Survival, Safety, and Disaster Preparedness
Preparing to Travel to Kanuti:
Kanuti Refuge can be a land of extremes. Temperatures can fluctuate 50 degrees in any given day. It can snow any time of the year and the wind can pick up when you least expect it. Come to the refuge prepared for any weather. Learn as much as possible about the area you plan on visiting. This will help you determine the appropriate food, clothing, and equipment you should take along. Below is a list of 13 essential items everyone should carry on a trip to the refuge. You may not need them all, but they could save your life if you do have them.
1. Proper Clothing: Dress in layers and prepare for colder weather then you expect. An unexpected freeze can happen even in summer.
2. Water: Giardiasis, an intestinal illness resulting from the water-borne parasite Giardia, is common in Alaska. Always carry an appropriate water filter or water treatment. Boil, filter or treat all water before drinking.
3. Extra Food: Weather can delay your transportation home or an accident can prevent you from getting back to town on time. Pack extra food, just in case.
4. Map and Compass: Study your detailed topographic map and set your compass declination before you get into the field. Know how to use them both.
5. Fire Starters: Cold, wet weather can occur any time of the year. Be prepared by carrying waterproof matches and another fire starter.
6. Insect Protection: Biting insects are common in Interior Alaska. When traveling to the refuge in the spring and summer bring along a head net and a DEET-based insect repellant.
7. Rain Gear: Anticipate rain at any time during the spring, summer, and fall. Make sure your rain gear can hold up to the activities you will be doing.
8. First Aid Kit: Even with four villages just outside refuge borders, help is far away. Pack a complete first aid kit and know common first aid techniques.
9. Sun Protection: With 24 hours of sunlight, the sun can take its toll on unprotected skin. Carry sun block and sunglasses during the summer months.
10. Signaling Devices: Signaling devices include signal mirrors, flares and strobes. Accidents can happen and you never know when you may need to signal for help.
11. Shelter: A lightweight shelter is a must in any season. It keeps you 1) dry during a rainstorm, 2) the mosquitoes away while you sleep, and 3) you warm in unexpected cold weather.
12. Portable Stove: Lightweight portable stoves are the preferred method for fire in the backcountry. Carry enough fuel to last your trip. If you must have a wood fire, use only dead and downed wood on a durable surface.
13. Pocket Knife: A pocket knife has many uses and can be used in many situations.
Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge is a remote Alaskan environment. No roads or villages exist within its boundaries. No designated trails or campsites exist. While traveling the refuge you can expect little or no human contact outside of the villages near the refuge. Visitors must be prepared to depend upon themselves.
Occasionally, accidents may happen. If prepared, one has a better chance of surviving an unexpected mishap. The following is a short guide on how you can maximize safety on your arctic adventure.
• Plan Ahead: Learn as much as you can about the area you plan on visiting. Make sure you are adequately prepared for what you will be experiencing on the refuge. Call the refuge headquarters before your trip and find out the local conditions for the length of your visit.
• Never Travel Alone: Always travel with another person to maximize your chances of survival.
• Notify Someone About Your Trip: Notify someone staying home about your trip plans. Tell them your intended route, when you expect to return, your tent color, and when they should start to worry if you don’t return.
• Prevent Heat Loss: Dress in layers appropriate for the weather. Keep your head, face, and hands covered in cold weather. If fuel permits, drink hot water. It is a good source of rapid and effective warmth.
• Carry a Fire Source: Always carry at least two ways to start a fire and a ready source of fuel, such as cotton balls mixed with chapstick. If disaster happens, get a fire going as quickly as possible. Gather enough firewood before nightfall to ensure you won’t be without fire come morning.
• Build a Shelter: The smaller the shelter you build the better. Although the environment around you will determine the type of shelter you build, put at least 12-18 inches of insulation material down before you use it. Spruce branches work well. Don’t build your shelter at the base of a steep slope or cliff and always make sure to ventilate snow caves.
Please be advised, giardia may be present in the water bodies of Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge. Giardiasis is an infection of the small intestine caused by the protozoa, Giardia lamblia. It is contracted by drinking water contaminated by water-dwelling animals such as beavers. Symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal pain, abdominal fullness, gas or bloating, a swollen or distended abdomen, nausea, loss of appetite, vomiting, headache, and low-grade fever. Symptoms may take 7 to 14 days to appear. Hikers or others drinking the surface water on Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge should act as if all water is contaminated and purify all water before drinking. Water purification methods such as boiling, filtration, and iodine treatments should be used. Treatment of giardia normally requires antibiotics. Check with your health care provider if you suspect you may have contracted the ailment.
* Information courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service