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Wilderness Survival and... C-19

These are concerning times, no doubt, however in the midst of the confusion (and without getting into too much detail), you may be thinking a wilderness outing, whether into the front country or backcountry might be a [temporary] answer. As I frequently say, “wilderness survival is just an extension of wilderness safety, and wilderness safety is all about RISK MANAGEMENT.” And on that point…

First, listen ONLY to the scientists!! NOT the politicians!!! This includes Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s foremost authority (and perhaps Dr. Sanjay Gupta). Both have a large presence on TV and YT (yes, doctors are “scientists”, too). Do this just before you go and just before you get back!

Second, BEFORE you go out to the wilderness, be sure you have ALREADY practiced “social distancing” to be SURE you have none of the serious indicators (fever, coughing, but most especially difficulty breathing, C-19 is a RESPIRATORY disease (social distancing is staying at least one to two meters away from other people), REGARDLESS if they are showing symptoms or not!

Third, CONTINUE to practice social distancing AND good hygiene even after you get to the wilderness! Just because you are “in the open”, that does NOT mean you can’t still contract C-19!! Even so, I would suggest (and recommend) using/bringing a satellite communicator like Garmin's InReach Mini (a smartphone if you can get a signal) to get status updates while you're out AND to call for emergency help (ONLY if you need emergency help!)

Fourth, on the subject of masks, the ONLY people who should be wearing masks (specifically, the ”N-95 [respirator]”) are healthcare workers (AT WORK) or those WITH C-19 symptoms!!! Otherwise, you are part of the problem!! There is a SEVERE shortage of these masks, and other protective wear, for healthcare workers and we NEED them to stay healthy. Besides, if you are wearing these, or “surgical” masks, you are just ‘begging’ for infection (when you exhale, you are creating an ideal, moist environment for C-19!) If you feel you must take steps, I would place a tissue over my mouth/nose, then hold it in place with a Buff/bandana/etc. When you feel it getting moist, replace it.

And fifth, as in ALL “survival” situations, common sense (and if in a team/group survival situation, like now, common courtesy) is the call of the day!!! DO be concerned, but do NOT panic! Again, and as always, inform yourself from DEPENDABLE sources (again, the scientists, NOT the politicians).

Be smart, be safe, see you in three weeks.

17 Replies

No, not at all! Since you found the area, look again... Gould Mesa Camp, Millard Camp, Mt Lowe Camp and Henninger Flats Camp (among others) are all in the frontcountry (actually, that area is called "Frontrange"). If you find Tom Sloane Saddle, at the eastern end of Brown Mountain, THAT is the top of Bear Canyon, well within the backcountry.

Frontcountry areas are typically populated with dayhikers, weekend warriors, sometimes even car-campers. THESE are the areas, and the people, that tend to get a lot of use by beginners and consequently can be rather... irksome! It's after you get into the backcountry that you get to meet good people with good manners and more experience. It can be a true pleasure to meet people there. Of course, getting to the backcountry takes more effort and more planning, preparation, proficiency, etc. so that tends to weed-out the creeps, cooks and crooks!!

Still, even though the San Gabriel Mountains, and other neighboring mountain areas, line the northern side of L.A. City/County, you have to remember not EVERYONE is into serious hiking, camping and other wilderness activities. A shame, really, because there's so much to do and it's SO close.

Of course, here in "SoCal", we have mountains, canyons, deserts, ocean, islands, etc. ALL within just an hour or two! So, I can indulge a number of outdoor interests all year round!!


Opinions are one thing, both sides can disagree. But when you avoid religious rhetoric, political punditry, guessing and the like and stick to facts and science, you tend to be right more often.


@hikermor @Philreedshikes The local general wilderness access closure (due to C-19) has been extended from April 30th to May 15th here, other local areas like Joshua Tree have restricted motor vehicles, but not access by foot, so like everywhere else, consistency seems to be lacking. BTW, have similar closures happened in your/other areas?

I need to be back in town by about the 3rd (gotta pay the bills), so I'll only be on the trail for about two-and-a-half weeks this time (I can pack up to 3 weeks of rations, so I try to get out for 3 weeks at a time). Still, I'm about due for a survival challenge, unfortunately that requires a month.

