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Save The Day Kit: Don't Let Minor Hassles or Emergencies Ruin Your Family Outing

Save The Day Kit: Don't Let Minor Hassles or Emergencies Ruin Your Family Outing 0

The Save A Dive kit is a well-known, practical tradition in SCUBA diving circles. Each diver creates his own emergency repair kit, with the replacement parts, supplies and repair tools needed to solve all of the most common equipment problems when he’s on a dive outing. This ensures he won’t be stuck on the boat due to a broken strap, leaky hose or similar problem while everyone else is underwater.

Think back on how many family outings and road trips have been ruined, or made far less enjoyable, due to some minor crisis that could’ve been easily resolved if only you’d had the necessary supplies on hand. Whether it was poison oak on the nature walk, sunburn at the beach, car sickness on the road, or blisters from new sandals at the picnic, these small things can quickly snowball to ruin everyone’s day. Put together your own Save The Day kit and take it on every outing to keep your group comfortable and content.

General Guidelines
The basic idea is to be able to deal with minor hassles and emergencies just long enough to get you back home, or get you to the next town where supermarkets, drugstores, restaurants and the like will be available. Travel size items are ideal; just be sure to re-stock any supplies that are used up on each trip.

The Bag
Start with a large, sturdy, well-designed duffel bag, ideally one with multiple pockets or divided sections that will make it easy to find items quickly when you need them. This bag will need to go into the car or van with you, so make sure it will fit even after you’ve accounted for everything else you’ll be bringing along.

What To Pack
While each family or group will want to personalize their Save The Day kit according to their specific needs, there are some staples that belong in every bag.

Small First Aid Kit – You can assemble your own, or buy one ready-made. At the minimum, it should contain an assortment of adhesive bandages, some alcohol wipes, first aid ointment, cream or spray, and an instant cold pack (the type that doesn’t need freezing or refrigeration).

Over The Counter Remedies – These items should address the most common, minor physical problems you’re likely to encounter while away from home.

Include aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen to cover all possible pain relief bases, for young and old alike. If very small children or toddlers are commonly part of your group, be sure to include a pain reliever / fever reducer made especially for them. Add diphenhydramine (brand name Benadryl®) spray, pills or liquid to address non-emergency allergic reactions to things like poison oak and insect bites. Finally, include some type of sunburn / skin irritation relief spray, gel or cream, like this one from Reef Safe.

Sunblock and Lip Balm – If small children are going to be part of your group be sure to include a sunblock option that’s safe for kids.

Wet Wipes, Hand Sanitizer, Roll of Paper Towels, Roll of Toilet Paper – You can never predict the condition of public restrooms along the way, and spills always seem to happen at the worst possible times.

Travel Size Sewing Kit – It doesn’t take up much space, and you’ll be glad you brought it when a popped button or stuck zipper renders a crucial clothing item useless. Be sure to get a kit that includes small pair of scissors.

A Large, Rolled Up Towel or Blanket – Speaking of spills, anyone who finds themselves unexpectedly wet or cold on the outing will be thankful for a blanket or towel to wrap up in.

Food and Water – You don’t need a full survival kit here, just a few bottles of water and a box of nutrition bars with a long shelf life. There’s nothing like a hungry or thirsty kid to make a road trip miserable for everyone, and in the unlikely event of a flat, engine trouble or emergency room visit, it could be hours before you’re able to grab a bite.

Lighter, Flashlight with Spare Batteries – Fire and light: two survival tools we don’t usually appreciate until we desperately need them.

Car Charger For Electronics – A micro-USB type should be compatible with most phones, tablets and other small electronics.

Duct Tape – It can temporarily repair anything from a ripped down jacket to a broken rear view mirror.

Large Trash Bag – Whether it’s for cleanup after a picnic, temporarily stowing wet clothes and gear or bagging muddy shoes for the trip home, this is a very handy item you’ll be glad you brought.

Feminine Hygiene Products – If females in their child-bearing years are coming along, make sure you’re able to handle an unexpected emergency until you can get to a supermarket or drugstore.

Dramamine® is a good addition if anyone in your group is prone to motion sickness.

