This guest article is written by Redbeard 3. RB3 is a former military SERE instructor for a Westeuropean country.
It is easy to list items that make a recreational outdoors trip or an exercise more comfortable. But what do you need as the barebones minimum, to assure your survival for an uncertain period of time? There is an easy scheme, called PLWF. Protection, location, water and food. Your survival kit and your third line gear should be based on it, as this is the baseline of survival.
In this article, we are taking a closer look at protection and location. What does protection as well as location mean and what do they include?
Protection means basically everything which maintains your body temperature and protects you against the nature.
Now you will think: “Ohh yeah that’s quiet easy, I just need my clothes, my sleeping bag and my tent.” If you think so, think again and ask a few questions to yourself.
First question is about the environment: Where do you want to go to? Woodland? Mountain? Desert? Jungle?
What kind of weather conditions could you face?
Rain? Wind? Snow? Sun? Extreme temperatures?
One of the most underrated points is your personal condition.
Don’t be overconfident in this point, otherwise the nature will show no mercy at you.
Are you able to carry a 15-20kg heavy rucksack on longer distances?
Do you need to take medicine regularly? Do you have any injuries? It can be hard to reflect yourself, but it is very important to do so.
Lets stick to the well know European woodland in the spring season.
We will have rain probably and temperatures between zero degrees Celsius during the night and up to 20C° during day time. So you will need a broad variety of weather protection. You could use RB1s article:
“TACHACK: Packing A Ruck – A Basic Primer” as a guideline on what to stow inside your ruck for protection.
You have to know where you are and you want to go.
For short: You have to know how to read a map and compass.
Many people are using GPS nowadays. But what happen if your GPS is gone or jammed? Did you think about that?
You should be able to use the most common navigation means. Like MGRS, UTM and LatLong as those are the most common on civilian maps as well as on military maps.
This is an essential skill for your survival, don’t underestimate it.
Moreover, when you are in the forest already. You should know how to „read“ the forest. Maybe the maps doesn’t match with how the forest looks like now. Take the time and look over the forest so to say. Mostly you can observe old way or powerlines.
Such kind of „ways“ are making your life easier and perhaps you can reach destination faster and less exhausted.
So now you know where you are, but what happens if you are lost?
The easiest way would be an emergency beacon. Maybe you have heard about that. The price for such a radio starts at 200€. It is well spent money as it may be responsible for your survival in an absolute emergency situation.
What if you don’t have such a system now? There are many ways to get the attention you need to get rescued.
If you can’t stay at the place where you are, you have to leave a message where you going. There are some ways to deliver such a message, like writing it on a piece of paper, or another object. You could also use some tree branches to build an arrow to show the direction of your movement.
Those are easy ways to leave a message behind. In the military they are widely known as ground to ground signals.
In more isolated places you have to rely on ground to air signals instead. The Signal tree can be both ground to ground and ground to air signal. You can use your emergency blanket, if you don’t need it anymore and fix it to a tree. You can alternatively use every light reflecting or bright object. Don’t prepare just one, because one is none. So make at least two, better are three. Place them in every direction. This so called signal tree is easy to set up, which saves valuable energy.
If you find a wide open space you can create an emergency “V” as a ground to air signal. The tip of the V is pointing towards your current position or your direction of movement. It should be at least 5 metres long and should also have a visible shadow, to make it recognizable for a plane. Also opt to use high contrast materials.
If you prepare it properly. The signal fire will last at least 10min.
And again, one is none.
Starting a signal fire is the one of the most effective ways to get attention from air rescue staff. An effective and recognizable signal fire needs at least:
3x 2,5m long, forearm thick trees, 3x 1m long wrist thick limbs, 3-4m 1mm wire to build the frame. The frame is then filled with wood and grean leafs to start a bright and smoky fire.
Again, the more the better.