Critique my preparedness

Discussion in 'Wilderness & Survival Skills' started by Rotte, Oct 28, 2015.

  1. Rotte


    Aug 30, 2008
    I was out for a day hike today and realized I missed something. This got me thinking that we could generate a little discussion about preparedness based on my experience today. To make it interesting, let's make it a casual contest.

    Contest: critique my preparedness for a simple day-hike. Include what I did well and what I did poorly (take your gloves off).


    1. One entry per person. Entry should specify what I did well and what I didn't do well. You will not hurt my feelings by calling me an idiot; you will not get bonus points by suggesting I should have been an Eagle Scout. I encourage you to be specific. Entries that state, "you should have been better prepared" will not be taken seriously.

    Once you submit your critique, that's it, you cannot edit your post or entry (I didn't get to edit my readiness once I was on the trail, you have to commit to your critique and then live with it.) Please title your entry response "Critique". Any edited posts will be disregarded.

    2. You can ask questions before submitting your critique, I'll answer as well as I'm able; I'll try not to lie; everyone will see my response. I'll provide some basic information below, but I will likely leave out some details and information (accidentally or intentionally.)

    3. From the best 5 critiques, I'll randomly pick a winner--unless there are fewer than 5 decent critiques, in which case I'll just pick a winner. I'm not an expert, so this will be based on my somewhat amature opinion, but I suspect we'll get a consensus of sorts. Those who answer earlier are more likely to make the final 5--decisiveness counts in survival situations.

    4. Contest ends at some random time; I'll decide that too. This puts a bit of pressure on those who might want to wait to use other people's critiques to inform their own. Besides, Mother Nature is fickle and random, ya never know when your survival experience will end.

    5. This contest is in no way fair, but that's life, isn't it? This is just meant to be fun and promote a little discussion, please don't take it too seriously. We can all teach each other here.

    Prize: $50 gift certificate to Cabella's, LL Bean, or REI (you pick, I have no affiliation with any of these retailers) just to make it interesting.

    The Scenario, mostly true, and not embellished more than a typical Westerner's tale:

    This morning I spontaneously decided to go for a short day hike. The temperature was 30º F and there was some low fog. I expected to hike about 5-6 miles along a known trail with occasional side excursions off the trail to check stuff out. I was starting out at 4000' and expected to get to a max elevation of 6000'. I told my wife I was taking the dog out for a walk and we'd be back at sometime.

    I grabbed my daypack from the hall closet, tossed in a water bottle, some jerky, put on a vest, and headed out. Here's the view from around 4,500 feet:


    The climb requires a little exertion, but is not technical. Unfortunately, I did twist my right knee while traversing some loose scree. I'm solidly middle-aged and don't bounce back the way I used to, so that annoyed me a bit. Of course, being stubborn, I kept going up. I got a little sweaty and took off my vest. At that point I took a shot of my pack and contents along with climbing partner:


    Now that I look at the photo, I see my green platic water bottle has rolled under my fleece vest. Not shown are two 1-gallon plastic bags (to clean up dog waste) and a small zip-lock bag of beef jerky (1oz). I was wearing trail shoes, wool socks, nylon hiking shorts, a long sleeve T-shirt, and a waxed canvas hat with a decent brim. Pockets were empty, sheath for the Terrasaur was on my nylon belt. I used a cell phone to take the pictures, but cell phone reception was spotty at best.

    Here is the terrain I was walking through:


    Typical Rocky Mountain forest on Fall day. Fairly dry, but there was a light frost on the ground...until the sun burnt it off. Dog had a good time as we tried to track down some chipmunks and deer. We had the woods to ourselves, even though opening day was last Saturday!

    OK, that's the background scenario. How did I do? Obviously I made it home, same day, and am able to type as badly as ever. But was I being prudent or could I have been better prepared and made better decisions?
  2. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    You might have done better, IMHO from the comfort of my den.

    1 I told my wife I was taking the dog out for a walk and we'd be back at sometime.

    Always, when possible, leave someone, anyone a note giving as specifi0c an itinerary as possible. If not the wife or a ranger, leave a note on your car dash to direct searchers if you are overdue. You might do something as simple as miss a trail or twist your knee. Or worse, fall down a scree slope. Stuff happens when you leave the sidewalk.

