Wilderness vs Standard First Aid Courses

Standard first-aid courses are great for the kinds of situations that they are designed for. Most standard first-aid courses are taught with the assumption that rapid professional medical response is an option. The training is focused on recognizing common life-threatening emergencies and managing them until emergency services arrives quickly. This is a good thing and, without a doubt, saves lives. But what do you do if help does not show up in 10 minutes? What if the emergency does not follow steps 1-2-3 that you learned? What if something happens that is not covered in a standard first-aid course? And what if, god forbid, help is not coming, and you need to handle it all on your own? This is where a Wilderness First Aid course differs and may be more appropriate for folks who are fishing in places where 911 is not an option.
For many anglers, much of their time on the water is spent semi off the grid. That is one of reasons we play this game. Cell phone service may be limited, and even if you do have a few bars, unless you are fishing in downtown Denver, emergency services are going to be delayed because of your location.

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The Best Boating Locations on the Great Lakes

You’ve pulled your boat out of storage, taken it in for its annual tune-up, made sure all of the safety gear is on board and took care of all the paperwork. Now it’s finally time to have some real fun.

The Great Lakes region has some of the best boating locations in the United States. If you plan on visiting the Great Lakes this summer, check out this roundup of the top boating locations according to the experts at Great Lakes Boating magazine.

Saugatuck, Michigan: Saugatuck, known as The Art Coast of Michigan, is nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan. The area includes many attractions that will make your boating adventure exciting long after you disembark. Try touring the Fenn Valley Vineyards and Winery or the Historic Felt Mansion. The Express Yourself Art Barn and the Crane Orchards are popular stops, and foodies will love the fine dining at Distinctive Dining. If you want to lounge by the beach, Oval Beach is the place. Rather partake in something more adventurous? Then check out the dune rides or horseback riding.

Racine, Wisconsin: On the other side of Lake Michigan is Racine, Wisconsin, America’s Kringle Capital. Kringle, for those who’ve never visited Racine, is a delicious oval-shaped Danish pastry. Beyond this sweet treat, Racine is also famous for the 50 beautiful acres of sand along its North Beach. If you want to get away from the lake, the Racine Art Museum and the Racine Zoo are popular attractions.

Door County, Wisconsin: You’ll enjoy Door County, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Midwest. Peninsula Park is the perfect spot for would-be campers and hikers, and the region boasts more than 20 beaches that are all great for swimming and relaxing. There’s also a wide array of options when it comes to shopping and a historic lighthouse.

Port Clinton, Ohio: Located on Lake Erie, Port Clinton, Ohio, is a popular tourist destination. Adventurous visitors can enjoy the African Safari Wildlife Park. Not your cup of tea? Then consider taking the Marblehead Lighthouse tour or visiting the Port Clinton City Beach, which has grills, restrooms and recreational facilities. There’s also Catawba Island State Park, which has a stone beach, a fishing pier and the perfect setting for a rustic picnic.

The boating season is just getting started. By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll help make one to remember.

Do I Need Hiking Boots?

New hikers often ask me if they need hiking boots. You don’t, in fact, there might be better choices for you. I’ve hiked in boots, hiking shoes, a pair of hiking sandals, and sometimes barefoot. This is what I found out after a journey of a million blisters.

You Don’t Need Hiking Boots, Maybe
People have strong opinions about hiking boots. The common reason why hikers feel that you need them is ankle support. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter much. In fact, I’ve hiked and backpacked barefoot without ever rolling an ankle.

Barefoot hiking was an interesting experiment. But looking at the trail in fear of stepping on a twig or pebble is a drag. The main reason why you need shoes is to protect your feet from rocks and debris on the trail. Hiking footwear should also have good grip, keep your feet dry, and be light enough to move easily. Many Appalachian Trail through-hikers use trail running shoes. So you don’t need hiking boots, maybe.

