Waaaay back, in another life, I was on a search and rescue team. I’m pretty sure every rescue we went out on was for hikers who were completely unprepared. They didn’t tell anyone where they were going. They didn’t bring any gear or clothing appropriate to the situation. They didn’t have a map. 98% of the time these folks would have been just fine. But every once in a while, the stars lined up and the gods decided to mix things up. A sprained ankle. Ran out of water. Took the wrong trail. The weather took a nasty turn. Nightfall came faster than expected. Suddenly these hapless hikers would be facing a cold overnight stay and cell phones that were dead or out of range. Being better prepared doesn’t guarantee you’ll stay out of trouble. But when trouble comes knocking, you’ll have a better chance of a good outcome.
As you can imagine, I’d generally go a bit overboard with my survival prep back in those days. It would have been a tad embarrassing for a search and rescue guy to get lost and have to be rescued. The team had plenty of gear standards and constantly did pack inspections to ensure everyone was squared away. As the training officer, I had to lead by example so even a simple hour-long hike somewhere required taking a ridiculous amount of gear.
Now that I’m back in the real world and many years removed from those days, my survival prep is considerably scaled back. My approach is to think about the worst possible scenario and make sure I can survive that. I probably get a bit too casual about it at times, much to Mrs Troutdog’s consternation, but I generally believe I’m a pretty safe outdoorsman. (knock on wood)
Yesterday I pulled my smaller dual-sport motorcycle out of winter hibernation and got ready for its first ride of the season. I had to put the battery back in and decided it would be wise to use the tools I carry on the bike, just to be sure I could do it in the field if I had to. Look at how smart I am!
I pulled the tool roll out, unfolded it and… there was almost nothing in it. The wrenches I had were the wrong size for the bike. No Allen keys. The butt of a screwdriver but no bits. What the hell? I have no idea what happened. I honestly couldn’t remember if I’d had everything in there at one time and then cannibalized it for something else? Maybe I’d started putting a tool kit together and then forgot it wasn’t done? Perhaps the sock stealing gremlin snuck into the garage and stole my tools?
Regardless, I’ve been riding around without the ability to fix anything. Had something happened out on the trail I couldn’t have done anything other than hike out. I couldn’t even have changed a tube if I got a puncture. I got lucky.
So now I’m putting together a proper tool kit for that bike. Seeing that it’s spring, it’s a perfect time to go through all my gear and make sure everything is dialed in. Bikes, motorcycles, hiking gear, trail running, fishing stuff. I should probably also go through my vehicle survival bag and repair kit.
How crazy do you need to go with prepping? I think it depends on your skillset for that activity. But generally, I think the right attitude to adopt is: Assume no one is coming. Expect to self-rescue and prepare accordingly.
We all need a reminder from time to time that mechanical things can and do break down. Shit happens. Fortunately my reminder came while I was still in the garage.
Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip
That started from this tropic port
Aboard this tiny ship.
The mate was a mighty sailing man,
The skipper brave and sure.
Five passengers set sail that day
For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.
The weather started getting rough,
The tiny ship was tossed,
If not for the courage of the fearless crew
The Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost.
The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle
The Skipper too,
The millionaire and his wife,
The movie star
The Professor and Mary Ann,*
Here on Gilligan’s Isle.