It is said that experience is a lot lighter than a backpack full of books. The more you carry in your head, the less you will need to carry on your back. If you fail to plan, you are actually planning to fail. There is no shortcut to training, no substitute to preparation, nothing more regrettable than not knowing what to do because you have not practiced the skills before.
There is no shortcut to any place worth going.
You cannot cross a chasm in two small steps. You cannot head into the wilderness with a prayer on your lips, a song in your heart, a skip in your step and the mistaken belief that ‘incidents’ happen to other people. Remember that when you step into the wilderness, into the outback, into the bush, you are in alien territory. You are not used to what the wilderness can throw at you and unless you are prepared to deal with problems, the chance of something going horribly wrong is never too far away.
The reality of a majority of the people is optimism. We are great optimists, even to the extent of being blind to obvious examples to the contrary. One very common response to the question of survival readiness or disaster preparedness, is the oft repeated statement, “It can’t happen to me.” In reality problems happen to a relatively small number of people. So to expect the law of averages to be in your favour is possibly being realistic.
But let us look at a situation where you become a part of that small minority that does get into a problem. Maybe you went out on a picnic when the Heavens opened up and the road was washed away, taking your car with it. You have no idea about where the closest existing roadhead is, where there could be a village or some semblance of civilisation. You do not have a tent or other material to shelter under from the torrential downpour, the food that you were carrying was consumed when it was supposed to have been consumed - at lunch. Your trusty old Swiss Army Knife is in the glove compartment of the car, which is by now probably floating in the river that was not there when you drove in early in the morning. Now you have a problem compounded by the fact that your kids are crying incessantly and your spouse is looking at you questioningly about what to do next.
Suddenly, your world has turned upside down and you wish you knew what to do when faced with such a situation. The optimism you possessed till so recently gets replaced by, “Oh my God, it has happened to me.”
The wilderness can be wonderful, but at the same time can be very unforgiving.
It is criminal to put your life in danger mistakenly believing in the grandeur of your own invincibility. Problems do happen and can happen and probably will happen. This is a reality of life in the outdoors and you disregard it at your own peril. Unfortunately, when you do get into a survival situation, you not only put your own life at risk, but put a lot of other people into anguish. And that is unforgivable. You need to take responsibility for your own actions and safety and you can only do that with utmost confidence when you possess the skills to do so. Not only possess the skills, but have kept yourself abreast of the skills. These skills are not things that you will be using in your everyday life and chances are you will tend to forget them with time. It is always a good idea to spend a day or two, every once in a while to practice your skills. You may not forget how to pitch a tent quite that easily, but you might quite easily forget how to tie knots. You can “see” the knot in your head, know how it should be tied, but when you get around to tying it after a long time, you find that it just does not seem to work. Practice is what will keep you sharp.
And why just the wilderness? You might get into a survival situation in your own backyard. Natural calamities and disasters are a reality that you need to prepare for. You might get caught up in a flood. Or a landslide. Or an earthquake. God forbid, even in a terrorist attack. You will have to find shelter if your home and hearth have been washed away. You will need to build a shelter, find food, light a fire and purify your water. Planning, preparation and practice of the survival essentials are as important during urban disasters too.
Remember the 7 Ps: Proper Planning Preparation and Practice Prevents Possible Problems
Preparation, planning and practice become important when you step into the wilderness and then misfortune strikes and you find yourself having to deal with a host of things that you are not used to or prepared for and do not even know what to do. Panic sets in as quickly and the Sun that you could stare at for hours on a crowded beach watching it set, suddenly rushes towards the horizon. Darkness happens suddenly and creatures come out to hunt. The noise is alien, the terrain unforgiving, the surroundings dark and foreboding. And all around you there are things that are out to get you - things that sting, things that bite, things that kill.
Panic can set in very quickly and you will then have to deal with the devil in your own mind. A rustling palm frond can look a long big black snake. Shadows in the darkness can look like hungry predators coming to get you. The boogie man will come calling. And things that go bump in the dark will prevent you from shutting your eyes. Sleep will be difficult to come by and your eyes staring into the darkness will see things that are not there and make life a misery till the darkness passes by and it becomes light again the next morning. The night can last for a very long time when you wish it would pass quickly. Every minute will seem like an hour, every hour will feel like a day.
You need to be prepared for eventualities in the wilderness that are never far away.
A twisted ankle could lay you up because you are unable to walk. You could have eaten something that resulted in a severe stomach upset and you are close to dehydration with the diarrhoea and vomiting. Night falls quickly and it is difficult to navigate your way out of trouble if you do not know how. Your food can run out because you ate more than what you planned for. You need to learn how to feed yourself from the storehouse that is the outdoors. Most importantly, you need to know what you are getting into and be prepared for it ... before you leave home.
Always remember the 7 Ps of Wilderness Survival - Proper Planning, Preparation and Practice Prevents Possible Problems. Plan before you head out. Prepare for the specific requirements for the geography, terrain and weather you are likely to encounter. Kit yourself for a possible, though unintended, forced night out in the wilderness. Carry the gear that will help you in times of distress. And practice using the items that are in your pack. This will prevent a happy holiday from turning into a horrible nightmare. Turn a survival situation into a self-reliant situation, armed with the knowledge you possess.
If you always remember the 7 Ps of Wilderness Survival, and imbibe each and every one of the Ps, you will have an easier time in the wild. And because you are trained, equipped, prepared and know what to do, chances of anything untoward happening also reduces appreciably. You might end up with the thought that all that planning, preparation and practice was in vain, because nothing untoward happened. But actually nothing untoward happened because you had planned, prepared and practiced. And that is what is important to remember.
Always remember the basics and keep it simple. Life is not as complicated as we sometimes make it out to be. But with inadequate knowledge, it can turn complicated pretty quickly.
And neither is Nature as benign and forgiving as she is most of the time. She does get angry and when she does you can get into a lot of trouble.
In a survival situation it is about maintaining your core body temperature and to stay hydrated. You have to conserve your calories and your energy. Do not run when you can walk. Do not walk when you can rest. When you are making weapons or tools, use the minimum amount of energy and use the minimum amount of tools. Scavenge the area around you. You will be surprised to find how many things you can use. Do not throw away anything that you might have use for later. Multitask your equipment and tools. A hub cap for instance can be used to boil your water, cook your food, dig into the soil, hung on a string at night to make noise deterring animals away, maybe even used as a pillow. A plastic sheet can become your tent. Trash can be your treasure.
You have to learn to think and think on your feet.
In the wilderness, you are making up the rules.
No one can tell you not to use a plastic bottle to boil water in. It is all about using your head, conserving your energy and maintaining core body temperature.
The concept of the 7 Ps works well in daily life too. Whether you are preparing for an examination or a presentation, an interview or a speech in front of a hundred colleagues, a friendly neighbourhood cricket match or a dinner for your in-laws. Almost any situation that you might face in life will become a lot easier to deal with if you plan for it, prepare for it and practice for it. With the knowledge you possess, it will not be a chore but turn into a comparatively more pleasant situation, not necessarily adrenaline induced.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the 7 Ps.