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mountain man jake herak

Mountain man Jake Herak drops some knowledge that could save your life in the backcountry.

Jake Herak knows the true meaning of self-reliance. The houndsman and star of Mountain Men works and plays in Montana’s Ruby Mountains.

We tapped Herak for his top tips for staying safe and self-reliant in the backcountry, and he delivered.

Self-Reliance in the Backcountry with Mountain Man Jake Herak

Know Your Limitations

You need to know your body’s physical condition and your limitations. If you’re going into a high-altitude environment, you’ll need to acclimate yourself to the elevation first before diving into something.

If you don’t, you can get in a lot of trouble, fast. I keep myself in shape by working out at the local high school gym every other night from one to two and a half hours. But there’s nothing that will train you for the mountain like the mountain.

Wear Personal Protective Equipment

You need to have the proper clothing. Your boots and your clothing are absolutely key. I call them PPE, or personal protective equipment. If you get soaking wet, for example, you need to be able to keep your body heat up so that you don’t get frostbite.

In one seven-day stretch on the mountain here, I think the high was negative 20 degrees, and at one point it got down to negative 58. And the wind is always blowing—anywhere from three to seven miles per hour and then on up to 20- or 40- or 60-miles per hour.

Know Your Terrain & Pack Accordingly

You need to know the terrain—and be prepared for it with the right equipment. In certain areas, for instance, you’re going to need to bring along rain gear. Even if you don’t plan to spend the night on the mountain, you’d better be prepared to do so. I’ll sleep in a tent or on the ground.

Sometimes I’ll just bring a sleeping bag and a ‘bivy sack’ (a lightweight ‘tent shell’ that zips over a sleeping bag for additional protection).

Bring Survival Essentials — Every Time

You need to bring along ‘the essentials’ including a first-aid kit, something to start a fire, and a way to filter water. For filtering water, I use either a tiny little pump (no bigger than a pack of gum) or a LifeStraw water-filtration system.

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