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The Troubleshooter’s Handbook

Murphy’s Law, meet your match. Our experts offer trip-saving fixes for 44 mishaps, from bug bites to bad partners to broken bones.

SEVERE – Act Fast: These accidents could turn ugly.

Lost in the Woods by Yourself
Signal the troops, get your bearings, and stay calm while you rest up

STEP 1: Try to make contact
>> Use a whistle. Blasting it can alert folks more than half a mile away. Signal SOS every few minutes with three short, three long, and
three short blows.
>> Flash ’em. Reflect light toward help using a mirror, your iPhone’s screen,or a foil food packet. Intermittent flares are best
for attracting attention.
>> Phone a friend. Ask them to relay details and info to your hiking partners, rangers, or police. Try calling both landlines and
cell phones. Texting is also good; it requires less battery and signal strength. Note: You can’t text 911.
>> Light a fire. If wildfires aren’t a risk, ignite a small pyre to create a smoke signal. Burn damp leaves for the biggest plumes.

STEP 2: Find familiar territory
>> Backtrack to your last known point. Remember a trail sign, junction, stream crossing, or a tree that resembled your second grade teacher?
Go back to it.
>> Identify cardinal directions. Moss grows wherever it damn well pleases. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
Remember that instead.
>> Don’t bushwhack. You’re more likely to encounter people on a well-trod path. Stay put if you find a trail but it’s unmarked or
the end point is unclear.

STEP 3: Bivy overnight
>> Stay where you are. Don’t travel after dark; that’s when cougars hunt. It’s also when you’re more prone to overlook trails and
trip over things.
>> Stay warm. Bundle up in all your clothes and gear (use leaves or pine boughs if you’re desperate), snack often, and do light
exercises.
>> Stay calm. Most lost hikers are found within 24 hours.


Bear Paw IconNose to Nose with a Bruin
An item on your life list, or scary as hell? It all depends how you handle an unexpected encounter.

Annoying: A black bear wanders into camp
Back away—give it at least 100 yards, and don’t come back until the bear’s hightailed it. Rethink your food-storage technique and string up
oft-forgotten items like lotion and lip balm.

Alarming: Close-up grizzly sighting
Shout in a booming voice (think Barry White) and clap your hands so the bear knows you’re there. Don’t turn your back, but slowly put distance b
etween you. Try to get out of sight.

Dangerous: Charged!
No matter what, do not run. Your bear spray is handy, right? If the bruin is within 50 feet or moving toward you, spray a half-second blast at the
ground 30 feet in front of you. Repeat.

Deadly: Attacked
There’s no sugarcoating it; this will suck. Cover your head, lay face and belly down, and play dead. If it doesn’t give up on you within a
minute, fight back with everything you have.


Scavengers Invading Camp
>> Make noise. Unnatural sounds are most effective. Bang out a drum solo on your pots, or clap and shout in a loud, low voice.
>> Light ’em up. Flash your headlamp like a strobe. Play disco beats as needed.

Skewered by a Porcupine
Grab the quill close to the base with multitool pliers or your fingers. Pull it straight out without twisting. Try not to break the barbed tip;
yank it in one quick move.

Losing Traction on a Slabby Scramble
Stand up straight. Leaning into the rock makes you more likely to slide and fall.

Fishhook
Embedded Fishhook
In the eye? Get to the ER. In your skin? Clip the barb, sterilize with an alcohol wipe, and slide out. Bonus: Remove without wincing,
douse with Dos Equis, and add a “Stay thirsty, my friends” on your next cast.


Collapsed Tent
Storm knocked it down? Rig shelter from the wreckage.

1: Reinforce your tent
>> Weight it. Shift your heaviest gear to the windward side.
>> Prop it up. Use extended trekking poles; place the handle side up and the sharp end in a boot.
>> Tie it down. Secure the buffeting rainfly with guylines or weights to prevent rips and further damage.

2: Improvise a tarp
>> Set up. Stake the long edge of your tent’s fly to the ground with the waterproof exterior facing down.
Position the edge perpendicular to the wind.
>> Get inside. Throw your essentials onto the fly, sit in the center, and fold it over your head like a burrito.
>> Seal it up. Pull the rainfly’s top edge over you and stake it into the ground, creating a cocoon with you inside.


Ripped Pack Strap
Sew it back on (use dental floss as thread). If that doesn’t work, redistribute your gear and go packless. Cheer on your Sherpas.

Forgot Coffee
Go home. Kidding! But you can ease the withdrawal headaches. Brew a few dandelion leaves or pineapple-weed buds in a cup of hot water.
The steamy drinks will soothe your nerves until you can get back to the welcoming arms of your barista.

Forgot Scotch
Go home. Not kidding! It’s the icing on summits, sunsets, and cigars.

Blowout Brawl with a Hiking Bro
He misread the map—or worse, forgot the Glenfiddich? Take a five-minute breather, then calmly ask for an explanation.
Find agreement on simple issues, then work up to thornier matters.


Stranded Alone with a Busted Knee
Fallen and you can’t get up? Regroup and save yourself.

1. Evaluate
>> Check the skin. Bruising and swelling will be more severe with a fracture than a sprain. If bone is poking through, stop the bleeding.
>> Move it. No sign of major trauma? Bend the knee through its complete range of motion and push on it gently from both sides. Splint it
if there’s any resistance, excruciating pain, or a loose feeling.

2. Make a splint
>> Pad the leg on the sides and behind the joint. Aim for 10 degrees of flex.
>> Add support. Fold a sleeping pad and slide it underneath and around the leg, or improvise with a pack framesheet, sticks, or a camp chair.
>> Secure snugly. Tie straps, bandannas, or shoelaces around the splint (rig the knots to face the outside). Check that the foot of the
immobilized leg is pink (blood’s still circulating) See a Demo.

3. Self-evacuate
>> Find support. Use a trekking pole or stick as a cane, or improvise a crutch.
>> Follow the easiest route, not the most direct. Seek help from passersby.
>> Prevent falls. Butt-slide down steeps, support your weight with your hands when you can, take breaks, and liberate your
pack of nonessentials.


Killer Diarrhea
>> Replace fluids. Drink roughly as much liquid as you’re losing. Every two hours replenish electrolytes with a salt-replacing sports
drink or soup.
>> Hang tight. Choose a campsite close to a source of drinking water—go at least 200 feet away from it to do your business—and rest.
>> Take Imodium. If your runs are severe for longer than 24 hours and symptoms don’t include cramping, high fever, vomiting, or bloody
stool, Imodium will help. Evacuate to the nearest hospital if your bowels are still exploding after 24 to 72 hours on meds.
>> Eat complex carbs. Rice, bread, cereal, and bananas absorb and slow water through your guts. Stay away from coffee, sugary snacks,
and tea (except peppermint and chamomile, which may help).

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