Book Review: Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook

A while back we were given a copy of “Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook,” Second Edition, by Dr. Spike Briggs and Dr. Campbell Mackenzie to read and review. Since then I’ve spent a little time with it and in general I’ve been very impressed.Outdoor Medical Emergency Handbook

This book is very well organized and everything from the layout to the binding and type of paper is designed to be used in the field.

I think the biggest advantage to this book is the extensive useof flow charts and it’s step by step construction.

This is appropriate given the book’s target audience of traveler since most injury situations in the wilderness are going to involve fairly long term contact with the patient while evacuating them or waiting for help to arrive. In that period of time, this book will help you to methodically work through the steps and make sure you are doing the best you can for an injured person.

Of course, this is all after you’ve dealt with any urgent, life-threatening problems.


At some points, I can tell that it is written as a reference for people with fairly advanced medical training.

Certainly beyond anything I picked up in my Wilderness First Responder Course. In fact, some of the things in this book shouldn’t be done except by people with advanced training and equipment.

But there are still many parts of this book that are still useful to someone with even basic wilderness first aid training.

This book seems ideally suited for any type of larger expedition or any type of a supported trip. Even if that support is just your own car while you are car camping. However, I don’t think I would carry it if I was backpacking with a couple friends. It’s a little bit too big and heavy for that.

If you do take this book on your next adventure, you’ll want to read through it first and become familiar with its parts.

It is written to be used as a reference but like with all reference material, you need to be familiar with the basic components to get the most out of it. This need is compounded in this case by the likelihood of stress and fear that can accompany wilderness injuries.

Finally, I would hope that getting a book like this encourages you to get some level of medical training. Rebecca and I are both Wilderness First Responder Certified. Medical knowledge is important for people who spend a lot of time isolated in the wilderness and no book by itself can make up for a course and practice. In contrast, having even basic wilderness first aid training will make a book like this one much more useful to you.

Book Review: Outdoor Parents Outdoor Kids-Guide to getting your kids active in the great outdoors by Eugene Buchanan

When the book ‘Outdoor Parents, Outdoor Kids’  first caught my eye at an REI over the holidays it took me a few minutes to decide whether or not I really wanted to read another book about taking kids on outdoor adventures.

Since morphing into a Mom I’ve discovered that it’s actually pretty easy to drag my kiddo out on the trails. I clothe him, feed him, water him, attach him to some sort of transportation device (baby carrier or chariot) and we’ve got ourselves an adventure.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted or needed  more “how to”…get your kids outside advice–hence my skepticism when I picked up Buchanan’s book.

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However, when I opened up this book I was thoroughly entertained from introduction to conclusion. At times I was laughing so hard that I was crying and trying not to pee my pants. This book is not a boring lecture or guilt trip (hello Louve) about the importance of exposing kids to the wilderness. Nor is it a pep talk for parents who may be squeamish about taking a kid into the mountains. This is the story of a Dad, his 2 daughters and the adventures that they have together. Their adventures are more than just hiking, skiing, climbing, paddling and camping. Buchanan even goes into teaching your kid to ride a bike and shares some rather good advice about surviving a swim meet.

Here are a few brilliant ideas that I picked up from Buchanan’s book.

  • When hiking with a kid in a baby carrier attach a mirror with a bungee cord to the carrier’s shoulder strap and use it like a rear view mirror  to spy on your kiddo. How clever, especially for anyone who has ever had their kid’s hat fall off on a hike and not noticed that the hat fell off until their kid was already suffering from a second degree sunburn (that’s me).
  • In deep winter snow stomp out a section of ground for a makeshift play pen to keep a toddler corralled when doing things like selecting the perfect Christmas tree.
  • Encourage games on the trail, games can even be something as silly as throwing a stick up the trail and having your kid fetch it. This only totally amuses me.

And here’s a few killer quotes from Buchanan’s book just so you know how awesome it is.

“Taking the training wheels off is as risky a venture as potty training. It’s like swapping a diaper for underwear. It’s a game of trust, but also Russian Roulette.” (p. 58)

“Some people just plain like to make things harder. These are folks who have four kids instead of two, three dogs instead of one, and make their own pasta instead of whipping out the Top Ramen.” (p. 103)

“Canoes-like some mothers-in-law-are big and cumbersome, you don’t realize this until you’re solo wrestling it in your garage (your canoe, not your mother-in-law).” (p. 180-181)

The entire book is full of witty advice and entertainment and I highly recommend it. I think it’s a gem because it’s written from a father’s perspective. Outdoor Parents Outdoor Kids: A Guide to Getting Your Kids Active in the Great Outdoors is my favorite book on outdoor parenting. You can purchase it by clicking the title above (we are an Amazon affiliate).

