Monthly Archives: January 2015

‘OSG’ update: A first-aid oversight

By Chris Engle, contributor

Hey there, “Out, See, Go” readers!

Earlier this month I talked about 12 ways to be a better outdoorsperson. Among my suggestions was to construct an extremely compact first-aid kit.

The idea of making such a kit as small as possible is to make you more likely to bring it along.

Take this example: My wife and I have one child. The iconic object which comes with a first child is a diaper bag bulging with every baby-care product under the sun: Diapers, lotion, butt wipes, face wipes, hand wipes, pacifier wipes, pacifiers, toys, medicine, fingernail clippers, milk bottles, water bottles (later replaced with sippy cups), stale snacks (replaced by fresh snacks with every outing), and extra diapers in case the first half-dozen are soiled or otherwise spontaneously combust.

After two years of toting this unwieldy sack of baby stuff we stopped bringing it on short trips. For that we paid dearly — no spare diapers, no hand/face/butt wipes, no snacks when we needed them most.

In other words, NO FUN.

In time we found a happy medium of grabbing a diaper or two, a snack and some hand sanitizer on the way out the door. This is my current m.o. as a stay-at-home dad and it works.

Same goes for a first-aid kit. Cramming too much stuff into a kit makes it hard to pack or carry, thus making it a good candidate to be left behind. A first-aid kit that can fit into a pocket is much better than not having one at all, even if it doesn’t have everything under the sun.

And this is where I have to include a correction to this month’s blog. My recommended kit left out a few small but quite important things. A reader named Dave called me out:

“Add super glue to your first-aid kit to hold together bad cuts. They do in the (emergency room). Also emergency kit for bird dogs.”

A warning for anyone about to close a cut with super glue: It burns like the devil. But Dave’s right — it works, it’s waterproof, and as someone whose dad was an ER nurse for 13 years, they do use it there.

His other point about bird dogs is also valid. If you bring along a dog for hunting or companionship, make sure they’re taken care of. This means being able to treat cuts, especially on the pads of their feet. Most pet stores have the proper ointment for that.

One more note about dogs and first-aid kits, again based on personal experience: Bring tweezers or surgical pliers. This was my biggest oversight in my first-aid suggestions.

These utensils would’ve come in handy when Miley got into a porcupine a few years ago. Initially I couldn’t do much more than put her in the car and drive her home. The next two weeks were spent pulling deeply embedded quills from her front legs with tweezers.

There’s all sorts of outdoor hazards which warrant having tweezers or pliers on hand, the most likely of which are splinters from firewood or impromptu piercings from fish hooks.

So there, I think that covers it. I’d be happy to hear any more of your suggestions. Email me at


Out, See, Go: 12 ways to be a better outdoorsperson

By Chris Engle, contributor

It’s January now and prime time for cabin fever to kick in. I’ve been fiddling with the idea of a camping outing in February – my first winter camp in a few years – but until then I thought I’d share some thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head lately.

Over the years I’ve read lots of magazine articles teaching really intensive skills for really intensive adventures. The thing is, each time one of those articles is published, I worry another person is scared off from getting outside and trying something new because they don’t have the time or tools they’re convinced they need.

Northern Michigan doesn’t have mountains. Aside from the Pictured Rocks we have no sheer cliffs. Venomous insects and snakes are almost nonexistent.

What we do have are lots of lakes, pretty extreme temperatures and some vast wilderness, so a little preparation, basic items, and know-how goes a long way for local explorers.

Here they are, in no particular order of importance, my suggestions men and women can use to improve themselves outdoors.

Learn to sew. I’ll lead this list with one skill that far too many people reserve for the ladies: sewing. Remember your guy friend from high school who took home economics as a way to meet girls? Well, he learned how to bake a killer pie, balance a checkbook down to the cent, and sew an awesome flannel shirt from scratch – not to mention he probably scored a few phone numbers in the process.

My mom taught me how to sew when I was a teenager. My first project was to mend a tear in my bedskirt. I still have that bedding set stashed away. It’s Realtree camo, by the way.

