Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wilderness Survival

If you would like to explore the natural world more than you already do, want to share nature with children or if you are an avid adventurer, this post is for you. All this talk about spending time outside in the last few posts has got me thinking….

It was a cold winter night, our fifteen month old was finally asleep and my husband, Peter, and I sat down on the couch to watch a film that we had had on our list for quite some time, 127 hours. The movie is based on a true story about a young man who went out into the wild for some exploration, as he had many times in the past, and literally got stuck in a life threatening situation.

Peter and I sat there with jaws wide open as this young man got his hand wedged between a rock and the wall of a canyon. He tried what he could to release himself... he pulled desperately at his arm, he tried to lift the rock and he chipped away at the rock with his knife. At one point, I looked over at Peter and his eyes were huge, he was holding his breath and he was pulling nervously at his bottom lip. He was stressed and the story had nothing to do with him. Or did it?

To complicate matters, the movie’s character had not told anyone where he was going or when he should be expected back home. He was literally stuck between a rock and a hard place with no hope of rescue. The “moral of the story” message to me was: Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return.

Both Peter and I are both comfortable in the outdoors and enjoy escaping into the greenery of the woods when we have free time. However, we have also caught ourselves in situations, that because of circumstances outside our control, we ended up relying on someone that we told about our plan and location for the day. These situations can happen to anyone no matter his or her skill or comfort level in the natural world. We all need reminders.

Regardless of how busy life gets or how light we want to pack our bags–there are some survival axioms that should not be compromised:

1. Always tell someone your plan (where you are going, what you will be doing and when that person should expect you back).

2. Travel with someone.

3. Wear appropriate clothing (for the weather, terrain and activity).

4. Pack for both adequacy and potential mishaps such as getting lost or colder than usual weather (map and compass/GPS, extra clothing, warm layer, rain jacket/trash bag, first aid kit, water and purification system, non-perishable food, pocket knife, waterproof matches, space blanket, mirror (signaling), flashlight or headlamp, whistle, sunscreen/glasses/hat and bug spray).

5. Know the area where you are going and check the weather before leaving for the trip.

6. If you get lost, stay calm and stay put.

These considerations sparked an excellent discussion at home the other night, in which Peter reminded me how important it is to practice. Practicing survival techniques may help you stay calm in an emergency situation. For example, pack what you believe you would need for a variety of survival situations, hit up a nearby park and allow yourself to get comfortable with survival skills before you are faced with a backcountry situation.

What would you add to our list based on your life experiences?


Eager to learn more? Check out:

Books: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and Lost in the Wild by Cary J. Griffith.

The film: 127 hours (This movie does have some graphic scenes and may not be fit for young audiences. Please use discretion.).

Websites: National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Wilderness Medical Associates (WMA) and Nature Skills.

The YouTube video: “How to Make an Alcohol Stove – Step by Step” (This video has great directions. The music is used as a filler and is not necessary. Feel free to listen without sound if desired.).