Do or Die: 5 Unique Survival Tips from American Alpine Club

7:00 a.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Do or Die: 5 Unique Survival Tips from American Alpine Club"

If your expedition goes sour, first aid training and compass skills might not be enough to pull you from a life-threatening morass. The American Alpine Club shares five of its favorite backcountry survival tips and tricks.

Full article at http://www.trailspace.com/articles/2012/08/09/american-alpine-club-survival-tips.html

9:21 a.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Great article.  

I am seriously considering AAC membership, mostly for the rescue insurance.

10:03 a.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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To me it sounds like "here are some things you can do in case you go to the woods unprepared"

What's the chance someone will have a first aid kit with cotton balls and petroleum jelly in it if they didn't bring a fire starter?   What's the chance they'll even have matches?

And the water bottle advice is ludicrous - "In case you don't plan on bringing any water filtration or purification with you, then plan on bringing a clear plastic soda bottle instead so that you can use it as a poor substitute for the water filtration or purification that you purposefully didn't bring because you read about the clear plastic water bottle idea, and pray you need it only when the sun is shinning...."

Even more peculiar is the advice to save the clear plastic soda bottle after drinking the soda the first night in case it is need to purify water.  Are they suggesting that if you have other means of purifying water then you can chuck any empty clear plastic water bottles along the trail after you have drank the contents?

Seriously, who joins the American Alpine Club then heads off into the woods without telling anyone where they are going, and takes only a clear plastic water bottle, a first aid kit with cotton balls and petroleum jelly, some fishing line, and a cell phone that won't get service in the area to which they are going?

No wonder their members need rescue insurance.

I suspect that the article was written by a professional writer rather than an active member of the American Alpine Club.  Lots of organizations hire internet writes to produce short articles to keep their websites alive.

11:58 a.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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great notes

1:16 p.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Looks like nogods missed the fundamental point of the article, namely learning how to improvise.

You can't carry everything into the backcountry or on an expedition. Even when you have fully prepared for the "reasonably unexpected", there are those incidents that you can not anticipate or are so unlikely that there may be no way to prepare (as a fellow trainer puts it, "asteroid strikes and dinosaur attacks").

First aid kits are a good example. To really be prepared for anything first aid you might encounter, you would have to carry a full ER crash cart (an MD friend of mine comes pretty close to that in his first aid kit). On the other hand, you can do as taught in WFR courses and described in detail in Eric Weiss' pocket-sized Wilderness and Travel Medicine book and learn how to improvise on the spot with what you have (example - you don't have to include a SamSplint, if you have a seat pad of closed cell foam, to splint a broken leg). This is not to say to forget about any kind of first aid kit. It is just to recognize that you can't prepare for every incident imaginable and unimaginable.

Disclosure - I am a Life Member of the American Alpine Club, as is my wife, and have been for many years.

2:03 p.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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Looks like Bill missed the illogical assertions of the article.  How does one improvise with something they wouldn't carry in the first place?

And as for the soda bottle, the article gives 3 steps to "improvising"

1. "Pack a plastic bottle of soda",

2. "drink it the first night of your trip", and

3. "save the bottle"

Wouldn't it be easier to advise "1. pack appropriate water filtration and purification equipment.  Then you don't have to 1. Pack a plastic bottle of soda; 2. drink it the first night of your trip and 3. save the bottle."  

Now, I will admit that the soda bottle portion could have been written as a legit "improvise" matter, but it would have to been more like "Remember that clear plastic soda bottle you didn't toss because you adhere to LNT?  Well, if you find yourself in a situation needing to purify water without traditional equipment (i.e., boiling, filtration, or chemical) then you can MacGyver that flattened soda bottle into some safe water...."

When a respected outdoor oriented organizations allows such poorly thought out material to be published in association with its name, it reflects on the credibility of the organization.   It's the equivalent of the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics org nailing signs to trees that proclaim "Leave No Trace."  

