The beauty of the Rocky Mountains is breathtaking. From arid high deserts to majestic rocky peaks, and from fertile, river-irrigated valleys to humid forest canopies, the visitor is treated to picture perfect vistas and memories that last a lifetime. Underneath it all, however, awaits a danger almost hidden by the beauty.
The history of the Rocky Mountains is rife with stories of personal survival against insurmountable odds. The natives depended on wild game throughout the region to live. The meat filled their stomachs, and the hides provided shelter, clothing and trading fodder. The early French trappers – the original Mountain Men – learned from the natives to eke out a living trapping and selling beaver pelts out east. Then came the “49ers”, gold fevered entrepreneurs, the “Oregon Trail” riders and settlers on their way through Colorado and westward all held one thing in common: the eventual necessity to Survive the Rockies.
Despite modern technology, modern society, engineering and architecture, quite a few folks in the 21st century have found themselves faced with that very prospect. Car accidents have sent drivers down remote cliffs, hidden to infrequent passers-by in mountainous areas. Recreational 4 wheelers have found themselves broken down and forced to walk miles in hot, dry desert geography. Hunters get lost in sudden, blinding mountain blizzards. There are many reasons people find themselves faced with Rocky Mountain survival, even in current times.
Rule #1 – Be Prepared
It’s the cardinal rule of the boy scouts, and for good reason. You never know when you might be forced into a survival situation. Why not be prepared when the need arises? Anyone planning on venturing into the Rocky Mountains, whether they are travelling a major Interstate straight through, or getting off the beaten path onto one of the thousands of backcountry trails snaking their way through the mountains, should be prepared with multiple layers of preparation.
Layer One – Every Day Carry (EDC)
Regardless of location or geography, it’s smart for every person to have a compact but complete set of basic essentials a person could expect to need in a survival situation. An “Every Day Carry” kit can be as simple as a small belt worn pouch. An Every Day Carry kit should include basic first aid items (band aids, gauze, small salve/ointment), at least 2 methods of fire starting (waterproof matches, small lighter) and basic fishing items (hook, line, sinkers).
In addition to the EDC, those preparing to venture into the Rockies should consider a paracord bracelet, designed to provide plenty of valuable cordage for many different survival scenarios. Combined with a properly stocked EDC kit, the paracord bracelet becomes a powerful and important survival tool.
The “Get Home” is just that – a bag assembled with the specific purpose of getting you out of a survival situation and back home, where you belong. Like a “Bug Out Bag/BOB”, a “Get Home” bag is designed to provide you with basic items that will support your efforts to get from point A, the survival spot, to point B, home.
An effective “BOB” will also contain the basic items you’ll carry in your EDC – first aid, fire & fishing, but will be larger than the EDC and include larger items – compass, gloves, headlamp/flashlight, fire starting materials, snare making items, etc. – that will make your survival situation slightly more comfortable. These items are packed into a comfortable and durable backpack that can be easily carried should the need to travel on foot arise.
Layer Three – The Vehicle Kit
Regardless of the reason you find yourself in the Rocky Mountains, it is important that you, and your vehicle, are prepared. A vehicle kit should be fairly comprehensive and include items such as a couple gallons of water, a more comprehensive first aid kit, emergency candles, flashlights & batteries, “MRE’s”/freeze dried foods, blankets, OTC medications and other similar items, along with the requisite road safety kit (chains, flares/reflectors, basic tools, etc.). In most cases, a fairly well stocked vehicle kit can be stored in a bigger plastic tote in the vehicle trunk.
While it seems redundant, you never know when you might find yourself using all of your prepared kits together, or the need to set out with personally carried items. Regardless of the situation, you’ll have the confidence needed to face even some of the more difficult survival situation you might encounter in the Rocky Mountains, as long as you are prepared.
Stay tuned for Part II – The Rules of Survival