From hot showers…to cold feet!

Cold feet….don’t you just hate it?

Picture it….you’re wrapped up in your sleeping bag, out in the wilds od Alaska, Oregon, oe what-have-you….your upper body is nice and snug and warm, but darn it, can you get your tootsies warm? Like hell you can, as John Wayne would say!

I’m sure you’ve been in that position many times when trying to get a decent night’s sleep after a hike. I usually find that adding extra blankets or coverings over the bag, or even inside it, ends up making you feel too hot…..result? The same as before…no sleep!

Having experimented with different sleeping methods over the many years I’ve been hiking, I found very few sleeping bags that can accommodate me and my cold-feet problems.

One of those bags was given to me as a birthday present and was used for many years, until it finally gave out through natural wear and tear…I don’t even recall what the make was or where it was bought.

Anyway, I recently bought a 2nd back up bag for myself…..what do you need a back-up bag for, I hear you say? Well, with the rigors of dirt and dust, there comes a time when you have to wash your bag out, in which case you’re gonna need another one! That’s why I paid a visit to my local MEC store.

There I was regaled by a very knowledgeable salesperson about all the bags within my budget and for my type of hike. I finally settled on the Mirage sleeping. It cost me only around $108 all-in, which I think is great price.

As with all things, the proof comes in the pudding, as they say, so the first thing I did was to plan a hike that would take me to a cold part of my area, partly to get away from the city, partly to try this new bag out.

I found it to be very roomy indeed, with plenty of space in it allowing you to move around…..I always need to shift myself around many times before I settle down to sleep….I know, it’s a bad habit that I grew up with and often results in little arguments between me and the wife, as she gets sick and tired of me moving around on the bed when she’s trying to sleep!

But back to the original problem of cold feet. This bag was the only one, aside of that old one that I threw away after many years service, which warms me up from head to toe…..no need for extra covers etc.

I slept like a little baby, all snug and sound, in temperatures down to around -10C, which for a light bag like this one is simply fab. What is it like to pack? Easy as pie, even though it is a little heavier than some bags. The zips are good and strong, and as a bonus, the bag doubles up as a comforter in warmer weather.

One little addition I found really handy…was that the zipper pulls glow in the dark…handy, eh?

See this bag here

😉

 

Essential emergency survival tent

I’m not sure if any of my readers have experience of hiking in the high mountains or in very cold terrain, but if you get caught out in inclement weather in those places, shelter is absolutely vital.

Now whether that shelter is something you have time to knock together yourself from materials lying around or not, is debatable. I’ve constructed rudimentary shelters from branches, tree fronds, bark, etc but at times you may be in such a place where none of those items are at hand.

At times like that, you need to carry something that is easily set up and will save your life.

There are many designs on emergency shelters, but one of the best I found is shown below. It’s made out of a strong, metallised PVC based foil that refelcts your body heat back to keep you warm, and which will not tear easily, and can get you out of trouble in times of emergency.

As recommended by top survival authorities.

The cost is just US$12 plus $5 shipping (or £8 plus £3.99 if you are in Europe).

Contact me to purchase:        juniperberry123 at hotmail dot com

Well worth investing in!

Picture 434

Where will those animals go if…

 

Once during a really adventurous hike to the True North, I was talking to an Inuit elder, and the subject went onto penguins of all things.

He was telling me about what we know as Emperor penguins. During the breeding season he said, after the eggs are laid, the mother leaves her egg with the father penguin, while she walks 50 or 60 miles in the arctic conditions, until she reaches open water, where she can dive in and start feeding.

That walk takes them 4 or 5 days, sometimes longer…many times the mothers do not make it to the sea, but perish on the way. But because they have used all their energy to produce their eggs, they have to leave and eat, otherwise die. During this time, the fathers incubate the eggs, standing in temperatures as low as they get in those conditions, -50C sometimes, sometimes lower.

 

And the fathers have to do this for at least 3 months, usually 4, until the mothers have had their feeds and are ready to return home in time to feed their already hatched chicks.

If the mothers don’t return by the time 3 or 4 months are up, the father will abandon his chick, walk the 70 miles to the water and feed, or otherwise die of starvation with his chick. Remember by this time, they have been without food for more than 4 months!

But in what can only be called a miracle of Nature, apparently, within the penguins throat, there are several creases, and within these creases a milky substance is secreted, which the father penguin regurgitates up and feeds it to the chick, sustaining it’s life for a while longer.

And as if by another miracle, the mothers somehow sense the urgency with which they have to be back to feed their chicks, and walk with speed to be with them. Unknown to them, some of their chicks will have died through lack of food and severe cold.

When the mothers return, their chicks are overjoyed, even though they have never set eyes upon them before. Now, the fathers walk away to the open water, again 70 or more miles away, to feed…again, some will not make it, dying through lack of food and cold. And yet again, when the fathers return, many of the chicks will have died, their mothers are inconsolable and their loss unimaginable….they squawk mournfully for days on end. Who, says the Inuit, who says that animals don’t have feelings?

My point about this whole story is theis…..if mankind keeps destroying the planet and it’s resources as he has been doing so far, what will become of these animals, whose lives  already hinge on so uncertain, and so fragile an existence?

