“Survival of the fittest”. This 1864 adage was coined by Herbert Spencer who was associating with the term “Natural Selection”, as written by Charles Darwin in On the Origin of Species.
How does one survive? How does one ensure, at least increase, their chances of survival? There is no one answer to this question as there is an individual solution for every conceivable condition. However, there are three fundamental components to always keep in mind so that your chances of survival are greatly improved:
Preparedness, Patience and most importantly a POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE!
I will start with Positive Mental Attitude. PMA provides the individual with the mental kick-start and endurance necessary to get through a tough spot or real-life survival scenario. Like the little engine who could, thinking you can will help you in actually doing it…whether that’s waiting for help to arrive or, if the situation dictates, getting on the move and finding your way to safety. PMA is your ‘never give up, never say die’ attitude. It is thinking that leads to knowing and knowing that leads to surviving.
Patience is another key component to assist you in survival. You can’t drop a line in a creek and expect a fish to just hop right on your hook. Likewise, it will take many attempts in setting traps to actually catch a meal of substance. The first time you use a fire-bow to start a nest of kindling ablaze will likely end in failure. You need to take the time, in your backyard or somewhere close to home to safely practice your bushcraft skills. Take what you know. Read, learn, practice… then read, learn and practice some more. You won’t become an accomplished woodsman overnight but, in time, with patience, you will learn to survive.
A positive mental attitude and patience are crucial to survival. However, it all starts with preparedness. It might be helpful to take a course in camping/wilderness survival training. Parks and Recreation groups and local colleges may offer these sorts of classes. Maybe start with short afternoon hikes, then day trips and go from there. Start slow and work on your skills and physical aptitude until you are confident.
Also, defer to the experts in the bushcraft/survival field. Les Stroud, Ray Mears and the late Ron Hood…these guys know their stuff. Read their articles and watch their videos. Study and practice. There are also innumerable other sources of info; from television specials to podcasts to YouTube videos and blogs. Take it all in and learn what is right for you.
Prepare before you go out. Set up an EDC (Every Day Carry) kit; one that is easy to get to and just as easy to carry in a backpack, purse or pocket. Think about not only what you will need, but also what you may need. Water, food, fire starting, first aid, shelter; these are all things to consider. Maybe bring a tarp. It could be used as a ground cover, shelter, blanket, emergency litter to carry an injured person, even as a makeshift hammock if you include some sort of cordage. Multi-use items such as a tarp cut down on the weight you will carry and will provide you with options if you are stuck out in the wilderness. Also, not every trip will require the same supplies. Consider the potential environment and terrain when selecting items for your kit. Preparing before hand will indeed increase your chances of survival.
Where should one go to prepare for a trip? Where is the best place to buy supplies and gear? There is no “all-in-one” shop that will have the perfect gear at the best prices. You can try the traditional Army-Navy surplus stores, local sporting goods and camping stores or, as many folks do now, search the near unlimited online vendors for what you may need.
One such vendor that I have found is Rob, owner of http://www.canteenshop.com
. I will admit, at my request, Rob sent me a box of gear to review. I asked him to send me a surprise box that would cover the basics of survival; food, shelter, fire and water. In no way is this review tainted or influenced by the free gear. I told Rob I would give him an honest and unbiased review and that is exactly what I plan to do.
This is what Rob sent me: a reusable all-weather space blanket, a Light My Fire fire steel and striker, a Condor Bushlore knife (the older model with the choil) and sturdy leather sheath, a complete canteen kit (grey Nalgene canteen, stainless steel canteen cup, a grill top stove stand and a camouflage cover to nest everything together), a roll of nylon bank line, a CRKT Eat’N Tool, a CS logo sticker and a CS logo patch.
The space blanket is great. It’s not the typical cheap mylar version; it’s tough, reinforced and has tie-down eyelets. There is a silver lining to the underside that reflects back most of your body heat if you wrap yourself in it. It could easily be used as a signaling device (with the reflective side out), over-head tarp or ground cover.
