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Topic: emergency strategies in cold wet conditions< Next Oldest | Next Newest >
 Post Number: 1
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 4:10 pm  Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Thought there might be some value in having members kick around ideas for dealing with emergency situations in cold wet non-snowy foul weather for both roadside day hiking or backpacking away from base camp day hiking where one might need to cope several hours before escaping.   Of course if one is just going to hike a mile out and back on a trail, returning in a short while the situation is so trivial one might just go super light.   But as mileage, time, terrain difficulty, and conditions increase one needs to have the wisdom to pull the trigger carrying some protections.

Tossing in some rain gear is obvious if weather is forecast to be wet or skies are obviously threatening.   However for longer day hikes, mornings may appear perfectly sunny and pleasant only by early afternoon to suddenly see large billowing cumulus build up.  In the West at mountain elevations even during summer that can mean some very chilly temperature changes especially when lots of hail comes down.  So what can one do?   Will make one input below as a start.

I am one that won't toss rain gear in a day pack if I don't expect a storm so instead may just have a thin coated nylon shell and an extra warm layer like a fleece jacket.  Mountaineers have criticized those thin emergency mylar space blankets for several reasons so would advise against going that route.  What is more effective is to have something to fully enclose one's body from elements while wearing warm enough clothes.  Strategy of not to make enduring pleasant but rather survivable else one would be lugging unreasonable loads every time out.  

For minor weather protection besides some extra warm clothing, one can buy pricy emergency bivy sacks that will weigh about 9 ounces.  I've often brought standard Gortex bivy's instead of tents backpacking for decades and the lightest weigh about one pound so these emergency bivy's are about half that.  Instead I carry a much lighter alternative that also is always in my backpacking gear when I am off day hiking away from camp.  Unless one is a large person (might use two) my suggestion is 55 gallon 2 or 3 mil plastic drum liner trash bags that will weigh just an ounce or so and can be compactly stored in a small ziploc bag.  Just don't get anything less than 2 mils thick as it will too easily tear, epecially in wind.  Can either pull over the top which will tend to be dark as they are usually black, or get inside with head sticking out the top. A use once then toss item that is likely to remain unused over many trips until needed.  

The below HomeDepot product is 38 inches wide by 58 inches deep or enough that one might sit down inside during a storm or cold weather emergency.  

http://www.homedepot.com/Cleanin....d=10051

In mountains if one needs to in an emergency ride out several hours of foul weather, a wise strategy is always to get below tree line, out of wind, find some dense forest where little water drips down, and a thick soft mat of wood/leaf/needle litter insulates to sit and lay down on.  Here in the Sierra Nevada the best situations are often in clusters of mountain hemlock especially under large leaning trunks or branches.  One is also most likely to find dry material to start a fire in such places.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 4:23 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

What's the drawback of the mylar space blankets?  I thought they were a good idea, although a little too flimsy.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 4:43 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(John @ Jan. 16 2013, 1:23 pm)
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What's the drawback of the mylar space blankets?  I thought they were a good idea, although a little too flimsy.

One such discussion:

http://www.traditionalmountaineering.org/FAQ_SpaceBlankets.htm


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OldKansan Search for posts by this member.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 5:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I can't speak for any one else, but I have a few items that are almost always with me on a hike, especially if cold weather is even a remote possibility:

1.  Poncho - Unlike a rain suit, it also can be shelter, &/or ground cloth.
2.  Line or twine
3.  Knife
4.  first aid kit including small scissors.
5.  Some way to start a fire (in wet as well as dry conditions).
6.  Toilet paper in a Zip Lock (Has many uses besides intended i.e. tender for fire)
7.  more water than I anticipate needing.
8.  appropriate map & compass for trip

I often also carry:
9.  Duct Tape.
10.  1 more layer of clothing than I anticipate needing.
11.   extra plastic bags including at least one or 2 large trash bags.
12.  Space Blanket

Also, If there is any potential for cold I usually throw in a stocking cap & a pair of gloves.

Most of these items I keep prepacked in a bag that I just throw in what ever pack I am taking. Line & Tape are wrapped around my Trekking poles.

With the above items, some basic survival techniques knowledge (Knots, Shelters, improvised insulation, etc.), & some common sense (& some luck), I've managed to get by.

More often than not, I've not used most of the above items. But there have been times I was glad I did ( & a couple of times I wished I had)
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 5:11 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I don't see a significant difference between the space blanket and the trash bag, except that the latter is an envelope so easier to seal out the wind. Neither is insulation; either can help block the wind and keep off the rain.  The blanket may be more versatile for, say, wrapping around yourself and a kid.  In either case you are going to wish for some dry clothing underneath.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 5:12 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Oh, and I wouldn't recommend putting a plastic garbage bag over your head, and not because it would be dark.  It's going to get hard to breathe in there.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 5:26 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(John @ Jan. 16 2013, 4:23 pm)
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What's the drawback of the mylar space blankets?  I thought they were a good idea, although a little too flimsy.

