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Backpacker Magazine – August 2012

Survival Lab: Vital Signs

When you’re lost or injured, you need a foolproof way to get your rescuers’ attention. Ted’s testing team tried more than 25 devices—here are their ratings of 9 top tools.

by: Ted Alvarez

PAGE 1 2 3 4
Safety Wistle (Courtesy Photo)
Safety Wistle (Courtesy Photo)
Refective Wrapper (Courtest Photo)
Refective Wrapper (Courtest Photo)
Laser Light (Courtesy Photo)
Laser Light (Courtesy Photo)

FLASHIEST Coghlan’s 3-by-2-inch glass mirror ($12; 2.2 oz.; flashed spotters from 2.5 miles away and survivalists say it’s visible from 20 miles in good conditions. The glass is scratch resistant and the sight enables pinpoint aiming. Ounce counters: Try AMK’s Sol Rescue Flash Mirror ($10; .4 oz.;

Survival Stand-in
BUZZ WORTHY Cell phone screens are reflective enough to shine a signal. Large screens work best, but even a broken clamshell alerted spotters from a mile and a half. Aiming is tricky (see below). Unscratched screens bounce light most effectively; use a screen protector, but peel it off when signaling.

LAST-DITCH No mirror? When buffed with a little spit, the shiny inside of a snack wrapper caught enough rays to alert spotters over a mile and a half away. Aiming is hard; pull the wrapper tight and wave it overhead like crazy. Repeat.

PAGE 1 2 3 4

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Oct 06, 2012

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Aug 13, 2012

I use a 50 year old Boy Scout whistle which on real life tests has been heard at 1/2 mile from unsuspecting or expecting subjects.. I found a small ladies "Compact" mirror with hairbrush at Walmart which flashes as far as any other mirror. I also carry another ladies Make mirror on occasion which has two mirrors, one normal and one magnifying.. I carry Aluminum foil, A Petzel Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp with Red lens which has a strobe feature with 150 hours of blink time..and the real life saver..a Spot II unit...Which conincedentally worked in my old stomping grounds in the Laguna Mountains in eastern San Diego County for a SAR situation on the PCT a couple of years ago and the reason why I bought it since Cellphones do not work in that area to well.

Laguna Hiker
Aug 10, 2012

Nothing beats a 406 MHz PLB radio beacon. Direct connection to the SARSAT network; the only piece of dead weight that I would not consider removing from my backpack.

Aug 10, 2012

Don't forget the mirror inside your compass!

AZ Hiker
Aug 09, 2012

Read Felix! the Sugar Glider Be Safe Hike Smart (Amazon) before you hit the trail! Learn what survival items to keep in your vehicle, how to navigate your way with and without a map or compass, and how to get rescued. A fast, easy read that could save your life and will definitely make your adventure more safe and enjoyable!


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