Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Survival Mindset - In the Woods and In Life

A lot has been written about the Will to Survive; the positive mental attitude you should maintain in order to overcome adversity and persevere.  Putting it into practice isn’t always easy.  Let’s face it, how often are you in a survival situation and have to test yourself in this way?  I would say….every day.

It doesn’t have to happen in the woods.  Survival can be a brutally difficult undertaking in our daily life.  We face challenges, setbacks, obstacles, sadness, loneliness, feeling helpless, desperation…all emotions that wilderness survival case studies show are common, even for a short duration episode.  But in life, it can go on for days, weeks, or months.  These are our tests.

There’s no magic formula or survival kit gizmo that will give you the Will; no secret technique.  Everyone will handle it differently.  The best way I have found to take on a situation that feels overwhelming is to break it down into pieces.  Like the old saying: How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.  For example, if you say, “I’m lost, I’m hurt, I don’t have any food, it’s going to rain and I didn’t bring a jacket” it can sound like you are in a bad situation.  Granted, it’s not a situation you WANT to be in, but that doesn’t matter now.  As my buddy likes to say when something goes wrong, “Things just got real, dude.”

Take a breath.  Make a list:

1 – I’m Hurt.  Deal with your injury, take it from a threat to a secure situation.  Even if it’s a temporary fix, it is no longer a wailing siren in your head. 

2 – I’m Lost.  Well, at the moment it doesn’t matter.  You have needs to meet for sustaining life, like warmth and shelter, and knowing where you are isn’t a part of that right now. 

3 – I Don’t Have Any Food.  Your mind might miss it, and your body might grumble at you, but your health will not suffer if you put that lower on the list of needs.  Keep in mind that you can survive for a long time, weeks even, without food. 

4 - It’s going to Rain and I Don’t Have a Jacket.  Well, what DID you bring?  Provisions to build a fire and fashion a shelter?  Well great, you can protect yourself from the rain and provide warmth even though you don’t have a jacket.  The glass is half-full.  So get to it. 

Now we have a realistic view of things.  Now we are eating it one bite at a time.

The daily challenges in life won’t look like this.  But they can feel just as overwhelming and scary.  It could be a busy or stressful schedule, a lack of money, or dealing with a health condition.  And just like surviving in the wilderness, it has to be done one day at a time.  If one day feels too big, go one meal at a time.  If that’s too much, and there will be times when it is, then go one hour, or even one minute at a time.  Survive one, feel good about that, and go to the next.  Repeat.  Pretty soon, they start to add up.  And you’ve made it through a day.  A week.  A month.    

The very hardest part comes before any of the problem solving or breaking into pieces.  That’s the commitment.  The time when you tell yourself that you will overcome.  It might not happen right away.  You might not be sure you can do it.  That’s the struggle where you must command yourself to armor up, draw your sword, and press into battle.  Once the command is given, you must fight with everything you have, like your life depends on it.  Because it does. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Stormproof Matches That Meet Expectations

I've tested a lot of matches that are labeled "waterproof" or "stormproof" and only one has met my expectations.  You can see details of the UCO Stormproof Matches in my "Videos" section.  In summary, they burn hot for about 10-15 seconds and after lit, can be dunked in water and they re-ignite.  That's pretty impressive.  A few notes: when matches were wet (submerged in water) before I tried to strike them, they did not ignite.  Same goes for the striker...when it was wet I did not get ignition.  However, when the wood stem was soaked in water but the head remained dry, it ignited and burned for about 10 seconds. 

My video shows UCO matches I found at REI and they come in a box with extra strikers.  I've also seen them sold at Sportsman's Warehouse.  I found the same matches in a blaze orange waterproof container with a striker attached to the side at Bass Pro Shops for $7.  It's a great item for your survival kit.  I'm not trying to promote Bass Pro, but it's where I found it.  The orange container is durable, watertight, and visible in ground clutter if you set it down.  Plus, attaching the striker on the container solves one minor dilemma, and that is having something firm to strike against....the strikers that come in the box version can be awkward by themselves. 


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cold Steel "Survival Edge" Knife

Hollow-handle "survival knives" have been an item since the movie First Blood drew attention to them in the early 1980s.  This is the first one I've tested that seems to get the idea right: lightweight, tough, and capable.  The blade is 1 inch wide, 5 inches long, not too thick and not too thin, and has a clip saw-teeth on the back: pure functionality. 

