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Keeping Electronics Going in the Cold

To counter the effect that the cold has on electronics and more specifically batteries is simple in theory, you need to keep the battery warm. In reality this can be quite hard.

 

How Batteries Work

When a circuit between the two terminals of a battery is completed, the battery produces electricity through a series of electromagnetic reactions between the different components of the battery. The reaction in one part of the battery creates electrons, and the reaction in another part absorbs them. The result of these reactions is electricity. The battery will continue to produce electricity until components of the battery run out of the substance necessary for the reactions to occur. These reactions work in one direction.

Rechargeable batteries work in the same fashion but when plugged into an outside power source the flow is revered and electrons are added back to the source (recharging them)

When you take batteries out in the extreme cold like you get in Alaska this reaction is slowed down to the point that the reaction stops. This stops the flow of electrons and therefore the electricity stops powering the device.

This can be a minor inconvenience in cases of cameras, on up to a serious issue if its your GPS and you have no other navigational tools or skills.

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What Needs To Be Done

To counter this effect on the reaction is simple in theory you need to keep the battery warm. In reality this can be quite hard. If the device is not needed often, you can keep it deep in your layers close to your body heat and that usually does the trick.

If it’s a device you need to use often this may or may not work. You can always keep them in your layers or in a special pouch when they are not in use but when you take them out they wont last long.

 

What You Can Do

Depending on the device you have a few options,

Use devices that take conventional batteries (AA, AAA) and stick to none rechargeable. In our experience non rechargeable batteries seem to last longer in the cold. Carry replacements in your layers. In order to split the difference between burning through a lot of batteries and racking up the cost, We always have rechargeable batteries in our devices that take conventional batteries and carry non rechargeable spares if the device goes dead before we are done.

If the devices use battery packs like a phone or go pro for example, you can carry a lot of replacement batteries kept warm in your layers and swap them out as needed.

If the devices have non remove-able batteries you can plug them into a large battery pack re-charger to try and keep them charged up and keep the battery in your layers why the device is in use.

This last tip we do for all our devices regardless of what kind of battery it takes because it can help prolong the life of any battery and that is attach a heat source.

This is done with chemical hand warmers. We use either a rubber band or in the case of our phones an elastic tether that we can slip the hand warmer in behind and hold it next to the batteries. They hand warmers do require oxygen to work so if you bury them deep in your layers or gear they may not work for long so keep that in mind.

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Medical Kits: IFAK and IFAK+

IFAK or Individual First Aide Kit. This is a small kit, able to fit in a small to medium size pouch. This kit has enough supplies to handle most basic traumatic injuries for one individual.

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The bare minimum that we will carry as an IFAK is

Tourniquet
Roll of Kerlex
Israeli bandage
Celox/Quick clot (or hemostatic gauze)

This kit is carried on us in either a chest pack that we wear, in a belt pouch or broken up through out different pockets of our clothing. This is not intended for treating minor cuts, bumps, or bruises but you can easily slide a boo boo kit(bandages, wipes and some meds) that are made by many companies in the same pouch for handling those. A great example is @superessestraps first aid SHIM cards.

IFAK+

This is a slightly larger kit than the IFAK that is carried in our pack. It should be easily accessible either in the top of your pack or in a pouch attached to the outside. This kit supplements our IFAK with additional supplies as well as carrying some basic medications. This is the bare minimum we carry when we are carrying a pack and is the first tier of kit that we carry if we are Hiking with someone else on a short easy hike. This is ideally enough supplies for ourself and is Not enough if you are the “medic” for your group and need to be able to treat them if necessary. However if that trip is an easy couple hour walk on a groomed trail, this will likely suffice.

