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ABANDON SHIP! What do you grab from your pack?

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by averageiowaguy, Oct 2, 2012.

  1. averageiowaguy


    Mar 22, 2011
    This is something that actually happened 2 nights ago. I hesitate because it is such an over the top story you might think I am a bullshitter. We have it on film but it might be a year or two before the film is produced. I have personal footage that I can show you privately but I cannot put it anywhere publically because of the contract.

    Here goes. We boarded a wooden freight ship headed from the last port between Tabatingo and Iquitos. It was supposed to come at 2PM but it did not arrive until 8PM. What can I say? It was on Peru time. When I say port I am using the term loosely. It was a muddy spot on the bank of the Amazon and the ship was big enough that it would not stop for us.

    We loaded five people and 400 pounds of gear into a smaller boat that is not much bigger than a wooden canoe. We had to bail water out of the bottom of the canoe with a cut-off 2 liter bottle. We came alongside the ship and had to climb up the side with our packs. Every time someone went to step off the boat it would rock and almost tip over. Water would splash over the side into our small boat.

    The big boat was a lot higher than our canoe so it was about a 6 foot difference that we had to climb and there was not a good handhold. There was pigshit and water on the floor and I had to do a pullup with my pack on and that was the handhold. If I slipped I would fall into the Amazon and either get chewed up by the prop of the motor on our canoe or by the engines of the big boat. Neither of these boats are going to stop their engines for one person. If I survived that, I would have to swim all the way to shore. The Amazon river is bigger and wider than the Mississippi river and it had just rained so the current was up and there was a lot of floating debris. On top of that, the river is filled with things that would like nothing better than to eat you. So falling in is not an option. The sun sets at 6PM so all of this was done in the dark.

    After we all succesfully made it aboard, we climed to the upper deck and got ready to sleep. I do not know why but I had a sense that something could go wrong with the boat. Every once in a while I would catch a whif of smoke that was not normal diesel smoke. I knew that I would not be able to swim with the pack, so I prioritized what I would grab from my pack if I had to jump overboard and put it on top. I strung my hammock but I had a plan for 3 difference ways of escape should something go wrong.

    I fell asleep. At about 2 in the morning I heard the engines stop abruptly. I knew something had gone very wrong. I quickly went down to the deck to see what was up. I saw smoke coming from the engine room and I grabbed Dalphine (one of the native guides) to ask about the fire. He said it was on fire. I ran back up to the upper deck, which was filling with smoke. Mickey Grosman was already yelling at our party to get ready to get the hell out of there. Mickey being Mickey, he asked Nixon (a native of Equador) to start filming. Nixon refused and even raised a fist at Mickey. Mickey fired Nixon on the spot and promoted me to camera man. LOL! We had time, but not much, so we gathered the gear and went to the deck to abandon ship. Meanwhile the other passengers of the ship were milling around like zombies waiting to be told what to do. Most of them did not even get out of their hammocks. If you want to know why people die in disasters, that is why.

    When I say ship, you have to understand that it is not a ship like you are thinking. It is a wooden structure, packed to the ceiling with cargo and people in hammocks. There are pigs, chickens, monkeys, buffalo and most importantly, barrels of gasoline. If the fire hits a barrel of gasoline - KABOOM! We had to be ready to get off in a milisecond. Meanwhile the ship starts drifting with the current and turning in the river. Not good.

    Luckily before the fire got too far another ship came alongside and we were able to jump aboard. It was pure luck that there was another ship travelling at night, close enough to help us. Suffice it to say that even if the ship had not come, we would have figured a way out of the situation. I do not have enough time to tell more, but it all ended well.

    All of this is on film. I am sure Mickey would be happy to verify my account. And that was only 6 hours of an expedition that has gone 2100 miles and has another 3 or 4 thousand to go.

    Mickey wants me to stay but I have to get back and earn some money. Student loans and all that must be paid. We have already made plans for me to rejoin the expedition in the not too distant future.

    Carried on person: Hat, shirt, belt, pants, passport, DL, credit cards, ID, Marathon Tritium watch with date,
    Cash, BK16, HEST 2.0, sharpening stone, lighter, jungle boots and socks.

