The Essentials of Survival: Part 1 - The Basics
The human race has shown that it has the capability to survive just about anywhere around the globe.
In the most inhospitable environments--from chilling tundras to arid deserts--we've proven that with the right skills and determination, man's desire to live and thrive anywhere trumps whatever nature decides to throw at him or her.
At the end of the day, there isn't much to understanding the basics of survival.
But that doesn't mean it's easy.
Without further ado, let's get right into it.
No matter where you are in the world the same basic principles of survival never change:
To put these into a clever acronym that is not only easy to remember but also puts them in order of priority:
P - Protection
This often means making or finding shelter and lighting a fire.
Moreover, if you happen to find yourself at the 'scene of an incident' like a plane crash or something similar, you MUST stay there--or as close as safety allows.
You can utilize wreckage for shelter or signaling, it leaves a large signature on the ground for search crews, there may be injured people who cannot be moved, you'll conserve energy, and if you booked your route ahead of time rescue will take significantly less time.
The 'scene of the crime' will be the first place search and rescue crews look!
L - Location
Once shelter has been built or secured, the next step is to put out emergency signals to draw attention to your position.
Do this as soon as possible!
A - Acquisition
While you wait for rescue, begin to search the area for drinkable water and food to supplement your emergency supplies.
N - Navigation
Good navigation will keep you on route and can often revert a survival situation completely.
Furthermore, if you find yourself stranded, always stay where you are.
Again, it is often the first place that will be searched by rescue teams.
Okay, so this one doesn't quite fit the rest of the acronym but bear with us...
The best doctor to have around has decades of experience treating every type of patient imaginable.
The second best?
You must become your own doctor and learn how to carefully monitor and treat yourself as necessary.
The only person you can count on to always be there when something goes wrong is yourself.
This doesn't mean becoming a nurse as a side gig, but it does mean taking basic first aid skills seriously.
Your survival kit can ultimately be the cause of success or failure.
Life or death.
While it usually won't be that extreme, it can be.
It's a balancing act.
Sometimes people take too much stuff and end up lagging behind the group with a pack 30 lbs overweight.
Other times, you're having to bum food off your mates and using a bundled up T-Shirt as a pillow because you tried to be as minimalist as possible.
Before you pack, ask yourself these questions...
Example Prepping Check List
This isn't an end-all-be-all list by any means, but it will help you get started on the right foot.
How long will I be away? How much food and water will I need? Do I need to carry water or can I collect it somewhere?
Do I have the right type of clothing for the climate? Is one pair of boots enough? How many pairs of socks?
What special equipment do I need for the terrain?
What medical kit is appropriate?
What if our vehicle breaks down?
What if someone gets violently ill?
Your health is important.
At the end of the day, it is what survival is all about.
Protecting your health no matter the circumstances.
First and foremost, it is very important to be physically in shape.
Having a 20 lbs pack alongside a 20 lb beer gut won't do you any good out on the trail.
Regular walking--with a weighted vest or pack--is ideal, alongside a standard weight training and cardiovascular routine.
Aside from physical fitness, mental fitness is just as (if not more so!) important.
We've all heard the crazy stories of someone surviving remarkable odds and coming out on top.
When all else fails, your brain will keep you alive and pushing to the very end.
It's a bummer to skip leg day.
But never skip brain day.
If you'd like an actual resource on 'mental strength/mindset,' we recommend Psycho-Cybernetics and A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy.
Lastly, it is essential that formal health checkups are also taken.
You need a thorough medical examination to ensure that all your bases are covered--vaccinations for specific areas of travel, addressing any physical pains or ailments, and a trip to the dentist for a teeth inspection.
As an example, if you're traveling through a malarial region, you'll need to get a supply of anti-malaria tablets from your doctor before embarking abroad.
Make sure that aside from everything looking good health-wise you also will have a fully stocked medical and toiletries kit with everything you need.
This includes prescriptions, medicines, and the aforementioned malaria tablets and any other travel medications.
It's always a good idea to read up on the location that you will be visiting.
You can never know too much about it.
Understanding what the local vegetation is like, if you'd be able to build a shelter from your surroundings, and where one could find clean water are all valuable sources of information to have at your disposal.
If this is a group expedition, nominating certain people for different roles can go a long way in determining who brings or does what.
Like some cheesy adventure video-game, assigning roles like medic, linguist, cook, vehicle mechanic, navigator, communication specialist, etc. can be helpful.
Furthermore, ensuring that each group member is familiar with all the equipment and the trips general travel itinerary is worth its weight in gold. It will greatly reduce any stress caused by an impromptu emergency and likewise guarantee that the entire excursion will most likely go smoothly.
With respect to trip time, it would behoove you to not attempt to keep an overly-ambitious schedule.
It is always better to underestimate somewhat and be pleasantly surprised by doing better.
Finally, informing local police, mountain rescue centers, coast guard, port authorities, or whatever relief service is relevant to your venture ahead of time can serve as your 'fail-safe' in case something does ultimately go wrong.
If you're overdue, a search will be raised and the route is checked out, effecting a rescue.
This habit may be the most important of all regarding planning your trip.
Like we said, survival is simple, but not necessarily easy.
- Remember P.L.A.N.M.
- Hit the gym, get a physical, and visit the dentist.
- Research the area you will be visiting/trekking through and ask yourself relevant questions so you prep and pack correctly.
- Discuss the 'trip plan' with your group members and alert local authorities of an expected check-in date.
- Keep your head on straight--read up on stoicism and psycho-cybernetics if you think they are tools that may help you.
- There are plenty of other 'mindset' books and suggestions out there as well if you don't think the aforementioned recommendations are for you. A quick google search can help you out.
If you have any essential tips or advice you'd like to share, please, let us know!
We want to hear from you!
To Be Continued in Part 2...
Read the next installment in this series here: Part 2
If you'd like to add some equipment, gear, or accessories to your survival repertoire please take a look at our collections page and see if there is anything right for you.
Lastly, a lot of our information is from John 'Lofty' Wiseman's SAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere -- an excellent companion for any outing.