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Do you have these seven basic first-aid items? Recent events reveal the importance of carrying first aid items at all times. The discussion of rendering emergency first-aid to someone often falls into the two categories of general first-aid and trauma first-aid. The U.S. Army discovered that trauma first-aid would be more common in a combat environment. Consequently, they adopted the Improved First Aid Kit (IFAK), which became known as the Individual First Aid Kit. The IFAK is essentially a trauma kit. Therefore, there are seven items to find as a foundation to build any size first aid kit from a personal kit to a group kit.

1. Tourniquet

Nearly all of the survival and preparedness experts agree that a tourniquet is a core item for any first-aid kit. A tourniquet helps stop bleeding to a severely injured extremity. However, improper application of a tourniquet can cause more injury, permanent loss of a limb, or even death under extreme circumstances. Thus, you should get certified first-aid training through the Red Cross or other authorized medical training organizations on the proper use of a tourniquet.

There are several versions and styles of the tourniquet. The tourniquet that is easy to employ is the CAT Tourniquet. CAT is an acronym that stands for Combat Application Tourniquet. These are currently in use with military and law enforcement organizations. There are other kinds of tourniquets, such as the ratchet tourniquet, the rapid application tourniquet (RAT), and the stretch-wrap-and-tuck (SWAT) tourniquet. However, whichever one that you prefer, a tourniquet should be an item in any first aid kit.

2. Cutting Device

Emergency first-aid may require cutting clothing away from an injury. Therefore, cutting is an essential task in first aid. An option for a cutting instrument is the Leatherman® Skeletool® RX. It is small enough that it will fit into most first-aid pouches on the market. However, if you cannot afford this multitool, then a quality pair of medical shears or scissors are a good option. Cutting is an essential task for rendering aid to a traumatic injury. A decent cutting instrument is helpful to enable this task. Therefore, a cutting tool of some type should be in any first-aid kit.

3. Disposable Medical Gloves

The wearing of medical gloves is vital for both the one giving first-aid and the one receiving the aid. Medical gloves help to reduce the transferring of germs into a person’s open wounds from the hands of the one rendering aid. They also reduce the risk to first-responders from absorbing blood-borne pathogens through the skin of their hands that an injured person may have in their system.

4. Self-Adhesive Bandage Wrap

Self-adhesive bandage wrap is a critical part of your first-aid considerations. The primary reason for its usefulness is that it can be applied to a wide variety of emergency medical applications. Self-adhesive bandage wrap is useful for making hasty pressure bandages, wrapping cuts with gauze, securing slings, and making slings. There is no glue-type adhesive. Therefore, these bandages work well in arid environments.

5. Quick Clot Gauze

Quick Clot is a recent development in the medical field. It officially goes by the name of hemostatic gauze. The clotting agent, Kaolin, helps to enable the blood to thicken. Therefore, it is terrific for stopping the bleeding on deep cuts, gashes, and penetration wounds to the body upon which a tourniquet is not necessary. Z-Medica is the manufacturer of Quick Clot products. Quick Clot should be part of your first-aid kit considerations.

6. Disposable Medical Face Mask

Many airborne contaminants and pathogens are floating in the air. We breathe them in and exhale them out every day. A medical mask should be part of your baseline considerations when building any first-aid kit. These masks do for the respiratory system that the medical gloves do for the hands. They help reduce the risk of breathing out germs into the open wounds of a person or breathing them in if the patient has an illness. Some types of medical masks have a clear plastic shield attached to prevent blood-borne pathogens from entering the body through the eyes. Therefore, a disposable medical face mask should be part of your first-aid kit loadout.

7. Israeli Compression Bandage

Bandages have been part of first-aid kits since their development. The military understands that the availability of bandages is a matter of life and death for the battlefield wounded. The increase in adverse situations in our contemporary era calls for the availability of bandages in everyday life. Consequently, an essential kind of dressing is the pressure bandage. A person knowing how to apply a pressure bandage to a severe bleeding injury efficiently is a critical task to master.

The best compression bandages on the market are the Israeli Compression Bandages. They are effective and easy to apply to an injury. The older, Vietnam era, pressure bandages were useful but could be cumbersome to use in a stressful situation because of the way they had to be wrapped and secured. Thus, you should consider keeping an Israeli Compression Bandage in all of your first-aid kits. Furthermore, you should always get first-aid training from a reputable organization, such as the Red Cross, before attempting to apply any pressure bandage.

Final Thoughts

First-aid kits are becoming an essential element to possess in the lives of everyday people. The rise in violent criminal activity in our nation has made people more aware of the necessity of keeping first-aid kits available. The seven items in the above discussion should be the foundation upon which to build your own first-aid kit. You need to get certified first-aid training through a reputable source before attempting to render any kind of medical aid to someone. The only exception should be those already well-rehearsed in giving first-aid to someone, such as military personnel, combat veterans, medical and law enforcement personnel. Once you receive training in first-aid, build your kit, then, keep it handy and ready for use.

Will compasses keep you on track? Land navigation is an essential skill to learn for wilderness survival. Therefore, the compass is a critical part of successful land navigation. People navigated by the stars, dead reckoning, and terrain association before the invention of the compass or the nautical sextant astrolabe. There are many kinds of compasses available to the modern outdoorsman. Compasses fall into two categories based on the method of needle stabilization, also known as damping: liquid-filled and magnetic induction. Thus, purchasing a quality compass for use in the field is as important as having an accurate topographic map.

1. Liquid-filled Compasses

 

The most common type of compass on the commercial market are those with liquid damping. Liquid damping is the method of stabilizing needle movement by immersing it in an enclosed, liquid-filled housing chamber. Several types of liquid are in use for this method. Mineral oil, kerosene, or ethyl alcohol are the most common. Minimizing needle movement in a compass ensures maintaining a direction while trekking over land. An example of a liquid-filled compass is the Suunto Clipper Wrist Compass or the Suunto M3 Baseplate Compass. A quality liquid-filled compass is an excellent option for those who enjoy the outdoors recreationally or you are living in an urban-suburban survival zone.

Advantages:

The advantage of a liquid-filled compass is the retail cost to the consumer. Many of the budget-friendly compasses on the market are those that have liquid damping. Commercial button and wrist compasses use the liquid dampening method for needle stabilization. Therefore, compasses manufactured with this dampening method make them accessible to the average consumer. Examples of budget-friendly compasses using liquid-filled dampening are those by Coghlan’s and Coleman.

Disadvantages:

A disadvantage of compasses with liquid damping is that the liquid can form bubbles. These bubbles can affect compass accuracy. Another problem with these kinds of compasses is that the liquid can thicken in arctic temperatures. Consequently, the thickened oil restricts needle movement. This characteristic of oil-filled compasses limits there use to non-military applications. Moreover, the high temperatures in the summer in arid environments can cause the liquid to expand or evaporate. Consequently, if the housing becomes cracked, the liquid will leak out. Thus, the compass becomes inoperable.

