how to move silently

How To Move As Silently As A Cat

how to move silently

It’s the quintessential moment in any horror flick – the part where the heroine is trying to sneak silently away from the bad guy by moving stealthily through the old, rickety house (aren’t they always set in an old, rickety house?), but try as she might to move quietly, her position is given away by a loud creak from the old wooden staircase.  We all wonder, why doesn’t she know how to move silently?

Makes for great suspense, but in the real world, learning how to walk silently is a valuable skill that should be in every prepper’s survival arsenal. Moving in silence is not only a valuable skill, but also easy to learn and practice. Think about your safety in a SHTF situation – how beneficial would it be to be able to move or run in silence?

how to move silently
Knowing how to walk quietly on a creaky floor or staircase gives you the advantage of stealth.

There are many instances you may run into where such a skill could save your life, including sneaking past checkpoints or aggressive / hostile people, scavenging while other (potentially hostile) people are around, leaving an area when unfriendly people arrive, or successfully stalking prey while hunting.

how to move silently
The slightest sound can alert your prey and ruin an opportunity to secure a meal.

Learning to use stealth techniques is an invaluable survival skill that you and any member of your family can learn – plus it’s easy to practice! In this article, we will teach you 5 essential tricks for moving in silence – as well as 1 bonus trick! – that will allow you to move undetected and help keep you safe.

5 Tricks for Moving in Silence

1. Maintain Your Center of Balance

If you are carrying anything, especially a backpack, stash it if you can as it throws off your center of balance. Look for somewhere safe you can leave it where it will be recoverable later. While a well-fitted backpack will be cinched tight to your body and have good weight distribution, it’s a surety that the added 30-50 lbs you are carrying around will change your center of balance.

The reason this is important is that it is far easier to sneak around quietly with your natural movements and center of gravity as opposed to your body trying to compensate for the unexpected extra weight.

how to move silently
Moving in silence is more difficult with the added bulk of a backpack because it throws off your natural balance. Image credit Joseph on flickr.

2. Get Rid of Noise Makers

When trying to move silently, if you have anything on you that jingles or jangles – get rid of it. If you are carrying items such as keys, change, jewelry, gear, buckles, or straps hanging off your body or bag that have the potential to make noise, make sure to eliminate them from your person.

how to move silently
Bring only what is necessary for the mission and be sure to secure any gear so that it will not make a sound when you move.

Zippers are another item that can give you away when trying to move quietly, but ranger bands can help with this – you can learn how to make ranger bands here or purchase them here. The video below shows how ranger bands can be used to silence zippers:

Also be aware of the clothing you are wearing. Some clothing may have the potential to swish or get caught on things, especially loose cargo pockets, which can easily get caught on a corner or exposed nail.

how to move silently
Silent clothes are slim-fitting with minimal protrusions. This large hooded jacket may keep you warm but it would make it difficult to walk quietly.

3. Don’t Move Blindly

how to move silently

When moving in silence, always scope out your path ahead of time, don’t stumble along blindly. Before moving, make sure to take a few seconds to survey the area around you and scope out the best path to take.

You’ll likely need to employ some improvisation at some point, but having a general plan of where you are going, including things to avoid and knowing where safe / quiet areas are, can mean the difference between detection and moving stealthily to safety.

If you have a long way to go, plan your trek by stopping in safe or concealed areas and then scoping out the next leg of your trip from there.

4. Look Out for Landmines

By landmines, we mean surprise objects that can give away your presence if stepped on. Items to be on the lookout for include broken glass, dry leaves, twigs, and animals.

how to move silently
Learn how to walk silently by avoiding noisy objects, such as pine cones and twigs.

When scoping out your path, try and find the way that has the least amount of debris that could potentially make noise and give you away. As you’ve no doubt seen in the movies, something as simple as the snap of a twig can immediately alert others to your presence.

Additionally, look out for animals and avoid them at all costs. The bark of a startled dog or the rustle of a bird hastily flying away are key indicators to others of your location.

how to move silently
Startling a flock of birds into flight is a dead giveaway of your presence.

5. Proceed with Caution

Even weight distribution and foot placement are key to moving stealthily and keeping your footfalls as quiet as possible. Always move carefully and with intent.

If you are unsure about your next step, test the location lightly with your toes and gradually place the rest of your foot down once you’ve determined it’s safe. Also be mindful not to knock anything over if you need to lean against something at some point. The video below gives a detailed demonstration of stepping with your toes first to walk quietly across any surface:

Bonus Trick For How To Move Silently

While the preceding 5 tricks will help you to move quietly and undetected, there is always the chance that something will go wrong, which brings us to our bonus trick – always have an escape plan.

If you are detected and need to run, it’s imperative you know which way to head in order to flee safely. Sometimes it can be as simple as going back the way you came, but in case that path is blocked or otherwise inaccessible it’s always prudent to have at least one additional escape route.

If escape is not a viable option, you may want to have some means of defending yourself against whomever detected you. This could include non-lethal options such as a flashlight or pepper spray, or entail more serious options such as a survival weapon or firearm.  

survival weapons

General Stealth Techniques

Along with the tricks above, keep the following in mind when attempting to walk or move undetected:

  • Use a red flashlight to move at night as this will preserve your night vision and attract less attention EC11 and EA21 from Nitecore both come with a secondary red LED in addition to their main light for just this purpose.
  • If avoidable, do not sneak around barefoot – yes, it is quieter to move barefoot than with shoes, but you will be in serious trouble if you get caught as it is much harder to run barefoot and you run a higher risk of injuring your feet
  • Be aware that floorboards will make more noise in the summer than in cold weather.
how to move silently
While you may be able to walk lightly over these rocks barefoot, running could cause serious injury to your feet.

Practicing How To Move Silently at Home

If you want to learn to move as silently as a cat, reading this article is a great start, but you’ll need to practice what you’ve learned. The great thing about stealth movement is that it’s a survival skill that’s easy to practice in your everyday life. Here are some tips and tricks on how you can incorporate stealth movement into your daily life and learn to move undetected:

  • When you’re just beginning, feel free to practice in socks or barefeet, but after you start to get the hang of walking silently, start practicing in the shoes or boots that you plan on wearing when bugging out
  • Take advantage of everyday situations to practice, such as movie night – when getting up to grab some popcorn, see if you can sneak back without anyone noticing;
  • Practice walking quietly past your pets – see if you can pass by Fido without attracting his attention
  • Turn practice into game time with your kids – start a game where one person sits centrally in a room (blindfolded, if need be) and challenge everyone else to get from one side of the room to the other without being heard (this also has the added benefit of teaching all members of your family how to move silently)
  • When moving around at night, see if you can move silently enough so as not to wake up your baby / husband / wife
  • While at work, try walking into your co-workers’ cubicles / offices / workspaces without them noticing your presence, at least until you say “Hello,” – no need to creep anyone out!

Conclusion

The ability to move about undetected is a highly valuable skill to have in survival situations and can be learned and mastered by anyone. Moving stealthily has myriad life-saving applications as well as practical uses for everyday life. Running or walking silently is a skill that can be practiced almost anywhere, which makes it one of the easiest survival skills to master. In order to learn how to move silently, keep in mind these 5 key tricks:

  1. Maintain your center of balance
  2. Get rid of potential noise makers
  3. Don’t move blindly, choose your path intentionally
  4. Look out for landmines
  5. Proceed with caution and have an escape plan!

 

how to move silently

What are you waiting for? Start practicing now and pretty soon you’ll be able to move around your friends and family as stealthily and silently as a cat!

Your Thoughts

Can you think of other situations where it is important to know how to move silently? Have you practiced stealth techniques on your own or with your family? Tell us about your experience in the Comments section below, thanks!

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how to predict the weather

How To Predict The Weather In The Wilderness

how to predict the weather

Typically we count on weather services and electronic devices to know what to expect from the sky. We may alter travel plans, make a quick trip to the store, or simply pack an umbrella in reaction to an impending storm. However, these services will likely come to a halt if disaster strikes and alternative means of monitoring weather conditions will be necessary. For those that opt to head for the hills, it will become vastly more important to know how to predict the weather in the wilderness.