 

What are my hiking plans for the New Year?

Good question!

Today is the 28th December and we don’t have long to go before we see in the New Year, and all that it will bring.

So if you haven’t yet decided what your hiking plans are, myself included, well, we’d better get on with it and decide real quick.

Living in BC, I’m blessed with a wonderful choice of hiking; I can either choose to hike locally or strike out miles away from civilisation, as there so much land here. and most of it is uninhabited.

For the coming season, I think I’d like to go much further north, way up into the Yukon if I can, as my heart hankers for some lonesome walking, amongst snow and ice, rather than the forest and woodland I have been accustomed to.

Though it seems a nice thought, once you are in the true north, you have to be ultra careful, as help will be many, many miles away, if available at all.

And that will mean kitting myself out with as much fail-safe equipment as I can afford to carry.

As we all know, my kit will consist of those essentials that can mean the difference between survival or death, should the unforeseen happen. That means food, first aid, clothing/bedding, fire-starting equipment, cooking apparatus and anything else that I can think of.

I will be camping out in the open, so a good, solid, easily assembled/disassembled tent will be an absolute must.

Talking about camping in cold regions just reminded me about arrangements for a person’s, shall we say, daily ablutions? Normally, experienced hikers and walkers usually rely on a rough hole in the ground, which can be quickly filled in with soil etc when the job is finished. But in cold areas, where the ground is either frozen due to permafrost or is just too hard, digging holes in the ground can become laborious.

So what is the best way to take care of this very necessary task? Well, it all depends upon how long you are planning to stay in that particular site. Myself, if I know I’m going to be camped in one area for more than a week, I usually dig myself a proper “loo”, as it’s no fun sitting over a hole in the ground in the open air, with a cold, biting wind blowing all around your “undercarriage”, not to mention down your neck, too!

And believe it or not, there are certain rules you need to follow if your toilet in the open is to be properly managed. Again, depending upon the temperature, you will notice that after every visit, the waste products will freeze almost straight away. So what happens over time is that all your waste will tend to build itself into a very large icicle, albeit a rather very smelly one!

If you don’t manage it on a daily basis, that icicle will soon reach your nether regions and the only way to control it will be to chop it down to a smaller size with an axe or something. Of course, being what it is, that will inevitably leave small chunks of it on your clothing or hands, meaning as soon as you get back to your tent or shelter, all those chunks will melt, releasing an obvious, and very noxious smell, and one which you will never get out of your clothes until you get back home…to be avoided at all costs!

How do you construct the shelter around your loo? I’ve used whatever is close at hand. If in the woods, you can use a quick shelter made of twigs and branches, or if you are in very cold terrain, a shelter made of snow blocks is again very easy to construct.

What you should be doing daily, is to take a look down the hole and see how high the icicle has become….soon as it gets over 6 inches high, knock it down with a large stick or branch. That way, you can spend your time in your toilet in peace, knowing that once the time has come to move on, the hole can be filled in with snow or soil.

 

Basic wilderness survival — Shelter

Continuing with my recent post about some of the very critical things we just cannot do without when hiking in the wild places, is shelter.

I once read somewhere that the number 3 quantifies a whole range of actions that wilderness users are always up against. For example,  a person can supposedly live without air for a max of 3 minutes, without shelter for 3 hours, without water for 3 days and without food for 3 weeks. So shelter is the second most important thing that governs how long we can survive in the open.

And of course, if hiking in extreme cold, I wouldn’t like to bet that I’d last even 3 hours….I well remember being caught out in the extreme cold in Ontario once, when the temperature was -25C and with the wind chill factor added to that, it was -35C…yes, -35C! At that temperature, any exposed skin freezes solid within seconds.

So anyway, shelter, and knowing how to construct it with whatever is available, is of paramount importance.

Here, I’m going to talk about a very simple, but potentially life-saving shelter that can be constructed quite quickly and will keep you safe and snug for many days, until such a time when you decide to move on or can construct a more solid version.

This kind of shelter relies on us finding a fallen tree, under which all that needs to be done is to gather a few long branches, lay them at an angle with one end resting on the tree or log and the other end on the ground.

ONce those branches are in place, the gaps between them are covered up with smaller branches, moss or twigs — if these have leaves on, so much the better as they keep the rain out and act as insulation, too.

Again, depending on your location, you can use a pile of leaves for floor insulation as well, or if no leaves, then smaller branches or dry moss will do just as well. The reason for this is that the worst you can do having made your shelter, is to lie on the bare floor. Doing that will cause loss of body heat, which is the last the thing you need in a life-threatening situation.

One final idea is to keep a small fire going in front of the entrance to your shelter. Just having a fire going will be enough to keep you warm and dry and also allowing you to prepare your meals. The heat from the fire will be reflected to an extent into the shelter, keeping that dry, too. The simple diagram below shows how to go about building this shelter.

 

If you happen to be carrying a tarpaulin and rope with you, then your task is so much easier. All you have to do is tie the rope between two trees and simply throw the tarpaulin over the rope and put some rocks or weights to hold it down at the edges. Easy as that!

There are as many variations on this theme as you can imagine, but the main point is that having a shelter will do wonders for your morale, aside of keeping you warm.