Map & Compass

A perfect companion for the Suunto MCA compass – The Complete Orienteering Handbook is a comprehensive manual containing pretty much everything you’ll need to establish a solid base of navigational fundamentals.

Not a very exciting read, but your interest in the content will likely come from your passion to learn about using a map and compass – an invaluable survival skill.

Remember – GPS devices can fail due to extreme temperatures and dead batteries. A compass does not rely on a power source and is quite reliable in most environments and climates.  If you rely on a GPS unit as your primary navigational instrument, consider carrying a compass (with a map of the area you are travelling in) as a back up system.

Cost: Around CDN $30

ISBN  0 – 02 – 029265 -1

Swedish FireSteel 2.0

Light My Fire FireSteel 2.0 – Scout Model

The newest FireSteel from LMF is a welcome improvement over the previous model in terms of design. Although I preferred the ability to grasp the old all metal scraper as dictated by my own dexterity, the bulb heads on the new versions are relatively ergonomic. The only other difference is the addition of a built-in whistle on the scraper. Perhaps not a loud as a Fox 40, it’s still quite effective in its own right. If you are a minimalist, this new feature eliminates the need to carry a solitary whistle.

In a survival situation, this is a wonderful feature to have. If you lost your main whistle, or relied on this one alone, a whistle is by far more effective than shouting in terms of sound and effort.

As usual, the LMF FireSteel comes in a multitude of colors to suit any taste.

Cost: About CDN $13

Made in Sweden

Fox 40 Micro Whistle: Relied upon by NATO Forces, U.S. Army, S.O.L.A.S., American Red Cross, U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard

The Fox 40 Micro whistle is true to the Fox 40 tradition of innovative design and engineering excellence. Its ergonomic design has no pressure points, making it compact and easy to store. Easily attach it to life jackets, backpacks or clothing. Wet or dry, depend on Fox 40 for safety and durability.

International Whistle Code:

One Blast: “Where are you?”

Two Blasts: “Come to me.”

Three Blasts: “I need help.”

If you hear any of these signals, respond with one blast. Each blast should last 3 seconds.

– Fox 40

Fox 40 Micro Pealess Safety Whistle (comes in a wide range of colours)

Cost: Around CDN $5.00

A whistle is an essential piece of survival kit. You should always have one with you – on your keychain, backpack, or as a zipper pull – the Fox 40 Micro is so slender there’s really no excuse not to have one.

In a survival situation, a whistle allows you to draw attention to yourself with minimal effort. Using a whistle is far more effective and louder than shouting. A passive feature of the Fox 40 (and other plastic whistles as well) is that it’s made of plastic – so you don’t have to worry about your lips freezing to it in sub-zero temperatures vs. a metal one. A whistle also comes in handy in urban survival situations as well. Scaring off an attacker, drawing attention to a car accident, trapped in a disaster (manmade or natural), calling your dog, last minute referee to your kid’s soccer game…

The North Face – Nuptse Winter Mitts

I’ve had these mitts for roughly four years now and they’re on the verge of being replaced. They’ve been through a lot and overall they’ve served me well. Winter here in Manitoba is extremely cold so these mitts have definitely been put to the test.

In terms of warmth the Nuptse mitts keep your hands and fingers pretty warm. They’re lightweight, cozy and very comfortable. They are elasticized at the wrist and have cinch cords at the end of the gauntlet to keep them snug and prevent snow from entering – although they are quite dangly and can get caught. I got one snagged by accident and it was torn out…mind you it was caught in a tubing lift and was torn out quite aggressively…otherwise the pulls are quite sturdy. This pair also features a little clip that helps keep the mitts together when not worn – very handy.

Over time however, you can tell the insulation isn’t as puffy and therefore not as warm. Although 10 – 15 minutes in the dryer helps to bring a bit of life back to the insulation, eventually it’s time to start looking for a new pair. I’ve extended the life of these mitts by inserting a pair of slender winter gloves to act as an additional layer of insulation, which works quite well. Nonetheless, the tips of the thumb are beginning to wear away and they’re reaching the end of their life.

During last year’s igloo building courses, the mitts held up well for several hours before the outer leather palms became saturated and I had to switch to a back-up pair. There is a suede-like material which runs the entire length of the top thumb portion which is great for runny noses in cold weather conditions.

From shoveling the driveway, walking the dog, to building igloos…I’m sad to see these trusty mitts go…but they’ll likely end up in the trunk of my car as part of my emergency gear.

Great mitts.

Cost: Around CDN $100


Survival Crisis

Survival is a mental game. It has long been said that survival is 90% mental and 10% physical (albeit a very difficult 10%…usually made up of thirst, hunger, stress, weakness, pain etc.) In a survival situation it is extremely important to remain calm and keep thinking about the next step – one step of many which will hopefully lead to self-rescue or being rescued. Although a survival situation could be thought of as a crisis, consider the Chinese character for CRISIS – It is the combination of the words Danger & Opportunity.

Suunto MCA Compass

If you are looking for a reliable compass without spending your end-of-year bonus, check out the MCA compass from Suunto.

I’ve had this compass for a couple of years now and I recently used it to do some orienteering. I must say I’ve never had any problems with it – a very straightforward piece of kit.

Balanced for the Northern Hemisphere, this compass is perfect for newcomers to old school navigation, but will satisfy experienced navigators as well.

The MCA is extremely lightweight and relatively sturdy. The bezel is easy to grip and turn, but not so loose that it will turn on its own. Markings are well applied but non-luminous. This isn’t really an issue unless you plan on navigating at night. If you do plan on wandering around in the dark with a map and compass, please, wear a headlamp.

While it may not appear so at first glance, the MCA’s set up is actually quite simple and very functional. The mirror and sights are clean and very crisp. The cover stays open firmly at 45 degrees and shuts nicely.

If you’re debating whether or not to buy a compass with a mirror, consider this:

In a survival situation, the mirror comes in very handy for signaling, checking your teeth, injuries, bites etc. If you are a minimalist, or just looking to simplify your kit, it saves you from taking along a separate mirror.

The little red string it came with was useless – I couldn’t even get it over my head – so I swapped it out for some mil-spec 550 Paracord.

At roughly CAD $30, you can’t really go wrong. If you take care of it, this compass should give you years of faithful service.

Cost: Around CDN $30

Made in Finland

MSR Titan Cup

On its own or paired with the Titan Kettle, this ultra light, ultra tough titanium cup is an essential piece of outdoor kit. Rugged folding wire handles collapse nicely around the cup for easy storage. In a survival situation, a metal cup gives you the ability to cook food (albeit in small portions…if you have anything to cook at all) and more importantly – boil your water! In a crunch, toss a few stones in it and you have an improvised bear bell to alert bears of your presence. The MSR Titan Cup is simple and totally functional.

Volume 13.5 cu. in / 0.4 liters
Weight 1.9 oz / 54 g
Country of Origin Made in Thailand

Cost: Around CDN $40.

Although it might seem a bit expensive for a simple metal cup – this one should last you a lifetime. Remember: Quality…Not Quantity.

Survival Tasks vs. Daylight

In a survival situation, don’t necessarily worry about how long things will take. Provided you’ve stabilized your situation, you’ll most likely have plenty of idle time. Instead, try to think about how much daylight you have, and in that context, if you have enough “daylight time” to accomplish any tasks you need to complete before the sun goes down. Pay attention to the weather too – it will often determine what you can or cannot do in terms of tasks. Remember – prioritize and be organized. Conserve your energy and be efficient. Take your time. Do it right – do it once.