If you spend a lot of time ferrying kids or friends around you may want to keep your Save The Day kit in your vehicle at all times. If you’ll only use it for road trips and day outings make it the last thing you put in the car before you hit the road, so you won’t have to rummage through everything else to find it when you need it.

Drinking and Diving: Just Say No

Drinking and Diving: Just Say No 0

A guy with ear problems goes to Notos Mare on the southern coast of Crete, parties a little too much the night before going diving, and ends up possibly “narked” and faced with a life-threatening situation. Moral: don’t drink and dive.

A submerged shoal is an area of the seabed that is shallower than the surrounding area. Also known as "pinnacles," you can see lots of these in Greece and I was very excited to see them myself. In anticipation of the trip I got my Advanced Diving certification. I didn't want to take a chance on anything ruining the trip and since I'm prone to equalization problems I bought an IST Sports ProEar Pressure Equalization Dive Mask, a special dive mask and ear cover system that maintains equalized pressure in the ears automatically, without the diver having to do anything.

The first part of the trip went off without a hitch. In the dives I'd booked in advance of the trip the mask worked great, the travel arrangements went smoothly, and the underwater scenery was just as beautiful as I'd hoped.

I had some more time before I needed to head home, so I asked if there were any other dive opportunities available. The instructor at the Greek resort, Notos Mare in Chora Sfakia on the southern coast of Crete, said that he was going out on a Wednesday with a student but one of the other instructors could come along, hook me up with a buddy, and we could all go on the dive together. It sounded like the perfect way to end my trip.

I wasn’t expecting a deep dive so I figured it would be safe to have a beer or two the night before. And maybe a cocktail. Or two. 

OK, let’s be honest: I was drinking Ouzo like Zorba The Greek, and I pretty much closed the bar that night. Later the bar staff told me I was downing shots and smashing glasses till dawn. Then there was the dancing on tables...but that’s another story.

Somehow I managed to make it to the meeting point for the dive, get properly suited up and into the water.  The instructor led me over a shoal and kept descending and checking in with me by giving the OK sign, to which I always responded OK. Except I wasn’t okay. In fact I was pretty darn not okay on account of being badly hung over from the previous night, and I felt sick. I wondered how you throw up while diving; there’s something the instructors don’t teach! Finally we bottomed out on a sandy area past all the sea grass and the instructor again gave me the OK sign, but this time I couldn't fake being okay any longer: I suddenly felt utter panic.

I rationalized that I was ‘narked,’ not hung over. Also known as Nitrogen Narcosis, narked is a condition divers face when they fail to take the necessary safety stops to clear the nitrogen that normally accumulates in their body tissues during a dive. It generally feels very euphoric but is extremely dangerous because it means life threatening nitrogen toxicity---also known as "the bends"---is looming. I wasn't narked, I was in denial.

It seemed like I had tunnel vision. I think there was a boat traveling overhead but the droning seemed like it was coming from inside my head, and I was sure I was going to pass out. I even kept touching my regulator thinking it was falling out. I was so glad I'd invested in the ProEar mask, which prevented further pain, dizziness and disorientation under the water; it may have saved my life.

I did my best to stay centered and signaled the instructor that no, I wasn’t okay, and he led me back up. The symptoms gradually subsided as we ascended together, but I have to say I was still a little disoriented about 15 minutes later when we finally surfaced.

I can tell you one thing: my drinking and diving days are over!

How Dangerous Is Skateboarding, Really?

How Dangerous Is Skateboarding, Really? 0

Parents with kids who are begging for a skateboard want to know: how dangerous is skateboarding, really? Many will be shocked to learn skateboards cause fewer injuries each year than bikes, swimming pools, playground and exercise equipment, and most team sports.

There are tens of thousands of skateboard "wipeout" videos and pictures online, and the Jackass TV series and movies showcase some pretty hair-raising skate tricks gone bad too. All of which leads many people to conclude skateboarding is an extreme, and extremely dangerous, sport. As it turns out, actual injury statistics don't bear that out.

Skateboarding is actually less dangerous than many activities most people assume are generally safe, like bicycling, soccer, basketball, or even just using exercise equipment.

Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Injury Statistics

The CPSC collects injury statistics via its National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), and releases an annual report of those statistics to the public. From the most recently available report, for 2014:

CPSC's National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) collects current injury data associated with consumer products from U.S. hospital emergency departments across the country. Consisting of a national probability sample of hospitals of differing sizes and locations, NEISS provides national estimates of the number and types of consumer product-related injuries.

The report also includes the actual injury counts used as the basis for NEISS's estimates.  The table below excerpts some of the actual injury counts from in the 2014 NEISS report. While skateboarding carries certain risks, just like any form of physical activity or sport, you may be surprised to see how its risks stack up against other common sports and outdoor activities.

Sport / Activity  Actual 2014 Injury Count
Child Nursery Equipment 3,240
Baseball, Softball 5,766
Basketball 15,586
Bicycles & Accessories 14,289
Exercise, Exercise Equipment 12,184
Football 11,645
Playground Equipment 7,999
Skateboards 2,904
Soccer 7,574
Swimming, Pools, Equipment 3,853
Trampolines 3,084

Remember, these statistics cover ALL injury data collected from the participating hospital emergency rooms, so that means it includes injuries sustained by people who weren't wearing proper safety equipment or observing proper safety precautions.

Helmets and Skate Parks Maximize Safety

Safe Kids Worldwide doesn't track skateboard injury statistics specifically, but it does release an annual Bicycle, Skate and Skateboard Safety Fact Sheet that includes skateboarders in the statistics. The 2016 Fact Sheet finds that:

  • Helmets reduce the risk of head injury by at least 45 percent, brain injury by 33 percent, facial injury by 27 percent and fatal injury by 29 percent.
  • Boys ages 10 to 14 years are almost three times less likely to wear a helmet than boys ages 5 to 9 years; this difference in helmet wearing behavior is not found between girls in the same age groups.
  • A child...with companions wearing helmets or adults in general, regardless if the adult is wearing a helmet or not, is more likely to wear a helmet himself.

Skaters for Public Skate Parks releases an annual report of skateboarding fatalities, and the overwhelming majority of incidents involve skaters being hit by vehicles in streets and on unpaved shoulders, often with a drunk driver behind the wheel. The second most common cause of skateboarding fatalities is "skitching", the dangerous practice of hanging on to some part of a moving vehicle while riding a skateboard to hitch a ride. The third most common cause of skateboard deaths is "downhill bombing", or riding down extremely steep inclines (often the same streets used by cars, trucks and motorcycles) on a longboard at top speed.

Skitching and downhill bombing are so widely known to be unsafe that many cities and counties have banned or outlawed these practices.

Since the reporting began, in 2011, only one skateboarding fatality has occurred in a skate park and the victim was not wearing a helmet.

Bottom line: skateboarding is no more dangerous, and is actually safer, than many other common sporting activities, provided the skater: wears a helmet, sticks to skateparks, sidewalks and paved, off-street surfaces, and doesn't engage in unsafe practices like skitching or downhill bombing.

Essential Camping Gear: Two Must-Buy Items

Essential Camping Gear: Two Must-Buy Items 0

There's a huge and often costly variety of camping and hiking gear available to buy, but if you're on a very tight budget you can adapt things you already own to meet most of your needs for the trip. There are really only two pieces of speciality equipment you must buy: a tent and boots.

If you're enthusiastic about camping and hiking but can't afford to buy a bunch of gear right up front, don't worry. Most of the things you'll need are probably already lying around the house or apartment. Sure, equipment that's specially made for camping and outdoors will be more convenient, work better and be easier to clean and store than the household odds n' ends approach, but quality gear isn't cheap.

Even if you're on a very tight budget there's no reason you have to wait until you've purchased every piece of gear on your camping/outdoors wishlist, because there are really just two items you absolutely, positively have to buy especially for your outdoor trips.

Invest In A Quality Tent

You can get a very cheap tent at your local discount department store, but it's smarter to spend a little more on a tent that will last. A cheap tent is made from cheap materials, and a tear or broken tent pole can instantly render the tent useless and ruin your whole trip. A cheap tent isn't going to save you any money if you have to buy a new one for every trip.

