What plans do you have for the bad times?

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Feb 1, 2013
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Just to branch off from the discussion on the paddler in Quebec, it might be useful to see what plans people have for when things go terribly wrong.

I have a Sat phone. Although it is not my primary means of risk management, I would use it if a situation became life threatening. Many canoeists who get map info from me tripping in the isolated areas up here carry Sat phones as well. They can be rented for a period of time without incurring huge costs.

I always file a float plan with the appropriate people before I leave, with expected dates of return, and dates when the authorities should be notified. I usually drop an itinerary off at the fire base too, so that if any big fires come up in the area, they will know roughly where I am. The fire people have landed by us before and told us to beat it downriver as a fire was on our heels. I have also called the fire base when i knew a party was in an area that was burning.

I always look over all maps for emergency evac spots. Google earth often shows places that don't exist on maps, although they often need varification from local sources.

Sat phone people need to know that the 1 800 number for the OPP does not work with iridium. Takes you to a corner store in India or somewhere. You need to have the number for the local detachment. Also, I always have the numbers for the local outfitters as well. If I need an evac, it will be on my own dime before I call in the SAR. You will have to get an outfitter to return to pick up your gear anyway.

I carry a pretty good med kit, and keep some strong pain killers in there for emergencies (percocets).

What other ideas are there? What experiences have any of you had? I have organized quite a few evacs to date, and so far only one needed the helicopter.
 
Joined
Aug 22, 2013
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Red Lake, Ontario
I don't carry a PLB, Sat phone, SPOT or EPIRB.

I have been considering a SPOT but want to rely on good sense and knowledge to avoid getting hurt and to use that knowledge to get out of the bush should something happen.

I am in no stretch of the imagination a "Survivalist" but do have interest enough in the subject to read. Reading is not experience though. It is an experience I hope I don't have to endure.

Maybe it is time to rethink my carry list.
 
Joined
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I have a Spot as well, but the last time I used one, in June, it gave inconsistent results. The OK messages that I sent only got through once or twice. I'm not sure, but I think they might use Globalstar for coverage, and Globalstar has a bad rep up here.
 
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Joined
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Colrain MA
+1 on SPOT the primary use is to keep the ones at home informed as to where we are. We hit it at noon and when we camp at night.
 
Joined
Oct 27, 2012
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Ottawa, Canada
When it comes to solo canoeing safety and thinking ahead is foremost in my mind - before and during the trip.
I carry a PLB. I do a self-check before departing and always carry it in my PFD. As my PFD is also my pillow, it's even in my tent at night. I leave a detailed float plan with my wife. I also carry a ditch kit and practice using what's in it.
Ted
 
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Nov 23, 2012
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Western Adirondacks
I have a Spot as well, but the last time I used one, in June, it gave inconsistent results. The OK messages that I sent only got through once or twice. I'm not sure, but I think they might use Globalstar for coverage, and Globalstar has a bad rep up here.
SPOT is required equipment for the Yukon River races. I've used one (actually we had 3 operating in the voyageur canoe we paddled) in two 440 mile YRQ races, and two 1000 mile Y1K races. There were required times when we had to send an "ok" message, and otherwise we were required to have it in continuous track mode, that automatically sends out a location transmission every 10 minutes. Race officials, my pit crew, and folks at home were able to track us in near-real time. All three units showed excellent performance.

As long as the unit is held facing upward with a clear view of the sky (definitely not stuffed into a pocket or backpack), we had very few missed auto-track transmissions. Most missed transmissions occurred when we were paddling east/west with high steep bluff walls immediately to our south.

One very important bit of information you should know about operating the SPOT. If you press the "ok" button, you must wait until that message is transmitted before pressing the button again. It can take up to 20 minutes for that transmission to go out. If you press the button again before the first has gone out, then the 20 minute clock starts again. Keep pressing the button every few minutes, and a message will never go out.
 
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YK, that might have been my problem. In the past, all transmissions were sent within a few minutes. In June, it seemed like they never reached the "sent" stage of blinking. Perhaps i did press the button again. I do know at one particular place, I left the unit on one place, blinking away for over an hour, and it never sent. Do you think it is sensitive to cloud cover?
 
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Do you think it is sensitive to cloud cover?
No, normal cloud cover is not a factor, unless there is heavy precipitation in the clouds - then it could be affected. But it is likely sensitive to heavy tree-leaf canopy cover.

