Wilderness Survival Part VIII: Basic Survival Skills and Orienting

Our wilderness survival expert reviews basic survival skills he's covered in the past and provides advice on keeping your bearings in unfamiliar settings.

| May/June 1985

  • wilderness survival - seated by shelter
    A good snug, shelter ā€” such as the simple debris hut shown here ā€” is the first requirement of wilderness survival.
  • wilderness survival - starting a fire
    After building a shelter you might want a fire. A bow drill is one method of starting one.
  • wilderness survival - natural landmark
    Landmarks such as this one are the street signs of the wilderness.

  • wilderness survival - seated by shelter
  • wilderness survival - starting a fire
  • wilderness survival - natural landmark

Many of you will recall our popular seven-part series on basic survival skills, "At Home in the Wilderness," which appeared in MOTHER EARTH NEWS from September/October 1981 through September/October 1982 (issue numbers 71 through 77). We're pleased to announce that its creator, outdoor expert Tom Brown Jr. (author of The Tracker, The Search, and Tom Brown's Guide to Wilderness Survival, and director of one of the country's largest tracking and wilderness survival schools), has agreed to resume the series for our readers. In the issues to come, Tom will strive to provide us all with a deeper, more intimate understanding of nature and the art of survival.

At Home in the Wilderness

Survival training involves far more than just learning basic survival skills necessary to endure hardship. The mechanics of constructing a shelter, finding food and water, and building a fire are crucial, but they're only part of the whole. The art of survival is a dynamic philosophy unto itself, a doorway to greater understanding of yourself and the world in which you live.

Sadly, the conveniences our civilization has devised have separated most of us from nature. Because we no longer have to live directly from the earth, because we no longer have to hunt and gather our food, many of us no longer understand the web of life. People buy apples in a supermarket, but fail to acknowledge the tree from which the fruit was plucked or the energy drawn from the soil to produce that fruit. They buy bread but fail to see the wheat, first growing green in the fields, then turning golden and ripe, and finally falling at harvest. They buy meat neatly packaged in plastic trays, never thinking of the animals sacrificed.

This is not only regrettable, but also dangerous. As a species, the more we remove ourselves from nature, the more likely we are to unthinkingly abuse and destroy it. And as individuals, we place ourselves at risk each time we enter the natural world without a full knowledge of the ancient truths and realities of that world.

Granted, you may never be faced with a life-or-death situation. You may never need to actually use any of the skills you'll develop from survival training. But the attitude and perspective you'll gain while mastering those skills will be useful to you always. Because in order to learn how to survive, you must learn how to reconnect yourself with nature. And in so doing, you will become a much more aware, involved, vital creature of the Earth.

A Review

In my initial series of articles for MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I covered the fundamental techniques involved in providing shelter, food and water, and fire. In the features to come, I'll expand upon each of those subjects and explore a number of other areas of knowledge that can help keep you and your family alive during trying times.


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