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Staying alive! 5 survival tools for the outdoors

There are 5 essential survival tools I always keep in my Badlands Kali Pack, whether I am headed out for a strenuous hunt or a simple day hike. I know each of these items will help me stay alive in an emergency or, better yet, help prevent an emergency from happening in the first place.

All too often, we take our outdoor adventures for granted. We plan and prepare for each hunting excursion, and we expect each trip will go as planned. Unfortunately, tragedy can strike each and every one of us. No one is exempt.

I learned this lesson the hard way while on a hunting trip in 2009. With little warning, a trip of a lifetime turned into a nightmare as my husband fell ill in remote, mountainous terrain. Fortunately, our situation had a happy ending, although many are not as lucky under such adverse circumstances. The farther we are from civilization, and the fewer resources we have available, the more dire a situation can become. Proper preparation, however, helps increase one’s chance of survival when tragedy does strike.

Here are a few of my favorite essentials:

 

Michelle Bodenheimer survival tools

 

Water

The most essential element of survival is water. Although I carry my own supply of water in my backpack, I also carry the Aquamira Frontier Pro Portable Water Filter. If I run out of my own water supply, I know this filter system will not let me down. The Frontier Pro is a lightweight, multi-use system without any pumps or hoses. Operating much like a simple straw, the Frontier Pro filter is able to filter water directly from any water source, or from any water bottle, cup or hydration pack with its easy use adapter.

The Frontier Pro’s Activated Coconut Shell Carbon reduces waterborne chemicals, improves taste and bad odors, and is certified to remove more than 99.9 % of Giardia and Cryptosporidium. I rest comfortably knowing the water I drink through this filter will be safe. I also like the compact size of this system, as it does not take us much space or weight in my pack.

The Aquamira Frontier Pro Portable Water Filter is available online from Auquamira as well as from major outdoor retailers nationwide.

MSRP: $ 24.95

 

Michelle Bodenheimer water filtercollage

 

Fire

Another critical element of outdoor survival is the ability to make fire. I always carry the Zippo Emergency Fire Starter with me when I venture into the outdoors. This emergency fire starter kit consists of a bright orange plastic casing surrounding a flint-wheel ignition and 4 removable Waxed Tinder Sticks. The plastic casing of the Emergency Fire Starter is durably made with a water-resistant seal, helping keep the flint wheel and Waxed Tinder Sticks dry and ready for use.

What I like best about the Emergency Fire Starter is the reliability of the flint-wheel ignition. It’s easy to use, and I know the flint will create sufficient sparks with each strike to ignite one of the Waxed Tinder Sticks. The days of fighting with waterproof matches are over! Additional water-resistant Waxed Tinder Sticks can be purchased for $4.95.

The Zippo Emergency Fire Starter is available online directly from Zippo, as well as from leading outdoor retailers nationwide. Click here to find a retailer nearest you.

MSRP: $9.95

 

Michelle Bodenheimer fire starter

 

Shelter

Although, I have taken countless courses in how to make an emergency shelter, I recognize that some situations may not allow me to do so. For this reason, I carry the Surviving Outdoors Longer (SOL) Emergency Blanket. This SOL Emergency Blanket measures 56 inches by 84 inches and weighs only 2.9 ounces, thus taking up very little valuable space in my pack. The Emergency Blanket is durably made and will not shred or tear if nicked, nor does it break down at the seams, unlike most other emergency blankets on the market.

The SOL Emergency Blanket is both waterproof and windproof, and lined with a vacuum-metalized polyethylene to reflect 90% of body heat back on the user to keep her warm. I know I can rely on the SOL Emergency Blanket in dire circumstances, and its bright orange color will aid searchers in locating me, should I need assistance in the field.

The Surviving Outdoors Longer Emergency Blanket is available online directly from SOL, and from a number of major retailers nationwide. Click here to find the retailer nearest you.

