Monthly Archives: October 2013

Flash Floods and Camping Safety

Flash floods are the most dangerous types of floods, threatening campers with sudden and even unexpected occurrence. Always make sure that you prepare in advance of a camping trip by researching an area’s flood potential, and even if you’re so tired that you feel like plopping down your tent anywhere–don’t. Make an educated choice about your campsite location, especially when in mountainous or hilly terrain and in canyon country.

To see the destruction that a flash flood can cause, check out this video that shows footage from flash flooding in a canyon basin in Utah. Notice the warning signs, and listen carefully to the narrator’s explanation of the terrain features that contribute to the flood danger:

Want to know more about flood danger and camping?
Read my article on the Survival Skills website:

“How to Choose a Flood-Safe Campsite”

Learnist Climbing Boards: Clear Creek and Kelso Ridge

I’ve recently begin creating content for Learnist, which I would describe as “the Pintrist of learning.” I’m enjoying the web-trawling involved, and I’m learning a lot in the process of sharing my own “learnings.”

Last week, I returned to my home in Colorado’s Vail Valley, so it’s been a work of joy for me to share the beautiful places around here that have been the source of inspired adventures. I recently compiled sources related to Clear Creek Canyon’s climbing areas:

Learnist- Climbing Clear Creek

Clear Creek Canyon, near Golden, Colorado, is a place where I like to climb in the fall and spring months. It has several sport climbing locations that are easy to access, so it’s a fun place to go for a quick climb with Front Range friends.

Since 2008, I’ve lived in the Vail Valley–West Vail, then Avon, now Edwards, and the mountains around here have been a big inspiration. Yes, it’s supposed to snow here tomorrow, but one fall I was able to take advantage of warmer temps as I speed climbed up Kelso Ridge on Torreys Peak with my friend Rich. That experience inspired me to create a board about this route:

Learnist-Kelso Ridge

Enjoy exploring these boards…I hope they inspire you to go to these places or to seek out similar adventures of your own.

If you haven’t yet checked out the above links, click here to access these learning boards on Learnist:

Rock Climbing in Colorado’s Clear Creek Canyon

Colorado Fourteeners: Climbing Kelso Ridge on Torreys

Compass Overview Frenzy!!!

If you’re trying to choose what type of compass it best for you, you need to know the key features of basic and advanced compasses. First, read “The Compass: Basic and Advanced Features” to figure out what your options are.

Next, I’d recommend watching this video from a self-proclaimed “compass nerd” who offers an overview of six different types of compasses, ranging from fun ones you can attach to your keychain (not recommended for expert navigation) to those with navigation tools you may never have imagined.

The iPhone Analog Altimeter App and GPS

analog altimiter app iconThe KeeWee Technology Analog Altimeter App for iPhone makes use of the iPhone’s GPS technology to provide information about elevation. While the face of the altimeter used in this app looks like the face of an analog altimeter, it doesn’t work exactly the same as a barometric altimeter. Instead of relying on air pressure to determine altitude as a traditional barometric altimeter does, it rather uses the GPS integrated in the iPhone to provide the altitude values.

Good to know. When an altimeter relies on GPS signals only to calculate altitude, the reading might differ from that given by an altimeter that relies on air pressure alone. But now even newer models of altimeters, such as the Garmin Edge 705, combine GPS and barometric inputs to calculate elevation.

When relying on a phone app or other technology in the outdoors, remember to consider the limitations such as batteries (which will need to be recharged) and extreme temperatures (which can affect battery life and LCD displays). While KeeWee Technology’s Analog Altimeter app might look like an old-school analog altimeter at face value, it’s more like a digital, GPS-generated version of the classic.

Want to know more about altimeter types and uses?
Read my article on the Survival Skills website:

“The Barometric Altimeter: Survival Uses and Types”

App Image Icon © KeeWee Technology.

What’s the Difference: Pine Sap, Pitch, or Resin?

As I was writing an article for the Survival Skills website on the topic of how to make a pine pitch torch, I was confronted by many different terms: sap, pitch, resin, tar, among others. Most people seem to use these words interchangeably, but I wanted to know more about what they’re supposed to mean, so here’s what I can gather:

Sap: more of a liquid, like honey or less viscous than honey. Sap is the sugary secretion from plants as well as trees (think raw material for maple syrup).

Pine Sap Drop

Pitch: think of an intermediate between a liquid and a complete solid. Pitch is like that crystallized honey you find in your pantry after it’s been there for quite a while.

Pine Pitch

Resin: usually refers to the most solid of all these forms. If you’ve played an instrument with a bow (like the violin), you’ve probably used a solid block of resin on your bow, as in the photo below right. People seem to use “pitch” and “resin” more interchangeably, while sap usage is reserved more often for the seeping, liquid form.

violin resin

Now that you’ve got the terminology straight, check out my article on the Survival Skills website:

“How to Make a Pine Pitch Torch”

1. © Flickr® user Ian.
2. © Flickr® user Petr Gladkikh.
3. © Flickr® user McBeth.

