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Extreme Survival: Are Your Off-Grid Survival Skills Good Enough?

also with content from David M.

The will to survive is encoded in our genetic structure. When you’re faced with a situation where you must catch what food you can to stay alive, where you must rely on the elements of nature for shelter and water until the situation resolves, how do you come out? Are your survival skills enough that you make it out alive? Or do you become another death statistic?

Every year dozens of people in each state become lost, hurt, or stranded in the woods. People neglect to take a reading on their compass before heading in to hunt, and then they have no idea which direction to go to get back out. Sometimes you’re relying on the others in the hunting party to come back for you, but as twilight settles, you realize they’ve overlooked you somehow.

That’s what happened to my teenage son. I had to work one weekend, a weekend we had planned a two-day hunting trip. My brother offered to take him hunting with him and promised to have my boy back that night. I knew that it could be after midnight before they came sliding in, so when they weren’t home by 10:00 that night, I wasn’t too worried. I crawled into bed a promptly fell asleep.

I awoke at 4:00 am and found that my son still wasn’t home. Throwing on some clothes and grabbing a jacket, I headed for the deer camp. An hour later, just as the first rays of the sun were coming up, I pulled up into the camp yard as several men began trekking down the road. I spotted my brother and ran to him.

“What the hell is going on?” I yelled at him. “And what do you mean by not coming home last night?”

My brother looked sheepish and tried to calm me down. But I was having none of it. As he tried to explain, the only thing I could focus on was that he had just told me he had lost my son.

My fourteen-year-old boy had been lost in the pine thicket, and no one could find him. I felt sick in the pit of my stomach and began to panic. It was cold, really cold. And my kid had been out in it all night long.

It took us the rest of the morning, but we finally found him. He had panicked to the point of being counterproductive, and he had caused his situation to deteriorate even further and more rapidly than was necessary. Survival in these cases is dependent upon a clear head, a little pre-planning, and an understanding of your options as you try to make your way back into civilization.

Sometimes accidents happen, and you may find yourself sliding down the face of a rocky cliff and losing your gun. You may even suffer injuries or adverse weather conditions, both of which can hamper not only your ability to survive, but also the ability of rescue workers to find you.

First of all, before you even head into the woods, dress appropriately. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking, I’m just going in a little piece, hunting for an hour, then slipping back out. You always prepare for an extended stay. Besides a compass (that you should have taken a reading from before you headed into the woods), you should always carry the following items in an emergency kit that you can tuck into the various cargo and jacket pockets on the clothes you’re wearing:

All of these items can be bought in bulk at four to six times the quantity needed and won’t cost more than $50. This will make four to six kits, so every vehicle can have one, every backpack can include one, etc. The container will cost three to five dollars and can be picked up at any outdoor store. If you’re feeling rich, buy a Pelican-brand case to ensure you can use the case for more hardcore uses such as boiling water. The case can also double as a drinking cup or a collection container for rainwater, if needed. And while these items may seem awkward and out of place, rest assured that they can save your life with the proper planning.

Pre-planning Tips:

Once you realize you’re going to have to rough it until found, it’s important to take stock of your physical and mental condition, especially if you’ve suffered an injury that results in any type of concussion. If you feel that you do have a concussion, ascertain whether it appears to be mild or more life-threatening. If you’re not sick but have some lightheadedness, blurry spots, and general discomfort, try to stay awake and aware. Take the time you need to make sure that you can think clearly and make good decisions.

If you are worse off than this, try to find a sheltered area which should also be an open area. Don’t expose yourself to water or wind, but try to make yourself visible from the air. Keep your clothes on and don’t use them as signals for a search party. Conserve body heat and get as comfortable as possible. If you have a broken bone or other similar non-life-threatening injury, try to make an “X” that can be seen from the air, which is the universal sign of a distress call.

Set up a reasonably warm and safe protected shelter. Cold and wetness are your two biggest enemies. Psychological warfare is the next enemy on the list. Hope and willpower are two of your biggest allies. Be prepared to make this situation work.

Food and Water

Set snares, but be realistic. Even if you know what you’re doing, this can be a tedious and unproductive task if you fail to take into consideration any number of variables. Try to set snares in high traffic areas, and use your survival kit items sparingly. Use the paracord and the wire to make the snares, and save the monofilament fishing line for the next task.

Set leaders with bait across a small channel of water, like over a fifteen-foot wide section of a stream. Don’t let the bait sit on the bottom of the stream, and run a security line across from two small trees, a foot above the water line. Allow the leaders to hang down into the stream. Check it a few times a day—several times a day—so your aggressive catch doesn’t break the line and take it with them.

Prepare for eating bugs if it gets to that point. Look for fruits and roots that are edible.  Remember the extensive Google session you had before the trip? This is where is comes in handy.  Understand about mushrooms and plant life, and know which in the area should be avoided. Look for things like pine needles (edible), cactus (edible), and cactus apples.

Look for succulents (plants that look plump and juicy and have pale colors or bright flowers on chubby looking green bases (example for comparison: iceplant is a succulent, as well as many varieties of cactus). These plants can give off water that is drinkable with the items you have in your kit.

Use the items in your kit to make the difference:

Shelter and Warmth

In a cave or overhang, make sure that your fire is placed to avoid smoke inhalation, and so that you and it are protected from high winds. Find twenty to thirty rocks that can be put into the fire and used underneath the dirt to keep you heated from underneath, if it’s practical. The rocks will retain heat, if insulated by the ground, for most of the night. Used in conjunction with ground cover (pine needles or leaves that are dry), it can keep you from getting hypothermia. Avoid open exposure and don’t sleep on rocks if you can help it. Rocks are colder than the ground.

Use the items in your kit to make the difference:

*Important note: For signaling and rescue, don’t light a signal fire unless you have properly cleared a safe area and don’t have a risk of starting a dangerous forest fire. A search party will look for smoke and fire, so look for sap-filled trees and green leaves to create good smoke patterns. A small fire can be as good as a big one—don’t endanger yourself anymore than you have to. Use natural elements and contrasting colors to make large signals that can been seen from the air— like X’s and arrows. Use three arrows to ensure they know your direction of travel. Don’t be afraid to hunker down, as long as your pre-trip planning was good.

Be smart about how you use your items and how you use your energy. Remember, you can last thirty days or so without food, but only about three to four days (a week in some extreme cases) without water.

Here are some more miscellaneous tips:

In this series of articles, we will be exploring more extreme survival hunting and preparation techniques for those who want to ensure their knowledge on the outdoors is up to speed for bad situations. Look for all available resources, and always be prepared for anything. Spend the time and the money on quality information and equipment, and never underestimate the elements or bad luck. Anything can happen at any time, and you should be prepared for it.

©2011 Off the Grid News