Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Survival Myths and Misconceptions

Much of the information available to people who want to learn more about survival and surviving is based on material that is outdated and in some cases totally incorrect. Unfortunately the early outdoor writers created a problem for those of us interested in learning how to survive a wilderness emergency today.  Techniques and procedures that were once state-of-the-art are no longer practical.  What was once thought of as an effective procedure is now not only inappropriate but in some cases dangerous.

The times have changed.  The needs of a hunter who gets lost today are different from the needs of the mountain-men who trapped beaver in the American west and lived off the land while doing so.  The individual who gets in trouble today is unlikely to be able to spend a night out in the open without great discomfort.  They will not have devoted sufficient time to practicing survival skills - skills that were once second nature that could be counted on when difficulties arose.  Even a once commonplace skill such as striking a match to light a fire is no longer commonplace.    

If you were to read some of the currently available “how-to-survive” books you would find techniques and procedures that date back to those who survived by manufacturing what they needed from the natural resources on hand.  The question is “How appropriate are these techniques and procedures today?”  In many cases they are not!   However, despite the passing of time, the fact that the material is still in print implies that the information must still be valid. In many cases it is not.  New and better procedures have developed.  New equipment is available.

The result of all of this misinformation is that inexperienced people finding themselves in trouble  still believe that they can rub sticks together and start a fire.  They believe that a waterproof, wind proof shelter can be built from natural materials.  They believe that they can live off the land until they are rescued.  It must be so – it’s in the book!

Many current, popular outdoor writers perpetuate the problem.  Much of the rubbish that is published today would never be published if the writer (or the editor) first went out and tested the procedures they write about.  Instead they “Google” the topic or go to their bookshelf, remove a survival or woods lore book written fifty years ago, extract from these questionable sources some procedure used by Jim Bridger to build a fire and present it once again as if the procedure is still valid today.  Sometimes it is but most often it isn’t

More confusion results from the contemporary experiences of those who survived traumatic incidents.  They quickly become the newest “survival expert!”  They survived therefore what they did to survive must be valid!  Again - sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.  Sometimes people survive in spite of what they did.  They got lucky!  Choose your role models carefully! Read more

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