[Editor’s note: Today we finish up our feature post by one of our sponsors, OzarkMountainPreparedness.com. If you’re anywhere nearby Arkansas then I encourage you to attend a class to brush up on skills or even learn new ones like me. You may read his author bio at the bottom of this post.]
Shelter is needed to protect and regulate core body temperature; 98.6F. The inability to regulate core temp will lead to death through either hypothermia or hyperthermia. Without spending a lot of time on these conditions, suffice to say that a body temperature swing by roughly 10 degrees in either direction will kill you. Look for a shelter location that is safe and the most conducive to comfort and survival. Avoid areas on ridges and in canyons due to weather conditions such as lightning and flash flooding. Always look overhead for aerial hazards like widow makers and loose rock. Choose the geographical aspect that will offer you the appropriate temperatures for the season. South facing slopes offer more sunshine and warmth whereas the north face tends to be shadier and cooler. Adding a large trash bag, USGI poncho, space blanket, or small tarp to your kit will go a long way in getting you out of the elements. One hundred feet of 550 Cord rounds out a way to secure your tarp/poncho. Another recommendation is to always have a wool or fleece jacket and a poncho liner in your pack/bag; even in the hot, humid summer. If you are unprepared or have the inclination, constructing a debris hut, wikiup, or leanto is an option. These shelters rely on natural material for the structure and the thermal insulation needed to regulate body temperature. The more leaf litter and pine duff, the more insulation and weather resistance. Whatever shelter system you choose, ensure that it will be effective in staving off the wind, rain, intense sun, and other weather phenomena that can compromise life.
Medical concerns need to be addressed in the survival kit as well. A medical emergency can happen at any time and may be the reason for the survival situation in the first place. Couple that with the usual bumps and knocks from living outdoors and can see why it is so important to prepare for injuries. Therefore, a well-stocked first aid kit is a must for anyone heading to the field. Most pre-packaged first aid kits are basically just a few adhesive bandages, some tape, and a packet or two of pain reliever. Skip them and assemble your own using high quality components and tools that will actually perform should the need arise. First aid supplies to treat trauma and deal with the everyday injuries of blisters, sprains, minor cuts, burns, etc. should be included. Don’t forget to add prescription medications if there is anyone in your party that requires them. If you are dead set on purchasing a premade kit, there are a few outfits that specialize in backcountry medicine and offer quality kits tailored to emergencies in the field. The two that come to mind are Atwater Carey and Adventure Medical Kits. In conjunction with a quality first aid kit, I highly recommend seeking professional wilderness medical training. There are several national organizations that offer courses in wilderness medicine and nationally recognized certifications. The two most popular are NOLS and SOLO. The Advanced Wilderness First Aid certification is the minimum standard I recommend.
Signaling is an often overlooked component of survival education and survival kits. It’s all fine and good to have a plentiful wood supply stacked neatly next to your roaring fire, a lake full of clear water and easy to catch fish, a veritable garden of edible plants, a picture perfect debris hut and tarp shelter, and be in good health with no injuries. But this is a survival situation and you want to go home! You need to have the means to signal for help and let people know you would like a little help getting out of the predicament you are currently in. I like low-tech devices/methods to get someone’s attention. Signal mirrors, whistles, hot pink surveyors tape, smoke grenades, flare pistols, etc. Spreading your collection of gear out around the camp will also draw attention to your location. It was once common knowledge that anything in a cluster of three meant “Help”, but not so many people adhere to that practice anymore. Give it a try though because the aviation and marine communities are still packed with the proverbial old guys who abide by those standards. Three whistle blasts, gunshots, mirror flashes, signal fires, etc. all indicate the need for assistance. Do anything you can to attract attention and lead a rescue party in.
That about covers the basic techniques and equipment needed to make it through a short-term situation. Combining those skills and tidbits of gear with a positive mental attitude and a good knife ensures a high probability of coming home alive. Of course this has been a very condensed view into the world of wilderness survival. There was no talk in depth talk about knives, dangerous wildlife, seasonal weather patterns, navigation, xyz gizmo whizbang gear, etc. Don’t fret because this is just the first of many articles to come in which I’ll delve deeper into the many facets of survival and bushcraft; from foraging for wild edibles to brain tanning hides. I’ll discuss the good and bad of certain pieces of equipment, fire by friction, land navigation techniques, flint knapping, water procurement and purification, and other topics of interest to folks looking to lead a more self-reliant and prepared lifestyle. If you’d like to participate in professional survival training, please visit the website of Ozark Mountain Preparedness, LLC for more information at www.ozarkmountainpreparedness.com. Until next time, take care and God Bless! Jerry
Jerry Ward Bio
Jerry Ward is the owner and operator of Ozark Mountain Preparedness, LLC located in Berryville, Arkansas. He has been teaching survival skills since 2004 and opened Ozark Mountain Preparedness in 2010. Before becoming a full-time survival skills instructor he worked as a rock climbing guide, wildland firefighter and gunsmith. Jerry studied wildlife biology at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He is an avid fur trapper and student of history. His outdoor pursuits have taken him all around the United States and abroad, including fur trapping in Alaska, fighting wildfire in the American West, researching primitive cultures in the Desert Southwest, trekking the rainforests of Belize, and exploring the Highlands of Scotland. He has been featured in numerous publications, including Currents and American Survival Guide magazines. Jerry is a member of The Wilderness Medical Society and The Society of Primitive Technology. He can be reached via the web at http://ozarkmountainpreparedness.com or phone at (870)350-6995.