Has anyone else read this book? What did you think?

Book Review: The Ultimate Hikers Gear Guide by Andrew Skurka

Earlier this winter after a #STPLive event, the good folks at Sierra Trading Post hooked me up with a free copy of the book ‘The Ultimate Hikers Gear Guide: Tools & Techniques to Hit the Trail’ by Andrew Skurka.

Since Andrew Skurka is kind of a big deal in the outdoor community I was excited to check out his book and see what it was all about.

I could do a recap of the book, but that would be ridiculous (just go buy the book). Instead here are a few points that really stood out to me.

  • As I dove into the book on a flight from Minneapolis to Denver I was somewhat thrown off by Part 1: Are you a hiker or a camper? I felt like Skurka was trying to lump people into 3 categories: Ultimate Hikers, Ultimate Campers, and Campers-by-Default. I realized that according to Skurka’s definition I have a lot of Ultimate Hiker tendencies but motherhood has morphed me into an Ultimate Camper. Gulp, a tough pill to swallow (or is it?)
  • I breezed through the sections on clothing, footwear and gear. But there was one part on boots that made me pause and think. On most trips Skurka prefers a hiking or trail running shoe instead of a boot. I have a love affair with my Asolo hiking boots. Skurka claims that constricting feet to boots limits the foot and ankle’s natural movements, thereby making the hiker less agile. (p.68) Maybe it’s the years of my life that I spent wearing combat boots but I like the support, stability, and traction of a good boot–especially if I’m carrying a heavy pack or a 30 lb. toddler on my back up a really steep and rocky trail. But, my mind has been opened. I need to give hiking shoes a try.
  • My favorite sections of the book were on food and water. I dig Skurka’s approach to food. He eats a lot of small meals throughout the day and isn’t a fan of hot meals that take a lot of time to prep and cook. Now I don’t feel bad for feeding my family Top Ramen cooked a la Jet Boil on every trip. He’s also got a thing for butter and chocolate, both of which are delicious (but melty).
  • I’m always a bit squeamish thinking about all of the gross things that lurk in mountain lakes, rivers and ponds. When I read that Skurka sometimes drinks directly from unpurified water sources I was both amazed and a little bit grossed out. He’s not dumb about it though, he looks for water where the contaminants are diluted, water turbidity, flowing water, and from the top of stagnant sources that may have been purified by UV light. I don’t know that I’ll ever drink stream water just for the heck of it, but these are all good things to know in a survival situation. (p. 158)

Skurka’s book concludes with several trip plans to various geographic regions complete with a gear list. While we do more day hiking than backpacking, this section left me thinking about the importance of planning a trip and assessing everything from weather and water sources to other hazards on the trail. Sometimes we just put ourselves on auto-pilot thinking about the trails we need to hike to build our trail guides. I liked the reminder to put a little bit of thought into all of the “other” things, even though I don’t think that was Skurka’s intent.

Overall, this book was full of information great for both rookie and seasoned hikers. But, like any outdoor related book what works for the author may not work for everyone else. It’s just a matter of being receptive to learning and trying new ways to do things. I’d recommend it, you can buy it here: The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools and Techniques to Hit the Trail (we are Amazon affiliates).

Has anyone else read this book? What do you think? Would you challenge Skurka to a stagnant pond water drinking competition?

Book Review: Knights of the Broadax

Do you want to spend the winter in living in the mountains chopping down trees and then float them down a creek in the spring? This fascinating book written by Joan Trego Pinkerton will put you right in the midst of the people who lived that way of life.

Pinkerton tells a first hand account based off of her experiences growing up the Headquarters Camp of the Wyoming Tie and Timber Company in the 1930s and 1940s. She supplemented her knowledge with other first hand interviews and an incredible wealth of photographs taken by her father.

Book Review: Knights of the Broadax

I can’t say enough about these pictures. They are spread throughout the book and go such a long way to capture the daily lives of these hard working men and women. I imagine it was rare that a tie camp had its own resident amateur photographer.

I enjoyed reading about how they got around and pretty well coped with the long winters on the mountain. It was also very entertaining to read about the how the Tie Hacks ate and how they could turn a tree into several perfect railroad ties using an ax and never measuring anything.

Another very interesting part of the book talks about the spring when German POWs worked the tie drive.

Pinkerton did an amazing job with Knights of the Broadax. If you are even slightly interested in the history of the west or the brief period in which Tie Hacks were common you will enjoy this book.