    2. I grabbed my daypack from the hall closet, tossed in a water bottle, some jerky, put on a vest, and headed out.

    Always pack some sort of shelter even for a day hike. Even a cheap plastic poncho that you and your friend can huddle under to preserve body heat if caught out overnight, particularly when lows will be below freezing. They cost $3 or less and aren't much bigger than a cigarette pack.

    3. I did twist my right knee while traversing some loose scree. I'm solidly middle-aged and don't bounce back the way I used to, so that annoyed me a bit.

    Even minor injuries can magnify themselves under continued strain. At this point, instead of toughing it out, you might have called it a day and hiked out.

    4. I see my green platic water bottle has rolled under my fleece vest. Not shown are two 1-gallon plastic bags (to clean up dog waste) and a small zip-lock bag of beef jerky (1oz). I was wearing trail shoes, wool socks, nylon hiking shorts, a long sleeve T-shirt, and a waxed canvas hat with a decent brim. Pockets were empty, sheath for the Terrasaur was on my nylon belt.

    A few minor additions to pack or pockets might make a world of difference if forced to stay overnight in that climate and elevation. A simple Bic lighter and some tender. A button compass. WHistle or other signal device. A better (warmer) head cover. Long pants to cover your legs. I know it sounds like a lot but it really isn't.

    Glad you and your partner had an enjoyable hike!
  3. Rotte


    Aug 30, 2008
    Thanks for getting us started. Some good points there. I have a whistle on my house key...but I left that at home. :rolleyes:
  4. sideways


    Feb 19, 2013
    Cool beans. :thumbup: This is not an entry.

    So there are a few things that you could have done without weighing you down a lot. I assume since this is a day hike in your own back yard you wouldn't want to carry a full overnight pack. :)

    Emergency shelter.
    It doesn't take a life or death situation to appreciate being able to sit down without getting your bum cold/wet out of the wind and rain. High visibility is just a perk.
    • Bright colored bothy bag
    • Insulating sitting pad

    Signalling and communications.
    • A bright flashlight will make you much more visible at night. Could be useful for other things too.
    • A 2 way radio (seeing as cell reception is sketchy, otherwise I'd just say make sure cellphone is charged) would allow anyone following your route to find you with a much greater margin of error. They only have to get within 1 mile of you or whatever the range of your device is.
    • Mirror and whistle
    • An personal locator beacon. Call it insurance. Nobody plans to need to be rescued but things happen. It's a bit like insurance it's expensive until the day you actually need it. Maybe not necessary for day hikes close to home but if I have it for difficult treks you can bet I'll carry it for the easy ones as well.

    Basic survival gear.
    • water purification tablets
    • first aid kit. If you get a bad cut you'll need a bandage. Local considerations like snake bite kits go in here. Sun screen in the summer etc
    • lighter
    • Some sort of lightweight stove. A canteens stove perhaps, a metal cup that nests around a nalgene, or an ultralight alcohol stove nested inside an ultralight kettle. There are many options and a warm cup of tea is nice even if you are not in a life or death situation.

    Am I right to assume you dressed with the assumption you were not stopping? Seems a bit light for 30 f.
    • A proper jacket. I like to take a primaloft hoody
    • Pants. Either a light weight pair of rain pants in the pack as a shell layer or setting off in long pants to begin with.
    • Better hat. I like a good quilted felt cap with brim and the fold down ear flaps. Versatile warmth while keeping the sun and rain out of my eyes.

    • Worst thing that can happen carrying too much water is you get a workout. I usually carry 3 liters for a day hike.
    • As mentioned earlier some water purification tablets.

    • Heavy duty dark bread with lots of cheese and meat.

    You say these are known trails, but are they really?
    • Map and compass never hurts.
    • As codger said you could have been more specific about your route.