Nature itself provides many clues as to what is in store. The clouds, plants, animals, insects, and the moon have been used for centuries to predict precipitation, droughts, and floods. Farmers, fishermen, sailors, and others who spend long periods of time outdoors, and whose livelihood depends heavily on the weather patterns, have devised ways to foresee the weather in order to prepare themselves.

Having the skills to read the warning signs that nature provides has short-term and long-term benefits that can greatly increase your chances of survival in a bug-out scenario. Whether a major storm is brewing and you need to prepare to build a shelter in for the day or if the likelihood of flooding doubles and you need to reconsider your location for the season, learning how to predict the weather using nature is a valuable survival skill.

Observing The Sky To Predict The Weather

The most intuitive way to predict the weather is to look to the sky. The clouds, wind direction, air pressure, and even the moon are directly related to incoming weather. Paying close attention to the changes in the sky and knowing how to interpret what you see gives you advance warning of what is to come and enables you to prepare.

how to predict the weather
A red rising sun warns of rain to come.

There is an old saying, “Red sky at night a sailor’s delight. Red sky morn, sailors take warn.” At sunset, the red sky is caused by sun rays passing through dust particles which accumulate at the forefront of a high pressure system. However, in the morning a red sky occurs when a low pressure system carrying moisture is on the way. Therefore, a brilliant red sunset usually precedes a clear day but a red sunrise is a warning that a storm is coming.

how to predict the weather
A red sky as the sun sets in the west is a sign of clear skies.

Another colorful way to predict the weather is the formation of rainbows. In the northern hemisphere, a morning rainbow in the east indicates rain is on the way, as weather generally moves east to west.

Reading Clouds

Cloud identification is a science in itself but there are some simple indicators that can prove very useful, especially when trying to predict the weather in the wilderness.

how to predict the weather
When you see cumulus clouds, it’s a good day for traveling, foraging, and other outdoor activities.

White, fluffy clouds sitting high in the sky are non-threatening as they pass overhead. When the cloud cover is low and dark, a storm is building and appropriate measures should be taken to prepare your camp. Gathering extra firewood and storing it in a protected location will ensure that you have dry fuel to burn during and after the storm.

how to predict the weather
Low, dark cloud cover is a sure sign that a storm is building. Make sure your shelter is ready to withstand rain and wind.

To give yourself more time to prepare, there are two easily identified types of clouds that form prior to storm clouds: mare’s tails and mackerel skies. Mare’s tails are wispy cirrus clouds that are somewhat hazy and undefined, as the tail of a galloping mare. The same conditions that cause them to form also cause airplane trails to linger in the sky.

how to predict the weather
Cirrus clouds precede incoming frontal systems and indicate changing weather. Image credit k4dordy on flickr.

Mackerel skies are altocumulus clouds and are also a sign of rising moisture levels. Independently, these each warn of rain coming within a few days, but seen together, rain will typically fall within 24 hours.

how to predict the weather
Mackerel skies are named for their resemblance to the scales of a mackerel fish.

While clouds are often thought of as bringers of rain, they also act as a layer of insulation. On an overcast night, the radiant heat from the earth is trapped by the cloud layer, leading to a higher temperature in the morning. When the sky is clear at night, the radiant heat escapes and the morning will be cooler as a result.

Wilderness Survival Kit

Detecting Air Pressure

Though air pressure is less noticeable than cloud cover, it is a very dependable indicator of incoming weather conditions. Low atmospheric pressure leads to cloud formation and precipitation. High pressure systems are associated with rising air and clear dry skies.

One way to detect the current air pressure conditions is to observe the smoke from a campfire. If the smoke is rising steadily in vertical column, the air pressure is high but if it is sinking and swirling, the air pressure is low and precipitation may soon follow.

survival after bugging out
Studying how to predict the weather turns your campfire into a barometer.

What The Wind Tells About The Weather

Wind is named for the direction it comes from, so an easterly wind blows from east to west. A gentle prevailing wind or light, variable winds are signs of clear weather. Strong winds occur when two fronts with different temperatures meet, and usually mean that a storm is forming.

An awareness of the surrounding climates will also help you read the wind. For instance, if a desert lies to the east of your location, wind coming from the east will typically carry dry, warm desert air. Mountains also play a role in that air flowing over a mountain will usually release precipitation as it rises along the side facing the wind and will move down the opposite side with dry air.

“Circle Around The Moon, Rain Or Snow Soon.”

People have long looked to the moon to provide insight into atmospheric conditions. As the old saying states, when the moon has a hazy ring around it, precipitation is on its way. The ring is caused by the presence of dust particles building up in the atmosphere. It means that a low pressure system is on its way, bringing rain or snow with it. As it passes through, the low pressure system will push the particles along.

how to predict the weather
You can see how the moonlight reflects on the particles in the air, forming a hazy ring.

When the moon appears clearly defined and bright, it is due to an absence of particles and moisture. This is characteristic of a high pressure system and the next day has a high chance of being dry. In the short-term, this is a simple and effective way to predict the weather.

how to predict the weather
When the outline of the moon is clearly defined, fair weather can be expected.

For long-term or seasonal weather predictions, the phases of the moon can reveal clues. When two full moons occur in the same month, there is a higher chance of flooding. It is also said that when the tips of a crescent moon point upward and the moon looks like a bowl that can hold water, a dry spell is coming. When the new moon looks like a frown, or a bowl that water would spill out of, a wet spell is predicted.

how to predict the weather
This bowl-shaped moon is often associated with a period of dry weather.

Weather Signs In Nature

The natural world is built to survive and living things will make adjustments in order to maintain life and produce offspring. Sometimes the changes are so subtle they can hardly be detected but there are some common plant and animal behaviors that reveal clues about the weather. When bugging out, you can use these clues to increase your own chances of survival.

How To Predict The Weather Using Plants

Upon waking, take a close look at the ground. Morning dew on the plants, while itself is wet, can actually be a sign of a dry day to come. A lack of morning dew can occur when dry winds have been pushed through ahead of a storm system bringing rain close behind. Of course, if it rained the night before, this will be more difficult to observe and you will need to look for additional signs in order to predict the weather.

how to predict the weather
A dewy morning can mean that a dry day is in store.

The phrase “it smells like rain” has some truth to it. The moist air of a low pressure system brings out the scents of plants, as they release their waste under this condition, so the air will smell more pungent just before a rain. Swamps will also release gases during a low pressure system, making for a telltale sign that a storm is moving in.

Visual signs that it is time to prepare for wet weather are readily apparent in trees. The leaves of deciduous trees will curl upward in anticipation of a rainstorm. Pine cones will open their scales in dry air but close them in high humidity.

how to predict the weather
The increase in humidity prior to a storm causes deciduous leaves to curl upward.
how to predict the weather
It looks like a dry sunny day for this pine tree.

Plants also have the ability to foresee more long-term conditions and will adjust their growth accordingly. Crops, such as onions and corn, will grow thicker husks when a harsher winter is predicted in order to provide more protection to their seeds. Similarly, evergreens will produce larger, more robust pine cones, and acorns will form thicker shells- all to provide the seeds with a better chance of surviving extreme winter conditions. If you notice these signs, be prepared for a cold, long winter.

how to predict the weather
A thicker husk provides the seeds with better insulation against extreme temperatures.

How To Predict The Weather Using Animals

The combination of heightened senses and well-developed instincts makes animals highly adept at sensing bad weather conditions. Be on the lookout for changes in feeding patterns, behavior, and sound level that may indicate rain is on the way.

