Sunday, October 31, 2010

Food: Arctic Willow

Arctic willow
Salix arctica

Description: The arctic willow is a shrub that never exceeds more than 60 centimeters in height and grows in clumps that form dense mats on the tundra.

Habitat and Distribution: The arctic willow is common on tundras in North America. Europe, and Asia. You can also find it in some mountainous areas in temperate regions.

Edible Parts: You can collect the succulent, tender young shoots of the arctic willow in early spring. Strip off the outer bark of the new shoots and eat the inner portion raw. You can also peel and eat raw the young underground shoots of any of the various kinds of arctic willow. Young willow leaves are one of the richest sources of vitamin C, containing 7 to 10 times more than an orange.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Survival: Makeshift Shelters

Makeshift Tents & Outdoor Natural Shelters

Outdoor Natural Shelter Real Tents are of course the best protection against rough weather conditions but at times, you might find yourself outdoors without a real tent with you. You will have to be resourceful and create a shelter out of possible other equipment that you might be carrying with you should the need arise to find some protection.

Possible Shelter Building Equipment

In general, it is always a smart idea to have some basic multifunctional equipment with you that can serve as possible shelter building equipment:

You will need something preferably wind- and waterproof to function as your makeshift tent sheet. Without any such cover, you are better off just moving on until you can find some natural shelter. Possible cover sheets may include:
  • o Fly Sheets: Fly sheets of tents are great for makeshift shelters. They are waterproof and they already have grommets for connecting rope.
  • o Poncho: Many ponchos have small grommets that enable connection of a line.
  • o Ground Sheets/Plastic Sheets: These could be any kind of camping or other fabric and generally have no grommets. Read our next paragraph for methods of connecting rope to sheets.

    Ropes / Lines

    Unless you just plan to sit or lie under the sheet it will not be enough to only have a sheet. You will need some rope and something to tie the rope down to create a stand alone shelter. It is always a good idea to have a good length of strong rope/line/wire with you.

    Poles / Supports

    The combination of a sheet, rope, poles, and fixed natural objects will enable you to create a good makeshift shelter. Here are some common things that can be used as poles or supports:

  • o Walking Sticks / Hiking Poles. Have the great advantages of a smooth top grip surface which prevents the top from puncturing the sheet. Hiking Poles are extendable, giving you more flexibility in your shelter building. The tips of Hiking Poles will keep your makeshift tent poles on their place.
  • o Trees/Bushes. Trees offer branches and trunks that are great for tying down your lines.
  • o Loose Branches, Rocks, Sticks, etc. These offer some way of anchoring a line or providing weight to keep down a sheet corner. See the next paragraph on shelter building techniques for more details.
  • Shelter Building Techniques

    Your own resourcefulness will often determine if you are able to build a shelter with the materials at your disposal and how good those shelters are. However, it helps to have some Outdoor Shelter Building tips:
    Connecting a Rope to a Sheet

    Without grommets, holes in a sheet will likely tear, thereby destroying your shelter. So you are better off leaving the sheet whole. Use this technique to secure a line to a sheet: Find a smooth and solid object such as a smooth rock and place them on the sheet. Wrap the object with the sheet and tie your line around the sheet underneath the object, thereby trapping the object in the sheet. The object will now act as an anchor securing the line.

    Makeshift Line Anchors

    In the absence of trees, bushes, rocks, or other fixed natural features, you will have to use branches or rocks as anchors. Here are some methods:
  • o Find a Y-shaped branch and dig in both ends into the ground to form a looped anchor.
  • o Tie the line to the center of a stick, dig a hole, anchor the stick to the wall of the hole, and cover up the hole.
  • o Tie the line to the center of a stick, and anchor the stick down with a large rock or tree trunk.
  • o In general, use any combination of digging in, weight anchoring, and resistance building to create a solid anchor. Try to find a location with trees or other solid natural anchor points to increase your shelter's strength and to minimize the time you have to spend to create makeshift anchor points.

  • Natural Shelters

    Nature provides enough natural shelters. The only problem could be finding one. Especially if conditions are bad and you need to find shelter as quickly as possible, you are probably better off using mother nature's shelter building aids in your direct vicinity instead of looking for the perfect shelter. Here are some quick guidelines on Natural Shelters:

  • Trees: Bigger trees with a large diameter trunk will offer good protection from wind and rain. Do not stay near the trunk in case of a lightning storm. For more information, read our section on Lightning.

  • Caves & Rock Faces: These offer great shelter. Again, make sure not to stay at the bottom of a rock face in case of lightning and make certain that you do not venture too far inside unknown caves. For more information, read our section on Cave Survival.

    These are the pointers on how to create a shelter during your Hiking trip. Resourcefulness and knowledge on the different techniques and skills in building shelter are essential so you are prepared to create some protection should the need arises.

