I have just come off a weekend that was one of those opportunities to put theory to the test and to see what works and what doesn’t. It began even before I pulled the truck out of the driveway on my way to a winter survival camp inspired by Marty and Aggie Simon of the Wilderness Learning Center. The night before I left, I read several case studies of lost hunters who had survived their ordeal. All were harrowing and none resembled an episode of “Man versus Wild.” This was the real deal and each carried a lesson for those willing to listen. One issue came up time and again. All of the lost were without proper gear. In their haste to follow a blood trail, they left their pack. They felt they were close enough to the truck to leave the kit behind. They underestimated the weather. The list goes on. All found the cold to be their greatest enemy. Mindful of this, I packed up the next morning and headed up to Hawk Mountain along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. The weatherman called for temperatures in the low teens and I was anxious to test my gear and technique in these conditions.
My gear is a reflection of my being both a traditionalist and a slow man with a buck. Well-worn wool and canvas work clothes, a hand-me-down sleeping bag and vintage wool blankets protect me from the elements. My one luxury is, typically, a knife that costs more than all my other gear combined. All this feels very right to me as I pack up in the shelter of my garage. Let’s see how well it all performs in the field.