Archive for backpacking equipment

So, you thought it was safe

Posted in pets, Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , on December 7, 2010 by rattlerjen

I am afraid you are still going to have to squeeze that tube of goo in between the shoulder blades of your pups this month.  I found this lovely creature on the dog bed in my living room this fine evening.

Actual Size!

She looks a bit like I did after my thanksgiving meal last week, but this girl did not dine on turkey.  She dined on blood, puppy blood.

Shouldn’t these guys be sleeping this time of year or frozen to death?

According to the American Lyme Disease Foundation, ticks can be active anytime the temperature is above 45 degrees Farenheit.  In many places, ticks can be active all year round.  So, even if the temperature drops below freezing at night, you just need a nice warm day to bring them back out and on to your dog.

The tick pictured above is the commonly found American Dog Tick. Only the tiny deer tick and western black-legged tick are known to transmit Lyme Disease.  Ticks of any species are not good for dogs as they can carry other diseases both transmittable to dogs and humans.

I found this great little tool perfect for removing ticks from either myself or my dog.  It is called a tick key, and it can be found at pet stores and most outdoor equipment stores.

The best thing to do is of course prevention.  Lesson Learned:

My topical doggie flea and tick goo will be coming out of the tube on a few furry doggie shoulders at the beginning of every month from now on.

Dolly Sods Adventure

Posted in howto, life with a working dog, pets with tags , , , , , on August 30, 2010 by rattlerjen

I just had to get out of the house and away from the traffic, responsibilities, and people.  It was time to hug some trees and burn some calories.  It was time for a backpacking trip.

In the past my german shepherd, Heidi has been my companion on such adventures.  Heidi is going on 11 years old now; her old bones just aren’t up for the trek anymore.

So, I figured it was time to take the pup for a backpacking spin.  First thing was to test the little guy with the dog pack.  I quickly threw it on him empty and strapped him in.  Grom took a few spins in circles chasing after the dangling straps before getting distracted with a chew toy.  That was easy.

The dog pack instruction manual said he could carry up to one-third his body weight; nearly 20 pounds! Since Grom is only a puppy, I put a meager four pounds into his packs. He was carrying his own water, food, and snacks for three days.

We are all packed up and ready to hit the trails.  Like my snazzy bright orange cape?

Looks like Grom’s favorite things to do was climb around on the rocks and check out the awesome view.

A smart dog takes a lot of naps on a backpacking trip.  The packs sure give a nice extra cushion.

The little guy doesn’t seem interested in group shots.

Don’t let me have you believe that he slept most of the time.  This is what he was like most every time we stopped.

It was a fantastic trip.

Here are a few things I learned backpacking with a dog.

Tips for backpacking with a dog.

  • Walk your dog several times with his packs on.  Be sure to start out with them empty
  • Pack extra food for your dog, he is going to burn many more calories than normal.  I bring about 1/3 more food for each meal, plus two extra meals
  • Bring dog snacks with you.  I like duck or turkey jerky.  Make sure its the good stuff.  Your pup will need rewards for listening to you in the great outdoors.  Snacks are easily kept in a treat pouch or chalk pouch with a draw string or closure that keeps it shut tight and hung from the shoulder strap on your pack.
  • Don’t take your dog out camping if it will get below 40 degrees F at night unless he has thick fur and is used to being outside in the cold.  Our domesticated pups can be as whimpy as humans when it comes to temperature.  Consider bringing a camping bed for your dog.
  • You will need lots of extra water for your dog.  Be sure to offer water to your dog often, he cannot cool off as easy as you can.  Teach your pup on walks to drink out of a water bottle or whatever you will be using on the trip before you go.
  • Keep your dog on a leash, even in the middle of nowhere.  I ran into several people with dogs after hiking for five miles straight without seeing a soul.
  • Make sure your dog has the come command down no matter how much he wants to do something else.  A deer bounding across the trail could very well end with your dog yanking the leash out of your hands and getting lost.  I trained my dog to come to the emergency whistle attached to my pack.  I always had one nearby.
  • Make sure  your dog has been trained to stay near you off lead.  There will be a few areas on the trail that you may need to unhook your dogs leash for safety. I found that scrambling up rocks or crossing streams with a dog ended up with either my dog stumbling or myself on my butt in the middle of a stream.
  • Keep watch for others on the trail.  Get yourself and your dog off the trail to let others pass.  Some people are afraid of dogs, are new to backpacking, or are off balance.  They will appreciate the courtesy.

