OK, I am not a good outdoorsman. It’s true, and I admit it. But I am lucky to know a few.
Larry Dablemont comes to mind right away. Then there’s Larry Woodward, the late Denny Dennis, Ralph Duren, Ray Eye, Bob McVey and so many other people I am lucky to know.
While I’ve been blessed to have fished from Canada to Belize, hunted wild turkeys from New Mexico to the Yucatan, and spent many days and nights camping on gravel bars on Ozark rivers, I could never survive in the wild, left to my own devices.
Often I have wondered how I would fare if suddenly stranded in the wilderness.
One time, fishing with a good friend and superb fishing guide, Gene Cailey, the boat’s main motor malfunctioned on a cold and windy Canadian lake.
Had Cailey less skill, we would have blown ashore several miles from our take-out.
He rode the trolling motor like a wrangler on a crazed bronco, and we made it back safely.
While we had a harried bit of time to grab essentials, it was obvious we were not prepared and extremely lucky that day.
Since that event, I often wondered: What would be essential survival gear if stranded?
I posed this question to several of our top editors and writers:
“If you were suddenly and unexpectedly stranded outdoors, what five items would you wish at your side?”
One writer shot back, “Four beautiful women and a bucket of Viagra!”
At his age, I will forgive him for a bit of off-color humor and hope you do, as well.
Bill Cooper, our Gravel Bar Gourmet, longtime friend and outdoors mentor, suggested:
“A knife, rope, fire starter, sheet of plastic for shelter and water gathering, and a good-sized candy bar.”
Billy is one of those who would survive in a bad situation, I truly believe.
How could you disagree with any of his choices? A man who cooks outdoors that much would surely appreciate a large candy bar, too.
Brent Frazee, one of our top freelance columnists, formerly of the Kansas City Star, lists these five items as essential: “A flashlight, waterproof matches, knife, rain gear and either a compass or handheld GPS.”
I am not sure what I would do with a compass, but his selections would be high on most folks’ list.
Our food editor, Claudette Roper had this to say:
“This answer would vary much by location and time of year. Those factors would also influence what I would carry with me when out hiking or hunting.
1. Water/portable filter/iodine tablets – We have to have water – and safe water.
2. A weapon – Something to protect myself and/or provide food.
3. A multi-tool – This would provide a means of gutting and skinning whatever I shoot or catch. It would have multiple additional uses including cutting vegetation/twigs, etc., for firewood and shelter.
4. A 35mm film container (if anyone still knows what that is or has one or something similar) – Filled with wax-dipped matches, fishing line and a hook.
5. Dehydrated meat and vegetables or trail mix – The real stuff, not a bunch of chocolate chips, etc.”
Now that is well thought-out. I like the idea of a firearm for protection and securing food, and the multi-tool might come in pretty handy.
Another of our top writers, Randall Davis, had this to share:
“The question posed was five items you would want available to one’s self.
Offhand, other than a comfortably furnished, climate-controlled geodesic yurt complemented with gourmet chef, full pantry, brimming wine/beer cellar and a stable of supermodels possessing massage therapy licenses, things might get a little rough in the outback.
“So, to be realistic:
1. A tea-billy. You know, one of those one-gallon metal lard cans Canadian guides use to boil up tea (or heaven forbid, coffee). You could also use it to carry water, pick berries, and, with a handful of rocks inside, it’s a fine maraca to scare off bears.
2. A spool of 80-pound braided fishing line with a dozen 3/0 circle hooks. Not only would this be essential in harvesting aquatic meals, it is mighty be handy should the maraca not work and you need to stitch up some wounds from that bear.
3. A harmonica. Not only does it stave off madness from being alone, but it can assist with the bear deterrent. And even if you can’t play, simply throw it into the tea billy. Then you’ll have no excuse about ‘Can’t carry a tune in a bucket.’
4. A quality GoPro. I mean, who’s going to believe all this anyway? Besides, should everything go south, there will be recorded evidence that you were eaten by coyotes instead of bears.
5. And finally, a well varnished cedar canoe with a hand-hewn birch paddle. “That way you can comfortably record a selfie while playing ‘Amazing Grace’ (because after a few days, you’ll think this is appropriate) while sipping Labrador tea and trolling for lake trout, as you paddle back to that magnificent yurt and staff you should have never left in the first place.”
Not to be outdone, outdoor scribe, great friend and mentor Gerald
Scott had this to offer:
“Your being stranded for several days problem is intriguing. Since he/she knows that no help will arrive for several days, and that getting out unaided isn’t possible, I’m going to assume that having a cell phone, a GPS unit or even an old-fashioned compass wouldn’t help the situation.
“Under those parameters, the first item on my list would be some type of water purification device, because you absolutely will need water before several days have passed.
“Number two would be a survival fire starter. I like the magnesium ones, but there are other good choices.
“Number three would be a hatchet. It’s possible to do anything with a hatchet that can be done with a knife, but the reverse is not true.
“Number four would be at least 100 feet of 300-pound-test braided cord – not fishing line. If you weren’t the editor, you could use up all of your assigned column inches describing the ways to use cord in the wilderness.
“Finally, I would want an 8-foot by 10-foot waterproof tarp for obvious reasons.
“If you would let me have a sixth item, it would be a small cooking pot with lid. Please note that all six items would easily fit into the game bag of a turkey vest.
“I sure hope that helps you get out of the woods safely. But if it doesn’t, can I have your stuff?
“By the way, you owe me $50 for the world-class information.”
Happy to pay it, Gerald. Great information.
And finally, words from a good friend and superb Ozarks stream fishing guide, Dennis Whiteside:
“Five good friends: One to pitch the tent, one to build the fire, one to cook and clean, one to tell stories and one to bring me back home.”
I will ponder these choices as I prepare for fall endeavors. I am sure you have your list now, too. Share them with me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll send you Andy’s Seasoning should we publish your thoughts.
Now, where is that damn flashlight?