I grew up in the boondocks of Illinois and don’t remember a time when my jeans didn’t have holes in the knees. I don’t remember having dirty finger nails (I’ve always been adverse to that) but I do remember being very dusty, no, even crusty from being outside all day.
Fast forward 25+ years. I have a son now, and we live near a major metropolitan city. He’ll grow up in a very urban environment, with only sporatic jaunts to the countryside.
I realized early in my fatherhood that I would need to bring the outdoors to him. Still, I needed to brush up on my outdoor skills, since I too have been a city boy for the last 20 years.
I decided to take a Survival Training Course. Actually, courses, since I spent 40 days on the Backpacking Trails Ultimate Backpacking Guide end of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range during the month of November, 2012. Here’s the list I made of the great skills I learned on that mountain at 5000′ elevation:
- Situational awareness & avoiding disaster synergy using critical thinking.
- Gear Selection & Safety.
- Bow/Drill fire-starting techniques.
- Shelter & Trap Making followed by Game & Animal Hide Preparation
- Identifying & Field Processing wild edible plants found around the planet.
- Hands-on field uses for plants; i.e. Edible, Medicinal &/or Utility.
- Signaling–Multiple ways to get help.
- Orienteering & Triangulation using Topographic Map & Compass.
- First Aid in the field.
- River Crossing and Emergency River Techniques.
- Locating water & understanding its contaminants; Purification Techniques.
There is no governing body for survival techniques. That means any fool can say he’s an expert. If you listen the wrong ‘expert’ and heed their ‘advice’, you may just get yourself killed.
For instance, I saw a survival T.V. show where the episode focused on desert survival, but the ‘expert’ was wearing an all-black fleece jacket. I’d rather wear something that reflects sunlight, wouldn’t you?
“Physics Not Folklore” was the tested over and over during my lessons, and I have found solace in those words. The laws of science and nature don’t change because you have good editing software while shooting your survival movie.
This is a thinking man’s game in the most critical sense. I’ll provide some basics to get your feet wet. This is what I realized during my 40 day excursion:
1. Use gear that has been tested in the field by professionals. I used knives with celebrity endorsements break or simply fail. I brought a recently-released sleeping bag with ‘new technology’ that simply didn’t work in the field.
2. Train in the Conditions you think you’ll be facing. Making a fire with sticks in your garage is a sterile environment and unrealistic. It was much harder for me to create fire when my hands were cold and the wind was blowing.
3. Be picky about your instructor. It’s not about braun, its about experience in real-life survival techniques that can be duplicated. I had an instructor give an Indian prayer to a plant we were studying, and, among other things, I felt it not necessary for me to witness within the context of survival.