The LMF fire steel is well made and throws out an INTENSE shower of ultra-hot sparks when you run the included striker over the ferrocerium rod. Perfect for every day fire lighting and it’s something no outdoorsman or survivalist should be without.
If possible, you should always try to carry some sort of cordage when venturing out into the wild. Paracord is the usual choice but bank line is also very useful. The stuff Rob sells has a slight tarring that helps to keep it together but you can also separate the strands for making sewing thread, sutures and the like. It is strong enough for traps, fishing and rigging up your tarp. You could always make cordage out of natural materials and plant fibers gathered in the wild but why would you want to? Grab a spool of this bank line and save yourself the aggravation.
Spoon? Check. Fork? Check. Bottle opener, screwdriver/pry tip and three different sized metric wrenches? Check. The CRKT Eat’N Tool covers all these needs. Small and easy to fit in any kit, this handy tool is really useful when packing light. I for one would probably opt for the traditional ‘spork’ over the Eat’N Tool but I can see how this little device could come in handy for someone on a mountain bike trip or snowshoe adventure if no other tool was available.
If going out for a day hike or an extended stay in the wild, a quality knife is something one should ALWAYS carry with them. The Condor Bushlore knife is inexpensive but not cheap. It was not as sharp out of the box as it would need to be if taken out in the field but half the fun of a new knife is sharpening it yourself to suit your needs. The one Rob sent me was the older model with the choil which reduces the overall cutting length of the blade by about an inch. This may bother some but for me, it’s not a deal breaker. This knife is still a solid, useful tool that has held up very well to the batoning tests I’ve put it through (where you take a hefty, club-like stick and hammer the knife through a log, branch or similar hunk of wood). Even though the knife’s edge was not razor sharp out of the box, it was good enough to do what I needed and stayed usably sharp throughout my tests. The blade is full–tang and made from high carbon steel. The smooth hardwood handle has a great fit and feel without being too chunky. With a little care and tweaking, the Condor Bushlore knife would be a formidable addition to any knife collection and an invaluable tool at your side.
One of the most important items in your kit should be something to boil water in to make it safe for drinking. Bacteria, parasites and a host of other nasty cooties await to wreck havoc on your body if you drink unsafe water. Cramps, vomiting, diarrhea and in some cases even death can result. Even over food, safe clean water is of immediate concern when, by chance or choice, you find yourself out in the wild. Search YouTube and you’ll find hundreds of examples of folks designing unique and sometimes elaborate ways to make cook sets and “billy cans”. I find these videos amusing and a good source of inspiration for designing my own gear but when it comes down to it, using an old soup can or coffee tin just won’t cut it in the long run.
Rob offers a stainless steel (my material of choice over aluminum) canteen cup and grill top stove stand that are tough enough to last through the apocalypse. The cup has folding handles and is kidney shaped to accept the one-quart military style Nalgene canteen. The canteen I got is BPA free and impact resistant. It is also a see-through grey color that allows for the monitoring of water levels without opening the cap and lets you see if your water has any junk in it or if the bottle needs cleaning. The unique grill top stove stand can be used with a variety of fuels (sticks, esbit cubes, the smaller Trangia spirit burner, sterno, etc.) and can also be utilized as a strainer, small shovel and a cooking grill. I weigh 230 pounds and stood on the stove to test how strong it is. It did not bend or buckle and is still in prime working condition. Not only is this kit good for boiling water but it also excels as a one man cook set for meals. Canteen, cup and grill top stove stand all fit snugly in the available cover for a really nice compact unit.
Overall, for less that $150.00, I got a complete set of real world gear that would be useful in any hiking or camping set-up and would definitely, in my opinion, help to keep you alive should you find yourself stuck in the wild.
Rob continually adds new items to his site and he regularly updates his Facebook/Twitter followers on the happenings at http://www.cantenshop.com
Like I said earlier, there is no perfect “all-in-one” shop but Rob’s place comes pretty damn close.
You can follow http://www.canteenshop.com
on:http://www.youtube.com/canteencornerhttp://www.facebook.com/pages/CanteenSh ... 9356413328http://twitter.com/#!/TheCanteenShop