The Rule of Threes

Posted in pets, Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , , , on June 9, 2010 by rattlerjen


3 SECONDS – (MIND) the time you have to decide to escape or take action on an immediate danger.

3 MINUTES – (AIR) the average time you can survive without breathable air.

3 HOURS – (SHELTER) without it, time before you start dying from hypothermia (cold) or hyperthermia (heat).

3 DAYS – (WATER) the time before dehydration can claim your life because lack of water.

3 WEEKS – (FOOD) the time before you cannot do any daily necessary task because of lack of food.

3 MONTHS – (HOPE) the time without meeting anybody else before a solid depression catches you.

Our instructor suggested that we add something to 3 Seconds.lauren sleeping


Less than 3 seconds of shut-eye behind the wheel could kill.   Don’t believe me?  Close your eyes for 3 seconds and imagine you are driving at 55mph.  It’s a long time!

This is especially important for Search and Rescue Teams.  Typically a call comes for teams in the middle of the night after a full day of 9 to 5 work.  That call in the middle of the night might mean that the volunteers will be awake all through the night and possibly the next day tromping through the woods with full packs on.

If you are tired, it is better to get back in the car for a nap rather than a drive home.


If you keep in mind the Rule of 3’s before leaving for an outing, you will always be prepared.

Battle of the Survival Stoves 1

Posted in Product Review, Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , on April 25, 2010 by rattlerjen

Every once and a while I get in the mood to test some of my survival gear head to head. With our survival overnight on the horizon, I thought it might be nice to check out two of the most commonly carried stoves on our team.

Esbit Stove

There are two versions of this stove.  One is sold as the emergency survival stove.  It is sold as a flat piece of metal with a package of fuel tablets with it.

The other version is what you see here.  The stove folds up into a nice little package that fits nicely in your pack.  There is even room in there to store the fuel tablets and even a few waterproof matches.  Again, I don’t see the point of the emergency version as you have to carry that stuff anyway.  No space is saved with the flat folding Esbit.

The first thing I noticed is that it was very easy to open and set up.  The fuel tablets were a joke, however.  They were difficult to light, blew out easily, and did not even get close to boiling a cup of water before becoming consumed.  FAIL.  Note, tablets that come with the stove are a joke.

Pack some aluminum foil to block the wind.  The stove does not protect the fuel from the wind at all.

The Esbit provides no stability for anything put on top.  I am not sure what kind of cooking ware the designers of this stove expected a person to carry with this stove, but nothing I carry would work for this thing.  I suppose I could put my backpacking fry pan in my survival gear….

I expect a stove that can at least boil one cup of water.  This stove:  FAIL.  For now, I will blame that on the fuel tablets.

Cup Stove

This sucker does not exactly fold into a nice small package, but you can use the inside of it to store all of your fire lighting equipment.  I was disappointed there was nothing provided to place the fuel tablets on.  On a bare patch of ground, much of the heat would have been lost to the ground.

This stove came with the same lame fire tablets that are sold with the Esbit stove.  They were hard to light and never boiled the water in the cup that CAME WITH the stove.

I loved the stability provided for the cooking pot.  I think this stove squeaked  by as a winner due to the wind blocking ability and stability.

In short, both stoves need better fuel tablets.  Neither was well thought out for survival situations.

Both Failed to boil water, which was just sad.  Future blog:  Testing different brands of fuel tablets.

Working on the Pack List

Posted in Search and Rescue with tags , , , , , , on February 14, 2010 by rattlerjen

Search and Rescue volunteers have to carry a lot of stuff.   While I leave out such luxuries as a fancy tent, Thermarest, sleeping bag, and what-not, packing for a rescue is a bit more involved than your standard backpacking trip. You need to carry enough to support yourself, your dog, and a lost person overnight in the woods.

I have done a lot of dumb things myself out in the woods.  I have tried to learn from my experiences and have studied up on what you really need out there.  One of the best places to grab some gear is at a gun expo. Dealers buy huge amounts of surplus supplies from the military.  Do your research first as to get good quality and beware of knockoffs.  Today we had a big show in town for Valentines Day, (how romantic:) I picked up a 2 day assault pack with an internal frame.  Boy did it fit my back nicely.  Yay!  I am so excited to put together my very first SAR pack!

pack contents

It gets heavy fast.

You will notice I have more than one of some things.  As Jack said, “One is None, and two is one.”


  1. Medical Kit – complete with sutures, blood clot, medicines for me and the dog (one serving packs from drug store), butterfly closures, bandages, antiseptic, lidocaine spray, elastic wrap, mole skin, triangle bandages, thermometers, along with the usual band aids and stuff
  2. 100 oz bladder of water
  3. Filtration kit (dehydration is often the #1 thing Rescue people and dogs suffer from)  Drink more! I have the steri-pen filtration.

    water filtration

    Even kills viruses. I take it backpacking too!

