If you spend a great deal of time in the woods, you need a copy of Outdoor Survival Guide by Randy Gerke. This book is a must-have for anyone who spends time in the outdoors with tips on topics such as signaling for help, shelter, food and much more. Until you get your copy, here are some tips you can use right now.
Outdoor Survival Guide: Interview with Randy Gerke
Survival is a popular topic these days with countless reality shows dedicated to the topic. How much should you know about survival? If you spend any time outdoors, you need to learn as much as you can. These tips from survival expert Randy Gerke will be a perfect start to your outdoor survival education.
LoveToKnow: What survival skills should everyone have?
Randy Gerke: It's important that anyone spending time in the outdoors knows a few basic skills. Probably the two most important skills know are how to build a shelter and how to start a fire. Learn how to build shelters from the natural materials at hand. If you're involved in winter sports, practice building a snow cave and other types of snow shelters.
Building fires can be challenging to even the most experienced outdoorsman. Learn how to build fires using different methods and materials. Practice building fires in damp and windy conditions.
LTK: How realistic are the TV survival shows? Do they teach valuable information?
RG: I think valuable skills and ideas can be learned from a variety of sources, including TV programs. Having said that, I think it's important to understand that "reality""and "TV" are not compatible. In other words, true "reality TV" simply does not exist. The hyped entertainment atmosphere of television tends to present these techniques in a context that's not realistic, and sometimes not even accurate or instructional.
Survival is so much more than purposely placing yourself in a hyped and highly produced high risk situation, knowing that if something begins to go badly, a crew of awaiting rescuers will immediately be there to save your hide. True survival is approached with respect and personal responsibility, understanding and preparing for the actual risk that a particular situation presents. It doesn't require one to be fearless, but to face and understand fears, putting them into perspective and exercising control over them. True survival requires practice and experience and a self-sufficient attitude. It doesn't come in a can or a backpack or burned into a DVD.
A Survival Kit
LTK: What is needed for a survival kit for campers and hikers?
RG: Survival kits help with fulfilling survival priorities, which are shelter, fire, water, food and signaling. The type of kit you use or assemble is based upon size and weight limitations. Kits should be lightweight and compact. Most survival situations are resolved within 72 hours, so kits should be designed with that in mind. Personal backcountry kits should be very small and compact.
Beginning with the shelter priority, items that a backcountry kit might contain would be a lightweight emergency blanket or bag, which could be used for shelter construction. Even a large, thick plastic garbage bag provides surprisingly good protection from the elements. 50 feet of cordage is indispensable in a survival situation. It can be used for shelter construction, traps and snares, dragging firewood, making tools, and a variety of other things.
The next area of need is fire. Fire provides heat, light, security and signaling capability. Include three reliable ignition sources. These items might include waterproof matches in a waterproof container, wind and waterproof matches, metal sparking tools and lighters. Redundancy is the key here. It provides a backup method in the event that a particular method fails. Your life may depend on these backups.
Fire starting aids should be a part of the kit as well. These items are easy to ignite and will burn longer than a match. Items that are good for this are old candle stubs, cotton balls saturated with petroleum jelly, wax impregnated cardboard, or fine steel wool. Commercial products are also available for this at outdoor stores.
The next priority is water. In a backcountry situation, it's not reasonable to carry enough water in your pack for 72 hours. So what you should do is carry a reliable method of water purification. The two items that work best for this are water purification tablets, and personal water filters.
Signaling can be accomplished with visual or audible signaling methods. Low tech, lightweight methods include signal whistles and signal mirrors. High tech methods include handheld or pistol launched aerial flares, signal strobes, and signal lasers.
Food is the lowest priority, because people can generally go several days without food without permanent harm. But if you have room for emergency food, carry a high calorie food source, like a compressed bar that can be stored in heat without melting.
LTK: What is the best way to master important survival skills before they are needed?
RG: Practice, practice, practice. Go out at different times of the year in different places and in different conditions. Challenge yourself to build fires, construct shelters and work on other techniques. This doesn't have to be in the backcountry, it can be in your backyard. This self-training is some of the most valuable experience you can gain. This will help you establish a solid foundation of skills and techniques from which to build on.
LTK: Anything else you'd like to share about outdoor survival?
RG: Survival is more a battle with you than with the environment. Learning individual survival skills is definitely important, but learning how to endure and not give up is even more vital. When you've done all that you think you can do, do a little more. When you've gone as far as you can go, go a little further. When you've taken all that you can take, hang on just a little longer. Transform anger into action, and depression into direction. You'll be surprised by the power this gives you to continue on and survive.
LoveToKnow would like to thank Randy Gerke for sharing his outdoor survival techniques with readers. You can learn more by reading his book, Outdoor Survival Guide, available in paperback or ebook format. If you think you already know about outdoor survival, you'll be surprised at what you don't know.