I Recommend Rugged Trail Running Shoes
This is your best bet for hiking. A good trail running shoe has traction, is waterproof, and are light enough for you to move nimbly on the trail. You can step on debris and it’s not a big deal. Think of them as modern day moccasins. I day hike and backpack with some version of a trail runner and they’re always kind to my feet and get the job done. You can see what I’m wearing now on my gear page.

The La Sportiva Synthesis – a great beefed up trail runner / hiking boot hybrid that I used before it was discontinued. It’s basically a beefed up trail running shoe.
When You Need Hiking Boots
Even though I only use them for certain occasions, I do have a pair of hiking boots. I use them when the trail is wet and muddy, or rocky. In these cases, my shoes generally get caked in mud, my feet get wet, and it’s a pretty miserable experience. But not so with the boots – they protect and keep my feet dry.

Good hiking boots offer a maximum level of protection. You don’t feel much of the trail, but you can plow through it. They are heavier, and you use more energy wearing them. If you’re hiking in extreme conditions, and you just want to be sure that you’re feet are 100% protected, go with hiking boots.

The best hiking boots that I’ve owned – the Asolo Fugitive GTX.
My favorites are the Asolo Fugitive GTX, My last pair lasted for 8 years of hikes in the mountains, deserts, jungles, and cities.

Hiking Sandals
I went through a period where I wore my Chaco hiking sandals all the time. They were comfortable, but had some drawbacks. I loved wearing them on hot days. If I had to ford streams or just wanted to cool my feet off in a lake, these were awesome. But they don’t offer much protection. If you’ll be hiking on trails with little debris in hot climates, hiking sandals are your move. Some people swear by these, so if you’re willing to put up with occasional twig in your foot, give them a try.

Chaco hiking sandals have a loyal following. People love or hate them. And no, that’s not my foot. Photo Jeff Nobles
Vibram Five Fingers
Like Chacos, Vibram Five Fingers have a loyal following. I have a pair of Spyridon shoes that I tried out for a few months. I used them in all conditions, including an off-trail hike on rocky conditions in the Mojave. They offer good protection, and excellent trail feel and agility. But they always left my feet feeling a little sore.

Hiking in Vibram Five Fingers always looks funny.
So Do I Need Hiking Boots?
Unless you live in very wet or harsh conditions, try a good trail running shoe or trail running / hiking hybrid (for women and men).
If you want maximum protection, go ahead and get a good hiking boot (for men and women).
If you live in a hot climate with good trails, try the Chacos on at an REI.
If you’re into minimalist hiking shoes and feel, try the Vibram Five Fingers.

Top 10 Outdoor Survival Tips

You’re in a wilderness situation that’s less than ideal — and you want to get back to safety. Do you have the skills to protect yourself from harm?

Here are the top 10 survival tips every outdoors person should know:

1. Master your attitude

A survival situation is not the time to panic. You are more likely to survive a difficult situation if you focus on maintaining a positive, proactive attitude.

• Develop a plan.
• Inventory the resources you have.
• Identify the critical tasks required for survival (water, shelter, warmth).
• Determination: It’s often grit that separates a survivor from a non-survivor.
• Recognize feelings are not facts. You may feel hopeless, but keep your thoughts focused on the tasks that need to be accomplished.

2. Make an insulated shelter

Building an effective shelter can help protect you from hypothermia — and the elements.

• Think small: Since your body heat will be your primary source of warmth, build a shelter just big enough to accommodate your body when lying down.
• Construct the framework: To make a simple lean-to, use available resources, such as a fallen tree or rest a strong branch securely against a standing tree.
• Add the sides: Stack sticks close together on one side. Use progressively smaller sticks to fill in gaps.
• Add insulation: Cover the sides with bark, leaves, pine needles, moss, etc. — the thicker the material, the more protected you will be. Add similar insulation to the ground, the thicker the better.

3. Make a shade shelter

In some situations, protection from heat will matter most.

