26 January 2014

Adapt. Improvise. Overcome. A Survival Mindset

Adapt. Improvise. Overcome.

A Survival Mindset

Survival, what is it?? What is survival training?? What do we need to know?? How do we avoid survival gimmicks??

Survival is the art of information management, more specifically the management of knowledge. Survival is a state-of-mind, more than a set of skills. Yes, having skills is important to surviving, but not the most important. The most important tool in your survival kit is your mind!!

It is the training/programming of our mind that is the key to survival in any situation, in any climate, in any season, on any part of the planet Earth. Your mind must be trained/programmed to be constantly observing the world around you, taking in the changing conditions (weather, politics, economics, etc) and constantly assessing what level of risk these change present to you and your family. Your mind needs to be interpreting the risks and devising strategies to avoid or mitigate each risk. This happens hundreds to thousands a time each day, every day.

Should you take a wilderness survival course?? Yes. In fact, you should take every survival course you can afford to take. You should also take courses on first aid, to the highest possible level. Navigation. Languages. Threat analysts & Risk assessments. Communication. Shelters & Construction. Water & Purification. Energy & Generation. History. Politics. Economics. And How Things Work.

As I stated at the beginning, Survival is the art of information/knowledge management. The more you know, the more situations you can survive. Here are two examples:

#1. Lighting a fire. There are hundreds of techniques to light a fire. Fire is important because it can keep you warm in cool/cold climates, it can cook your food and it can be used to boil water to purify it so it is safe to drink. If you only know how to start a fire with a gallon of gasoline and a strike anywhere match, if you do not have a match or gasoline you will not survive. If on the other hand, you have mastered a fire bow, flint & steel or a 9V battery with steel wool, you options for lighting a fire are 300% greater. (Never trust the use of percentages in written material.) So, the more methods of lighting a fire, the better chance you have for success and survival. Thus the skill of fire lighting is important, it is having your mind programmed with as many methods of starting a fire and being able to access that knowledge that is most important.

#2. Driving Routes. What does driving and survival have in common, you may ask. First, it is the process of programming your mind correctly and second, transportation during a crisis or natural disaster may determine who gets to safety and who becomes a statistic. For the purpose of this exercise you live in suburbia or a bedroom community to a major urban centre. On a good day, the commute is 43 minutes from your driveway to the parking lot at work. If you only know one route to work/home and you do not listen to the road reports on the trip to or fro; eventually, there will be a traffic snare-up that causes your route to become clogged with vehicles. The 43 minutes becomes 2 hours and your boss is choked because you missed the meeting with the most important client your firm has ever had. And since you had the presentation on why the partnership would benefit both companies, your absence lost your company the opportunity to grow. Or worse, because you were late getting home your 9 year old daughter, who after waiting for more than an hour sitting on the front porch, accepted an invitation to enter the home of a friendly chap. Seemed like a nice guy, but now pictures of your naked daughter are floating around cyber-space. Cause and effect. It all comes down to managing information and knowledge. If you knew 36 different routes home and listened to the traffic report you could adapt your route to streets with less traffic and you would be home in an hour and a quarter, instead of 2+ hours. Transportation, whether hiking a long trail system or driving a regular route; the more information you have at the time, the better your decisions are for adjusting your route to the current conditions. This is survival thinking, having a survival mindset.

The mind is your survival toolbox, the more tools you put in, the greater chance of survival/success in any given situation. Physical tools can be improvised from the environment around us. Again, the more knowledge you have the better your chances. If you need an axe, one could be fashioned from a chunk of scrap metal and a willow branch, the axe head tied in place with a shoe lace. But if you have no idea how tools are made/constructed, then even having all the components laying around will not help if do not recognize them.

So, what do you need to know?? You need to know what can and will kill you – any day, everyday. We have the rules of three's:

  • 3 minutes without oxygen you die
  • 3 hours without shelter you die
  • 3 days without water you die
  • 3 weeks without food you die
  • 3 months without companionship you die

Base you quest for knowledge on the rule of three's. Learn first aid, to the highest level. If you or someone you care about cannot breathe they die. There is no sugar coating this. Shelter includes the clothes you wear everyday, as well as, any structure you work, play or live-in that provides a controlled environment – constant temperature, protection from the wind, rain or snow. Know how to make water safe to drink. If the water stops coming out of the taps at the kitchen sink you know how-to get water for your family and make it safe for them to drink. Food. This is one of the least important items during a short-term survival situation. The fact is most people in North America and Europe could survival at least 2 weeks without any food at all. Our culture has become fat and lazy, going hungry once in a while would do most folks a whole world of good. Know what it feels like to be hungry. It won't kill you to miss a few meals every now and then. Most folks put more food in the trash each week than the hungry of the world eat each week. Ponder that if you will. Last on our list, companionship, humans are social animals, they thrive with a certain amount of social interaction. Isolation can be made bearable if some form of communication can be established with someone else. Some people require less interaction than others. If you want to test yourself, see how long you can resist watching TV, listening to the radio, checking your Facebook or e-mail, calling on the phone, going out for coffee or any similar activities. Could you stay in your own home for a whole weekend without social contact with anyone else?? Only you can answer this question. If the answer is no. You may want to add to your survival preparations – start/join a community of like-minded folks. So, you can survive with others and then you will not be alone.