Since then I’ve sewn up tears in my hiking pack, repaired jackets, replaced buttons, stitched stuffed trout shut for the frying pan and fixed countless shirts for my wife and daughter. There’s definitely a sense of pride that comes from making old things new again with a simple needle and thread. It also saves a lot of money you would’ve otherwise spent on new gear.

Buy a glue gun and use it everywhere. Whatever a needle and thread can’t close up, a glue gun definitely will. A $3 glue gun bought me a couple more seasons with my old neoprene waders when their rubber boots began to dry and crack. Glue guns make great gifts for Valentine’s Day.

Buy a knife sharpener or whetstone and learn how to use it. A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one because you have to force the blade through whatever you’re cutting. Once it’s through, the blade will keep going, sometimes into your other hand. A sharp knife makes for light work and cleaner cuts. There are videos online that teach sharpening skills.

Get some waterproofing spray. When my older brother bought his first pair of Airwalk sneakers, he applied five or six coats of waterproofing spray over the course of a week, letting each coat dry for about a day. They looked brand new for five years and even now, 18 years later, they still look pretty good. Imagine what the stuff can do for your boots.

Don’t worry about knots. I was never a Boy Scout or sailor so I don’t know many knots. Even so, I’ve gotten through life outdoors just fine with square knots and fisherman’s knots. If not knowing knots is the thing holding you back, don’t let it.

Whittle things. Seriously, the way to a woman’s heart is with a well-whittled marshmallow stick for s’mores by the campfire. And ladies, present your man with a handcrafted weenie roaster and you will send his heart racing — and not just because of the cholesterol.

When my dad was a kid he whittled a giant fork and spoon for my grandma. To this day the utensils hang on her kitchen wall and she counts them among her most prized possessions. Remember that come Mothers Day.

Own two tarps. Use one for dirty work like hauling leaves and covering your wood pile at home. Keep the other one clean for camping and tie some ropes to the corners in case you’ll need it for emergency shelter or shade.

Forage things. Mushrooms can be scary if you don’t know what you’re doing. So can berries, but if you stick to recognizable ones like raspberries, blackberries and blueberries you’ll be ok. Even dandelions are edible, goldenrod can be brewed into tea, and wild mint makes a great backcountry breath freshener once you’ve wooed your lady friend with your whittling skills.

Learning to forage means learning to recognize good plants from bad, and that should definitely come in handy next time you go to the bathroom in the woods, if you know what I mean.

Build a fire. Start small with kindling of dry twigs, pine needles and thin strips of birch bark. Once that’s going, add larger twigs and pine branches. Add a log once you’ve got some coals going. Don’t be afraid to crouch down and blow on the embers – it’s amazing how much hotter they’ll burn with a little infusion of oxygen. Get good at these things before you get into the teepee-versus-log cabin-style campfire construction debate that’s been raging for millennia.

Assemble a super simple first aid/survival kit. When it comes to kits, the smaller the better. I’m talking fit-in-your-pocket small so you’re more apt to bring it along. Things to include: A CD or small mirror and whistle for signaling (blasts of three means distress), waterproof matches, large and small bandages, cotton balls or gauze, medical tape, Motrin or Tylenol, and burn ointment. That’s it. Put it all in a 1-quart Ziploc bag.

Knowing basic first aid is just as important as having a kit, so bring that know-how along too.

Have a sense of direction. A compass is only good if you have one – duh – and know how to use it. Will Phillips, tweeting @TheThryll, posted this on Twitter: “If you get lost in the woods, a compass can help you get lost more north.” So true.

You can hone your sense of direction while driving by quizzing yourself on what direction you’re headed. Learn how to read the sun and shadows while walking in the woods. If you get lost, stop, relax and listen for road noise or a creek to get your bearings. Panicking will only make things worse.

Buy a headlamp. The headlamp is the greatest invention since the discovery of fire. A lightweight LED headlamp leaves your hands free for other tasks – fishing, gathering wood, cooking or whatever. $30 goes a long way in the headlamp department and the investment is worth every cent.

Did I miss anything? Feel free to add your own in the comments section or email me your thoughts,

– Chris Engle is an avid outdoorsman and stay-at-home dad who lives in Hayes Township, Otsego County.