Where is It?

Keep Everything at Hand

Very early in my career, I worked for the U.S. Forest Service doing timber inventory and surveys. Worn was an army-green “cruiser vest” that contained tools of the trade (Silva Ranger compass, increment bore, d-tape, clinometer, distance tape, and bright-colored flagging ribbon). Carried in-hand was a short-handled axe.

During breaks, we’d take the vests off and lay them on the ground. Much time was wasted looking for the vests once it was time to again start work, since they had an irritating habit of blending in with the understory. Ditto any other tool that either unhappily escaped the vest, or was left sitting on the ground. The axes especially had a habit of losing themselves.

Looking for stuff soon got very old.

The solution was simple. Lengths of bright-orange flagging ribbon were tied to everything, especially the axes. We never left the vests anywhere, and if they came off, they were always within arm’s reach. If we got up to take a personal break, the vest went with. Tools were never left on the ground by themselves, and always went with the vest. Complete hands-on, or reach-area, control was essential. End of problem.

Bright is Best

Fast forward to the present. Vests, packs, and most other gear can be obtained in a variety of bright colors (even cruiser vests!).

Blaze orange is required by most states during hunting season, and much blaze orange gear intended for hunters can be used by non-hunters during the hiking season. A side benefit is the added safety for hikers during the hunting season (think about it!).

The hands-on, reach-area control rule is still essential, since in spite of bright colors, items can (and will be) hidden from view behind trees, rocks, brush, and so forth.

Consider Flagging Ribbon

I still carry a medium roll of orange flagging ribbon as part of my Tool Kit. Still handy for tying pieces to easily-lost items. Many other uses as well.

Pocket Carry May Not Be Secure Carry

I learned this the hard way while with a ground team in the field during a search for a missing hunter. The terrain was mountainous with stands of mixed-density timber. I was doing routine compass work, and had my long-time, tried and true Silva Ranger compass in my unbuttoned front shirt pocket, with the lanyard hanging out. Seemed a lot easier with the frequent use I was giving it.

Our helicopter spotted smoke from the victim’s campfire, but we couldn’t see it from our location. We made haste to a place where we could see the smoke. It was a simple matter to shoot a bearing to the smoke, giving us a line of travel even though we were going to dip into the trees off and on and would lose sight of our victim’s location. We were given a lat/long for the GPS, but it was common practice to obtain a bearing if one was available as a manual backup to the GPS.

Contact was soon made with the victim, and we arranged for him to be flown out directly.

There was not enough time for our helicopter to return and fly us out, so we had to march out on foot. I reached for my compass, and to my chagrin realized the compass was no longer in my shirt pocket!

Orders were to get out quickly, and I came within a pistol-barrel-length of just leaving the compass behind, since my partner had his compass we could use. But, that’s no way to treat an old friend who’d been with me since the early days. I raced back in an effort to re-trace my steps.

Luckily I rather quickly spotted the compass hanging by its lanyard on a dead lodgepole pine tree branch, pocket-height, waiting for me to collect it. It was obvious the lanyard caught on the branch as I ran by earlier.

Moral of this story: Beware of stashing items (compass, GPS, gloves, etc.) in open pants or coat pockets. Things fall out unnoticed, or snag on terrain features and get pulled away. Make sure lanyard loops are attached or at a minimum tucked away securely!

The only secure pocket carry is velcro, zipper, snap, or button-down carry. Period.

Keep It in the Pack

Same with packs…anything tied to or hanging on a pack is easy to lose. Secure your most valuable (or important) items inside your pack. Fasten, zip, snap, or button everything. That way it all stays put unless you physically undo.

Insure things stay in the pack when you’re digging for something else, especially in the dark.

If you or your pack takes a tumble for whatever reason, stop and take inventory at the earliest opportunity.