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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)

Cell Phone Smarts
Lost with nothing but your phone? Use it to get rescued.

>> Text your last known location, condition, and SOS to your entire address book.
>> Call 911. Emergency calls will go through if detected by any network.
>> Preserve batteries. Turn your phone on for five minutes a day to seek reception.
>> Flash a signal with the screen. Hold your fingers in a V-shape at arm’s length, pointed at your target. Tilt the phone until the screen reflects light at the V; rotate it so the light alternates between your fingers, flashing your target (see right).
>> Ignite a fire. Learn how to spark a removable three-pin battery (common in flip phones) at

How Far Will It Go?
Know your signal’s best-case distance—and what will reduce it.

Max range: +50 miles
Mirrors Bright, sunny days are best. Cloud cover, rain, fog, and nightfall may cut signal range by 80 percent or more.

Max range: 20 miles
Lasers Night offers the best conditions for an SOS (daylight visibility drops to 3 miles). You must hit your target spot-on to flash it.

Max range: 3/4 mile
Whistles Blowing over water or packed snow amplifies sound; sand, slot canyons, wind, and forests dampen it.

Better Than Screaming No signaling device? Try this: In an open area, lay three large, bright items 50 feet apart in a triangle shape or line.

Plus Sign
HEY! OVER HERE! Click Here To learn how to wolf whistle, aim your signaling device, and survive the backcountry a little longer with Ted’s instructional and gear-test videos.

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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