  • Monday, October 25, 2010

    Medical: Good Samaritan Law vs. Duty of Care

    Good Samaritan Law a legal principle that prevents a rescuer who has voluntarily helped a victim in distress from being successfully sued for 'wrongdoing.' Its purpose is to keep people from being so reluctant to help a stranger in need for fear of legal repercussions if they made some mistake in treatment.

    In Alberta it is the Emergency Medical Aid Act.


    Chapter E‑7

    HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, enacts as follows:


    1 In this Act,

    (a) “physician” means a person who is a regulated member of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta who is a physician, surgeon or osteopath;

    (b) “registered health discipline member” means a person who is registered under the Health Disciplines Act or a regulated member under Schedule 1, 10, 13, 18 or 25 to the Health Professions Act;

    (c) “registered nurse” means a person who is a registered nurse within the meaning of the Health Professions Act.

    RSA 2000 cE‑7 s1;RSA 2000 cH‑7 ss146,147,155

    Protection from action

    2 If, in respect of a person who is ill, injured or unconscious as the result of an accident or other emergency,

    (a) a physician, registered health discipline member, or registered nurse voluntarily and without expectation of compensation or reward renders emergency medical services or first aid assistance and the services or assistance are not rendered at a hospital or other place having adequate medical facilities and equipment, or

    (b) a person other than a person mentioned in clause (a) voluntarily renders emergency first aid assistance and that assistance is rendered at the immediate scene of the accident or emergency,

    the physician, registered health discipline member, registered nurse or other person is not liable for damages for injuries to or the death of that person alleged to have been caused by an act or omission on his or her part in rendering the medical services or first aid assistance, unless it is established that the injuries or death were caused by gross negligence on his or her part.

    RSA 1980 cE‑9 s2;RSA 1980 cH‑5.1 s34;1984 c53 s27

    Laws enacted in other provinces of Canada:

    Quebec: is unique in Canada in imposing a duty on everyone to help a person in peril. The duty to take action stems from the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms enacted in 1975, and the Civil Code.

    Ontario: Good Samaritan Act, 2001.

    BC: Good Samaritan Act

    Nova Scotia: Volunteer Services Act


    Duty of Care

    In tort law, a duty of care (or delict in Scots law) is a legal obligation imposed on an individual requiring that they adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseeably harm others. It is the first element that must be established to proceed with an action in negligence. The plaintiff (pursuer in Scotland) must be able to show a duty of care imposed by law which the defendant (or defender) has breached. In turn, breaching a duty may subject an individual to liability in tort or delict. The duty of care may be imposed by operation of law between individuals with no current direct relationship (familial or contractual or otherwise), but eventually become related in some manner, as defined by common law (meaning case law).

    Duty of care may be considered a formalization of the social contract, the implicit responsibilities held by individuals towards others within society. It is not a requirement that a duty of care be defined by law, though it will often develop through the jurisprudence of common law.


    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Food: The Edible Bearberry

    Bearberry or kinnikinnick
    Arctostaphylos uvaursi

    Description: This plant is a common evergreen shrub with reddish, scaly bark and thick, leathery leaves 4 centimeters long and 1 centimeter wide. It has white flowers and bright red fruits.

    Habitat and Distribution: This plant is found in arctic, subarctic, and temperate regions, most often in sandy or rocky soil.

    Edible Parts: Its berries are edible raw or cooked. You can make a refreshing tea from its young leaves.


    Health Benefits and Warnings of eating Fruit

    Medicinal Uses

    Antiseptic; Astringent; Birthing aid; Diuretic; Hypnotic; Kidney; Lithontripic; Poultice; Skin; Tonic; Women's complaints.

    Bearberry was commonly used by many native North American Indian tribes to treat a wide range of complaints and has also been used in conventional herbal medicine for hundreds of years, it is one of the best natural urinary antiseptics. The leaves contain hydroquinones and are strongly antibacterial, especially against certain organisms associated with urinary infections. The plant should be used with caution, however, because hydroquinones are also toxic. The leaves are antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, lithontripic, hypnotic and tonic. The dried leaves are used in the treatment of a variety of complaints. These leaves should be harvested in early autumn, only green leaves being selected, and then dried in gentle heat[4]. A tea made from the dried leaves is much used for kidney and bladder complaints and inflammations of the urinary tract such as acute and chronic cystitis and urethritis, but it should be used with caution and preferably only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. The tea is more effective if the urine is alkaline, thus it is best used in combination with a vegetable-based diet. Externally, a poultice of the infused leaves with oil has been used as a salve to treat rashes, skin sores etc, and as a wash for a baby's head. An infusion of the leaves has been used as an eyewash, a mouthwash for cankers and sore gums and as a poultice for back pains, rheumatism, burns etc. The dried leaves have been used for smoking as an alternative to tobacco. One report says that it is unclear whether this was for medicinal purposes or for the intoxicated state it could produce, whilst another says that the leaves were smoked to treat headaches and also as a narcotic. The herb should not be prescribed to children, pregnant women or patients with kidney disease. Another report says that some native North American Indian tribes used an infusion of the stems, combined with blueberry stems (Vaccinium spp) to prevent miscarriage without causing harm to the baby, and to speed a woman's recovery after the birth.

