Are You Mentally Prepared To Survive?
While the proper survival tools and equipment are important (some quite crucial), they alone will not ensure your survival. You simply must have experience, common-sense, and the proper mindset to survive.
Experience is easy to gain, but don't wait till you are in a life or death situation to learn how to use your gear! Many of us gain this experience while camping or hiking with family or friends. Lots of fun can be had learning how to use your survival gear. Make up competitive games or "races" such as a fire starting or wood-cutting contest. Compete to see you can make the best survival shelter in the shortest amount of time. Have a scavenger hunt using a map and compass to locate hidden items. Use your imagination and you will be surprised how much fun you can have with this. Not a camper or "outdoorsy" type of person? No matter - you can still do much of this at the city park, your backyard, or in the comfort of your home or apartment. No matter how it's done, you must become familiar with your gear.
Common-sense is usually something you either have or don't have. Thru a career of guiding hunters and fishermen, I have met some of the most intelligent people alive - fortune 500 types. It never ceases to amaze me how many possess little or no common-sense in the outdoors.
Common-sense comes naturally for some, others must work at it. What it really boils down to is simply thinking before you act. Think of any possible results or effects of your actions. For example; if it looks like there is even a slight chance of rain, don't pitch your tent in a ravine or dry wash. If at all possible, don't camp under dead trees. I've seen more than one tent flattened by falling trees. Give some thought to your campfire location. Don't build it under low hanging tree branches or near vegetation that may be ignited, or at least clear a 6 to 8-foot area down to dirt before lighting, and keep a close watch on it. The route you take hiking or even driving should be well thought out. Simply be constantly aware of your surroundings and any consequences of your decisions or actions. before you know it, you won't be consciously thinking of these things, but you will just instinctively know what to do or how to act.
Your mindset, or frame of mind, and your attitude is the hardest to master. The moment you realize it will be dark soon and you don't have a clue where you are or how to get where you want to go, panic, or at least a feeling of urgency begins to come over you. Most of us can relate to this and most likely have experienced this phenomenon to some extent.
What's the big deal? The only thing that has changed is the fact that you had not planned on spending the night outdoors, and you don't know where you are. At this point, you need to just take a deep breath and try to relax. The night only lasts a few hours. Your situation will look a whole lot better in the light of day. Providing you have sufficient survival gear and clothing, being lost is just an inconvenience - not the end of the world unless you convince yourself it is. One of your first thoughts will be that your family or friends will be worried sick about you. Unfortunate, but not the end of the world. Remind yourself how happy they will be to see you when you do get home!
Try to think of the experience as a challenge or a mission that must be accomplished. Accept the circumstances and prepare to hunker down for the night BEFORE dark. Choose your campsite and gather more firewood than you think you might need to get thru the night. There aren't many things as comforting on a dark chilly night as a warm campfire.
Staying hydrated is extremely important to keep your brain alert and working properly. You can go for days without food, but water is crucial to your survival. If you are out there in the first place there is no excuse for not having some type of survival water filtration system with you. A filtration straw is ideal for these times. They weigh nothing and take up no more space than a pencil.
Get as much sleep as you can. A rested brain will perform better than a tired one. Chances are good that come daylight you will be able to determine
where you are, or at least which direction you need to go to get back. If not, then perhaps the best thing you can do is stay put if your location can be easily seen from the air or from a long distance away. If not, relocate as short of distance away. Ideally, you want to be near water, some form of shelter (or the materials to construct one), wood or sagebrush for fire fuel, and you want to be visible to rescuers who will be looking for you.
At this point, evaluate your mental state of mind and attitude. Shake off the fear and depression and accept your situation for what it is - a learning experience. Some of the best experience you can gain comes from unexpected circumstances and failures. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade and enjoy drinking it!