Here are some specific examples of animal behavior that can be used to predict when a storm is coming: 

  • Fish will feed voraciously at the surface prior to a storm so that they can ride it out in deeper water where food is scarce, so an excellent day of fishing usually means you should seek shelter and be prepared to cook the day’s catch in the rain.

how to predict the weather

  • Turtles begin to seek higher ground 1-2 days before a large rainstorm, so you may see them on roads or other areas above normal water levels.
  • If birds are flying high, the weather will likely be clear for a few days. Birds will fly lower in dropping pressure systems because the change in pressure hurts their ears. They will also exhibit frenzied feeding. Squabbles at the bird feeder can mean that a storm is coming and birds are stocking up in preparation of riding out the storm in their nest.

how to predict the weather

  • Along coastlines, seagulls will take shelter before a storm and birds in general become very quiet.
  • Squirrels, similar to birds, will aggressively stock up on food prior to a pending storm.
  • Cats’ ears are very sensitive and they do not tend to wash them but a change in pressure may cause your cat to rub at its ears, indicating a drop in pressure and a storm on the way.

how to predict the weather

  • Horses and cows are known to exhibit similar ear sensitivity behaviors when the pressure changes.
  • Herd animals, such as cattle, will group tightly together, usually facing the same direction, when a storm is approaching. They also tend to head for high ground.

In addition to predicting major storms, animals can also sense long-term threats in the weather pattern. This information is highly valuable when preparing your bug out camp to withstand low temperatures and difficult conditions. A harsh winter means that food will be scarce and opportunities for foraging and hunting will be limited.

bushcraft skills

Depending on the amount of snow cover, it may be challenging to gather firewood. Keeping a fire going will be vital and your bug out party will need as many warm layers as you are able to find or make. All of these preparations take time, so the sooner you know, the better.

In general, if you notice extra thick coats of fur on domestic animals or local wildlife, expect dropping temperatures. Conversely, when their fur comes off in tufts, warmer temperatures are right around the corner.

If birds begin migrating earlier than usual, it is a sign of harsh winter to come. The brown section in the middle of a woolly bear’s body is also used to predict how harsh the upcoming winter will be; the thinner the brown stripe, the harsher the winter is expected to be. While there is not much research to back it up, a 70-80% success rate is pretty good for an old wives tale!

how to predict the weather
The Isabella Tiger Moth caterpillar, often referred to as the “woolly bear,” is an age-old predictor of winter conditions. The one on the left (photo credit Sheila Sund on flickr) is thought to indicate a short winter, while the one on the right (photo credit USFWS on flickr) shows a harsh winter is in store.

Farmers have even used cow fertility rates to predict whether there will be a drought the following year- a drop in fertility occurs in anticipation of a future water shortage.

how to predict the weather
Do cows know how to predict the weather?! Many animals will make similar adjustments in breeding in response to foreseen conditions.

Resources On How To Predict The Weather

To futher explore the topic of how to predict the weather using nature, check out these excellent resources on clouds, weather, navigating, and storms.

ResourceAuthorSubject
The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs
Tristan GooleyForecasting, tracking, navigating and more by reading clues from nature
The Natural Navigator
Tristan GooleyHow to read navigational clues from the sun, plants, tides, stars and more to find your way
The Weather Wizard's Cloud Book
Jim Duncan, Louis D. Rubin Sr., Hiram J. HerbertA full guide to using clouds to predict the weather
Instant Weather Forecasting
Alan WattsCloud formations and reading the sky to predict the weather
Instant Storm Forecasting
Alan WattsFocuses on forecasting strong winds, thunder, hail storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, and waterspouts
Instant Wind Forecasting
Alan WattsLearn to read clues to make predictions for wind conditions
Truth About Nature: A Family's Guide to 144 Common Myths about the Great Outdoors
Stacy Tornio and Ken KefferGreat for families! Explore myths about nature in this interactive guidebook
Click the image to view the book on Amazon.

Conclusion

Plants and animals have been “bugging out” and surviving in nature since the beginning of time. There is much to gain by observing their weather predicting skills and honing our own. When living in the natural world, a simple thunderstorm can be catastrophic if you are not prepared for it. Anticipating a harsh winter can help you ration supplies and apply your energy effectively so you have adequate food and fuel stored. Knowing how to predict the weather will help you to make wise decisions in favor of your survival.

Your Thoughts

Do you know any other ways to predict the weather in the wilderness? Have you been in a situation where knowledge of weather signs in nature benefitted you? Share your experiences in the Comments section below, thanks!

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avalanche safety

Avalanche Safety Skills And Gear For Surviving The Backcountry

avalanche safety

A big part of winter is the ability to enjoy winter sports and explore snowy, mountainous expanses. However, lurking behind the beautiful facade of freshly fallen snow is the deadly risk of getting caught in an avalanche. Anyone who participates in winter sports or mountain expeditions needs to have avalanche preparedness high on their threat assessment list. Even if you don’t engage in activities where the threat of avalanches is high, you never know when you may need avalanche safety skills – especially if your bug-out plan may take you through snowy, mountainous regions or if you live in the backcountry.

Avalanches are some of the most deadly obstacles nature can throw at you and when it comes to preparing for avalanches, prevention is your most important skill. Always ensure you know as much as possible about the area where you will be traveling, including daily conditions, avalanche warnings, avalanche-prone areas, local emergency telephone numbers, and how to identify and avoid high-risk situations.

While prevention is your best defense against avalanches, there are techniques you can use to help you survive should you become caught in an avalanche. In this article, we’re going to discuss what those techniques are as well as introduce important avalanche safety gear that you can use to increase your chances of surviving an avalanche.

Crucial Avalanche Safety Gear

ItemDetails
Backcountry Access Tracker2 Avalanche Beacon
• Digital triple antenna processor uses 3 AAA for 200 hours of transmit or 1 hour of search mode
• Detects and tracks multiple burials for group situations
• Lights indicate direction and display indicates distance in meters to quickly locate victims
• Includes harness
BLACK DIAMOND PIEPS DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon
• Digital triple antenna plus reference antenna with 50 meter search radius
• Mark function allows you to flag signals in multiple burials
• Single button design is easy to operate with gloves on
• Includes harness
Ortovox Zoom+ Avalanche Transceiver
• Digital triple antenna with motion sensor that switches back to transmit to protect rescuers in secondary avalanches
• Uses higher, faster beeps to indicate proximity to the victim so your eyes are free to scan the area
• Also displays distance and direction
Ortovox Avalanche Rescue Set-Zoom+
• Rescue set includes Ortovox Zoom+ transceiver, probe, and shovel
• 240 cm aluminum probe features Kevlar tension system and depth markings
• Shovel is reinforced for rigidity and high side walls provide 2.5 liter volume for efficient digging
AAA 4004 Red Aluminum Sport Utility Shovel
• Lightweight shovel weighs only 1.3 lbs and disassembles into 3 pieces for easy transport
• Telescoping handle adjusts between 25-32 inches for better leverage
• Sturdy aluminum scoop for handling heavy snow and ice
Black Diamond Transfer Shovel
• Hard anodized scoop has a sharp edge for cutting through packed snow and ice
• Removable handle extends for digging in deeper pits
• Compact trapezoidal design fits well in most backcountry packs
Backcountry Access Dozer Hoe Shovel
• Versatile design works as a shovel or converts to a hoe to adapt to the situation
• Large slip-proof grips on handle and blade improve grip even with gloves on
• T6 heat treatment prevents snow from building up on the inside of the shaft
Backcountry Access Stealth Avalanche Probe
• Rapid deployment action for when every second counts
• Collapses to a bundle about 18" long by 2" across to store easily in a backpack
• Laser etched depth markers indicate how deep to dig. Also helpful for reading snow pack layers
Black Diamond Quickdraw Probe Tour
• Aluminum shaft with alloy tip that is wider than the shaft for improved sensitivity
• High visibility markings for determining depth
• Includes rapid deployment stuff sack, which allows the probe to be removed and assembled in one step
BCA Float Airbag
• Airbag trigger can be mounted on the left or right side for optimal access
• Pack features gear integration points for carrying snowboards, skis, radios, water bladder, ice axes and more
• Entire system weighs only 7.1 lbs, including the cylinder (sold separately)
Backcountry Access Float Refillable Cylinder - Empty
• Uses 2700 psi to rapidly inflate the float when triggered
• Can be refilled at a certified refill station after use
• Lightweight at 1.45 lbs and designed to work with the BCA Float Airbag
Ortovox Mens Avalanche Rider 24 ABS Backpack
• Designed to work with M.A.S.S. system, sold separately
• Removable SPS Pro2 back protector to help prevent spinal injuries
• Chest strap features a safety whistle to signal for help
Ortovox M.A.S.S. For Backpack
avalanche safety
• Modular Airbag Safety System (M.A.S.S.) includes dual airbags with independent air chambers for added safety
• Inserts into Ortovox Avalanche Rider backpack in just minutes
• Release grip can be configured on the right-or left-hand side, with the angle and height adjustable to the quickest access location for the wearer
POC Fornix Backcountry MIPS Ski Helmet, Uranium Black, Medium/Large
• Equipped with MIPS (Multidirectional Impact Protection System) for direct and oblique impacts
• Aramid fiber bridge disperses energy due to its high tensile strength
• Adjustable ventilation and straps for a snug and comfortable fit
Smith Vantage Unisex Adult Snow Helmet
• Koroyd lining absorbs 30 percent more energy than styrofoam, offering better protection in both low and high impact crashes
• Boa FS360 fit system uses a halo design for the perfect fit
• Extra thick Snapfit ear pads provide full protection of the ears
Click the images to view current prices on Amazon.

