Sunday, January 15, 2012

Basic Survival - Bug Out Bag: A Lesson In Forethought - Just In Case



Song:  A Pillow Of Winds

Group:  Pink Floyd


Why am I talking of an immediate retrieval survival bag (Bug Out Bag)?

Because everything in life comes to naught...
if you and your family are not prepared 
for a worse case scenario.

It is also part of rational way of thinking...
to prepare for the long term (survival)
over the short (temporary cost).

Is it rational to plan for a situation that will most probably (statistically)
not happen in a person's lifetime?

First And Foremost...
never play the odds when it comes to the safety and security of your family.

Statistics mean nothing when it happens to you...
and when it does...
well, enough said.

One question...

How many times in your life have you had something occur...
that you had previously thought...
now what are the odds of something like that happening?

And then when it happened, you had thought...
by the gods...
I wish I had...!
I could have, had I just...!
Why had I not thought of that earlier?!


Second...
when considering the cost of a Bug Out Bag (minimal)...
compared to the benefit (immense)...
how could you not have one for each family member?

Third...
it is also used for camping (an immediate return on your investment...
as well as providing item familiarity, making the use of the equipment
intuitive in times of high stress).

Fourth...
it is insurance against failure of a relied upon, commonly provided
societal service... or even your own vehicle while traveling in desolate areas.

Fifth...
If you need any more convincing...
read the first point.


It is precisely because of rationality that one should look at life as
 a risk / cost / benefit ratio.  

One must prepare for something that may
threaten the safety and security of oneself and one's family...
especially when the benefit is so high...
the monetary cost so low...
the risk so real.

Another important reason I am including Basic Survival in my articles...
it is precisely the rational thinking and forethought involved in the...
long range planning of possible unknowns
and the adaptation and improvisation necessary to effect
a survivable scenario in an otherwise unsurvivable situation
that is so valuable to teach children.

I have been teaching Alex the basics whenever we go camping...
although we have only gone a few times so far.

As time goes on...
I shall teach him ever more...
and have him teach what he has learned to his mother
(one of the best ways to ensure retainment of information learned
is to have to put together and present a class on the topic).

OK...
just what is a Bug Out Bag?

There are many types...
and even sub-types depending on your particular needs...
your surroundings...
potential dangers...etc.

I will just talk about a basic Bug Out Bag...
one that has the basics of survival in areas throughout most of the world...
one where a person could survive on his own until rescue or he is able
to walk his way out to civilization...
or even, if need be...
to be able to survive for longer periods in most areas...
except the most inhospitable ones.

A good Bug Out Bag includes items that provide
for the immediate term...
and most importantly...
for the long term by allowing you to use the surroundings
to get or make everything you need...
including more tools.

More expensive ones would include...
emergency field medical / surgical kits...
basic medications / antibiotics...
firearms...etc.

In later articles I will cover useful items to include after the basics 
have been established.

You must keep in mind...
I am NOT, by any means, an expert in survival.

I will talk to you of merely the basics as dictated by common sense...
and by what I have extracted from my 4 years in the U.S. Army (1977 - 1981)
as a Light Infantryman (non-mechanized) and in the later portion
of my Army stint...as a Battalion Scout (Reconnaissance Platoon)...
and from what I have learned on my own after the Army
(researched and then applied while in the wilderness).


I have practical experience in...
 Temperate Forests...
Jungles...
Mountains (during Winter)...
and limited Desert experience.

I have trained in various portions of the U.S...
and in areas of the Pacific during the extreme
portions of their climate for training...
Summer in the Jungles of the Philippines...
Winters in the Mountains of Korea and New Zealand (our summer - their winter)...
Winter in the mountains of Oahu 
(yes, it gets quite cold when you are completely wet and high winds blow constantly)
windy and rainy conditions for a solid week
on mountain ridges and in rivers with little food...
almost zero sleep...
non-stop night and day...
with no rain gear (makes noise)...
high stress conditions and high fatigue levels
(during the Hell Week portion of a longer and particularly tough
specialized military school - Recondo). 

Again...
this only qualifies me to talk of what it is to be...
freezing cold...
cold and wet...
hot...
hot and humid...
for weeks at a time...
and to hate it so much that I learned that
I never wished to be so uncomfortable again.

Ah...
the power of Negative Reinforcement.

I learned how to be comfortable in such environments
because of the situations I was initially placed in.

Now to establish that I have experienced what I speak of...
I must tell you where I had accumulated much of my knowledge.

I have trained in various specialized military schools...
the most valuable of which was Recondo.

It was modeled after the SOG / MACV Recondo School of the Vietnam era
(my class was in the winter of 1978 - three years after the end of the war)...
and my particular school was in the eastern hills and mountains
of Oahu, Hawaii - part of the 25th Inf. Division.