Just an FYI, a friend decided to use a space blanket he had carried around for a few years.  It fell apart as he unfolded it, perhaps due to its age, making it useless.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 5:35 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I recently began carrying a few things in the cargo pockets of my pants (rather than in my pack) when I’m out hiking – emergency poncho, Bic lighter, compass, whistle, small flashlight, knife, etc.  The motivation was one of those “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” shows where a Bic that just happened to be in a pocket probably saved two lives.  I was pleasantly surprised at how unobtrusive the stuff was.  I’m thinking I’ll try to make it a habit when I’m in the backcountry.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 5:46 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE


(OldKansan @ Jan. 16 2013, 5:03 pm)
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Most of these items I keep prepacked in a bag that I just throw in what ever pack I am taking.

Ditto. The size of the emergency won't be in proportion to the length or duration of the hike, so I have a set of essentials that I grab no matter what. Not only do I feel I stay prepared that way, it's just so easy to grab-n-go, no decisions.

The criticism in that link of space blankets is partially true, but exaggerated to make a skewed viewpoint. They aren't just plastic, they are a sheet of plastic that has a thin aluminum layer adhered to it. That will reflect some of your body heat back to you. If you put it flat down on snow and lie on it then yes, it also will conduct the cold. You're supposed to wrap yourself in it, not lie on it.

Ever see the finish line of a marathon run? All the runners cross the finish line are immediately wrapped in a "space blanket", so they are good for more than nothing.

True that, like any kind of "blanket", it only wraps so much and then can leave a gap where cold/wind/rain can get in. Before relying on one in your emergency kit probably a good idea to take it out, unfold it, and see how well you can wrap yourself in it. I'm guessing very different results depending on your height/weight.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 5:55 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I learned to backpack in the Sierra, where summer thundershowers are common, along with associated drop in temperatures - therefore I always bring a waterproof shell - the one I have is lightweight and packs down small.  

I've seen some very effective education programs aimed at kids on what to do when lost in the woods, what to carry in your pack, etc. - and the garbage bag thing works really well.  Cut a hole in it and it can be a poncho.  It can help block the wind and hold in heat.  Stuff it with dry leaves and needles for extra insulation.  You can even use it to collect or carry water in a pinch.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 6:31 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

In our family we have each carried a space blanket for the last 40+ years, and they have come in handy several times.

Space blankets cannot generate heat, but if you dress properly, your body produces plenty of heat and the space blanket conserves it very well, provided you wrap up tight and minimize contact with cold surfaces.  It is a complete wind shield and an efficient heat trap, but you have to have warm, dry clothing for it, or anything else, to work effectively.

If a person is soaked to the skin with water absorbent clothing, there is nothing short of a hot bath that will reverse hypothermia.  Space blankets can prevent hypothermia, they cannot reverse it for a wet body in wet clothing.  

We have recently changed over to these little jewels, though not doing long distance hikes anymore:

This Mylar / Space Blanket Survival Sleeping Bag folds up to pocket size. Surrounds the user with reflective, protective, wind proof mylar space blanket material in the shape of a sleeping bag. It reflects up to 90% of the users body heat back to the user. Taped seams are water proof to help keep rain and wind out. Can also be modified to provide shade in a desert, reflective surface to signal rescuers, shade / rain water collection on a life raft or similar exposure situation.

Silver Space Blanket material is highly reflective and highly visible. Useful in any survival kit.

Rectangular measurements are 36" Wide by 84" Long

Folds down to pocket size - comes in a 4.5" X 3" X 1" package that weighs under 4 ounces (~ 100 grams) .

Lightweight, inexpensive, easy to carry insurance in your car, bike, bug out bag, day hike bag, when cross country skiing or enjoying the outdoors where an accidental overnight might be required.

Note: In very cold weather normal respiration and perspiration may condense on the inside of the bag, leading to an uncomfortably moist interior. Peel back a bit of the tape seal near the feet and about half way up to provide some "slit vents" that will reduce the condensation, yet still retain warmth.


http://www.gofastandlight.com/Mylar-R....U-R1034

Way better than a trash bag, and still very light.

