No one likes to ever think about the possibility of being lost or hurt even though it’s a reality that cannot be avoided and can be prepared for quite easily.
By Alan Clemons, Southern Managing Editor
During my career as a sports writer and outdoors writer I talked with NASCAR drivers, stick ‘n ball sports players at all levels from preps to pros, tournament anglers and others. Anytime anyone brought up the subject of injury or death, probably 99 percent of the time they’d refuse to talk about it.
Being prepared is a far cry from being a Nervous Nellie, though. It’s simply a good idea to plan ahead if you’re going to be in the woods hunting, scouting, fishing, hiking or doing work at your camp. For camp work we plan ahead with a tool box and such, but dismiss the thought about falling in the woods and spraining or breaking an ankle, or getting lost on a hunt and being out overnight.
An Alabama hunter recently was lost in a national forest for several days. He was found uninjured, but obviously a bit rattled. He had holed up in a cave and despite the first cold blast (for us here in the Southeast) with temps in the 30s, was finally found by searchers based on his cell phone descriptions of what he saw. Those helped searchers narrow their focus and locate him.
I don’t know if the guy had a pack with an overnight kit but it’s a good idea to plan for such an emergency. Even just one night in the cold, dark and unfamiliar woods can be unsettling. Hunters who stay put and don’t wander after realizing they’re lost can soothe, a bit, those crazy thoughts that creep into our minds.
A few weeks ago our son and I were getting ready to go raccoon hunting with some pals. I was packing a small kit when he asked why. I told him even though we knew where we’d be, and would be with friends, you never know when “getting turned around” could mean staying out all night.
Here are a few basic items I pack and try to take when I’m going hunting (click the red highlights for links):
A fire is a great thing to have for warmth, to cook food, or to just keep your mind at ease, but getting one started sometimes might be the toughest thing to do in cold or wet conditions.
I’ve tested these small Fire Starters a few times in our backyard chiminea and they’re outstanding. Lightweight, easily packable and with a long burn time, they can get a fire going quickly.
They burn at about 1,500 degrees for up to 10 minutes and have no odor. They’re not petroleum-based, either, so there’s no worry about anything stinking, leaking or being messy in your pack. Since they’re small and lightweight, you can pack several of these in your kit.
I usually have an inexpensive Bic lighter, but only because I’ve been too lazy to get some waterproof matches or a more expensive windproof lighter.
Waterproof matches are available online through may sites or at your local camping or big box sports retail store. You also may find windproof lighters in those stores, but searching online might offer more models and price points.
Either way, failing to have something to start a fire even if you have tinder or Fire Starters means you’re not going to have a fire. Don’t forget to pack a lighter or matches!
Stripping bark from trees or trying to find tinder in the woods is time-consuming and can be problematic if you’re injured or are hunting in wet or snowy conditions.
Save the accumulated lint from your home’s clothes dryer after 10-15 loads of laundry. Stuff it in a resealable plastic bag, mash out all the air and seal it tight. I usually put that bag inside another one for double-safety and to have an extra bag.
When you need some tinder, pull out a wad of lint. It’ll burn to help get your small twigs and other tinder going to get the larger limbs burning. Lint is cheap and available, so don’t just toss all of it in the trash can.
We definitely have many options for flashlights today, from small LED lights with blinding power to battery-operated models with fewer lumens but longer life.
I have both, use both and have them in packs, my vehicle, hunting vest and even my office (in case the lights go out at night!) at home. Rechargeable models, like this TerraLUX InfiniStar CR, are super because of their power and they don’t require batteries. Lights that use lithium batteries also are great.
Some folks prefer battery-powered lights, though, such as a Mini-Mag or this Streamlight Twin-Task 2L, which has two settings and uses lithium batteries. They’re powerful enough to provide you with light, extended use and are durable. Batteries are available at most gas stations, corner pharmacies and grocery stores, too.
My little quick-kit is about the size of a paperback book and can be stuffed into my hunting pack or vest, but for more room consider a bigger daypack or backpack.
A larger one like the Badlands Pursuit Pack affords more room for your safety kit and other items like clippers, a hand saw, critter cleaning/packing supplies and storage pouches for cell phones, a wallet or water and food.
As for food items, I usually have a couple of granola bars, M&Ms or chocolate, or a tin of sardines. Those things don’t weigh much and in a pinch can quell the tummy rumbles.
Any safety kit can be as elaborate or minimal as you prefer; the items mentioned above are just some quick-fix things I try to tote in case of an overnight (or two) stay.
Obviously, if you’re of a mind, you can add a compass, batteries for lights, first-aid items (bandages, Neosporin, etc.), a water filtration pump, and others. Safety kits large and small also are available online and at sporting or camping stores for packs or vehicles.
What do you pack?
Let us know what you pack in your backpack or safety kit! We’re interested in learning a few tips and fellow hunters always have a few other ideas. Chime in with your comments below to let us know!