• Think cool: Digging just a few inches in the soil can uncover cooler ground.
• Build a lean-to: Use sticks or limbs to make a shelter over the exposed ground.
• Let the air flow: The purpose of this shelter is to create shade. Use available material such as bark, leaves, a poncho, an emergency sleeping bag or blanket or any available fabric to cover one side.
• Remain cool: Lie in the cool soil beneath the shade.

4. Find clean water

Finding clean, uncontaminated water is the holy grail of survival.

• Rain: Collect, store and drink.
• Snow: The energy it requires for your body to absorb the water from snow is high. Instead of eating the snow, melt it first. This can easily be done over a fire or with a camp stove. If those aren’t options, use the sun. Accelerate the process by chopping up ice and hanging it in a water bag in direct sunlight. If there’s no sun, use your body’s heat.

5. Find other water sources

Boiling water for a minute is the best and safest way to kill off any pathogens.

• Digging for water: Certain plants indicate water sources are nearby. Identify plants, such as cattails, cottonwood or willows, and dig a seep hole until you reach moisture. Wait for water to collect in the hole.
• Think topographically: Rock outcropping, or indentations are likely areas for water to accumulate. Remember, water found in puddles or streams should be boiled.

6. Collect water from vegetation

• Dew: Dew collects on plants and grasses. Using a cloth or piece of clothing soak up the dew and then squeeze it into a container. This can be a very effective method of collecting a considerable amount of water.
• Plant Moisture Bag: Just like humans, plants sweat. Tie a plastic bag around a leafy branch of a tree, and over time, water will collect.

7. Light a fire

You’ll want to practice alternative methods of fire starting prior to when they are needed.

• Easy: Use a lighter or waterproof matches. Keep your matches dry in a waterproof container.
• Medium: Use a magnesium fire starter. Shave magnesium filings off the stick, use the back of your knife to create a spark and ignite the filings.
• Advanced: A battery can be used to create a spark to light tinder. Use your vehicle battery (removed from vehicle or boat) by attaching wires or steel wool to connect the positive and negative posts. This will induce a spark or ignite the wool. With smaller batteries, align two batteries together, positive to negative. Use strands of steel wool to connect the posts to create a spark and ignite wool. A 9-volt battery works great.

8. Build a fire

• Create a tinder bundle: Gather pine needles, dry leaves, milkweed or thistle down and dry grass for tinder.
• Start small: Gather small, dry sticks for kindling.
• Go big: Find larger pieces of wood for long-burning fuel.
• Put it together: Using a larger piece of wood as a wind block, create a nest out of the tinder. Create a tipi out of smaller kindling so oxygen can get in. Ignite the tinder and place under the tepee. Use long, steady breaths to spread the flame. As the smaller pieces catch, add progressively larger fuel to the fire.

9. Know these knots

All outdoors people should know a variety of knots. When it comes to survival, make sure you have these two at the ready.

• Bowline: This knot is extremely useful when you need to attach something to a rope via a loop, because the tighter you pull, the tighter the knot gets. After you make a loop, remember this: the rabbit comes out of the hole, in front of the tree, goes behind the tree, and back down its original hole.
• Double half hitch: Used to attach one end of a rope around an object. This is a useful knot for building a shelter. Tie a half hitch around your object, like a tree or pole, and follow it by a second in the same direction to make it a double. Pull tight to make secure.

10. Make a spear

With a simple spear, you can improve your odds of catching a fish or other small game.

• Select a long, straight stick.
• Split the end of the stick to create a fork.
• Separate the fork with a wooden wedge or small stone. Lash it into place.
• Sharpen each fork with a knife or sharp rock.

To make a triple-prong spear, add a smaller stick after placing the wedge, sharpen, and lash it into place.

The Importance of Wearing the Right Clothes Outdoors

If you decide to begin spending more time outdoors, you will quickly realize that if you are not wearing the right clothing, it will affect your comfort and protection outdoors. There are a lot of items on the market to make your outdoor adventuring fun and comfortable, but there are a few key items that I always love to wear when heading out.

The outdoor clothing described below is for semi-cold to warm climates.

