Pathfinder School Review - Part 3

Part 1

Part 2

Day 2

After a rough night of little sleep, I was up and about a little before 7.  I got myself freshened up and made my way to the class area to eat my Mountain House granola with milk and blueberries (pretty darned tasty) and await the start of the day.

First up, we learned about water purification.  As one of the 5 Cs, a container should be stainless steel so that water can be boiled in it for purification.  Also, the container should be one quart because chemical purification methods such as tincture of iodine, bleach, and Aqua Mira all base their measurements on that amount of water.

I'm sure you've all seen or heard the advice (sometimes as a municipal water advisory) to biol contaminated water for 5 minutes.  Turns out, that the CDC says that you only need to bring it to a boil, not maintain it for any length of time.  When water is at 165 degrees, it starts to kill pathogens.  In the time that it takes to go from 165 to 212, all the pathogens will get killed.

Next, we learned about shelter construction, starting with natural material shelters.  Just like when buying a home, among the most important things to consider are Location, Location, Location... after a night of sliding down hill in my bag, don't I know it.

We covered several types of shelters that can be built with debris and other natural materials, with the type of shelter you might choose depending on the environment.  We the learned about different techniques for building emergency shelters... remember the Cordage and Cover from the 5 Cs?  Here's where they come in.

We then had three group deliverables.  An emergency rain shelter, and emergency cold weather shelter, and a natural debris shelter.  Our group looked at the materials that several of us had handy, and first built a rain shelter out of nothing more than a 55 gallon trash bag, some bank line, some 550 cord and a disposable space blanket.  We cut open the bag on two sides; tied small, round river rocks into the four corners, and used 550 cord to stake it out in a "wedge" form.  We realized that there was some give to it that would cause it to droop under a heavy rain, so we ran a length of bank line from one end to the other to support the peak more.  Then, the space blanket was placed inside it to provide some insulation.  It would have been cramped, but in poor weather, it would have provided some basic protection from the elements to all but the largest of person.  For our cold weather shelter, we used a higher quality space blanket, one of the two-sided ones.  We found a large rock that we could build a fire in front of to reflect its heat back into the shelter, then suspended the space blanket as a lean-to.  Next, we staked some branches on either end of the lean-to and wove other branches through them with leaves and debris as insulation and a wind break.

Our group then hiked to the top of the hill side to construct our primitive shelter.  We found an area with a fairly level floor, a lack of poison ivy, and enough building materials.  There we constructed a lean-to with all debris that we found... no materials that we brought with us.  We set up a long branch between two forked trees for the peak.  Against that we placed a number of small branches, then placed smaller branches on those branches as a latticework.  On top of the lattice, we piled dozens of armloads of leaves to provide insulation and rain proofing.  At one end that was slightly up hill, we dug a trench to channel any water runoff so that it would go around the shelter rather than into it.

During the lunch break, I moved and rebuilt my shelter on the hill to a spot that I thought would be more comfortable.  I simply strung a tarp among some trees and placed my bedroll under it.  It looked flat and clear.

To start the afternoon, Dave gave us a demonstration of making a magnifying glass fire.  He then assigned a deliverable of for each of us to accomplish the same by the end of the course.  Only a few folks in class had magnifying glasses, so I needed to borrow one.  It turned out that I didn't get my hands on one until late the next day, and only had about five minutes of time to do it.  I got a nice ember, but couldn't get the flame.  Tomorrow, I'll be doing a video of me accomplishing this, and to show you the technique we were taught.  I'll send the link to Dave to get credit for the deliverable.

Next up, Mitch took us on a wild edibles tour of the property.  He concentrated on plants that were common, had no poison look-a-likes, and were useful in an emergency.  I'm not going to go into them, because a person really needs to get the information first hand from an expert to be safe, but suffice it to say that I was amazed at the variety of wild plants that are readily available to provide nutrition, and in many cases, great flavor.  Since getting home, I've already found four of the plants we learned about and have enjoyed snacking on them in my yard.  If you haven't learned about wild edibles in your area, you really ought to do so.

After another delicious MRE and a fine cigar by the campfire, I was looking forward to crawling in the sack early... but it was not to be yet.

Check us out tomorrow for my report on a couple of night exercises and Day 3.


  1. I am enjoying this, please don't stop.

  2. I did the overnight in the shelter thing as an adult scout leader. It was an "ordeal" and we were limited as to what we could bring and use. It did rain that night and I stayed dry but believe me I learned the importance of flat ground for staying put! Eagerly awaiting the next installment!



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