 

When equipping your crew with survival gear, remember that each and every member needs to be equipped with these items – a shovel will be of no use if it is buried with the victim and the same goes for probes. As for the avalanche beacon, each member of your crew needs to have one harnessed to their chest, not in a pocket or backpack as these items can easily become separated from the person in a violent tumble.

avalanche safety
Every member of your party needs to be equipped with avalanche safety gear and survival techniques before heading into the backcountry.

Avalanche Beacon: The One Piece Of Gear You Should Never Be Without

What it is: An avalanche beacon is a type of transceiver that can be used to locate its wearer in the event of an emergency.

How it works: The avalanche beacon sends out a radio signal, transmitting at 457 KHz (a universal and international radio frequency). Avalanche safety beacons are also able to switch to receive signals from other beacons – one of the many reasons why everyone in your party should be wearing one.

When a signal is received, the beacon will beep with increasing volume as it gets closer to the source of the signal. This allows you to pinpoint the location of someone buried beneath the snow.

avalanche safety
Diagram of how the Black Diamond PIEPS DSP Sport Avalanche Beacon detects and displays multiple burials. Click the image to learn more on Amazon.

There are two types of beacons: analog and digital. The analog systems use a single antenna and have a broad range, able to receive signals from further distances. A beep is typically used to indicate the location of a signal. The digital systems use multiple antennas and have a much narrower range of signal reception. Digital systems use both beeps and a visual display to accurately narrow in on a signal and some even have light signals to indicate direction and display the distance to the signal.

Before setting out on any excursion, your beacon should be fully charged, turned on, and set to transmit at 457 KHz. In times of emergency, it can be very difficult to move, much less access your device, if you are buried under snow – or worse, you may be unconscious.

Additionally, when you or someone in your crew becomes buried in an avalanche, the window of time you have to be found or to find someone else is very narrow – 15 minutes at most. Everyone in your crew should practice with their beacons ahead of time so that they are proficient in sending and receiving signals, as well as following signals to find the source.

avalanche safety
The lights indicate direction and the number tells the distance in meters to the transmitted signal from another avalanche beacon. Click the image to view the BCA Access Tracker2 on Amazon.

A harness is an extremely important piece of avalanche safety equipment that will keep your beacon close to your body and protected underneath your clothes. By having your beacon harnessed to your body you reduce the risk of it becoming separated from you.

While some avalanche beacons will come with a harness, others require you to purchase it separately. Before purchasing your beacon, check to see if a harness is included and if not, make sure you purchase one.

Probe

What it is: A probe is a lightweight, collapsible stick typically six to seven feet long once assembled.

avalanche safety
The ripcord action of the Black Diamond Quickdraw Probe makes for fast deployment when it counts. Click the image to view this probe on Amazon.

How it works: A probe is used for probing into the snow in order to locate someone buried beneath the surface. Your probe will provide you with a good idea of where to start digging should one of your crew members be buried by an avalanche. Look for quick-deployment designs that snap into place, ready for use immediately. Probes are also used to assess the current snow pack to determine avalanche risk.

Shovel

avalanche safety
Backcountry shovels are designed to be compact, lightweight, and ultra sturdy for quick set up and vigorous digging. Click the image to view the AAA Sport Utility Shovel on Amazon.

While fairly self-explanatory, a shovel is an essential tool to have on-hand for avalanche safety, especially for rescuing those caught in an avalanche. In order to perform an effective rescue, you will need to dig quickly, a task that is much more easily performed with a shovel. Look for a collapsible, high-volume shovel and remember – carrying a shovel with you will be more than worth it when you need it as your window of opportunity is so slim.

Helmet

avalanche safety

Head injury is a serious concern especially when it comes to outdoor sports. Surviving an avalanche is no different than surviving an extreme skiing accident. Wearing a helmet will help provide protection from head trauma in the event of impact – whether during a fall or in an avalanche. In fact, it is quite common for avalanche victims to die prior to burial due to sustained injuries, so any added level of protection is prudent. For more information, please review this resource from BackCountry.com.

Avalanche Airbags

Avalanche airbags have been gaining popularity among outdoor enthusiasts but have also met with some skepticism.

What it is: An avalanche airbag is a backpack-style flotation device that can be deployed should you become caught in an avalanche.

How it works: The principle behind the airbag is that it makes your body larger without increasing your mass, thereby decreasing your density and heightening your chances of staying closer to the surface. While an avalanche airbag by no means guarantees survival, it can help your efforts by protecting your head, neck, and shoulders from impact.

The aforementioned skepticism stems from a fear that avalanche airbags encourage reckless risk-taking by providing a false sense of security. For more information, check out this resource from OutdoorGearLab.com and see how they work in the video below:

When traveling with an avalanche safety airbag system, be sure to check with the airline regulations. The cylinder will need to be emptied and you may need paperwork with it. For more information on traveling with survival gear, CLICK HERE.

What You Need To Know About Avalanche Safety

avalanche safety
Signs are one way of warning visitors about avalanches. Image via Rexness on flickr.

Avalanche Rating System

Whenever you are heading out in mountainous or snowy territory, always pay attention to the local warning system. Typically, the system will consist of a rating between 1 and 5, where:

1 – Low chance of avalanche

2 – Moderate chance of avalanche

3 – Considerable chance of avalanche

4 – High chance of avalanche

5 – Extreme chance of avalanche

Geological Conditions for Avalanches

The layering of different types of snow can make an area more susceptible to avalanches. Powdery snow is an especially unstable base layer for heavier snow as the wet snow compacts into a slab that can easily slip off the sugary base on an incline.

Avalanches typically form on slopes between 30-45 degrees, however, avalanches can form on slopes of anywhere between 25-60 degrees. In terms of ground slope shape, a convex shape will have a higher tendency to avalanche than a concave shape.

avalanche safety
The pattern of snow collection results from sun and wind exposure.

Slopes that lack trees and thick brush will have no anchor points and are therefore more susceptible to avalanches. Additionally, the direction that the slope faces and the time of year also play a role in how likely an avalanche is to occur. In mid-winter, a north facing slope is the most dangerous while those that are south-facing become dangerous in the spring.

A slope that faces into the wind will not only accumulate less snow, but also experience compaction from the wind. Conversely, a slope sheltered from the wind will collect a large volume of drifts and be less compacted, creating prime conditions for an avalanche to form. As such, avoid trekking out on days with steady winds of 15 mph or more due to the dangerous drifts created.

Warning Signs an Avalanche is About to Occur

avalanche safety
Pay close attention to local warning signs and avoid restricted areas. Image via Cory Doctorow on flickr.

A key warning sign to look for in anticipation of an avalanche is a deep layer of newly fallen snow as it has not had a chance to compact. When assessing an area, look carefully at the trees and rocks as this is where compaction comes from. Inserting a probe into the layers of snow can help assess what is happening with the layering underneath.