We carry a real 0 degree sleeping bag in each car as part of the first aid kit.  Only used one, at an accident site in a blizzard, but it couldn't address the head trauma and the person still died.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 6:56 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I've often times, if the weather is possibly going to be turning bad, taken a small lt wt tarp along to get some protection from wet weather. I do take along a couple of those lt wt mylar blankets in my daypack and during the winter I take those plus one of the heavier vinyl/ aluminized balnkets with the grommets to it. Plus I always carry a lt wt windjacket and some type of insulation if there is a chance it is going to get colder. I also carry along some heavier gloves and a stocking hat.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 7:28 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I always have a day pack with:
- Rescue Blanket (bigger stronger than those space blankets)
- Rain Jacket
- knife
- water bottles
- water treatment tablets
- fire starting - Vaseline cotton balls, magnesium bar, two bic lighters, fero rod
- flashlight
- clothing fitting for the weather
- minimum of a protein bar for food
- Cell phone
- map and compass
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 8:03 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Can't arugue with any of the above.  One thing I always make sure I have on winter hikes is extras.  Extras of about everything - second hat, second pair of gloves, extra socks, and extra jacket (usually a down parka), extra batteries, extra fire starter, extra food and water in addition to a space blanket or bivy sac.  It's just too easy for things to get wset in the conditions th OP decribed. Sure, it adds weight but on a day hike, a little extra weight isn't much compared to the margin of safety it provides.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 8:07 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

In cold weather I generally have rain gear, a down jacket, food, first aid and a water filter.  I always have a lighter.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 10:10 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

I almost always throw in my GSI tea kettle and White Box Stove, a tea bags, lemonade packs etc.  I'll brew a hot drink on most winter days hikes.

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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 16 2013, 11:04 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

So those making those mylar space blankets finally began listening to outdoor folks!  Great!  Just like my brown sugar cinnamon pop tart packages. This is a technical explanation of the material:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PET_film_%28biaxially_oriented%29

snippet:

Biaxially oriented PET film can be metallized by vapor deposition of a thin film of evaporated aluminum, gold, or other metal onto it. The result is much less permeable to gases (important in food packaging) and reflects up to 99% of light, including much of the infrared spectrum. For some applications like food packaging, the aluminized boPET film can be laminated with a layer of polyethylene, which provides sealability and improves puncture resistance. The polyethylene side of such a laminate appears dull and the PET side shiny.

Am glad to see there are now these products versus the usual space blankets that mountaineers have for a long time been critical about.  Obviously better than a space blanket because it is far better sealing in warm air given off from one's body.  And warmer than my above 2 mil plastic drum liner bags though probably not as durable. Unfortunately none of these products bother to specify the plastic thickness.  Anyone interested in getting one would be wise to read the long list of customer reviews on this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Emergen....uct_top

The usual issue with any of these products is they tend to use very thin plastic that can puncture.  This product below sounds more durable though will weigh more.  

http://www.amazon.com/Emergen....cending

I found out the email address of the distributor and fired off a question about the weight so will post that after a response.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 17 2013, 12:49 am Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

In my neck of the woods, it could be 90 degrees and then below freezing the same day. I remember one day a few years back, it went from 90 in the day to single digits the same night...and then never really warmed back up for a few days (even had three inches of snow) and that was in the middle of summer. I always pack rain gear, have a bivy loaded 90% of the time except for dead of summer, and carry backup gear (extra headlamp, layers, bivy along with main tent in winter) pretty much every trip.

Location obviously has much to do with what you need to be prepared for.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 17 2013, 4:41 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Once upon a time, I had this great idea.  Instead of carrying a tent, I'd just bring along a sheet of plastic, and fold it over with my sleeping bag inside.

After a very uncomfortable night, I found that my sleeping bag was soaking wet from condensation.  I suspect the drum liner would have the same problem.

I have successfully used a Mylar space blanket as a shelter in a cold mountain thunderstorm.  The thing about these it that they reflect a large amount of body heat back towards you, whereas I suspect the dark colored drum would absorb body heat and radiate it outwards.  There was also a reasonable amount of space for air circulation.

I almost always carry a pair of rain pants and a jacket that fold up inside of their own pockets.  I feel this affords much better protection than a non-breathable plastic sack.
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 17 2013, 8:00 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

Received a response from the distributor for the item noted on my Post #17 above.  Related the bag weighs 12 ounces.    More than I was hoping for as my OR Gortex bivy is only 6 ounces more.

This product below I just found seems to be the best solution between the much more widely distributed product that is silver with the yellow tape on each side and the one I linked above.   Some reviews show that design has isssues.   But then found this much more expensive product that seems more robust at 3.5 ounces.   Be sure to watch the video.

http://www.adventuremedicalkits.com/product....ame=SOL Emergency Bivvy

Am out the door from work and driving up to about 7.3k in the snowy Sierra for a PTO day of skiing tomorrow.  But will be sleeping inside my Forester along the highway inside my old -5F REI Elements goose down winter bag haha.


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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 17 2013, 8:33 pm Skip to the previous post in this topic. Skip to the next post in this topic. Ignore posts   QUOTE

OK, I'm not an expert on this and don't want to be.  How to the ones wwwest and Dave mentioned compare to something like this?
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PostIcon Posted on: Jan. 18 2013, 6:12 am Skip to the previous post in this topic.  Ignore posts   QUOTE

Note: an umbrella is a really handy item in an emergency.

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