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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Without the will to survive - all your preps mean nothing

I have learned that four elements must be in place for a survival situation to have the chance of a positive outcome: knowledge, ability, the will to survive, and luck. While knowledge and ability can be learned, the will to survive is hard-wired into our survival mechanism and we may not know we possess it until we're put to the test. For example, people who were fully trained and well-equipped have given up hope in survivable conditions, while others, who were less well-prepared and ill-equipped, have survived against all odds because they refused to give up.

Anyone venturing into the wilderness-whether for an overnight camping trip or a lengthy expedition-should understand the basic principles of survival. Knowing how to survive in a particular situation will allow you to carry out the correct beforehand preparation, choose the right equipment (and learn how to use it), and practice the necessary skills. While you may be able to start a fire using a lighter; for example, what would you do if it stopped working? Equally, anyone can spend a comfortable night inside a one-man bivy shelter, but what would you do if you lost your pack? The knowledge gained through learning the skills of survival will enable you to assess your situation, prioritize your needs, and improvise any items of gear that you don't have with you.

Survival knowledge and skills must be learned-and practiced-under realistic conditions. Starting a fire with dry materials on a sunny day, for example, will teach you very little. The real survival skill is in understanding why a fire won't start and working out a solution. The more you practice, the more you learn (I am yet to teach a course where I didn't learn something new from one of my students). Finding solutions and overcoming problems continually adds to your knowledge and, in most cases, will help you deal with problems should they occur again.

There are differences between teaching survival courses to civilians and teaching them to military personnel. Civilians have enrolled on (and paid for) a course to increase their knowledge and skills, not because their life may depend on it (although, should they find themselves in a life threatening situation, it may well do), but because they are interested in survival techniques in their own right. In contrast the majority of military personnel who undergo survival training may very well need to put it into practice, but they invariably complete the training simply because they are required to do so.

While no one in the military forces would underestimate the importance of survival training, it is a fact that if you want to fly a Harrier, or become a US Marine Mountain Leader, survival training is just one of the many courses you must undertake. In the military, we categorize the four basic principles of survival as protection, location, water, and food.

Protection focuses on your ability to prevent further injury and defend yourself against nature and the elements.

Location refers to the importance of helping others to rescue you by letting them know where you are.

The principle of water focuses on making sure that even in the short term, your body has the water it needs to enable you to accomplish the first two principles.

Food, while not a priority in the short term, becomes more important the longer your situation lasts.
As you read this blog and plan to put the skills and techniques covered here into practice, you will typically be equipping yourself for just one particular type of environment-but it's important that you fully understand that one environment. Make sure you research not only what the environment has to offer you as a traveler-so that you can better appreciate it-but also what it offers you as a survivor: there is sometimes a very thin line between being in awe of the beauty of an environment and being at its mercy. The more you understand both the appeal and dangers of an environment, the better informed you will be to select the right equipment and understand how best to utilize it should the need arise.

Remember, no matter how good your survival equipment, or how extensive your knowledge and skills, never underestimate the power of nature if things aren't going as planned, never hesitate to stop and re-assess your situation and priorities, and never be afraid to turn back and try again later- the challenge will always be there tomorrow.

Finally, always remember that the most effective method of dealing with a survival situation is to avoid getting into it in the first place.

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