Another avalanche safety indicator is the shape of the snowfall. A layer of small needle or pellet-shaped crystals can mean danger as this type of snow can suddenly give way, much like a house of cards. Conversely, large snowflakes compact more easily and are ‘sticky,’ although a heavy rate of snowfall (> one inch per hour) of any kind makes for bad conditions.

avalanche safetyA dry slab is another warning sign, this occurs when old snow layers break off as a unit and slide down the mountain in one big slab. The sheer mass of the slab causes it to pick up speed as well as additional snow, resulting in the entire side of the mountain coming down with it. Dry slabs cause the most deadly types of avalanches due to their large scale, size, volume, and the speed with which they occur.

Temperature is another avalanche gauge to be aware of. The lower the temperature, the less stable the snow will be. Temperature / sun exposure that allows for some melting and settling is safer than a shadowy area that remains below freezing. However, if the temperature is too high, such as in the spring, wet snow slides can form.

When reviewing an area for warning signs of an avalanche, look for the following:

  • Evidence that a particular path has avalanched before, indicating that area is prone to avalanches
  • Whether or not avalanches have occurred on nearby slopes
  • Current snow conditions are unsafe
  • Hollow-sounding snow
  • Cracks in the surface of the snow (an indication a dry slab is forming)

Avalanche Safety And Survival Tips

While avoiding an avalanche entirely is the best way to ensure survival, if you are out backcountry skiing, boarding, or climbing and an avalanche comes pouring down after you there are steps you can take during the initial commotion that will help increase your chances of getting out alive.

Steps to Take When an Avalanche Begins

avalanche safety

As soon as you notice signs of an avalanche, begin to move away from the center as quickly as possible. The center flows at peak velocity and volume, which makes it much more difficult to fight against. Your first goal should be to get yourself toward the closest side as quickly as possible. If you’re really lucky, you may be able to get completely out of the way and avoid being swept up in the avalanche.

Often times, the cause of an avalanche is activity and it will form right under your feet. If you react quickly and jump uphill, you may be able to get yourself to safety and avoid being swept away. If you’re unable to get out of the way fast enough, the next step is to prevent yourself from being buried. It may sound simple enough but when confronted with a massive force of snow and ice, it becomes extremely challenging.

avalanche-safety-8

As your body is more dense than the snow, you will naturally sink. Rescuers recommend using a swimming or thrashing motion uphill in the opposite direction of the flow to help keep you up near the surface. The closer you can stay to the surface, the less digging you will need to do once the snow settles, giving you a huge advantage in terms of avalanche survival.

If you can find a tree or a rock, this can provide an anchor point for you to hold onto and maintain your position in a less powerful avalanche. Delaying your descent for even a few seconds can improve your chances of not being buried as deeply, or even at all.

avalanche safety
Airbags, like this one by Backcountry Access, help increase your chances of staying “afloat” in an avalanche. Click the image to view details on Amazon.

Another prudent move is to hold your hand over your head as this will give you a better chance of being seen by rescuers as well as provide a sense of which direction to start digging after the snow settles.

In terms of lightening your load, there are mixed schools of thought. On the one hand, the lighter you can make your body, the easier it will be to stay afloat or pull yourself out of the snow; however, on the other hand, you never want to willingly separate yourself from your survival equipment.

Keep in mind that if you are encased in an avalanche, your immediate situation is that you are trapped in a cold environment and may have to wait a long time before anyone locates you. Getting rid of anything that will help keep you warm, nourished, provide first aid, and most importantly, help others locate you, would be a counterproductive move to your survival.

A key tip if you become trapped in an avalanche is that as the snow begins to slow down, fill your lungs with air and hold it in to give your chest room to expand after the snow settles. Snow is very heavy and its weight causes it to compact quickly. Without performing this maneuver, you may not be able to expand your chest to take in air after it settles.

cold weather survival gear

Steps To Take When Trapped In An Avalanche

Once you have stopped moving, time is of the essence. Your first priority should be to get to the surface as quickly as possible to avoid running out of air or becoming trapped. In the first 15 minutes you have the highest rate of survival (about 93%), but your chances decrease significantly after that.

If after the avalanche has settled, any part of your body is above the surface – and you’re sure of it – begin to dig in that direction. However, being tossed around and buried can be very disorienting and finding yourself in a situation where you’re not sure which way is up is not uncommon.

If you are unsure of which direction you should dig, gravity can be a good tester. Visible rising breath is a good indicator but there is a more reliable test – the spit test. Clear a space near your face and spit – the liquid will go straight down compliments of gravity, telling you to dig in the direct opposite direction to reach the surface.

Unlike drowning, when you are trapped in an avalanche, there is air trapped in the snow with you. To create a larger pocket for breathing, continually push the snow away from your face. Additionally, your body movement will compact the snow around you creating more air space.

avalanche safety
With this much snow, a probe and a shovel are essential avalanche safety equipment. Image credit Clayoquot.

If you are close enough to the surface, continue to to dig upwards, poking anything you can above the surface, such as a ski or brightly colored clothing, as this will make it easier for your rescue party to spot you. If you’re not close to the surface, it might be best to conserve your energy and focus on breathing.

Definitely make an attempt to call out for help but do keep in mind that when you are trapped beneath the surface, you may be able to hear others calling for you but they are unlikely to be able to hear you. If you can hear your rescue party but it’s obvious they can’t hear you, remain calm and give them a few minutes before calling out again. Otherwise, you may waste your air supply and voice by continually shouting to people who can’t hear you.

A rather unconventional but potentially life-saving tactic when buried in an avalanche is to urinate. For one thing, the pressure of being buried may be very uncomfortable on your bladder, but more importantly, the odor acts as a beacon for rescue dogs sniffing around the surface.

avalanche safety
Avalanche rescue dogs are trained to sniff out buried victims. The stronger your scent, the more likely they will be to find you. Image via Paul Morris on flickr.

The mere thought of being caught in an avalanche is terrifying and should you have the misfortune to ever be buried by one, no doubt your natural instinct will be to panic. Fight this urge. By remaining calm, you will slow your breathing and preserve the available air beneath the snow, which will afford you more time to get out. This is where preparedness presents a major advantage. If you know what to do it will be easier to remain calm and you can focus on the survival tasks at hand.

If you want to experience the terrors of surviving an avalanche without leaving the safety and comfort of your home, check out this video from the helmet cam of a backcountry skier who was buried in an avalanche. Luckily, he finds his way with a lot of help from his friends. Notice how they had to dig for him using their skis and hands – a shovel would have been very helpful!

Conclusion

When it comes to avalanche preparedness, awareness and knowledge are your best tools. Always be aware of the daily and regional conditions in your area, make sure you and your crew are packed with the proper equipment, and attend training courses to learn more about avalanche survival. Remember, when it comes to avalanche safety, avoidance offers your best chance for survival, always err on the side of caution when out enjoying the backcountry.

Your Thoughts

How do avalanches rank in your threat assessment? Are they something you are expecting and prepared for, or a rare occurrence you don’t expect to encounter? Have you ever been in an avalanche or used avalanche safety gear? What was your experience like? Tell us your thoughts and leave your questions in the Comments section below, thanks!

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gray man theory

Gray Man Theory: The Art Of Blending In During Disaster

gray man theory

The gray man theory is a way of disappearing into the crowd so you can move unnoticed when disaster strikes. The idea is that you can conceal your preparedness by blending in with the crowd before or during an emergency.

While it is generally referred to as the ‘gray man theory,’ this theory can, of course, be applied to anyone, man or woman, of any age, who needs to blend into a crowd amidst a disastrous situation to conceal the fact that they have survival skills and/or are carrying tactical gear.

When you think of ‘blending in with the crowd’ it’s generally a negative, right?

Nobody wants to be just like everyone else. You want to be unique, to stand out – that is, until there’s an emergency and you’re the only one prepared. As a prudent prepper, you’ll be ready when disaster strikes, but what will everyone around you be doing?

Panicking, most likely.

In states of panic, people become desperate, and desperation can lead people to do whatever it takes to stay alive – at this point, you certainly don’t want to be singled out as the one person prepared for survival.

gray man theory
Disappearing into a crowd is an extremely useful survival skill.

