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Be sure to pack appropriate emergency gear

Posted: Friday, July 09, 2004

Packing for the great outdoors adventure? With the fall hunting season just around the corner, it's good to know what to bring in the event of any unforeseen troubles.

Because the unpredictable nature of the Alaska wilderness and weather can create many different and unexpected situations, being prepared with the right essentials could often mean life or death.

Mountaineering Club of Alaska member Corby Hawkins referred to a list of must-haves from the book "Mountaineering, The Freedom of the Hills," which he said include a compass, fire-starting equipment, a map, a flashlight, extra food and clothing and matches in a waterproof container.

"In the Mountaineering Club of Alaska, if you don't have that, you don't go out," Hawkins said.

The second edition of the book, edited by Harvey Manning, includes tape (non-waterproof), Band-Aids, butterfly Band-Aids, steri-pad gauze flats, a single-edge razor blade, a needle, moleskin, elastic bandage, salt tablets and antacids. It also mentions carrying some sort of antibacterial ointment to prevent infections in the event of burns or wounds. Hawkins said Neosporin was his choice.

Hawkins mentioned some additional items of his own choosing that he would add to his pack.

"Very often, I add insect repellent, a water filter and water bottle and big plastic bags," he said. "You can use them to keep your stuff dry."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Officer Chris Johnson teaches hunter education and has been doing the survival and first-aid portions of the seminars for a number of years, he said. He itemized more essentials to pack and what to put them in.

"You need to carry something that'll be with you at all times," he said. "Some kind of small container. What I carry is an old bandage box."

In that box he said he keeps his compass, knife and duct tape that has been removed from its larger, original roll and re-rolled.

"It's just really handy to have," Johnson said.

Hawkins named another practical applications for the versatile adhesive that hunters would find useful.

"I put a piece of duct tape over barrel to keep keep debris and water out," he said.

Johnson ran down a list of other helpful items to have. These include a cotton ball with some petroleum jelly to start fires, a metal match or some flint and folded up tin foil.

"You can form that into something to catch or carry water with," Johnson said. "I also carry a wire saw. It rolls up into about silver dollar size.

"Some people carry garbage bags that can be used for rain gear, boots or to carry water. Those fold down really small."

Hawkins had ideas for using a Zip-Loc bag.

"You can use (them) to clean wounds," he said. "If you fill it with water, seal it up and clip one corner off, you can use it as a high-pressure water pump."

He said cleaning an open wound is just as important as closing it, and this item would help that process.

Both suggested carrying a bundle of parachute cord.

"You can tie up a shelter," Johnson said. "If a pack breaks, you can tie it up."

Hawkins said the lightweight cord has an almost endless amount of uses.

"You can use that for 10 million things," he said. "That and a roll of duct tape will get you out of anything."

One important thing to prepare for when venturing into the wilderness is being found when lost. Johnson said too many people depend on electronic devices to rescue them in a bind.

"I think nowadays, people are underestimating the old-fashioned compass," he said. "People are relying on cell phones or GPS (devices), but the battery could go out or they could get wet. In case those other things don't work, the compass will."

He suggested keeping a whistle or noise-maker to attract the attention of search parties, in case one becomes lost.

Scott Vanzant, of Central Emergency Services in Soldotna, said keeping a reflective signaling device like a mirror will help rescuers locate someone lost during the daytime. Having something to start a fire will signal airborne searchers at night. He said CES and other emergency agencies are prepared for and anticipate hunters getting lost.

"We seldom go a season without at least one," Vanzant said. "We probably receive a half-dozen each season involving hunters getting lost."

Johnson said taking the survival or first-aid kit is just the beginning of the battle, but it is an important part. But staying smart goes a long way to keep hunters safe.

"A survival kit isn't going to do you any good if you don't have it with you when you need it," Johnson said. "But the biggest thing you need to carry is your common sense."



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