If you want to give this book a spin feel free to pick it up from Amazon.com (We are an amazon affiliate so feel free to check out our affiliate disclaimer)

Book Review: The Mining Camps Speak

The Mining Camps Speak by Beth and Bill Sagstetter is an essential read for anyone who enjoys exploring abandoned mines, cabins, or ghost towns. This is especially so for people who are new to this type of exploring.

The Sagstetter’s have put their decades worth of knowledge and experience into this book that is both handbook and history. So instead of just stumbling around old cabins, The Mining Camps Speak tells you what you are looking at and helps you gain a much deeper understanding of any old abandoned site you happen to be visiting.

If you want to give this book a spin, feel free to pick it up from Amazon.com Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone. (We are an amazon affiliate so also feel free to check out our affiliate disclaimer)

Each chapter discusses a different aspect of mining and mining camps. You will read about mining techniques and tools, the different types of buildings and how to tell them apart from their remains, and gain a great appreciation for old cans.

I have gone back to some places after reading this book to have a second look around at things. I have also found it to be helpful while exploring old tie hack camps even though the Sagstetter’s don’t talk about them.

What I respect most about the Sagstetter’s however is found in their preface where they explain that a true explorer “is not a treasure hunter or a souvenir hunter” who is “satisfied with being awed at the privilege of witnessing a vanishing heritage.”

We should all live by those words while visiting the wilderness and historic sites.

If you want to give this book a spin feel free to pick it up from Amazon.com (We are an amazon affiliate so feel free to check out our affiliate disclaimer)

Book Review: ‘Last Child in the Woods’

For the past few months I’ve been trying to get through the book ‘Last Child in the Woods, saving our children from nature-deficit disorder’ by Richard Louv.

I’m on page 45. I want to like this book, I really really do. Everyone has told me that it’s fantastic. But I’m completely disappointed in it. Louv writes in a way that is condescending, judgmental and negative. It’s poorly written with flashbacks to Louv’s nostalgic childhood accompanied by opinion rather than facts and details.

This is NOT the last child in the woods! Unlike Louv, I’m an optimist!

Just a few pages into the book I realized that I have a different world view than the author.

Here’s an example. In one paragraph Louv writes about his friend Nick, who thinks that fish should be caught and eaten.

Louv writes:

“I believe that a fish should be caught and most of the time, released. Nick believes that violence is inevitable, that suffering is redemptive, and that a father must teach his children about the harshness of life by exposing them to that harshness. I believe that as a parent it’s my job to protect my sons from the brutality of the world for as long as I can.” (page 20).

I disgree with Louv. I think that as a parent it’s my job to teach my kid that nature is honest and that the world is not brutal. I can’t shelter my child from every rain drop nor do I want to. I can’t shelter my child from the tears that will be shed when a pet dies, nor do I want to. I can’t always shelter my child from the wind, the cold or the heat. Sunburns, mosquito bites and blisters happen.  Those things aren’t brutal, they are just part of life.

At some point I’ll probably take my kid fishing, we’ll kill the fish, gut it and cook it over a campfire and he’ll learn that food doesn’t always come from cellophane container in the meat department of the grocery store. Nick understands nature, Richard Louv does not.

My goal as a parent is to raise my child so that he doesn’t need me to protect him the same way that I did when he was an infant.

For those of you who have read this book, what do you think?  Does it get better or worse?  Should I keep on reading or throw it out?

If you want to give this book a spin feel free to pick it up from Amazon.com (We are an amazon affiliate so feel free to check out our affiliate disclaimer)

Book Review: Empire of Shadows The Epic Story of Yellowstone

I recently finished reading George Black’s book “Empire of Shadows: the Epic Story of Yellowstone.”

This is a great book and if you are at all curious about the events that led to the creation of our first National Park then this is a must read.

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Don’t let the 428 pages or the fact that it’s history scare you away. Mr. Black has taken the lives and stories of all the major people involved, as well as a great many minor people, and weaved them into one of the rare true stories that is better than fiction.

I was surprised the depth that Mr. Black went to while telling the story leading up to the Park. I had expected most of the book to cover events that took place inside of Yellowstone. But that is was not the case.

However, the paths were always flowing either to or from Yellowstone for all the people involved from Lewis and Clark, John Colter, and Jim Bridger through Langford and Doane.

I appreciated that he did not try to condemn or justify the actions of any of the men.  He let their actions stand with all complexities, contradictions, and motives in place. It didn’t matter if they were committing atrocities against the Native Americans, chasing personal glory, or trying to protect great natural wonders. He let them be themselves, men of their time, and human.

The final little thing that I loved about this book was that it came with a small map that was great for a book mark and a handy reference. I wish more historical books had something like that.

If you want to give this book a spin, feel free to pick it up from Amazon.com Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone. (We are an amazon affiliate so also feel free to check out our affiliate disclaimer)