The initially 2-3 week Recondo school of Vietnam was lengthened
 to 5 weeks after the war...and conducted in the U.S. thereafter
(17 hour days - 7 days a week - 24 hrs a day during the 7 day Hell Week).

It was a condensed Ranger School (8 weeks to 5 weeks)...
everything that was taught in Ranger School was taught in Recondo...
except we combined the swamp and mountain phases into a
river and mountain phase.

Both, the Ranger and Recondo Schools, 
 used and learned everything in the Ranger Handbook.

All of our instructors were Vietnam combat veterans and were either
Ranger or Special Forces qualified.

Recondo was a school that specialized in teaching
the planning and execution of small unit operations
(Forward of friendly and also behind enemy lines...
 Reconnaissance / Raids / Ambushes...
for extended periods of time).

A skill that was particularly stressed was in the reading of the land...
by looking at the terrain and knowing which direction of travel would
be the easiest to traverse with the least risk of injury or energy expenditure 
and to be able to navigate in various landscapes to specified points
using a compass and a topographical map (GPS was not in use at that time)...
and at night... without the use of flashlights
(except a red lens under cover to look at the map).

However...
we had to rely on memory of the lay of the land and render the map into a 3-D
picture in our minds to be able to match it to the major terrain features...
as that was all we could see at night most of the times.

This was a school that was so physically and psychologically demanding...
one that had taught so much
and had extracted that knowledge under such arduous conditions...
one that had not tolerated failure...
that out of 50 experienced Infantry soldiers in my class...
only 18 made it to the end
(injuries / earlier failures / had given up)...
and then another 5 failed Hell Week 
(the final exam - either planning the mission... 
moving toward the objective, or executing the mission...
one after the next - 7 days and nights non stop...
all practical application of everything learned 
under as real life conditions as could be).

Only 13 of us had graduated.
I was willing to put up with any amount of pain or suffering to get
the brand (patch) I was awarded.  I had worn it with such
great pride for the rest of my time in the Army.

Ah...
the power of Positive Reinforcement  :)

It taught us to be self reliant, self contained...
and most of all...
to work as a group...
to lead others...
to be able to adapt to the situations and surroundings...
 to improvise from our surroundings to get what is not readily available...
and to never give up.

These are what apply so valuably to the basic survival I will talk of
 in some of my later articles.

Again...
I talked of this to give you the background from which I draw my knowledge...
and to let you know that it comes from practical experience...
and not merely theory.

My body knows what it is to be physically drained...
little food, harsh physical conditions...
very little sleep...
and how to operate on a high level intellectually
(meticulously plan various operations...
adapt to constantly changing scenarios...
improvising on the go)...
while under extreme physical and psychological conditions
for extended periods of time.

I know what it is to be thoroughly cold, fatigued, stressed
(I was starting to hallucinate due to a lack of sleep and great fatigue
4 days into Hell Week...with 3 more days to go)...
and how the body and mind reacts under these conditions.

These are conditions that are to be expected in a true survival scenario.


Now...
while I was in no real danger of losing my life
while training in the military due to climatic conditions
(medical assistance just a radio call away...
helicopter transport / trained medics...good gear provided...training...etc)...
to be on your own without the support of an organization
that is prepared to handle such situations...
 is a whole different story.

 Know that the most valuable piece of survival equipment is...
your mind (aptitude and attitude).

With the aptitude to know how to use your equipment...
how to adapt to the situation...
to be able to change the situation through improvisation...
 if adaptation is not an option...
 the attitude of never giving up...
and especially...
arming yourself with foreknowledge and thorough preparation...
your chance of survival goes way up.



And so...
the Bug Out Bag
(To Bug Out - a term referring to scoot at a moments notice...
as a bug does when danger approaches it).

The bag will allow you to also
scoot at a moments notice because...
it will contain the necessities of survival...
all in one easily transportable sack.




Just one example of a very good Bug Out Bag.

This is a military duffle bag.

It is very durable...
able to contain far more than hiking backpacks...
can be carried for long distances
(although in a survival situation...where the terrain permits...
you would construct a drag frame to limit fatigue and to permit
easy tracking by rescuers)...
and it is inexpensive.

This type of bag goes for just $25.00 or so on-line (such as on Amazon)...
or from a local Army surplus store.

I bought one for each member of my family
( a larger diameter one - about the same price ).

While it is naturally water repellent...
you could also apply more...
and you would keep the contents in separate water proof bags.

A Bug Out Bag...
 must be able to contain all of your immediate survival needs securely
and without undue degradation in harsh conditions
(besides from the climate...from friction and abrasion)...
must be repairable in the field in case of mishap
(more on a repair kit later)...
 must be issued to each member
(and each taught the use of each piece of equipment)
in case of separation
and for multiple redundancy.

I must stress that the equipment must be durable.

You must be able to rely upon them under harsh conditions...
and to be able to repair them should they break in the field.

There are many pieces of equipment sold for hiking...
mountain climbing...
and camping.