The IFAK+ consists of,

Your IFAK supplies(which should be on you)
Nitrile gloves
Cold pack
Mole skin/blister kit
Hemostatic gauze (celox or quick clot)
+1 roll of Kerlex
+1 Israeli bandage
+1 pack of chest seals
4×4 gauze pads
electrolyte powders we prefer LMNT
assorted band aides
alcohol/iodine prep wipes
assorted OTC medications
* Tylenol
* baby aspirin
* Benadryl
* Advil
* etc

If your outing is anything more than a short day hike or your going to be doing any climbing, off trail adventuring, anything more risky or you are responsible medically for your group, you will want to carry what we call the Basic kit that we will be covering in our next first aide post.

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Tails on the Trail: Building a Dog Sled

As you might imagine a dog sled is rather important in dog sledding. Unfortunately they are expensive to buy new and hard to find used as most mushers do not sell or get rid of their sleds unless they absolutely have to. I decided to split the difference and order new runners and then build my sled.

I ordered the runners early in 2021 and they took months! to get them up here from the lower 48. This was no fault of the manufacturer but issues with shipping and logistics.

I spent most of that time designing and gathering the other needed parts. Then naturally once they got here I did not have the time to build it but once the holidays rolled around I was able to dive into the build.

Preparations

Sleds are fairly simple there is just not a lot of info about them out there. Modern sleds have aluminum runners that have replaceable plastics  on the bottom. Then there are up right pieces called stanchions that form the bed/basket sides as well as creating a place for the handle bars to attach to. The bottom consists of a wide and long piece of plastic laying in between the stanchions and is supported by cross bars to give it more support.

The front of the sled has bent bar in the front called the brush bow and a bridle which is a piece of rope that is attached to the sled which is where the main line connects

I collected what ever pictures I could find as well as looking at Mrs. MSK9’s sleds to figure out how each part was constructed and to get some ideas for how to change the parts I didn’t like. I wanted the biggest bed I could squeeze for hauling gear on longer trips but needed to leave enough room to attach a seat  for me. Her sleds were bought used and were used for by taller individuals.

After using her sleds I figured out that I didn’t like the angle of her stanchions, which sets the angle of the handle bars or the height of her handle bars. Figuring out the stanchions and handle bars  would have to wait until the runners got here because I would have to be able to stand on the runners to figure that out.

I measured the bed on her sled and found I would need to shorten it by a couple of inches to allow for a rear seat.(Our runners are the same length) The change was  small enough that our extra sled bag would still fit though. As I got started building some final parts that I needed become hard to find due to the supply chain issues so I had to resort to cannibalizing one of our old broken sleds.

The Building Begins

Finally December rolled around and as things winded down for the holidays I was able to get started on the actual construction which ended up taking into the new year. I used the kitchen counter and back splash to keep the runners square to each other while I started attaching pieces until I got it to a point that the frame would hold its self together. I started from the front attaching the brush bow that I bought which would set the width of the sled and attached a cross bar across the front for support and to attach the front of the sled bag.

After that was done I measured from the back of the runners forward to find the minimum space for the rear seat and started attaching stanchion brackets from that point forward. Once they were in their spots I added thread lock and tightened down the mounting bolts.

Stanchions

I Built the  stanchions using hockey sticks as they are light weight and very strong. I left the one the handle bars would be attached to at full length for now and held them at the angle i wanted while Mrs. MSK9 measured the length for the second stanchions which would support the first set. After they were all measured I cut the support stanchions and attached them to the brackets. Now they just needed to be attached together.

I took the old drag pad off the broken sled in order to get at a small sheet of plastic out of of it to make flat brackets. These would hold the two stanchions together on each side. This would give them support once finished as well as hold them together at the proper angle and location so that I could measure the handle bars. I then Added aluminum angle iron across the stanchions to give some extra support to the bed and make the sides a bit more rigid.

Handle Bars

The next step was bending and mounting the handle bars. The handle bars are plastic and come in straight lengths that need to be formed. To do this I started by drilling holes in one side for mounting to the stanchions. I then put two bricks on our wood stove to set the bar on and heat it up to make it soft enough to bend without breaking or weakening the material.

Once it was hot enough I mounted it to one side and bent it down to the other side and clamped it down where it would be mounted and allowed it to cool and harden in place. Once done I drilled the mounting holes on the new side and mounted it properly and removed the clamps.

