Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Flash Something Provocatively

Essentials for Wilderness Survival, Part 5: Signaling For Survivors

Now the snot has hit the fan.

You're lost, alone, tired, sleepy, grumpy, dopey, and sneezy, and don't know how to get home.

Luckily there are techniques to help you out of this mess. You've probably seen them listed here and there:

  • Blink a flashlight at the sky. (Nighttime only.)
  • Toot on a whistle. (Hope they're listening.)
  • Flash Morose Code using a mirror. (Daylight hours.)
  • Cry. (Works anytime.)

These are all OK if you're clueless, but those in the know suggest other more advanced techniques.

For example, instead of mindlessly wootling on a stupid whistle, bring a set of bagpipes and really honk around on those babies. Nobody can stand the horrible screeching, even from a distance, and someone will come over to pound the crap out of you sooner or later. Thank them. Then steal their car and drive home.

If you forgot the bagpipes, and only have one of those idiot orange plastic whistles, aim high. Whistle at planes. If one picks you up, you're a lucky bastard — one who has a ride home at 500 miles an hour, and you might get a bag of peanuts too, though they'll probably charge you for it.

If you aren't that far out, maybe the old two tin cans and string would have worked, but it's a little late now, isn't it? As a last resort, put your lips together and blow. Whistling in the dark is better than nothing, and maybe you'll attract something with an appetite for hiker, and at least get it over with quickly.

Now instead, if whatever it was just spits you out and gallops away gagging, try lights, but go big. They always say to blink a flashlight at the sky, but look up once — the sky is chock full of hopeless dim specks — another one won't get you noticed. Use a flamethrower.

Get up on a hill, point the sucker straight up, and let it rip.

Nothing? Try again.

Still nothing? WTF then, go for broke. Set the forest on fire. That'll bring them running.

After that? What? Still nothing? You have zero to lose at this point, so get obnoxious.

If you're near a road, go there. Lie down with your head on the yellow line and your feet pointing toward the ditch. They can't miss you that way.

Other possibilities:

  • Wear colorful, gender-inappropriate undergarments. Flaunt them.
  • Get naked, display an offensive tattoo, and pump it at cars.
  • Throw feces.
  • Burn your tent, sleeping bag, and clothes to make stinky smoke. Fan it toward the road.

Can't even offend anyone? You're really sucking air by now, though there might still be hope. Try the flies-and-sugar thing — pull them in with an irresistible roadside attraction.

  • The world's largest ball of dead mosquitoes. (Free Admission!)
  • Burn holes in clouds with a laser pointer, setting off small aerial thermonuclear events. (A proven crowd-pleaser.)
  • Offer an Intimate Dinner With Sasquatch (Only $5/person tip included! No reservations! No waiting! Serving right now!).
  • Start a discussion group featuring a lost hiker in his native habitat. (Call yourself Ramtha and say you're old and wise. People lap up this swill like crazy.)
  • OK, then, how about Old Ramtha's Survival Skillz Skool? (Free Admission! Tips & Techniques Aplenty! Learn ancient apeman tricks!)

And, if all that fails, bury your camera so a nerd from the future with a time machine can find it and wonder who that idiot was and come back to save you before you died. Iffy, but by now you're hungry enough to eat your own liver, if you knew how to find it, so maybe some fancy-pants guy from the future can tell you, or you can eat his.

You never know, right?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bagging Your Water Ration

Essentials for Wilderness Survival, Part 4: Drink and pass it on.

The story so far: Water is essential. Urination is more than just an obscure country. You need water for drinking and you need urination to make hiking bearable.

Without urination, you would have no excuse to stop your constant hiking motion and take a break every now and then. You'd be stuck doing nothing but walking. Take it from me — you don't really want to try that.

If you need an iron-clad excuse for screeching to a halt, bleeding your lizard is a sure bet. Then, once stopped, you can catch your breath and cool dem feets. This is important. It maintains an even strain and keeps a satisfied smile on your mug.

Because I want to keep hydrated and get in my full quota of breaks, I recently bought a camel back. I've heard that this is the way to go, but I found out that this item is really hard to get, and way expensive.

I had to mail order mine from a place called Sammy's Saheli Deli in East Armpit, NY. They specialize in Camel Humps, Lumps, & Bumps, (according to their ad anyway), and their prices are lower than any of the other exotic meat shops, but still sky-high. Don't even ask me about freight charges.

Then when my camel back finally did arrive, the ice had all melted out, and the whole thing had gone bad. All of it. And it weighed almost 200 kg. (440 pounds), which is a lot more than I expected. Needless to say, this is not the kind of item that an ultralight backpacker can use in most circumstances.

They don't mention that in their ads. Not even once.

There were no instructions either, so I couldn't even figure out how to put the water into it, as if that mattered, since it was already too heavy to move without a forklift. And there was more. Flies.

Lots of flies. Lots and lots of flies — black clouds of flies. They wouldn't go away either, even after I went out that night and heaved the whole dripping mess over the fence into the next yard. My neighbor's dog was out there arfing like crazy at the smell, so let him eat it, I thought, but when the thing thudded to the ground on his side of the fence, well he just screamed off somewhere like his butt was on fire, and howled for the rest of the night. Like demons were all over him. Maybe they were, though it might have been the flies.

Then the police came. My neighbor must have called them. Somebody did — it wasn't the dog. He was off wailing about doom and destruction when the police showed up. Just. Would. Not. Quit. I think they had to send him away because it's been two months now and there's been no trace of him at all since that night.

At least it's quiet again.

Well, the short version is I have to appear in court next week for the trial, so overall, I'd say Don't. If you're leaning toward buying one of these camel backs, think about it first. Really think about it. Ask around. Your best bet is check with someone you know. Someone who already bought one. Don't rush in like I did. It could be an expensive, fly-blown mistake.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Stalking Caps

Essentials for Wilderness Survival, Part 3: Cover your head.

You never know what might be up there aiming its anus your way.

Hat advantages:

  • Keeps your head warm.
  • Helps maintain your disguise.
  • Deflects ozone rays, which have been known to rot rubber tires.
  • All of the above.
  • Other.
  • Makes you look like a real stalker (if wearing the optional sunglasses).

In Canada, these are called toques. A toque is like a regular knit cap, or watch cap but one that has done time, and some of them are real bad boys.

For example, the cast iron variant with a steel wool insulating liner. This is threaded inside and screws onto your head. It's called a torque, or rotating force cap, and makes your head smaller by one to three sizes. And pointy.

Hat disadvantages:

  • Leaves permanent rust stains.
  • Attracts people your mother warned you about.
  • Hard to unscrew at bedtime.
  • Requires sleeping with head pointed north (if it won't come off).
  • Makes you easy to spot on surveillance tapes.
  • Has no known advantages.

Generally speaking, for backpacking use, a nougat hat (also known as noughat, or noogie hat) is probably more practical than an iron toque.

Noughat is a compound word coming from Occitan pan nogat ("edible headwear"), which comes in turn from the Latin nux gatum "clown nuts" or "nut jobs", from the funny hats worn by Imperial Roman Court jesters, who were often roasted as an encore and then served as dessert.

More broadly, nux gatum was an ancient variety of humorous but tasty edible made of honey, roasted nuts, whipped egg white, and fruit. All ingredients combined, well-beaten, rolled, baked, and air dried for six months, form a tough sort of leather whose consistency ranges from soft and chewy to stiff and almost crunchy, while remaining bendable.

After processing, this edible leather was shaped into a variety of headgear that first saw use in gladiatorial combats, but slowly became obsolete before fading out entirely during the High Middle Ages as wool production increased and people decided to spend more time recreating with sheep.

Lately, with the trend toward super-ultralight, multiple-use backpacking equipment, noughats have been resurrected and are now appearing on some of the more fashionable long-distance trails.

Most of this headwear is made by BlakLava, a small company specializing in what they call the BlakLava Baklava Balaclava Helmet. This is a munchable version of the famous balaclava helmet or monkey cap, so named because of the way it makes you look, and by the kind of attention it attracts.

In the U.S. the balaclava helmet (or more simply, just balaclava) is normally called a ski mask, even if you don't ski but only use it while robbing convenience stores. It is something like a large, blunt tube sock for a person who has only one enormous and strangely shaped foot, but it works great worn over the head, especially if you have only one of them.

You can think of the balaclava helmet as a form-fitting, free-floating hood that covers the head, neck and face. It can be worn rolled up as a cap or pulled down to cover the ears and hide the face, which makes it popular with drug dealers and terrorists too.