  4. Iodine tablets (90% of water is contaminated with something, might as well not get diarrhea)
  5. Waterproof matches – I honestly think they suck (proven unreliable for me when tested out backpacking several times, but they are on the list)
  6. windproof butane lighter – This lives in my pocket no matter what all the time. (It will light thousands of fires and has never failed me)
  7. Cheap Bic lighters – buy a big bag and distribute everywhere.  They are better than any matches (Thanks Les Stroud!)
  8. Fire Starting tablet – Think you can start a fire in the woods in the rain?  Don’t be cocky, be safe
  9. Flint stick or magnesium fire starter – Practice with these often
  10. Nuun sports drink tablets –  (replaces electrolytes.  Its better than sports drinks and easier to carry)
  11. Food you dont have to cook for humans – MRE’s and irradiated stews are perfect as you need TONS of calories.  (Look for vegetarian for the lost person, some would rather die than go against beliefs)
  12. Metal cup
  13. Sterno
  14. Camp Stove – (right now I have my whisperlite camping stove, need to replace with an Esbit)
  15. Sugary drink powder – (Lost person may be diabetic or hypoglycemic)
  16. Tea bag – for hot rehydration and pick me up (No coffee it dehydrates)
  17. Bouillon cubes – replaces lost salt from sweating, easy calories
  18. Chemical hand warmer packets – (Buy a case online)
  19. Chemical Glow sticks (Trust me, there is nothing worse than being scared, lost, and in the dark.  You can use this without fear of burning out a flashlight)
  20. Flashlight (2)
  21. Headlamp – This is essential as you will need hands free.  Many searches are done at night.
  22. Extra batteries and lots of them – (Keep these in your clothes pockets if it is freezing outside to keep the batteries working)

    Mad Bomber hat on dog

    Henry, that is MY hat!

  23. Extra bulbs for lights
  24. Helmet – Climbing helmets work great
  25. Two compasses
  26. Grid square – for working with maps
  27. Survival whistle
  28. Fixed blade knife – Something really sturdy you can beat up and dig holes with.
  29. Folding knife – Good Ol Swiss army with tweezers – (I grew up in the desert, you don’t go anywhere without something to take cactus spines out!)
  30. Multi-tool – I prefer needle nose pliers Gerber’s.  Great for helping you tie ropes and wire when your hands are cold and fixing equipment)
  31. Human Nail Clippers – more uses than one
  32. Dog Nail clippers
  33. 50 feet (Times 2) of 550 paracord – Needed for setting up shelters and other camp stuff.  Really useful.
  34. Camping pack towel or Shamwow – I cannot tell you how many times this has saved me when I got wet.  It is much lighter and absorbent than anything else.
  35. Good leather gloves – Make sure you can work ropes with them on.  Also good for when you play with your dog.  Sometimes his teeth miss the toy:)
  36. Extra socks – synthetic or wool only!  Cotton kills.
  37. Thin wool sweater – army issue is perfect
  38. Contractor Trash bags – I use as a dry place to sit down, also can be cut open as an emergency shelter and gear cover. Invaluable!
  39. Tube tent – another shelter
  40. Thin ground tarp at least 9′ x 12′ (times 2)
  41. Bivy – mine is sized for two – (its kind of like a sleeping bag)


    Emergency Bivy

  42. Emergency blanket
  43. Rain jacket and pants – Make sure they are actually waterproof
  44. Mad Bomber hat (awesome and warm!) – I am a cold weather wuss, but this hat makes me warm and gorgeous. Ask my friends, I wear it as much as possible.
  45. Waterproof gaiters – Your waterproof boots are useless if your socks and pants get wet. Also good forgoing through brush.  My legs are no longer bloody!
  46. Bandana
  47. Surveyors or flagging tape – (That plastic streamer stuff you see tied to trees.)  For marking trails, found objects, search areas, hair ties, etc.
  48. Baby powder or equivalent – Too see where the air and thus scent is going for the doggie
  49. Night Glowing LED dog collar – I have many LED products from this company.  They really take a beating and are VERY bright.
  50. Night Glowing LED leash – Yeah, I got the set, Plus it’s always good to have Two leashes.
  51. Food for the dog
  52. Sunscreen
  53. Insect repellant
  54. Toilet paper – I’m not telling you how to use it. (Take a roll, wrap some around your hand a couple of times, tear off, and put in ziplock bags to store flat)
  55. Can opener – usually found on the multitool
  56. Radio
  57. Gps – don’t rely on it completely, but good to have.

I have some classes in the future that will teach me more of what all this stuff is for and give me a better idea of what I need to carry.

If you are interested in other SAR pack lists.  Check out this site

What do you think I need to carry?

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