    Other Uses

    Beads; Dye; Ground cover; Pioneer; Soil stabilization; Tannin; Waterproofing.
    A yellowish-brown dye is obtained from the leaves, it does not require a mordant. A grey-brown dye is obtained from the fruit. The dried fruits are used in rattles and as beads on necklaces etc. The leaves are a good source of tannin. The mashed berries can be rubbed on the insides of coiled cedar root baskets in order to waterproof them. A good ground-cover for steep sandy banks in a sunny position or in light shade. A carpeting plant, growing fairly fast and carpeting as it spreads. It is valuable for checking soil erosion on watersheds. This is also a pioneer plant in the wild, often being the first plant to colonize burnt-over areas, especially on poor soils.


    There are four subspecies:
    • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi subsp. uva-ursi. Common Bearberry; circumpolar arctic and subarctic, and in mountains further south.
    • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi subsp. adenotricha. Central high Sierra Nevada.
    • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi subsp. coactilis. North coastal California, central coast California, San Francisco Bay Area.
    • Arctostaphylos uva-ursi subsp. cratericola (J. D. Smith) P. V. Wells. Guatemala Bearberry, endemic to Guatemala at very high altitudes (3000-4000 m).
    There are also several varieties that are propagated for use as ornamentals. It is an attractive evergreen plant and it is also useful for controlling erosion.


    Bearberry Jelly

    2 quarts berries
    1 cup sugar per cup of juice
    1 tbsp lemon juice
    3 oz liquid pectin

    Berries should be fully ripe. Wash and stem berries. Place in saucepan and cook till the fruit pops and the juice flows freely. Remove from heat and squeeze through jelly bag. Measure juice and place into a deep saucepan. Add 1 cup of sugar per cup of juice measured. Add 1 tbsp of lemon juice and mix thoroughly. Place mixture over high heat and boil till sugar dissolves while stirring constantly. Add 3 oz of liquid pectin and keep mixture at a hard boil for 1 full minute. Skim off foam and pour into hot, sterile jelly jars and seal.

    Bearberry Jam

    2 quarts berries
    1 cup sugar per cup of sauce
    3 oz pectin

    Place washed, ripe berries in a deep saucepan and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and mash fruit with potato masher. Force through a strainer or food mill to remove seeds. Retain as much juice and pulp as possible. Measure juice and pulp into saucepan and add 1 cup of sugar per cup of the sauce. Mix well and bring to a boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly. Add 3 oz of liquid pectin and mix well. Boil for 1 minute then pour into hot, sterile jelly jars and seal.

    Bearberry Paste

    Wash and stem 2 quarts of fresh bearberries. Place into a deep saucepan and add a little water. Cook till the berries pop and the juice flows. Remove and pour through a sieve or food mill to remove the seeds. Place the pulp into a large bowl and cover and allow mixture to set for 24 hours. Measure the juicy pulp and place in a deep saucepan. Add 1 cup of sugar per each cup of pulp. Mix well and boil for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Pour into hot sterile jars and seal.

    Variation: For a spicy paste add 1 crushed stick of cinnamon, 1 tbsp whole cloves and 1 tsp allspice to the pulp when it is placed in the bowl to set for 24 hours. Be sure to combine the spices well before leaving it to sit. After 24 hours strain the mixture, removing the whole spice particles and then follow the rest of the recipe.

    Recipe Source

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Animals: Watching Out for Animals

    When in bear country, bears should be your NUMBER 1 wildlife safety concern! They are DANGEROUS and UNPREDICTABLE - NEVER (EVER) approach a bear. Yes, its true that your chances of being attacked by a bear are less than being hit by lightning; but would you hike on a mountain-top during an electrical storm?

    Food, garbage and their odors attract bears. Always use bearproof facilities and techniques. DON'T hike or cycle alone - BE ALERT and make NOISE. If you encounter a bear DO NOT run or cry out. Stay calm, retreat slowly and avoid eye contact.


  • All bears are dangerous - NEVER approach or feed a bear.
  • Keep children nearby and in sight at ALL TIMES.
  • Know what to do if you encounter a bear
  • Read Safety in Bear Country !

    Elk can be aggressive and attack without warning. During the fall mating season (Aug - Sept) males are particularly belligerent. During the spring calving season (May - June) female elk aggressively defend their young. DO NOT approach elk in any season as they are DANGEROUS.

    Deer may aggresively seek food from campers and picnickers. DO NOT feed or approach them! They may lash outwith their hooves when they feel either threatened or frustrated. Dogs seem to incite the wrath of female deer, and many attacks on pets and people have occurred. Dogs are best left at home or in vehicles.

    BISON (Buffalo)
    Bison are DANGEROUS and UNPREDICTABLE. They may charge without warning. Keep at least 150 feet (50 metres) away at all times. Never come between two animals, particularly a female and her calf. Bison can weigh 2,000 pounds and sprint at 50 km per hour, three times faster than you can run.

