Beyond Outdoor Survival, by Sarah M.

As a homeschooler, I enjoy reading books about survival techniques. I have to admit that I have never been in trapped in the jungle, stuck on Mount Everest, or lost in the desert (sometimes we homeschoolers do tend to get a little rambunctious and we wish we could just get lost for one day, just to test our knowledge). Nevertheless, I do know of many stories I could tell. But, that’s not why I am writing. I am writing to help homeschoolers (or other people who have some time on their hands) realize that they have an opportunity to prepare themselves. Whether you are planning to hike in the jungle, climb Everest, take a walk in the desert, or even just go on a camp out, you need to be prepared for anything that can happen. I have picked up some practical techniques from reading, talking to friends, and experimenting. Preparation is the key to just about every survival story, so I hope as you read this essay, you will find a few practical things that you can use to prepare yourself and others for whatever may happen.

First let’s talk about the survival kit. It is possible to survive without one, but the methods you must use require a lot of practice. So, save yourself some stress and be prepared! A survival kit can be purchased from various outdoor stores, or you can make one on your own. A basic survival kit should contain: a knife (some knife’s actually have a survival kit inside the sheath or handle of the knife), flint/steel or some sort of fire starter (this is very important), compass, signal mirror, water purification tablets, fishhooks and line, snare wire, and a large plastic bag. There are also many other items that could be added, but these could fit in a very small container. If you decide to buy a bag or something to put all your gear in, be sure to get something that attaches to you. For instance, you might be hiking a steep pass and all of a sudden start to lose your footing and then you fall down a mountain and you are stuck somewhere. Now you need your survival gear, but if it wasn’t attached to you, you probably lost it in the fall. It is also important if you are traveling in a group that everyone in the group has their own personal kit. You never know when you will get separated. Good shoes and clothing are also of the utmost importance, so be sure when you go on that cam pout, or when you go on that hike, think before you set out. This is all part of good preparation!

You should also have a basic home survival kit, in case of a natural disaster, or survival situation. Make sure you have enough water on hand for every person in your house. It is also a good idea to keep some Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) in your home.

Also, make sure that in your home you have some type of fire starter (tinder) ready to be used. It is also very important to keep some tinder with you if you go on a hike, or any kind of adventurous outing. You never know when you may need to start a fire quickly, and it could be a life or death matter! My family has a car survival kit, carried mainly in the winter, but it’s not a bad idea to keep one in there all year round. One of the main things we keep in there is a candle with some matches. Believe it or not, that flame from that candle will keep you, and the people in your car warm!

Before I leave the subject of a survival kit, I want to mention two very important medical books that everyone should have. I personally have read both of these books and they are outstanding! The first is Mosby’s Outdoor Emergency Medical Guide by David Manhoff. My copy is spiral bound and has tabs on the ends of the pages to give it a flip chart approach. It is very fast to look up things. It was very profitable when I had to use it for a slight emergency situation! The other book is called Wilderness Medicine, Beyond First Aid by William W. Forgey, MD. This book is amazing! It gives you everything you need to know! It even shows you how to do stitches. This book is a must in every homeschooler’s survival kit. It will allow you to be calm and have confidence in case of an emergency.

Next, let’s talk about water and food. You can live without food for three weeks, but water is more important since you can only live three days without it. Good preparation would be to carry purification tablets with you just in case the need would arise. It is better to not drink water than to drink contaminated water. So, if you did not bring purification tablets with you, you should look for streams or rivers with no dead animals upstream. Look for rivers with lots of rocks on the bottom. Also, always remember that you can always boil water that is questionable, to kill microbes.

Another last ditch method of getting water is making a solar still. First, pick a spot where there is a lot of sun, but where the soil is somewhat damp. Then dig a hole that is about 2 feet deep and 3 feet wide. You can put non-poisonous plants or pour contaminated water around the edges of your hole. Then put a cup, or something to catch the water, in the middle of the hole, but don’t let any un-purified substances get in the cup. Then lastly, cover your hole with a plastic sheet, and put rocks on the ends to keep it from blowing away. Also put a slightly weighted object in the center of the hole (directly above your cup) so there is a slight downward indent in the center of the plastic sheet. After a few hours, you will have some water.

