Out of Sight: What Every Backcountry Pilot Needs

by Guest 27. August 2013 18:45

Alan Carr is an avid aviation aficionado learning about the aspects of the flying world from the business to the technical, while also frequently writing on what he finds. He currently works with globalair.com to provide resources on aircraft related information.

Veins of water stretch out across the ground below you. You just refurbished the engine of your Cessna 185, and it seems like your simple camping trip will stay simple. As quickly as the clouds gather too close to the cockpit, the engine starts to run rough. RPMs drop. You notice smoke. All of your hours of training flood your brain, and you know it’s time to press the “nearest” button on your GPS—

Sometimes, there’s not even time to make it to the strip. Every backcountry pilot needs to be prepared for engine failure, or other mechanical mishaps that can lead to a crash landing. Thankfully, we are beyond the age of solar flares and branches spelling “S-O-S.” Today’s pilot can use technology as the first line of defense against a disastrous emergency landing and still be prepared for that technology to crash. Though nothing can replace common sense and hours of experience in the air, the following five things will help any pilot survive any backcountry landing.

Knowledge of Backcountry Etiquette

What do you do if someone is already camping where you want to land? The most intense backcountry pilots may claim that if you need to consider your manners, you’re not in the true backcountry yet.  Sure, etiquette can be thrown to the wolves if you’re sure you’re completely isolated, and if you run into other pilots in the event of an emergency landing you would likely consider yourself lucky. However, some scenic backcountry destinations have gained a following. Rather than force your fellow pilots to hold on to their hats—and tents—as you come in at a pattern altitude and commandeer their solitude, consider a few common sense rules so we can all enjoy public lands.

First of all, make sure you are arriving at circling or pattern altitude. Start listening before you arrive, and blend in with the traffic. Of course, make sure you can communicate clearly. Check to see whether you are on the right radio and frequency. Clearly communicate your position and intentions, and respect any response. Don’t take a tie-down that could be occupied, and even if you think you’re alone, make only small power adjustments while moving your plane. With all these specifics in mind, treating others as you would like to be treated will get you the farthest.

Knowledge of How to Set Up Camp Almost Anywhere

Backcountry piloting and camping go hand-in-hand, so if you’re not an experienced outdoorsman, I wouldn’t recommend flying your plane through a canyon. In addition to the standard waterproof tent, sleeping mat, sleeping pad, headlamp, dry socks, a shovel and toilet paper, and matches that you would bring even if you were roughing it, there are a few other items that will make camping on barely-charted territory much easier.

A water filter is more important than any amount of energy bars or Chef Boyardee. You can survive for days without food, but not without water. An old-fashioned pump filter will suffice, but bottle filters like Vapur’s MicroFilter implants the filter in the cap to kill an impressive percentage of waterborne bacteria. A portable charger for your electronics with solar capabilities is also incredibly helpful these days, especially if you’re using a gadget to turn your iPhone into a satellite phone. Communication beyond your campsite will ensure your survival more than your ability to pitch a tent on a rock, but you should also have the ability to pitch a tent, start a fire, and get some rest.

Rations for Each Occupant

Though it may seem antiquated to some, many states require backcountry pilots to carry enough rations for each occupant to survive a week. It’s common sense to provide enough food to eat for the duration of your trip, but many pilots consider a satellite phone and a credit card to be rations enough, especially since water is more important to survival.

However, it’s wise to carry MREs if your technology fails you (or if you credit card falls in the fire!) Sailor Boy Pilot Bread is also a popular choice for a backcountry feast. Energy bars, like Luna or Cliff Bars, will provide you with enough protein to get by and the flavor won’t kill you. My personal favorite foodstuff is Chef Boyardee’s Spaghetti and Meatballs. Stack four cans in the back of your plane for a serving of nostalgia to accompany your unexpected adventure.

A Comprehensive Survival Kit

If you can camp anywhere, why would you need a survival kit? Honestly, most elements of a comprehensive survival kit are things that you ought to carry with you if you’re just flying to the grocery store, like GPS, a first aid kit, and a cockpit fire extinguisher. A backcountry trip demands more accessories, and many websites sell pre-constructed kits. These will include a first aid kit, plus a variety of other survival tools.

A pocket chainsaw will make your pocket knife look like a nail pick. Make sure you purchase one that can cut through a 3 inch limb in about 20 seconds. Windproof lighters and waterproof matches will secure your ability to make a fire almost anywhere. If you don’t normally camp with a headlamp, include one in your kit! It’s important to be able to make use of your hands wherever you land. As I’ve mentioned before, a satellite phone like the Iridium Extreme is key to the modern backcountry pilot’s survival, and this can be coupled with a PLB, a personal locator beacon. Also, if you plan on flying above 10K, hang an oxygen system in your cockpit. You can’t fly if you can’t breathe.

A Backcountry Toolkit

Occasionally, whatever is wrong with your aircraft will be something you can mend on your own. Having the right toolkit in your plane can be the key to getting you from your campsite back to your home landing strip.

