How many people do you know who claim to be “survivalists” or “bushcrafters?” Maybe they don’t go by these titles but prefer to say they are “woodsmen” or “outdoorsmen.” If these titles don’t suffice, perhaps they don’t want to be labeled at all but will tell you they “live” survival or “live” bushcraft each day. What always never ceases to amaze me are those outdoor enthusiasts (I’ll use this as my catch-all term for all of the above listed) who may have a rock-solid wilderness survival strategy and set of skills but a neglected sense of self-preservation once they leave the woodline. Of these people I asked you to consider, how many engage in risky behavior that could threaten their existence? Bushcraft knowledge and experiences are most appreciated outdoors and not from a hospital bed or prison cell. Sometimes, what threatens our survival the most is not the inability to make a fire or build a shelter but the little things we don’t consider on a daily basis.
You are more likely to die in a car accident than a plane crash. You’re more likely to get injured in a car accident than an encounter with a wild animal. We tend to focus on the most dramatic ways of getting killed or hurt and look over the most likely. Car accidents are pretty dramatic, violent and often are the result of other’s actions than our own. As a society, we have become comfortable with knowing accidents happen and most people will not do what they need to in order to improve their survivability after an accident. If you have a well-stocked first aid kit in your pack and not in your car, you are part of this group that should re-evaluate your preparedness. Is it in reach or in the trunk of the car? Furthermore, when was the last time you took a formal driving course? There are some fantastic driving schools out there to teach you how to handle vehicles in all conditions and speeds. Defensive driving is a skill and recognizing the threats found on the road is just as important as understanding those in the woods.
Edible and medicinal plants are both incredibly important to the outdoorsman. There are plenty of articles on what to eat in the wild and I know of many outdoorsmen who are advocates of foraging. However, just as there are many who will preach the virtues of eating from nature’s garden, many of the same will eat to excess at home. How many outdoorsmen do you know who are at risk of one of the greatest killers, cardiac arrest? How many outdoorsmen do you know who have or will have diabetes? How many do you know who claim to have a well-stocked bug-out bag but can’t run a mile without stopping? Nature provides us with a playground to enjoy but we can’t enjoy it if our health isn’t a priority. Unfortunately, it is easier to buy a new blade or piece of gear than it is a healthy lifestyle. That requires a balanced diet with wise food decisions and an active lifestyle off of the couch, recliner or bed.
How many friends do you have and what quality are they? Many people will cite their social network reach with Facebook “friends” or followers on Instagram. Admittedly, I have many “friends” on both but unless we see each other frequently, have shared experiences together, know details about each other’s lives and have plans together in the future, I can say most of my “friends” are just acquaintances. When was the last time a friend of your’s helped you out or did something to improve your life? When was the last time a friend brought extra drama to your life you could otherwise do without? We often worry about the actions of strangers when we plan our daily carry. We tend to think about the stranger or the “bad guys” out there who want to do us harm. While these unknowns pose a threat to us, the reality is we are likely to be wronged or harmed by someone close to us. It’s said, “blood makes you related, loyalty makes you family.” What does disloyalty, betrayal and taking advantage of someone mean then?
We train to protect against nature’s threats. We buy the right clothing to keep us warm, fire starters for the worst weather, knives to perform in harsh conditions and other gear to prevent harm in the great outdoors. While I have not done any scientific study I can speak from experience as a Survival Instructor, many students and participants in my courses and seminars do not also train in martial arts. By the way, getting a junior black belt as a kid means little to me in terms of validation if you haven’t kept up with your training. What surprises me is the desire some people have to be ready for the great outdoors but the lack of interest in knowing how to throw a punch, apply a choke, understand range, space, timing and force or how to fire a handgun, rifle or shotgun. Unless our occupations take us into the great outdoors 7 days a week, we will most likely spend the majority of our time in a populated area surrounded by more 2-legged threats than 4. When I teach a seminar and make reference to training in Sayoc Kali, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and run-and-gun shooting/marksmanship, I’m often met with weird looks. My exterior response doesn’t match my inner monologue crushing the lack of logic other’s training fails to exhibit. Survival is more than a hobby, it is a way of life.
Remember, you want to survive the little things in order to better enjoy the greater things in life. Buckle your seatbelt, eat a salad at lunch with quality friends and know how to defend yourself if someone decides to attack you. Start to evaluate those you follow online and notice where the little things have worked their way into their life in a detrimental way. You don’t have to wait for one day to be the day when you first experience something. You can prepare for the little things in life and mitigate their effects on you each and every day.
We are almost two-thirds of the way through autumn now here in the northern hemisphere, so it's that time of year once again. It's time to put a some thought into dealing with frigid temperatures at inopportune moments, and being able to avoid cold weather injuries in the process if something goes wrong.
When the temperature outside our front door has dropped to the point the most common liquid on this planet has become a solid, if you haven't already done so, it's time to take a few minutes to winterize your daily set up. There is a very simple reason for this. Exposure to such low temperatures for extended periods of time – such as any unexpected long delays during an evening commute without a way to warm up – can easily turn another of the more common liquids on this planet to a solid, the very blood that flows through our veins. Having experienced severe frostbite personally, and having seen and felt some of my own flesh frozen solid, I can assure you it is a very unpleasant experience.
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