Field Certification

Field Certification

The New Mexico Search & Rescue “File Certification” test comes in three parts:

1 – Pack Check
2 – Compass test
3 – Written test

The complete guide can be downloaded here . It will be our study guide, but it also explains what each SAR member is required to carry while on a mission.

Some of the stuff is .. well .. for the pack check only. Other stuff makes sense. You can always go fancier with equipment once you get to know what you really want or need. Below I am describing the basics.

Make sure you read Chapter 1 & 2 of the guide to understand the requirements.

What you need first is a container, a back pack. You can go fancy but you can also go a bit cheaper. But let’s discuss what you need to have inside your backpack so that you can decide on the size of it.

You need work gloves, which should be leather and can be bought pretty much anywhere (WalMart, Big-R, even Harbour Freight). You also need to pick up some cheap winter gloves. Avoid cotton. Mittens are fine. Next is a head cover. Get a hat (e.g. a boonie hat) and a winter beanie. When it comes to clothing, you can not have anything that contains cotton. Wool is ok. Spandex, Nylon – all ok. You need socks, get them at WalMart for a few bucks a 3-pack. Thick work socks are best. No cotton. Look at the label. You also need three layers of clothing. None of them should have any cotton in them. Have two pairs of leggins (or other thin pants), a non-cotton long arm t-shirt, a non-cotton long-arm fleece sweatshirt with hood (Amazon), your Pecos Valley uniform shirt and a rain suit, ideally in orange. As to pants: It’s up to you. Select dark-green hiking pants so that we have matching colors (Amazon) . No cotton or cotton blends.

You also need hiking boots. They should be sturdy and must support your ankles. I bought mine at Big R, but WalMart or sporting stores may have them too. Remember – you will be wearing thick socks. Match your fit accordingly.

That’s about it in regard to clothing.

Next is the survival gear you need. Let’s start with a water container. You need to show one or two containers that can carry 2 quarts. Don’t use metal, because they are too heavy. Eye protection – or safety glasses you can get a dozen a dime at Amazon. Mine even have readers in them. Get a clear and and shaded one. You also need a knife. It can be a hunting knife or a multi tool. As long as it has a blade. A signal mirror is also required. I have seen people being rejected because of the mirror. It needs to be glass or mil-spec plastic with mesh around sighting hole .. something like this (Amazon). Whistle? Well .. you need one. Make sure it .. whistles. Space blanket? This should be a no-brainer. Don’t buy the cheapest one you find because this is actually a useful thing to have in many circumstances. You need two flash lights. Use a head lamp and a normal flash light. Also have spare batteries for both. You are also required to have pencil and paper. These must however be waterproof (Amazon). Next up: Rope or webbing. Don’t use Home Depot stuff – look at this (Amazon) . A personal first aid kit is required as well. Find one at WalMart. You can also buy a first aid box and use the most important items in a freezer bag. Fire starter: I suggest you have two versions: Matches and a lighter will do. Keep them in a freezer back so they stay dry. But you can add any other type of fire starter or water proof matches. Which brings us to the compass. Since it will be used to pass your compass test, pick one that works ok. It must have a rotating bezel. I have seen those (Amazon , Amazon) work well but I have seen them fail as well. It’s hard to tell if a compass is good or bad unless you are willing to pay serious money. And don’t fall for the “military look-alike” stuff. These are the worst.

Back to the backpack. You need to buy one that fits all the stuff above and is comfortable on your back. I went through my pack check with a $40 backpack from WalMart. I since then upgraded because I have different gear now. Just get something that holds your stuff.

Again – your study guide explains in detail what you have to have and why you have to have it. Read it.

Greg is working on a comprehensive list of items you can look at. They contain stuff that is “nice to have” but is not required for the field test. I will post it here as soon as it is ready for publishing.