The BlakLava Baklava Balaclava Helmet comes in three versions:

  • Pure BlakLava: White, made with beaten egg whites and honey.
  • Woodsy BlakLava: Brown, made without egg whites and having a firmer, crunchier texture.
  • Bavarian BlakLava: Rich and chocolaty, with hazelnuts and almonds.

Baklava balaclava helmets are effective against hunger, cold, and wind, and they also deflect incoming bird and squirrel poo.

If you are nailed by a pigeon or tree rat, simply rinse and pat your hat dry before consuming it. (USDA approved.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Wind It Up, Baby

Essentials for Wilderness Survival, Part 2: Cordage for all occasions.

Need to keep your pants up but the alligators got your belt? Well, there's one handy solution to finding your way out of this typical backcountry dilemma.

First, take off your man jewelry and lay it all out in a neat, straight line.

Now, searching carefully from left to right, identify and examine each piece. What you are looking for is your survivalist bracelet woven out of 550 para cord.

That's right — you wear a bracelet. Normally you can identify a survivalist bracelet by finding one on your wrist, next to your "Bush Or Die!" tattoo, but in this case you've just had a close brush with nine feet of anger whose teeth are as big as your fingers, something that apparently didn't quite like what kind of leather your belt was made of, and you could be a tiny bit shaky as a result.


Therefore the need for a close and systematic inspection of your gear.

Keep looking.

You definitely need something to keep your pants up while waiting for the rescue helicopters and TV crews to arrive. And more especially, to keep your pants up after the rescue helicopters and TV crews arrive. "Clothes make the man," remember? "Naked people have very little influence on society."

Mark Twain said that, and he was smarter than you, so think about it while you search through all that guy stuff you were wearing.

Now your survival bracelet, as survival items go, is likely to be one of the more bright and cheery things you have along.

Keep your eyes peeled for that telltale flash of yellow, or red, or blue, or green, or, if you think you remember being one of the more extreme survivalist fashionistas, something in Fish Slime Pink, Pastel Yellow-Brown Pus, Almond Roca Abscess, Bavarian Cream Puke, Ultra Vile Violet Vomit, Putrid Seeping Sepia, Zipper Mangle Mango, or Beaver Mania Brown.

Found it yet? Good. Now for the next step. Unravel it.

Yes. Unravel it.

Yes, we know you paid $32.99 for it at Survival Strappage for Men, but now is the time. Unravel it. Pronto!

Finally, once you have found that the 550 para cord bracelet that you've been wearing around your wrist and showing off at survival parties is actually 12 feet long when unraveled, just stop and try to get your emotions back under control. Think about it.

This is a good reason never to go hiking alone in alligator country, because if you simply had three normal-sized friends along, and each of you had his (or her) belt eaten by alligators, then one super manly man-bracelet would be just about what you'd need to hold up everyone's pants with no unsightly dangling ends left over.

Not to worry though. If you are actually all alone but have determined that the alligators have retreated to a safe distance for the moment, simply keep winding the 550 para cord around your waist until it is all used up, then tighten it to a comfortable level (Don't get too aggressive!) and finish off with a tasteful knot.

Now wait for the TV cameras and your 37 ½ seconds of fame. Don't forget to smile bravely while continuing to watch for giant lizards with teeth. (They generally like to lurk, like somewhere in the shrubbery. Let the TV guys go stand there and get their pants eaten — you've already done your part.)

Some other uses for cordage:

  • Hanging your half-smoked cigar from a tree to keep it away from weevils.
  • Lashing poles and/or polecats. Some experience is recommended before trying the latter operation. Start with five lashes and work up. Bring soap for afterward.
  • Dragging along the ground to distract mountain lions while you make a getaway. You know about cats and string, right? Go long.
  • Attaching to your pack to see if dangling cord repels bugs. Hey, who knows? Something has to work.
  • Making snare traps for hunting. Surprise your friends when they go out at night to take a whiz. See what other fun stuff you can catch by a leg.
  • Building an emergency shelter. Bring lots and lots of cordage for this. Don't forget your knitting needles. You will need them. Warning: Shelter may pucker and buckle when wet, leaving you bent, creased, crimped, or squeezed.
  • Line fishing. Throw one end into the lake and see what you can drag back to shore. Some caution is recommended while in alligator country.