Signal panels, flares, and strobes---thoughts?

Jun 1, 2004
alot has been said on the subject of mirrors and whistles and ontop of that I carry a set of Orion wilderness flares, a signal panel, and a military issue strobe light for signalling in my kit. What are your thoughts on those and does anyone else carry them?
Yes I carry a signal of those free AOL CD's makes a great nearly indestructible one and it even has an aiming hole in the center.
I am in the Army and by your choices, I bet you have some Military Background. I have always thought that you should have several signal methods with you in your Kit. I have a VS-17 Panel and a ACR 2000 strobe that I carry along with my Signal mirror. I use to have Wilderness Flares but I shot them off for training and have not replaced them yet. I have been thinking of getting a laser flare to replace the flares. I think your choices are good ones. One more thing that I will be adding to my Mini Kit will be GLINT TAPE! I will post a thread soon on some ideas I have to use it for rescue purposes.
The key to visability is to use as much of your 5 senses as you can. Overlap if possible. Any sound you can produce is good, whistles don't take as much work as singing which doesn't take as much work as yelling. I've got a set or propelled flares that I could shoot, mirrors, smoke canisters, you name it.

Rick, I think you're talking about the Greatland Laser signal, right?? You might want to research those a little bit, they're not really intended to replace an aerial flare so much as they're made to act more like a really bright mirror with no sun required. You can wave it at things far away to show where you are, but I don't believe it's got a beam that's visable through the sky. You may want to look into a green laser pointer for that, you'd need some power to get a beam that was visable like that but it's definately possible. .
I carry similar devices, but use a Pilot's Survival Panel instead of the VS-17. Made from parachute cloth and comfortably small. I've sewn in a bit of Glint tape into the center (just in case Spectre wanders by). My stobe unfortunately uses the old proprietary batteries--hard to find. And I've shot off several rockets from my A/P255 flare--these are really impossible to find. Depending on surrounding vegetation, one of the above should work. An expensive option is one of the personal rescue beacons or Breitling Emergency watch.
When I head out on a wilderness trip especially canoeing I carry the flares the mirror and a strobe excellent if you are out on a lake and capsize and need a visible signla as well if you are on site and someone heads out foraging or just for a hike and looses their berrings the flares and the strobe make excellent land mark points for them to get a visual on and come into. It is often we think about signalling devices to have someone find us when we are lost or in trouble but they can be used in reverse as well. On a wilderness canoe trip if someone gets seperated from the group you might not have enopugh people to mount a earch right away so using a signal device to possible bring them in is a bonus. After a given time you can take other steps concidering they might not be ablr to get back on their own power.
I agree that the Laser Flare would not really replace the Wilderness Aerial Flares, I was thinking for my own reasons to replace it in my Kit with the Laser Flare. This is something I have not done at this time, because when I get time I plan on doing some research and testing of a Laser Flare.

I said on my first post that I shot off my Aerial Flares for training so in the event I have to use them in a hurry I can. Now I just need to replace them!!!!
I just got back from Iraq a few months ago and I kept thinking that Iraq would be a good place for the Laser Flare, especially in western Iraq with the open Desert.
A strobe light should be an essential item for anyone travelling in wilderness areas. Unlike a mirror, a strobe is multi directional, works at night or in overcast, and is universally recognized as a "distress" signal.
Mirror flashes can be mistaken for accidental flashes from trash, and ignored by searchers.

There are many cheap strobes available from outdoor and camping stores, among the best is the single D cell powered one, a long life and cheap battery, but the downside is it is quite heavy for a small item, important if you are backpacking.

If you have one of the excellent USCG issued strobes, and the battery has died, it can be recharged, most Radio Shack stores will tell you how.

If you carry marker panels, draw the International Code patterns on the panel, as the way these are laid out can indicate everything from "We are OK" to "Serious Injury".