You are taking courses, reading, learning, doing. Your mind is a hive of activity. You have plans, back-up plans and plans to back them up, too. You can light a fire on an ice cube in a gale. You can convert a scrapyard into a convention centre. You can even teach others how-to start training their survival mind-set. But what about all that cool gear. Everyone sells it. You can find survival gear on Amazon.com, at the hardware store, the fishing & hunting stores, camping shops, heck, even some grocery stores have a survival section now-a-days. How do I separate the gimmicks from the really useful survival tools?? And what tools do I need?? Let's start by separating the chaff from the wheat, so to speak. No, you do not have to throw your gear into the wind. First, look at the quality of the materials and the quality of the construction. Just cause it costs more does not mean it is made better or made from superior materials. You need the knowledge of how things are made and what constitutes quality materials. Fancy packaging and big claims by marketing firms does not equate to a quality piece of gear. That is just hype. If a product requires hype to sell it, the item is probably a piece-of-crap. Don't buy hype or into the hype.

Quality gear, build/made by quality manufactures will cost more than cheap, assembly-line products from China. But you have to know what to look for on any given piece of gear. Sometimes, the no name made in China product is the exact same piece of gear sold by XYZ Corp from Little Town, USA. If you know your stuff, deals can be had and pitfalls avoided; but that success or failure rests on your shoulders. How you spend your money will determine what gear is available. If it doesn't sell, they stop making it – this is a double-edged sword. If you do not buy quality gear from quality gear makers they will go out of business. If you buy the cheapest gear that crud will never go away. Use your purchasing power wisely. The peak of quality gear is learning how-to make it yourself. Once you can build a knife from scratch, or a backpack/gear vest or a log cabin, you can fend for yourself without Wal-Mart, Costco or the internet.

Adapt. Improvise. Overcome. The three words you hear all the time when you are soldier learning to survive on a battlefield. Failure is not an option. Failure = death, your death. You learn to adapt to your surroundings. Improvise whatever you have in your hands, rucksack or on the ground around you. Overcome any and all obstacles that stand between you and your objective. 

Keep your head in the game,
And you live another day!



18 January 2014

Building Your Own Gear Pouch

Finally, making gear again. Might be short lived, but I am enjoying it none-the-less.

So, if you have recently added new gear to your personal gear inventory and you need to protect that gear between uses......maybe you need to build a custom pouch or case. 

I received this Cree L.E.D. Headlamp and I really like it, but I don't want the lens scratched when I am not using it. Time to build a new gear pouch.

First things first, we need a plan or pattern to work from......
 With the aid of a basic measuring device we discover that the headlamp needs a pouch with an interior about 3" wide and 5" tall and 2" deep. We note this in our notebook. Then we decide how much seam allowance will be needed. Which is about a 1/4" on all sides being sewn.

We also decide that low density foam between the inner and outer layers of Cordura would help absorb shock and a bit of fleece would prevent scratches to the headlamp lens. 

The pouch will employ a Velcro closing belt loop and a side-release buckle for securing the headlamp inside the pouch.

Using tailor's chalk we measure & draw the pieces onto the Cordura. Cut.
Next the fleece is added. Then the foam is sandwiched between the inner and outer layers of Cordura. Since we are just tacking this in-place, you can just zig-zag around the edges. Add any webbing, buckles or similar items to each component - front, back, side.

I like to build each component first. Once all components are complete, then I start to assemble the pouch. First sew the front panel to the sides - lining up top edges and centre line marks, pin in-place.

Next add the sides to the back panel. Once complete, finish the raw edges with nylon seam binding tape.
Once the whole pouch is assembled, do a test fit to ensure that your gear will fit in the pouch. Yeah, it fits!!

Last steps, use a candle flame to remove lose threads and to erase the chalk lines.

There you have it. A couple hours of your time and you have designed and crafted a custom gear pouch from start to finish.

Until next time........If you can't afford it or no one else builds it, build your own custom gear!!