Readers offer more ideas on hiking essentials

Len Lisenbee

I must admit that my column on “Hiking Safety” was remiss on several fronts. And readers from all over New York (and all the way to North Carolina, Kentucky and much of New England), sent me emails containing items that they felt should have been included in my list of things to take along on a hike.

In most cases, those readers were right.

The most common item mentioned was an LED headlamp. That makes great sense because a lamp can keep the wearer on the beaten path if darkness falls. And it makes finding a lost person much easier.

Hiking in the dark is downright dangerous for countless reasons. A handheld flashlight was second in numbers. Some readers suggested taking along both. And almost everyone who responded suggested taking along extra batteries. That is always a good idea, too.

Headlamp, whistle and even garbage bags are among the items readers suggest hikers take along for any extended hike.

Another item that becomes invaluable when an emergency occurs is a whistle. When blown hard it becomes audible at some impressive distances, depending of course on the terrain it is used in. Weight is never a factor since a durable metal whistle weighs around an ounce and a plastic model is half that.

Something else I was remiss in mentioning was a knife. Even a small pocket knife can can become an invaluable tool when the chips are down. I would recommend carrying two knives.

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One would be a sturdy sheath knife with a sharpening stone in a case attached on the sheath. The other should be a multi-blade pocket knife such as those offered by Buck Knives (I’ve had a Buck knife since forestry classes in college, more than five decades ago).

I also have a really useful multitool made by Gerber. I purchased the “horseman’s” model because it had all of the survival “blades” I needed and I had two horses at the time. It comes with a durable nylon sheath and fits any belt size. I carried it for most of my LE career, and still carry it now when going afield.

Len Lisenbee

Other suggestions included a compass and map of the area to be hiked. However, a compass is only useful for telling north from south unless the person using it takes the time to learn how to use it properly in conjunction with a topographic map.

That knowledge is not difficult to obtain, and it is well worth knowing even if the knowledge never has to be employed in an emergency situation.

Water purification tablets were another much-mentioned survival tip. I doubt there is anything more frustrating than being very thirsty and coming across a bubbling mountain stream, and knowing the dangers of drinking “raw” water (any surface water that might be infected).

Giardia is a tiny little germ that can cause intestinal “distress” to anyone ingesting it. I have a friend, a fellow agent, who almost died before doctors were able to cure this terrible disease.

There are some devises on the market that claim to turn suspected water into safe, potable water when sipped (like a straw) through them. I have not had an opportunity to test any of them, so it is a buyer beware situation.

But I have had multiple opportunities to use purification tablets, and they have always worked well for me when the directions were followed.

And here is an idea I have not heard of before. A small pill bottle containing cotton balls saturated with petroleum jelly will start a fire, even with some damp leaf litter. According to several readers that mentioned them, they burn hot for a (relatively) long time and will start a fire every time.

And here is one more tip. Carry two 50 gallon trash bags (tightly folded they take up very little space and weigh less than an two ounces) for either an emergency poncho or even a shelter or ground “cloth.”

Since being injured or lost during a rain day is doubly uncomfortable, it sounds like a really good idea.

And here are the two most important items to pack along on any hiking trip. They are knowledge and common sense.

Knowledge often comes from reading and asking questions from other knowledgeable people. And common sense comes from sound judgment, often at the expense of past experience. If something looks dangerous or unsafe, it probably is, so find another solution to that problem.


Earth Day was on April 22, but there was very little in the way of celebration this year, most likely due to our current COVID-19 pandemic.

Still, I am somewhat confused over any celebration concerning those who have been supporting any concern over global cooling, oops, I mean global warming, oh no, I mean climate change.

What I mean is, those individuals who claimed that carbon dioxide (CO2) was a “greenhouse gas” could not possibly celebrate Earth Day because that would be so counter-productive to their cause.

Earth Day just naturally leads to people planting trees. Lots of trees, being planted just about everywhere.

But trees are terrible producers of CO2, that evil “greenhouse gas.” So are grasses and shrubs. And believe it or not, the oceans of the world, which entails around three-quarters of this planet, are the biggest CO2 producers of them all!

What, exactly, are greenhouse gasses? They are gasses that end up in the upper atmosphere and trap some of the heat from the sun. And believe it or not, without greenhouse gasses playing a role as God intended, no living substance could exist.

It would be similar to low temperatures found on the moon (around -260 °F). According to scientific experts, in order for something to be a greenhouse gas, it must be light enough to reach the upper atmosphere and remain there. Clouds (water vapor for the most part) do not qualify.

However, methane, argon, mono and some poly-carbons, and ozone are either man-caused or true greenhouse gasses.

Keep in mind that virtually all greenhouse gasses occur naturally. And now, for at least the past nine years, a certain segment of our overall population has tried to make uninformed people believe that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas.

It is not, and never has been.

CO2 is a necessary substance for much of the life on earth. Without it nothing would grow. Without it we would not have natural gas deposits or coal deposits. Most importantly, without it life on earth would not exist. It simply is not a greenhouse gas!


According to a research study conducted by the University of Delaware, I owe a lot of predators like coyotes, bears, bobcats and assorted other critters a big apology.

Well, not really. Still, this project will open a lot of eyes, especially among hunters and wildlife lovers. Let me explain.

First of all, most hunters picture bears, bobcats and coyotes scouring forests and brush lots from late April to June while searching for newborn fawns. And, based on trail camera photos, that scenario is very true in most habitats containing those predators. After all, a coyote carrying a newborn fawn in its jaws is a relatively common sight caught by those cameras.

But, at least in Delaware, that does not seem to be the case. Their researchers found that, in most cases, fawns would have died of natural causes if not caught by predators. The study found that only 49 fawns (45%) of the 109 fawns monitored in that study were still alive 90 days after their birth.

And here is a kicker. Not one of those Delaware fawns fell to predators. The part of the state where this study was conducted does not have any bobcats or black bears, and coyotes are still a rare item there.

Of course this study does not equate in any way to the Finger Lakes region. After all, we have plenty of coyotes, bears and bobcats to serve as predators for our deer herd.

Still, the amount of natural mortality from the study is troubling at best. And it makes me wonder what our own actual fawn mortality might be. With the number of does leading one, two or even three fawns, and virtually no does not leading at least one fawn, I suspect a similar study in this area would have much different results.

Len Lisenbee is the Daily Messenger’s Outdoor Columnist. Contact him at