Knowing the risks you face in the forest and the wisest ways to handle those risks will go a long way to keeping you alive in a bad situation. When you know in advance what the real problems are so you can go to work quickly as soon as you find yourself confused or drifting — and that transforms you from victim to survivor. This chapter acts as a jump-off point to survival in the wilderness. Here we give you an overview of the basics you need to know in virtually any situation surviving the wilderness. We demonstrate what the risks are and how they can be taken care of in the appropriate order. Finally, we take a minute to show you how many people are going wrong and how you can prevent your situation from getting worse — or maybe staying out of trouble at all!
Being Prepared and Proactive
Every piece of information or equipment that you bring makes you stronger in the wild. Preparation gives you staying power, and also gives you the little extra boost you need to stay out of a crisis. Usually being proactive means stopping and gaining control — like slowing down your swimming stroke or even floating to conserve your energy. Don’t respond if you’re lost, and don’t speed up. Stop for a long time, sit back and think carefully about your situation. Take control of the situation, rather than allow it to take control of you.
Keeping the Right Attitude
Specific circumstances about life sound grossly unjust. Nearly all survivors face and encounter the sense of injustice at times — it’s as if the world conspires against you or the odds are simply beyond your abilities and are against you. You can’t let those emotions take over to survive this situation. You need to keep your head straight and your outlook positive. Chapter 3 offers more data on the psychology of survival. The first thing you have to do to keep a positive attitude is size up your situation. Bring it in. For some people, that can be very difficult, and it can stand in the way of clear thinking. The reality is that most of the circumstances of survival are so unforeseen they leave you a little shocked. You must master skepticism. Many people simply perish because they can’t go beyond denial. The suggestions that can help you keep your spirits up:
✓ Be resourceful.
You have access to resources and options which you have never considered. Using rocks as hammers, fingernails as fishhooks, and belt buckles as signalling reflectors. Then think about new ideas, and map out more plans. A way to think about it.
✓ Be patient.
Note that it can take time to be rescued or to work your way out of the question, but never presume that no one is going to come after you.
✓ Never say die.
Misery and fear can fool you in thinking that you are over. Don’t let tricks play on you. After you feel like you can’t keep going long. Much longer. Don’t yield. Keep a good disposition or, in grim resolve, grit your teeth. If you fall into a pessimistic mentality, you are going to melt like a candle.
Identifying Survival Basics
If you are in a situation of survival, the immediate choices that you make will have a huge effect on what is happening to you. Verify that you are meeting your basic needs in the order they appear in this section. You can also face a medical situation which, depending on its seriousness, may take precedence over the ones we list here.
Regulating your body temperature.
The management of your body temperature is thermorégulation. It’s the highest priority since the worst killers in the wilderness are being too cold (hypothermia) or being too hot (hyperthermia). You have to stay warm in cold surroundings and cool in hot surroundings.
Here is how:
✓ Cool or cold environments:
Don’t let yourself get humid. Be vigilant in the vicinity of streams and rivers, cover from rain and keep sweating to a minimum. Realize that hypothermia is a threat when night comes, and build an insulating shelter.
✓ Hot environments:
To cool the body you need both liquid and shade. Recognize this if the temperature is increasing, and rest or find shade. The main contributor to heat exhaustion is the waiting too long. Often stay well hydrated in all conditions but in hot environments particularly.
Clothing, fire, shelter and your own behavior are the four components that control thermoregulation. The parts below offer an summary of these.
Your first line of defense: Clothing
In a situation of survival, you must deal with the entire temperature spectrum of a given environment, as well as the variations in the temperature of your own body. This is best achieved by dressing in layers or improvising layers. You want to have clothes added or subtracted.
In many situations of survival people discard clothes they don’t think they need (it’s true, honest). Never remove, under any conditions, clothes. When you take a jacket or shirt off, tie it around your waist, or hide it in your belt. Be able to hold certain layers that are not currently in use.
If you are in a cold setting, if you start sweating strip off layers of clothing. You have to keep on dry. If you are facing a cold night, add insulating layers inside your clothes by stuffing grass, leaves, or moss. You may use other materials to create fabrics and insulation, including garbage, trash bags, cardboard, or something you can add to or wrap around your body. Remember, trapped air is an excellent insulator that allows you to make use of anything that traps a layer of air next to your body.
Cover your head in all environments. If you don’t have a hat, improvise one which will completely cover your head and arms. In the cold, hypothermia is deterred by a head and neck covering, especially if you have fallen into cold water, and it deters heat stroke in the Sun.