    COUGAR (Mountain Lion)
    Mountain lion sightings and encounters have increased throughout the western U.S. over the past several years. The lions are an important part of the our ecosystem, helping to keep deer and other prey populations in check. Although lion attacks are rare, they are possible, as is injury from any wild animal. We offer the following recommendations to increase your safety:

    * Do not leave pets or pet food outside and unattended, especially at dawn and dusk. Pets can attract mountain lions into developed areas.
    * Avoid walking alone. Watch children closely and never let them run ahead or lag behind on the trail. Talk to children about lions and teach them what to do if they meet one.
    * Store food using wildlife-proof methods.Check out these links for information on proven food storage methods for campers in bear country.

  • Yosemite's "Wilderness Food Storage" site.
  • US Forest Service's "Low-Impact Food Hoists" site.

    What should you do if you meet a mountain lion?

    * Never approach a mountain lion, especially one that is feeding or with kittens. Most mountain lions will try to avoid confrontation. Always give them a way to escape.
    * Don't run. Stay calm. Hold your ground, or back away slowly. Face the lion and stand upright. Do all you can to appear larger. Grab a stick. Raise your arms. If you have small children with you, pick them up.
    * If the lion behaves aggressively, wave your arms, shout and throw objects at it. The goal is to convince it that you are not prey and may be dangerous yourself.
    * If attacked, fight back!

    Generally, mountain lions are calm, quiet, and elusive. The chance of being attacked by a mountain lion is quite low compared to may other natural hazards. There is, for example, a far greater risk of being struck by lightning than being attacked by a mountain lion.

    Generally speaking, all North American mammals are unpredictable if they preceive a threat... especially from humans. Any action that interupts an animal's natural instincts or activities can be interpreted by them as such. This includes:

    * Human interventions between a parent and young animal
    * Human intervention in animal's mating cycles
    * Human interventions between animals and their food
    * Humans being preceived as prey
    * Human's startling or surprising animals
    * Humans blocking animal's escape routes

    Also, some mammals carry diseases that can be transmitted by physical contact with the animal. Of note are:
    * Coyotes, skunks, and foxes carry rabies
    * Armadillo's (are the only animals besides humans that) carry leprosy

    Finally it should also be noted that :
    * Chipmunks, squirrels, gophers, etc. will bite and / or scratch you!
    * Skunks will spray you!
    * Bobcats HAVE attacked humans!
    * Mooses HAVE killed humans!
    * Badgers can be really, really mean!
  • Monday, October 18, 2010

    Survival: How to build a fire

    Build a Fire

    Building a fire is the most important task when dealing with survival in the wilderness. Be sure to build yours in a sandy or rocky area or near a supply of sand and water as to avoid forest fires. The most common mistakes made by those attempting to build a fire are: choosing poor tinder, failing to shield precious matches from the wind and smothering the flames with too large pieces of fuel. The four most important factors when starting a fire are spark - tinder - fuel - oxygen.

    The most common ways to create spark are:

    1. Waterproof, strike-anywhere matches are your best bet. Matches may be water-proofed by dipping them in nail polish. Store your matches in a waterproof container.

    2. A cigarette lighter is also a good way to produce a spark, with or without fuel.

    3. The flint and steel method is one of the oldest and most reliable methods in fire starting. Aim the sparks at a pile of dry tinder to produce a fire.

    4. The electric spark produced from a battery will ignite a gasoline dampened rag.

    5. Remove half of the powder from a bullet and pour it into the tinder. Next place a rag in the cartridge case of the gun and fire. The rag should ignite and then may be placed into the tinder.

    6. Allow the suns rays to pass through a magnifying glass onto the tinder.

    Dry grass, paper or cloth lint, gasoline-soaked rags and dry bark are all forms of tinder. Place your tinder in a small pile resembling a tepee with the driest pieces at the bottom. Use a fire starter or strip of pitch if it is available.

    It is important to keep in mind that smaller pieces of kindling such as, twigs, bark, shavings and gasoline, are necessary when trying to ignite larger pieces of fuel. Gather fuel before attempting to start your fire. Obviously dry wood burns better and wet or pitchy wood will create more smoke. Dense, dry wood will burn slow and hot. A well ventilated fire will burn best.

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    Medical: Basic First Aid

    When journeying into the wilderness it is important to carry a complete first aid kit and book. It is also wise to take a first aid course. A good diet, cleanliness and appropriate clothing will lower the risk of harmful situations.

    Disease, infection and often, insect bites can be avoided when maintaining a proper diet. It is important to bathe daily but if this is not possible be sure to wash your hands frequently. Soap can be made using ashes and animal fat or by boiling the inner bark of a pine tree. Construct a toothbrush by mashing the end of a green twig. When setting out for your journey remember to pack a wide range of clothing and extra footwear.


