Saturday, April 2, 2011


Back in 2008, I was in the gift shop at Mt Rainier looking around for some trinket to bring home with me after a long hike.  Not satisfied with anything I saw, I was about to walk out when I noticed an orange deck of cards that said, "DON'T DIE OUT THERE."  Well, that immediately got my attention.

Upon closer examination, I discovered that, aside from being a deck of playing cards, each card had tips and tricks for outdoor field craft that was practical and worthwhile.  Now, decks of cards are great for putting necessary information in a place easy to find and use.  The US military has done this for years by placing the names and faces of known terrorists on decks of cards, knowing full well the soldiers would play cards and would learn the names and faces by associating them with certain cards, like Ace of Spades or King of clubs.  It's a brilliant yet simple idea, and putting survival tips on playing cards is a good idea too.

Now, each type of card, diamonds, spades, hearts, and clubs, have different categories of wilderness survival advice on each face.  Diamonds is for survival essentials, signals, locating your position and shelter.  Spades covers assessing your situation, water, fire, food, and evacuation techniques (I'm pulling this off the back of my deck of cards, by the way).  Hearts covers basic first aid, hypothermia, frostbite, heat illness, sprains and dislocations.  Lastly, clubs addresses CPR, head and spine injuries, fractures, bites and stings, and evacuation of the injured.  With the last group (clubs), you can see that these cards not only cover wilderness survival, but survival in any situation, whether it be on land, sea, or even in the air. 

Opening the box and placing the cards in your hands, you can immediately see the color that corresponds to the category by type, even when stacked.  The joker cards also serve a useful purpose.  One of the jokers is a Preparation and Prevention card, which covers what to do before you head out into the woods and what to do while you are out.  Things like checking weather before you go and making sure you have a current map of the area and leaving contact information are covered.  Also, it reminds you to have enough water on hand, and a reminder to be realistic about your abilities as well as a reminder to turn back if it gets too dangerous.  Yeah, you say that's a no brainer, but people oftentimes get stuck or killed because they fail to think about this very simple concept.

The other joker has the contents, which is basically the same rundown of what each type of card covers, as written above.  Lastly, there is an introduction card with the rationale of this deck as well as an important reminder about safety.

For each card type, the Ace is the table contents.  Each numbered card and face card afterward addresses issues related to that category in order of severity and priority.  For example, the ace of spades has the TOC for situation assessment, water, food, fire, etc.  In order of priority, the 2 of spades starts off with establishing a priority right away.  Things like treating severe injuries, locating food and water, and building a fire are listed first.  It's sort of the rundown of what you need to be thinking.  3 of spades addresses leadership roles and who to put in charge of the situation.  Each card thereafter covers subjects in the following order: evacuation, self-evacuation, preventing further injury, performing primary survey, ten-point examination, water, how to make a solar still (very cool), the illustrated solar still (as shown above), lighting a fire, and procuring food.  This simple example covers a lot of ground in not a whole lot of cards. 

Now, would you immediately bust out this deck of cards in an emergency?  Depends.  If I suddenly found myself lost and followed rule el numero uno and decided to STAY PUT, I might just break these out to read.  If nothing else, it will keep my mind occupied while I figure out what to do next.  More realistically, these cards would find themselves in many rounds of Texas Hold 'em while at camp.  And as I use them more and more, the more I'll remember things written on them. 

Look, I'm big into wilderness survival, but even I forget things.  Having something like this around as a handy little guide is worth the extra couple of ounces they take up in my backpack.  Plus, these cards are dirt cheap.  You can buy them for less than $8.00 anywhere.  In fact, the price of my cards was somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.00 before tax.  Not a bad deal when you consider that any survival guidebook will be more in the $20 range.  Even my pocket SAS Survival Guide handbook was $8.00 before tax.  Of course, the guidebook has much more information in it, but it's not as fun to read as a deck of cards while sharing some good times with some buddies outdoors in the glow of a lantern.  I'm just saying.

So, if you are looking for something to pass the time in a useful way, while being able to have fun with and maybe even win a few bucks playin' cards, get these bad boys.  Just google it and buy them.


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