Fortunately, you don't have to break the bank to get a quality tent. There are plenty of mid-range, 2-person tent models available on Amazon for around US$50, and a plenty of mid-range 4-person tents under US$100. At those prices you won't get many bells or whistles, but you can expect to get a basic, quality piece of outdoor equipment that will last for years if you use and care for it properly.

Spendy Hiking Boots Are Worth The Spend

Purpose-built hiking boots are expensive, but there's a reason for that. Your typical, everyday footwear is designed to be worn on generally level, smooth, dry surfaces. The cross trainers you wear to the gym and boots you wear when motorcycling may seem pretty rugged, but they're not meant to withstand the rigors of rocky, muddy, steep, wet, or slippery ground.

A quality hiking boot has a thick, tough, but flexible sole with a deep, grippy tread---kind of like snow tires for your feet. It's made of a breathable material that's tough enough to resist cuts and tears, and extends up the ankle to provide extra stability on uneven or slick ground. It has special features that make it water resistant or even totally waterproof. It has a specially designed insole and arch support system to ensure maximum comfort and minimum muscle, ligament and tendon strain during hours of wear on uneven surfaces. On top of all these features, it's also made to be as light as possible, because the wearer is usually already going to be carrying a lot of weight and doesn't need the added leg fatigue a heavy boot will cause.

There's no everyday wear boot or sneaker that will meet all of these requirements. Wearing everyday footwear for camping or hiking just about guarantees you'll return with sore, possibly even injured feet, ankles and legs, and a ruined pair of shoes.

You can expect to spend $75 or more on a quality pair of hiking boots. If that's simply more than you can afford, try checking for clearance sales online, or in your local sporting goods or outdoor gear shop. If you absolutely must pinch every last penny, hit the thrift stores. You can often find high-quality outdoor boots that have only been worn once or twice in those stores because many people make the mistake of buying all the top-shelf gear for camping before their first trip, only to discover they don't actually like camping after all.

Everything Else You Need, You Probably Already Have

No sleeping bags? Use blankets, quilts and comforters. No lantern? Bring two or more flashlights with fresh batteries. No water purification system or tablets? Bring plenty of bottled water with you. No camp stove? Bring food that doesn't require heating, or a mini barbecue grill of the type you'd take to the beach or use on your patio. Don't own a hiking backpack or daypack? You probably have one or more school backpacks stuffed in the back of a closet or stashed in the garage. Never bought a camp first aid kit? Bring along your household or car first aid kit, and if you don't own one of those assemble a first aid kit by gathering up adhesive bandages in various sizes, an elastic compression bandage, antibiotic cream, alcohol wipes, etc. and putting them together in a box or bag.

You get the idea.

There wasn't always such a thing as speciality camping gear, yet humans have been making camp outdoors since the caveman days. Specialty equipment is optimized for maximum convenience and functionality with minimum weight, so of course your camping trips will get more and more enjoyable as you continue to invest in new pieces of gear.

For those first few trips however, a quality tent and hiking boots are the only things you absolutely must buy.

How To Roll: Part 1

How To Roll: Part 1 0

Reasons to Revisit a Favorite Childhood Pastime, Decades Later

As kids, many of us loved to roller skate. First skates were often the chunky, plastic strap-on types that fit over a kindergartner’s sized shoes. Those might be replaced with the traditional, lace up boot type to see you through grade school, perhaps followed by something a little snazzier in the teen years.

For many, high school graduation marks the end of what had been until then a lifelong love of skating. Things like work, college, marriage and kids all steal away more of your time and energy, and it's not long before roller skating becomes little more than a wistful blast of nostalgia as you drive your own kids to the rink, or select that first pair of strap-on toddler skates for them.

It doesn't have to be this way. Skating is every bit as fun in the adult years as it was when you were a kid, and while some extra safety precautions you probably never even thought about as a kid will now be very important, roller skating can be an excellent full-body workout option.

“Quad” skating (skating on the same type of four-wheeled skates you typically see at the roller rink) has made a comeback, particularly with adults looking for a fun way to exercise. Provided you’re healthy enough for aerobic exercise, wear the proper safety equipment, invest in some decent skates and take the time to warm up before you hit the rink or the pavement, roller skating is a terrific alternative to more traditional gym workouts. It’s easier on the joints than running, requires less rhythm and coordination than those Brazilian dance exercise classes, is a lot more fun than lifting weights, and costs less than a gym membership or exercise class enrollment: once you’ve got your skates, helmet and pads, all you need is a smooth surface to roll on.