2. Magnetic Induction Damping Compasses

 

Compasses using magnetic induction damping are the second most common compasses available to the outdoorsman. A compass utilizing magnetic induction is one in which the needle is stabilized through a magnetized field created within the needle housing. The most common way that this happens is by a magnet passing through an electromagnetic field.

However, magnetic induction damping in a typical lensatic compass occurs when the magnetized needle is moving through a copper needle housing. The U.S. Army M-1950 lensatic compass is an example of this kind of compass. Magnetic induction damping compasses are the preference of most militaries around the world.

Advantages

The significant advantage of a compass using magnetic induction damping over liquid damping is its use in extreme temperatures. The compass with magnetic damping is usable in extreme arctic and extreme tropical or desert environments. The absence of the liquid in the needle housing eliminates the concern over the liquid freezing or expanding due to extreme temperatures.

Another advantage of these kinds of compasses is they tend to give a more accurate and stable reading when shooting an azimuth. The stability of the needle enables their use for land navigation in both night and day situations. Most military compasses copy the lensatic sighting mirror compasses first introduced by the British on the eve of the twentieth century. You can learn more about the U.S. Army lensatic compass in my article, “A Short History of the U. S. Army M-1950 Lensatic Compass.”

Disadvantages

A disadvantage with compasses that have magnetic induction damping is that they can be more expensive to the average consumer. The process that creates the magnetic induction damping feature of the compass is more complicated than merely filling the needle housing with liquid. Furthermore, the compass housings must be of metal construction for the magnetic damping to work. Consequently, the cost increases to manufacture these compasses.

The second disadvantage of a compass using magnetic induction damping is that it can be complicated to use. For example, complaints often heard against the U.S. Army’s lensatic compass is that it is hard to use to take an azimuth and for land navigation. By contrast, those trained and experienced with these compasses use them as well as a person favoring the Suunto MC-2 Compass. Furthermore, the U.S. Army lensatic compass was designed to meet the specific needs and standards of the military and for military operations. They were not designed for use to survive the apocalypse, SHTF, or grid-down scenarios. Therefore, it is understandable why there are complaints about lensatic compasses.

Final Thoughts

A quality compass is a must-have item in the packing lists of your various bags. The two most common types of compasses are the liquid-filled and those using magnetic induction damping. Additionally, the compass that you adopt is one that should be accurate, durable, and magnetized for the proper hemisphere. You do not want to stake your life on a compass of lower quality.

Most survival experts advise spending money on a good fixed-blade knife. The same recommendation is valid for the purchase of your compass. Furthermore, if you are a world traveler, there are quality compasses available for use in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Suunto and Brunton have compasses that meet this need. A quality compass is an instrument that will enable your survival should you get lost on the trail or the backcountry. Therefore, choose your compass wisely and deliberately.

Nine improvised survival items could save your life. Most news stories about lost or missing people give information on the gear or lack of equipment the person is carrying on them. It is interesting to read how the lost person is not taking some essential item like a compass. In the case of the missing hiker, John Donovan, everything he needed to survive was on him. However, he perished after becoming stranded in a box canyon in the San Jacinto Mountains outside of Palm Springs, California.

The topic of survival gear does bring up an essential aspect of wilderness survival, the skill of improvisation. In other words, the ability to create survival tools or methods from everyday items to enable survival is an essential part of wilderness survival.

There are many suggestions on the internet about creating survival hacks or improvised tools. This article will focus on those items that an average person carries when they go into a field location. Most people only go outdoors on a recreational basis. Thus, they are not thinking about bringing a complete survival loadout stuffed in a 50-75 liter backpack. They are only going outdoors for a short period and returning home. Therefore, a small day pack or waist pack is the most that they carry with them. Thus, these items can be employed in an emergency if necessary.

1. Smart Phone Signal Mirror

One of the essential communication devices that one usually carries on an outdoor adventure is their smartphone. The smartphone can be an improvised survival gear item by being functioning as a signal mirror. Most smartphones have a flat-screen that is large enough to reflect sunlight. The way to use the screen on a smartphone as a signal mirror is to turn it off, then employ it in the same manner as a survival signal mirror.

2. Camera Lens Fire Starter

A second improvised survival gear item often overlooked is the lens on a camera. Many people take cameras on their outdoor adventure. Small, pocket-sized digital cameras are popular with many people trekking outdoors for the day. However, the lens in the camera is an excellent fire-making source.

The camera lens is a magnifying glass. The lens is powerful enough to start a fire using the sun to focus light on a tinder source. Therefore, do not be afraid of breaking apart your camera to get to the lens in a survival ordeal, even if it is an expensive Canon or Nikon.

3. Bottle Cap Survival Whistle

Another great improvised survival gear item is that of making a survival whistle from a simple water bottle cap. One survival expert demonstrated this during a recent television program. I found a water bottle cap and tried the procedure myself. It works!

A water bottle cap from a Dasani or Aquafina bottle can be used as an emergency whistle. You hold the bottle cap by placing your thumbs over the opening. You create a small gap between you thumb knuckles and blow air through that gap. It will make a high pitch whistle sound that is very loud.

4. Sewing Needle Compass

Sewing needles are usually not considered an improvised survival gear item. However, in an emergency, they can be used as improvised compass needles to help determine magnetic north. A stainless steel sewing needle from your pocket travel sewing kit can be magnetized to become a compass needle.

You take the needle and rub it rigorously for a few minutes with 100% wool material. The static electricity created from the friction will magnetize the needle. Then you can tie the needle in the middle with a piece of shirt string. You dangle the needle on the thread with your hand, and it will adjust to point to magnetic north.

Another option would be to put the needle on top of a leaf and float the leaf in a container of water, and it will adjust to point to magnetic north.

5. Boot Lace Cordage

Survival experts will tell you that the most forgotten source of cordage is a person’s shoe or boot laces. Possessing and utilizing cordage is an essential survival skill. Laces for military-issued boots are made of a sturdy material similar to 550 parachute cord. Some companies are starting to produce survival boot laces. Nevertheless, in an emergency, remember that your hiking boots or shoes will give some quick cordage for a multitude of emergency needs.

6. Hand Sanitizer Tinder

One innovative way of your hand sanitizer is as tinder for starting a fire. Many people carry the small travel-sized bottles of hand sanitizer in their backpack. Some people carry them in the pocket of their trousers or waist pack. Hand sanitizer is a flammable gel or liquid consisting of 60-95% alcohol. Thus, it will take a spark very effectively.

A more convenient way to carry hand sanitizer is in the form of a towelette. The towelettes are paper saturated with hand sanitizer. The combination of these two materials makes excellent fuel for making fires. I carry two of these in my wallet at all times to make an emergency fire when necessary.

It is important to note that the medical wipes containing rubbing alcohol or BZK are not flammable and will not catch on fire.

