Reality is often different from our vision of it. For example, I recently went on a bear hunt out west. In my mind I envisioned picturesque skies, beautiful weather and numerous bear sightings. But in reality the hunt was much different. It snowed on me practically each day — and enough one day to smash my tent. My rain gear proved inadequate against the amount of rain and snow it was up against, and finding bear would be like finding hen’s teeth. After a week I finally ended up scoring a bear, but not without unexpected trials and tribulations. Such might be the case in an extended survival situation.
I would wager that many folks envision their survival situation similar to my pre-bear hunt mindset. One only needs to look at the story of the Lykov family – who disappeared into the Russian woods for 42 years without anyone knowing — for evidence of what to expect. Their story of true self-reliance provides insight for those who may seek a similar path. After analyzing the Lykov story, we can see four survival lessons that stand out for those who want to make it in the wilderness.
1. Food can be scarce
The mother, Akulina, starved to death one unexpectedly tough year, and a general absence of food was present. Annually, the Lykovs held a family meeting to vote on whether to eat all the food or save some for seed. It is worth noting that here in North American, Native American tribes typically expected to experience times of intense hunger each year. The fact of the matter is that making all of your own food can be difficult, and unexpected challenges pop up. Sure, the Lykovs battled an unfriendly environment for agriculture, but every region has its own challenges.
2. Meat is a luxury
Even if the Lykovs had taken a gun along on their 150-mile trek into the wilderness, it wouldn’t have been without its own set of challenges. For one, they would have had to conserve their ammunition to last for years. (That is, unless they carried a flintlock and could produce their own gunpowder and shot.) Additionally, after hunting game in their immediate area, animals would have moved off and the Lykovs would have had to venture further and further for game.
Hunting has always offered up good rewards in terms of calories, but also requires more movement to pursue game. (You also need a way to preserve it.) It would definitely take balance and razor sharp land management to live in one spot and consistently hunt for game. Another option would have been to produce a primitive bow and arrow.
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One bonus of a primitive bow and arrow would be the decreased impact on local animal herds. Due to its quiet nature, a bow would be less likely to scare away game. On the other hand, having a primitive bow and arrow (instead of a gun) substantially decreases a hunter’s chance at success.
3. Expect your modern goods to wear out
Much of the modern gear we would initially use will fall apart. For years and years, the family used the same kettle and pots. Ever so slowly, rust overcame the metal, and soon the cookware became useless. In addition, their clothes had become rags, and were only held together by leftover sacking and cloth they had woven from hemp. Anyone who is preparing for an extended self-reliant situation should take note and plan their gear accordingly.
4. Bushcraft knowledge is mandatory
At the point when your food is gone and your house is caving in, knowledge in bushcraft can kick in to save the day. We see this from the Lykovs’ understanding of what foods they could eat when times were lean. This also becomes apparent when their cookware deteriorated. They needed to figure out how to cook without metal ware and using only the resources within their local range. The solution they came up with was to use birch bark containers for cooking, an acceptable method, but one with drawbacks. The family also fashioned their shoes out of birch bark when their leather shoes gave out. Like anyone living in a long-term survival situation, they had to adapt to the resources they had on hand and do the best they could.
So far we’ve covered the doom and gloom portion of survival lessons from the Lykov family. It is worth noting the positive experiences of the family. For one thing, Karp and the rest of his family were free once they fled into the forest. They were free to spend their time how they wished, free to worship in accordance with their beliefs, and free to do as they darn well pleased.
Also, we can see the Lykovs preferred their self-reliant situation to a more plugged-in existence. After their discovery by the team of geologists, the family continued to live in their remote mountain cabin with sporadic contact with the outside world. To this day, Agafia, the last remaining family member, has chosen to live a self-reliant life by choice. This should serve as clear evidence that this type of life may be difficult, but some people enjoy it and thrive on it.
At the end of the day, by understanding both the challenges and benefits of living such a life, you can be better prepared to deal with any survival situation that is thrown at you.
What survival advice would you add after reading the Lykovs’ story? Share your tips in the section below: