The most important thing any experienced and seasoned survivalist or outdoorsman will tell you is that you are always a student, and always learning. Complacency leads to mishaps. Mishaps out there in the wilderness are much more consequential than a mishap in the mall. Even veteran woodsman caught in a precarious situation will inevitably forget certain skills and guidelines because the mind will go into survival mode. And once you focus on a particular method or means of being located, finding sustenance, or getting the hell out of there, your mind seems to ignore all the other things you’ve learned over the years. Wasting a great deal of time, and more importantly energy on a single track method of thinking.
What brings me to this article is in my county right now there is an experienced outdoorsman and his son from Minnesota who has been missing for roughly a week now. The local Sheriffs Department, the renowned Alpine Rescue Team, and seasoned trackers have been looking for the pair. With no success. And based on the temperatures and weather we have experienced, in the search area that has been designated, it does not look good for them. It’s hard to imagine how someone with that kind of experience doesn’t just pick the most advantageous cardinal direction, and move out. There’s a freeway that cuts through that is absolutely impossible to miss. There are other state routes as backstops. And some of the countries most experienced search and rescue personnel in the area. Maybe some of us who are land nav gurus take this stuff for granted, but a guy that experienced has to know what he’s doing. Which leads me back to always be a student and never stop learning. It also brings me to the fact that anything and you know as well as I do, ANYTHING can happen out there. A simple misstep can mean catastrophic injury and a much more dire situation than you anticipated. Losing a trail without having proper situational awareness can lead to a grave situation. A day hike can turn into a week-long ordeal of you versus nature. And nature does not acquiesce to you. It a battle of wits, level-headedness, and determination. The number one rule of survival, is a positive attitude, never giving up. You have to WANT to survive. It doesn’t just happen. In instances like this, I can harp on all the things you can do to prevent getting into a situation like this. But that is for another article.
There are small things you can do to help yourself, however, should you, for whatever reason, find yourself in this predicament. A cool handbook I have are these survival cards from K12 Survival Solutions. It is 9 pages that include sections such as first aid as it applies to the wilderness (it is not the same as what most of us are used. My usual answer to a bee sting is “get better genetics.” And that kind of thinking is going to cost me one day.) Shelters, water collection, fire, signal methods, food and how to properly prepare it and skin it, etc. Including the most common types of forage-able food including insects. It shows trapping methods, improvised tools, and idiot proof (I use that term very loosely) navigation. Now you can point out there are many handbooks like this out there. But this is military grade, meaning you have to try to destroy this thing. It’s completely weatherproof and very compact. It weighs hardly anything and can go anywhere in your pack. Even the smallest day pack. It also comes with a 1” ferrocerium spark rod and 8” piece of jute twine fire starter kit that can come in very useful if your lighter (you damn well better have a lighter with you no matter what you’re doing in the wilderness) gets wet, smashed, etc.
The handbook was written by a retired Marine who is a survival expert, SERE graduate, search and rescue team member, the list goes on. Basically, one of the dudes that when he is talking about survival, you listen. I have a great deal of respect for him and am constantly picking his brain about wilderness situations and solutions to them. It is written quite plainly, not because you’re dumb, but because in situations like the ones you would need to whip this thing out, the simpler the better. There are no frills or B.S., just down and dirty, how to survive and get yourself home. I find myself practicing this stuff and screwing around out the mountains frequently, which not only reinforces these skills but really helps me fine tune what I bring with me. To the point where getting lost or hurt isn’t going to be that big of a deal because I have the proper tools, confidence, and mindset to survive.
Always be prepared.
You can pick up the K12 Survival Solutions Handbook for $19.95 direct from their website.