April 2015 | Volume 8 | Issue 2

April 2015 | Volume 8 | Issue 2 (18)

Hiking survival

Visibility dropped to less than 50 yards. Fog moved in making it impossible to see his way out. He had grown up in these mountains, no way he could be lost. The truck had to be just across the creek. Wondering why there wasn’t any water in the creek, he surmised it must have dried up. Then he wondered why his truck wasn’t where he parked it. He resisted the confession. He had no idea where he was. He panicked. He ran. His pack grew heavy and for a moment he thought about dropping it so he could move faster to the security of his rig. He ran downhill into an open meadow that he was sure led back to the road, only to trip over continuous waves of waist-high deadfall. He had no idea where he was now. The cold sank in along with the realization this was going to be a long night. The fog turned to a light drizzle and then small ice pellets. His clothes were soaked, his morale diminished. He was alone. 

Survival situations don’t “just happen”. There is usually a path that the accident victim has taken to get to where they are in time and space. An unexpected phone call that interrupts a hikers packing routine can mean not having a rain jacket when the weather changes. Then the same hiker stays too long sun bathing at a lunch stop, notices storm clouds moving in and gets lost as she hastily makes her way back to her truck.  It gets dark faster than she expected and she loses her way back to her rig. Accidents are a combination of events that impact other events. People who love the outdoors die every year following their passion because they are ill prepared. Lets talk about the gear you can take in a small daypack.

Cutting Tool

Of all the survival tools, a knife is the most difficult to replace or replicate. The ability to cut cordage, split wood, carve objects, etc. depends on a good blade. 

In Your Pack: A non-folding knife is the first preference for survival. You want a knife that can cut, slice, hack, baton, chopnd take abuse. A carbon steel, full tanged blade with a 90 degree spine is preferred. A folding knife is a nice second or back-up knife. Better to have two and lose one, if you lose one you have none. Also, don’t discount a small folding saw in your bag as well. When it comes to chopping versus sawing, chopping burns up to the calories you need to preserve.


Over 700 people in the U.S. die of hypothermia every year. At this point it’s up to you and Mother Nature to come to terms in getting flame. Fire is one of the most critical skills you can learn and be prepared to create when faced with adversity. Fire is warmth, a psychological lift, an ability to 

purify water, a signal device, and if needed, a means to cook food.  Practice skills such as the split-wood, twig, and wet wood fire techniques often so fire making becomes second nature. 

In Your Bag: Nothing beats the portability of a ferro rod (such as a Light My Fire) used to create a spark and ignite tinder into a flame. Sure lighters and matches are convenient, but a ferro rod does not take on moisture like matches (even water-proof) and is not mechanical like a lighter. You will need something to catch the spark and turn it into a flame. For tinder, carry cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly in a small metal tin or tin foil and zipper sandwich bag. Throw in a pencil sharpener to quickly create dry tinder for igniting. Add a windproof lighter, birthday gag candles that don’t blow out, and a small tin of wood shavings in your daypack.


The water you are looking at may look clean and puret most likely isn’t. When you start opening your survival kit, things have already gone south. Don’t make them worse by ingesting protozoans, bacteria, and other things that cruise in the streams, lakes, and rivers.

In Your Pack: First, go prepared. A hydration bladder-based pack is your best option. It holds up to 100 ounces of water and there is a convenient tube to remind you to stay hydrated. Second, when you run out of life-liquid, fill it up using a water filtering system. A ceramic or paper-based water filter is the way to go for ensuring water is free from Giardia, rotozoa, and bacteria found in water. Giardia is a microscopic parasite that causes diarrhea, something to avoid when already faced in a dire situation. Filters are lightweight and easy to pack. Word of caution, you don’t have to drink the water to get Giardia, simply getting it in your ears, eyes, nose, or inside the mouth can cause illness.


It can only take three hours of exposure to extreme elements for you to give up the ghost. Whether its heat, rain, snow, wind, or temperature, you have to get out of the elements. A proper shelter also alerts rescuers as to your location when they start looking for you.

In Your Pack: A heavy duty Mylar space-blanket is worth its weight in gold. It can be used in the winter to retain up to 75% of your body heat by wrapping it around you. It can double as a tarp to sleep under in hot or cold conditions, and can be used to catch rain water for drinking. Carry one that is either red or orange for ease of spotting. Add black gorilla tape to your kit and when in trouble, mark it with three “Xs”. You not advertising any kind of backwoods entertainment, you are signaling rescuers. Don’t forget to throw in 50 of 550/para-cord to tie up your tarp.


OK Daniel Boone, here’s hoping you were ready for adversity and had some pre-packed calories in your bag when you took off. If not you’re either going to go hungry or resort to a few field expedient methods to fill your pie hole.

Your Pack: Keep backpacking meals, jerky, granola bars, GORP, or hard candy in your pack. Don’t overlook the need to take game. People have survived on small game and fish when food ran out. A small “survival-sized” fishing kit, slingshot, and snares can get you game, but master each one of these. Go out and fish with the kit you put in your pack, most likely you will then modify it. Snares are easy to make, but in reality it’s a game of chance and you need 10-15 snares to increase your odds. A slingshot is the most practical game taker. Easy to use and if you run out of ammunition, there is plenty on the ground in most environments. Last, learn how to clean and cook game.


