Thursday, July 28, 2016

Lightning Storm Safety

A recent death of an Arizona teen from a lightning strike in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area has brought to mind the importance of proper practices during lightning storms. Each year over 20 million strikes hit the ground accounting for nearly 70 deaths per year. While many of us know the correct behavior and techniques during lightning, a safety refresher in this time of increasing summer storms could be the difference between panic and action. Here are the top three things to remember if caught in a lightning storm.  

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1. Count the Distance

In order to gauge the distance you are from a storm, count the seconds between seeing a flash and hearing thunder. Sound travels at 1.6km every 5 seconds. If the flash-bang is 30 seconds or less, avoid danger places or go to a safe place until the storm has passed. If the flash-bang is 5 seconds or less, the storm is less than 2 miles from you and you should immediately find cover and assume lighting position.

2. Dangerous Locations
LOTS of dangerous locations here...

Areas to avoid if a lightning is in your area include:

  • Summits, ridge tops, or exposed locations like meadows or open slopes.
  • Near water of any kind including rivers, lakes, and even indoor plumbing.
  • Near tall objects like trees or rock spires.
  • Inside shallow caves or under rock overhangs. 
  • Near any conductive objects, like metal tools or metal pack frames.

Steering clear of these areas will better you odds of avoiding lightning strikes.

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3. Positions of Safety

Proper practices in a lightning storm include:

  • Disperse your party 20 to 40ft apart.
  • Seek shelter in a stand of uniform height trees, in a crevice or ravine, or deep in a cave.
  • Assume lightning position by squatting on a insulating pad with only your forefoot touching the pad and your heels together. Cover your ears with your palms while tucking your head down. See diagram for reference. 

If you practice these techniques, coupled with adequate preparation and attention to signs of inclement weather, you could reduce the amount or risk posed to you by lightning storms. Stay safe in storms this summer, and enjoy time in the wild!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Equipment Spotlight: Tenacious Tape Gear Patches

A New Approach to Gear Repair:

The warmth, light weight and compactability of  down jackets make them a backpacker's ace in the hole but one down side has always been their susceptibility small rips or tears. Left unattended all that warm down escapes pretty quickly through fairly small rips or tears.

Repairing a hole in the past has typically involved unsightly repair patches/duct tape or and expensive trip to a gear repair shop. The folks over at McNett have a new solution: Tenacious Tape Gear Repair Patches. Application is easy: just peel off the backing and stick to the gear needing repair. The adhesive is advertised to stay put "rain, snow, or shine" on "outerwear, outdoor gear, water bottles, luggage and more".

The patches come in a variety of fun decorative shapes & sizes to cover just about any size tear. They are also available in black, color, and reflective tape.

After recently finding a sizable rip in the back of my down jacket I decided to give these gear patches a shot. I picked up a camping set in black at a local outdoor store for around $10.

The precut tree shape seemed about the right size for the tear- it peeled off the backing easily & seemed to adhere to the jacket material pretty well. It helped to have a flat surface behind the jacket to get the patch on without any wrinkles or flaps. The matte black color of the patch made it not terribly noticeable against the black of my jacket.

After three months of regular wear, two weeks in the backcountry and one wash the patch is still in place and looks good. Having previously used duct tape, glossy gear repair tape, and a needle and thread to repair jackets while on service projects I really like the fun shapes and simplicity of these patches!