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Basic Survival Tips - Keeping Yourself Safe in the Mountains

By Joel Tribal Martens

Sense leaving Minnesota in 2004 to live a life in the mountains, I had to re-train myself on survival skills that would keep my wife, kids, myself and our dogs safe. Other than just cold weather skills, I had to address the fact that conditions in the mountains can change very quickly, going from bright and sunny to foggy and rainy within minutes.

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Every time we hike into the mountains, no matter how close or far away from home we go, we always take our survival kits. Your survival kits should be waterproof, Durable, easy to carry and can be attached easily to your body.

In your survival kit you should have:

1. A good first-aid kit (more info later in article)

2. Water purification

3. Fire starting (matches in waterproof container, lighter, magnifying glass and I even bring a newspaper to make starting a fire easier)

4. Shelter materials (tarps, heavy duty stakes and heavy duty cord)

5. Mirror and whistle (use the sun to help you signal planes, people).

6. All purpose tool

7. Waterproof poncho

8. Compass, GPS and know how to use them!

9. Fishing line and hooks.

10. Flashlight, candle

11. Bear spray

12. A good knife

13. Needle and thread.

14. Solar blanket

15. Chap stick

16. Hand and foot warmers.

17. Coleman 5-peace mess kit. (includes 8 oz cup, 7" fry pan, 16 oz. pot with lid and 2.5" deep-dish plate.

18. Condoms (to store and transport water)

19. I also carry a gun, preferably.45 and up, I take a S&W 460 handgun. (Honestly it's a better idea to use bear spray on black bears, grizzly and mountain lions. I don't know to many people who are fast enough and accurate enough to get a kill shot off).

20. Food, we always take a couple of power bars, beef jerky and nuts.

21. Cold weather clothing

I store all my survival items, with the exception of the bear spray in a back pack. It is easy to carry over long distances and everything fits nice and snug. If things start to get a little wet I place the backpack in a plastic garbage bag. The bear spray, of course is on my belt.

Before you head into the wilderness, it's always a good idea to plan your trip and stick to it. Don't go alone, always go in groups of two or more and check to see what the weather is going to be like. Let people know where you will be going and when you will be back.

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Also, be realistic. Know what kind of shape you are in and don't over exert yourself. Exercise is great but having to have people carry you out of the mountains can be a little embarrassing and inconvenient for your fellow hikers. No one wants to be remembered as "Mountain Rescue".

Always wear the proper clothing for the time of year your mountain journey takes place. Remember that the higher altitudes you reach, the colder it will get and "wind" can be a real factor. Pack extra hats and gloves and keep yourself dry.

Know how to build a fire! If you have any questions on how to do so, I wrote an article "The Art of Starting a Campfire - for cooking, heat or telling stories". It will tell you step by step how to start a fire on the first attempt every time.

More on the content of your first-aid kit. This is what we carry:

1. Bandages

2. Antibiotic ointment

3. Gauze pads

4. Alcohol pads

5. Butterfly bandages

6. Iodine pads

7. Medical adhesive tape

8. Aspirin

9. Antibiotic ointment

10. Large adhesive bandages

11. Ace bandages

12. gauze

13. Tweezers

14. Scissors

15. Different sizes of sterile pads

16. Burn medication

17. Sun screen

18. Eye drops

19. Diarrhea medication

20. Hydrogen peroxide

21. First aid instructions

Encounters with animals, even though rare, does happen. In the area we live there are black bears, grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves and coyotes. I believe that bear spray is the best defense over a firearm to manage an attach of any kind.

I am not an expert when it comes to animal attacks, the biggest thing that has chased me is a prairie dog and I ran. I have encountered many black bear and a couple of grizzly but have never had any problem with them. I always keep making noise, giving the dogs different commands and just talking loudly to make sure everything in the woods knows I'm there. If you want good information that is useful, go to the State Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department, they have some great info.

One thing I know for certain is that when you are hiking, a mountain lion will almost always try and pick off the last person in line. As the protector in our family it is my responsibility to be the last one in line, with my wife in front of me and than the kids. Also, stay fairly close together and always know where each other is.

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Make sure, if you have dogs, that they are well trained and listen to your commands. If not, keep them on a leash because you don't want your dog getting a bear or mountain lion agitated and in attack mode.

Two books that I keep on hand in case of emergency are "Where There Is No Dentist" by Murray Dickson and "Where there is no doctor: a village health care handbook I" by David Werner. It may seem like over kill but when you are in pain the first thing you want is to relieve it.

When quick shelter is needed a Lean-To is always quick and easy. All you need are two trees, some heavy duty cord, some heavy duty stakes and a tarp. Check the direction of the wind, always face the back of your lean-to into the wind.

Stake the bottom of your lean-to to the ground into the wind. Attach the heavy duty cord to the front two corners of the tarp and tie off about waist high to the trees. Line the floor of your lean-to with leaves, grass and pine needles to keep the cold from the earth coming in contact with your body.

For extra protection from wind and rain, find items you can place on the sides of your lean-to such as downed branches, logs and anything else you can find. For extra stability you can place a tree branch from the ground and up to the tarp, tying off the top of the branch and tarp to the ground in front of the lean-to.

There is always the possibility of things going wrong out in the wilderness but these few steps have helped to keep my family safe while enjoying the beauty of the mountains.

Hi, I'm Joel Martens. I left behind 20+ years in the newspaper business for a more peaceful and less stressful life living in the mountains. Now, I'm an artist who works with wood, antler, leather, bones and whatever I can find in the mountains. My wife, Steph and I live year round in our RV with our two dogs Takoda and Abby.

Visit our blog to view some of our artwork: http://rockymntinspired.blogspot.com/

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