7. Car Key Saw

Your car keys can be a source for a cutting instrument. How many of us have used our keys to open packages received in the mail? In the field, your keys can offer a crude sawing device to make notches in branches for making traps or snares. Your keys do not provide the most efficient sawing edge; however, if that is all you have, do not hesitate to employ them.

8. Bandana Water Filter

A lost person in the wilderness needs a steady supply of water to maintain the functions necessary to ensure survival. The bandana gives a person many options in a survival situation. The bandana can be used as headgear, tinder source, carrying device, bandage, washcloth, or signaling device.

Moreover, another use of the bandana is that of a hasty water filter. The bandana, by itself, will not filter out waterborne pathogens. However, when it is used with an improvised filter using rocks, dirt, and charcoal, it is an effective means to gain drinkable water. If there is no other way to sanitize water, the bandana will filter out large particulates.

9. Duct Tape Bandages

There are many uses for duct tape. Some show that duct tape can be fashioned into a water carrier, waterproofing, and as fire tinder. However, one of the most common ways that duct tape functions is for first aid. A method of using duct tape is that of bandages. Bandages can be fashioned from duct tape if one does not have or has lost their first aid kit. Many hiker, hunters, and backpacker carry a small roll of duct tape for equipment repair. Duct tape is quite useful at bandaging flesh wounds in an emergency.

Final Thoughts

Improvising survival tools from those things you carry on your body is a great skill to cultivate. If you find yourself lost and separated from others, the stuff you have on you can help you to survive. These items in the discussion above are not an exhaustive list. People carry different things on them. However, in a general manner, the items above are the most common. Remember that emergency survival is about staying cool, calm, collected while simultaneously being innovative, flexible, and resourceful.

Are there effective one tool options? The answer is that it depends on the intended use of your cutting instrument. Are bushcraft knives better than multitools? Are multitools better than bushcraft knives? It is essential to ensure that you have the appropriate tools for functioning effectively and efficiently in the outdoors. Most survival experts advise taking some type of cutting instrument with you into the field, such as a fixed blade knife. Comprehensive packing lists for backpackers and hunters consist of both a fixed blade knife and a multitool. However, what if you are limited to just one cutting option?

The Bushcraft Knife Overview

The bushcraft knife or an equivalent fixed blade knife is the tool of choice for most outdoorsman. The description of these knives are the one tool option to ensure survival and sustainment in the field. There are specific characteristics that define a quality bushcraft knife. Those features are as follows:

  • Length of the Blade: 5-8 inches
  • Type of Steel: D2 or 1095 HC
  • Blade Spine: 90°, sharp-edged
  • Coating of the Blade: None

These features can be negotiable such as the case with the Morakniv® knives.

The purpose of these knives is to allow a person to conduct various field tasks. The bushcraft knife blade is short enough to do small jobs like process firewood or carve traps. However, the blade is long enough to adequately process game or to function as a self-defense weapon, such as a spear.

The Multitool Overview

The multitool has grown in sophistication over the years. Most people’s first exposure to a multitool was either a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman® PST. The origin of the multitool concept is with the pocket knife. The addition of multiple blades, can openers, or bottle openers as features on pocket knives reflect the multitool concept. The Boy Scout Pocket Knife was an early example of these kinds of pocket knives. However, contemporary multitools feature pliers, folding handles, with various tools that tuck into the handles. A folding blade and saw blade are often part of the modern multitool. Leatherman® and Gerber® are the largest manufacturers of contemporary multitools.

The purpose of the modern multitool is to function as a compact toolbox for the handyman, mechanic, electrician, or other skilled laborers. Anglers and hunters saw that the contemporary multitool was an asset for their needs and began to use them. Thus, the multitool entered the outdoor world. The favorite features on a multitool for anglers and hunters are the pliers and knife blade. Yet, is the multitool a good one tool option for field survival?

Bushcraft Knife verses A Multitool In The Field

 

Processing Fish

A recent experience of mine revealed the strengths and weaknesses of the single tool option concept. My son and I went fishing as part of a church activity in the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico. We caught five small to average length trout. We had to cook them since we did not bring a cooler to keep them in for transportation back to the house. The cooler that I intended to take was unusable, and I did not have time to get another one before the trip. I did not have to gut the fish because the folks running the location did it for us as a complimentary courtesy for fishing in their private pond. As an experiment, I used my multitool to prepare the fish for cooking.

I had my Leatherman® Sidekick® on me, so I proceeded to prepare the fish for cooking. My original intent was to fillet them to avoid my son having to eat any bones accidentally. That turned out to be a useless effort and was advised by a more experienced gentleman just to wrap them in aluminum foil and place them on the grill. This was a concept that was familiar with, so I finished preparing the other fish. After they were finished cooking, I ran into another issue, how do you effectively take the meat off and leave the bones? I decided to peel the meat off after cutting the heads and tails off of fish. The saw blade on the multitool was used to cut the heads and tails off. It quickly became evident why anglers have a filet knife in their tackle boxes. A multitool is not the most efficient tool to process fish of average size except for gutting them.

Processing Game

A more recent observation also reinforced the practical nature of a bushcraft knife as a one tool option over a multitool. The latest episode of the television show, Alone, shows a contestant with hunting experience attempting to process a full-sized moose with only a multitool. He successfully killed the moose with his bow and arrow. He later comments while processing the moose that he regretted not having his fixed blade knife on him. Most hunters take a game processing kit with them into the field. These kits have various blades for cutting, chopping, and skinning, as well as sawing bones. A multitool seems to have some of these features. However, the contestant quickly realized that the job of processing that kind of game with a multitool was a daunting effort. It took the contestant six hours to process the moose with his multitool and transport the meat to his bivouac location.

Furthermore, as I was watching this unfold, it brought to remembrance some things that I have read or heard by outdoorsman about the bushcraft knife and its uses. Here is an excellent example of why frontiersman, trappers, and mountain men had the type of knives that they carried in the field. They found themselves having to process deer, elk, moose, or bear after hunting them. A two or three-inch knife blade or saw blade was not going to get the job accomplished. The contemporary outdoorsman is no different. Thus, as a one tool option, it would seem that the bushcraft knife is preferable to the multitool.

Some Final Thoughts

The bushcraft knife or the multitool as the one tool option? Which is best? The answer still comes down to what is your intended use for a cutting instrument. Most outdoor experts will advise carrying at least two or three kinds of cutting tools: a fixed blade knife, a folding knife, and a multitool. The folding knife and multitool are used for smaller tasks like fashioning fishing hooks, carving traps, or making primitive weapons. The fixed blade is used for the more significant functions beyond the campsite. However, if you are limited to just one of those three, a quality bushcraft knife seems to be the choice.