I'm not sure if our local REIs will be doing business again by the time I'm ready to go (I'd like to get a few MSR gas canisters). The closest one still has "closed" notices on the door, I presume the others around town are the same.

I expect to see a LOT more people on the trail (at least in the frontcountry), so as usual, I'll be heading to the backcountry. It'll be interesting to see how C-19 will effect trail/camp behavior (if at all). Hopefully, everyone has been listening to the SCIENTISTS! (NOT the politician/s (or certain so-called "news" sources)), I expect C-19 to be with us through the fall and probably next year (unless they can manage to produce a vaccination).

@SurvivalGal  I gotta say that I'm absolutely amazed about how much time you spend on the trail!  Considering that it's not a through hike. WOW!

Here in VA, it appears we have a similar lock out of recreation areas.  Parks are closed. National Forests are open, but the NF facilities are all closed.

You know you can get canister fuel other places, like Walmart, Bass Pro, etc.

Because you go through a lot of canisters, did you know you can get a little gadget that lets you empty your almost empty canisters into another? 

I made a little how-to vid on this:

Further, you can buy a 12 pack of butane cans for $22 on amazon, and use that to refill your canisters.  Each can fills about 2 canisters, bringing the cost of each canister to about $1.  This is butane, without the propane mix, so they have trouble getting started below 20F.

On a personal note, I do wonder about what drives a person to go out 3 weeks at a time.  Is it the scenery?  A hobby, like photography? 

In my mind, the 'challenge' seems like it would be hard to sustain, especially when it becomes 'the routine'.  Are you training other folks?  Fishing?  Off-route orienteering?  Building a secret back-woods cabin?  I know...panning for gold! LOL.

What's your secret?


REI Member Since 1979
A "shout out" to Gunny for pointing me to these processes

LOL, (I thought this would come up at some point) no "secret", I'm a Freelance Litigation Paralegal and legal/factual research expert (which means I'm expert at becoming expert) specializing in intellectual property (although I work in many areas of law) for over 10 years now.

Regarding canisters, yep, I have a gas transfer valve (I've written about this before). If REI doesn't open by the 13th, I'll have to go to Walmart. I prefer not to use straight butain, it doesn't do well in cold temperatures (that's why you should keep your lighter in your pocket).

I spend a lot of time in the wilderness (ALL types of wilderness) because I can! I normally go solo (the subject of another post) because few people can match my schedule. Normally I'll meet others on the trail or at a camp and we'll go from there.

A survival "challenge" is when you go out with the intent to test yourself in a survival situation (think Les Stroud in his Survivorman television series).


It is perfectly fine to go out "roughing it" to see how you fare in tough conditions, but those circumstances lack the element of unpredictability, which is usually present in most real life survival scenarios.

Toadd that element, I suggest that one volunteer as a member of your local mountain rescue unit.  Hopefully you live near mountains and have such a unit; if not, move....

 You will receive opportunities to serve at all time of the day or night, in all sorts of weather and conditions.  Some times, the operations will be fairly trivial and routine - transporting an injured person a mile or so to the trail head and sometimes not so much - rappelling into a crumbling mine shaft to extricate injured victims, launching into a coming winter storm at 8,00 feet with snow beginning to fall, or starting to hike into the hills on a summer day with temperatures already in the 90s, etc.  You get the picture...

You will experience elation.  you will experience tragedy.  You will learn the value of good training, good equipment, and especially, the worth of competent, resourceful team mates (who come in a wide variety of capabilities, shapes, sizes, and genders).

It will be a profound and influential experience.  it certainly was for me....


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@hikermorYou're preaching to the choir. As I've mentioned in other posts, I've been a wilderness enthusiast, and wilderness survivalist, for almost 35 years (I've been a Litigation Paralegal almost as long). However Search And Rescue, though it has some elements/benefits closely related to the study and practice of wilderness survival, is a completely different animal!