9:44 p.m. on August 9, 2012 (EDT)
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nogods has added a fair amount of wording that was not in the article. The section suggesting the use of the UV sterilization trick says quite clearly:

For safe drinking water in the backcountry, filters and tablets are best, of course. ....

It does not say anything even remotely like the nogods addition of:

"In case you don't plan on bringing any water filtration or purification with you, then plan on bringing a clear plastic soda bottle instead so that you can use it as a poor substitute for the water filtration or purification that you purposefully didn't bring because you read about the clear plastic water bottle idea,

Many people do have cotton balls and petroleum jelly or other flammables like Purell hand sterilizer and other flammable gels in first aid kits. 

Thing is, stuff happens in the woods and hills, and sometimes you end up without what you originally brought with you. So thinking about how you might improvise in various scenarios is a good practice. Maybe it's a waterbottle, or some hand cleaner that saves your life.

12:51 a.m. on August 10, 2012 (EDT)
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nogods said:

Looks like Bill missed the illogical assertions of the article.  How does one improvise with something they wouldn't carry in the first place?

By improvising with stuff you do have.  For instance nylon rope, pack cloth and other plastic articles are also viable fire starters in a pinch.

Or improvise with stuff found in your surroundings.  Spider webs make good bandages and help accelerate clotting. 

Ed

6:26 p.m. on August 13, 2012 (EDT)
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I carry a lighter, a flint/steel/magnesium bar, and waterproof matches in my emergency kit.

I also carry hand sanitizer; it's good for cleaning cuts as well as just germs on your hands, it stops the itching from mosquito bites, and it's a great fire starter.  Soak a sterile dressing in it, and it burns even longer.

As for UV purification, my Camelbak All-Clear uses it to purify water by disrupting the DNA of bacteria and viruses so they can't reproduce.

Sounds like the ACC is giving good advice. Of course they've also been doing it a lot longer than nogods.

9:57 p.m. on August 30, 2012 (EDT)
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Whether you drink soda or not, soda bottles are great to have in your pack as water bottles. Since they are designed to handle the pressure of carbonated beverages, they are sturdy enough to give years of service as water bottles. I have had ones that I used for as much as 15 years. They weigh less than either metal or polycarbonate bottles and cost a lot less. PET is essentially BPA free. So, there's no worry about BPA like there is with at least some polycarbonate bottles. The only caution I'd give is that if you do use one for purifying water in sunlight, as suggested here, you should retire that bottle because, like nearly all plastics, PET degrades with exposure to UV.

8:07 a.m. on August 31, 2012 (EDT)
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For the ladies out there, I recently saw a demonstration of how great tampons burn...they are, after all, just concentrated cotton. They can also be used for first aid purposes. How's that for improvising?

1:11 p.m. on August 31, 2012 (EDT)
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I'm glad to see that back country hikers are being advised to take out rescue insurance.  This is something that divers like myself have been doing for years through the Diver's Lert Network (DAN) to defray the cost of being flown to a hyperbaric chamber if needs be.  I have often wondered how many of the high rescues we read about taking place in our national parks are covered by insurance and whether or not the taxpayer gets stuck with the tab.  I agree with some of the comments about the article.  It does appear the scenarios are a bit contrived or fallacious.  If you are preparing for the unexpected, you should prepare to provide for your needs for your primary needs depending on what you are heading into:  shelter and water or weather conditions.  Water is incidental if you freeze to death before you can get thirsty.  Being unprepared through ignorance is no excuse, but it might make a cool epitaph.

1:36 p.m. on August 31, 2012 (EDT)
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Considering backcountry insurance is a good idea for those that are adventurous.  I have taken a $15,000 plane ride when no helicopters were available.  Health insurance often has a $5000 maximum benefit for transportation.  In a backcountry accident, a helicopter brings EMTs and is not just transportation.  I would gladly pay it again for the first morphine.

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