Archive for survival supplies

FTL: First Weekend

Posted in Rescue Training, Search and Rescue with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2011 by rattlerjen

Field Team Leader Training.

Class Description

Intermediate-level training in search team management, implementation of search tactics, supervision of team performance, proper use of semi-technical rescue equipment, and evacuation management. The FTL course consists of approx. 60% classroom and 40% field instruction. Field work is held regardless of current weather conditions unless extreme conditions present personal safety concerns. Successful completion prepares the student to adequately function as a Field Team Leader under the indirect supervision of the Operations Section Chief.

Physical Ability and Conditioning: Search and Rescue is hard, physically demanding work. Prospective students to the field classes must be capable of ascending steep slopes (up to 60 degrees) over rough terrain, in the dark, while carrying a backpack that may weigh up to 40lbs. After several hours in the field under the previously described conditions, the student will then enter the rescue portion of the course. During the rescue SAR personnel will assist in the carry-out of a patient as part of a rotating 6-person team. The litter with patient package may weigh up to 300lbs. Read my post on patient packaging and litter carrying.

I learned so many things from this class.

The first thing explained to us was we needed to know everything from FTM (Field Team Member) class well enough that we could teach it.

That includes many rescue knots, carrying a litter, land navigation using a map and compass, helicopter proticol, radio communications, and boring government terms, organization, and paperwork.  (Sorry folks, but if I were to tell you that the National Incident Management stuff was riveting you wouldn’t believe me if I told you water was wet.)

The instructors found a way to make all subjects covered pretty fun. The Power Point presentations are often sprinkled with jokes, quotes, and funny pictures and the personal stories from the instructors really juice things up.  Often the stories from the instructors are more instructive than anything included in the prepared lessons.  I saw not one nodding head nor glazed eye the entire weekend!

We learned a few new knots.

Double Figure Eight Loop – Click to see an animated video

butterfly knot

This knot can be used for a harness or as an anchor for rappelling.

Emergency Harness – click to see animated video

This is a simple harness that anyone can do.  It is very useful for those steep drainages we sometimes have to search.  Simply strap one of these on yourself and anchor a rope to a nice tree to prevent a head over heals tumble down a rocky slope.

Butterfly – click to see animated video

Use this pretty knot on either side of a damaged rope.  A useful thing to know when you discover the rope you are hanging from got chewed on by a nasty rock.

Munter Mule – click to see animated video

or click here for Appalachian Rescue’s easier-to-tie version

This knot gives a controlled slide through a carabiner.  It is used when rappelling.  We will learn more about how this nifty knot works next weekend.

Triple Redundant Harness – click to see how this one is tied

A more secure harness than the emergency harness.  This version uses a bowline hitch, but it can also be made with water knots.

We learned that we carry more stuff

Here is an old posting about what I carry in my SAR pack

First, we have to carry all the things an FTM carries:
  • Waterproof (windproof) jacket
  • Waterproof (windproof) pants (these don’t have to be expensive, just functional)
  • Wool or synthetic shirts or sweaters.
  • Wool or synthetic pants, or BDU’s with appropriate thermal underwear. NO JEANS!
  • Long underwear made of wool, silk, or other synthetic material – Cotton thermal underwear is not acceptable.
  • Gloves for cold weather with either leather palms, or a leather outer glove layer.
  • Stocking Cap or Balaclava
  • Boots with a good lug sole recommended.
  • Wool or synthetic socks with a good nylon liner.
  • Waterproof (windproof) jacket and pants.
  • Long pants – preferably rip stop material. NO SHORTS
  • Lightweight shirt – preferably of breathable material.
  • Hat
  • Gloves with minimum of a leather palm.
  • Boots with a good lug sole recommended.
  • Socks with a good nylon liner.
  • Backpack large enough for daypack use
  • One quart minimum canteen or water bottle
  • One day supply of quick energy food
  • Whistle
  • Compass (Silva or Brunton preferred)
  • Headlamp with a set of spare batteries and bulb.
  • One other alternate source of light with spare batteries & bulb
  • Personal First Aid Kit
  • At least one 30-gallon leaf bag
  • Waterproof matches or disposable lighter
  • Storm Shelter (can be items already in pack such as garbage bag)
  • Handheld radio
  • Toilet paper
  • Zip-lock bags
  • Moleskin
  • Gaitors
  • Sunscreen
  • Signal mirror
  • Parachute cord
  • Small notebook & pen
  • Insect repellant
  • Water purification tablets or filter system
  • GPS Unit – Know how to use this and have it set up properly before putting it in your pack!

Field Team Leader Equipment List

All required equipment from the Field Team Member Equipment List (see above), PLUS:

  • 25 feet of one-inch nylon tubular webbing
  • Two (2) Locking-D aluminum alloy carabiners
  • UIAA approved climbing helmet (or hardhat with chin strap)
  • Electric Headlamp w/ extra batteries and bulb

We learned about ourselves.

Most of what makes up an FTL’s job is management of people.  It is the most important and most difficult skill to learn.  Within five minutes of walking into the classroom I was given a personality test.  Shockingly, I tested quite high as a “Showman.”  No surprise there.  Eleven years ago I took the Myers-Briggs personality test and came out with INTP.  I took it today scoring INTJ (although the J score was quite low.)

How useful it can be to understand how you think and react to events! Take the Myers-Briggs Jung Personality test free online here.