Follow along with this series to learn all about how to get started as a late-in-life skater. Some of the topics we'll be covering include: how to choose your skates and safety gear, learning how to slow down, stop and safely fall (yes, it can be done without injuring yourself), taking those first few, unsteady rolls (and ensuring they're as safe as possible), and more.

Getting Scuba Gear Through TSA Screening

Getting Scuba Gear Through TSA Screening 0

Traveling with scuba gear is challenging at best. It's heavy, bulky, and some of it is delicate. You generally want to keep your dive computer and certain other pieces of valuable or fragile equipment in your carry-on, but the TSA can and will confiscate anything they deem to be suspicious. Here are some things you can do to ensure your TSA encounter goes smoothly, so you can exit the security checkpoint with all your gear intact.

TSA screening is simply a fact of life if you need to fly. Nobody likes having to endure the added delay and hassle, but it's not hard to keep your TSA screening short and uneventful.

1. First and most importantly, keep a positive attitude.

TSA agents are dealing with travelers who resent them all day, every day. Even if you're running late or feel stressed for other reasons, make an effort to present a cheerful and helpful face to the agents at the security checkpoint. Wherever a rule is open to interpretation or the agent's own judgment, it's more likely to go your way if you've made a good impression.

2. Keep carry-on gear to the absolute minimum.

Every piece of gear in your carry-on is a potential problem for the TSA. Your regulator, octo, BCD and most other equipment can go into a checked bag that's carefully packed to ensure everything is adequately padded. Many divers will wrap their reg and octo inside their wetsuit, place that bundle in the center of the bag, and then brace it on either side with their fins. Using fins for extra protection and support inside the bag is even more important if your checked bag is soft-sided. Your mask may have come in a box, but even if it didn't, it's not hard to find a rigid plastic box of sufficient size that will keep it protected as your bag runs the baggage handler gauntlet.

3. Remember that diving knives, spearguns and extra spears are all items that MUST go into a checked bag.

Any item that could be used as a weapon is prohibited inside the airplane cabin, and that goes for purpose-built scuba gear, too. You may wince when you put that pricey new dive knife into a bag you intend to check, worried that it may be stolen, but if you attempt to take the knife through a TSA checkpoint it will definitely be confiscated. Whatever it is, if it's sharp or pointy, plan on putting it in a checked bag.

4. Bring the manufacturer manuals or user guides for carry-on gear that will be unfamiliar to non-divers.

Many a traveling diver has had his dive computer, regulator or rechargeable battery pack confiscated simply because the TSA agent had no idea what they were and erred on the side of caution---as the TSA agents are supposed to do. Be prepared to show the TSA agent your scuba certification card and the pages in the manual(s) or user guide(s) that show a picture of the gear. If possible, bring a dive magazine that contains an illustrated ad for the equipment. Bookmark or dog-ear the relevant pages ahead of time so you can flip to them quickly.

Most user guides or manuals will have a picture at the front at least, with all parts of the piece of equipment labeled. Even if the security agent speaks a different language, the manual, guide or magazine ad will demonstrate that your dive computer is not some kind of homemade explosive timer device but a mass-produced, commercially-available piece of dive equipment. Similarly, if you've decided you prefer to carry your reg in your carry-on bag, your documentation will help prove it's not a gas mask.

If you've misplaced the original user guides or manuals, you can often download new copies from the manufacturer website in PDF format, then print out a hard copy. If the manufacturer doesn't make copies available online, contact them to inquire about having copies mailed to you well in advance of your trip.

5. Assume the security agent will question any piece of dive gear that would be unfamiliar to non-divers.

Remove the possibly unfamiliar items and let them go through the checkpoint in their own, separate bins. First, this demonstrates that you are not trying to hide them. Second, if the agent has any questions you won't have to dig through your carry-on to pull the equipment out for the agent's inspection.

As in most of life and all of travel, when preparing to deal with airport security it's best to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.