Kudos to Peoria 46 for the glint tape idea. I will be off to get some ASAP. Many police and air rescue aircraft are equipped with IR and thermal imagers and the glint tape could be a lifesaver, if other visuals are missed by search crews.

Never too old to learn. :D
You guys left out something to tell the Authorities to look for you...
How about a Epirb, 2 way radio or even cellphone?
Day-Glo plastic marking tape can be used to mark trail, and several lengths of it attached to a stick make a good signal flag. I suppose sufficient lengths could serve as marker panels.

Is there something about LED technology that make them unsuitable for strobes?
We've carried reflective tape (Wal-Mart automotive department) for years, not necessarily for rescue but for our own camp markings. In a deep jungle environment along tributaries it's easy to lose your camp site if you go canoeing at night since the jungle swallows everything up once you leave camp - everything looks the same along the river's edge when returning. So, we just always wrap one piece of tape around a branch or bush along the water's edge, once you hit it with your headlight on the return trip it shows up like nothing else will in a jungle. Tried the orange tape and ribbons and they didn't work as well unless you used a lot of it.

Peoria46, One of my friends has one of the old military strobe lights. When the new ones came out the old batteries became almost impossible to find. He acquired an adapter allowing the use of commerical batterys in it. He is off on one of his adventures at the moment so I can't give you more info.
When using glint tape, more is not necessarily better. A 1 inch square is fine. I once put a 4in square piece on my patrol cap--the folks at Hurlburt said it was a bit much. I told them that it was a safety precaution ;) since I didn't want to get shot when we were shooting the gunships.
When you are refering to glint tape, do you mean the silvery reflective safety tape sold by Scotch and/or 3M???
Glint Tape or IR Tape is very reflective when looking through say NOD's or an IR Camera like some Search and Rescue and all Military aircraft have. It is not the reflective tape the post above is talking about.

Also, only a 1 inch square should be used because yes you can White out an IR Device. 4 inches would Blind the pilots from seeing you and alot of ground around you. For Rescue purposes a bigger piece may not be a bad Idea since you are trying to let them know where you are. Also if you are carrying Glint tape put it on the stay behind list of survival items you are carrying so your family can tell the Search & Rescue people what to look for.
Just playing around and showing my 7 year old how to think outside of the box. I used a piece of para cord, some surgical tubing and one of those chem lights (glow stick).

I suspended the glow stick about five feet off the ground with the para cord and a tree, then attached the bottom of the light with the surgical tubing and some more cord. I then staked the bottom end into the ground. Once I was done, all I had to do was pull on it and let go. The thing went crazy and you could clearly see it for quite a distance.

For those of you with the older's the link to the adapter, it takes regular 3 volt camera/Surefire batteries. I really like the older strobes, they're indestructable...I have the new one that takes AA batteries, and is smaller/lighter, but this 3volt adapter revived the older ones for other kits.

As for strobes in general, don't forget a lot of the LED lights come with strobe modes...Phonton III, PAL light, Petzl Tikka headlight, etc.

SDU-5/E Strobe Battery Adapter

mirrors, stobes and flashlights work well for me, however, I can't carry flares to work as the appearence freaks out the security force and the fact that flares can be considered incindiary devices makes them illegal to carry onto the military instilation where I work. I always have a good high power flashlight in my vehicle.
I have the same problem, I am in the Army at Fort Drum, NY and carrying flares could be a real problem. The PX sold them years ago but stopped because I guess Command did not like the idea of pyro around the Base.

Thats one of the reasons I have been thinking about replacing my flares with a laser flare.
No pyro on post? Times have certainly changed over the years. Once, standing in PT formation in the early '80's, our Group Commander ordered everyone to remove the demo, pyro, and ammo from their car trunks since the Bragg MPs were on one of their periodic car checking kicks. While not condoned, he understood that the stuff was everywhere. Smirks and giggles abounded. 2ID was even looser--smoke grenades and star clusters on the web gear all the time--garrison, training, or DMZ. A different time and place.