Monday, January 25, 2021

Survival - Will To Live - Knowledge

Over the past 30+ years, I have spent a lot of time in the outdoors, and I have loved every minute of it. In the beginning, and by the time I was 10 years old, I was spending time exploring the badlands in what is now part of Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan. My boyhood friends and I learnt about the wildlife that lived in and around these grasslands, and that included knowing the differences between the different species of snakes and what to do if you got bit by a rattlesnake (its better not to). We found out at a early age what the plants were that grew on the prairies, and learnt that some of these plants like cactus had edible berries. We filled up on these berries when we forgot to bring a lunch with us while exploring these grasslands. Once I had finished school and reached the lofty age of eighteen and had left home, I continued my outdoor activities and education, but just in a different province.
In Alberta I discovered the Rockies and what a wonderful place to continue my outdoor education in survival and how to find my way in the wilderness. I also became a avid fly-fisherman, and continue to explore and fish the streams that are found along the Eastern Slope of the Rockies to this day. Long before Kananaskis Country existed in name, I was visiting the Kananaskis Lakes area, where I explored the surrounding back-country. This required carrying a pack with the necessary equipment to camp out in the backcountry. Once we had camp set up, and a proper cache for our food hung out of reach of the bears, we would rig our fly-rods and go about catching a couple of trout for supper. I cannot remember a time that I have been happier than when I am spending time in the outdoors.
So I could continue with the history lesson on how I spent the past 30+ years, and what I have learnt while out and about, but what I really wanted to mention is there are a certain number of things that you should know and carry with you when you leave the beaten path. Heck, you should have basic survival skills, and carry some of the gear that will keep you safe whenever you leave home, no matter what your destination on the day. There are many ways for you to acquire some of these skills, but the first thing you could do, is acquire a copy of the book "SAS" by John Wiseman, who served in the British Special Air Service for twenty-six years. The SAS Survival Handbook is based on the training techniques of this world-famous fighting force. I have 3 different editions of his book, several that are older editions, one dating back to 1986. My one copy is a backpack size, and that copy resides in my survival kit, where it is an easy reach if needed. It also makes great reading while I'm lying in my sleeping bag. The latest revised edition is the one you want. Of course I could go on talking about some of the gear that I have with me always, like topo maps for the different areas of southern Alberta. Don't forget your compass, and do know how to use it in conjunction with a map, as these skills will get you home when you become disoriented (like lost) when out hiking for the day. You can bring you favorite gps device, but don't stake your life on it, or you will lose. You can carry one, but back it up with a map and compass. A good flashlight is indispensable when you find yourself caught out after dark while you have been out hiking into that back-country lake, where the fishing was to die for and you stayed way to late. <
Of course it goes without saying that you need a good knife, and that can be a fixed blade knife or a good folder. Multi-use tools are ok, but I still carry a single purpose knife as well. Learn how to forecast the weather, and it will serve you well, as you will be aware of what's coming based on the observations you make by studying the sky, You want to learn to read what the clouds are telling you, where the wind is blowing from, including changes in the wind direction, as well other signs that indicate changes in the weather. There are good books available on forecasting weather. Because I have always loved observing weather, and have owned weather instruments for years, that includes an instrument shelter in my yard, as well as wind direction indicator and an anemometer on my roof, along with a self emptying electronic rain bucket. So how could I leave home without some means of electronic device to help me forecast the weather. I don't, and my favorite instrument is pictured above, that being my Kestrel 3500 handheld weather station, which is a very capable weather instrument that provides very precise current readings for Barometric Pressure, Altitude, Temperature, Relative Humidity, Dew Point, and Wind Chil.:
So now that we have the weather covered, you need a wristwatch to keep track of the time, and for this you don't want just any watch, but a mechanical powered watch which are becoming scarce today unless you spend the money for a quality one, or you still have your grandfathers favorite wristwatch (I do) although its best kept it as a keepsake. Why a manual watch you ask, its exactly that, no batteries to depend on, and if you go with a automatic wind model like the one pictured here, you do not need to remember to wind it. If you purchase a manual wind watch, make sure you buy one with luminous hands and numbers, as it much more convenient than always needing to use your flashlight to read the time at night. Also make sure its waterproof. Did you know that you can use a analog (with hands) watch to find direction? Of course it goes without saying, that if your a ham, and you probably are if your reading this, you own an HT. A radio is a valuable asset to carry with you when your in the backcountry, and do learn how to use it properly. If there are several people in your group, make sure everyone has their HT's set to the same frequency, and also have a backup frequency that everyone is aware of. Nice to have is an HT that has APRS capabilities as its a possibility that it could save your life, as long as you made someone aware of your plans before leaving home. Don't forget extra batteries for your HT as well.
Speaking of batteries, everyone should be aware of what is proper radio protocol when using a radio, as most people talk on way to long on the radio. So write down what you have to say before using the radio, and you will find the batteries will last longer. So on a final note, as the world has evolved we seem to have forgotten how important survival skills are, and our need to be prepared for anything. Having survival skills is something you can take with you anywhere, and knowing what to do in an emergency can keep you safe.

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