The Bed

Next I attached a large sheet of plastic from the old sled for the bed. The sheet is attached to the brush bow in the front and the aluminum angle iron on the sides. This forms the bottom of the bed/basket as well as being where the drag pad will attach in the back.

I placed a piece of wood across the back of the plastic and attached it to the angle iron on each side. This was done to make the drag pad mounting as strong as possible. I also added some cross bars under the sled for added strength. The drag pad was then attached as well as the brake bar to the back of the aluminum angle iron. This marked the beginning of the end in the construction of the sled, verything that was left was finishing touches.

Wrapping Up

I used some climbing rope for the bridle and some 8mm cord for the back up. The two bridles are attached to two different locations on the sled so that if one bridle or where it is attached fails the other one should catch it and not detach the dogs from the sled. I wrapped the the handle bars in goon tape and added some D-rings to the stanchions by the handle bars for hanging extra neck lines and tug lines.

I cut some lengths of climbing rope for the snow hooks and a third longer piece for a quick release that we attach to a pole or tree as a back up when were getting the dogs hooked up.

I was not able to get the seat built for this season but plan on getting that built over the summer and ready for next season.

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Introduction to Medkits

This is the first post in a series of posts on medkits and supplies that is going to cover the different kinds/sizes of kits that we use and our basic philosophy on when to employ them.

Further posts will cover the contents of each kit individually for more detail. Always remember that skills trump equipment but some basic supplies are going to be required to treat most medical conditions and trauma to a sufficient standard to prevent further issues or depending on the issue possibly death. You should know how to use any and all of the equipment and supplies, that you carry in your kits, as well as know when and more importantly when not to administer any medications that you carry.

IFAK – Individual first aide kit. This is a small kit, able to fit in a small to medium size pouch. This kit has enough supplies to handle most basic traumatic injuries for one individual. This kit is carried on us in either a chest pack that we wear, in a belt pouch or broken up through out different pockets of our clothing.

Basic – This is a larger kit than the IFAK that is carried in our pack. This kit supplements your IFAK with additional supplies as well as carrying some basic medications. This is the bare minimum we carry when we are carrying a pack and the first tier of kit that we carry if we are the “medic” for our trips or are responsible for more than our selves when it comes to a medical issues such as untrained or unprepared friends or family members on a hike.

Extended – This is a larger kit that we carry when we are going on a multi day trip but still need to minimize weight or are in a larger sized group. It carries a hand full of more specialized items and additional supplies and attached to our pack that we are already carrying.

Base camp – This is a full size jump kit on steroids that is carried in one of our vehicles when we are doing anything such as long road trips or off-roading. It also lives at base camp when we are doing longer trips or expeditions. It holds every thing the others kits hold plus more as well as additional specialized items and equipment as well as some reference materials.

Special considerations – You will want to factor in any special medical conditions you or your family members and friends may have and if they require any special supplies or medications if they have an issue. You also want to be sure you know how to handle the treatment of any of their possible problems. Your canine companions also require some special items in case of emergency. Most first aide items are the same but most medications for humans are not safe to give to animals and vice versa.

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Outfitting Your Adventure Dog Part 1

This is the start of a multi part series of how we out fit our dogs for hikes, or any wilderness type adventure thats not mushing. This first post is going to center around the basic equipment and Non-consumable items.

A high quality Collar: we use K9 Tactical Gear. You want something that is strong and with a good buckle so that it will hold up to the abuse of the trail and stay on your dog.

ID Tags: Simple dog tags with your dog’s name, Your name, and phone number. We use Boomerang tags because they do not dangle. Tags that dangle can get caught up in their collar and at best rub your dog raw and at worst puncture and get lodged in their skin. We also use Road ID collar adaptors to get them to fit on the larger collars.

