Thursday, December 27, 2018

Lessons from a Fiery YouTube Comment | Thoughts On Using Emergency Gear

I found this Review / walk-through of the Hidden Woodsman Signal Panel to be informative. At the very least I appreciated that someone took the time to get out and use this piece of gear, rather than do a table-top review. After watching the video I scrolled down to read the comments and was taken aback by the first one:

There's NOTHING "common sense" about this video. An emergency SIGNAL panel should never be pulled out or used for ANYTHING other than to SIGNAL someone in the event of an emergency. Using it for anything else subjects it to dirt, grime, sunlight and all the other crap that will fade it's color and brightness ...thus inhabiting its effectiveness when you NEED to SIGNAL someone in the event of an emergency. There's about six of you idiots on YouTube who think it's cute to use your SIGNAL panel for everything other than what's its supposed to be used for. While you're trying to show off on here ALL YOU'RE DOING is putting out reckless ideas that ultimately could hamper someone's ability to get rescued in an emergency. Leave survival tips to the experts. We're all better off if you just stay home and eat your granola bars on the couch while watching Rambo. SERIOUSLY.


As I thought about this comment I found myself getting more and more fired up. Sure, part of what bothered me was the heavy handed way this individual delivered his (or her?) criticism. But more than that, I think his critique is as far off as he thinks the original video is.

I suppose it's technically possible that you'll find yourself in an emergency where you pull out your signal panel, only to find it worn and faded to the point where rescuers can't see it. But I think a more likely scenario is that you pull the panel from your pack only to find that it doesn't function as you imagined. Huh, you may think: I thought it was bigger, sturdier, came with guy-line tie-outs, was reflective, or any number of other attributes you imagined to be so but aren't. And when you do deploy it, you're going to be left wondering did I do so in an optimal way? Alternatively, because you safely stored the panel away months or years ago and never use it, it's more likely you'll forget all about it.

In short: at the moment you need the panel, you're going to wish you had experience with it.

Looking back at the video that sparked the comment, it's instructive to look at the various uses Common Sense Camper takes us through:

  • A Wood Carrier / Improvised Sink - this is a great way to learn about the construction, durability and physical limitations of the panel.
  • A Water Collector / First Aid Sling - rather than imagine other emergencies that this piece of gear could be used for, our reviewer actually tries them out.
  • As a Campsite Marker - this is a low risk way of using the panel as it was intended.

Each of these 'hacks' can be thought of as an exercise, the result of which will teach you volumes about this piece of gear. If the panel holds up to carrying wood, that goes a long way to showing just how durable it is. If the panel fails to help you find your campsite, then you're either using it wrong or it's not an effective tool for conditions. Regardless, it would be of infinite value to learn this information *before* a SAR team is tramping through the woods looking for you.

In short, respect rule #1: Know Thy Gear. And the sort of uses Common Sense Camper takes us through are great ways to do just this.

As for the original criticism raised by the commenter: yes, you'll want to regularly inspect the signal panel to confirm that it's in peak condition. But the same should be said of the knife, compass, and any other gear you plan to depend on out in the field. Arguably, taking the time to inspect the panel is a great way to put it top of mind before heading out into the woods.

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