The proper tool for the task is the best option of all. Yet, some people find themselves separated from their gear and only have what they are carrying on their belts. Keeping your fixed blade knife attached to your belt is a sure technique for having a knife when you need it. Thru-hikers, ultralight, and multiday backpackers tend to not carry things on the belts of their trousers or shorts. This is done for the comfort and to avoid getting sores rubbed on their body by the friction of the pack waist belt rubbing against their body and things attached to their belts. It would seem that a drop-leg approach to carrying a bushcraft knife might be an option in this scenario. Nevertheless, a quality bushcraft knife is the best one tool option for wilderness survival considerations. Therefore, shop around and find the bushcraft knife that works best for your needs.

Excellent ways to effectively manage your cordage are easily available. The effectively management of cordage is an ongoing problem for most people. Cordage can become tangled and knotted even with the best of intentions of not allowing to happen. The problem exists regardless if you have sewing string or climbing rope. I have experienced the frustration of attempting to keep my cordage neatly wound and secured only for it become a mess after several uses. However, in this article I will discuss some tips and tricks that will help you effectively manage your cordage.

Sewing String to Parachute Cord Management

 

1. Stainless Steel Sewing Bobbins

Stainless steel sewing bobbins are a wonderful way to store your sewing string, braided fishing line, or Kevlar™ line in your emergency kit. Sewing bobbins also come in plastic. Plastic bobbins are not recommended because they are not durable in a field environment. Plastic also has the quality of drying out and becoming brittle in hot dry climates. Thus, the stainless steel sewing bobbins are the best way to effectively manage the cordage in your emergency kit like twine, strings, or fishing line.

Advantages

The primary advantage of a stainless steel sewing bobbin is that it gives a compact and durable way to manage your small diameter cordage like braided fishing line. Stainless steel is the best material for field use because of its corrosion resistance. Another advantage of using this type of bobbin is easy of storage in smaller containers like Altoid® tins or small pouches for your personal emergency kit.

Disadvantages

The most glaring disadvantage of using the stainless steel bobbin is the limited amount of cordage that can be stored on them. Thus, the stainless steel bobbin an ideal option for effectively managing your cordage such as braided fishing line, jute twine, or sewing thread.

2. Plastic Floss Bobbins

Plastic floss sewing bobbins are thin plastic squares that on which small amounts of sewing sting are stored. Most people have seen the paper bobbins that come in the complementary sewing kits given by some hotels. The plastic bobbins work well for small personal emergency kits. I use these to wrap my braided fishing line in my emergency fishing kit. I also have wrapped my 25 feet of Kevlar™ cord on these bobbins. The use of the plastic floss bobbins works well for storing in my EDC personal emergency kit in my ALokSak® bag.

Advantages

The primary advantage of using the plastic floss bobbin is compact storage. As stated above, plastic is not the best material for the field. However, for storage in small containers or pouches, these are an effective way to manage your string-type cordage.

Disadvantages

The obvious disadvantage of the plastic floss bobbin is its limited capacity to hold cordage. Another disadvantage of the plastic floss bobbin is that it will crack or break easy if handled in a harsh manner. Yet, despite their disadvantages, the plastic floss bobbin is a great alternative of effectively managing your cordage.

3. Spool Tool™

The managing of your parachute cordage can be an especially aggravating effort. The TricornE™ company in San Diego, California has an innovative device for storing up to 100 feet of parachute cord. It is called the Spool Tool™. This is a hard plastic device that features a holder for a Bic® Mini lighter and a cord cutter. I use one of these to store my paracord in my backpack. These are great for people who have not mastered the art of coiling and tying off paracord for storage.

Advantages

The main advantage of the Spool Tool™ is the ease of storing up to 100 feet of paracord. Another advantage of this device is that it has a cutting device and fire making capability. These features make the Spool Tool™ a versatile item to consider for your pack loadout.

Disadvantages

A disadvantage of the Spool Tool™ is that it can be bulky with 100 feet of paracord. Therefore, 75 feet of paracord works best with this item. A second disadvantage of the Spool Tool™ is that replacing the razor cord cutting blade can be tricky in the field. The two small screws that hold the blade cover and blade in place can be lost if one is not careful.

4. Atwood Tactical Rope Dispenser

One of the more innovative products to come along for storing parachute cord is the Tactical Rope Dispenser by the Atwood Rope Manufacturing Company in Ohio. This is a practical item to consider when storing your paracord. As with the Spool Tool™, the Tactical Rope Dispenser is another great way to effectively manage your cordage.

Advantages

The Tactical Rope Dispenser is advantageous for its ease of storing and dispensing parachute cord. The TRD features a built-in cord cutter, similar to the Spool Tool™. Moreover, it also comes with a belt clip and small notches for holding the loose end of the cord. It is also easy to refill the spool with more parachute cord.

Disadvantages

One of the disadvantages of the Tactical Rope Dispenser is that it has a limited storage capacity of 50 feet. 50 feet of paracord is sufficient for most backpackers and hikers. However, those who spend more time outdoors usually need up to 100 feet of cord. Another disadvantage of this product is that refilling the spool can be difficult in the field. Thus, it is best to purchase two Tactical Rope Dispensers. One for regular use and one for a back up in case you run out of cord in the field.

Climbing Rope Management

The next level of cordage to consider managing is climbing rope. It is sometimes called assault line or repelling rope. Some experts in the field of emergency preparedness recommend keeping 50 to 100 feet of climbing rope. However, employing climbing and repelling techniques in an emergency should only be accomplished by those experienced in those skill sets. However, methods to effectively manage rope-type cordage is a consideration for some. Therefore, the following tips are given to help with managing climbing rope.

1. The Alpine Coil

The alpine coil is one of the more common techniques for managing climbing rope. This technique also can be used with parachute cord. The technique is a simple coiling and then wrapping for security as illustrated in the picture. The alpine coil also can result in the rope looking like a figure eight with a wrapped middle. There are many sources on the internet and on YouTube® that demonstrate how to employ this technique.

Advantage

The alpine coil has the advantage of being simple. There are no complicated knotting sequences to remember with its use. As a result, the alpine coil allows for ease of storage on the outside of one’s backpack by securing it with a carabiner. Thus, this technique should be used by those just learning rope management.

Disadvantage

The disadvantage with the alpine coil is that it does not totally resolve the tangling concern after the wrap is loosed. A climbing rope can tend to kink and coil on itself when it is being stretched out for employment, which results in tangling. Therefore, care should be taken when unraveling the rope to prevent tangling.

2. The Butterfly Coil

The butterfly coil is a rope management technique a little more complicated than the alpine coil. However, this technique works best with longer lengths of rope, usually over 100 feet. The butterfly coil allows the rope to be carried on the outside of a pack or on someone’s back as illustrated in the picture. A rope coiled and wrapped in this manner will look like there is a loop securing the rope at the top. As with the alpine coil, one can find this technique being demonstrated on YouTube®. This rope management technique is for those more experienced climbers who use this method regularly for rope management.

Advantages

A major advantage of the butterfly technique is that it does resolve the tangling concern. As the rope is being coiled it employs an s-style back-and-forth fold. This helps the rope to be easily employed with out tangling after the securing wrap is loosed.