Most victims fail to call for help when they actually need it. Don’t be shy about calling for rescue and don’t wait until the last minute, by then its too late. Working on  teams I always preferred to rescue a haphazard mountain biker than do a body recovery.

In Your Pack: Signal mirror, emergency whistle, and pen flares should be a part of your signal kit. Learn the right methods for using a center-style mirror and stay away from any whistles that have a ball or pea in them, your breath will freeze it and make it useless in the winter. Some day packs now come with a whistle embedded in the buckles and a few companies that make sparking devices to create fire have also integrated emergency whistles into the handle. Don’t forget to throw in an orange bandana or fleece hat to aid in rescuers seeing you. A SPOTsatellite is well worth the cost of the device and subscription service.

First Aid

In Your Pack: Out exploring trails or tracking down game your injury changes and you could find yourself alone. Cuts, abrasions, stings or sprains are common injuries. A solid backpacking first aid kit should do the trick. Here we are talking cuts, scrapes, blisters, and stings. Something to treat minor wounds and not bear attacks is what you need here.

In surviving a catastrophe there are really three groups the 10-80-10 rule. The first 10percent of people simply don’t survive an accident. The last 10percent seem to just make it through no matter what. The middle 80percent are  become a detriment to others. Go and explore the world, but be prepared  wind up in a real world experience. Train now, pick your gear, learn how to use it. Keep simple rules in mind like letting others know where you are going and when you will be back.

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    Sardine Taco Tlacoula, Baja California

    The early morning chill turned to a dry heat as the sun rose lazily above the distant bluffs. We passed agave fields at high speeds while simultaneously dodging boney highway dogs. My surroundings reminded me of past years spent in the desert, but unfazed by the arid landscape, I was distracted by the days plans. The town of Tlacoula appeared on the horizon. We skipped breakfast because we knew what lay ahead. My backpack was empty, anxious to be filled, similar to the situation with my stomach. We came here the previous week not knowing what to expect, but this time around, we arrived prepared. After several months of living out of the Tacoma (the Taco), experiencing Mexico in its raw form, I am reminded that experiences like the market in Tlacoula, makes this lifestyle all the more rewarding.   


    Summer Road Trips

    With warm weather just around the corner, it’s time to start planning summer road trips. And when it comes satisfying your thirst for adventure, national parks are among the best road trip destinations in North America. Getting to some of our nation’s best known parks is half the fun, and once you’re there, many offer plenty of road to travel and explore. 

    5th Gen 4Runner

    I never wanted to put a snorkel on my 2013 4Runner, simply because I wasn’t planning to go anywhere requiring one. After a year of off-roading, I found myself searching for a snorkel compatible with the 5th gen 4Runner. I found the FTS product imported and sold by Pathfinder Outdoors. For installation guidance, I referenced two install discussions on T4R.org, plus I recruited an industrious 4Runner buddy to assist.


    Quickie tie-down ratchet

    Auto part and giant retail stores offer tie-down ratchet straps at varying lengths and colors. While these certainly work, there are some constraints and issues. Try to shorten the strap by winding it too tight, and you’ll quickly discover the frustration of trying to unwind the jammed strap. The range in length is limited, so you need to own multiple sizes. The mechanism to loosen the ratchet feels like a guillotine against your fingers. 

    2015 CrewMax Tundra

    It’s been a long road, to say the least…our journey from buying a silver FJ Cruiser in 2007 (used with about 10,000 miles) to signing the papers on a brand new 2015 Tundra Crew Max in gorgeous radiant red. This is our journey:

    Toyota FJ Cruiser

    Olivia and her FJ Cruiser met in the summer of 2007 while she was attending Ohio State. The FJ served mainly as a means to get to and from class, and the ice rink where she played Division I. During the summer months, her hockey commitment was at a minimum and Olivia enjoyed trips camping and fishing near the Columbus area. After graduating, Olivia and her boyfriend, Ben, packed the FJ and headed west to Colorado, to satisfy their love for the Rocky Mountains and the FJ's true potential. So thoughtful!

    Lone Star Land Cruiser Roundup


    Deep in the Texas hills where rural communities flaunt rustic décor and pickup trucks are the primary means of transportation, the 12th annual Lone Star Land Cruiser Round Up entertained 163 people during four days of sunny spring weather. A jaunt around the campground reveals a truck variety spanning crawlers, expedition rigs, and low-tech Land Cruisers. Despite taking place at an off-road park, some attendees choose the path of Land Cruiser preservation over a dirt path. As an open event, other Toyota 4WD trucks are in the mix, but Land Cruisers account for the majority.