If the unit has not been on for a long time (many days), or if it has traveled a significant distance (hundreds of miles) then it is a good idea to turn it on in an area with as much clear view of the sky as possible near the trailhead. An open parking lot is ideal. It may take many minutes, 15 or more, to get the initial lock on to satellites in that case. After that it will lock on much faster in the same general region, even with degraded signal under moderate tree cover (but no guarantee).
 
Joined
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Red Lake, Ontario
I recall a very good discussion on the use of spots and their "inconsistencies" creating emergency situations out of non-emergency situations. Such as promising to check in daily but device "inconstancies" creates no message sent and panic on the other end.

So other than the "OK" message, what is the benefit of using a SPOT over a PLB? The SOS function would be just like hitting PLB wouldn't it?
 
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Aberdeen, MD
If you mean disaster prep, I live in LA, and it's not hard to keep a generator, gas, lanterns, propane, batteries, and enough food for a couple weeks to get you through.

For trip disasters, I'm largely self-contained. My other 'vice' (or hobby) is bushcraft (www.bushcraftusa.com). I consider myself fairly capable of improvising a decent shelter, foraging for food, improvising cooking vessels, purifying water, and making fire, especially in the areas I canoe in. I practice flint and steel fire starting regularly and have made several bowdrill fires, though the bow drill is the HARDEST way to do it. I also practice making natural shelters and foraging for wild edibles. Cat-tails, birch bark, and water lilies are so common they go un-noticed, but are three of the most important and simple, easily found/worked survival materials in canoe country. From April through October, I have no fear as to my ability to take care of myself.

A ditch kit/survival kit is crucial. Carry a lighter if you carry nothing else. That alone can save you. A knife makes life easy, and an axe makes it luxurious. A small 5x8 sheet of plastic, or a casualty blanket (with the reflective coating on one side, bright orange on the other) will save you hours of work "shingling" boughs for a waterproof roof, and you won't have to replace it every few days. A metal container spares you the work of making vessels and boiling water by adding hot rocks to it... you can cook right over the coals then. A lighter, firesteel, fresnal lens, and matches are important components of said kit. Pre-made tinder (I like cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly in an old prescription bottle) is good to have, but you need to know how to make it too (birch bark, shredded to the consistency of easter basket grass, will easily take a spark). A compass is useful but not critical. Snare wire is useful, but trapping is a numbers game. you need a minimum of 6-8, preferably 10-12, snares, each requiring 18" of wire, properly constructed and anchored, to keep you 'in meat'. That's about 25' of wire, plus another good bit of something like paracord to anchor them. While i'm at it, 50' of paracord is not too much to use in constructing a shelter, repairing shoes, clothing, packs, and other gear. A knife is indispensable, and a hatchet or axe on top of that makes life a LOT easier. Some folks even carry a 2' saw blade and a couple small nails to improvise a bow/buck saw... I have practiced making one using the bare blade to make the frames, and it is NOT easy.

The point of all the above is that I carry a lot in my head, and a few light, simple tools/implements can make my life a lot easier.

My first aid kit is basically a few OTC meds (Tylenol, Pepto, and some Neosporin), bandaids, a pair of good tweezers, and a dental repair kit. Everything else I can improvise.... bad bleeder gets Neosporin and a pressure dressing made of socks and a bandana. sprains and breaks get splints/wraps (bandana, belt, branches). Burns get Neosporin and a bandana. Beyond that, I can't treat it. hence, no inflatable splint, Israeli battle dressing, kwik klot, or ace bandages in my kit.

As mentioned, my wife always gets a detailed itinerary (often a photocopy of my map), to include the exact GPS coordinates of all my expected campsites and their admin numbers if the area is so designated, the local ranger's number, local law enforcement if not a 'ranger' area, and my rough daily plan for exploring the area. even on my deer lease, when I go out for a day's hunt, we have a sign-in/out sheet for info on which area you'll be in, and my wife knows the phone number of a friend of mine who can quickly go out there and find me based on that info.
 
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The spot had worked flawlessly for me on two previous multi-day trips. The beauty of the Spot was that I never had to take the Sat phone out once. When travelling with the school kids, it was customary to phone in every second day to update them on our schedule, etc. With the spot, I would send an OK message when we got into camp each night, and it was linked to the email accounts of whomever wanted to follow our progress. The email would be an automatic link to a map which would show our exact location daily. Parents, school administrators, wives, etc all commented on how much they enjoyed the process of following our trip, and knowing that we were on schedule and where we were each day. I usually borrow one from our local Search and Rescue outfit, as they pay the yearly subscription for three of them. I definately want to continue using the spot for that type of application, I was just set off a little due to its inconsistencies on the last trip.

I've never used the SOS function, when the poop hits the fan, I go to the Sat phone.
 
