Extra Clothes: Just enough to ensure that I will not freeze if forced to spend the night out. Many people carry a sleeping bag and/or a tent for this purpose. There are pros and cons of both techniques. By carrying a down jacket, a pair of fleece pants and some extra socks in a waterproof bag I know that even if everything else gets wet I still have some dry clothes to keep me warm for the night. The advantage of this system is that they can be used at any time, not only for an emergency bivouac. If it just turns out to be colder than planned I have that extra clothing. The down side to this technique and the best reason for opting to go the sleeping bag route is that in the case of an injury or if I were mildly hypothermic it would be extremely difficult to strip off my wet clothes and get into dry ones. Where as it would be comparatively simple to pull out the sleeping bag and climb inside of it.
Shelter: If you're out in winter you really should have some means of shelter if you're forced to spend the night. Some people carry a tent, yes even on day hikes. Personally I carry a bivy sack. The idea is to be prepared for whatever may happen.

Fire Starter: Sadly, starting a fire is becoming a lost art and it certainly can not be counted on as a possibility in all circumstances but in some situations it could literally be a life saver! I carry some water/wind proof matches, a small "Bic" lighter, a small piece of candle and a piece of "fire starter" that can be purchased at most good outdoor stores. It's also important to get some practice in using these items.

Repair Kit: It needn't be terribly extensive but it's a good idea to be able to make basic gear repairs while in the field.

Duct Tape: I have a couple of yards wrapped around the top of my trekking poles.

Cable Ties: These are the handiest little items imaginable for repairing everything from a broken snowshoe to building a basic splint

Cord: I carry about 20 feet of nylon cord, again handy for many purposes.
Safety Pins: 3 or 4 of assorted sizes

Emergency Blanket: I prefer something a bit more sturdy than the conventional emergency blanket. For about $20.00 you can purchase one that is designed like a sleeping bag with a Velcro "zipper" that even has a sort of lining. Much more rugged and much less likely to blow away than the more basic ones.

Chemical Heat Packs: These little things are amazing. They are simply a small packet of chemicals that produce heat when opened. They come in various sizes that can be inserted into your mittens to warm your fingers or your boots to warm your toes. If forced to spend the night out somewhere they may make the difference on whether or not fingers or toes get frost bitten.

Large Trash Bag: These can be used for a multitude of purposes including; Pack Cover, Rain Coat, Bivy Sack, Water Collection Aid
Cell Phone: Yep, that's right, I put it as the last item of emergency gear because that's where I believe it should be. Hiking, especially in winter should be a sport of self reliance. You should be prepared to take care of yourself no matter what happens! I generally do not carry a phone but if you do decide to carry one, please be advised that your chances of getting a signal in the mountains is 50/50 at best. So again, be prepared and I the way I figure it, if I need to be prepared to take care of myself if the phone doesn't work, why even carry it?

Head Lamp: Any type of flashlight will do the trick but a headlamp is so much simpler to use and it allows you to keep your hands free that it's my choice. I also carry a spare bulb and spare batteries. In winter you'll find that lithium batteries will last much longer in the cold and it's a good idea to keep any batteries in your pocket to keep them warm. For that reason there are headlamps designed specifically for winter that have the batteries in a unit that attaches somewhere under your jacket and has a wire that leads to the light itself. That way the batteries are kept warmer at all times.

No comments:

Post a Comment