    • It is good you started early in the day, it ensures maximum daylight.
  5. AdamFuzzyballs


    Mar 16, 2015
    Well, I too am an amateur, but I Will do my best:)
    (30 degrees and a low fog)
    While I don't know what's in your daypack, I can say that you surely should have had some type of fire starting equipment if there was any chance of it being 30 degrees overnight. Again, I don't know what you carry, but you should have had a compass in the fog, I have gotten lost because the landmarks I followed disappeared in the Alaskan fog.
    (Occasional side excursions)
    Always leave some sort of marking at the point in the trail where you leave so that in emergency they can indicate you may still be in that direction.
    (Being stubborn)
    Stubbornness can be great, but also deadly in survival situations. Just be sure to think logically before making any move in a survival type scenario. Of course it's not a problem on basic hikes, but still.
    ( I got sweaty and took off my vest)
    I don't know if it was still 30 degrees, but always be careful with hypothermia and in general I try to avoid getting sweaty if I can. Take breaks often. Obviously this isn't avoidable all the time and really on a day hike it wouldn't be too bad of a problem.

    Really you did better than 99.9 percent of people who dayhike. Some few points, like codger said, even small injuries can be magnified in emergency. Also, I would have personally brought more water. Water is king! Again like codger said, I would always tell someone where and what my plan is.

    Otherwise you did great and I think the improvements are very slight!:)
  6. Rotte


    Aug 30, 2008
    Sideways, I like the way you think. Solid points. Maybe overkill for a day hike?

    I thought of this thread when I realized that I had left my flashlight in my jeans pocket. I changed into shorts for the hike, and didn't empty my pants' pockets. It was a nice day and I was eager to get out on the trail......
  7. Rotte


    Aug 30, 2008
    Thanks, Adam. I used the photo to show what was in my pack. That's it, aside from a couple plastic bags, and the jerky that I'm hiding from my hound. Just what you see. Of course the water bottle rolled under my vest--I think the dog kicked it. It is a green plastic bottle (lexan?) that holds 28 oz of water.
  8. sideways


    Feb 19, 2013
    I don't know... I doubt it adds up to more than a few pounds if you don't count the extra water. You are already carrying a pack so it doesn't add much in the way of bulk and the water is used up during the course of the day.
  9. Rotte


    Aug 30, 2008
  10. OwenM


    Oct 26, 2000
    You fool! It's a shame you survived and are telling about it, because now someone else might think they can go outside and just walk around, too! :mad:
    Kidding...I don't believe in going overboard for a short dayhike, especially when you're just going to be a few miles from your house, but some things it just makes sense to have, based on the conditions.

    What you did well:
    1) You went hiking.
    2) You carried a cell phone with a camera, with which you could have properly chronicled your untimely demise, and maybe played solitaire or something on while you waited to die.

    What you did poorly, preparedness-wise:
    1) You didn't inform your wife of your plan(negates a lot of concerns, all by itself).
    2) Said plan apparently did not include waterfalls, or I'd be seeing pictures of some.
    3) No first aid.
    4) No shelter.
    5) No insulation.

    Stuff like food, headlamp, etc is nice to have, but you're not going to die overnight for lack of them. Even being able to treat or filter water doesn't matter much in the short term.
    Being stuck out without even long pants when temps are 30F in the daytime is another matter altogether, especially if that twisted knee had been enough to immobilize you, or been a broken leg.

    Given those temps, puffy jacket, heavy baselayer or puffy bottom, rain jacket and pants(that is shelter)/or "survival" bivy if no chance of rain, and the simplest of first aid/emergency kits with just a firestarter, plus an ACE bandage and sports tape that can treat cuts, sprains, support broken bones or injured joints. With some proper gear choices, all that stuff together is <2.5lbs.

    'Course I don't know whether I'm coming or going. I did a couple of short dayhikes yesterday with just trekking poles and a rain jacket(since it was raining). Then a long dayhike today that was supposed to have been an overnighter, which meant I had a tent, sleeping pad, down quilt, bit of extra clothes, full rain gear(still raining), snacks, first aid water filtration, and even a spare camera battery that I didn't need(cause I'm in full rebellion against the ultralight revolution and all).
  11. Chignecto Woodsman

    Chignecto Woodsman

    Aug 2, 2014
    Was it really 30, and what was the anticipated high for the day?
  12. Hacked


    Jun 1, 2010
    This is a very interesting idea and I look forward to the rest of the responses. There have been some good ones so far.

