Every survival article talks about how to survive an ordeal, but rarely do I ever see any one talk about preventing it. We don’t just teach survival at our school, we teach you how to avoid it, because, the best way to survive an incident, is not to get into one, to begin with. You might ask, “so why should I learn survival then?” That’s a great question! Because sometimes no matter what you do, no matter how prepared you are, shit does happen, and there is nothing you can do about it. But those types of situations only occur 1% of the time, and you there is nothing you can do about it. This article will talk about how to avoid the stations you can control and what to bring for backcountry hikes and trips to help keep you alive. So lets start off with prep work before you head out to the woods for hiking, backpacking or hiking.
Things to consider when you head out
The locations that you may go to can be remote and have little vehicle access. Chances are if you had to hike in…so will search and rescue.
Survival scenarios can last up to 72 hours, so it is important that one prepares themselves beforehand to ensure survivability.
Proper prior planning prevents hardships and declining health.
At least one day prior to an expected trip to the field, one should be drinking a good balance of water and electrolytic fluids.
It is very important that one refrains from alcohol the night before a long hike especially if temps are expected to be high.
Normally, people lose anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 liters of water per hour when hiking strenuously. Failure to pre-hydrating puts you at risk of becoming dehydrated and staying that way during a strenuous hike.
Before heading out, we recommend checking the weather forecast for the next 3 days to give you an idea of what to expect. Research weather and temp. patterns from previous years. If a chance of rain or snow exists, pack for it. Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Be sure to research how your geographic location affects weather, i.e large lakes, oceans, high elevation, and low elevation. Research cloud formations, natural signs for changing weather like bird formations, plant life, sky color at sunset and sunrise, moon dogs, sun dogs, and smells.
Study the terrain of your intended area of activity
Plan an easy route by studying the map and terrain features.
The route should be chosen based of fitness level, weight of pack, and availability of water. Studying the terrain features will help keep one from getting lost as well as creating mental short cuts for picturing the terrain ahead.
Know roads and trails in the area, as well as proximity to your location, Google Earth is a good tool for this. It wouldn’t hurt to learn how to read and use a topo map, I just so happen to know a good school that teaches it.
Ok so lets get into what to carry and a little bit of why, now should you do this right, your pack should only weigh between 13-16 lbs. Pretty easy weight to ruck.
1. Water, No less than 3 liters. No explanation needed, just do it
2. Whistle/Mirror/commercial smoke signals ( bright or dark colored depending on the environment) flags, bananas, tarps whatever for signal
3. Knife. fixed or folding or both are great.
4. Multitool! This has helped me exponentially
5. Compass/GPS/map. Learn some land navigation, carry extra batteries for GPS (lithium preferred). learn to use a compass, understand cardinal direction. pay attention to the direction you go, and then go opposite to get back. Do not rely on your phone, you won’t have signal and your battery will die when you need it.
7. Gloves; protect your hands from scrapes, cuts, infections and poisonous plants.
8.Hiking Poles. Know when it is appropriate to use them, they can hurt you and help you. Can be used to stabilize an injury, make a shelter, splints, weapon, and testing the depth of a stream.
9. Emergency blanket, I love the SOL that are tarp like and they have a bright color on one side. They are great for a quick shelter, shade, for rescue, A littler, etc
10. Cordage, 550 cord, bank line. Great for medical, shelter construction, tool making, weapon making, fishing, trapping (Survival only),
11. Hat, Sunglasses, Sunscreen, warming layer..I don’t think I should have to explain why
12. Ferro Rod, Lighter, Matches, Who knows when you have to make a fire to survive the night if you get lost. It doesn’t have to be big; a small one close to you while wrapped with an emergency blanket will keep you alive.
13. Trash bag, great for making an impromptu poncho, or shelter to stuff with debris and keep you warm
14. Flashlight/headlamp. If you get caught out in the dark, it is nice to see your way or to scare off the boogie man.
15. First Aid Kit. Remember you are trying to patch yourself up to get you to help.. The gear you have will depend on your experience in the medical field.
Finally, if you do get lost, stay calm, remember there is always a trail, road, cabin, or person near by where you can get help. It will be a long walk but you will get there. Just trust yourself, and stay positive. Think of it as a good little challenge for you and an experience you can relay over beers to friends. Remember, you will always survive; the harshest environment you have to survive is your own brain. After that, everything else is a piece of cake. I promise.
Brady Pesola and Mike Judd, San Diego School of Survival