Microchips work, they cannot be lost like a collar or tag however. they can migrate around under the skin and get lost. Good vets/shelters will scan the whole body of a lost dog looking for the microchip, but not all are good. There is also new evidence that microchips may be causing cancer in dogs but is not conclusive yet. Our experience with Microchips from certain companies is that the number doesn’t show up in search engines like it is supposed to so who ever finds your dog has to look each chip company site looking for the one that number goes with. So this is something that you will need to evaluate on your own case by case basis and weigh the pros and cons.

GPS Tag: Now we do not recommend these at least most of them. This is because most require internet/data/cellular service to operate. This means if you are deep in the woods they wont work, if the power goes out they might not work, if you loose cell service for some reason they wont work. We use and recommend Garmin’s GPS collars as they operate off grid and connect to a hand held GPS unit via radio frequency. This means as long as both have a charge they will be operating the only limiting factor at this point is range. There are many ways to boost range but we also have never had issues. We do use a telescoping extendable antenna on the hand held in the off chance we need to extend range.

A beacon: We attach either a lighted collar or a beacon light to our dogs collars when we are hiking in a time of year when it does get dark. We have used many beacons and there are many good ones to choose from but we are transition all our dogs over to head lites collars as they are far superior to everything else we have used so far.

Good Leash: When we are in the woods we use our long lines that we make and sell. We use long lines for a couple of reasons. It allows a little bit greater range for the dog if the terrain gets complicated and they need to be farther away from us than a standard leash would allow, as well when we make camp if we are concerned we can wrap the long line around a tree and we know they cannot wander to far.

Secondary Leash: 2 is 1 1 is none. All our dogs that we take out individually have our collar mounted emergency lead attached to their collars in case we have them off leash and need a quicker lead then digging out the long line or our other back up leash that we carry in our packs.

Harness/Dog Pack: These two may be different items or the same for you depending on what you buy or you may leave the harness off completely. We train our adventure dogs to rappel so they have rappel rated harnesses. This came from our time in Colorado when we were in the mountains so that we could hoist or lower them if need be if we got hung up some where or needed to go down a steep incline. Remember if you can get stuck so can they and you need to be able to self rescue and rescue your dog as well if you’re going to take them in the woods with you. The rappel rated harnesses we use have saddle bag pouches built in how ever they are not made anymore but there are many rappel rated harness out there to choose from. We also use a separate pack when we dont need rappel rating that comes from nonstop dog wear. They are very roomy and water resistant as well as having many pockets for organization. Your harness or pack is what is going to carry all your other dogs gear that will follow.

  • Keep in mind that your dogs pack should not weight more than 25% their body weight and even still you need to slowly increase the weight they carry starting with an empty pack like you would any fitness plan for your self.

Doggles: These will protect your pups eyes. We use RexSpecs as they offer multiple lens option and offer protection against snow blindness and UV. Doggles will also protect your dogs from sticks and other debris getting in their eyes from high winds or running through the woods. Your dog will need to to get used to wearing them as it is not a usual feeling for them. Have your dog try wearing them several times at home before taking them in the woods. We always start them with the clear lenses as well to give them as clear vision as possible.

Dog Boots: Dogs paws are susceptible to harm from broken glass, jagged metal, sharp rocks and extreme heat and cold as well as hazardous materials. Boots can offer some protection against these issues. Acclimate your dog to the boots so that they are comfortable with the boots like you did the doggles. We use trex model boots from ruff wear.

Reflective: Markers, or Patches are usually built in to most dog gear these days but if what you buy does not have them you can find them to add to it from many suppliers online.

Dog Rain layer: Most dogs that will be capable of being adventure dogs can handle being wet when they are active and running around. but when you bed down for the night or once you make camp and they are not working they will chill just like you. Our dogs carry a thin rain layer incase its needed for this reason, and nonstop dog wear makes multiple great options.

Stay tuned for the next article in this series which will cover some basic supplies and consumable that you should have in your dogs pack before heading off on your adventures.

Check out our store HERE for Handmade in America custom dog and EDC gear to help support the us and the site.