A complete toolkit will include a variety of pliers—diagonal, long nose, linesman, slip joint, groove joint, an adjustable wrench, a multi-tip screwdriver, a hex key set, cable ties, duct and electrical tape, a tire gauge, and a tire pump, plus whatever you’ve found necessary for your particular plane. Every plane—and pilot—is different, and with commonsense etiquette, outdoor survival skills, and the right gear, we can all survive and enjoy the backcountry together.

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Camping | Survival

Forget Poker Night, Spend Your Next Guys’ Night Out in the Woods

by Kade 31. July 2013 20:12

The male bonding ritual started with cave dwellers beating their chests in unison. Today’s men don’t exactly beat their chests to make a connection, but the need to bond is just as important. It is a testosterone-infused process that enhances the male to male relationship whether casual or full-on bromance.

There are standards for male bonding events—seeing a game, hitting a bar or playing poker—these are all traditional ways for the male of the species to get together and be, well…male. When it comes time for the next ritual, you should try thinking outside four walls, and take the party outdoors for a night of camping.

Camping at Klondike

Photo of camping at Klondike by Zachary Collier via Flickr

Why Go Camping?

The question is as complex as male bonding itself. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reports that 90 million residents enjoyed wildlife-related recreation in 2011. There must be something fun going on out there.

It is a cost effective way to spend some time with the boys—no budgeting for tips or cover fees to get into clubs. There is versatility in camping. You can hike, fish, hunt, swim—there is a little something there for everyone. Camping builds trust too, and that is what creates bonds. You must rely on one another when out in the woods.

How to Get Started?

How does one go about setting up a camping trip? It starts with location. Finding the right spot makes or breaks the trip. If just planning to go out for one night, check with your local park and recreation department to see what campsites are available. Recreation.gov is an online resource to find parks and campgrounds in the area or you can just use our site - visit backcountrysecrets.com.

Those looking for a long-term male bonding event can consider some of the more well-known camping adventures. Yosemite, for example, offers campgrounds and cabins to create a memorable experience. While there, you can bike, climb and go rafting. Disney World in Florida has a resort dedicated to campers. Fort Wilderness allows you and your buds to experience nature while enjoying the theme parks and other Orlando sites.  (but really is that truly a night out in the woods?)

Tips for Camping

Educate yourselves about safety. This is important no matter how you plan to spend your time but critical if going hunting. Consider an online safety course for you and your friends. Safety education at Huntercourse.com, for example, provides online training and testing.

Research your destination before you go. This will not only help you and the boys get organized but is also an important safety tip. You need to know where the closest ranger station is in case of unexpected emergencies. Figure out what there is to do in the area, as well. That way, you don’t waste time wandering around looking for the hot spots.

Pack wisely with essentials like sunscreen and water bottles. How you do you plan to cook? Do you need a camping stove or are you going to just build a fire? Find recipes to take with you, and make sure you have all the necessary ingredients and cooking utensils.

Add camping to your list of bonding rituals geared to enhance your male friendships. Nights out with the boys makes for relationships that last a lifetime, and camping might just be the perfect adventure.


Camping | Outdoor Safety

Adventurers Beware: Five Items That Could Save Your Life

by Kade 2. August 2012 21:26

The following is a guest post from Haleigh Adams.  Haliegh Adams is a professional writer. She frequently writes for BladeOps.com and has a special interest in knife collecting and the outdoors.

If you’re an adventurer planning a trek into the back country, you probably want to travel with as little weight as possible. As much as you want keep your backpack and clothing light, there are some items that are invaluable in an emergency. Here are five items that could save your life:

1. Water and food

The most important item of these two essentials is water. If the weather is hot, dehydration can cause physical distress within an hour. In extreme heat, an adult can lose as much as 1.5 liters (about .4 gallons) of water just by sweating. If you’re far from your vehicle or base camp, there won’t be nearly enough time to make it back. Even if it’s cold outside, physical exertion can cause you to sweat and become dehydrated. Even without sweating, a human can only last a few days without water.

You can certainly survive longer without food than water, but it’s still a good idea to bring enough food to last a week. Energy bars are lightweight and provide nutrients and calories if you get stranded.

2. Navigational system

Carry some form of navigation in case you get lost. This could include a map, compass or a GPS system. If you carry a GPS system, carry a paper map and compass for backup in case you can’t get a signal.

3. Cell phone

Adventurers today have a big advantage over their counterparts several years ago. Provided you can get reception, a cell phone can enable you to summon help if you get into a dangerous situation. If you’re far away from civilization or in mountainous terrain where it’s difficult to get a signal from a tower, a satellite phone can be a lifesaver.

4. Blanket

Many hikers neglect to bring a blanket during warm weather, figuring that they’ll never need it. In many locations, the temperature can dip dramatically at night. It’s also good to have a blanket in case you fall into cold water and need to get warm. Many natural springs have extremely cold water even in the summer.

5. Protection

Some adventurers are so intent on packing their bags that they forget to protect themselves. Hiking sandals may be cool and comfortable if you’re close to civilization, but if you’re in locations where there might be snakes, you’ll need better protection. Wear a sturdy pair of high-top hiking boots and something to protect your calves. If it’s winter, wear heavyweight jeans tucked into your boots. In the summer, a pair of heavy, knee-high hiking socks can protect your lower legs.

