Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lessons From a Day of Survival

Several weeks ago, while I was on vacation, I had the chance to go out for a day with a few essential pieces of kit and put to the test some of the bushcraft and wilderness survival skills I've learned. The exercise consisted of simulating a mock survival situation and then addressing the Priorities of Survival, which are protection, location (systems of rescue), water and food. I encountered quite a few surprises throughout the day.

Shelter was easy to find as there were many large boulders in the area that provided an excellent source of natural protection from the elements. Because the weather was clear, I decided to put off lighting a fire until after I'd scouted around on the lookout for food. Water wasn't really a concern because I was on a fresh water lake with many nearby streams flowing into it.
Food was surprisingly easy to procure. There were frogs in the area that were abundant and easy to catch. (No I didn't eat them raw. I roasted them over the fire and then boiled to make sure that all bacteria was dead. Eating them raw is really an unnecessary risk and just plain weird!) This was very much a surprise to me. With my limited knowledge of wild edibles I had expected to go hungry, but instead I found the task of finding food much easier than more familiar tasks.

Lighting a fire turned out to be the most difficult and frustrating time of  the day. Even though there was an abundance of great materials and the weather was absolutely perfect, it had rained the entire day before, which resulted in everything being soaked. I tried using waterproof matches, which were damp from a hike the previous day, but the dampness made the heads crumble, rendering them useless. Thankfully I had brought along my firesteel, which ended up being my ticket to success. Finding dry tinder was another time consuming problem I ran into. I gave cattails and cedar bark a try, but had no success because of the dampness. I eventually found some relatively dry lichen up in some nearby tree, which took a spark along with birch bark. All this took well over an hour but was well worth the effort.

Although I didn't continue the exercise for more than just that day, I came away having learned a few interesting things pertaining to bushcraft and wilderness survival. I learned that the key to overcoming challenges in the wild is persevering until you reach success and never give up. Something else that stood out to me throughout the day was just how essential it is to perfect your skills in firecraft. Fire plays into all the priorities of survival. It is a critical part of protection because it keeps you warm. With location it helps you to signal for rescue. It also purifys water and cooks your food. Knowing how to turn an ember into a flame is a foundational part of wilderness skills. Always include multiple methods of lighting a fire in your kit.

That wraps up the stand out experiences of the day. It was a very enjoyable time and I would love to know what your experiences have been in similar times of testing your skills.


  1. Greetings from Montana

    Nice article. Perseverance is a huge part of survival. Great to see you getting out and practicing skill sets. Getting out for a day, or even a few hours and having a mock survival exercise sure helps one learn. It also may help save your life if you ever find yourself in a real situation. You will be better of for having taken the time to practice and learn. Nice pictures to go with the article also.

  2. Thank you I really appreciate it. It's always great to hear from other outdoor enthusiasts! Cool blog by the way.