Versatile pants/shorts
One of my favorite pair of pants I own for spending time outdoors are my Eddie Bauer Exploration Convertible Pants. These are pants that offer the option to make them shorts while on the go, and there are other brands that offer similar options. With a simple zip, you can quickly have a pair of shorts if you start your day off in pants. They are lightweight and it has a built in belt, which is very convenient and one less thing to pack!

A Lightweight and Versatile Shirt
Similar to the pants, this shirt can give you the option of short sleeve or long sleeve by simply rolling up the sleeves. This is great when the weather may be unpredictable, or bugs could be an issue but you want to pack light. Among other brands, Columbia makes a good shirt and for a reasonable price.

Solid Shoes/Boots
This is an area where you have to try them on to really see if they work for you. Each person prefers a different cut of boot or shoe and depending on your plans, and one may perform better than the other. There are many stores that sell hiking boots or shoes but a great place to start is Backcountry’s purchasing guide.

A Good Pair of Socks
If your feet hurt, your day will come to a quick end. Some may think that a sock is a sock, but that is wrong! One thing I’ve learned that you DO NOT want in a sock is for it to be cotton. Cotton absorbs moisture and takes a long time for it to dry, which can cause blisters on your feet. A great guide to finding the perfect sock can be found at REI.

Other items you will want to consider is a breathable hat, sunglasses, watch and other small items to make your time outdoors more enjoyable. For most people the goal when heading outdoors is to truly enjoy nature, not simply endure it.

Happy adventuring!

16 Awesome Boating Activities

New to boating? Longtime veteran? Doesn’t matter – we’ve got a ton of great ideas for your next boating adventure.

1. Night boating? Bring a star map (or download a star app) to look at the stars. What better view of the night sky are you going to get than from your boat? This one is a no-brainer. Got kids? Make it a game. How many constellations can you find?

2. Go boatgating. From New York to Texas to California, many stadiums have nearby harbors designed to let you enjoy the game experience. Every stadium is different, but we can guarantee you’ll have an experience like no other.

3. Water sports. Not that you needed us to remind you, but between tubing, wakeboarding, and waterskiing, you’ve got something for nearly everyone. Bored with one water sport? It’s not too expensive to try another.

4. Learn how to tie a real knot. Can you tie a Clove Hitch and Bowline like a pro? How’s your Flemish Flake? The water is as good a place to get this down as any.

5. Get pizza delivery. Ok, this one isn’t for everybody, but we’re definitely a little jealous of Virgin Island boaters with access to Pizza Pi, and Long Lake, Michigan boaters who can get pizza delivered by jet ski.

6. Fish. This is the perfect activity when the goal is to relax and get away for a little while. Bonus: bring a small, portable grill and turn your fresh catch into dinner.

7. Snorkeling. This is a great way to not only enjoy the water, but the life that lies within it.

8. Cards. Got a free seat on board? There’s your table for virtually any card game in the bookWater Trampoline

9. Bring a trampoline along. There are a ton of water trampolines on the market of varying sizes. Find one that fits your boat.

10. Have a “pirate day.” Raise a pirate flag, dress up in pirate clothes, speak “pirate-ese” and go on an adventure for buried treasure—ideal for kids, but fun for everyone!

11. Bring your dog along. No reason your dog can’t join you on your next voyage. Bring a floatation-friendly ball, and play fetch right off the side of the boat.

12. Sing karaoke. Small, portable karaoke machines are cheaper than ever these days. Why not pick one up for your next adventure?

13. (Legal) Fireworks. Fireworks laws vary dramatically from state to state – and some are a bad idea from your boat regardless – but that shouldn’t stop you from grabbing some sparklers and lighting them off safely on a warm night.

14. Bring a book/e-reader. That book you’ve been meaning to get around to isn’t going to read itself – now is your chance!

15. Form a flotilla. Got friends on the water? Hitch your boats together for twice the fun.

16. Nothing! That’s right, nothing. Because sometimes, the best memories are made when there’s no agenda at all.