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Illinois
Sat phone with local numbers and a GPS so I can give an exact location is my extraction plan. I need my gear taken out anyway so if conditions allow I will get it all done in one trip. My tarp is always always bright and multi-colored to help anyone spot me quickly. The fanny pack (ditch kit) is always worn when away from camp.
 
Joined
Sep 8, 2012
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Toronto
Switched to yellow tarp (thanks Harlan!)
Always wear ditch kit (sol bivy bag, tinder, lighter, power bars in smallest OPsak, 300 lumen flashlight,knife)
Added Quikclot to my first aid kit. Planning to upgrade first aid knowledge this winter.
Itinerary, detailed map, phone numbers of park, etc left with family.

will probably rent or buy Spot or satphone next trip. Up to now I've pretty much stuck to popular routes in major parks like Algonquin, Killarney, etc... so didn't feel need for spot or phone,but I'm planning to go to Wabakimi and WCPP eventually, so that might change. but it's now possible to BUY a satphone for $500, which was pretty unheard of a few years ago...thinking...if everybody in my family chipped in...hmmm...
 
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Raymond, ME
I recall a very good discussion on the use of spots and their "inconsistencies" creating emergency situations out of non-emergency situations. Such as promising to check in daily but device "inconstancies" creates no message sent and panic on the other end.

So other than the "OK" message, what is the benefit of using a SPOT over a PLB? The SOS function would be just like hitting PLB wouldn't it?

I carry both. There are circumstances I can envision when I do NOT want SAR activated but might need a ride out.. Such as a busted boat. I planned the message for HELP (NOT 911) on my SPOT to reflect that the local outfitter should be called. Ahead of time I have left a paper float plan with OPP contacts and directions when to call . Such as not receiving a SPOT message within seven days. SPOT works on batteries and I carry spares. So far I have not had a failure other than noted above..my messages did not go out unless I waited a full cycle. So now I set off an OK and start dinner. When I am done eating, I turn off SPOT.

So much of technology today depends on humans still. Operator error is still too common.

As far as confidence in the backcountry, I know I can do it. I know also, having too much time on big water, that I am not the master of my universe. You all will realize that when you get older. Bad stuff can happen at anytime and especially solo, I owe my family the best chance I can give to my survival.
 
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I carry both. There are circumstances I can envision when I do NOT want SAR activated but might need a ride out.. Such as a busted boat. I planned the message for HELP (NOT 911) on my SPOT to reflect that the local outfitter should be called.
During the Yukon races our preplanned understanding with officials and pit crew was that if we pressed the HELP button, we were ok, but would not be able to continue racing. We will limp along, please meet us at the next available take-out (which could be more than 200 miles downstream). The Help button message does not go beyond recipients that we pre-designate. If we needed immediate emergency assistance, of course we would press the SOS button to activate SAR.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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PLB.

Not only on all canoe trips, but now also in my car and when I hike.

After years of being opposed to electronics on canoe trips, I softened up as I experienced how valuable a mapping GPS can be. And as I got even older. Bad things can happen in a snicker-snack moment in the wets and woods, especially to an older loner.
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2013
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Waterloo, ON
I have been carrying a PLB for the past few years. I don't want to "check in" with folks back home - I just want an emergency button if I'm in a really dire situation. I do a fair bit of solo tripping, and $300 or so for a PLB is good insurance. Also, according to some of the anecdotes I've heard lately, a PLB seems more reliable than a SPOT in a 'life & death' situation.
 
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Mar 3, 2014
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Vermont
While I am conflicted about this issue I now carry a PLB and a Sat phone. Also a GPS. I'm 62. My paddling partners in the the same age range. We all have health issues popping up now and again. Our spouses feel better that we have the gizmos. One thing I have resisted is giving my family an expectation that I will contact them in any way during the trip. This is tempting but the problem is that the technology is not foolproof and there is a significant chance that the promised messages would not get through in which event my wife would freak out. So we leave it that she has the security to know that I have two ways to get help if needed.

Last trip I got sick. I had a fever and I wasn't able to control urination very well. My digestive tract was a mess. It rained heavy pretty much every day all day. We gradually go wetter and wetter. It was cold. The river we were traveling was nearly in flood by the last day and we had a mile long solid class three to navigate. It was the worst experience I have ever had on a trip. I came very close to activating the PLB but miserable as I was I knew that I was not dying, just suffering something awful. If I had my sat phone I could have called and had someone drive in to take me out. I did not have my sat phone. When I got home I saw a doc and it turned out I had a urinary tract infection. Not fun.
 
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