Auvi-Q™: An Alternative to the EpiPen

Most of us are aware of the EpiPen epinephrine injector (OUCH!):

epi pen

But earlier this year, an article in the New York Times business section reported on a new EpiPen alternative, the Auvi-Q™, a device that, like the EpiPen, is an epinephrine injector…but with a new technological twist. The Auvi-Q™ talks users through the injection process to curb severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis), which can be incredibly dangerous anywhere and especially dangerous in remote outdoor settings. You can check out the Auvi-Q™ website’s demo page, which offers a virtual tour of the device’s key features, and you can also download the Auvi-Q™ Companion App on the site.

The Auvi-Q™ appeals to the tech-savvy, for sure, but the old EpiPen will still continue to do the trick…and, apparently, with no less pain in its stick.

To know more about why the EpiPen and the Auvi-Q™ are important to carry in the outdoors to prevent severe allergic reactions in susceptible persons, read my article on the Survival Skills website:

“Preventing and Surviving Anaphylactic Reactions in the Outdoors”

Photo © Flickr® user gregfriese.

Share Your Adventure with SPOT Satellite Messaging

What’s new with emergency notification technology? The SPOT Gen3™. And it has some cool tracking features that you can customize to help make your adventure more social by sharing your location with friends and family as you travel and saving it for future reference.

This how-to video from SPOT that highlights this PLB-messenger’s tracking and sharing features, which are also available with the earlier SPOT model and now enhanced with the Gen3:

Some Gen3 highlights include enhanced tracking features that enable you to vary your tracking speed down to 2.5 minutes. If you’d like to share your progress with friends and family, you can create a shared SPOT page before you leave so that any tracking information will automatically update on the page and interface with Google maps. In advance of your journey, you can choose message text and contacts; you can also create multiple share pages with different contacts (one for friends and one for family, for instance).

Want to know more about the new SPOT Gen3™?
Check out my article on the Survival Skills website:

“Survival Gear Overview: The SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger”

Boulder Canyon Tyrolean Traverse Crossing

Hikers and climbers will often encounter a Tyrolean traverse when a swift water crossing is necessary. Once such crossing that I’ve always enjoyed is in Boulder Canyon, which was recently devastated by severe flooding. So…this post could be a…er…ode to the (former?) Boulder Canyon Tyrolean traverses. Boulder Creek, which flows at this level in the springtime, would be too dangerous to cross here on foot:

Boulder Creek

Below, my climbing partner Deb is crossing the creek, using her climbing harness and gear to keep her attached to the fixed Tyrolean line there. Her pack wasn’t heavy, so she chose to keep it attached to her back, but if you’re crossing a Tyrolean, it’s a good idea to attach the backpack to the line as well and drag it along, attached to your harness and directly to the line so that you don’t lose it in transit.

Boulder Canyon Tyrolean 1

Here’s another image of Deb crossing back across the creek. It’s best to keep your head in the direction of your final destination; in this way, you’ll pull yourself backwards towards the end-destination anchor:

Boulder Canyon Tyrolean 2

She’s almost there…just a few more good pulls, and then she’ll be across and on the other side.

Boulder Canyon Tyrolean 3

Crossing a Tyrolean traverse can be fun since it feels like a little adventure, and encountering one isn’t an everyday occurrence. But if making a swift-water crossing is a matter of safety or survival, it’s absolutely necessary to know how to do it.

Do you know how to cross a Tyrolean traverse?
If not, read my article on the Survival Skills website, and then get out there for some practice with your harness and gear.

“How to Cross a Tyrolean Traverse”

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.

Don’t be That Guy/Gal: Avoid These Space Blanket Shortcomings

Emergency space blankets weigh only three ounces, and they’re easy to toss in your backpack. So why not? More people probably should carry emergency gear, but if you’re carrying an emergency space blanket hoping that it will save your life in a survival situation…it probably, alone, won’t do the trick. I like this guy–Dr. Donner, of MedWild videos–and I like his approach to space blanket usage. Here, he explains just a few shortcomings of these lightweight wonders (?):

In conclusion, Dr. Donner says:

“Emergency space blankets may not be the end-all item for your survival kit.”

I agree. And no gear, alone, can substitute for practiced skills and years of outdoor experience. But I also think that it’s a good idea to be prepared and carry the gear that you will want when you find yourself in an emergency situation.

Want to know more about what gear you can easily add to your stash?
Read my article on the Survival Skills website:

“Complete Survival Basics for Under $100”