Why Use the Gray Man Theory?

There are lots of advantages to blending in with the crowd when disaster strikes.

For starters, by not drawing attention to yourself, you’ll be able to move more quickly and easily through the crowd without alerting others to the fact that you are prepared to handle the situation.

Also, by blending in and appearing to be among the unprepared, you are less likely to make yourself a target of those in desperation who may try and take your survival gear off you by force.

The gray man theory is really about protecting yourself and your family by concealing the fact that you are indeed prepared to survive in the face of disaster.

gray man theory
The gray man theory allows you to use the herd to your advantage.

The Benefits of Being a Gray Man

In a true disaster situation, your primary objective will be to move yourself and your loved ones as quickly as possible to a safe place – be that your home or bug-out location.

In a disaster, everyone around you will have the same goal – get somewhere safe – but most will not have a sound plan in place, leading to frantic behavior and desperate attempts for survival.

In this situation, disappearing into the crowd and not drawing attention to yourself or your state of preparedness can greatly increase your chances of survival.

gray man theory
How many of these people look prepared to handle a crisis?

As most around you will be unprepared for disaster, you will undoubtedly feel the urge to help those in need. However, your number one priority needs to be your own survival, and you should only help others if you can do so without endangering yourself.

By blending in, or becoming a gray man, you will be less likely to be approached by others seeking assistance and, more importantly, less likely to be targeted by opportunists looking to prey on those with the forethought to pack essential items for survival situations.

How To Be a Gray Man

The best way to not leave a lasting impression is to not leave any impression at all.

This is the concept behind the gray man theory, and it sounds simple enough, but execution can be challenging.

This guide will cover the basic concept behind the gray man theory and provide some key tips and tricks for effectively making yourself ‘invisible’ in a disaster scenario.

gray man theory

Steps to Becoming a Gray Man (or Woman)

The ultimate goal of becoming a gray man or woman is to camouflage yourself into appearing as though you are just part of the crowd to prevent others from identifying you as a potential gold mine of supplies or information. By exuding confidence and preparedness, you will draw in opportunists who will attempt to capitalize on your resourcefulness to the detriment of your own survival.

To conceal the fact that you are prepared with survival gear and skills from others, there are four key areas you will want to focus on: how you act, how you move, how you look, and how you carry your gear.

How You Act

The key to acting as a gray man is to appear average and non-threatening. Be careful about what you say and to whom you say it – being known as strongly antagonistic or too outspoken about your political beliefs can lead others to make assumptions about you and mark you as a prepared individual.

Maintain conversation topics within the norm of the group. If small talk seems to be the normal thing to do, engage with others to not draw attention to yourself.

While a good understanding of your surroundings is paramount in a disaster, be careful to play down any attempts to scan areas for escape routes or possible problems with security. This type of behavior will be noticed and lead people to question what you’re looking for, or worse, what you’re trying to protect.

gray man theory
The gray man theory relies on not leaving an impression. Eye contact stimulates the brain to form memories so keeping your eyes averted can help you remain unnoticed.

One important skill to learn in adapting a gray man persona is maintaining your privacy without appearing overly private or obviously standoffish. When speaking with others, keep eye contact to a minimum as someone is more likely to notice you if they look in your eyes. Even brief eye contact when passing on the street can form a connection, making you more memorable than those around you.

How You Move

Knowing the local landscape can be a tremendous advantage as the better you know local streets and landmarks, the better able you will be to navigate them and alter your route to avoid troublesome areas. When moving, appear as much as possible to go with the flow, walking with purpose but not urgency. Any rapid motion will draw attention to you and raise suspicions as to your motives.

gray man theory
An integral part of the gray man theory is the ability to move through a crowd without drawing attention to yourself.

When navigating a crowd, make gradual progress – cutting through a sea of people at sharp angles will draw attention to your movements and make you appear suspicious. Whether others perceive you as a savior or threat, either one can slow you down.

Unless it would impede your own safety, always appear to follow the herd. For instance, if everyone around you turns towards an explosive sound and gasps, join them. You don’t ever want to be the one person who is unaffected by an out-of-the-ordinary event.

gray man theory
Follow the focus of the crowd – notice the woman standing with her back turned? According to the gray man theory, in a SHTF scenario, this behavior could raise suspicion. Photo via Intel Free Press on Flickr.

If you need to break away from the crowd, try and make your exit alongside a small group of people, keeping enough distance so that they know you’re not with them but close enough that you don’t appear to be alone, which makes you appear less vulnerable.

When observing your surroundings, be as discreet as possible. Leverage your peripheral vision as well as decoy objects, such as a piece of paper, to give the impression your attention is focused on the object as you survey the area. If appropriate, wear reflective sunglasses that hide your eyes, allowing you the freedom to scan rapidly without drawing attention.

gray man theory
Sunglasses on a sunny day are a good choice for obscuring your face. At night, they would have the opposite effect, drawing attention as something out of the norm.

If you need to engage in activities that will make noise and draw attention your way, try to take advantage of predictable noises to help mask the sound of any breaching you may need to do. Predictable noises include ‘white’ noises that people are accustomed to hearing and therefore raise little suspicion.

gray man theory
You can take advantage of distractions to make small moves toward your destination.

For instance, wait for a loud bus to pass before climbing into a dumpster or synchronize busting a window with a loud siren. If you need to get into a building, choose a door near a noisy HVAC condenser. These preparations may take a little bit of extra time to execute, but those few moments of patience will ensure your activities go unnoticed and may save your life.

How You Look

It goes without saying that when trying to appear less prepared than you are, camo prints or other outwardly tactical-looking clothing are not the best choice, unless of course, you are in a situation where that type of dress is the norm, such as a hunting trip.

While you don’t have to dress head-to-toe in gray, subtle color choices blend best into crowds and make it easier for you to move unnoticed.

gray man theory
Which is the first person that you notice? Bright colors are easy to track through a crowd.

Ideally, you will want to keep any tactical gear concealed. This means packing your pockets and bags strategically to allow for quick access to key items. Reflective objects and bright colors will draw visual attention so ensure items such as your knife are tucked inside your clothing or bag, not hanging from your belt.

Avoid having any reflective materials or highly visible colors on your clothing and accessories, as well as any large text or memorable insignia. Any focal points can draw attention to you and hinder your attempts to blend in.

gray man theory
Even if this officer were in civilian clothing, the shiny handcuffs and holster would be highly visible and leave an impression on passersby.

If possible, carry an additional item with you that can instantly change your look, such as a hat, sunglasses, or jacket, as this can be quite helpful. If someone does happen to peg you as a target, you can use the item to slip under their radar as they scan for you in a crowd.

One last word of caution – be mindful of the way you smell. Yes, smell. Believe it or not, scent is a major memory trigger, so try not to have a noticeable scent about you when trying to blend in.

How You Carry Your Gear and What You Carry

The simplest solution to carrying your gear unnoticed is to find a discreet every day carry bag that blends well with your typical daily routine. Backpacks and messenger bags commonly seen on commuters are good choices as these tend to be less obvious. You can also find pocketbooks with compartmentalized interiors that can make it quick and easy to access your gear.

gray man theory
There are many options for a tactical bag with a low profile that can fit into your typical style without drawing attention.

Another good choice that lends itself well to blending is a jacket or vest with a streetwear outward appearance but hidden storage on the inside. Pants with pockets, especially cargo pants, are excellent for storing gear but may not be the most appropriate choice for people who work in an office with a formal dress code.

The gear you carry with you daily should also be discreet if you want to be a gray man. For example, for self-defense, you may opt for a tactical pen or a discreet folding knife such as the Boker Subcom folding knife, which can even double as a money clip.

A compact flashlight such as the Fenix E05 is so compact it can easily be carried on a keychain without attracting.

Conclusion

In the immediate aftermath of a disaster or in a post-apocalyptic scenario, the ability to conceal yourself as a gray man can be an extremely useful survival skill. The last thing you want is for all your time and effort put into prepping to be for naught by having your supplies taken off you by someone less prepared and more desperate.