    The Good

    -You did something healthy for both you and your dog and got to spend some time in the great outdoors. I’m a firm believer that time in the wilderness is therapeutic.
    -You took a vest to keep your core warm, and a brimmed hat to keep the sun off of your face.
    -You brought a knife with you that seems to be of high quality.
    You took a Sierra cup which could be used to give your dog water, cook in, collect water from a stream and so on.
    You picked wool socks which would insulate your feet well even if wet.
    -You took at least one vessel capable of containing water with you.
    -You brought a high protein snack.

    The Bad

    -A hiking pole or staff might have helped to prevent mechanical injury.
    -A small FAK could come in handy especially when dealing with a knife.
    -A light way to treat water such as a Sawyer Mini filter or chemical water treatment is a must in my book. The human body requires a large amount of water and can quickly become dehydrated as you lose water with every breath you take.
    -A reliable way to start a fire should be with you at all times on a hike, a small Bic and or Ferrocerium rod should be added to your standard hiking load out. Practice using whatever you chose and become perficient enough to not have to depend on carrying your own tinder, though emergency tinder is not a bad option to have as well.
    -A simple emergency blanket, poncho, or trash bag can add shelter, rain protection, or a wind block.
    -A simple flashlight or headlamp is a good idea to bring on a hike even if you are not planning to be out after dark.
    -In a cooler environment the amount of insulating layers you took with you is very minimal. This leaves you dependant on your body heat alone to keep warm. A serious mechanical injury or sudden change in weather could leave you in a potentially deadly situation.
    -You did not give a specific location or ETA to your wife. This is important to aid SAR team members in finding you quickly in case something does go wrong on your hike.
  13. Rotte


    Aug 30, 2008
    Chignecto, good questions.

    Yes, it was really 30º that morning per my home thermometer--I had to scrape frost off my windshield that morning. And the anticipated high...uh, I was eager to get out and didn't check the weather forceast that morning. I think I knew it would be in the 50's from looking at the forecast earlier in the week, but the temp often drops with altitude.

    This morning the thermo reads 42º and the sky is bright red as clouds have rolled in.

    Good responses so far. I'm open to additional questions, but won't be able to respond until this evening.
  14. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    Refine your kit in the bag, even with minimalist additions. And keep the bag packed that way. After a hike offload your pockets into the pack so the bits are there next time. At the same time, take note of items lost or used up and replace those before you are ready to head out again. I swear, your kit could be vastly improved without much gain in weight or bulk at all.

    I never go anywhere without a roll of Coleman's/Coghlans/Ozark Trails coreless campers' toilet paper. Wiping on pine cones sucks. And it has uses in first aid as well.
  15. Rotte


    Aug 30, 2008
    "And keep the bag packed that way"; "take note of items lost or used up and replace those before you are ready to head out again."

    You make really good points here Codger. In fact, there are some items I usually have in my pack that I forgot because I left them in the motorcycle tank bag. More on that later.
  16. hatchettjack


    Aug 4, 2015

    1. You should always leave a detailed map of where you are going

    2. You should never just throw a bag together! At that altitude the weather can change instantly and your bag should have emergency shelter, clothes and food, along with a bic lighter, fire tinder and a first aid kit!

    3. No mention of a compass?

    4. Never allow yourself to sweat! Folks have died from hypothermia at much higher temps than you were subjected to!

    5. As we get older small slips can really mess us up! Proper footwear that provides protection from the elements and support is an essential tool!

    6. I think a collie would have been a better choice of companion, they have protected the likes of little timmy for years, and provide more nutritious meat in an emergency!

    7. Other than that, you should have been an Eagle Scout!
  17. sideways


    Feb 19, 2013
    No. You don't eat fido on a day hike. :D
  18. mec003


    Jan 1, 2015
    This is a fun idea and a great way to generate some interest in hiking and preparedness. Thanks for starting this thread! I think it's awesome that you got out with a friend and enjoyed some nature while being active. Too many people plan to go out and then never make it out the door. Nice job having a pack with a few basics. It's definately a start and better than nothing.