Yet another last ditch method is this: take a plastic trash bag (or any sort of a large bag) and tie it onto a tree branch, with some of the nonpoisonous vegetation inside it. Make sure it is in full sunlight. After a couple of hours you will start to see some water condensing. I found both of these ideas in Les Stroud’s book, titled Survive! which is another good book for homeschoolers to read to help prepare themselves.

Dew and rain water are also generally fine, but rivers will undoubtedly lead to civilization, so, if you find yourself lost, go downhill until you find a river then follow it till you reach civilization.

As for food, MREs are the wisest means of food preparation. It is also wise to bring some vitamins with you if you are planning to trek, or go somewhere where there is a bigger possibility that something could happen. You could also bring energy bars along with you on your hike or whatever. If you do find yourself lost, set some small traps before you go to bed, and also set some improvised fishing poles or logs with hooks hanging down from them into a river. If you think you have food poisoning, you can eat a little bit of charcoal from your campfire and it should help you vomit the poison up. But, as I have already mentioned, you should always have a good supply of MREs with you.

Next, I am going to give you a tip for predicting weather and navigation that you should practice at home to prepare yourself. Since weather plays a factor in everything, here’s one of my favorite tips for predicting weather (and the one that I have found to be most helpful): if you stand with your back to the wind and the high clouds are coming from your right, that means that the weather is likely to get better. If the high clouds are coming from the left, that means that the weather is likely to get worse. If you decide to use this rule in the southern hemisphere then you need to reverse it. It is best to practice this at home, or in a place that you know what the weather is supposed to be. Get comfortable using this you never know when you may have to use it.

Navigation is also another important factor in your fight for survival. You should always be prepared with a compass, but if you do not have one, you can use your watch. This is another one of my favorite tips, but you should practice this. Point the small hour hand toward the sun, and then make an imaginary line between the hour hand and the twelve, this is now your south / north line.

Now, let’s leave these specific things and talk about our fourth key to preparation which is shelter. Let’s say you get lost in the mountains, one of the first things you should do is descend to a valley and pick a good location for a shelter. Caves make a wonderful short-term shelter, while lean-tos or A-frames make a great long term shelter. Good preparation would be to practice building these types of shelters in your back yard before your life depends on it!  Find a survival book and look at pictures and make a lean-to or a-frame. It’s not as hard as it looks!

Next, let’s say that you are camping and you and your buddies want to go on a real hike, and you know that there is a river that you will need to cross. Preparation would be this: put everything that you will carry in your backpack in a plastic bag before you put it in your back pack. This way if you fall in when you are trying to cross the river, all your stuff won’t get wet or ruined! It is also wise when crossing a river to get a long, sturdy stick, to use while crossing. This will give you the tri-pod approach, and it will give you a little more sturdy footing. Also, keep your shoes on while you cross. You don’t want to step on a sharp object.

I have just given you a few tips for preparation that every homeschooler should be familiar with. Let me give you a practical illustration that might help to clarify what I mean by preparation. My family and I were on vacation in North Carolina, and we decided to hike part of Table Rock. The probability that something was going to happen was very, very slim. I knew this but still, before I went I packed my survival kit (which, by the way, goes around my waist, so it attaches to me) and a little bit of water and a little bit of food. I also packed a few medical supplies since I have a bunch of younger siblings and if anything were to happen, I knew probably one of them would get hurt. Well, nothing happened, but, I still was prepared.

Practical Preparation is the key to surviving. Exercising and staying fit is also vital to winning the survival battle. Preparation is a very good habit to get into, and homeschoolers- you can do this!  If you don’t take time to prepare yourself, when disaster strikes you will wish you had! Learning to prepare as a young person will give you confidence that if anything happens, whether you get lost, separated from your trekking group, or a natural disaster strikes, you will be able to keep your head, not panic, and get out of that predicament alive!