Wilderness Survival

by John Elden Gibbons

In a previous article, I talked about the need to take skills training. In this article, I would like to discuss what wilderness survival means. It seems like it should be obvious. Wilderness survival means staying alive in a wilderness setting against adverse conditions. It is that simple. But how does it get so complicated? Let’s take a closer look

What are the adverse conditions? Lack of air, an accident, bad weather, too much cold, too much heat, lack of water, lack of food, too much water (including water that will make you sick), lack of sleep, attack by an animal (including insects), strike by lightning. The result of this is that we have needs.

What are needs? Need for first aid, need for warmth or cool (shelter), Need for water, need for food, need for transportation (Navigation/rescue/signaling)

The complicated part comes from all those great stories of imaginary survival trips that make you think that the person made everything. It takes time to make everything you need. sometimes just getting by with a quick shelter and some water is all you need to survive another day.

Making everything is the area of primitive skills or wilderness living. Learning these skills will make it possible for you to add that much more to your survival skills. The two are different. Survival looks for an immediate solution – primitive skills look to make things with little or no modern equipment. In a survival situation, if I brought a saw, I would use it. A primitive skills activity may not use it. Wilderness living is a long-term situation (wilderness living may use the saw). Survival hopefully is short-term.

So what is the big deal? The deal is that the mindset and game plan are different in wilderness survival and primitive skills or wilderness living. There is a difference even in wilderness living and primitive skills as previously mentioned. How good you get depends upon your skill in making things or what you brought with you. A survival kit gives you a leg up. You don’t have to make as much if you have tools and items with you.

So what do you need to know? The answer is all three. You first need to know wilderness survival to learn the basics, use a survival kit and get through a couple of days. Afterword, you need to learn how to make everything in case you don’t have a survival kit or primitive skills. Finally, wilderness living skills for long-term living. Even with these skills, if the need arrives, you will be in a survival situation and use your survival skills first. They will usually be quick. As I said, it takes time to make things. It also takes time to hunt and gather food. You still have to answer the needs. If you don’t you may die.

Finally, a word about Survival manuals. My grandfather, Euell, thought that the U.S. military Survival manual and training left a lot to be desired. [From what I know of the military survival schools, I think they do a great job.] The reason was that food gathering was a last resort. [ I agree with this.] Instead of learning to live off the land as a matter of course, it was desperation. The idea is to live with nature and let it provide for you. The more you can live with nature the greater expert you will be. But you said, “It takes time!” How can I do all this in the time I need? Aren’t you contradicting yourself? No. But how? That is going to be the subject of a future article. Or better yet, read Euell Gibbons’s Books to understand more. The short answer is to combine modern skills with primitive skills.