26 Nov 95
The most important part
of the survival game is being prepared to survive for an extended period
of time whenever you leave the comforts of civilisation and the nearness
of traveled roads. This is not something that is limited to Scouting activities
and expeditions, either. Many of you either are - or will be - involved
in back-country activities of one kind or another, whether as part of
your profession or as recreation. Survival preparation is just as - if
not more - important when you are flying from one place to another and
your flight plan takes you over untracked wilderness.
Most of the suggestions
in this section are geared toward land survival, but we will be adding
information for water-based survival in the future, as our information
system becomes more sophisticated.
There are some key areas
you need to be aware of in order to survive over the long haul. Sure,
most people who survive are rescued or find their way back to civilisation
within three days of becoming lost or being injected into a survival situation
through illness or other mishap while in the bush. But - and this is what
is most important to you - there are some people who have to survive for
weeks or months before they return to the comforts of modern society.
If you ever have occasion to become one of those people, a strong background
in survival knowledge and technique may just save your skin, as surely
as ignorance will likely cost you your life. There are still significant
numbers of wilderness fatalities who would still be alive - if only they
had learned the skills they needed to survive.
What do you need before
you are really prepared for survival? A positive attitude, training and
practice, and a few essential pieces of equipment.
You need to want to survive
and you need to believe that you can. Otherwise, you become too easily
depressed and willing to give up the fight - and it really is a fight
- against the worst that circumstances, climate, weather, terrain, natural
enemies (like black flies and mosquitos) and remoteness can throw at you.
As we sit here in front
of our computer screens - or reading print-outs from these pages - we
have things pretty good, although we may be getting further and further
out of shape if we spend TOO many hours here! Things can be a whole lot
different if you are faced with an airplane that will never fly again,
the beginnings of a three-day blizzard, and two hundred kilometres to
the nearest road, with injured companions.
Things are also a lot different
if you are a twelve-year old Scout finally figuring out that you are not
where you are supposed to be - and that you haven't the foggiest idea
of just where "here" is!
Think it can't happen?
Ahhhh, but it does! Nearly every day...
People who spend a great
deal of time in wilderness areas will probably never admit to being well
and truly lost - though they may confess to having been "a bit confused
for a couple of days a time or two". I guess they had a pretty good idea
of where they were within a large area, even if they didn't quite know
exactly where they were within a good many kilometres. Thing, is, though,
they didn't allow themselves to become too concerned, because they had
enough knowledge to be able to get along quite well, even at the risk
of a few days of discomfort.
A positive outlook, no
matter how bad the situation, is one of the keys to keeping you alert
and aware of what's going on around you. If you become depressed and give
up, your chances of long-term survival decrease drastically.
Training and Practice
No matter how positive
your attitude, you will not do well in a survival situation without the
knowledge and skills you need to live off the land with only the barest
minimum of equipment and supplies. It takes time to gain these, and you
cannot learn everything you need to know from books alone, no matter regardless
of how good the text or how reputable its author(s).
Your primary survival tool
is your brain, and it can never be fully effective without the experience
of actual survival living situations and skills practices. There is absolutely
no substitute for starting a fire in the rain without using a lighter
or any matches, any more than there is a substitute for preparing food
you have obtained by collecting plants or killing animals... Some of the
essential tasks of survival are rather less than pleasant, but you need
these skills to keep yourself and your companions alive and healthy enough
to continue surviving.
Preparing and teaching
a survival skills course is a demanding task in and of itself. While some
Leaders have the background in survival technique and individual/group
psychological response to survival situations, along with the teaching
skills to be effective survival instructors, most do not. This means finding
instructors who have these qualities.
Survival courses require
a combination of classroom-style work and hands-on experience with the
techniques and tools. While some of the training can take place during
your usual meeting time, you will need at least a full outdoor weekend
for the practical side of even an introductory course.
More time will be required
for survival training courses that will help you build your skills to
a level where you will be able to survive a majority of situations.
Your skills will also improve
if you haul them out and use them frequently. Survival skills can be incorporated
into many of your weekend activities in the form of contests or skills
training for more junior Scouts. You can also challenge yourself from
time to time by spending a weekend with a planned survival camp.
Equipping to Survive
There really is not space
enough here to tell you how to build yourself survival kits, and doing
so in this format would leave you without the training you will need to
be able to effectively use the items in the kit. However, there are a
few basic principles involved in building a survival kit for yourself
that we can pass on to get you thinking.
Before you begin building
your survival kit, you need to decide what its purpose is. Will it need
to be small enough to put in your pocket, or will you be able to carry
it in your backpack or a small daypack? If it's for your pack, what will
you have left over if you lose the pack in a stream crossing or through
some other misadventure?
Your survival kits (the
one in your pocket and the one you add to your pack) should change in
content with the season. For instance, you will need more ways of getting
fires started really quickly in the winter-time than you will in the summer,
when you will want to trade out some fire-starters for insect repellents.
In addition to whatever
else you put in the kit, you should consider getting a miniature survival
guide - one that has a good plant-identification section. While this may
seem to be a trivial recommendation, there are plants that mimic each
other in appearance, with one being edible, and the other, well, not...
Your best source of information
for building an appropriate set of survival kits for yourself will come
from a combination of good texts and quality survival instructors.