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Signal Mirror - Lifesaver or BS?
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John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Signal Mirror on 04/05/2008 14:08:37 MDT Print View

Mike, what's the conventional wisdom at NOLS re: the effectiveness of a mirror or like for signalling?

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Signal Mirror on 04/05/2008 15:28:47 MDT Print View

Somewhere around here I've got one of those Mini CD's. Now, where did I last see it?

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Lifesaver... on 04/05/2008 15:30:43 MDT Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/25/2015 21:01:30 MDT.

Michael Crosby
(djjmikie) - MLife

Locale: Ky
pen-style flare launcher on 04/05/2008 17:05:59 MDT Print View

I have been carrying this pen-style flare launcher and flares for a number of years and a similar type on military missions. I use them for both backpacking and walk in hunting trips. The bear bangers also work well for signaling and on all kinds of animals. They travel about 50 meters before exploding.

Edit: Spelling corrections;{

Edited by djjmikie on 04/05/2008 17:23:01 MDT.

David Lewis
(davidlewis) - MLife

Locale: Nova Scotia, Canada
Re: pen-style flare launcher on 04/05/2008 18:28:14 MDT Print View

Woah... those pen flare things look cool!

The CD/DVD idea is cool too. I wonder if they would be as easy to aim but I guess that just comes down to skill and practice. Also, if you wanted to save even more weight, you could use one of those mini CD's or business card CD's. Cool idea :)

I also really like the camera flash idea. Never thought of that. I'd like to think I'd think of that in a survival situation... but I'm not sure I would have. Good to know.

John Witt
(johnbrown2005) - F

Locale: Portland, OR
Pen Style Flare Launcher on 04/05/2008 19:50:16 MDT Print View

What's the calculus with the flares re: starting a wildfire? I think I remember that a few a year are started by lost hunters and hikers shooting flares? Is there a way to mitigate?

Mike W
(skopeo) - F

Locale: British Columbia
Signal Flares... on 04/05/2008 20:10:14 MDT Print View


Edited by skopeo on 04/25/2015 21:02:18 MDT.

darren stephens
(darren5576) - F

Locale: Down Under
signal mirror on 04/06/2008 04:19:51 MDT Print View

I carry a signal mirror when I hike. I have been rescued by a helicopter from mountain bush and have been winched out. As the paramedic was pumping me full of morphine he said that this time it was a quick recovery. Sometimes they can search for 30min easy even when they roughly know where the person is, apparently it can be difficult to se people through bush. In this instance there was a small uhf radio that was used to pinpoint our location.
Don’t however assume you are going to get into trouble and flag down a passing airliner. They would only help if someone is looking for you. Common sense, letting someone knows where you’re going, and when you’re expected will start the search going.
As far as mobile phones go there coverage cannot be relied upon over here. if you cant see civilization then you cant count on it.
Practice when you’re out, try and beam on trees, cliffs, other hikers faces etc. If we spend 1% of the time spent trying to invent different ways to boil water on these basic emergency skills we will be all right.
Also as a previous poster said there might some times you need to use a mirror to see your face?
I’m not telling anyone what to do , just what I do

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Re: pen-style flare launcher on 04/06/2008 18:56:48 MDT Print View

The CD/DVD idea is cool too. I wonder if they would be as easy to aim but I guess that just comes down to skill and practice. Also, if you wanted to save even more weight, you could use one of those mini CD's or business card CD's. Cool idea :)

CD's seem highly reflective but here is a not so favorable opinion on their effectiveness as signal mirrors.

Edited by jcolten on 04/06/2008 18:57:29 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: pen-style flare launcher on 04/07/2008 01:06:31 MDT Print View

> CD's seem highly reflective but here is a not so favorable opinion on their effectiveness as signal mirrors.

Apply 'vested interest filter': that web site sells commercial devices.

Bill B
(bill123) - MLife
Signal Mirror - Lifesaver or BS on 04/07/2008 06:41:49 MDT Print View

“Apply 'vested interest filter': that web site sells commercial devices.”

Apply cynicism filter over vested interest filter. The review of CD’s as signaling devices came from the Colorado Wing of the Civil Air Patrol who I doubt gets a cut from the sale of Ritter’s survival equipment. Also, the review of CD’s as signaling devices happened in 2001. I do not believe that Ritter started selling his kits until 2004.

The Civil Air Patrol said, "that "victims" who had never used a signal mirror (with the aiming hole in the middle) were able to use them effectively, while CD's (AOL etc.) are useless as signal mirrors."

A CD may be better than nothing, but according to this study, just barely.

Edited by bill123 on 04/07/2008 06:49:48 MDT.

Steve McQueen
(cpholley) - F

Locale: Minnesota Transplant
In the words of Les Stroud - on 04/07/2008 08:06:12 MDT Print View

"Its all about improving your odds."

