Monday, April 26, 2010

Some Random Observations After a Walk in the Woods

Over the past few weekends I've been able to get out in the woods a few times.  Some random observations:

1. BDU pants are better than jeans for woods loafing.  The looser fit makes navigating steep trails easier.  The BDU's tighter weave may also be somewhat less water absorbent than denim.

2. A hat with an all-around brim is better than a ball cap.  On my walk yesterday I wore an OD boonie hat which I picked up last week at I. Goldberg's in Philly.  The 360* brim provides better protection against sun and rain, especially for your ears and neck.  Also, compared with a hood, a hat allows you to better hear your surroundings.

3. In dense woods you'll frequently hear people well before you see them, if you're not making too much noise yourself.

4. If your pack has a sternum strap use it.  Without the sternum strap, the shoulder straps of my Maxpedition Baby Condor sometimes slip off my shoulders.  The sternum strap keeps them in place and also seems to put a little weight onto my chest, further distributing it.

5. Waterproof footwear is good.  If it's rained recently you're going to run into muddy spots on the trail.  I'm quite pleased with my Merrell Moab Gore-Tex cross trainers.

6. A walking stick makes traversing steep terrain a lot easier.  I've been using my Irish Blackthorn walking stick from Fashionable Canes.  Aside from steadying yourself, a walking stick can be used as a pole for a fly, and in extremis makes a decent weapon.

7. Related to no.6, carry a pistol if you can, especially if you will be in an area in which you'll be encountering people.  Unfortunately, there are bad people in the woods, but just as frequently you'll encounter dogs.  Now, I like dogs but they are potentially aggressive, dangerous animals.  And a lot of people seem to think it's perfectly OK to let their dogs roam free, and if you run into one that's less than friendly, you're going to want something to defend yourself with.  Against a pack of dogs a walking stick isn't going to cut it.

8. Whenever you venture into the forest there's the possibility that you'll need to stay overnight.  You could get lost, bad weather could blow in unexpectedly, or you could get injured.  Bring some supplies with you to make it more comfortable.  At a minimum, bring the following:

* Water in a canteen or bottle, a metal cup in which to heat water.
* At least two ways of starting a fire (e.g., matches and a lighter).
* Tinder.  In an emergency you don't want to be searching high and low for dry tinder.  Take a ziploc bag full of dryer lint and/or commercial tinder like Esbit hexamine tabs.  A couple sticks of fatwood will help you get a fire going quickly.
* A flashlight and/or headlamp.  The latter is very handy because you don't need a hand to use it.
* A poncho or lightweight tarp.  I like a poncho because it's more of a multipurpose item.
* At least 20 feet of strong string.  I like paracord (AKA 550 cord).
* A sharp knife.  It doesn't need to be big.
* Some high energy snacks.
* A pocket sized space blanket.  These will help break the wind and retain body heat.  The silver or gold color also makes you more visible to rescue parties.
* Some method of signalling for help. If you're in an area with cell service, nothing beats a cell phone.
* Don't forget to let someone know where you're going and when you expect to return.


Shawn said...

Good Post, proper previous planning elements there.

Shawn said...

Good Post, proper previous planning elements there.