With more outdoor enthusiasts than ever travelling off-grid, having the proper tools with you is of utmost importance. Emergency outdoor survival can occur without warning, so always be prepared with these 5 essential electronic devices/tools for any wilderness survival situation. An outdoor survival epiphany can happen at any time, to anyone, so take advice from someone who had his own survival epiphany.
Three most dreaded words!
My own personal outdoor survival epiphany came during 2017’s moose hunting season in the Laurentian Mountains of Quebec, Canada. In a forest less than 2 miles from my hunt camp, an area I hunted dozens of times over the past 40+ years; while stalking late one afternoon, I became disoriented. The lush September foliage made landforms difficult to read, and I suddenly had no idea where I was! Light grew dim and the buzz of my hunting companions beckoning me on the two-way radio was now barely audible.
Panic sets in!
With a sense of panic and darkness upon me, I felt completely shame-faced with no survival equipment on hand, I was forced to yell those three most dreaded words; “I am lost!” Wandering the woods in complete darkness for hours before being rescued was a frightening experience, and I vowed never to let it happen again! I later compiled a list of essential tools to have on hand, at all times, while travelling afield, starting with a GPS.
1)Global Positioning Unit (GPS)
The handheld GPS was the first wilderness survival tool to change the face of navigation forever. No longer would enthusiasts need to calculate UTM grid coordinates or military coordinates, using a topographic map and a Silva Ranger compass. Like any technology, users require complete knowledge of the unit’s capability in order for it to be useful. My very first handheld GPS back in the 1990’s, was the Magellan SportTrak, a somewhat crude GPS with basic waypoint and GOTO functions but no mapping database available at this point. It had limited function.
Garmin handheld GPS
Today, Garmin dominates the handheld market with modern units like the GPSMap 64ST which comes preloaded with Topo Maps for all of North America and such features as; GLONASS, quad helix antenna, 3 Axis electronic compass and the ability to share way points, tracks and routes wirelessly with other compatible devices. GLONASS stands for Global Navigation Satellite System, a satellite-based navigation system that works alongside Global Positioning System (GPS) to help fine-tune position information on compatible devices, like this Garmin. Modern handhelds are a must for wilderness travel and my #1 choice for essential survival devices.
2. SPOT Satellite Messenger
Since not every outdoor traveller has the time to learn the ins and outs of a handheld GPS, a SPOT Satellite GPS tracker is another good option. The SPOT system uses the Globalstar Satellite Network to provide text messaging and GPS tracking ability. With Globalstar’s amazing coverage which included 99% of North America, having a SPOT satellite tracker allows you to send basic user defined text messages to friends, and family, back home identifying your location.
A subscription based tool, SPOT transmits a series of bread crumbs with precise ground locations so you are always in contact with civilization. The company’s initial claim was that SPOT had successfully aiding in 550 rescues in 51 Countries. Since that time, the SPOT Trackers have produced different features with the same goal of keeping civilization in constant contact with your location on the ground, in the way of continuous tracking.
3. Portable Solar Panels
Harnessing the sun’s power is nothing new and the use of portable solar panels has become a necessity for those travelling or planning to live off grid. For charging 12-volt batteries, enthusiasts now use one of many portable solar panel available on the market. Most are waterproof, portable and feature either two 50 watt monocrystalline panels, or a single panel. The 100 watt versions complete a better job of charging twelve volt batteries for those living off the grid on a more permanent basis. I own two 100-watt panels and two 40-watt panels I use for different hunting situations each fall.
Solar Panel Controller
With your panels, you will require a Solar Panel Controller, the size depends on your panel magnitude and configuration. A controller is used to keep your battery from overcharging, by regulating voltage coming from the solar panel to the battery. It is programmed at 15-A/200-W unit and uses MPPT (maximum power point tracking) to accelerate solar charging of the battery. Solar panels and a controller are a must for any off-grid situation.
4. Avalanche Beacon
In the 1960’s, Cornell University Aeronautical engineer, Doctor John Lawton, developed the first avalanche transceiver beacon, for mountainous travellers in the west. These early units converted radio frequency which could be heard by the human ear. Modern avalanche beacons are based on the same technology for locating people buried under snow. When a group of hikers or skiers wear avalanche transceivers, the transceiver beacon automatically switches to ‘Search mode’ and will follow the signal towards the buried person. With the advent of avalanche transceivers like the popular Black Diamond Guide, these beacons provide an extra form of safety in mountain travel. Every western traveller in areas with avalanche risk must carry one of these transceivers.
5. Weather Network App
If you do not own a set of two-way radios that include weather channel, the Weather Network App is a must for any wilderness traveller. This app offers long range forecasts, tracks weather patterns in different regions and offers up-to- date weather forecasts at the touch of a button. In a wilderness survival situation, keeping tabs of weather patterns is of great benefit. The Weather Network App is free and available for iPhone and Android devices.
Being fully prepared for an emergency outdoor survival situation can make the difference between flourishing or perishing. I was fortunate to be rescued only a few hours after getting disoriented, but hundreds of other enthusiasts are not so lucky. Electronic technology when used effectively can save your life! Travel safe and enjoy the great outdoors!
Want to learn more about outdoor survival and bushcraft? Read my feature on survival shelter building.