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

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

Summer Tips for Camping in your Car

by Donna 15. June 2012 21:00

Carry Plenty of Water

Not every backcountry enthusiast camps in a tent. Some outdoor adventurers like nothing better than camping inside their SUV or four-wheel drive. So, if you are new to this kind of camping, you’ll soon learn that carrying plenty of water is a priority.

Indeed, people who have not camped before—whether in their car or in a tent—may forget that their supply of water should extend beyond the amount they need for drinking. Therefore, make sure you have plenty of water available for cleaning, bathing, cooking, or a health emergency. In fact, take double the water of what you think you’ll need, especially if you are camping in your car as you have a way to carry the extra liquid.

Always Carry a First-aid Kit

Also, a first-aid kit is a priority as well, regardless of whether you are camping in your vehicle or trekking through the countryside with a backpack. Of course, it might defeat the purpose of carrying a first aid kit at all if you don’t have all the supplies you need. Therefore, before you set out on any camping adventure, make sure your kit contains all the essential items, including salve, bandages, and a painkiller medication. Include insect repellant, sunscreen, and lip balm as well.

Pack Bulk Staples

Since you are camping inside your vehicle, you’ll also want to make sure that you pack plenty of victuals. Most people, while camping, can get pretty hungry, particularly families with children or campers who’ve set their sights on fishing or hiking.

Pack some Rainy Weather Foods Too

So, buy the food for your car camping trip in bulk and pack staples such as cereal, rice, and pasta that are easy to cook and will not cost too much. You’ll want to include foods that are simple and quick to prepare in case of a downpour too.  Therefore, make sure you also bring peanut butter, bread, jelly, and energy snacks such as raisins and trail mix.

Bring along a Couple Fire Starters

Speaking of rainy weather, it’s not a bad idea to carry a couple fire starters either. Store matches in your glove compartment and bring along a couple of weather-resistant lighters. Store some dry kindling wood in your car as well in case it rains and you can’t use the wood at the campsite.

One Final Suggestion

Naturally, when you are car camping, it’s easy to become tempted and turn on the music in your car or truck. However, if you don’t want to scare away the wildlife and turn your camping adventure into a tailgating event, it’s best to listen to nature’s music instead.



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?



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