To improve your gray man abilities, observe the way people dress and act as you go about your day – what stands out, what makes various people noticeable? This can help you hone in on the objects and behaviors that draw attention.

Combining this knowledge with the four key steps to becoming a gray man will put you well on your way to being able to ‘disappear’ into any crowd and increase your chances of survival when disaster strikes.

Your Thoughts

Do you have any thoughts on the gray man theory? Have you experienced a situation where you needed to conceal your preparedness? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Thanks!

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car escape tool

Get Out Fast With The Best Car Escape Tool

car escape tool

Many preppers have a well-stocked vehicle, including a get-home bag, in case of emergencies, but in some situations, your vehicle can become the emergency situation from which you need to survive.

The thought of your car itself becoming a threat to your life is a scary one, but should it happen, you need to know what to do – and fast.

The very unexpected nature of car accidents can put you in a situation where there is an immediate danger of fire/explosion, entrapment, or even submergence (in the case of an accident in or near water) – you need to have the right car escape tool on you and know the proper way to use it.

Here at The Bug Out Bag Guide, we always have an eye out for preparedness and were inspired to write this article after a friend of ours told us how she always carries a seatbelt cutter in her EDC, right on her keychain. Her reasoning for this was that she wanted it accessible and on-hand at all times.

car escape tool

Her daily commute takes her over several bodies of water and, as part of her daily threat assessment, she identified a car accident involving water as a likely threat she needed to be prepared for. In case she ever needs to quickly free herself, reaching the ignition is a much surer bet than reaching something in the glove box; therefore, she keeps the perfect tool she’ll need in case of submersion right at her fingertips.

In case she ever needs to quickly free herself, reaching the ignition is a much surer bet than reaching something in the glove box; therefore, she keeps the perfect tool she’ll need in case of submersion right at her fingertips.

After hearing her story, it got us thinking: Knowing what to do in case of a car accident and having the right tools on hand is a preparedness measure most people need to take – there must be some great tips and tools out there we can share with our readers. So we went out, did the research, and came up with some great tips,

So we went out, did the research, and came up with some great tips, tricks, and recommendations that we’re very excited to share with you.

Assessing Vehicular Threats

When assessing what threats you are most likely to encounter while in your vehicle, it’s important to consider three distinct areas:

  1. Your usual commute
  2. Seasonal weather conditions
  3. Unpredictable situations

car escape tool

Assessing Your Commute

Much like our friend who inspired this article, you need to thoroughly consider all the possible threats you could encounter on your commute, such as flooding, steep cliffs, bridges, runaway truck zones, fallen rock zones, or stretches of wilderness or desolation. Taking a close look at a topographical map of the area you drive on a regular basis is a great way to get an idea of the possible emergency situations you may find yourself in.

Water can be a major threat and you should always be aware of waterways and areas that may become flooded during or following intense rainfall. Another thing to be aware of is that low bridges over small rivers and creeks are typically not designed to withstand substantial flooding, and if such bridges are on your commute, it is always prudent to map out alternate emergency routes.

If your commute includes large bridges, these pose less of a concern for flooding, but do anticipate bottleneck traffic in times of emergency. Hopefully, any accidents on a larger bridge will be contained to the bridge itself due to safety rails, but it is always wise to be prepared for water-related accidents.

Hopefully, any accidents on a larger bridge will be contained to the bridge itself due to safety rails, but it is always wise to be prepared for water-related accidents.

car escape tool
A bridge during rush hour can also delay the arrival of emergency personnel.

Traveling through mountainous regions presents its own set of threats and challenges. Typically, you will be traveling through areas with steep inclines that tend to have cliffs and winding roads with limited visibility. If there happens to be runaway truck zones, then there is potential for brakes overheating on declines.

If your commute takes you through long stretches of wilderness, you may be required to travel a significant distance on foot to reach civilization should an emergency arise and your vehicle is no longer operational. For more tips on assessing your daily threats, CLICK HERE.

car escape tool
Winding roads and steep terrain, as well as long stretches of wilderness, should be taken into consideration when assessing your commute.

Assessing Seasonal Weather Conditions

Depending on where you live, seasonal weather may present additional threats throughout different points in the year. Heat, rain, snow and wind all present unique challenges that should be addressed.

car escape tool
Precipitation reduces visibility and traction on the road.
  • Heat: Intense heat increases the risk of overheating, tire blowouts, and brake failure.
  • Rain and Snow: These elements make for hazardous driving conditions by reducing visibility and traction.
  • Wind: Wind can cause vehicles, especially large tractor trailers, to sway or lose control.

Assessing Unpredictable Situations

By nature, unpredictable situations are situations that can arise without warning and include emergencies such as collisions, tire blowouts, brake failure, belt failure, and car fires. While you can do your best to mitigate these risks by keeping your vehicle up to safety code with regular maintenance and inspections, there is nothing you can do to avoid these risks entirely, so it’s best to be prepared for them.

While you can do your best to mitigate these risks by keeping your vehicle up to safety code with regular maintenance and inspections, there is nothing you can do to avoid these risks entirely, so it’s best to be prepared for them.

In the case of fire, getting out as quickly as possible is your primary concern. You need to be aware of how to exit your vehicle in an emergency and have the tools on-hand to help you.

You need to be aware of how to exit your vehicle in an emergency and have the tools on-hand to help you.

car escape tool
You may only have seconds to react in extreme situations.

How To Use A Car Escape Tool

There are specific tools designed to assist in automobile emergencies. They work by providing a means to breach restraints and windows so you can quickly evacuate your car.  Remember, do not store your car escape tool in your glove compartment.  If your car rolls and your seatbelt locks up it will be difficult, if not impossible to reach.

Remember, do not store your car escape tool in your glove compartment. If your car rolls and your seatbelt locks up it will be difficult, if not impossible, to reach.

Instead, put it in a latched center console or mount it under the driver seat, to the driver side door, to the visor, or somewhere else that can easily be reached no matter what position the car is in after a crash.

Seatbelt Cutters

Seatbelts are an essential safety item designed to keep you safe. However, in some situations they can become an obstacle to your safety should you need to evacuate your vehicle quickly. In the case of an overturned or otherwise disabled vehicle, you may only have seconds to get out; if fire and water pose an added threat, the severity of the situation – and need for a quick escape – increases.

car escape tool
Hold the belt taut and pull the car escape tool away from your body.

A seatbelt cutter works best and fastest when the seatbelt is very taut. To operate a seatbelt cutter, grab your seatbelt and pull it away from your body to create tension, then hook the cutter and pull swiftly away from your body. Whether you cut the belt perpendicularly or at an angle makes no difference – do whichever is easiest for you.

car escape tool
Pull in a swift motion to slice the seatbelt. It’s a good idea to buy a yard or two of webbing to practice on.

Typically, the blade on a seatbelt cutter is recessed for safety and housed in a hook that guides the belt to the blade. There may be a protective cap as an additional precaution against cuts. There are seatbelt cutters with folding serrated blades, much like a pocket knife.

Glassbreakers

An episode of the popular TV series Mythbusters featured a vehicle submersion test, proving that when submerged, the pressure inside a car is too strong to open any of the doors until the vehicle is completely filled with water, which equalizes the pressure on the inside and outside.

You certainly don’t want to wait until your vehicle fills with water to get out and your windows (whether power or hand-crank) will not work when submerged. Your best bet in this situation is to break a window and exit through it. This is where having a car escape tool on-hand can truly be a lifesaver.

Your best bet in this situation is to break a window and exit through it. This is where having a car escape tool, with an integrated glassbreaker, can truly be a lifesaver.

car escape tool
The LifeHammer Original is a manual glassbreaker that you swing like a hammer. The long handle provides good leverage.

While there are many different options for glassbreakers, the tip material is usually made of steel, hardened steel, or tungsten carbide. The most common types of

The most common types of glassbreakers include manual and spring-assisted. A manual glassbreaker often comes as an added feature on pocket knives or tactical pens, requiring brute force to create a puncture in

Manual glassbreakers often come as an added feature on pocket knives or tactical pens, requiring brute force to create break glass. With a manual glassbreaker, you will want to hold the tool in your fist with the point toward your pinky and aim for the corner of the glass with a quick, hard, backhand jab in order to impact the window without going through it.

