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

Keeping your Campsite Clean: Organizational Tips

by Donna 4. June 2012 20:54

Keep your Tent Pleasant-smelling and Clean

It’s helpful, especially on rainy camping days, to make sure that you set up your tent so it will completely dry out in order to prevent mold and unpleasant scents. Brush off any moldy residue and clean your tent with a natural solution of a cup each of salt and lemon juice added to a gallon container of lukewarm water. Use the solution to clean your camping gear as well.

Use a Tarp Beneath your Tent to Make Clean-up and Packing Faster

It’s also helpful to place a tarp beneath the tent as a form of temporary flooring. That way clean-up is faster and easier. The tarp can act as carpeting underneath your feet and will help to protect the floor of your tent helping it to last longer.

Keep Sand out of your Sleeping Bag when Camping at the Beach

If you camp at the beach, you’ll keep sand from sticking to your feet if you sprinkle talcum powder on the mat at the entrance to your tent. That way you can sleep soundly without having to worry about the bottom of your sleeping bags becoming littered with sand.  Who likes sleeping with sand paper?

A Makeshift Paper Towel Holder

If you need a holder for your paper towel, why not use a wire clothes hanger? Simply snip off one end of the bottom wire and insert the role. Keep it close to where you cook and hang the towel holder from a small yet sturdy limb. Or simply use a regular hanger (wire or plastic) for your terry towels.

A Campsite Wash Basin

A campsite sink can be put to use by placing a jug with a spigot on top of a picnic table. Place a tub underneath the spigot to catch the water and some liquid soap next to the campsite faucet so you can conveniently wash your hands.

A Way to Keep Spiders from Sharing your Tent

If you are camping in a screened shelter with a concrete floor, you can disinfect the floor by adding one part bleach in water before washing it. The process will keep any spiders from sharing the space with you while you are camping or cooking.

Do you have any other tips you use to keep your campsites clean?



Backcountry Camping: Preparing for Rain

by Donna 15. May 2012 19:45

Wet weather camping is not always something the weather man tells you to prepare for, but be ready anyways.

Get in the Habit of Preparing for Rain even if it isn’t in the Forecast

Come rain or come shine, you have to make sure that you are prepared for all types of weather when you are traveling outside the boundaries of civilization. However, if you make provisions for rainy weather when you pack for a camping trip, you can turn what might have been a bad experience into a tolerable trip.

That being said, before you plan your camping or hiking trip, you should always check the forecast first. Carry a weather radio (and plenty of batteries) so you can stay up to date about current and future weather conditions. If scattered showers are in the forecast, make sure that your belongings and food are stored in resealable plastic bags, including any maps, first aid kit, socks, and especially matches. You’ll also want to place your sleeping bag in a plastic liner as well. In fact, you should regularly make it a habit to place your food and gear in plastic, just to ensure that a rain storm does not catch you by surprise.

Establish your Campsite on Higher Ground

Naturally, rain gear should be included in your belongings as well as a tent that is treated with waterproofing. When choosing a campsite, you don’t want to set up your tent on lower ground as it’s not necessarily the safest place to land, particularly if it starts to rain quite heavily. Therefore, make it your goal to find a site that is in an area protected from floods and excessive winds. Keep a tarp beneath your tent and be on the alert for blowing winds in case of a downpour. Make sure that the stakes and ropes for your backcountry home are set firmly into place.

Protect Yourself from Lightning Strikes

Don’t set up your tent next to tall trees either, as their height makes them an easy target for a lightning strike. Also, it’s not a good idea to fish during an electrical storm as the pole you are holding is not safe and can cause you to get struck.  You might as well wear a sign that says, "Hey Lightning, strike me."

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Camping | Weather

Tips For The Beginning Camper

by Donna 21. April 2012 23:39

If you Plan to Go Camping, Make sure you are Well-prepared
If you have decided to indulge your adventurous side and buy the gear and equipment for a family camping trip, then you’ll want to make sure to avoid some of the mistakes made by beginners new to the activity. After all, you don’t want to stand out like a red flag by being disorganized or fumbling around the campsite as you attempt to put up your tent. Make sure you bring all the necessary provisions too so you won’t begin your adventure by spending your first night by going to bed both cold and hungry or checking in at a nearby hotel. So, you might practice putting up your tent in your backyard first before assembling it on the campsite.

The Items you’ll Need for a Good Night’s Sleep
Specifically, in and around your campgrounds, you’ll need, of course, a tent, guy lines, and stakes, a tarp or sunshade, and sleeping bags. Make sure the sleeping bags come with liners for added comfort. You’ll also need pillows, sleeping pads, warm blankets, and an air mattress with a pump.

Clothing made for Camping
For your furnishings, make sure to include folding chairs and a table as well as accessory items, such as headlamps and flashlights (both with extra batteries), and lanterns. Clothing should include t-shirts and underwear made of moisture-wicking material, long sleeve shirts, rain jacket, pants, shorts, hat, bandanas, hiking boots, sandals, and socks made of wool or synthetic materials.

Suggestions for your Campsite Kitchen
You’ll also need equipment for kitchen use as well, including a cook stove with fuel, matches, firewood or charcoal, a rack for grilling, frying pan and pots, food storage containers, vacuum thermos, and trash bags. Include to that list, a cooler with ice, bottles of water, cups or mugs, paring knife, and eating utensils. You’ll also need sponges and scrubbers, foil, a drying rack, and towels.

Personal Toiletries
Personal care items which you’ll want to bring include sunscreen, lip balm, and toilet paper. And, don’t forget the first-aid kit as well as well as your brush, comb and other related toiletries.

Make sure your Campsite Pantry is Well-stocked as Well
Naturally, you’ll want to make sure you have enough food on hand too. Make sure your campsite pantry is well-stocked as you won’t be able to take a quick trip up to the store for any items you forget.

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Camp Food | Camping | Family

The Tent Commandments

by Kade 6. July 2011 18:42
The Tent Commandments

I came across a really fun graphic called "The Tent Commandments" done by a fellow outdoor company in the UK at Outdoor World Direct. I think the title of the poster is a really good play on words.

The poster is basically a fun and humorous guide for the camping experience.  It's a perfect way to get your kids excited about camping.  I think my favorite commandment is number 7 "Thou Shalt Dress to Impress".  I think it could read just about any country, state, or backyard for that matter instead of the UK when it says "Let's face it you are camping in the UK".  It's important to dress correctly when camping no matter where you go.  It just makes the whole camping experience that much more enjoyable. 

Click the image and go check it out for yourself.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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