Number One. You have to accept the fact that, as good an outdoors-man or women as you may be, sometimes things happen that precipitate you into a crisis when you least expect it and you’d better be ready to cope with, what will be one of the most difficult challenges to your life that you have ever faced.
Number Two. Never say “I am just……” Saying “I am just going to….” (You fill in the blank) is a denial of the possibility that anything will go wrong and a denial of the need to carry an emergency kit or protective clothing with you. After all “what could possibility go wrong?” A lot can go wrong, it can go wrong quickly and you can die!
Number Three. Always carry the means to shelter yourself, to start a fire and to attract the attention of people who are looking for you and, perhaps more importantly, people who are not looking for you but might be in your vicinity. To that end your emergency gear should include a waterproof, windproof shelter that you can crawl into or crawl under. If you expect to be able to construct a shelter from natural materials as advocated by many outdoor writers you will be sadly disappointed. To build such a shelters take skill, time, resources and an able-bodied person. Save yourself the trouble – carry a large orange or royal blue plastic bag to crawl into when you need protection.
Carry a metal match and a supply of cotton balls saturated with Vaseline. This mixture is the most reliable combination of fire starting aids available to you. Practice building a fire
Carry a whistle and purposefully made glass signal mirror. You can blow a whistle as long as you can breath. With a mirror, given that you have sunlight, you can bounce a beam of sunlight to a passing airplane, boat or person on a distant hillside many miles away.
Number Four. Prepare for the five scenarios that commonly result in a person having to spend a night out:
1. Becoming lost
2. Not making it back to camp or vehicle before the sun sets.
3. Becoming stranded when the vehicle that took you into the back country malfunctions.
4. Becoming ill or injured to the point that you are unable to make your own way out.
5. When weather makes it dangerous to continue traveling.
In each situation finding the safest campsite possible and then using your emergency equipment and survival skills to defend your body temperature is your best course of action.
Number Five. Don’t let the concerns of others and what they might be thinking affect your decision-making. Don’t let the promises or the commitments you made to others drive you to continue trying to make it back in the face of darkness, rough terrain or inclement weather. Do what is in your best interest and survive.
Number Six. Always tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back. Better still leave a trip plan with two people who you have briefed on what to do in the event you do not return. Remember that having left a trip plan you are obligated to stick to the plan. If you fail to leave a trip plan, or don’t update the plan, days may pass before an active search begins in your location.
Number Seven. Be ready to deal with fear and the panic that usually results when you are confronted with a crisis. It is ludicrous to say “don’t panic!” Everybody is going to panic. Even the most experienced outdoorsman or woman will experience a momentary twinge of discomfort when faced with a potentially life threatening situation. But, unlike the novice, an experienced person will recognize the discomfort for what it is – a warning that things aren’t right! A warning to back away and reconsider the situation. Remember the “get-off-your-feet, have drink of water, stay put for at least thirty minutes” routine described earlier.
Number Eight. Keep faith. In yourself and your ability to survive based on your preparations. Keep faith in the search and rescue system and the ability of the searchers to find you. Keep faith in your family. The strongest catalyst you have to keep you going, when everything appears to be against you, is your desire to be reunited with your family and friends. Carry something to reinforce that desire – a photograph works.
The time is sure to come when you will have spend an unplanned night out. When that times comes it’s not important “what I would do” but what is important is “what you will do!” Your life depends on it!