better safe than sorry

There are those who seek to prove themselves in a wilderness survival situation outfitted with no more than a knife and a loincloth.

There are those who seek to prove themselves in a wilderness survival situation outfitted with no more than a knife and a loincloth. Well, perhaps also a bit of wire and a rifle.

The idea, I suppose, is to be so skilled that in an emergency situation in the bush, food, heat and shelter can be procured with minimal equipment. Pitting one’s mind and scarce resources against the enemy of nature, or something along those lines.

It always seems to me that it would be a bit of a nuisance, having to fiddle with setting up rabbit snares after taking a fall and breaking a leg kilometres from the closest human habitation. Maybe others would enjoy the challenge of it.

Personally, in any kind of emergency situation, I would rather have the proper gear with me that would allow me to focus all of my energy on the problem at hand instead of wasting time on staying dry, warm and fed.

Admittedly, the “always be prepared” mindset can be a real drag, especially in winter.

My summer survival gear that I hoist around with me on every walk fits nicely into a small daypack. The winter kit, unfortunately, is a lot more bulky and requires an actual backpack. Not a big one … but still.

It has the annoying feature of being perfectly situated on my shoulders to catch and trap all the snow that I dislodge from tree branches and melt it against my back. Every year when the time comes to switch gear, I procrastinate and the knife and loincloth philosophy briefly seems very appealing to me.

Then I give myself a good talking to — after all, limiting the equipment can one day mean limiting my life expectancy, and with a big sigh of disgust I give in to my beast of burden role.

The one big risk in our situation of living in the bush is some sort of injury that would make getting back to the cabin a very slow and painful process. Getting lost is an unrealistic scenario, given the dog entourage with GPS functions (always capable of leading us back home) and the multiple compasses we carry.

So it is against the event of becoming partially or totally immobilized while out and about that I prepare.

When both Sam and I are home, we can rely on each other and an emergency is bound to be easier dealt with. But those times when one of us is out, leaving the other one as a recluse of the woods, require extra caution.

In a dry bag that goes into my backpack, I carry a complete set of winter clothing, including boot liners, a handheld radio, handwarmers and first aid supplies. Also a metal cup, spoon, matches and knife, plus a one-time use emergency stove and rope. Not to mention high-calorie food that can be comfortably stretched over three days. You begin to see where carting all this stuff around ceases to be fun.

Food had always been a somewhat overlooked item in my pile of gear — oh sure, I usually had a couple of granola bars with me, but reasoned that it’s not what you’d call a vital item. After all, starvation is not something that sets in from one day to the next. But after one winter where I got the snowmachine stuck in overflow and went on a 12-hour march home with nothing more than a skimpy oatmeal bar to munch on, I made some changes.

Apart from feeling hungry, I tend to become very irritable and unfocussed when going without food. In an emergency situation, that can lead to bad decision making. Precisely what you don’t want.

So I’d rather lug around the extra weight of some camping meals with me, knowing that they will go a long way towards keeping my mind sharp and alert.

All in all, I’m obviously a poor candidate for any sort of minimalist survival competition. But being out in the wilderness is neither a game nor a test of macho qualities to me. It’s a way of life that calls for plenty of respect to Mother Nature and realistic preparation beyond a knife and loincloth, so you can live to tell the tale.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read