In nearly every recounting of a survival experience there is a single moment that turns everyday outdoor recreation — a casual fishing trip, mountain bike ride, or weekend camping getaway — into a survival situation. But that’s the trick of survival preparedness and training. You never know when that moment will occur. That next step could be a broken ankle; that bend in the trail could make you lose your bearings; that rustle in the bushes could be more than a rambunctious squirrel. The truth is that no matter how well prepared you are, you are never really prepared for a survival situation unless you have the right survival mindset. 

We have talked about how Navy SEALs train their mind to be better snipers or how prisoners of war use a kind of grounded optimism to weather long stints in captivity. But when it comes to straight-up wilderness survival, you need to strap on a different kind of mentality. In his book, Hawke’s Special Forces Survival Handbook, Mykel Hawke, former Army Special Forces Captain and survival expert, lays out how to prepare yourself mentally for a survival situation. 

Start Your Preparation at Home

Anyone who has been in the military knows that preparation for an operation usually starts in the comfort of the command tent. Map reconnaissance, intel gathering, and assessments of force strength and readiness are crucial factors to any successful mission. Survival is no different. Hawke reminds us that ignorance is at the heart of fear and fear is cancer to survival. 

Beat your ignorance with preparation. Acknowledge the risks of your activity. Study up on the flora and fauna of where you’re going. If you don’t have access to a map of the area, get on Google Maps and switch to satellite mode. You’d be surprised how much detail you can glean from a half-hour of intentional map recon. Next, make a plan and share that plan with others. If people don’t know when and where to be expecting you, they won’t come looking. Most of all, familiarize yourself with your gear. You’d be surprised how many people pack a first-aid or survival kit that’s never been opened.