However...
 what many pieces of equipment are optimized for is...
compactness and lightness...
not necessarily ruggedness.

Most people go camping or hiking under controlled conditions...
where a failure of equipment will just inconvenience them.

I will talk of pieces of equipment that are reliable...
because of their ruggedness.

It is hard to go wrong with what the military uses in many cases.

It goes through tough use and must last
(however you must watch out for fake military equipment...
many are cheap remakes...not at all rugged).

However...
also know that the military has multiple types of equipment
depending on the environment it is to be used in.

They have gear that is used in warmer climates...
while different gear is used for Arctic conditions.

Just getting something because it is Army issued
without knowing the climate it is used for...could be disastrous.

Now...
some very basic survival principles
(I will go into each in more detail later).

1)  Unless you are in an area of extremely arid and hot conditions...
without water available to be extracted from the environment
(more on that later)...
the fastest and most frequent killer of people lost in the wilderness...
is exposure.

Exposure prevention is frequently priority number one.


2)  The next highest priority is clean water
(note...clean water.  You could die of dehydration
or electrolyte imbalance due to severe diarrhea and vomiting
while camped next to a lake or stream
that appears clear but has certain protozoans or other infectious agents in it...
as many do).

You must know how to secure water...
purify it...
transport it.

3)  The next order of priority is food.
This is less of a problem than most people think...
you just have to be able to eat what many think is inedible...
or are so repulsed as to not even consider it.

Know that caloric intake need is dramatically increased in colder weather...
and that food is a great protector against exposure if you have enough of the
right types...and if the climate is not too extreme.


4)  The fourth area of priority is prevention and protection...
from mishap and from predators and venomous creepy crawlies.

Being able to treat medical emergencies...
especially to be able to stabilize a broken or strained limb...
can make all the difference between being able to get yourself out...
or waiting to die.

Of course...
the order of priority changes depending on your environment
and which situations you are prepared for.

In warm areas with water and food...
but high in predators...
or other dangerous animals (venomous creatures)...
the priority shifts...
as does what your equipment and knowledge shall dictate
what you may extract from the environment.

5)  Fire is your friend.
Know how to make it by various means...
and how to use it to prevent being...
 overtaken by exposure...
overtaken by illness due to inability to purify water
or to cook questionable food...
and to know how to use it to signal for rescue
(not only through smoke or visible light at night...
but through the great infrared signature given off...
especially at night or during cold conditions...
search parties use infrared detectors from aircraft and on the ground).

6)  Know what the dangers are in your area...
so you may adequately prepare.

7)  The last one is knowing how to get yourself back to civilization
by knowing how to navigate your way in the right direction
and in a safe manner.

When thinking of securing sustenance...
it is always a game of energy expenditure vs. energy gained.

If you lose more calories or water than what is to be gained...
move on.

If you come to an area rich in a resource...
plan to fill up there and stock up transportable amounts
before you leave.

Two basic rules apply....

1)  For securing great amounts of food to preserve...
trapping is far more efficient in securing food than is hunting...
unless you are a very experienced woodsman or hunter...
with a good rifle and in an area rich in game.

This includes fish traps
(funneling of fish into fish baskets by making a stream dam with an opening 
just for the fish trap)
unless you place out enormous numbers of hooked and baited lines
to check on.

2)  If you've far to travel to civilization...
and no reliable means of securing your food and water exits...
you must be able to preserve and transport what you can secure.

A general rule...
in cold or hazardous travel conditions...
walk by day...
stop early enough before dusk to prepare your camp...
including gathering enough firewood to last the night.

In desert conditions...
travel by night...
 sleep by day...
underground.

One last general rule...
regardless of your climate...
one means of exposure prevention lies under the ground.

The earth...
besides providing insulation from cold...
it provides insulation from heat...
and keeps up humidity levels in both extremes...
greatly decreasing the amount of water lost during respiration.

It also provides a food source in many areas...
worms and grubs.

It also contains moisture, in many areas, that can be extracted by various means.

And yes...
the means to do these and much more...
shall be in your Bug Out Bag.

This was just a general overview of principles.

For specific equipment other than the bag itself...
I shall be covering them in greater detail in later articles.

Even should you never use the equipment...
your peace of mind...
and the lessons learned by your children in proper planning...


2 comments:

  1. Very interesting to read about your background and training in the Army. Explains a lot! :)

    I had never thought of a Bug Out Bag before. But, I like the idea of being prepared for the worst case scenario.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes, it is extremely important...especially in environments where the weather can be extreme. It is also a great way to involve children in the planning of the contents and the usage of them. For a young child, it is high adventure to help plan and to experience the outdoors. It was all I could dream about as a child. I love the outdoors and the adventures to be had from the challenges presented while in differing environments.

    The most valuable lesson is having forethought...and the effects of not having planned well.

    ReplyDelete

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