For those of you who haven’t read Hatchet, the basic plot is this: A teenage city boy named Brian Robeson crashes in the middle of the Canadian wilderness while flying in a bush plane. The pilot dies, and the boy lives. All alone in the wilderness, Brian must learn how to survive in the wild for 54 days with nothing but a hatchet.
That sounds like a worthy read, on a par with James Wesley Rawles’ Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse as far as an explanation of skills worthy of learning for disaster preparedness. I always enjoy these sorts of novels, because they serve as a blueprint for what equipment and skills are useful in survival situations.
Wilderness Survival Lessons
Take Inventory of Your Supplies
It kept coming back to that. He had nothing. Well, almost nothing. As a matter of fact, he thought, I don’t know what I’ve got or haven’t got. Maybe I should try and figure out just how I stand.
Everything you have on your person is a potential survival tool. When Brian did his inventory, he had a torn parka, shoes, his trusty hatchet, a $20 bill, a pair of jeans, and a t-shirt. Not much. But with some creativity and ingenuity, he used a shoelace to fashion a bow and arrow and the $20 bill and hatchet to start a fire without matches. Follow Brian’s lead. Take advantage of everything you have.
Get Your Head Right
Brian had once had an English teacher, a guy named Perpich, who was always talking about being positive, thinking positive, staying on top of things… Brian thought of him now- wondered how to stay positive and stay on top of things.
Maintaining a positive attitude is perhaps the hardest and most important wilderness survival skill to develop. Studies have shown that when people adopt a positive attitude “their thinking is more creative, integrative, flexible, and open to information.” Moreover, positive people tend to bounce back more quickly from physical sickness and injuries than people with negative attitudes. These two traits- creativity and physical resiliency- are essential to survival.
When you’re alone in the wild with little or no provisions it’s easy to slip into depression and feel sorry for yourself. But pity parties won’t get you anywhere as Brian learned after one particularly rough night:
He did not know how long it took, but later he looked back on this time crying in the corner of the dark cave and thought of it as when he learned the most important rule of survival, which was that feeling sorry for yourself didn’t work… When he sat alone in the darkness and cried and was done, all done with it, nothing had changed. His leg still hurt, it was still dark, he was still alone and the self-pity had accomplished nothing.
In a previous article, we discussed the fact that resilient men have an internal locus of control. They’re the masters of their own destiny and tend to handle stress well. Those with an external locus of control curl up into a ball and cry big crocodile tears about how bad they have it. Which man do you think is going to survive when their back’s to the wall?
While you should maintain a positive attitude while lost in the wild, you don’t want to delude yourself into thinking that things are better than they really are. First, you only set yourself up for disappointment when things don’t go your way, and second, maintaining a realistic outlookwill keep you from getting complacent. You always need to be planning and working as though you’re in your situation for the long haul.
In short, hope for the best, but plan for the worst.
Learn to S.T.O.P.
With his mind opened and thoughts happening it all tried to come in with a rush, all of what had occurred and he could not take it. The whole thing turned into a confused jumble that made no sense. So he fought it down and tried to take one thing at a time.
A key to Brian’s survival was that he did something that wilderness survival experts recommend without even knowing he was doing it. He frequently S.T.O.P-ed: Stop, Think, Observe, Plan. Throughout the story we’ll find Brian frantically attempting to complete a task. For example, when he tried to make a fire for the first time, he rushed the whole process and kept coming up empty. Frustrated, he stopped and deliberately thought about what was needed to start a fire. After observing that he didn’t have adequate oxygen or air for combustion, he made a plan to blow on the sparks when they landed in the tinder. And just like that he had fire.
The key to surviving in the wilderness is keeping yourself from panicking. Sometimes the best thing you can do in a survival situation is to do nothing and just think. You’ll save yourself a lot of wasted effort.
You can read the rest of the post here.
I so advocate acquiring skills, because equipment without skills is useless. Skills are also barterable, sellable, and can never be taken away from you. Learning wilderness survival lessons gives you more options for dealing with a survival situation, because you will have more experience to draw on, and can solve problems more creatively.
I posted some ideas for classes and resources here, and encourage you to start acquiring skills now.