Mark all your gear so it can be easily found before you head for the backcountry. Here’s why.
by Leon Pantenburg
At the first portage, I realized my fanny pack with all my survival gear was missing. The scout troop was about four days into a nine-day canoe trip into Northern Minnesota’s Boundary Waters. While everyone else relaxed, the guide and I paddled to the last campsite to retrieve my stuff. I was lucky to have noticed the missing pack when I did, and really lucky to have found it!
It was a potentially dangerous screw-up. The gear had been dropped on shore during a canoe launch. Distracted during the activity, I forgot to pick up my fanny pack (can you say: “Survival Common Sense?) I wore the pack at all times and in it were my Ten Essentials, water bottle, survival gear and all the tools I’d need for the next five days. Several adults and scouts walked down the trail by the black fanny pack and never saw it.
On one Idaho elk hunt, I leaned my black 7 mm Remington rifle against a tree while I walked a few yards away to answer nature’s call. On the way back, it started to rain and I stopped to glass a promising clump of trees, then walked a little distance further to see better. (Yes, I had all my survival gear on me!) That caused a distraction, and in the gathering gloom, my black rifle blended in perfectly with the trees. It took about 10 anxious “Oh Crap!” minutes to locate the rifle.
“Yeah, Leon quit elk hunting,” I could imagine my hunting partners saying while I searched. “He lost his rifle. Yeah, really, he lost his rifle. He leaned it
up against a tree and couldn’t find it again.” And I could just imagine the ribbing I would get around the campfire that, and many other nights!
Nowadays, I frequently stick blaze orange duct tape on my hunting rifle to help it stay found and as an added safety feature. I usually wear blaze orange in the field, even when the law doesn’t require it. Well over half my outdoor gear has some sort of camouflage pattern.
To a duck and turkey hunter, the appropriate camouflage pattern is important to success. But don’t inadvertently forget the recreational clothing patterns and colors that are also camouflage. Black, white and earth-tone colors are popular and can easily blend into the surroundings. A brown-and black or green-and-white plaid pattern is one of the most effective camo patterns available.
If your knife, canteen, glove or other item is too well camouflaged, it may be lost or misplaced. Here’s a simple solution: Take along bright, fluorescent duct tape, flagging or parachute cord and mark everything before using it.
The bright material will help you see your gear in low light.
Bob Patterson, a skilled outdoorsman and veteran hunter from Mankato, Mn., recommends using highway department reflectional tape to mark gear. The tape is typically available at automotive stores. Trimbrite – Glow in the Dark Tape, 2″ x 24″ (T1805) Bob is color blind, so camouflaged gear is virtually invisible to him. If Bob misplaced something, he could wait until darkness and see the tape markings by flashlight.
Bob runs a few pieces of the reflector tape through a paper shredder to make ribbons, then takes along thumbtacks to attach it to trees. The shredded reflector tape works well to mark the path to and from a deer stand.
If, for some reason, you feel the need to hide out, either from mauraders or mallards, just strip the bright material off.
The best survival gear in the world does no good if you forget or lose it somewhere!