Disadvantage

The biggest disadvantage of the butterfly coil method is that it requires some practice to get a rope correctly secured in this manner. The initial moves of the coil are simple. However, when the rope is going to be secured by the butterfly knot, there are some more hand movements necessary to complete the technique. Therefore, this management method should only be used by those after they have practiced it enough to be proficient with it.

Final Thoughts

This article has been a little more lengthy than normal. Yet, it is hoped that it has been informative. The topic of cordage management is one that will continue to occupy discussions around the outdoor and prepping world. The importance of storing cordage and keeping it from getting tangled is a concern for all who love the outdoors. Thus, it is my desire that this article will motivate further thought on this topic.

There are 3 excellent water filtration options to keep you hydrated this summer. A recent news story relates how a couple hiking in California got lost for five days. They drank water using a LifeStraw® filtration straw to filter water from natural water sources in their area. The story underscores the importance of having a way to purify water while outdoors. Water is one of the four component elements of survival. It is especially important to stay hydrated during the spring and summer. Our outdoor planning should include addressing the need for obtaining fresh drinking water. A water filtration device is an excellent way to ensure that you can have drinking water when enjoying the outdoors. Here are three of the best water filtration devices to consider including in your packing list.

1. Sawyer® MINI

One of the most popular and versatile water filtration items that one can own is the Sawyer® MINI water filter. You cannot survey the many videos on YouTube® on building emergency kits and bags without seeing the Sawyer® MINI as a recommended item on somebody’s packing list. This water filter averages between $20 and $30 at most outdoor stores. As a result, the Sawyer® MINI is a budget-friendly addition to your loadout. I carry one in both my EDC bag and my regular backpack for hiking. There also is one in my vehicle emergency kit. You will not go wrong including a Sawyer® MINI in your water filtration considerations. The Sawyer® MINI is available for purchase at the Sigma 3 Survival Store.

Description

Sawyer offers the following description of this water filter:

The Sawyer MINI weighs just 2 ounces, fits in the palm of your hand, and provides 0.1-micron absolute filtration — removing 99.99999% of all bacteria, such as salmonella, cholera, and E.coli, removing 99.9999% of all protozoa (such as giardia and cryptosporidium), and removing 100% of microplastics. Attach the easy-to-use MINI to the included drinking pouch, use the included straw to drink directly from a water source, connect it to hydration pack tubing, or screw it onto standard disposable water and soda bottles. Rated up to 100,000 filtered gallons of water, the award-winning MINI is perfect for everything from camping with the kids to traveling abroad where tap and bottle water cannot be trusted to kitting out your emergency go bag.

The company also offers the MINI in six colors: black, blue, camouflage, green, orange, and pink. Furthermore, the Sawyer® MINI is functional in several ways. The filter can be attached to a standard plastic water bottle, such as a Dasani or Aquafina bottle. It can be utilized as an in-line water filter with your favorite water bladder, like a Camelbak®. It can be used to drink water directly from a stream or lake using the included straw on one end and attaching flexible tubing on the other end. The Sawyer® MINI is a water filter that will keep you hydrated and on the move in an emergency.

2. LifeStraw

Another exceptional item that one can consider for a water filtration device is the LifeStraw®. As mentioned earlier, a couple who became lost while hiking survived on rationed food and drinking water from natural sources through a LifeStraw® filter. The LifeStraw® is not as versatile as the Sawyer® MINI. However, it is just as useful for drinking water directly from a stream or collected and filtered through a water container, such as a canteen or Nalgene® bottle. The LifeStraw® averages about $20 at most sporting goods stores.

The LifeStraw® is a budget-friendly option to consider as a water filtration item. As with any outdoor gear or tool, everyone has a preference for a particular multitool. The same is true when considering a Sawyer® MINI or a LifeStraw®. LifeStraw® was the first water filtration device that I put in my backpack. I still use them in my family emergency kit.

Description:

The manufacturer gives the following description:

  • The LifeStraw makes contaminated water safe to drink by removing bacteria and parasites, preventing the majority of waterborne disease. Use it for drinking directly from streams and lakes, or fill up a container and use your LifeStraw to enjoy clean water on the go. The LifeStraw has countless shelf life and once opened can provide an individual with more than 5 years of safe drinking water.
  • Durable and ultralight: weighs only 2 ounces (0.10 lbs.) Long-lasting: filters 1,000 gallons (4,000 liters), enough drinking water for an individual for over 5 years
    The microbiological, hollow fiber membrane filters to 0.2 microns and removes: 99.999999% of bacteria (including E. coli), 99.999% of parasites (Giardia, Cryptosporidium, etc.), 99.999% of microplastics
  • LifeStraw® is an outstanding water filter or your children’s backpacks. Unlike the Sawyer® MINI, the LifeStraw® is a single item that can be used immediately out of the packaging. They are easy to use. Therefore, they are very child-friendly. LifeStraw® is an excellent water filtration option to consider for your family emergency or hiking considerations.

3. Aquamira® Tactical Frontier Pro Ultralight Filter

Aquamira® is an industry leader in the water treatment and filtration market. Their chlorine-dioxide water treatment tablets are a standard for chemically treating water in the field. The company offers a variety of water filtration items from water filters to water filter bottles. However, one of the best things to consider as a water filtration option is the Tactical Frontier Pro Ultralight water straw. It is comparable to the Sawyer® MINI. Yet, it is has a rating to filter only 50 gallons of water versus the 100k gallon of the Sawyer® MINI.

The concept for this water filter is as an emergency back up to complement other ways to process water in the field. It is smaller than the Sawyer® MINI. Therefore, it is a great water filter consideration for your EDC bag, ultralight hiking, or day hike on the trail. It is a short-term water filtration solution. By contrast, the Sawyer® MINI or LifeStraw® are solutions intended to be in use for more extended periods in more austere environments.

Description:

Aquamira® describes the Tactical Frontier Pro in the following way:

  • It has a GRN Line Bacteria Filter with up to 500 ml/minute flow rate with a certified filtration for 50 gallons (over 180 L).
  • It is ultralight and compact 2.5 oz. (71 g) packable protection. The Tactical Frontier Pro comes has a replaceable filter design means highly cost-effective extra capacity capability.
  • Connects to bottles, bags, bladders, and gravity systems via UQC quick connects.
  • Includes three pre-filters to extend filter life and remove twigs and debris. Comes packaged in a zipper pouch which doubles as a water collection and storage unit.
  • Miraguard™ Antimicrobial* Technology suppresses the growth of bacteria, algae, fungus, mold and mildew within the filter media.
  • BPA free, chemical free, and iodine free.
  • Filter made in the USA

In Summary

Water is an essential part of survival in an outdoor environment. The following water filters: Sawyer® MINI, LifeStraw®, and Frontier Max are the best options on the market from which to choose. As you plan your next outdoor adventure, remember to consider a water filter straw device to include in your packing list. You never know when an emergency situation may arise. Therefore, be prepared, be safe, and enjoy the outdoors.