    1. The first thing that stands out to me is the amount of water you took with you. In my opinion, not nearly enough. I'm not familiar with your locale, but I assume at that elevation water isn't easy to find. All the more necessary to carry what you (and your four legged pal) will need. I usually have a 2 liter hydration bag or two 32oz nalgene bottles with water. That's my minimum for a day hike. If you aren't planning on finding water on a hike, I don't see the need for purification tablets or a filter. If you have to you can boil it or just drink it as is. I know it's not ideal to drink untreated water, but in an emergency I would take giardia over extreme dehydration.

    2. Did you have a way to start a fire? Just carrying a small bic lighter is fine. A Ferro rod would also work, but requires some practice and is tough to use one handed. with temps in the 30s you may need the warmth of a fire if you get stuck outside after dark.

    3. It's good that you told someone you were heading out, but it would be better to be as specific as possible. If someone needs to go looking for you, do they at least know the general direction you were headed? Give a time frame that you will be gone and a direction (north, southwest, east, etc).

    4. Clothing is important in a cold/cool environment. Shorts may have been fine for your hike, but if you ended up staying until after sunset you would have been much happier with pants. Perhaps invest in a pair of pants that convert to shorts? Also a packable jacket that is lightweight just in case. I try to wear high visibility colors. My pack is a bright blue osprey talon 22. And wear a red or Orange pullover. In case someone comes looking for me I will stand out.

    5. Some sort of cover or shelter is always nice. Just toss a disposable poncho or large heavy duty trashbag in your pack. They are cheap and weigh nothing. Probably only good for a one time use, but in an emergency hopefully that's all you need.

    6. First aide is a necessity in my book. Band aids, pain relievers, allergy meds, antiseptic, ace bandage wrap, maybe a splint. It's all pretty cheap and you can customize to your needs. An ace wrap would have helped if you tweaked your knee.

    7. A trekking pole or walking stick would have been my preferance for the terrain that you were hiking. At least you had a decent knife with you and could have cut a pole if need be. It might have helped prevent mechanical injury and would probably have made getting back easier after an injury.

    8. It's a good idea to take some food with you. Great job there! Also great that you had some bags with you for clean up. I try to carry something with protein and something with sugar. I like hard candies to pop while walking. The sugar boost is a nice pick me up.

    9. Miscellaneous things to consider would include a flashlight for signalling or seeing after dark. A whistle to call your dog if he gets lost or to call for help if you get lost. A hat and gloves. I always keep cheap ones in my bag. Just something to keep your head warm and hands protected. Cell phone in case you do find a spot with cell reception. A compass is tiny and can be so useful on a cloudy day. I also carry chapstick at all times. Some kind of string is a must for me. I have paracord in my first aid kit and wrapped on my pack strap. So many uses. Even some cheap twine would work in a pinch.

    Thanks again for sharing your experience and opening a thread where we can all offer suggestions and advice. Hope to see some more pictures of your outdoor adventures!
  19. sideways


    Feb 19, 2013
    Codger is on point mentioning toilet paper.

    • TOILET PAPER. I always carry it but never remember to mention it.
    • A bit of ball lubricant (vaseline) to reduce chafing and some of those second skin blister bandaids are worth having too. Because the wrong underwear and shoes create a lot of sore spots.
  20. Codger_64

    Codger_64 Moderator Moderator

    Oct 8, 2004
    More on shelter and heat, while canoeing a wilderness area some years ago, I misjudged my progress on the river and wound up with no camping spot available at full dark. I climbed a steep bank into a cane brake and pitched my poncho into a teepee over some river cane and lit a tea candle for light and heat. It wasn't the best night I ever spent but not the worst either. I was in no danger of freezing or getting wet from the falling snow and sleet. And the heat of that small candle combined with my body heat kept the shelter tolerably warm. And yes, you can sleep sitting up!

Share This Page