Preparing for a Bad Scenario
I was planning a camping and hiking weekend with my oldest son Travis. Summer was fast approaching and Travis was transitioning into his senior year of high school. Time gets away like it tends to do, and soon enough he will be traveling off to college. The majority of his time I expect will be with his current friends, and the new friends he makes as he embarks on the next stage of his life. I wanted to take a weekend with just him and I. Regaling our time together as he grew up, and making special memories of a new adventure together. Additionally I wanted to go over things he should remember to keep himself safe when out in the wilderness. We covered all these things every time we went out with the family, but I remember my attention span when I was that age, so I felt the need to reiterate it. I think in part it was my parental instincts trying to arm him with the basic knowledge I have learned over the years.
Waterproof First Aid
In our family, 16 years and older, we attend CPR, first aid and blood borne pathogen recertification every two years. This registers us with the Red Cross Association, and more importantly to us, and the people we associate ourselves with, means that we stay current with the latest techniques, and applications.
We carry a first aid bag with us. It stays in our cars while in the city, and in our packs while we are enjoying the outdoors. A mistake that a lot of people make with their first aid kit is over packing it. Your first aid kit doesn’t have to qualify as a doctor’s office to be effective. A few of the basics will do quite well. We purchase boxes of supplies that offer remedies in the size of small pocket size packages that look like samples. We split them up between bags for each vehicle, and these will transfer into our packs later. Each bag will contain, carmex lip balm, antibiotic cream, burn cream, hand sanitizer, alcohol prep pads, gauze and tape, bandages, butterfly stitch bandage, insect relief, safety scissors, tweezers, Q-tips, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and Imodium.
This sounds like it’s a lot, but when it’s broken down, it weighs less than a pound, and it’s very portable. We keep everything in a zipper lock style bag. It can roll up to fit in any crevice we choose for it, the bag keeps everything dry, and if we come into a situation where we need to catch water to carry or drink, we can simply empty the bag of its contents, and fill the bag with water. Any time you can utilize one item for potentially others things, you are taking control of your possible outcome. A good idea is to prepare for the first camp out of the season by checking the dates on the commodity items to ensure freshness in your families first aid kit.
While Travis and I were out in the woods, we decided that each time we had to start a fire, we would choose a different method. As we make our way to site for the night, we reach around and pick up useful fuels for starting a fire. Dead wood, cat-tails, straw or dry grass. This assures us that we have something to start with upon arrival. Once on site we’re able to pull out the old flint and steel, and chip away until our first fire is aflame.
You always hope that the campers before you have left some wood for you. It’s not always the case though. I gave Travis his own hatchet for this trip. It’s such a versatile tool. Chopping small timber from fallen trees is just the most basic thing it does. The flat side can be used as a hammer, setting tent spikes, chopping out a trench and loosening the ground where it’s necessary. Our rule is to create enough wood to last our trip, plus one day. The extra wood keeps us ready for an emergency, and if don’t use it, the next person will.
You can’t always count on excellent weather. Even in perfect weather conditions, you can’t count on dry wood. Before we left, Travis and I prepared a couple of ways to keep our fire starters dry and waterproof. In the picture to the right, we cut a straight piece of cardboard. In each hole along the edge we stuck a big handful of strike anywhere matches. We heated up some paraffin in a double boiler outside. Being careful, because paraffin has a flashpoint of 280°-390°, depending on which manufacturer you are using. First we rolled up the cardboard and dipped the match ends into the wax, sealing them from the elements for a later date. Then we hung them upside down on our clothes line to let them dry. We checked back thirty minutes later and they were dry enough to pull apart. We pulled the matches out and separated them. Travis tested the first match by scratching the wax off with his thumb, and struck it on a brick, it lit up perfectly, and the remaining wax burned off quickly. We took the finished matches, and placed them in an empty prescription bottle we saved. This keeps our matches dry, and is portable for on the go.
We repeated this again. We rolled our match board into a bundle, and secured it like that with a cotton cord or bread bag twist tie. This time when we dipped the match bundle, we dipped it deeply and allowed the wax to cover the match tops entirely. We even got some on the cardboard. We did this to four bundles. We set them aside to dry, and when they were ready, we placed them in a zipper lock style bag. We find ourselves often enough in a situation where the only wood available is wet and hard to start. We place the match stick bundle, or several depending on how desperate we are, on the wet wood. Lighting this bundle with a cheap lighter, first on the cardboard end, next on the match head end. The bundle quickly ignites over the wood. This in turn melts the wax, which is flammable. The flammable wax drips on the wet wood, and falls into the crevices. This helps dry out the wood as its burning, and gets things moving quickly. Fuel the fire with your kindling, and slowly fan it into life.
The second method we tried used more of our paraffin wax. We took a few coffee filters, dryer lint and secured the lint in the middle of the filter with cotton twine or twist ties from a bag of bread. Then we dipped the bottom of the coffee filter in the wax, coating it nicely. Again we place the filter lint balls into a zipper lock style bag for transporting cleanly. Just as we did with the match bundles on the wet wood, when we ignited the filter lint ball, the wax dripped all over the wood, and shortly thereafter we were warming ourselves nicely.
Strike Anywhere Matches
We love our strike anywhere matches. Travis and I tried to waterproof them in other ways. On hot days the paraffin will melt and become goopy. A nice trick that takes the melt out of play is nail polish. I pilfered through my wife’s nail polish collection, and grabbed a few of the clear coating bottles. We each coated 6-7 matches, and allowed them to dry. We tried rubbing the match gently on the ground to remove the clear coat and tried lighting our match sticks. Travis was successful, mine was a bust. It seems that some clear polishes just destroyed our abilities to light the matches. With the polish Travis used, we were able to coat about twenty matches. We let them dry, and placed them in another prescription bottle for safe keeping.
Finally, we utilized the rest of paraffin. We made an educated guess as to how much cotton cord would absorb the rest of the wax. Donning a pair of latex gloves, we dipped the cord in the double boiler, and soaked up the flammable goodness. We took the cord out and lay it down on a paper bag to dry. We placed the stiffened cord into a zipper lock style bag and stowed it away with our gear. When the time calls for it, we intertwined the coated cord with our kindling, and when we applied our lighter to it, it took off as if it had a mind of its own.
Travis and I survived our weekend trip. A little because of the lessons we practiced, and a lot due to our relying on one another. We laughed a lot, talked a lot, and most importantly bonded a lot. Watching your children grow up and take charge of their lives makes any parent swell with pride. When you see them implement the things that you teach them over the years, with success, it makes you sleep a little better at night. With the comfort that they were listening, and they have learned how to apply everything you taught them.