Survival 101: It All Boils Down to Common Sense


  Literally, hundreds of articles are written every year, as well as a number of television programs, devoted to the act of survival.  Most of these articles put the reader in obscure locations and in situations that very few of us will ever find ourselves in.  They also try to make the act of survival so difficult that people end up feeling that unless you have a Ph.D. in Survivability, you are doomed.  The act of survival is not rocket science.  All it involves is a little common sense.

It’s all in your mind:

I spent 12 years in the military where part of my job was to teach other soldiers how to survive in adverse conditions.  While I was never formally trained in this field, I did grow up hunting, fishing, and hiking; basically I lived in the outdoors.  I learned skills along the way, some were taught to me by Native elders and other mentors who helped guide me; other lessons I learned the hard way.  In this role I did the best I could to impart what I have learned over the years to the soldiers I was working with.  The most important lesson I could teach was for my students to think.

For thousands of years humans have lived with the numerous factors presented by the outdoors.  For some reason, modern humans have come to fear the outdoors.  There is no need for this fear.  Over the years we humans have come up with equipment that help us survive in this world, but the most important tool we have is one we have always had, our brain.  Your brain, and your ability to use it, is what are going to dictate whether you survive a cold night in the woods or not.

Before you venture out:

The most important thing to do before you head out is to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.  If an emergency does happen, nobody will ever know to look for you if they don’t know that you are out there.  This rule applies whether you are heading out for a day long hike or just out for a couple hours turkey hunting.NE-beyond-My-pack-3

Whether you are hunting or taking down a few trees on your property, the potential for issues to arise are ever present.  This means hoping for the best, but being prepared for the worst.  I personally carry two things at all time; a butane lighter and a Swiss Army knife or a multi-purpose tool of some sort.  With these two things I can do just about everything I would need to do to survive the night; from picking ticks off me to starting a fire.  If you are going to be gone longer than an hour from your shelter, be it your home or your base camp, there are other items that you will need to keep with you.  As these items are more than most people can carry in their pockets, they need to find their way into a pack.

What goes into my pack:

What I carry in my pack differs with each trip I make.  Some of the items I carry while hunting will differ from those I carry while on a hiking trip.  With that being said, the following items always stay in my pack, no matter where I go.  These items include a compass and a map of the area I am in; a large trash bag, which can double as a poncho in an emergency; another lighter and matches stowed in a reclosable sandwich bag; a small flashlight and extra batteries; a small hatchet or folding saw; rope; water and a first-aid kit.  I also carry some food.  Military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are great, but a few granola bars, some peanuts and crackers can get you through in a pinch.

One word regarding compasses and maps, they do no good if you don’t know how to use them.  Today most people rely upon GPS units while in the field.  While this technology is great, it does have its limitations.  Batteries go dead and GPS units are only good if they can get a signal. If you don’t know how to use a compass, please take a course.

NE-beyond-2-Blackhawk-first-aid-kitNE-Beyond1-Blackhawk-first-aid-kit-2 A first-aid kit is probably one of the most important items you can have.  While a store bought kit is better than nothing, I like to make my own.  Most store bought kits are little more than fancy packages filled with Band-Aids and some gauze.  While any small case will work, I went out and picked

up a Blackhawk individual medical bag.  As they are designed for military use, I know it will hold up to what I will put it through.  My first-aid kit includes over the counter pain relievers, antihistamine, antibiotic cream, Band-Aids, gauze, as well as an emergency space blanket, some fish hooks, a small sewing kit, water purification tablets and a candle.  You also need to make sure to carry insect repellant and prescription medication that you need to take.   Water is another thing that I always carry.  At a minimum I strap two 1 quart water bottles onto my pack.  A human can survive for a week or more without food, but only days without water.  The ru

le we

had in the army was to take what you thought you would need and then double it.  Finally, a 20 foot length of rope needs to find a home in the pack.  Rope can allow you to set a snare or build a secure shelter.  While paracord is the “in thing” to carry today, a length of clothesline rope will work in an emergency.

If you become lost or hurt, don’t panic.  Relax and think things out. Find a spot that offers you the most benefit and stay there.  Do not wander.  With the items you are carrying you should be able to set up a pretty good camp if you have to.  While it is still light prepare your area.  Gather enough firewood to see you through the night.  Once you have a fire going you don’t want to leave it.  It is you best chance to be found quickly.  If you had left a note of where you were going, people should be searching for you within hours of your expected return.  Now I realize that the TV shows show people hiking and repelling down cliffs and crossing raging streams, but that is the worst thing you can do.  If you break your leg or arm falling down a cliff you are now in a world of hurt.  Everything will work out fine if you just use a little common sense.




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