    If an accident occurs in the wilderness it will be your responsibility to deal with the situation. The specific sequence of actions when dealing with this situation is:

    1. Remain calm, providing your patient with quiet, efficient first aid treatment.
    2. Keep the patient warm and lying down. Do not move this injured person until you have discovered the extent of the injuries.
    3. Start mouth-to-mouth artificial respiration immediately if the injured person is not breathing.
    4. Stop any bleeding.
    5. Give your patient reassurance. Watch carefully for signs of shock.
    6. Check for cuts, fractures, breaks and injuries to the head, neck or spine.
    7. Do not allow people to crowd the injured person.
    8. Do not remove clothing unless it is imperative.
    9. Decide if your patient can be moved to a proper medical facility. If this is not possible, prepare a suitable living area in which shelter, heat and food are provided.


    Shock is a depression of all of the body processes and may follow any injury regardless of how minor. Factors such as hemorrhage, cold and pain will intensify shock. When experiencing shock the patient will feel weak and may faint. The skin becomes cold and clammy and the pulse, weak and rapid. Shock can be more serious than the injury itself.

    Use the following method to prevent and control shock:

    1. When treating injuries:
    i. restore breathing
    ii. stop bleeding
    iii. treat breaks and fractures
    2. If there are no head or chest injuries place the patient on his/her back with the head and chest lower than the legs. This will help the blood circulate to the brain, heart, lungs and other major organs.
    3. If severe head and chest injuries are present elevate the upper body. If chest injuries are present, elevate the injured side to assist in the functioning of the uninjured lung.
    4. If the injured person becomes unconscious, place him/her in a face down position to prevent choking on blood, vomit or the tongue.
    5. Keep your patient warm and under shelter.


    If breathing has stopped, begin mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Place the patient on his/her back and follow these steps:

    1. To open the airway lift the patient's neck and tilt the head back.
    2. Keeping the neck elevated, pinch the nostrils to prevent air leakage.
    3. Place your mouth completely around the victim's mouth and blow, watching for chest expansion.
    4. After removing your mouth, listen for air leaving the patient's lungs and watch for the chest to fall. Check for an airway blockage if the chest does not rise.

    Repeat these steps approximately 12 to 15 times per minute. If treating a child, cover the nose and mouth with you mouth. Use smaller puffs of air and repeat this method 20 to 25 times per minute.


    To control bleeding, elevate the wounded area above the heart and apply pressure using either gauze, clean cloth, dried seaweed or sphagnum moss. Use pressure at the pulse point between the injured area and the heart if bleeding fails to stop. If bleeding still persists, use a tourniquet between the injury and the heart. This method should only be used in extreme situations. After bleeding has been controlled, wash the wounded area with disinfectant and apply a dressing and bandages.


    A fracture is classified as either a simple (closed) or compound (open). Signs that a fracture is present include:

    1. Pain at the affected area.
    2. The area may or may not be deformed.
    3. The victim is unable to place weight on the area without experiencing pain.
    4. A grating sensation or sound may be present during any motion of the injured area.

    Treatment is as follows:

    1. If in doubt, treat the injury as a fracture.
    2. Splint the joints above and below the fracture.
    3. If the fracture may penetrate the skin, it could be necessary to apply traction to straighten the deformity.
    4. Be sure to pad your splints.
    5. Check the splint ties frequently to be sure they do not hinder circulation.
    6. Cover all open wound with a clean dressing before splinting.


    Dislocation happens when the ligaments near a joint tear, allowing the movement of the bone from its socket. It is unwise to treat a dislocation unless you are a trained professional as permanent damage may occur. The affected extremity should be supported using a sling or other device and pain controlled with aspirin or other suitable drugs.


    Treat sprains by applying cold to the area for the first 24 hours then once the swelling has subsided, let the sprain sit for a day. Apply heat the following day to aid in the healing process. The sprain should be splinted and rendered immobile until the pain has completely disappeared.


    Concussions or other head injuries are often accompanied by a leakage of watery blood from the nose or ears. Other symptoms may include convulsions, an unresponsiveness of the pupils or headache and vomiting. Keep the injured party warm, dispense a pain killer regularly and allow time for the body to rest and repair.


    Heat exhaustion is not uncommon when water is not sufficient. The body becomes dehydrated and salt-depleted, resulting in nausea, faintness, a weak, rapid pulse and/or cold and clammy skin. Treatment includes plenty of rest, liquid and salt tablets.


    Sunstroke may occur when the body is exposed to excessive sun. The body becomes overheated and provides too much blood to the circulatory system resulting in a flushed, hot face, rapid pulse, headache and/or dizziness. Treat sunstroke by resting in a cool area and applying and consuming cold liquid. Prevent sunstroke by wearing proper headgear.


    Muscle cramps occur when the muscle accumulates excessive lactid acid or a loss of salt through perspiration. Treatment includes resting, deep breathing and stretching. Restore the salt balance immediately.


    Burns are most commonly followed by shock. Administer a pain reliever immediately, apply gauze covered in Vaseline to the affected area and bandage. The patient should consume more water than usual.


