The “Reality” of survival…


This past weekend during a Survival 101 class, one of the participants brought up some interesting points. He is of like mind, but pointed out that a lot of internet survival experts tout that you will not have any gear like a shelter kit, a lighter, or a metal match in a survival scenario. Do yourself a favor and check those guys credentials. Do they have operational Search and Rescue experience? Do they work or live in a remote area where they use those skills daily? I all bullshit on those statements on two accounts.

1. One never hears about situations where people are adequately prepared in a survival scenario, because they usually resolve themselves. By it’s definition, a “survival” event is life threatening. If we carry the right gear and have the right skills, then something that could have progressed into a life-threatening event, just became an inconvenience. A “Real” reality survival show would be boring as hell. It would show someone filling out a trip plan, researching the area and expected weather, taking proper gear, and returning safely. No drama, no drinking their own piss, or jumping off cliffs. Like I said, boring.

2. I have yet to read about “survival” scenario where a person entered the wilderness, non-voluntarily, naked. If you know of an account, please message me the details. If you have clothes, then you probably have pockets, and there is no excuse not to carry some light weight lifesavers. A 55 gallon trash bag weighs 4 ounces, a metal match 2 ounces, and a pimped out Bic lighter in a balloon is 1.5 ounces. The most important signalling item weighs nothing, because you leave it a home with your loved ones.

Making natural shelter, friction fires, and rock boiling water are great skills to have in the toolbox, but to me are a sign someone really screwed up and chose not to properly prepare. I love bushcraft and primitive skills, but I also like to keep them in the proper context. In a prior class, I asked a student what he would have done upon exiting the water, completely soaked and cold. His reply was to start working on a bow drill fire, which he had never attempted, but had seen on multiple TV shows. Now a graduate of Survival 101, he has a better plan and gear that has been executed and used under those exact conditions.

In an earlier post, I described BigPig Outdoors training goals in regards to preparing students.

1. To realize that injury is common theme. Keeping that in mind, we prepare mentally and choose our gear and training accordingly.

2. That realistically, SAR personnel may not reach us until the next operational period and we should train to spend the night out with minimal gear in adverse weather.

3. Rain, sweat, snow or immersion can soak us and our gear, so we choose our mindset, clothing, and gear with that in mind.

By studying and reading about the trials and triumphs of others, we can learn from their experiences. Read below and check back weekly for the “Real” stories of survival.

Injured from fall, 004 “Whiskey” Clay to the rescue – Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (AZ)
Injured Woman Rescued Through Interagency Effort

On the night of February 22nd, rangers responded to a report of visitors hearing screaming in Arch Canyon and began a hasty search along the established visitor trail with assistance from a Border Patrol agent. A Customs and Border Protection helicopter and high-altitude aircraft joined the effort.

About 45 minutes later, two people were spotted from the aircraft, separated by a significant elevation gap. Rangers reached the first person, who was uninjured, and escorted her down to the visitor trail while the agent attempted to find and reach the second person, who was suffering from injuries sustained in a fall of from 20 to 30 feet. She was found a short time later.

Other rangers responded with a litter, medical equipment and SAR equipment. Due to darkness, terrain and the number of personnel engaged, rangers decided to keep the woman comfortable and stay with her throughout the night.

At first light, more rangers arrived on scene along with US Border Patrol agents from the Ajo Station and the Border Patrol Search, Trauma & Rescue (BORSTAR) Team. The joint team began a high-angle rescue operation, lowering the injured woman from a cliff into a more open area. 

The rescuers were joined by an Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter, which short-hauled the woman out of the canyon on a 150-foot line. She was then flown via medical helicopter to a Tucson hospital, where she was treated for two fractured legs, a fractured clavicle and multiple abrasions and lacerations.

This incident was executed using assets from the NPS, Border Patrol, Arizona Department of Public Safety and Native Air Ambulance Service.

[Submitted by Marshall Anderson, Supervisory Park Ranger]

Missing skier attempts snow shelter:

Hikers trapped by flood waters:

Unprepared hiker has anxiety attack and leads to hypothermia:

Lost “trampers” (New Zealand word for hikers):

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