The handle is polypropylene and has rubber O-rings to help with grip if hands are wet or slippery. If the O-rings are removed or damaged, the grooves in the handle where they fit are still effective for helping maintain a solid grip.  The knife comes in two color options: black and (pictured) orange.  I prefer the orange for the simple fact that it is more visible if set down in ground clutter (intentionally or don't want to lose you knife).  The hand-guard is wide and prevents fingers slipping onto the blade.  The threaded butt cap is grooved for easy gripping to twist-off.  The handle compartment is big enough to take (in my testing) 20 strike-anywhere matches wrapped in plastic and 10 tinder tabs. NOTE: using super-glue to hold a piece of sandpaper inside the butt cap ensures you have a dry strike surface for matches no matter what...

The sheath is made of "Secure-Ex" polymer which is durable, weatherproof and lightweight.  It is designed to clip onto a belt, but it also works very well hung as a neck knife from a length of 550 cord.  The knife secures into the sheath with a solid tension will not shake it loose.  Actually, you have to literally "open" the sheath to withdraw the knife...there is no quick retrieval/deployment.  One of the best features of the sheath is the added fire-steel that is secured on the side, also with solid "can't lose it" tension.  The fire-steel is big enough to work with a hard stroke to get good sparks and it has a lanyard hole to allow for retention to the sheath/knife. 

Overall (unloaded) the knife weighs just three ounces.  That is pretty amazing given the strength of the system.

MSRP is about $35, but you can find it cheaper if you search online auction sites.  Even at full price, it's a great deal and a fantastic survival tool.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Some highlights from the December 2013 Survival Skills Workshop in Albuquerque

Placing a sturdy ridgepole for a natural shelter

Just the right size to protect me and let my body heat warm the shelter....not too big, not too small

Building the framework prior to adding insulation

Inside of natural shelter framework before insulation

Working on the perfect snare set

Young students learning how to ignite tinder using a fire steel
Our workshop was well-attended by volunteer Hunter Education Instructors, their families, and members of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.  We discussed key aspects of constructing a survival kit and proper clothing selection, as well as shelter construction, fire-building, utilizing water sources, snaring, signaling, and a variety of other topics. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Map and Compass Navigation - Great Tutorial Video

The Backcountry Hunters & Anglers are a dedicated conservation organization.  They have been putting some great videos on YouTube and the link below will take you to an outstanding tutorial on basic navigation with map and compass -- a must see for anyone, novice or experienced.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

This is a story of perserverence and survival mindset. But let us never, EVER take for granted the unwavering dedication of the Civil Air Patrol and volunteer Search and Rescue teams.

James Glanton, his girlfriend, Christina McIntee, and four children disappeared Sunday in the frigid, remote mountains of northwest Nevada.
RENO, Nev. — A desperate search for a couple and four children missing for two days in the below-zero cold of Nevada's rugged mountains turned jubilant Tuesday when rescuers guided in part by cellphone signals and footprints in the snow found them alive and well near their overturned Jeep.
About 200 people had searched by land and air after the group of six failed to return Sunday from a trip to play in the snow near their hometown of Lovelock, in Nevada's high desert.        
 "They stayed together and that was the key that allowed them to live through this experience. You don't see that that often in search and rescue," said Paul Burke, search-and-rescue coordinator for the state. "They did some pretty inventive things, heating up rocks and things. Staying together, that was a big deal."

Their Jeep had overturned just off a road. A member of the rescue team said the engine would no longer start, but the group stayed in the upside-down vehicle for shelter, burning the spare tire to keep warm.

"Their father kept them alive and well," said Patty Bianchi, CEO of Pershing General Hospital, where the six were taken. "Everybody is in good shape. There was no frostbite. They are stable. They suffered a little exposure and dehydration, but that is all."

About 100 well-wishers lined the street outside the hospital and broke into cheers when two of the smallest children were taken from an ambulance. The others walked into the hospital on their own.
"The mood where I'm at's ecstatic," said Col. Tim Hahn of the Civil Air Patrol, which used several planes to search for the group. "We are thrilled beyond words."

