A garbage bag could save your life.
"This is your house," said Tim Perales of Joseph as he held up a big black plastic bag for members of the Wallowa County Rotary Club to see.
Perales is a member of the Wallowa County Search and Rescue and was speaking on survival.
Perales has developed a "pocket survival kit" that could make the difference between life and death for persons lost in the woods.
The garbage bag is a key component of that kit.
"It can be made into a rain coat, a shelter, a sleeping bag," said Perales.
Many of the people who get lost in the woods have a survival kit of some kind, according to Perales. The problem is most they fail to take it with them.
"No one goes out to get them self lost," he said. "They go for a short ride. It's a nice day. They don't take a coat or a pack. They go for a walk. Then they realize all of a sudden, 'Where did I come from?'"
"Mischelle Hileman had a backpack with matches, a hatchet, fire starting material ... all of the things that she would have needed to survive out there for eight days," Perales said, referring to the Wallowa resident who got lost while elk hunting last fall and miraculously survived eight days alone in the woods. Unfortunately, Hileman left the pack in her dad's pickup when she wandered off and got lost.
That is an all to common scenario, according to Perales.
"What happens to people who have what they need?" he said, "They don't take it with them."
A survival kit isn't of much value if you don't have it when you get lost. That is why Perales promotes the idea of a pocket survival kit - the essentials packed in a package small enough that it can be easily stashed in a coat, shirt, or better yet, pants pocket.
"We don't very often go wondering off without our pants," he quipped.
Perales' pocket survival kit is contained in a Ziploc bag, which itself can be used as a canteen in an emergency. Water, along with heat and shelter, are the three "must haves" in a survival situation.
"Fortunately, in Wallowa County we're blessed with a lot of water," he said. "You could put a little water in (the Ziploc bag), seal it off and walk out."
Perales' pocket survival kit consists of the following:
a straw, for drinking from the Ziploc bag without spilling it the water
hand warmers, which can keep extremities warm all night.
a garbage bag, which can be used as a rain coat, shelter or sleeping bag to preserve body heat
a small strip of duct tape, to to fix holes in the Ziploc or garbage bags and to cover a wound
a candle, to preserve matchs and start a warming fire
a box of matches, to light the candle
flagging material, to act as a visual signal to rescuers
a whistle, to act as an audible signal to rescuers
Perales cautioned against wearing cotton into the woods.
"Cotton kills," he said, noting that when it is cold cotton sticks to human skin.
It is also a good idea to have a survival plan before going into the woods, according to Perales.
"Most people who visit Wallowa county don't realize how easy it is to get lost," he added.