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January 11, 2010

Winter Preparedness

Greetings fellow arctic dwellers. I've been in recluse mode for the past couple of months, but haven't lost touch with the fundamentals of preparedness. I spent some alone time in the woods here recently and enjoyed the beauty and solitude of early winter backwoods trekking. Although the beauty is a real treasure, and you don't have to put up with insects, hacking through thick weeds, lush fields of poison ivy, and a number of other awareness builders, you do find yourself faced with different challenges.

Normally I am able to nibble a healthy variety of plants in one form or another while on an outing, but I found little more than a few spice bush berries left by the birds. You can imagine the berries rejected by the birds aren't exactly a windfall, but passable as a snack. Water was the next thing. Usually not an issue as there are springs, and fast moving streams abound, but recent development of the surrounding areas have left these once vibrant water sources questionable at best. I found a few grape vines, a great source of water in a pinch, and a little water in the crotches of trees, although that is also the watering hole to every critter in the woods, so drinking quality can be risky. Best to purify that water with a little iodine if you have it. I carry resublimed iodine crystals for that purpose, and they last indefinitely when used properly. Aquapure is a company that makes these kits for a reasonable price. The bottom line, for my last outing was that I could have gotten by, but it was very sparse. For those sturdy souls wanting to thrive well in the winter outdoors, I recommend taking no less than a full year to follow the lives of the local flora and fauna on a daily basis so you will get to know the intricacies of their lives that will make year round identification easier. There is a lot out there to provide sustenance if one knows what it looks like in the dead of winter. It is a real good feeling to see a bare black twig sticking up in the snow, and to know just what it is good for. Remember to dress right in several layers. I set out one cold day hiking around the hills. There was frost on the ground, and it was cold for at least a quarter mile of my walk. By the time I had been walking, and climbing for an hour or so, I was down to a tee shirt, and one thin layer of pants, and I was still sweating. As I returned to the old farm house I was staying in, I had to begin relayering again bit by bit to stay warm. All was well. I was prepared.

While most of us don't have to face each day as though it were an arctic expedition, we should at least be prepared for what we are up against during the cold weather months. Have at least a half a tank of gas in your vehicle. Also carry a road survival kit that includes a signaling device such as a flare and a signal mirror. Have warm blankets. Make sure they aren't cotton, or too light weight, or you will not be warm. I once tried to keep warm with one of those Indian blanket knock offs you see piled up in truck stop gift shops, and about froze. They are too small, and worst of all they are made of cotton, aka death cloth. Make sure it is wool, heavy fleece, or maybe a down or synthetic sleeping bag. Keep extra gloves, and insulated overalls, or some other insulated clothing. Keep a stash of snacks as you will be colder when you are hungry. Always have your cell phone fully charged. Dress in layers regardless in this kind of weather. Make sure your clothes are loose fitting, have room to breathe, and maintain air space. Wear a hat, warm socks, and gloves or mittens.

I'm sure there are other things to elaborate on, but I want to get a few basics dashed off to get you thinking about winter preparedness. Oh yeah, Toss a set of jumper cables, and a good flashlight in while you are at it, and maybe even a towing strap should you get stuck. Well, I'm sure there is more, but for me, it's over and out for now.