Trust me, you do not want to end up in an Outsider's Camp.
Almost without fail, each spring as work in the mountains would recommence, someone would inevitably stumble across what we came to know as an “Outsider Camp”. The term was derived from the fact that most of the local people knew better than to do what these people had done. In all cases, the result was fatal for the outsider, resulting in whatever remained having to be discovered by some poor sot merely out trying to work and feed his family. The Outsider Camp will be a series here, with articles written regarding camping safety and things that a lot of people do not really know about, or tend to think about when they go out into the wilderness.
Going out into the woods alone is almost never a good idea, at least unless you are experienced and preferably, have grown up in the woods you are traversing. I remember the first time I went to visit an uncle I had never met to help him dig (or more accurately, to blast out of the granite) a grave for his wife. The instructions were so odd, even for me as a young child, that I remember them verbatim to this day. When you get up over the third ridge, look off to your left for the hollow going up to the ridge line. Follow that hollow up until you hear the dogs barking then holler out … or you will get shot when you get too close to the house!” They were simple, accurate directions, easy enough to follow … though I must admit I had a more difficult time finding my way home … likely because of the amount of his homemade hooch that I had consumed prior to my trip back … though I would come to be a regular visitor to his house through the years and the way became more familiar and easier with each passing … and I even got the dogs to stop barking on my own a time or ten.
The point being, I was familiar with the woods and knew them well enough that I would not get lost, but even not being lost, there were still a number of outsider camps resulting from simple mistakes that people made that could have easily been avoided. Not every contingency can be planned for, but the point of these articles is to help those people who are moving out into the wilderness for the first time, in order that they will not end up lying dead in some uncharted location, waiting to be discovered by the next poor sot who happens along.
To start the proverbial ball rolling; one of the most common and fatal mistakes was that of people trying to warm up, even if they were not spending the night.
There is certainly no shortage of people considering a homesteader lifestyle that try to wrap up all carbon into Carbon Dioxide or CO2. In reality, there is carbon, a mineral substance, carbon monoxide which is highly toxic, colorless and tasteless … and very deadly, carbon dioxide which is hazardous only when it reaches up around ten percent of the air being breathed … as it is generally only about forty parts per million, ten percent … or one hundred thousand parts per million is a considerable jump … but possible in a location sealed tightly enough … and there is finally carbon particulate matter. There are other variants, but these are the primary types of carbon in normal discussions by and between people … and only two of which will be important here.
Going back to basic elementary school science, we know that plants “breathe in” Carbon Dioxide and “breathe out” oxygen. Animal life, including humans, breathe in Oxygen and exhale Carbon Dioxide … a wholly symbiotic relationship. Carbon Dioxide only begins becoming hazardous to humans when it reaches over ten percent of the atmosphere … thus the need for “scrubbers” on submarines and in the confines of space vehicles and stations … though very few locations on the surface of the planet are sufficiently well sealed to allow for this to be a problem, especially when camping out in the wide open spaces. The more prevalent threat and the most common cause for the creation of these Outsider Camps was Carbon Monoxide … an odorless and tasteless exhaust venting from virtually every Coleman camp stove and vehicle exhaust in the world.
The vast majority of bodies discovered would be locked up in a vehicle, either with the ignition still on indicating the vehicle had been running, or in the back of a pickup truck with all of the windows tightly shut on the camper shell or camper, and the ubiquitous Coleman Heater or Camp Stove still in the on position with an empty fuel tank. No matter how cold it may be when camping out at the homestead site, it is never a good idea to close up all the windows and turn on the heater. Suffocation may be a painless way to go, especially when someone is already asleep to begin with, but it really is not worth testing out … and if for no other reason than to remember that the poor guy who is going to find whatever may be left of your body, really is just out trying to make a living, not to spend time recovering whatever you may have left behind.