As to the element of "unpredictability" and survival challenges... DUH, OF COURSE! But if that's your position on the subject, then you're completely missing the point. As I had to point out to Samuel Thayer (the author of a few books on wild edibles), the point to the study and practice of wilderness survival (and more to the point, survival challenges), is NOT to ready yourself for "any" possibility, it's to ready yourself for LIKELY possibilities. Getting hit by a meteorite? Unlikely (happened only once that I can recall). Getting lost? LIKELY.

WHY train? To remove the element of "surprise." I am fairly well known (or was) in the survival-reality television genre (my trail name, Survival Gal, not my real name) for calling-out the bulls**t and the bulls**ters (I've come to know a few of the cast members over the years) and one of the "tells" is they often say, "... this is the hardest thing I've ever done..." (or words to that effect). TOTAL fake! If you are a REAL survivalist, then you've trained before and not only is it NOT "the hardest thing you've ever done" it's not the first time, either! Why does that matter? Because one of the hardest things about a wilderness survival ordeal are the firsts; the first day, the first night, the first rain, etc. Training removes all of that. Besides, you may be able to start a friction fire in your backyard under fair weather, but try that after eating very little and getting even less sleep in less than ideal conditions!!

Moreover, the value of a wilderness survival challenge is directly related to the terrain it is conducted in. If you want to ready yourself for survival in the desert, you HAVE to go to the desert to train, etc. Actually, there's far more value in survival challenges of a day or two (particularly for beginners) than for any extended challenge. MY challenges are longer because I'm far past that stage, my challenges focus more on the psychological aspect of wilderness survival, which can really only be achieved after an extended period when you are sufficiently stressed.

BTW, yes, the SAR unit I generally find myself closest to is in Altadena (Altadena Mountain Rescue. Like all SAR units, I'm aware of, it's run out of the Sherrif's Department).


Well, I've been to an REI (not my usual one) to check-out the "curbside" service... not great, but not bad. It was a little like a small firedrill conducted by panicked people. I'm sure it will get better, and since C-19 will be around for the next year, I'm sure REI will have plenty of time to get it right.

In the meantime, I was announcing to friends I was planning another outing, this time a MONTH long (the local wilderness lock-out has been lifted). Two friends (a couple) wondered if I was predicting another lock-down, since I was right about the last time I predicted a lock-down and made it out just in time.

No, I'll go out on a limb and say no lock-down for a while (here in California)... until enough people die. I predicted we'd reach 200,000 US deaths due to C-19 (100,000 before the peak and 100,000 after), and although I upgraded that to reach 400,000 US deaths (thanks to what I expect will be ongoing reopening efforts), so enjoy your "freedom".

Me, now that REI is "open" and the backcountry is accessible, I've been planning a good long outing, maybe meeting a friend or two while I'm out (a few are out of state visiting with family), so we have time to plan some interesting possibilities.

BUT WHILE WE'RE OUT, yes, we'll continue to wear masks, social distance, and clean our hands OFTEN! (and so should YOU if going out!!) And, I'm insisting those I plan to see on the trail do the same until we meet AND monitor their own health. Not unlike the last time I went out. If you're going out to the wilderness, I urge you to do the same!!!

Obviously, this means solo tents/hammocks only (unless you're married or something), everyone prepares their own food, and nobody shares ANYTHING.

While we know much more about C-19 (thanks in no small part to the South Korean CDC, not ours, of course), like what situations are most likely to present C-19 risk, we know being outside presents a FAR smaller health risk than being inside (ie in public transportation, offices, restaurants, anywhere you are in an enclosed space with other people with little FRESH air circulation). The situation is made worse if people don't follow the guidelines.

Being in the great outdoors, on the other hand, is less risky and more healthy. It's even safer now that studies are showing C-19 can NOT be transmitted by those who contracted C-19 - and recovered. Even if they test positive after recovery, they are NOT being "re-infected", the tests are only detecting the "dead" C-19 particles.

While you shouldn't be surprised if there's another lock-down (or two...), or that people will snap at each other more as this continues, it's important for not only your physical health, but your mental health to get out, get some exercise, go backpacking, hiking, camping, whatever as long as it's outside.

As always: Be smart, be safe.