NOS Mission

Nevada Outdoor School inspires exploration of the natural world, responsible stewardship of our habitat and dedication to community.
This is the spot for us to share stories, fun ideas or general musings. When you aren't in here, we hope to see you out there!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Outside Guide: Spring Survival Series - Part 4

Remembering the classic Rule of Three, brings us to our final topic in our Spring Survival Series.  It is said that a human can survive three weeks without food, three days without water, three hours without shelter and three minutes without oxygen.  Many find it hard to believe the ‘three hours without shelter’, perhaps because they have never been wet, standing in gale force winds, in freezing temperatures.

Maintaining a functional body temperature is critical for human survival.  While we have developed phenomenal clothing to help protect us from the elements, high energy and easily portable food to sustain our energy requirements, and effective water purifying and/or carrying strategies, we still may need to seek shelter from environmental elements such as wind, sun or precipitation. 

The wind is highly effective at robbing heat.  The wind chill factor is evidence of the role wind plays in how humans perceive temperature in the presence of wind.  Adding the factor of wetness, either from sweat or an unexpected dip in the lake, and you may quickly find yourself cold on a warm day.  Shelter from the wind in a form of a wind block may look like another human, a rock formation, or dense brush. 

Most of us have experienced the saving grace of shelter on a hot summer day when we go stand in the shade and immediately feel the relief from the sun’s radiation.  Thankfully in Northeastern Nevada where the relative humidity is low, the temperature between a sunny spot and a shady spot can vary greatly!  Finding shade not only lowers the ambient (surrounding air) temperature, it minimizes the physical effects of direct exposure to the sun, sunburn. 

While the shady side of your car or trailer is an obvious shelter, the landscape of Nevada may prove difficult for finding it elsewhere.  In some areas, the lack of vegetation taller than a foot is a real issue.  Carrying a small tarp and parachute cord in your backpack may help alleviate this.  Often we think shelters need to be tall but remember you can also lay under a shelter.  Depending on how long you need utilize your shelter, you may need to have an adaptable shelter.  Be sure to not use all your resources on one iteration as the shelter may need to be relocated or shifted to accommodate the location change of the sun or the direction of the wind.  

It is also important to remember that a shelter does not necessarily need to be a structure.  For example, wrapping yourself in your sleeping bag is a form of a shelter.  Being aware of how much warmth the ground draws from our bodies is also important.  The process of buffering your body from the ground by sitting on your backpack when resting on a cold day, is another form of seeking shelter.  Likewise, if conditions become desperate enough, your backpack may also be utilized as material from which to fashion a structure.  Being creative in the use of available materials is encouraged when shelter is required for survival.

Get outside and explore nature!  Enjoy the dynamic conditions of spring in the mountains and on your local streets.  It is wise to think about shelter alternatives and be prepared to create a shelter so you are not caught unprepared, your life may depend on it.   

Monday, May 18, 2020

Reflections on AmeriCorps Service - Nevada Outdoor School

When I joined Nevada Outdoor School as a Outdoor Ethics Specialist, I didn’t know I would enjoy it this much. I came into my position as already knowing a lot about the outdoors but I’m still learning new things every day. In my position we travel around the state of Nevada and teach people how to recreate the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace and Tread Lightly. Just being with NOS for these couple months I’ve become more comfortable with public speaking.  

I enjoy going on the road shows and reaching out to the kids and adults. During these road shows we have a wheel of ethics that the kids can spin. I then ask them a question about the outdoors. Sometimes they know the answers but most of the time they are learning something new. It’s cool knowing that I taught them something that they will remember. I love spending my time outdoors and it’s nice to reach out and get other people to enjoy the outdoors like I do. 

I’m very excited to severe as an AmeriCorps Member with Nevada Outdoor School and continue to educate people about the outdoors. 

Michelle Rookstool

Friday, May 15, 2020

Outside Guide: Spring Survival Series - Part 3

In Northeastern Nevada the wide variety of temperatures throughout the year, and particularly in spring, requires the outdoor enthusiast to have a plethora of clothes in the closet to tackle the conditions outside.  It has been said that many outdoor enthusiasts believe that there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. 

While your favorite cotton t-shirt is perfect for lounging on the couch, taking cotton outdoors may be a recipe for disaster.  Cotton is cheap but inefficient at wicking moisture and is terribly slow to dry.  When wearing cotton your sweat will tend to sit on the skin’s surface and can lead to hypothermia when in cool conditions.  That being said, although this is the wrong fabric to wear when hypothermia is an environmental concern, cotton’s inability to dry might help keep you feeling cool on hot, dry and breezy summer days as it acts as an evaporative-cooler of sorts.  Back in the day, wool was the go-to fabric for outdoor survival.  In the 20th century wool has undergone some significant improvements making it less itchy while retaining its moisture-wicking, quick dry, and odor resistant properties.  Silk, another common natural fabric, feels great against the skin, but unless it has been chemically modified to improve wicking, it is not ideal for temperature control. 

These days there are many cost-effective synthetic options available to the conscious consumer.  Polyester is a magical material that can function from a hard shell, think rain coat, to fleece, think your coziest jacket, both protecting you from rain and wind.  Nylon, rayon and other plastic derivatives are blended into these synthetic fabrics changing their elasticity and insulating qualities.  Synthetics are great for moisture wicking, but that in creates their one potential drawback.  Because they are somewhat hydrophobic, when washing, water and soap cannot fully penetrate and get rid of odor causing bacteria.  You might find your old poly shirts start to smell before you do.

Combining a variety of clothing options, layers, is usually the best strategy for combating changing outdoor temperatures as well as ensuring the maintenance of your body at a comfortable and productive temperature. There are three basic clothing layers.  The base layer is your underwear layer that works to wick (move) sweat or moisture off your skin.  The middle layer is usually an insulating layer that serves to retain body heat.  The outer layer acts like a shell to protect you from the elements, such as sun, rain, or wind. Anticipating the possible weather conditions will help you decide which layers you require as you leave the house, and what may be needed as things change.  

While we often think of layers for clothing that covers our core, don’t forget your fingers, toes, and head.  Having a variety of gloves and socks will help keep your hands and feet comfortable.  A hat can go a long way to keeping you warm or protecting you from the heat and radiation of the sun. Finally, function is more important than fashion when you are outdoors.  While we all like to look good, maintaining a healthy temperature is more important than looking good.  Listen to your body and learn what works well for you.  Remember, your comfort and survival are dependent on what you chose.

Get outside and explore nature!  Enjoy the dynamic conditions of spring in the mountains and on your local streets.  It is wise to always bring an assortment of layers so you can appreciate nature and not focus on your comfort, or lack thereof if you are caught unprepared.