Is your emergency survival planning on PACE? The spring outdoor season is upon us. The springtime is a great time to spend outdoors. The plans for your next outdoor experience are almost complete. Many survival experts agree that building redundancy in your gear and planning is essential to ensuring getting through an emergency. A simple method for building those layers is one that is from the military. The process for preparing and organizing your activities and gear is the PACE technique.

Assessing Your PACE

PACE is an acronym for Primary (P), Alternate (A), Contingency (C), and Emergency (E). These are layers of redundancy to ensure essential capabilities are available at all times under any circumstances. The PACE technique applies to the different methods of survival: primitive, bushcraft, military, or blended. However, several questions must be answered before applying this method. First, you need to answer the five W’s of your outdoor activity: who, what, where, when, why, along with how.

Assess Experience and Knowledge

Next, you need to assess your level of experience and knowledge: beginner, intermediate, or expert. Additionally, you should also evaluate the level of experience of others. This should be done especially if you are accompanying or leading a group. You should know yourself and those in your group. Furthermore, each member of the group needs to be aware of the level of experience of the other members of the group. Also, you and each member of your group should know what everyone else is carrying for gear. Thus, it is wise to share each other’s packing list.

Assess Critical Capabilities

Third, assess your critical capabilities supporting the activity: first aid, navigation, communication, security? The definition of critical capabilities are those assets that you or your group possess that if lost would jeopardize the survival of yourself or others. Consequently, that means having a good understanding of yourself and your gear and those of the others in your group. If you are in a group, one technique would be to share each other’s packing lists.

Assess Local Terrain and Weather

Fourth, you need to determine the type of terrain and local weather characteristics. It is crucial to survival planning to know where you are going, what time of the year you are going, and what are the patterns of weather where you are going. Others have found themselves in emergency survival situations due to unexpected weather events, such as flash floods. Consequently, they were underprepared for the scenario. Thus, take the time to really understand the historical, current, and projected weather of the location for your outdoor activity. For example, many people have reported their surprise at how cold the desert can get at night in the spring.

Assess Emergency Assistance Availability

Finally, you should understand the availability and access to emergency assistance near the planned activity site. One of the quickest ways to resolve an emergency survival situation is having a basic knowledge of the support available at your location and how to access it. There was a recent story of a teenage boy who ran almost six miles to a park ranger station to get help for his injured father. The young man could not do that if he did not know how to get to that ranger station. The key to survival planning is gaining situational awareness to better PACE yourself.

PACE Your Critical Capabilities

 

1. P: Primary

For the purposes of this article, the capability that will model the PACE method is communication. However, the PACE method applies to any asset or ability that you assess as critical to the success of your outdoor adventures, such as making a fire, rendering first aid, building a shelter, food procurement, or water processing. Therefore, for this hypothetical outdoor scenario, forms of communication are a critical capability that cannot be lost or activities will cease or lives will be jeopardized.

An example of a primary means of communication is a smartphone. Smartphones are becoming more sophisticated every year. They come with a variety of domestic and foreign plans, as well as applications. Many smartphones can function as satellite communication devices in an emergency where there is no commercial wireless coverage. The implied tasks for keeping a smartphone running in the outdoors is to maintain wireless coverage and to charge the battery. Thus, an essential capability for smartphone use in the field is the ability to keep charging the battery with a solar powered charger.

2. A: Alternate

An alternate form of communication in the field is a hand-held radio (HHR). A hand-held radio is also known as a walkie-talkie. HHR devices come in many forms. These radios can transmit and receive voice communication over a limited distance. However, for communicating with an HHR over an extended range, the ability to relay signals through a repeating tower come into play. As with the smartphone, keeping the battery charged on an HHR in the field is also essential.

3. C: Contingency

The definition of contingency is a provision for an unforeseen event or circumstance. Thus, for survival planning a contingency communication asset may be a Garmin® inReach Mini or a SPOT™ Gen 3 device. These devices are for sending out emergency text messages through a satellite service with geo-location information to help first responders find you. These items are almost a last resort communication device if the smartphone or HHR radio goes down or is lost during an emergency survival situation.

4. E: Emergency

An emergency communications capability is an asset that is for when all of the previous devices malfunction, get broken, lose power, or become lost. An example of an emergency communication capability might be a signal fire, signal flares, signal mirror, air horn, or a signal panel (VS-17). Therefore, an emergency signal capability could be any method that you can employ to communicate to others your location or whereabouts.

Some Final Thoughts

The PACE method is a valuable method to help you think through maintaining essential capabilities while outdoors. There is no right or wrong solution to determining your critical capabilities. Each outdoor activity is different. Therefore, the needs will be different. For example, a day-long fishing trip to a nearby location will be different than a hunting trip to Alaska. The same is true for preparing for emergency disasters. The survival needs for my area and family will be different than for those living in the upper Midwest. Thus, the PACE method helps you to think through the preparedness process and to resource your needs.

There are 5 quality fire starter options to consider for your fire kit. The spring and summer outdoor season is upon us. As we plan to go and enjoy the outdoors, having a good fire kit is an essential part of your packing list. Fire is one of the core elements of survival along with food, shelter, and water. Thus, having a reliable, quality fire starter is an essential part of an effective fire kit to carry on your next adventure. These five fire starters are a great items as your build or improve your fire kit.

1. Bic® Lighter

Most outdoor, survival, and preparedness experts agree that a Bic® lighter is quality fire starter. It is an excellent addition to any level of emergency survival kit. The Bic® lighter is a butane fuel lighter and will work well under most conditions. It produces a flame pretty consistently. Therefore, in an emergency situation, you can not go wrong having a Bic lighter as part of your fire kit. Moreover, carrying one of these lighters in your Urban-Suburban EDC bag is a must.

There are a couple of limitations with the Bic lighters. First, they contain a limited quantity of butane fuel. The next limitation with this lighter is that the thumb-depressed valve can be pushed open. This can cause the butane vapors to escape. Finally, a third limitation of these lighters is that the butane fuel can leak out over time. However, most of these limitations can be overcome by simple hacks or with an Exotac® FireSLEEVE™.

2. Ferro Rod and Striker

The ferro rod and striker another quality fire starter. Ferro rods are a standard item in most bushcraft fire making kits. The ferro (short for ferrocerium) is a metal rod of iron alloy. Ferrum is the Latin word for iron from which the ferrocerium rod gets its name. The ferrocerium rod is a combination of iron (ferrum) and cerium. Cerium is another natural element on the Periodic Table of Elements. Carl Auer von Welsbach discovered the fire making aspects of them when these two metals are combined into the alloy compound, ferrocerium.

