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Survival 101

Survival 101:

How Not To Get Lost and What To Do If You Do

A Survival Story

About a year ago, a couple girls in California got lost in the woods near their home for 44 hours. They were found alive, after surviving life-threatening cold temperatures at night. They credit their survival skills to teachings they learned from their local 4-H club. By understanding some basic survival skills and making the right decisions, it can mean the difference between life and death.

Prevention vs. Reaction

First and foremost, the key to survival is prevention rather than reaction. The Boy Scout motto is: “Be Prepared.” As a Cub Scout and Boy Scout growing up, I remember learning the 6 P’s: Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Therefore, prevention of life threatening situations is key! Your outing or trip begins at home with the following:

  • Check the weather forecast.
  • Pack appropriate supplies.
  • Wear appropriate clothing.
  • Develop and file a proper trip plan.

File a Trip Plan!

Whether it’s an extended multi-day expedition or just a simple day hike at your local state park, taking the time to file a trip plan can be the difference between a rescue situation vs. a recovery situation. In other words, letting people know where you’ll be traveling will allow rescuers a better chance of finding you if you don’t return on time. A trip plan is similar to a float plan while boating. The following four W’s should be included in your trip plan:

  • Who: Names and ages of everyone in your group.
  • What: Color of clothing and equipment.
  • When: Time of departure and return.
  • Where: Where you’ll be going with stops.
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Survival Rule of 3’s

The survival rule of 3’s states that you can survive:

  • 3 minutes without air.
  • 3 hours without shelter.
  • 3 days without water.
  • 30 days without food.

Therefore, your focus in a survival situation should be based on these priorities for staying alive. Another rule of 3 I like to include is 3 seconds without common sense. In other words, if you are buried on your smartphone and walk out into oncoming traffic, you will not survive longer than 3 seconds. Brutal, but true.

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The Ten Essentials

When engaging in any outdoor activity, it is a good idea to consider carrying what’s considered “The Ten Essentials” which will help in a survival situation. Similar to filing a trip plan, the ten essentials should be carried not just on extended multi-day expeditions, but also on simple day hikes. The following is a list of the ten essentials. This list is provided by outdoor retailer REI.

  1. Navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger
  2. Headlamp: plus extra batteries
  3. Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes and sunscreen
  4. First aid: including foot care and insect repellent (as needed)
  5. Knife: plus a gear repair kit
  6. Fire: matches, lighter, tinder and/or stove
  7. Shelter: carried at all times (can be a light emergency bivy)
  8. Extra food: Beyond the minimum expectation
  9. Extra water: Beyond the minimum expectation
  10. Extra clothes: Beyond the minimum expectation
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What To Do If You Get Lost

So what happens if you take all of the necessary precautions to plan ahead and use designated trails while out in the wilderness but still end up getting lost? First and foremost, “STOP”, which stands for Sit down, Think, Observe, and Plan. Don’t panic. By panicking, it can cause you to make poor decisions which could work against you in your survival situation. The following are the steps that should be taken in order when lost:

  1. S.T.O.P. – Sit down, Think, Observe, Plan.
  2. Provide First Aid
  3. Seek Shelter
  4. Build a Fire
  5. Signal for Help
  6. Drink Water
  7. Don’t Worry About Food
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This blog post is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to survival and is designed to provide a simple overview of some basic survival concepts. There are books, videos, and even survival schools that teach wilderness survival skills in much greater detail. Having a basic understanding of survival skills while in the wilderness can help keep you safe and could mean the difference between life and death in a survival situation.

Published by Dave Herpy

I am a father of four, a camp and outdoor recreation professional, and a freelance writer. I have over twenty years of experience in the outdoor industry and over a decade of experience as a freelance writer. I enjoy camping, cycling, golfing, hiking, kayaking, running, swimming, and triathlons, as well as traveling, volunteering, and writing. I live in Clayton, North Carolina.

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