Undoubtedly, the Simple Steps blogs have been one of the longest running articles we produce. We have gone over numerous subjects since we first started these years ago. It is truly awesome that Wes keeps helping us with these, and providing us with extremely useful information. Last year, we started off with a 12-Step program that was loaded with skills to learn. Wes hoped it gave a guideline and some direction for those of us seeking more knowledge. And like any other “New Year’s Resolution” kind of deal, I am sure many put it on the back burner after a while.
That is why we are going to bring it back to start this year’s round of Simple Steps. You’ll notice that some of the subjects, we have already covered and some new ones still remain. We hope it gets you back into the mindset to make this year one of your most resilient! Enjoy!
A Survival Twelve Step Program
Some people may look at me and say to themselves “Man that guy as got a problem, he should get some help”. Well the first step to step to recovery from any problem is admitting you have one. Well the last place to have a problem is out in the wilderness and off the beaten path so I’m here to help and the best time to turn over a new leaf is at the New Year. To get your year started out right make a promise to yourself to learn a new skill every month this year that will help make you a better, more efficient, and a self reliant survivalist.
Here is a list of suggestions that might get the wheels turning. Some may take a little more time than others and some may be skills you already have. There is no order they should be done so plan around your own lifestyle and replace proficient skills on the list with ones you want to learn. Remember knowledge is power, but you cannot replace real life practice with just reading it in a book so get out and get your hands dirty.
- Land Navigation: I would break this down into two categories, GPS & Map and Compass. GPS units can be extremely helpful and most units are user friendly but getting the most from your GPS unit takes skill. Learn how to set waypoints, understand what GPS coordinates are, and if you have one, update the map programs as needed. Even though GPS is great technology fails and if your luck is like mine it will fail when you need it most. Buy a good Compass and get some area maps of wilderness locations that you frequent. Learn to ready the topographic maps and understand how to plot courses. This skill will be worth its weight in gold if you ever run out of batteries in your GPS or “Smart Phone”.
- Fire Starting: I cannot stress it enough how important being able to start a fire is for survival. Fire covers all spectrums of survival from signaling rescue, to protection from elements and predators, to water purification to food preparation. It is also a psychological booster in a time of despair. I like to practice different fire starting methods every time I use my BBQ grill. I pay attention to my technique and the environmental conditions, especially when it does not work. The last thing I want to do is use a method in a situation that is not optimal and waist valuable energy and time.
- Identifying Wild Edibles: Living off the land is the key to survival. Knowing what nature has provided is a skill that has to be practiced and photos in a book do not always properly represent the vegetation in your area so get out and see it firsthand. Knowing what is poisonous is also just as important.
- Make a Survival Kit: Investing in a survival kit is like buying car insurance, you hope you don’t need it but it’s better to have it and not need it, than not have it and wish you did. Keep it small and light weight. To do this, select items that are multifunctional and cover more than one of the priorities of Survival (Protection, Rescue, Water, and Fire). In Previous Simple Steps we have covered some great suggestions for survival kit items. It does not have to be expensive but it does have to be reliable.
- Health and Fitness: It is common knowledge that being physically fit will expand your chances of survival. You are already taking a step in the right direction by being active, getting out and going on a hike. Start small and make simple changes to your lifestyle. A very simple three step rule to follow is to never go three days without exercise, workout at least three days a week, and never miss a Monday. You will be amazed at how effective this is.
- Water Treatment and Purification: If you have not already, purchase a water purification system. I love the Lifestraw, but there are many other systems out there as well. I also carry a bulk water purification system and tablets. I would also practice making water still and a rain catch as well. Water is top priority and without it nothing else matters.
- Snares and Traps: Once you have established a water source food is important. Hunting takes a lot of time and energy you may not have. If you are alone, there are a lot of tasks that need to be completes so having passive systems set up to catch small game and fish while you attend to other needs is a great skill to know. The more you can set the better your chances to bag a meal will be.
- First Aid: Wilderness first aid, CPR, and any other medical skill training you can get help you and anyone else you may come across. Having a first aid kit is not enough. You need to know how to use it. Take a class from the Red Cross, or another accredited source. This is not a wilderness survival skill this is a LIFE survival skill.
- Shelter Building: Shelters keep you safe from the environmental conditions and predators alike. Identifying shelters nature has provided and having the ability to use materials you find to improve upon those shelters will not only help you from expending unneeded energy but will help you preserve what energy you do have. Practice making basic shelters that are time and energy efficient.
- Search and Rescue: Knowing how search and rescue works and searches will help you understand how to make yourself easier to find. Having equipment on hand to help signal for help can shorten your time in the wild and raise your chances of survivability. Getting things such as a whistle, signal mirror and flares are a must have if you want out as quickly as possible.
- Communications: Most people today have cell phones but they are not always reliable in backcountry areas. Carrying a hand held radio or CB (Citizen Ban Radio) are a great asset. Most off road vehicle clubs and hiking clubs use these and by scanning you may be able to contact someone in your area for help. It is also good to have in case your group gets separated to link back up again.
- Weather prediction: Knowing how to read cloud formations and environmental conditions is a great skill to help keep you using Mother Nature to help you survive. Seeing when a storm may be near can help plain when to set up rain catches, take shelter, and when to make fire and which method would be best.
I hope that this list shows you that there is a lot more to hiking in the back country than just lacing up some boots, throwing on a pack and taking off. Plan to be at your best when things are at your worst. See you on the trails. “
What subjects are you most interested in? Tell us in the comments section below! We are always looking to provide the most pertinent and sought after information to our audiences. You can always get more Wes by liking his Facebook, viewing his YouTube or visiting his site. Until next month!