MSRP: $5

 

Michelle Bodenheimer blanket

 

Light

Whether I am running late coming back from a hike, or busy packing out a harvest after a long hunt, I know there are times I will be hiking in the dark. A good light source helps keep my path lit, which helps avoid unnecessary slips and spills. The INOVA STS Headlamp by Nite Ize is quickly becoming my headlamp of choice for these situations.

This lightweight, waterproof headlamp is set apart from all others with its Swipe-To-Shine technology. Unlike most other headlamps that require a push button to cycle through light modes, the INOVA STS allows for access to 5 separate lighting modes by a simple swipe of your finger, whether bare or gloved. Swiping your finger to the left, over the sensor, will cycle through white LED light, while swiping your finger to the right will cycle through red LED light. Lighting modes include high power, variable dim, median power, strobe and lock out. What I like best about this headlamp is the longevity of its 3- AAA batteries. In the variable dim light mode, the batteries will last up to 255 hours running white light, and up to 602 hours running red light.

Available in blue, orange and charcoal, the INOVA STS Headlamp is available online directly from Nite Ize.

MSRP: $34.99

 

Michelle Bodenheimer head lamp

 

A Sense of Direction

To keep from getting lost in the field, I carry the Garmin GPSMap 62stc unit. This dependable GPS system helps me know where I started and where I am going. The GPSMap 62stc is preloaded with more than 100,000 US topographical maps to help me navigate my journeys, and the 3-axis electronic compass is accurate and highly sensitive, even in deep canyons and thick cover. The unit is waterproof, although the 2.6-inch, sunlight-readable color display remains visible in bright light conditions. A built-in altimeter even keeps track of my current elevation and calculates the elevation change of my journey.

This is perhaps the most user-friendly GPS unit I have had the pleasure of testing; the menus are very easy to navigate. The GPSMap 62stc not only helps keep me on track with where I need to be, but as an added safety feature, I am able to keep my hiking buddies updated as well. The GPS allows for wireless sharing of routes, tracks, waypoints and geocaches with other units.

As an added bonus, the GPSMap 62stc comes with a 5-megapixel autofocus camera to capture images of your adventures afield. Although the unit has a 3.5 GB internal memory, it also holds a microSD slot for additional storage.

The Garmin GPSMap 62stc is available from major retailers nationwide. Click here to find a retailer nearest you.

MSRP: $499.99

 

Michelle Bodenheimer Garmis GPS

 

What essential survival tools do you take on your outdoor adventures?

  • About Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer

    An experienced huntress, Michelle Whitney Bodenheimer has pursued big game, upland birds and waterfowl throughout North America and Africa. Although Michelle loves to hunt and shoot (both rifle and bow), her biggest passion in life is sharing her love for the outdoors with others. Michelle is the dedicated gear review columnist for Women’s Outdoor News, in a column called “Her Gear.” Michelle’s writings and photography also have been published in a number of outdoor journals, including On Target, Lady Angler, The Gun Dog Journal, The Shooting Channel and African Hunting Gazette. Michelle has been a repeat contributing guest on Outdoor GPS,a live hunting and fishing television program broadcast on Comcast SportsNet NW. When Michelle is not writing, she is serving her time as an outdoor educator. She is an active volunteer for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Outdoor Skills Program. Her primary responsibilities with ODFW are serving as a shotgunning coach and dog handler/guide for ODFW’s upland bird hunting clinics. Michelle also teaches regularly for Women in the Outdoors (WITO) and Becoming and Outdoors Woman (BOW) programs. She serves on the Pro Staff team for Cabela’s, as well as for the NW Ladies Hunt Camp, an educational outreach program hosted in conjunction with the NRA’s Women on Target Program and Extreme Desire TV, and is a member of the field staff for Próis Hunting and Field Apparel for Women. A current member of a number of national conservation organizations, Michelle is a life member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundations, as well as a life member of the National Rifle Association. She also served as a past director for the Southwest Washington chapter of Safari Club International. Take caution, however, if Michelle invites you along on a hunt. Having been stalked by a cougar and attacked by a cheetah, she tends to live life a bit on the wild side.

     

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