Submitted June 10, 2009

Survival is more a state of mind than it is equipment

When I was growing up in Maine and New Hampshire my Dad and Grandfather had me in the woods a lot. We hunted every year and never missed getting our deer. When I say we hunted, I mean we did something not done today. Hunters today put out feeding stations and then sit in a tree and wait for the deer. I have never seen where that could be fun and when I started hunting on my own I always went during Bow season and never missed getting my deer.

One summer in the early '70s I had a chance to participate in a 3 week solo survival challenge. There were 8 of us who took the challenge. We were each given a map and a compass, dropped off by helicopter and given co-ordinates where we would be picked up again in 3 weeks about 30 miles from the drop off point. We could bring anything we wanted except food and fire-arms. I'm still amazed by what some of these guys thought of as survival gear. A couple of them must have tried to carry 200 pounds of gear.

I carried 3 light blankets, 4 knives (a 10 inch bowie suitable for cutting down small trees, a more conventional belt knife, a this flexible filleting knife and a multi-function pocket knife.) I had a flint and steel fire kit with a small block of paraffin wax to help as a fire accelerator. A magnifying glass to be used to light fires in good weather a spool of light, flexible wire, a spool of monofilament fishing line. My first aid kit consisted of a sewing kit with a small hooked needle and cotton thread, a small bottle of iodine and 2 white cotton handkerchiefs.

I had a few other odds and ends I can't remember now but the whole kit excluding knives didn't weigh five pounds.. I was the third one dropped off. It was mid morning so I got my bearings and headed for the pick up point.. I pushed hard the first day and made it by mid day the second day. I scouted the area and set up camp just above a small stream. I set a couple of snares on a game trail and tickled a couple of trout for dinner. The next day I built a lean-to and a cot. With eating, drinking water, and shelter taken care of all I had to do was sit back and wait. I spent most of my time improving my campsite. I had a half dozen rabbit skins curing and the hide of a white tailed doe I got lucky enough to knock over with a rock from a hand made sling.

The people who ran the challenge took many photos of my campsite when they picked me up and asked a lot of questions. I think what I'm trying to say is that all the equipment in the world won't do you any good if you don't use the one tool you have with you all the time. I'm talking about that 2 pounds of gray and pink stuff we all use to keep our ears from rubbing together in the middle. One of our challengers didn't make and three others were in pretty rough shape when we picked them up one of whom we searched for for 2 days. What ever you put in your survival kits is only as good as the knowledge of the people who it's intended for.

Survival is more a state of mind than it is equipment. No matter what environment you find yourself in, we must assume there is someone outside searching for you so all the equipment will do is extend you survival long enough for them to find you. If there is no one looking for you, then you better have the knowledge to find your own way out and no kit will get you very far.

Joe Couture

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