The Risk: We see the headlines every year: “Hunter Missing, Presumed Dead.” When you spend time in the outdoors, especially alone, bad things can happen—a twisted ankle, an unexpected storm, a bush plane that never shows up. How you’re prepared for such an event can mean the difference between a survival story to tell your grandkids and a tearful memorial service.
The Question: What simple steps can hunters take to prepare themselves for unexpected “survival” situations?
The Expert Deferral: Russ Kolkman aka “WETSU” is a survival expert and instructor at Tactical Response’s “Bugout 101” disaster preparedness course. I asked Russ a few questions that you, Dear Reader, might ask:
*What are the absolutely-essential items that a hunter should always carry in the field?
1. A knife, just a folding pocket knife of decent quality is fine. 2. A lighter, like a disposable butane lighter. 3. A whistle. With these three items a hurt, lost or stranded person can stay put, make a shelter and fire and signal searchers much better than with voice alone. If I had to pick other items, they would be: a small water container, a light stadium poncho (weather dependent) and a first aid kit. This is very important, every hunter should have one on him or her. I don't consider it survival gear, I consider it safety gear, like an orange vest.
*Is it necessary to spend a bunch of money on survival equipment that you'll probably never use?
Not at all. Buy a Buck, Schrade or CRKT pocket knife. It will set you back $35 and you'll use it a lot anyway. A Bic mini lighter is less than a dollar. A good Coastguard-approved whistle will cost $5. A basic plastic coach whistle, $2. A good first aid kit with a trauma dressing and tourniquet will run more, probably $25. Other items I stuff into my pockets when afield cost almost nothing: a bottle of water, some 550 cord, a small flashlight, an acrylic watch cap, etc.
*I've been outdoors my entire life, why would I spend my hard-earned money on survival training?
Don't kid yourself, Rambo. I have had active duty military guys, SERE graduates, Eagle Scouts and hunting guides all take my survival classes and fail at fairly simple survival tasks. Many people think they will be able to perform tasks on demand, even when they have never done them, have only read about them or have done them 10 years ago. Not gonna happen. Granted, the lifelong outdoorsman has a leg up on his city slicker cousin, but survival is a different game than camping and hunting. There are priorities, do's and don'ts, a lot of bad info out there and popular survival myths that will get people killed unless they are taught differently. That's the value of survival training.
*How realistic are the survival shows on tv?
It’s TV. Some are good, some are garbage and are there for pure entertainment. "Man vs. Wild" is an example of entertainment, he has already been found to be a fraud and many of the things he shows on his program are dangerous for the average person to try. Les Stroud, i.e., “Survivorman”, is the real deal—his shows are good and informative. The Dual Survival shows are also pretty good, Cody Lundin knows how to survive within nature and Dave Canterbury knows how to fight against it to survive. Both have their points, but the viewer will come away with some useful tidbits.
The Product Reviews: For those of you who are time-strapped, lazy or just like to buy gear, there are a few good basic survival kits on the market:
The WETSU kit which, you guessed it Mr. Hawking, was designed by WETSU is profiled here.
Adventure Medical Kits sells an SOL (Survive Outdoors Longer) kit that’s not much bigger than a PDA.
It includes a folding knife, LED light, whistle, compass, fire sparker, tinder, cordage, wire, a small space blanket, a short manual, a signal mirror and some other gadgets—all in a small case that weighs just a few ounces. It retails for $60.
Adventure Medical also makes a variety of first aid kits in different sizes & prices; I use the Sportsman kit which is a bit smaller than a kid’s lunchbox and costs $38 via their website.
The Lesson: Don’t get caught dead without a simple survival kit and the knowledge to use it, or be sure your life insurance is paid-up.