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Survival Skills

  • Practice Survival: Everyday Skills That Can Save Your Life

    In Police work, there goes the saying: "Train like you work". Officers use this term to emphasize the importance of familiarizing themselves with their equipment and practicing their skills in every imagined scenario. Police officers experience extremely stressful situations that require quick thought and swift action. Lives have been lost when someone doubts themselves or has to overthink. One of your best lines of defense is knowledge and experience with confidence to back it up!


    Practice Builds Muscle Memory

    The term “muscle memory” is a term that refers to commonly performed tasks becoming instinctual and essentially second-nature. It's said that to effectively develop "muscle memory", a person must perform at least 1,000 repetitions of a set series of movements. This may seem like a lot of effort but nothing can compare to the benefits of natural survival skills.

    Muscle memory is more than just becoming familiar with something new. Our brain is known as our largest "muscle", it needs exercise and challenges like any other muscle. As an exercise, take your survival kit and lay-out each item. Gather your loved ones to discuss how you use each one and practice. Try listing at least five uses for each item and make note of the more difficult items. If there is any piece of equipment that stumps you, more practice and education is essential.


    Fire as an Example

    Most survival equipment, including A.S.E. items, can be used more than once. Taking your equipment out of the package and trying it in the field is essential. It shows you how the tool works, what to expect, and gives you an idea of the time and effort needed for each task.  Can you start a fire with a magnesium and steel fire-starter? Few can light a fire immediately without any practice; experience teaches you tactic and the ideal tender needed. You may not need to start thousands of fires to feel competent, but a good understanding of how it works can go miles.

    Use Your Environment

    Your environment often provides everything you need. You can add simple household items to your kit that will help in the long run. For fires, you can fill a small container with dryer lint for tinder whenever you needed. It may not be water-resistant but it can help as you learn. As you become more experienced, you can upgrade your kit by investing in waterproof/water-resistant tinder, such as fire tabs or tinder cubes.  Don't forget - it is never hurts have an extra of anything if you can carry it. It is always advantageous to have several solutions to common survival problems. Keep a set of all-weather Survival matches for wet conditions and a Fresnel lens for everyday carry (its thin enough to fit right in you wallet!)

    Practice with Precaution

    Although you will be likely practicing in a familiar environment, precaution is always important. If you're practicing alone, make sure to check in with someone and tell them your plans. This is especially true if you go to the wilderness. As you begin to experiment with your gear, keep these tips in mind to ensure your safety:

    • Start with a simple flint and steel fire starter or a spring-loaded strike firestarter
    • Make sure to always practice your skills with caution
    • Keep a first aid kit nearby, just in case
    • REMAIN AWARE of your surroundings and environment
    • PAY ATTENTION to weather and wind conditions
    • Check for burn bans in your area
    •  DO NOT attempt any fire-starting exercises where there is ANY chance of losing the control


    The principles discussed above can be applied to all categories of survival equipment. Many survival items are intended for extended use and may even need some breaking in. Although it may seem like you are preserving your equipment, you do yourself a disservice by keeping those items in their packages. Practice your skills during a time when you can get it wrong, that way you know exactly what to expect when you need it. Keep secondary options for each survival item. A filtration straw can supplement water purification tablets, snare wire or fishing kit can supplement your food rations.

    Most importantly, make sure to involve your kids, significant others, neighbors, and friends. If you aren't available for some reason, your loved ones will thank you for taking the time to share your skills with them. A prepared individual can only go so far without the help of a community, reach out and learn from each other!


    "Fortuna favet præparaverat - Fortune Favors the Prepared!"

    This entry was posted in Uncategorized on November 25, 2012 by Patrick Carey.

  • If You Didn't Bring It - You Don't Have It: An Example of Survival Basics

    Although stories of extreme survival aren’t unheard of, there are some stories that leave a lasting impression. Stories of ordinary people in dire circumstances strike us the most because they almost always occur in normal situations. Whether it's a young man trapped by a bolder or a couple stranded in the snow with a nursing infant, we often find ourselves wondering why they weren’t more prepared.

    For those of us in the survival industry, keeping survival items around is second nature. We realized that some don't take the time to consider all the bad things that could happen. Few people plan to be trapped in a terrible situation. Regardless, you can literally save lives by keeping even the smallest survival kit in your home, car, backpack, or boat. Aron Ralston’s harrowing tale of 127 painful hours best exemplifies how even the most knowledgeable can fail to consider basic survival guidelines.


    The Story

    For those that are unfamiliar, Aron Ralston is an accomplished mountain biker, rock climber, and avid outdoorsman. In 2003, Ralston was rock climbing in Canyonlands National Park in Utah when a suspended boulder trapped his hand against the canyon wall. Unfortunately, he brought minimal equipment and forgot to tell anyone where he was going. Armed with a gallon of water, five chocolate bars, two burritos, and a muffin, he began to try to free himself. Because it was only a day hike, he had nothing to keep him warm and no way of alerting people to his dilemma. Ralston desperately tried to free himself with his climbing gear as he recorded the event with camera equipment. He ran out of rations after 5 days and, with little hope of rescue, Ralston was forced to consider an extreme option. Using an off-brand Leatherman multitool, he freed himself by amputating his own arm.


    Preventable Mistakes

    Impressively, he was rescued just four hours after amputating his arm. Ralston left for his trip, trusting his skills with little equipment to back up his plan. Despite having enough food and water to last several days, his lack of emergency planning, signaling equipment, and protective clothing stands out the most. If it hadn’t been for a nearby family, the distance from help coupled with a lack of first aid could have done him in. Whether you are simply going for a day hike or preparing for a week-long trek in the woods, there are some survival essentials and skills that you must have.


    Always Remember

    • Make a plan and communicate with others; this applies to all circumstances. When going on a venture, always tell at least one person where you are going and when to expect you back. It is impossible to count on rescue teams when no one knows where to look.
    • Carry equipment that compliments the environment. Despite years of outdoors experience, Ralston brought only what he needed for that day. Always consider the possibilities of the environment. It is essential to carry several tools that can signal for help. Carry at least two signal devices: whistle, signal mirror, signal panel, or emergency strobe light, .
    • Educate yourself and practice skills before going into the wild. Ralston was educated enough to understand his arm would require more than a simple amputation. He was also acutely aware of his symptoms as he struggled with dehydration and loss of circulation. Knowing basic first aid skills and taking the time to practice is just the beginning.


    Aron Ralston’s bravery and determination for survival is most important survival skill he had and ultimately it saved his life. He faced desperate odds with little hope of rescue yet his survival psychology ultimately led him to safety. Ralston was an educated and experienced hiker and outdoorsman; however, his story best exemplifies the concept of “if you didn’t bring it, you don’t have it”.


    Remember - "Fortuna favet præparaverat  -  Fortune Favors the Prepared!"

    This entry was posted in Uncategorized on August 28, 2012 by Patrick Carey.


    Ralston, A. (2004) “Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Basis of the Motion Picture 127 Hours”.

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