That's why I carry one.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
Equipped to Survive Website on 04/07/2008 08:25:55 MDT Print View

I'm been reading Doug Ritter's work for several years. In general, Doug is recognized as one of the leading experts in the aircraft survival industry. I've always found his opinions to be fair and balanced. He's also not shy about saying why some product is bad, and often talks about a MYOG version that he thinks is just as good. His website does carry some products - but only ones that he's tested and feels comfortable endorsing. He's also responsible for getting several products tailored to survivalist needs (such as a Benchmade Griptilian knife with a stronger tip and higher grind, and a flat Fox40 - which later became the Fox Micro).

In many respects, Doug's website is like BPL. You get good advise from his personal testing, a summary of available 3rd party research, products you can count on, and custom tailored products that work better than mass market gear for specialized activities (like the Ryan's firelite mini, UL180, or Cacoon UL60 Hoody)

As an aside, Doug does say using a regular mirror and the 2-finger / v-site aiming method works fine - after some practice. He also reviews several glass and plastic mirrors that he says work better than the one he chose for his pocket survival kit. He says he didn't go with glass because it might be broken in the plane crash, and the 2 plastic ones that worked better were either too big for a pocket survival kit or too expensive for the kit price he was targeting.

He gives the manufacturer & model info for the ones he thought worked better than his in case you don't want to make the same trade-off. That's what I call fair, honest advise !

Edited by JohnG10 on 04/07/2008 08:30:38 MDT.

Michael B
(mbenvenuto) - F

Locale: Vermont
LED light on 04/07/2008 09:46:56 MDT Print View

I have a mirror on my compass so I could try that. But living in the wooded NE, I don't consider a signal mirror to be all that essential. Using a signal mirror requires both open ground and being physical alert and strong enough to actually take the time to signal, and requires a rescue during the day. That seems like an unlikely scenario for me most of the time (the only way I can see needing rescue is if I am seriously injured).

There have been other threads about fenix lights recently, including in the one about the headlamp. I would be carrying one of those, primarily the L1D, so that is my general plan for emergency signaling. I don't know how that would compare to a flash off the mirror, but the L1D is extremely, blindingly, bright. It has a strobe mode and an SOS mode, both that would run for hours and and even days. It could run automatically while I took cover in a bivy. It will illuminate to the tops of very tall trees, and I would expect the light to be visible for miles. It could be aimed at a low flying plane reasonably easily.

Hopefully, I won't ever need to test that out.

Ryan Corder
(demo) - MLife

Locale: Arkansan in Seattle
multi-use items on 04/07/2008 22:42:27 MDT Print View

I prefer to take as many items that can be used for more than one purpose over those that can't. I use a Suunto compass (marketed for maritime uses) that is a compass, a signaling mirror, and a emergency wistle.

Oh, and it floats too :)

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Mirrors on 04/08/2008 13:16:27 MDT Print View

I use a compass with a sighting mirror so I can cover both bases. Other than that, the Adventure Medical mirrors are the lightest I've found.

There are a few things that I won't go without and the survival essentials are on the top of the list. Signaling gear is cheap and light, so whistle and mirror are always with me in some form.

grant cox
(gecox) - F
better signal mirror from old computer on 05/26/2012 09:28:56 MDT Print View

I have an amazing and tough signal mirror I got out of a computer I was going to trash. If you have ever taken apart an old hard drive, you know there are two highly polished pieces of metal about 3 1/2" in diameter with a 3/4" hole in the center. They are VERY reflective and light. Best of all they already have a sight built in.

Rusty Beaver
(rustyb) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Signal Mirror - Lifesaver or BS on 05/26/2012 09:55:55 MDT Print View

"I guess the question in my mind is: Does it really work for signalling"?

Yes, absolutely!

Out on the range (30 yrs ago), one of our sheepherders (a wise old Native American) would use a little mirror to help us locate him in the deserts of S Idaho. It would save us a lot of time as well as wear and tear on our truck, driving around on rarely traveled bumpy roads, and climbing to high points searching with binoculars. I was amazed the first time I witnessed this signalling. We were 3-4 miles away and the bright flashes his little mirror made were impossible to miss.

Richard Fischel
not cheap and it runs on batteries, but if you want to be seen on 05/26/2012 14:04:14 MDT Print View

check these out -

you can't be rescued if they can't find you. whistle/signal mirror are relatively cheap and light metods to draw attention if you need it.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: Signal Mirror - Lifesaver or BS? on 05/26/2012 17:19:51 MDT Print View

I sometimes carry one but also carry a plb so am a bit redundant.

I practiced with the mirror with some friends at the beach. The sighting feature really helps.

When the mirror is aimed correctly the flash of light is very vivid.

Practicing ahead of time, with instructions, is a good idea. It isn't immediately obvious how to do it.