    So here was what was in my pack:
    Fire Steel
    Vaseline cotton balls in an ibuprofen bottle wrapped with ranger bands
    3 bic lighters

    MSR Titan Pot
    Snow Peak spork
    two 32 ounce nalgene bottles
    Coleman's water purification tabs
    4 ounces soy sauce
    4 ounces Sriracha

    Outback single rectangular mosquito net (just in case)
    MSR E Wing Tarp
    Blackbird Warbonnet single bottom hammock
    Gossamer gear ultralight sleeping pad
    ear plugs

    2 pairs of thin wool socks (one to be kept dry)

    Arcterix nylon short sleeved shirt
    3 bandanas

    My newly modified Altoids fishing kit (updated after much experimentation in the field)
    Fenix LD-20 with head band and red cap
    two AA Lithium batteries for extra
    Base plate style compass
    Garmin Rino 655T GPS/Radio
    95 feet of orange paracord - one 25 foot length and the rest in 10

    My lawnmower blade parang/sheath
    Leatherman Juice 2

    First Aid
    4X4 gauze pads
    Various band aids
    mole skin
    duct tape
    athletic tape
    my modified ball point pen needle safe with needles/thread
    a big tube of petroleum jelly
    a container with ibuprofen/benedryl
    sun screen
    baby wipes
    malaria pills

    write in the rain notebook with pens
    Loksak bags of various sizes

    What do you grab out of the pack and why? Keep in mind you will only be able to carry a pound or two without sinking. You cannot take everything.
  2. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    Interesting story. A pack that traps air woulld be a good idea in such a scenario. Wrapped tightly in a poncho it would likely float. And perhaps there was some box, keg or other item on deck to perform as a makeshift float, tethered to the pack even if it was submerged. I have floated a fifty pound Alice before. Pack liners are handy in wet environments. Few packs weigh as much as the water they displace. I would attempt to get away with it all and still be willing to lose it all rather than my life. After all, you were not there alone in that situation.
  3. GilG


    Feb 25, 2007
    Your pack would most likely float.Tako off your wet pants and turn it into a makeshift PFD.
  4. gadgetgeek


    May 19, 2007
    I cannot swim. cannot float, cannot do more than walk to shore on the bottom. I would have no choice but to life-raft on my pack and hope for the best. In a case where I knew there was going to be sketchy river travel, I'd seriously consider rigging an inflatable vest to my pack somehow. I know that doesn't answer your question. If I were a swimmer, I'd be more likely to go for fire and first-aid, so I could make camp. That would be priority number one. (I'm assuming at least one knife is a given)

    Glad you made it out alright, hope you didn't loose too much of your kit.
  5. willseeyalater


    Jan 7, 2012
    You did good to be thinking about the 'what if' before it happened. In that part of the world boats have few to no safety features, some could seem to have built in danger features if you are realistic. Taking time to look at floatation choices is a smart exercise.
  6. akula83


    Aug 19, 2008
    I don't exactly remember all the items contained in the pouches, but I have read that members of the SAS while deployed always have a "escape and evasion" belt with basic survival essentials on their person at all times. If they were seperated from all of their gear, they would still always have at least this. It's what I would have on these adventures.
  7. akula83


    Aug 19, 2008
    Learned this in the Navy, but I would practice in a pool a few times first.
  8. Joezilla

    Joezilla Moderator Moderator

    Jul 22, 2005
    My jungle pack pack is waterproof, so it helps me float. Well, its weather proof, and survived 30 minutes of me paddling around a pon. That is without the dry bags inside. The dry bags also act as flotation. Its documented in "walking the amazon". Great question. Drawback. Though its waterproof, things in it NEVER dry, but they never did anyway.
  9. Munky88


    Jun 1, 2008
    Sounds like an exciting adventure already.

    I'm in the same boat. Dry bag should make my bag float.
    If just a few items are needed easy fire is probably a focus to dry and warm self off after the likely frigged waters.
    Shelter like a tarp would also be a quick second choice, provided it was in a second bag compression. Trying to swim with bulky fabrics is not easy.
  10. scruffuk


    Jan 14, 2010
    Well firstly, I'm glad to hear you and the rest of the passengers and crew were all okay.

    A major disaster avoided, all be it by luck and chance circumstances than anything else.
    I guess you wish you'd packed an extra pair of trousers now though right? ;)

    As for what kit to grab I'd probably be thinking as much as possible!! I'd probably need all of the kit you listed to compensate for my lack of local knowledge and skills.