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Gear | Knives

Backcountry Fishing Adventures: Choosing a Pair of Waders

by Donna 30. July 2012 21:24

Waders – Essential Gear When Fly Fishing or Hunting

When choosing waders for angling in the backcountry, you no doubt want to ensure that you are sufficiently protected. After all, you don’t want icy cold marsh waters or a stream’s runoff to keep you from enjoying your time spent in the great outdoors. Therefore, you’ll need to find water-resistant waders that meet your criteria with respect to insulation and construction. Indeed, waders can come in quite handy when you are fly fishing in a stream or are hunting for waterfowl in areas flooded by spring rains.

Determining the Type of Waders you’ll Need

Wader designs then are determined by a water’s depth. Therefore, in order to buy a pair, you’ll need to base your choice on where they will be used. When you’ve made an assessment as to the estimated depth, add about another foot of coverage for moving water. Then, you can determine whether you’ll need waders that cover you up to the chest, hip or waist. Needless to say, chest waders give you the best protection as you can journey into streams that run ankle-deep or trek through rivulets that flow as high as your waist. Chest waders are supported by suspenders and designed to be baggy to allow for comfort while, at the same time, staying secure and in place.

Chest Waders – When to Use Them

Indeed, many fly fishermen and women like wearing chest waders as they provide coverage in streams that are deeper  and can be used on windy or wet days. Therefore, you can enjoy backcountry hunting or fishing just about any time during the year. Just make sure that you always wear a wading belt with your chest waders in case of a short, unexpected dunking.

Hip Waders

If your fishing or hunting adventure takes you to waters that are about knee-deep, then hip waders are the best choice. The waders come in two distinct pieces that are designed to be  worn on each leg, and are secured to your belt with straps. Therefore, the waders are simple to put on or remove and can be worn over your clothes. These kinds of waders are also easy to pack and are a great choice when pursuing such activities as waterfowl hunting, boating, or fly angling.

Waist Waders

Waist waders come up to the waist and look like baggy, waterproof pants. They are made for waters that come up to one’s thighs. The waders come with loops at waistline so they can be belted and secured. Backcountry enthusiasts like to wear these waders during the summer as they do not cover the upper body, which allows for more coolness and movement. Because the upper body is not covered, the wearer has more latitude with respect, say, to casting a fishing line or hoisting a rifle while hunting. Typically, waders that are made to be waist-high are best used in fairly fast-flowing streams.



Hammock Camping: Relaxing in the Great Outdoors

by Donna 23. July 2012 21:22

The Appeal of Hammock Camping for the Backpacker

While using a tent is quite fun, backpackers often find that they prefer to use hammock tents after they’ve been trekking through the wilderness for a while. That’s because the shelters are convenient to set up and generally are more relaxing too. While these kinds of tents may seem to be rather vulnerable-looking at first, they actually are solid forms of shelter, provided, of course, you tie the ends to tree trunks that are solid and sturdy too.

A Preferred Way to Sleep

Of course, not every camper finds a hammock tent the most comfortable option, particularly if he is taller or heavier. However, many campers, when they get used to sleeping on a hammock, actually like it better than taking refuge for the night in a ground-erected tent. After all, a hammock does keep you from dealing with such issues as rocks or dampness. Therefore, many people who suffer from back pain will find some relief when using a hammock tent during backpacking or hiking trips.

Choosing a Campsite

Because a hammock tent is set up about three feet off the ground, you reduce the potential of being plagued by insects as well, or at least from being pursued by the crawling kind. If you like to hike in the woods, then, naturally, a hammock tent is the ideal shelter as you can find a number of spots in which to set up camp. That being said, you still have to make sure that the area where you establish your tent is not prone to high-level winds or isn’t too near a body of water, such as a pond or lake, which generally attracts large populations of mosquitoes and other insects.

Setting up Camp

Once you find the perfect campsite, establishing the hammock is pretty easy. Make sure that the trees that you use are far enough apart to accommodate your height. The trunks should have circumferences of at least two feet. After you’ve tied the tent firmly to the trunks, all you need to do is establish the fly over the hammock for coverage. Commercial brands offering hammock tents include Hennessy, Clark Jungle, Eagle’s Nest, Warbonnet, Lawson, Trek Light, Crazy Creek and Hammock Bliss, just to name a few.

A Practical Item for Outdoor Enthusiasts

Indeed, using a hammock tent is an ideal choice for backpacking and camping as it is a very light type of gear. Even if you are carrying a large hammock shelter in your backpack, it, still, on average, weighs far less than the standard tent. In fact, the very lightest hammock tent that features a rain fly and bug guard weighs in at only one or two pounds. Plus, a hammock shelter can be used in a number of ways – as a tent, as a chair, as a lounger, or as a means to hold gear. Therefore, this camping accessory is definitely one practical item for anyone who loves traveling and camping in the Great Outdoors.


Backpacking | Camping

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