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Survival Kit

Lesson 11 from: Scouting Techniques for National Parks

Chris Nicholson

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Lesson Info

11. Survival Kit

Next Lesson: Park Environments

Lesson Info

Survival Kit

Your camera kit. You could put together your own survival kit just based on your preferences and how you like to work. Do some research, buy a book, find the kinds of things that usually go into one, and put it together yourself. This is the one that I bring with me. If I'm going, any more than really just a quarter of a mile into the wilderness, I've got this on me, even if I'm traveling with other people. Maybe just strap onto my waist, it's out of my way. Very easy. Hopefully, I never, never need it. When you put one together, I hope you never need it. But should you ever find yourself in a survival situation, this could save your life. So let's take a look at a few of the things that I put in my kit, and I'll tell a little bit about why they're there. One, is pretty new school. It's just a GPS. So if I'm lost I can use this to try to find my way out. Always make sure it's got fresh batteries in it. But we also wanna go a little old school too. So I've got a compass. GPS, the batter...

ies could die. Maybe I'm not getting a signal because I'm in the woods. This is almost surefire. As long as it doesn't break, I can find my way out. Whenever you're in a park or in a new spot, bring a map too. A compass and a map together, if you know how to use them, you can find your way in or out of anywhere. I've got an emergency blanket. It's very light, and it's very effective. The thing is, what you generally don't wanna do is use it as a blanket, ironically enough. You could take it out of the package and wrap it around you. It will keep you very warm in a situation. Right now, it's a little cool out here on the beach. It could get cold later. If you're in the desert, it could get very cold. If you're working in the Winter, of course, you could wrap this around you. The thing is it will keep you so warm, and it's so good at trapping in the warmth, that it's also really good at trapping in the moisture, and that's bad. When you're in a situation where it's cold, you do not wanna sweat, cuz then you're gonna end up in an even worse situation than you were So what you can do with the emergency blanket is you can actually set it up if you build a campfire. Say we're right here and we built a fire, I can set up this, string it between two trees, and it's gonna trap the heat in say, maybe an eight or 10 foot spot. And then it'll keep that nice and warm, and you can sleep in that area. You can stay in that area. There's also other ways to use this. It's very reflective. You could use it as an emergency signal, if you were to just kinda wave it. It creates a very nice signal of reflection that can be seen from very far off. I mentioned that there's multiple uses for that, and that's another important thing when you're putting together a survival kit. You want it to be able to pack small. So you don't wanna put things in here that only serve one purpose. Everything in here is gonna serve multiple purposes just for efficiency. And this is a good example. It's just a bandana, but there's so many thing you can do with it. I can use this to filter dirty water before purifying it, cuz there's a difference between sanitizing water and just getting the junk out. I can use this as a signal. That's why I have a yellow one, cuz it's very easy to see. I could open it up and use it as a sling. I could use this to wrap around my neck and help keep me warm. But really, there's probably 20 things I could rattle off that I could do with this one piece of light and cheap equipment. Also, just a quick story, this is one of the only two items that I've ever taken out of here to use in a real situation. I was in Death Valley National Park, and it was early morning. I was heading off for a hike around Zabriskie Point. And I had planned to only be out for a couple of hours. So I didn't put on any sun screen, and I went out for the hike, and I took a wrong turn on the trail. I ended up way off from where I intended to be. And again, I didn't have sunscreen on me. I didn't wanna get burned, which would put me in an even more situation. Again, this wasn't a life or death survival situation, but I wanted to prevent it from getting worse. I knew I had the bandana in here, so I took it out. I just dampened it a little bit with water, and I wrapped it around my head just to protect my forehead. I had a jacket on. I had long sleeves. I put that back on even though it was getting warmer to protect my arms. So if I got burned at all it was just gonna be around here in my face. And I've got a little bit of scruff so that protects me too. But again, one of only two things that I ever took out of here to use. Knock on wood. But a big piece right here. Okay, sunblock. This went into the bag after that time in Death Valley. I've got a flashlight, just a small mag light. It's very light. And this was here just for emergencies. I don't use this for light painting. I don't use it to follow a trail back to the car. This is only here with fresh batteries in case something happens to me out in the wilderness. Just some hand warmers, which do have a second purpose. You can use these, you can strap them to your lenses to keep them from getting condensation. So we've got first aid supplies. There's bandages, there's gauze, there's tape in here. And this is just standard first aid stuff. I mentioned that there's only two times I ever took something out of here. The other time was this. It wasn't for me. I was hiking in Grand Teton, and I came across a family that had a little girl. She had got a cut on her foot. And they were actually gonna abandon their hike. I saw them just as they were turning around to go back cuz they didn't have any supplies with them. And I said, if you want, I have Band-aids right here, and you can use them. I took it out, she put it on, and they were able to finish their hike, cuz she felt better after that. So again, neither two were a dangerous emergency situation, but I was happy that I had supplies even when just something minor came up. Flint and steel. This is just for being able to start a fire. You take the steel, strike it against the flint, and get a spark, and get some tender going, to start a fire in a really bad emergency situation. If you read the book I recommended, 98.6 Degrees, or any other survival book, they say that the priority is to keep your body temperature where it's supposed to be. So that's getting your water to stay hydrated, but also being able to build a fire and keep yourself warm at night, or to cook things, or to purify water.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Resources And Gear Guide
Ten Tips for Photographing National Parks
Wilderness Survival Kit
B&H Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


This class was a tremendous help. It is definitely a "tool kit" class and not a "how to" class. With that said, it is worth every penny just for the amazing scouting tips, safety tips, and national park app suggestion. I downloaded one of the recommended apps from this class for a trip I'm taking next month and was thrilled with the information. There are definitely a lot of great tools discussed in this class.

Gaily Cowart

This class was incredible because I wouldn't have gottent this info anywhere else. It's basically a lesson in common and not-so-common sense while shooting at night. No, you're not going to get a whole lot of techniques for working your camera, but you will get strategies for making sure you're actually able to shoot once you're ready. With night photography, there are many unknows that can ruin your chances of getting good shots. Without this class, I never would have thought about how to make the most of daylight hours to plan and prepare a night shoot. And, I wouldn't have known much about how to be as safe and prepared while shooting in the wilderness. I found this course to be very interesting and helpful in the grand scheme of understanding how to get the best from your efforts while shooting at night-time in a park, or secluded area.

Robert Reed

If you understand the purpose of this class, you will get a great deal of benefit from it. It is NOT a photography class in the sense of teaching technique, gear, or artistic considerations. It is a class on scouting and preparing for landscape photography - particularly night photography. While the instructor works heavily in the national parks, his techniques would be valuable anywhere. I especially benefited from the section on various resources. He mentions several books and gives specific insights into apps designed for photographers. Most of which I was familiar with, but he even covers their basic use and function. Those not accustomed to spending time on trails or in the back country will also appreciate the very practical advice that he offers on safety, clothing, and general considerations. A nice concise package that covers a lot of ground.

Student Work