Ferro rods come in many lengths, widths and configurations, such as having a wood or plastic handle on one end. The Sigma 3 Survival Store offers one of the best ferro rods and strikers on the market. The ferro rod is 6 inches long and a ½ inch in diameter. These dimensions ensure that the rod will last in the field. Moreover, it will give you plenty of fire making capability long after the Bic® lighter has run out of fuel.
The only limitation with the ferro rod and striker is it does not produce a flame within itself like the Bic® lighter. To gain a flame with this fire making instrument, you will have to possess or obtain a combustible tinder source. For more information on tinder sources check out the article, Four Optional Tinder Sources.

 

3. Exotac® NanoSTRIKER XL™

The Exotac® NanoSTRIKER XL is another quality fire starter on the market. It is one of the most popular ferro rods being purchased by outdoorsman. It has a small diameter (.43 in.) and a modest length (4.17 in.). The striker has the dimensions of a tactical ball point pen. As a result, it fits well into an EDC kit or any level of emergency survival kit. Moreover, it is well suited to be carried into the field on a multiday outdoor activity such as a fishing, hunting, or thru-hiking. As with the ferro rod-and-striker above, you must use this in conjunction with a tinder source. Some optional tinder sources can be Birch Bark, Quick Tender, Wet Fire Cubes, Fire Stix, or some other natural or manufactured tinder.

 

4. UCO Gear® Survival Stormproof Match Kit

Another quality fire starter to consider for your fire kit is the UCO Gear® Survival Stormproof Match Kit. UCO produces the best quality stormproof matches and match products on the market. The Survival Stormproof Match Kit is perfect as a redundancy item in your fire-making kit. Furthermore, stormproof matches are part of most military survival kits. Therefore, you can not go wrong with adding this match kit to your field packing list.

The kit comes with a clear plastic waterproof container. The container measures approximately 2.25 in. long and 1 in. wide. There are 15 water and waterproof matches inside. There is cotton batting in the lid and a paper match striker on the side. Some have complained about the quality of the matches on venues like Amazon®. However, you can purchase this match kit directly from UCO Gear or the Sigma 3 Survival Store if you want to ensure the quality of the product.

5. UST® Spark Force™ Firestarter

The final consideration for a quality fire starter is the UST® Spark Force™ Firestarter. Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST)® makes two versions of this product. The Spark Force™ and the larger Strike Force™. I have owned both products and they are excellent items for your kit. You will not go wrong with either product. The Spark Force ™ is more compact. Consequently, it is more easily stored in EDC packs, your pocket, or your personal survival kit.

The Spark Force™ is 3 in. long and ¾ in. wide. It has a lanyard that keeps the striker and rod together. The casing is high impact ABS plastic. The ferro rod is around 2 inches long. The purpose of this striker is for emergency situations as a backup fire making option. It was not designed to be your main fire starting instrument. Moreover, it is small enough that children can use it when they are properly trained on it.

Some Final Thoughts

A quality fire starter is a crucial item in your survival kit or outdoor adventure loadout. Redundancy items in your fire-making kit will ensure that you can make a fire in an emergency. One of the best fire-making kits on the market is the Sigma 3 Fire Kit. You can read my review of the Sigma 3 Fire Kit if you want more information about it. However, if you choose to build or improve your own fire-making kit, the five fire-starting options listed above will greatly enhance your fire making capability in the field.

Individual survival gear approaches have two common categories: tactical and non-tactical. The two approaches to personal gear feature some common items. However, they also have some stark differences. Therefore, it is essential to have a working understanding of both approaches. It will help you to discern the kinds of resources to purchase and types of kits to build.

In a previous article, we discussed the three popular approaches to survival. The purpose of that article is to familiarize you with the conventional methods of survival in general. In this article, we will close in on the two common approaches people use to purchase and organize their survival gear. There are a few factors to keep in mind when assessing which method to take regarding your survival or prepping loadout.

The first factor influencing your survival gear approach is your experience with your equipment. People tend to fall back on what they are comfortable with in general. How a person organizes their survival or prepping gear is no different. The second factor is knowledge about your survival gear. Most people will only put gear in their survival loadout in which they have knowledge and experience. The final factor governing the approach one takes to survival gear loadout is finances. Some people cannot afford the top-of-the-line survival gear regardless of the approach that they prefer to use to build their kits. Consequently, they look for budget-friendly quality gear to develop their loadout.

1. The Tactical Approach

Overview

The tactical approach centers on finding a military or tactical solution to solving survival and prepping questions. The individual gear that typically identifies this approach is the military surplus items. However, the modern tactical gear designed for the military or law enforcement also falls into this approach. If one prefers the tactical approach to gear and gear organization, then learning how the military or law enforcement personnel use and organize their gear will be of interest. Typically, this approach appeals to those with current or previous military or law enforcement experience.

However, there is a growing interest in this approach among those never associated with military or law enforcement. Military packing lists for various situations helps one to understand this approach. The most common packing list of this type is the ALICE rucksack packing list. Military manuals covering survival gives insight into the tactical approach to survival and preparedness. However, as with anything related to military and law enforcement, gear recommendations and techniques for their organization are directly related to military and law enforcement operations. They are never meant to be duplicated by those not employed in those professions.

Advantages

There are some advantages to the tactical approach. The most significant advantage is the proven reliability and practicality of military gear and its use in the field. Most individual tactical gear in use with the military or law enforcement must meet high standards and pass rigorous testing. Consequently, the tactical gear tends to be of higher quality than its non-military counterparts. Moreover, the way military and law enforcement personnel organize and use their gear also brings some reliability to the tactical approach. For example, many people are interested in how the SOF community approaches survival and prepping. Why? SOF approaches have inherent credibility and reliability. Therefore, desiring to know what gear the SOF community uses and how they organize it is of interest.

Disadvantages:

The main drawback with the tactical approach to gear and gear organization is it can give a false sense of security. A well-known comic artist published a meme several years ago called, Gear-do, a wordplay on the word, weirdo. It shows a soldier all kitted up to kick in doors, who is in an administrative desk job. In essence, the soldier had too much gear for the situation and his good. Furthermore, possessing tactical gear, in-and-of-itself, does not guarantee you will survive an emergency. You have to be proficient in using it.

2. The Non-Tactical Approach

Overview

The second most common way people approach gear purchases and organizing that gear is known as the non-tactical approach. The non-tactical approach to gear and gear organization is a favorite method of bushcrafters and homesteaders. The growing interest in being a “gray man” is also fueling the non-tactical approach. This approach emphasizes gear that reflects the frontier, old west, or everyday carry (EDC) in an urban or suburban setting. Leather and non-camouflage gear is a characteristic of this approach. Weapons preferences also tend to be non-tactical, such as revolvers over semi-automatic pistols. Leather and solid color nylon pouches are a preference over camouflage ones. Furthermore, backpacks tend to be solid colors, like black or grey, without much Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) webbing, if any.