    Symptoms of snowblindness include scratchy or burning eyes, excessive tearing, sensitivity to light, headache, halos around light and temporary loss of vision. Bandage the victim's eyes and use cold compresses and a painkiller to control the pain. Vision will generally be restored after 18 hours without the help of a doctor. Always wear snow goggles or sunglasses in snowy areas to prevent snowblindness.


    Frostbite occurs when the tissue of an area, most commonly the toes, fingers or face, is frozen either from direct exposure to the elements or high wind. First degree frostbite turns the area cold, white and numb. When heated the area becomes red and can be compared to a first degree burn. A blister will form after warming with second degree frostbite. Dark skin, gangrene, and a loss of some skin and tissues is common in third degree. Fourth degree frostbite causes irreparable damage. The affected area will remain cold and lifeless and generally a part of the area is lost. With adequate clothing frostbite can easily be avoided. Superficial frostbite may be treated by cupping one's hands and blowing on the affected area, warming from another warm hand or, with fingers, placing them in your armpits. For more severe cases, medical aid should be sought.


    Blisters are the painful, and common, result of ill-fitting footwear. At the first sign of discomfort, remove boots and socks and place a piece of adhesive tape over the affected area. If it is absolutely necessary, open a blister by first washing the area thoroughly then inserting a sterilized needle into the side of the blister. Apply disinfectant and a bandage.


    Headaches are often experienced in the mountains due to inadequate eye protection, tension in the neck, constipation or "water intoxication", a swelling of the brain tissue which happens when the hiker has sweated excessively over a period of days and consumed large quantities of water without taking salt tablets. Aspirin may be used to alleviate the pain but one should find the source of headache to prevent further discomfort.


    Snake bites are not overly common in British Columbia. One species of venomous snake, a rattlesnake is found in the dry belt of the southern interior. If you come across a snake slowly ease back. A snake bite rarely causes death; victims may be left untreated for up to eight hours.

    After an attack occurs:

    1. Keep the person calm, reassuring them that bites can be effectively treated in an emergency room. Restrict movement, and keep the affected area just below heart level to reduce the flow of venom.
    2. Remove any rings or constricting items because the affected area may swell. Create a loose splint to help restrict movement of the area.
    3. If the area of the bite begins to swell and change color, the snake was probably poisonous.
    4. Monitor the person’s vital signs -- temperature, pulse, rate of breathing, blood pressure. If there are signs of shock (such as paleness), lay the victim flat, raise the feet about a foot, and cover the victim with a blanket.
    5. Get medical help immediately.


    Bee stings are common and harmless unless you are allergic. Remove the stinger then apply disinfectant and clod water to reduce the swelling.

    A change of diet, dirty cooking utensils or the consumption of tainted water may result in diarrhea which in turn will cause a loss of nutrients and precious body fluids. Take extra care in cleanliness and boil water for an additional three to five minutes to avoid diarrhea.


    When the temperature of your body falls to a level at which your vital organs can no longer function you are experiencing hypothermia or exposure sickness. Hypothermia will develop rapidly and is caused by cold, wet and/or windy weather that chills the body at a speed faster than it can produce heat. A lack of energy-producing food and proper clothing will heighten the speed at which hypothermia will affect you. Always remember to bring extra clothing. It is important to hike at the speed of the slowest member of your party. Take frequent breaks and keep a close watch for members experiencing signs of fatigue. Exposure sickness generally occurs in temperatures of less than 10 C (50 F).

    Symptoms are easily recognizable:

    1. Feeling cold and constantly exercising to keep warm.
    2. Uncontrollable shivering and numbness.
    3. Violent shivers. Your mind becomes slow and starts to wander.
    4. Violent shivering ceases and muscles begin to stiffen and become un-coordinated. Exposed skin becomes blue and thoughts are foggy. Victim usually lacks the capability of realizing how serious the situation is.
    5. Pulse and respiration slows.
    6. Victim will not respond and becomes unconscious.
    7. The section of the brain controlling the heart and lungs ceases functioning.

    Treatment must be quick and efficient:

    1. Move the victim to a sheltered area, out of the elements.
    2. Remove wet clothing and replace with dry clothes and if possible, a sleeping bag.
    3. Wrap warm rocks and place them near the patient.
    4. Do not let the victim fall unconscious.
    5. Give the victim a warm, non-alcoholic drink.
    6. Allow another person in the sleeping bag to share body heat.
    7. Exhale warm air near the vicinity of the patients mouth and nose.


    Hyperthermia is a result of the body being overheated due to increased air temperature, solar or reflected radiation, poorly ventilated clothing, a low fitness level or excess bulk.

