|Most people tend to refer to all outdoor skills as survival skills. Survival is dealing with situations that could immediately threaten your
life. For example let say you are canoeing a remote section of river and no one is expecting you back for several days. Half way
through your trip you are running a set of rapids when all of a sudden you hit an unseen obstacle that rolls your boat and in the drink
you go. The first thing you need to do is get face up with your feet down stream and up towards the surface. Then get yourself
upstream of your boat. These two are good survival skills, because no matter how good of a swimmer you are, a rapid is a stream
just in time to see your canoe, gear, and food roll under the logs. Now what?
To some this is now a “survival situation” because that is what they have been taught. To the woodsman, it just turned from a canoe
trip to an ultra light hiking trip. As long as you are uninjured, you are in good shape, other then you just lost your favorite canoe.
You are now going to use good woodsman skills to get you home. The first thing you want to do is sit down for 15 minutes before you
decide what to do. Do not run around in a panic and turn it into a real survival situation. It will do nothing but wear you out or you will
You decided to follow the river down stream because you know civilization is only two days away, but it is getting late and you do not
want to lose an eyeball or take a fall wandering the woods at night. The man in the “survival situation” will first be concerned with
starvation. The woodsman will know that food is low on the priority list. Maintaining your body temperature is most important and
getting dried out is the first priority. There will be lots of moisture and dew at night in a river valley and therefore be the coldest.
Find a good spot up high off the river. Look for a place with large rocks or some small downed trees that you can stack up to
radiate the heat from your fire. Build a shelter that will turn the rain only if you need to. If there is no chance of rain, don’t waste the
energy. Focus more on a good supply of fire wood.
The next day, as rested as possible you head down river. Don’t be in a hurry as you travel or be impatient. Be aware of your
surroundings, “Where is the sun in relation to my direction of travel” or “Can I see any land features”? Take that map and compass
that you should have on you and confirm your position every hour. Make sure that you stay hydrated. If you can purify the water
great, if you can’t, drink it anyway. Yes there is a real possibility of getting Giardia but so what. You will be dead in 4 days if you don’t
drink and you won’t show any signs or symptoms of Giardia for 7 – 14 days, if at all.
The next night will be better then the first. You’ll have time to pick a better camp site; maybe you found a tin can to boil some pine
nettle tea, crayfish stew, or found some berries. Always keep an eye out for anything that can make your life just a little easier.
Before you know it you will be walking out of the woods strong and healthy.
Back to the start of the scenario, if you drag yourself out of the water and you have a severe laceration to the head and you can’t
stand on your right leg because it is broken, you are now in a survival situation. Hopefully you used good judgment and let someone
know where you where going and for how long, preferable someone that would like to see you again. Your best bet is to stay where
you are at until help arrives. Address your medical needs the best you can, stay warm with a fire, keep out of the wind and weather,
stay hydrated, and get some rest. Try to make a signal for rescuers.
Your main focus should be on developing good woodman skills, learning the principles of nature, how and why things work. Learn
basic edible plants, how to find clean water, making a good shelter, making a fire in all kinds of weather, navigation, etc... These skills
should become your foundation whether you are camping or on that unexpected ultra light hiking trip. Included in these skills is
knowledge of how to deal with life threatening situations. For example swimming in rapids, breaking through the ice, or dealing with
medical emergences. Always keep your priorities straight and no matter what the situation you will come out on top.
2. Stay calm, sit and think about your priorities. Make a plan.
3. Address medical issues.
4. Maintain body Temp.
c. Insulating material
d. Stay dry and out of the wind
e. Stay cool if over heating
6. Rest and get some sleep.
7. Food. Anything to nourish the body.
8. Make it easy for rescuers to find you. Stay in the open and signal.
|When Things Go Wrong
|When it comes to woodsman skills, it’s not about learning one way of doing
something, it’s about learning the principles of how and why something works.
For example, what makes a great camping tent is the same principles that
make a good temporary shelter. Steep sides to shed the rain, keeping the
space small to conserve fuel, angled walls to radiate the heat from the fire
back onto the sleeper, a good mat of insulation on the ground to keep the
earth from absorbing the heat out of your body. The situation will be different,
the materials you use might change, but the principles will remain the same.
|How should you start your fire? With the waterproof lighter in your pants
pocket, the matches in your shirt pocket, or maybe the metal match around
your neck. I have started enough fires with the bow drill and hand drill to know
that you should not leave the house without someway of making a fire. Unless
the conditions are right and you have put some practice into starting fires by
friction, you will have a hard go at it. Learn to start a fire by friction but always
carry something on your person to start a fire with. Fire is more that just heat
and light, it is an old friend that lets you know that everything will be fine.