Advantages:

The main advantage of the non-tactical approach to gear and gear organization is that it facilitates stealth. Those looking to blend into their environment and to avoid confrontation should consider a non-tactical approach. Another advantage of this approach is that it tends to simplify backpack organization into dry bags, stuff sacks, or Ziploc bags. Furthermore, the non-tactical approach offers more variety of colors for a piece of gear than the tactical. Kelty, for example, offers various colors for the Redwing 50 non-tactical packs. There is a limited color choice for their tactical line of backpacks, like the Raven 2500.

Disadvantages:

The non-tactical approach brings some difficulties. The most significant weakness in the non-tactical approach is in the durability and reliability of the gear. Generally, non-tactical backpacks do not feature ballistic Cordura® nylon as the primary construction material. Non-tactical pouches have thin ripstop nylon.
Moreover, the non-tactical approach to organizing gear is to put it into dry bags or cinch sacks. Consequently, this approach may cause a waste of time looking for an item inside a backpack. Whereas, that same piece of gear may be stored in an outside pocket of a 5.11 Rush backpack, ALICE rucksack, or Condor Battle Belt Rig.

Final Thoughts

The approach that one takes to gear and organizing gear will occupy much time and thought. Tactical and non-tactical approaches have advantages and disadvantages. The environment in which you will most likely have to operate during a survival emergency will dictate your preferred strategy. Some people use a hybrid approach. They borrow aspects from both the tactical and non-tactical elements and blend them into a personalized method. However, it is wise also to consider your knowledge and experience with gear and gear organization methods. Therefore, it is helpful to take time to review your approach, the gear you use, and how you will organize it.

There are 3 critical factors about footwear to remember. The footwear that you choose will help you or hurt you in a survival situation. Footwear is one of the standard pieces of gear that transcend wilderness or urban survival scenarios. In a previous article, there was a discussion on how to maintain and care for your feet was the focus. However, footwear, itself will be the topic of this article. I will not discuss a particular brand or style. Yet, the following factors for choosing and wearing footwear will help you decide on the other concerns. Let us see what the critical factors are to consider regarding your shoes.

Proper Fit

Properly fitting footwear is critical for the health of your feet. It is also essential for ensuring your survival in an emergency situation. The purpose of a shoe fluences its design. The fit of the shoe also will reflect how they fit your foot. For example, a running shoe will fit your foot different than a tactical military boot. Therefore, ensuring a proper fit of your footwear should be an essential aspect of what you purchase. There are two keys to remember about finding proper fitting footwear: your foot size and your foot arch.

Foot Size

The length and width of your feet can be easily measured with a device called a Brannock Device. The Brannock Device is the measuring tool that the salesman uses at your local shoe store. However, these measuring devices are available to the general public for purchase. The Brannock Device Company offers instructions on the proper measurement of your feet and the use of their equipment. Moreover, it is essential to know the length and width of your feet when choosing footwear.

 

Some will advise purchasing outdoor footwear that is ½ to a full foot size larger than your actual foot measurement. You should be careful about this technique. Others may recommend buying an equivalent female shoe if you are a male and cannot find footwear in your size. It could cause your feet to get tore up in a long term wilderness survival situation. Remember that outdoor footwear will feel snug and stiff on your feet when new. However, over time, the shoe material will get wet, dry, hot, cold, and muddy. As a result, the outdoor environment causes the shoe material to stretch and become pliable. Afterward, your feet will begin to move and slip within the footwear. Consequently, your feet will develop blisters, hammer toe, and other foot problems. These are problems you want to reduce or avoid in a field environment.

Foot Arch

Another aspect of footwear that is essential to a proper fit is your foot arch. The Brannock device will help measure your foot arch using the heal-to-ball of the foot technique. The technique is useful for finding the beginning and end of your arch. However, arch height is critical also to a properly fitting shoe or boot. Is your arch high, flat, or normal? The arch of your foot will influence if you need arch support insert (orthotics). Some footwear companies make orthotic inserts for their shoes or boots. Thus, your feet and ankles will become fatigued very quickly if you have not accounted for your foot arch type, even if the foot or shoe fits properly in length and width.

 

 

Break Them In

Another critical factor about footwear is breaking them in. Hiking shoes or boots will fit snug when you try them on in the store. However, after a few days or weeks in the field, they will become loose on your feet. There are many techniques for breaking in new outdoor footwear. Military or tactical boots that are mostly leather, such as the jungle boots by Altama®, require some effort to break-in. By contrast, commercial hiking shoes or boots made of a combination of materials, just wearing them for a couple of days or weeks as your primary footwear will break them in.

Another factor concerning breaking in the hiking boot is whether it has a Gore-Tex® liner. When you try Gore-Tex® boots on, your feet feel very snug in them. However, over time that “padded” feeling tends to lessen with the use of the boot. There are several reasons for this. First, Gore-Tex® does not have an extensively long lifecycle. Second, the principal material in Gore-Tex, latex, will lose its elasticity and other properties over time. Additionally, improper care of Gore-Tex shoes or boots will hasten this process.

Proper Maintenance

Another thing to be mindful of about footwear is adequate maintenance. All-leather boots require much more diligence in keeping them maintained than Teflon material boots. Gore-Tex lined footwear should be air dried.

Cleaning Non-Leather Footwear

You do this by removing all of the laces and folding out the tongue to open up the boot to as much air as possible. If you have a 5 to 8-inch tall boot, then you will need to try to fold down the top of the boot if it is flexible enough. Otherwise, just leave it as is. With Teflon or Teflon/Suede combination material, you can use a stiff, but a flexible brush to clean the outside. If your Teflon boots have a Gore-Tex liner, then you can wash them in clean, cold water and let them air dry on your porch or in your washroom.

Cleaning Leather Footwear

In caring for all-leather boots (not suede), you can wash them in luke-warm water with mild dish soap on the outside. Use a soft brush or toothbrush to clean off any excessive dirt. Let them air dry as described above for the Gore-Tex lined boots. You will notice after a while that your leather boots will have some white, chalky residue appearing on the surface of the boot. Do not be alarmed, this is some of the leather salts coming to the surface after being wet.

After the boots have dried, you can take saddle soap and clean off the white chalky stuff. Rub the saddle soap into the leather very thoroughly, this includes the boot tongue and seams. After using the saddle soap, you can wipe the boot down with a damp cloth to get the excess saddle soap off. Let the boot sit for a couple of hours or for a day or two to let the soap work its way into the leather.

When this process is complete, you can apply the boot polish or, in some cases, mink oil, as a way of waterproofing the boot. However, I have found if your boot leather is not waterproofed already with oils, like the Matterhorn Boot, then a boot polish is the first layer of defense in keeping the leather in top condition. You do not have to polish the boot to a high sheen, put the boot polish is critical in preventing the boot leather from deteriorating. So do not ignore its importance.

Final Observations

Footwear is a fun and exciting topic to discuss. Additionally, there two other considerations related to footwear that influence how they fit your feet: socks and lacing. Proper lacing and proper socks are essential to keeping your feet healthy when wearing your footwear. Remember when it comes to boots and the things related to your shoes, what works for you is what is best for you.

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