    Symptoms include:

    1. Heat cramps may occur and should be treated by moving the victim to a shady area and supplying water and salt tablets.
    2. Heat exhaustion is a mild form of hyperthermia and includes symptoms such as headache, dizziness, fainting, clammy skin, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting. Treatment is the same as heat cramps.
    3. Heat stroke is the most serious degree of hyperthermia. The victim will have little or no perspiration, a hot and flushed face, full pulse, and become either apathetic or aggressive. Cool the victim as quickly as possible paying extra attention to the head, neck and chest. If the bodies temperature continues to rise, unconsciousness, delirium, convulsions and ultimately death may occur.

    To avoid hyperthermia, avoid strenuous activity on hot days, wear loose clothing and a hat, drink plenty of fluids and take salt tablets.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Food: Finding Food and Water

    In a wilderness survival situation, it is possible to live for extended periods of time on little or no food. Research shows that a healthy individual can survive on 500 calories a day with no side effects and with plenty of water and a comfortable resting place can live approximately three weeks without food. During cold weather or periods of heightened activity more food is required to maintain a normal body temperature.

    Water is much more important. Two to three cups of water are required each day to stay healthy. It is wise to conserve the water in your body by reducing activities that may promote water loss.

    Finding water during the summer months is quite easy. Running water such as springs or streams in isolated areas is generally safe for consumption but be aware that water in stagnant areas such as sloughs and ponds may carry disease and should either be boiled for a minimum of three minutes, or iodine (nine drops per quart) or halazone tablets added.

    It is wise to carry a water purification pump with you. This allows the hiker to make use of stagnant water in any situation and it is not necessary to carry water with you. In areas where no surface water is available, dig into damp soil and allow this muddy water to settle and become clear. Water may also be found on the dew of plants, by collecting rainwater or in fish juices.

    During the winter months it is wise to look for water under ice. Melting ice as opposed to snow is more fuel efficient. Remember that hard-packed snow will yield more water than light, fluffy snow. Do not eat snow as it tends to dehydrate the body.

    Finding food in the wilderness may prove slightly more difficult but by no means impossible. Try and sustain with natural foods before using your emergency survival kit rations.

    If water is not readily available try to limit your food consumption to carbohydrates, as proteins use more water to digest. Keep in mind that all fur-bearing animals and grass seeds are edible and that there is more food value in the roots of plants than the greens.

    Extra care should be taken when consuming seafood. Try to avoid mussels during the summer months as they contain certain toxins which are not present during the winter. Sea urchins, a prickly purple or green sea creature, may be consumed by breaking them open and eating the red or yellow eggs inside. Steam snails, clams and limpets. Frogs, snakes, lizards and birds are also edible. Remove the head, entrails and skin before adding them to the pot.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Animals: Tracking Basics

    Items you need for tracking: long stick with two elastic bands, piece of paper, pencil with eraser, compass, gps. (The latter two are to help you keep your direction. The gps could be used to mark the location of tracks.

    Study a single track

    Get down on your hands and knees to study the shape of the track you wish to follow. Fix its details in your mind. Measure it and make a sketch of it. That will help you find it later, even when other tracks are mixed in with it. Use a tracking guide to identify the tracks, and the animal that made them.

    Track early or late

    Tracking is easiest early in the morning and late in the day, when shadows cast in the prints make them more obvious.

    Look for more than just the prints

    As you follow a trail of tracks, keep your eyes peeled for other evidence of the animal. Bent grass, broken twigs, and displaced pebbles help you see the animal's path. Watch for places where the animal has scratched or rubbed against trees or rocks.


    Animal dropings or 'scat' give evidence of an animal's diet. Break scat apart with a stick. Hulls of seeds, skins of berries, and bits of leaves suggest the animal is a vegetarian. Small bones, fur, and feathers appear in the scat of meat eaters. Scat tends to dry from the outside in. If it is completely dry, you know the animal passed by some time ago. Moist scat was left more recently. The animal may be near.

    Imagine yourself in the place of the animal

    If you lose the trail, ask your self where you would go if you were the animal. Look in that direction. Mark the last track with a stick, then explore all around it until you find the trail again.

    Notice important landmarks as you proceed

    Don't become so interested in following a trail that you get lost. Be alert to your surroundings. Notice and remember landmarks that will guide you back to your starting point.

    Don't disturb human artifacts

    Over the centuries, humans have left traces of their passing. You may be fortunate enough to discover an arrowhead, broken pottery, or other artifacts of earlier cultures. If so, let them lie where you find them. Note the location very well and draw a map so you can find the spot again. Then alert local authorities. They will know if archaeologists should examine the site. The position in which artifacts are found can tell scientists a great deal about the people who made and used them. That's why it is important not to disturb them.

    Source Note: The site is defunct. Use Internet archive to find it.

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    Survival: Emotions

    Regardless of the situation, the best tool to survivability is a positive outlook.

    Once a person realizes they are alone Fear sets in. Fear is a natural reaction. Once you become afraid you need to stop and access your situation. If fear is allowed to take hold, it will lead to more trouble. Some studies have shown that lost people tend to veer right in their wanderings. However, frightened people veer left. The best reaction is to STOP and make the best of your situation where you are.