    ARB drawer system

    From day one, safety was a primary factor in the build of our 100 series. Having been indirectly involved in several roll-overs or flops, I’m all too familiar with the effects of a small object becoming a projectile. From tools to recovery gear to phones and tablets, all of these can become dangerous to vehicle occupants. With long distance travel a primary application, I knew that I would be traveling with a lot of gear. My search for a more useful replacement to the cramped third row had begun. Initially, I looked at simple, removable storage solutions such as action packers, aluminum boxes and the always handy, milk crates. While these options provide a fair amount of utility, they are often hard to secure. In one rear end collision, the driver doing the rear ending experienced an impact hard enough to move a “well secured” spare tire into the middle row of seats hard enough to break the mounting brackets and bend the seats forward. Had a passenger been in the middle row, this impact could have injured an occupant.

    The search for a more permanent, secure, and useful alternative was on. The first consideration was material. Wood, offers some warmth, often lower cost, ease of repair and the potential to self-build. Unfortunately, every wooden drawer system I had experienced to date had fitment issues due to swelling and shrinking and were very heavy. Not being a woodworker meant that building my own system, even a simple one, was out. Polycarbonate systems were not available in my application, so this option was dismissed. Poly is also known to suffer from strength to weight issues making systems very heavy.

    I had heard rumblings in 2010 that ARB would be bringing the Outback Solutions line of drawers to the US market along with several vehicle specific fit kits. Having used ARB products in the past, I knew that this wasn’t something that they would skimp on. I immediately gave them a call to discuss options. Wanting a level platform in the back, I purchased two medium depth (RD1045US) drawers along with the 100 series fit kit (100AIRFKUS). I found out that I had ordered one of the first sets of drawers to be imported and no one had any experience with the install. Installation was initially accomplished by Safari-Ltd in Grand Junction and was fairly straight forward. Instructions included several photos but at times some guessing had to be done. I’d estimate it took the guys two hours to do the install.

    The construction of the drawers is top notch. Made of galvanized steel with integrated slide rails, the drawers are rated to hold a hefty 220lbs each!  The frames are also steel and feature integrated rollers that slide smoothly. The drawers feature the best handles in the industry. They are large, easy to operate and can be operated with the heaviest of gloves or mittens. The ability to lock them also adds some peace of mind. The fit kit is one of my favorite features. With dozens of vehicles to choose from, a clean, professional and custom solution can be implemented. The fit kit features removable storage panels and handy locations to mount accessories. I’ve mounted a BlueSea battery disconnect, USB and 12V power outlets, fuse block and inverter.

    The drawers aren’t without a couple of negatives. First, the drawers only extend approximately 80% when open. This hasn’t been a major concern but could make larger objects a little harder to install. Second, and the biggest frustration I have had with the system are the locks that hold the drawer open. While convenient, they are designed with a miniscule plastic tab to hold things open. This part (RDSTP) has failed four times in four years. Removal of a drawer to replace is acquired and time consuming. Thankfully, ARB has provided these replacements at no cost but a better solution needs to be implemented.

    My initial configuration was two like sized drawers and the fit kit. For my refrigerator, I’ve been struggling with a love hate relationship with the Tembo Tusk drop slide. If you have seen this device, you will understand. On a personal level, I love the drop slide. The engineering, the build quality and the customer support of Tembo Tusk are exceptional. In practice, the slide is imperfect. When the fridge is filled to the perfect level, the slide can operate with one hand. When full, it’s tough for me, impossible for my wife. Therein lies the problem, and my wife is buff so it’s not a brute strength issue. To counteract this, I decided to change things up a bit. I ditched the Drop Slide and purchased the short roller drawer (affectionately called the map drawer) with the roller top (RF1045). The roller top is stable, will easily facilitate an 80lb, fully loaded fridge (if fact, it’s rated to hold 165lbs!), and is only moderately annoying in that I now have to reach an extra 4-6” for a beverage. Overall, it’s been a great change with more storage space and more convenience. I will note that the top drawer now touches the middle row seat. Over time this could potentially wear through the leather, so use this configuration at your own risk. The safety, reliability and utility of a drawer system has made it one of, if not my favorite upgrades to the 100 series.

    Outback Solutions Drawer Systems (Prices Vary)


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    April 2015 issue:

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    Cotrolling dust

    We struggled, for years, with dust entering into the 4Runner through the rear vent. We would vacuum out the rear of the truck after each trip to the desert. Finally I had enough and decided tear into the truck to diagnose the problem.

    I removed the driver-side portion of the rear bumper and was amazed to find the vent flap assembly, which allows the air pressure to equalize between the vehicle interior and the exterior, was missing. With this gone, there was a straight shot for dust to enter into the vehicle.

    I ran down to our local home improvement store and purchased two types of filter media to make my own two-stage filter assembly. I used the finer mesh register filters to create the inner portion of the filter and placed it against the interior body panel. I then used the coarser mesh furnace filter to completely fill the void between the inner and outer panels.

    After installing the filter material, I reattached the driver-side portion of the rear bumper and took the truck for a test run. Thanks to our two-stage filter, we no longer have dust billowing into the back of our 4Runner! The mod took less than 30 min from start to finish and only cost us around $10. I really wish I had taken the time to determine the source of dust earlier.

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    April 2015 issue:

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