Spring-assisted glassbreakers pack their own punch and activate when pressed up against the glass. With no more force than is needed to press the tool up against the glass, a small metal tip strikes out and forcibly breaks the glass. This is an especially valuable feature when time is of the essence.

car escape tool
The ResQMe operates by pressing the end into the glass, which triggers a spring-loaded pin that strikes the window and shatters it.

Tips for effectively and safely breaking glass:

  • Aim for the side windows, not the windshield – by design, windshields are made to withstand a puncture without shattering and are extra tough to break through.
  • When breaking through a side window, aim for the lower corner about 4 inches from the frame rather than the center – this avoids pushing your hand through the glass and helps reduce the risk of injury.
  • To further protect yourself from injury, use your free hand to press against the glass and stop your other hand from going through the glass – this is especially critical in situations where you won’t have time to put on (or access to) safety gloves.
  • Always turn your head away from the glass when breaking it – this is of utmost importance when submerged as the water that will come rushing in will bring a wave of broken glass toward you (while a few cuts is better than drowning, glass in your eye can become a serious hindrance to your survival efforts).
car escape tool
If possible, avoid striking the center of the window. It is more difficult to shatter the window and there is a higher risk of injuring yourself.

Our Picks for the Top Vehicle Escape Tools

Best Overall Car Escape Tool

Our Top Pick: ResQMe Keychain Tool

The ResQMe Keychain Tool is our top pick as it works effectively while also being easy to keep on you at all times. Whether driving in your own car, riding with someone else, or taking public transportation, you can have it with you at all times.

car escape tool
Click to view the Res-Q-Me on Amazon.

Our Favorite Features:

  • Small, discreet, fits on a keychain, and has a quick-release – with just a tug, it is in your hand and ready for use
  • This is a spring-assisted tool and therefore easy to use with minimal strength – it is something an older child or elderly person can easily handle and comes with a tip made of hardened steel
  • Effective: We actually tested it out and what we found was that it took a few tries but luckily the pin rests instantly. On the third try, we were able to shatter a ¼” TruLite tempered glass. The reason it probably didn’t work on the first attempt was because we were holding a freestanding piece of glass and probably didn’t apply enough pressure to properly deploy the blade. In a real life situation, the glass would be framed and stable, making it easier to apply full pressure from within a vehicle.
  • We also tested the seatbelt cutter on Sterling 1″ tubular nylon webbing, the same type of material as a seatbelt, only twice the thickness. The Res-Q-Me sliced through in one motion.
  • The quick-release also serves as a safety feature to cover the blade on the seatbelt cutter to reduce risk of accidental injury

Best Mounted Vehicle Escape Tool

Our Top Pick: LifeHammer Evolution

The LifeHammer Evolution is our top pick as it comes with a mount that allows you to attach it to the interior of your car in an easily reachable location and making it readily accessible to the driver at all times.

car escape tool
Click to view the LifeHammer Evolution on Amazon.

Our Favorite Features:

  • This spring-assisted glassbreaker requires minimal strength to operate making it an effective tool for anyone, including older children and the elderly
  • The long handle provides a good grip for activating the trigger
  • The construction of the tool is quality and made from heavy duty plastic with a steel blade and ceramic tip
  • It comes with an adjustable mounting clip for securing the car escape tool to the door or center console for instant access, even in a rolled vehicle situation.

Best Multi-Function Vehicle Escape Tool

Our Top Pick: Spyderco Assist

This great tool features a folding pocket knife style and has a retractable carbide tip for breaking glass – simply squeezing the blade into the handle in its folded position will activate the glassbreaker.

car escape tool
Click to view the Spiderco Assist on Amazon.

Our Favorite Features:

  • The blunt-tipped blade is made of VG-10 steel and has serration that is specifically designed for cutting seatbelts (by folding the blade and handle together, you can also cut rope quickly)
  • The Cobra Hood opens quickly, providing access to the blade, with ample jimping for added control when the tool is open
  • The handle is made from durable FRN material offered in an ambidextrous (lefties rejoice!) design that fits well into the palm of either hand
  • As an added bonus, this tool also includes a survival whistle in the handle to help signal for help

Best Manual Vehicle Escape Tool

Our Top Pick: LifeHammer Original Emergency Hammer

This was our top pick as it is has a very sturdy plastic handle and the seatbelt cutter blade makes it virtually impossible to cut yourself on. It also comes with a mounting plate to secure it anywhere within reach of the driver’s seat.

car escape tool
Click to view the LifeHammer Original Emergency Hammer on Amazon.

Our Favorite Features:

  • This is a fixed double-sided hammer with hardened steel tips
  • The long handle provides for better leverage when cutting seatbelts and breaking glass
  • Effective: We also tested this one out and, while I was not expecting to be able to use this one effectively, after testing it out I was truly impressed with how efficient it was at breaking glass. After taking aim, we were able to shatter the same ¼” TruLite tempered glass with only one whack.
  • The LifeHammer seatbelt cutter also made it through the Sterling 1″ tubular nylon with no problem.

Our Favorite Car Escape Tools

Vehicle Escape ToolHow It Is UsedKey FeaturesPrice
Res-Q-Me Quick Car Escape Tool
Cut seat belts
Break windows
• Tough PVC plastic, with steel blade for quickly slicing through seat belts
• Spring loaded hammer exerts force when activated so anyone can operate it to break a window
• Keychain style is compact and always on hand, with a quick release clip
$
LifeHammer Safety Evolution Emergency Ceramic Auto Escape Hammer (Orange 2 Pack)
Cut seat belts
Break windows
• Flat head design puts the handle at 90 degrees for leverage when activating the hammer
• Seat beltcutter blade is deeply recessed for safety and for easily guiding the belt when cutting
• Includes mount and hardware for securing to the door or center console
$$
Spyderco Assist with Carbide Tip FRN Combination Edge Black Blade Knife
Cut seat belts
Break windows
Cut rope
Signal for help
• Folding pocket knife design doubles as a rope cutter
• Serated VG-10 steel blade slices through seatbelts and other bindings
• Squeeze in the folded position to reveal retractable carbide tip for breaking glass
$$$
LifeHammer Original Emergency Hammer
Cut seat belts
Break windows
• Recessed seat belt blade protects from accidental cuts
• Double steel hammer heads for quick deployment no matter how it is oriented when you grab it
• Comes with a mounting cradle to secure close to the driver's seat
$
Click the images to view current pricing on Amazon.

A Word About Vehicle-Related Emergencies

When it comes to preparedness for vehicle-related emergencies, one of the most important skills you can have is first aid knowledge.

The first moments of a medical emergency are the most critical, knowing what to do can mean the difference between life and death. If you haven’t already, we highly recommend taking a first aid course to ensure your skills are up to date.

Having the proper skills and tools to deal with a vehicle emergency may not only save you but also someone else. If you see someone in trouble and stop to offer help, ensure you follow the proper procedures for assisting in an emergency. Always introduce yourself and offer to help, asking permission to treat adults and minors if emergency personnel have yet to arrive on the scene.

As an added cautionary note, always be careful not to put yourself in harm’s way when assisting someone else; if you become injured as a result of your attempts to help, not only will your skills now be useless but you will have added an additional complication to the emergency.

Conclusion

As with any survival skill, we truly hope you never have the opportunity to put your vehicle escape skills into practice, but if the situation should arise where you do need to make a speedy exit from your car, chance favors the well-prepared.

When choosing your ideal car escape tool, always keep in mind that when it comes time to use it, you will have very little time to both retrieve and operate it – accessibility and speed are of the essence.

Also, don’t just pick out a tool and leave it until you need it; try it out, get comfortable with it, and ensure you know exactly what to do should a situation ever arise where your life depends on your ability to operate it.

Your Thoughts

Have you ever experienced a vehicle emergency? Did you have tools on-hand that helped you address the situation? What are the must-have vehicle escape tools in your survival arsenal and where do you keep them? Let us know your thoughts in the Comment section below, thanks!

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