Spring Outdoor Safety

At last. Spring may be on the way. In response to these increasingly spring-like days, I’m hearing more and more talk about impromptu hikes and adventures. Given how quickly spring weather and hikes can take an unexpected turn, I’m thinking more and more about how simple it is to keep self and family safe during a “Let’s take a hike” moment.

A few years back, local survival pro Ken Matney and I spent some time with our old friend and survival instructor Peter Kummerfeldt. (Peter was the survival instructor at the U.S. Air Force Academy during the time son Tim and Central President Jim Gaudino were cadets.) At any rate, Ken and I came away with a commitment to look at spring survival issues and some of the new survival locator tools we discussed with Peter. Ken, in his roles as a member of Kittitas County Search and Rescue and Survival Education Chief for the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club, took the task very seriously. At the time, he buried himself in phone and web research, then disappeared into wild places for field testing. When he was satisfied with the results (or just finally had enough fresh air for the moment, he filed a report to you.

Now as Ken sits, smiling, somewhere in the Desert Southwest his report has been updated and is offered to all suffering the ravages of early spring fever.

“One of the symptoms is the desire to get out and recreate. One of the things many of us love about our bit of Paradise is the ability to take off on a spontaneous outing. And, because of that spontaneity, we may not take all the gear we would normally carry with us. Or the gear may not be in top notch shape after lying in the closet all winter. So, as part of spring cleaning, or getting-the-body-in-shape process, this is a good time to give gear a good going over. It would also be a good time to build several small easy-to-carry Personal Survival Kits; kits that can be left in vehicles and then easily stashed in a pocket when needed for one of those impromptu trips.

“As a quick review: these kits should have items that you can use to signal your position (mirror, whistle, flagging tape), provide an expedient shelter (large garbage bags), give you fire making ability (matches & tinder in a watertight container), provide minor first aid supplies and minimal water and food. Include a good multi-tool and knife (I don’t believe anyone should venture off-pavement without one.)

“These small pocket kits provide the minimum supplies necessary to give you an edge in surviving an emergency and aiding rescue.

“One of the new electronic devices I have been examining is specifically designed to effect your rescue.

“The Satellite Personal Tracker or SPOT, which uses the Geographic Positioning System (GPS) and Globalstar satellite technology to pinpoint a position and relay a message (via email, text message or telephone) to the appropriate level for assistance. You can use the tracker to notify recipients that you are okay, that you need help, or are in a life-threatening situation and should activate the 911 system. Various messages are built into the devices, including the SOS signals which are now credited with more than 4,000 rescues. After a fair amount of research and testing, I have come to the conclusion that anyone who takes solo or small group trips and may be out of cell phone coverage areas should consider buying this device. SPOT devices start at just over $100, with a reasonable annual subscription fee. I can easily think of a number of situations where this may save a hiker’s life or extremities. You will find a great deal more information at

“As you might expect, there are other electronic devices performing similar functions. The TracMe is a low power non-satellite based transmitter that uses the Family Radio Service (FRS) emergency frequency to send a distress signal. A more expensive option to consider is the 406 mhz frequency Personal Locator Beacons – similar in function to those that have been carried on aircraft and boats for years, and approved a decade or so ago by the FCC for individual use. Some of my knowledgeable friends didn’t rate TracMe very highly in its early days, but much has changed, and it is being used widely. I invite you to treat yourself to straight-up and interesting reviews of almost anything survival-related; the tools discussed here and many, many more have been regularly and recently tested. Check out Equipped to Survive, at”

Follow up, as well, with Peter Kummerfeldt’s always family-oriented outdoor care and survival tips at

I think most of us are eager to get outside – and right now. Bird watching, hiking, antler hunting or just getting out to smell the spring air, take a few minutes to think about and prepare for an emergency. That few minutes may save your hide, and (maybe more importantly) your loved ones’ anguish.

Aah… Almost spring!


Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized

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