In order to successfully lead a team, one must understand different personalities and how to work with them.  Every personality type has jobs that best suit them.  Note: I have a big mouth, never give me the radio.

What it boils down to:gumby

It’s all about practice and experience in the field.

You are not physically fit at the moment to carry all this stuff.

Teaching and doing shows for four to eight year olds may help or hinder your ability to be a leader for adults.

Your mouth is gonna get you into trouble one day.

Limit the amount of Pizza and Mexican Food you eat at training weekend.  Rescue pants need to fit tomorrow!

Semper Gumby!

Survival Weekend: After Lunch

Posted in Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , , , on June 21, 2010 by rattlerjen

The buffet, it was massive!  Really folks, you probably could have ordered a few pizzas and been done with it. There were three kinds of sandwich meats, four cheeses, deli mustard, onion rolls, creamy potato salad, bagels, donuts, gatorade, soft drinks, chips, cookies, and food galore.

On our packs went and waddle waddle waddle our feet shuffled.  To the other side of base camp our destination was.  To a graveyard in the middle of a forest, creeeeeeepy!  Down a trail and up a creek was the path to take.

I don’t think this trail is on the map.  Bullocks!

No problem, just look at the nice beetle that clicks and pops like popcorn. DISTRACTION!  How is that for self defense!  BOING!

We split off into multiple groups to try different routes.  I decided to tag along with a newer volunteer in our organization.  This was the very first time she had done orienteering.  It was a perfect opportunity for me to learn more.  Rob must have sensed trouble and decided to tag along with us.  (I could get lost in my own sock drawer.)  We let the new woman do all of the navigating.  I succeeded in clearing up a bit of navigation confusion, Yay me!  Then proceeded in confusing us both a minute later.

We stood at a joining of two drainages, which is the correct one?

Rob is the Awesome.  He taught us a few new skills so that we were able to figure it out ourselves.  All you have to do is point your compass up each drainage and determine the bearing it follows and match that to the map.  Spiffy!

I learned that most trail maps are out of date and possibly useless; topo maps are the bomb.

The cemetery turned out to be a charming little plot of a half a dozen old stone markings surrounded by a little metal fence like what you would see around a really nice garden.  The area past the graveyard opened up into a gorgeous bright green meadow.

Rob started pulling bark off of a dead cedar tree.  GOLD!  I stuffed a ziplock bag full of the magical paper thin strips.  We gathered together with the others under a tiny canopy of trees.

That is when we found out what the heck was in Chris’s bag.

Are you sure this is big enough?

She came prepared man!  The whole team could probably use that thing as a shelter.  After teasing our poor team member, we decided to have a bit of fun.    At her expense of course.

We learned three valuable ways to make a shelter:

Shelter burrito,


and Lean-to.

When constructing your shelter of choice don’t forget your pink string.

This of course matches your pink knife, pink water bottle, pink clothing, pink….

*Cough* umm yeah.  What were we talking about?

Up Next, How to Make a Fire or How not to burn yourself.

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.

Survival: An Introduction

Posted in Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2010 by rattlerjen

Last weekend was our Search and Rescue survival training overnight.  I will share with you probably the most important things a person should have with them out in the woods.  I will never go on a simple walk in the woods without everything on this list.

The Ten Essential Items for Wilderness Survival

  1. Shelter – a tarp, tube tent, or even a trash bag may be used as a shelter.  (see previous shelter burrito blog for the simplest of shelters)
  2. An extra layer of clothing – Even if it is a hot 90 degrees during the day, inactivity and night time temperatures can leave you shivering at best, dead at worst.  Hypothermia is a too common cause of death for the unprepared.
  3. Two forms of fire making – I carry at least three.  A lighter (useless if wet but it does give you lots of chances to start a fire), waterproof matches, and magnesium or flint.  I also carry char cloth or lint as tinder in a mint tin or film canister.
  4. Water – One to two liters per day per person
  5. Plastic beadless whistle – It can be heard farther than yelling.  As long as you can breathe you can blow a whistle.  You would be surprised how quickly your voice is lost from yelling.  No metal whistles either; condensation from your breath will freeze it to your lips or the metal ball within, rendering it useless.  Plus, you will look really silly with it stuck to your lips when you are found.
  6. First Aid Kit – I especially find butterfly band aids, duct tape, gauze, antihistamines, and pain meds useful.  Many good kits can be purchased from outdoor stores.
  7. Knife – Be sure to get something sturdy, but small enough to easily carry in your pocket or on your belt.  I carry a multitool and a swiss army knife.  I have found plyers to be very useful for the strangest things.
  8. Flashlight and extra batteries for it. Heck, carry two flashlights.  Leds are cheap and small enough to carry a pocketful
  9. Food – A person might be able to go several weeks without food, but nothing cheers me up than a chocolate chip granola bar when my stomach starts grumbling!
  10. Map and Compass, and most importantly, the knowledge to use them.

Shelter Burrito

Posted in Search and Rescue, Survival Gear with tags , , , , on May 31, 2010 by rattlerjen

Here is a wonderful way to keep yourself warm in the woods when in a pinch.  Gather tons of dry leaves and pile them on one side of a tarp.  Fold tarp over the leaves.  Then lay on the tarp and roll yourself into a leaf burrito.

AHHH, now doesn’t that look warm?

Once I catch up on my sleep, I will post more of survival training from this weekend!

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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