Rescuers began scouring the Seven Troughs Area wilderness on Sunday night for James Glanton, 34; his girlfriend, Christina McIntee, 25; their two children, Evan and Chloe Glanton; and Shelby Fitzpatrick and Tate McIntee, a niece and nephew of McIntee's. The children range in age from 3 to 10.

The situation grew more dire as overnight temperatures in Lovelock dipped to 16 below zero.
A cellphone forensics team analyzed which towers the woman's phone was in contact with during their trip, giving searchers a better idea of where they might be, Hahn said. They were so far out in the wilderness that they apparently were unable to call for help, although there was enough signal strength to leave a basic electronic trail from the early stages of their ordeal, air patrol officials said.
Search volunteer Chris Montes said he and two rescuers with him first spotted children's footprints in the snow Tuesday morning, then followed a set of Jeep tracks until they found the flipped vehicle and the family beside it.

Race against clock, cold in search for Nevada group: Lovelock, Nevada is located.AP

"They just said that they knew somebody was going to find them," Montes said.  The discovery prompted a wave of relief on social media.  "Very glad to hear the missing family in Lovelock has been found and they are safe!" Gov. Brian Sandoval tweeted. "Thank you to all who worked so tirelessly to find them!"

The Seven Troughs area is named for seven parallel canyons below Seven Trough Peak, elevation 7,474 feet. It is about 20 miles southeast of Black Rock Desert, where the annual Burning Man counterculture festival is held. Most of the roads are dirt and more easily traveled by ATVs or other off-road vehicles.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Great Story About a Hunter's Survival Ordeal - Excellent Teaching Points

This article has a lot of important lessons and also many good examples of how someone improvised, persevered, and overcame a difficult situation.  Most importantly, I think, is the message of 1) avoiding panic, and 2) maintain a will to survive.  This took place in October 2013.  Read below (I've added highlighting to parts of the text):

ASSOCIATED PRESS - The 72-year-old hunter who was lost for more than two weeks in a California forest survived by eating squirrels and other animals he shot with his rifle, and by making fires and packing leaves and grasses around his body to stay warm, his family said Monday.

Gene Penaflor of San Francisco was found Saturday in Mendocino National Forest by other hunters who carried him to safety in a makeshift stretcher, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.  Penaflor disappeared after heading out with a partner during the first week of deer hunting season in the rugged mountains of Northern California, a trip he takes annually. The forest is about 160 miles north of San Francisco.
"He goes hunting every year, and he comes home every year," his daughter-in-law Deborah Penaflor said Monday outside Gene Penaflor's small home in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. "We'd gotten a little complacent that he would always come back." Gene Penaflor separated from his hunting partner for a couple of hours as usual to stalk deer. While they were apart, Gene Penaflor fell, hit his head and passed out, Deborah Penaflor said. He woke up after spending what appeared to be a full day unconscious, with his chin and lip badly gashed. He noticed fog and morning dew and realized he'd been out for a while, Deborah Penaflor said.
Gene Penaflor had a lighter, a knife and water with him when he went hunting. But his daughter-in-law said the knife and water bottle somehow got lost in the fall. She had no further details.
Still, he was able use his rifle to kill squirrels to sustain him while he awaited rescue. He also found water in a nearby drainage. To stay warm, Gene Penaflor made small fires and packed leaves and grasses around his body. When it rained or snowed, he crawled under a large log and managed to stay dry, authorities said.
"He knew at some point he was going to die, but he figured he'd last as long as he could," sheriff's Detective Andrew Porter told the Ukiah Daily Journal.  The sheriff's office said an initial search involving several agencies was called off when a storm was on its way and there was no sign of the missing hunter. The family returned to San Francisco dejected. "We were depressed," Deborah Penaflor said. "We were walking his dog and hoping the search would start up again." The search was reactivated Saturday, and a group of hunters found Gene Penaflor when one of them heard a voice calling for help from the bottom of a canyon. He was found about 3 miles from where he disappeared. The family returned north to aid in the search late last week. They distributed missing-persons flyers around the area hoping other hunters would be on the lookout. When they heard he'd been found alive, they rushed to the mountain to meet him. "There were tears of joy on the top of that mountain," Deborah Penaflor said.
Gene Penaflor arrived home Sunday looking weak and wearing a hospital bracelet. "I didn't panic because panic will kill me right away. I knew that," Gene Penaflor said to a KTVU-TV reporter upon his arrival home.