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Welcome to The Pulse. For those of you – like me – who are new to this site, let me introduce myself, and give some clues as to what I’ll be writing about in the coming dispatches.
My name is Steve Howe. I’m 53 years old. (Which is what happens when you keep surviving your weekends). I’m Backpacker’s Rocky Mountain Editor, and have been a field editor for 14 years. For six years before that I edited a regional magazine called Sports Guide, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Prior to that I worked 13 years in outdoor retail, doing everything from ski and bike mechanic work to becoming an assistant manager and equipment buyer. Which is another way of saying I was a ski/climbing/kayak bum. Some people went to college, but after two years of that, I went to Aspen. When working in outdoor stores, I spent most of my time guiding, teaching avalanche classes, and adventuring. For a brief time in the mid 1980’s I had my 5 minutes of fame doing cutting-edge telemark ski descents of high Peruvian peaks. I’ve done 60-day solo trips in arctic Alaska, and numerous two-week off-trail bashes through Canada, Alaska, the Sierra, Wind Rivers and….well I usually feel more comfortable and at home in the woods than I do in civilization.
I’ve been a photographer since age 18, and backpacker and wilderness junkie since age 12, which is about the time my twin brother Mike and I began taking backpack trips on our own into the Elk Range of Western Colorado. My major qualification for writing about outdoor survival, preparedness and logistics is that I’ve already made most of the mistakes one human possibly could, and somehow come through relatively unscathed except for a few broken bones, and about 100 stitches. I’ve been an EMT, but the rating lapsed long ago. I haven’t been the subject of a search and rescue yet, but I’m not smug about it. The odds could catch up any time. Accidents do not only happen to the inexperienced or naïve. Sooner or later we all run into that one slick step, loose handhold, or swift river crossing that has our name on it.
Despite The Pulse being described as a survival blog, we’ll range wider than that. My own personal opinion is that backpacking and wilderness adventure isn’t rocket science, it’s just common sense. After all, Neanderthals did this stuff for eons with way worse gear than we have, and they pulled it off just fine. (Apologies to any Neanderthal-Americans who may be offended by this patronizing characterization). I think the key to survival isn’t in knowing how to throw an atlatl or build a solar still from moss, it’s about carrying a few critical items – and recognizing survival situations as they develop, not once they’ve gone off. In backpacking, or most any wilderness adventure, ‘sudden’ accidents don’t happen suddenly. And as most Search & Rescue (SAR) authorities will happily tell you, accidents are just ‘new people making the same old half-dozen mistakes.’ Avoidance is the first line of defense.
So, we’ll be covering survival incidents and analysis, but we’ll also highlight related subjects like outdoor preparedness and logistics, navigation and routefinding, differing strategies for varied environments, along with camping, photography, and comfort tips. And just to keep things lively, we’ll also report on behind the scenes vignettes from story assignments and trip scouts, and some of the more interesting tales from my 40 years of wilderness misadventure. I’ll try to keep it all fun, informative, light-hearted, and brief. Occasionally I may inject some serious attitude and snark, but only when I’m off my lithium.
Expect at least two posts a week, unless I’m on remote backcountry assignment where wireless services are out of the question. Hopefully during those periods, I can submit satellite phone dispatches. Stay tuned. You’ll know more once we know more.
So again, welcome readers.
Now lace ‘em up and let’s get moving.
And remember: Friends don’t let friends sleep indoors.