    I expect with your experience in these environments though that you could have managed with the essentials. Your big chopper, fire lighting means, a pot, bottle and FAK....do you think that would be enough??
  11. SaturatedShadow


    Apr 28, 2010
    Damn, quite a story. Glad you all made it out.

    From your pack, I'd go with the tarp, firesteel, the pot or water bottle, cordage, compass, and flashlight.

    Perhaps you could separate your most essential gear and carry it in its own pouch that could be easily removed and carried on its own.

    I keep my most basic gear in my 10x4 bottle holder. I carry it when hunting or dayhiking. When I want more gear, I attach it to the side of my pack. In a situation such as you were in, I would just detach the bottle carrier from my pack and have a small minimal kit on which I could get by.
  12. Jack Black

    Jack Black Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 2, 2005
    My thoughts exactly.
  13. Saymon


    Jun 18, 2012
    That adventure friend! the package that you put together is a good!
  14. NixKustoms

    NixKustoms Sheath and Knife Maker Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Dec 30, 2010
    That is effing nuts!!! I would love to see the videos someday.

    Minimum I would gram what fire kit you had and what ever you had for water (hopefully something made out of metal), flashlight, and the extra socks.

    I've never been anywhere like the Amazon but those for some reason make the most sense to grab and have there, to me at least.
  15. BillyJoeBobJim

    BillyJoeBobJim Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 14, 2007
    I would do the same thing I plan here except I might plan for more length of cord since the Amazon is a different river from what I am usually running.

    I would grab the looped end of the paracord with carabiner which is tied to the hang-loop and shoulder harness of my pack and pull it with me as a swim for shore. Currently that would be 100-150'. My pack floats. IF it sunk while I made it to shore, I could pull it in or retrieve it later. I could also tie/hook it to something in the middle of the river if needed and retrieve it later.

    I've made some very tough crossings of swiftly moving water where I've left my pack on one side and pulled it across after.
  16. lmalterna

    lmalterna Gold Member Gold Member

    Dec 12, 2002
    Glad you made it OK.
    After some traveling in the Phils where floods are pretty standard and quality of travel less than I am used to here... my essentials would be inside the dry bag in my pack already. I am a rotten swimmer and always have a dry bag in my pack- variety of sizes for different packs. Keep my crap dry, easy to unload from pack and good for water container or flotation. I also keep a strobe attached to the dry bag, helps me get found of the bag if it gets lost.

    From your list- things that would already be in my bag:
    Fire Steel
    Vaseline cotton balls in an ibuprofen bottle wrapped with ranger bands
    3 bic lighters
    MSR Titan Pot
    two 32 ounce nalgene bottles
    Coleman's water purification tabs
    Outback single rectangular mosquito net (just in case)
    2 pairs of thin wool socks (one to be kept dry)
    Fenix LD-20 with head band and red cap
    two AA Lithium batteries for extra
    Base plate style compass
    Garmin Rino 655T GPS/Radio
    95 feet of orange paracord - one 25 foot length and the rest in 10
    Leatherman Juice 2
    4X4 gauze pads
    mole skin
    duct tape
    my modified ball point pen needle safe with needles/thread
    a big tube of petroleum jelly
    a container with ibuprofen/benedryl
    sun screen
    malaria pills
    write in the rain notebook with pens
    Loksak bags of various sizes

    *** I looked up Loksak bags- will they hold air under pressure- such as held under 6' of water?
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2012
  17. collecter


    Aug 21, 2002
    I don't know that I worry about grabbing any one thing but your story has me thinking that a pack should hold the few most essential items in a punch that could quickly be separated from the pack. That way "what to grab" would already be decided ahead of time.

    it sounds like you already had some key items on your person.
  18. mete

    mete Gold Member Gold Member

    Jun 10, 2003
  19. fujita yuji

    fujita yuji

    Jul 12, 2008
    Similar case we had about one and a half year ago here in Japan when huge tsunami hit the shore.
    We must think about this kind of what if questions repeatedly.
    Thanks for posting nice thread, iowaguy.
  20. bored2deth


    Feb 27, 2011
    What would I grab from my pack?? I'm presuming I cannot simply take my pack? Ok..


    An outfitted Esee 5 or Bk-2 (if I actually had one, lol) or a good, outfitted folder such as a mule.
    Hopefully a lamp or flashlight.
    Warm jacket.
    Maybe a small pouch with goodies in it?

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