    Trail of fear: The following issues will compound the misery of your situation. If you want to be rescued, you must conquer these.


    Panic is the fight or flight reflex. It is a good indicator that you are in trouble. However, you need to conquer this feeling and set about getting yourself found. Do not try to save yourself unless you are absolutely sure of where safety is. If you wait, people will miss you and search teams (friends, family, police, and/or civilians) will be sent to find you. If you don't move, your chance of being found increases.

    If you are in a clear area where you can set an SOS, then set the SOS, but do not leave the SOS unless you are in danger. In that case make an arrow showing your direction of travel. Leave sign of your passage by breaking branches and deliberately pointing them towards the way you are traveling. You can also bend tall grass, or leave rocks or sticks on flat grass pointing your passage. Stop once you are beyond the danger.


    If you have become injured, it may not be noticed until the adrenaline from fear has subsided. Once you feel pain. Stop. Access your injuries and begin to treat them. Do not ignore your injuries or they will become worse and may incapacitate you. Rest is essential to remaining strong and in control of your situation. Do not use rest to despair.


    Cold can set in at any climate zone. You must protect yourself from cold using leaves or grass as insulators. Build a fire. Any size of fire is a comfort. If you are able to build SOS fires, you need to have three fires far enough apart to be recognized as 3 fires. Aircraft flying overhead will recognize this as a distress call. Be extra careful if you are in the woods, don't cause a forest fire. Pile timber or use a large boulder to create a fire block on one side of the fire so the heat will be radiated in one direction.

    Do not allow yourself to fall asleep or stop moving if you are not adequately sheltered from the cold. A symptom of hypothermia is fatigue. Your body starts to shut down in order to protect the vital organs from cold. The best way to do this is to make you tired. So you will stop using other organs. Sleep can be fatal. Make sure you are warm and not shivering. Shivering is the first clue that hypothermia is setting in.


    Dehydration is a serious threat to your safety. It can dull your mind and affect your effectiveness. If you are thirsty, you must seek water. Water can be captured by digging a small hole and laying a large leaf in the bottom, or a jacket or something that can be cupped. Lay a piece of plastic, tarp, polyester clothing across the hole. Overnight dew will slide off the top piece into the "cup" below. Dew can also be collected from wet grass and leaves. A stream or lake is extremely helpful, though one must be cautious of contracting Giardia also known as "beaver fever". [Giardia is a parasite that infects the intestines of humans and animals. Giardiasis is usually a water-borne disease. Giardiasis may cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, gas, bloating, frequent loose and pale greasy stools, nausea, weight loss, and fatigue. Symptoms start about seven to 10 days after exposure to the parasite. Symptoms can last from three to 25 days or longer, and may last for months. Often a person can be infected and have no symptoms. In some cases, symptoms can return after you have started to get better. Rarely, arthritis and poor absorption of fats and vitamins can occur after a Giardia infection.]


    As noted in a previous post, you can last longer without food than water or air. So it is not as serious as those two. However, it can impair your thinking if you are constantly fighting hunger pangs. It also makes you more susceptible to fear, cold and pain.

    When you travel you should always keep energy bars (not protein) or some small food source on you. If you are hiking or camping, you should have a small survival kit with you that can help you out in times like these. However, there are many ways to obtain food from around you.


    Fatigue is inevitable, especially in an emergency situation. You have to fight to keep your mind in a positive state so that you don't despair your situation. Help will come. It may take a few days, but as long as you stay put it will increase your chances of discovery.

    When you have stopped, you should work to establish a camp. Continually looking for firewood or food around the area will keep you active and combat fatigue. Maintaining your fire will help keep you busy too. Build a shelter from what is around you. Use fallen branches, leaves, long grass to build your shelter.


    It will come. Especially once all your immediate tasks are completed. So make tasks for yourself that can be completed at different times. Use night to sleep and make day time to work.

    Tell yourself stories. Talk to yourself. These practices will create a more social feeling and help ward off feelings of despair.


    You will feel alone, because you are alone. If you keep yourself busy and talk out loud, you will help to fight this feeling. It's okay to feel lonely, but don't give into it. You will be found and surrounded by people soon enough.

    Saturday, October 9, 2010



    Airway: Make sure the Airway is open. Place patient on their back, gently tilt head back by lifting the chin (at the bone, not the throat). Be sure there is no objects in the throat, ie. dentures, gum, tongue, food, or projectiles that have pierced the throat.

    Breathing: Check that the patient is breathing. Place your ear near their mouth and listen for the movement of air. While listening watch the patient's chest for a rise and fall.

    Circulation: Check the pulse, movement of chest, sounds emitting from the patient.

    Three B's

    Breathing: As part of the ABCs, ensure that breathing is clear and established.

    Bleeding: Address bleeding by applying pressure to the bleed site and elevate if possible.

    Broken bones: Look for swelling or limbs at odd angles. These could be signs of fractures. Fractures are to be immobilized, but ensure the patient is comfortable. Do not try to set a fracture yourself.