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Outdoor Survival Fundamentals

By Brian J. Lane

How many times have you heard someone make a statement similar to the following, “Oh, it’s just a little day hike, we’ll be right back in a few hours,” or at least something along those lines. Heading out for what is usually a simple hike, you just never know, things can happen. Falling, getting disoriented, mechanical failures; there is a list of things within a range of possibilities that could happen to put you into a survival situation.

With that in mind let’s discuss some of the quick and easy basics that one should know when enjoying the wilderness – because you never know when your stuff might hit the proverbial fan.

The most important principle to remember, (and at stress filled times the most difficult to maintain), is to stay calm. Panic kills. Never add more casualties to a situation by acting without forethought. The frequently used acronym used in survival training is: S.T.O.P. (it stands for - Stop, Think, Observe, & Plan).

Stop: If a survival situation should ever present itself the first thing you are advised to do is to stop, literally. Sit down and take a few deep breathes to help in gaining mental clarity and focus. Panic can bring forth bad spontaneous decisions; you need time to slow down and properly appraise the issue, (and discuss your thoughts with others, if available).

Think: Secondly, you’ll need to think out the situation. What forms of communications do you have? How far away are you from assistance? How bad is your physical condition? What are your most immediate needs?

Observe: Next, observe your environment. A lot of information can be gleaned from taking the time to take in a 360 degree view of your surroundings. For example: you can check what the weather is doing, see what resources are available, search for a good spot to signal for help, and look for possible shelter. You should measure your strengths and threats, and then assess your options.

Plan: Now pull all the information together into a simple plan. By evaluating all the various factors, a sound strategy will begin to emerge for dealing with the matters at hand. Always remember to include the primary human necessities of air, water, warmth, shelter, and food—in that general order.

Once you have gone through these steps, you’ll need to put your plan in motion. Maintaining a good positive attitude is imperative! Sometimes things won’t work the first time so just fall back and regroup, adjust and try again—improvise and adapt.

Under most circumstances your plan will ultimately succeed, and you and your friends will work through the emergency and survive the crisis.

Hike Smart & Have Fun!

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