Top Survival Mistakes That Will Kill You

By Steven L. Doran

Underestimating the risk.  People get in more trouble when they go out to a wilderness locations for a drive, or a short hike . In their mind they believe it is going to be nothing more than a fun family or personal outing. A time to relax and reflect, They are going to stop for a meal, relax in a roadside park, walk a well marked trail. Then Bang  disaster strikes, cell phones does not work, they have no water, are improperly dressed. The list is endless, preparing at home, thinking about what you are going to do if an emergency situation arises is your first step to coming home alive.  People actually do much better on longer trips because they prepareto go it alone for extended periods. Yet they to get into trouble for not following these simple rules.

Poor route selection: Instead of sticking to their plan they decide to go into uncharted territory. As the terrain or roads become more treacherous, instead of turning back, they just know it is going to get better or easier just around the bend.   Further they fail to leave a trip plan with someone and do not tell anyone where they are going. Or they change their plans without notifying anyone of the change.

No Water:  I will bet most of you reading this article do not have even one once of drinking water in your vehicle. People take off  in their vehicle, on hikes and other trips and do not have a drop of water with them, or a very limited supply. Thinking they will have the ability to obtain it later.

Poor clothing selection:  How  many times have you gone somewhere and were not properly dressed and did not even have proper clothing in your vehicle or pack.  Ladies (you are the worst)  How many times have you been in your vehicle in below zero temps or extreme heat, dressed to the 9′s but did not have one item of piratical clothing with you. Your shoes look great but were not designed for walking.  Men are getting just as bad.  The dress for comfort and have no practical clothing items with them.  A loose fitting  long sleeve shirt and hat can mean the difference between life and death in some cases.

In ability to find or build Shelter:  I have found people suffering from exposure.  They had items to make shelter, they were just a few feet away from natural shelter.  Yet they were almost dead because it never crossed their mind to get out of the sun or wind.

Inability to build a fire: I know people who have never so much as struck a match.  Before going anywhere practice building a fire.  Fires are not only for warmth, they can be used to help rescuers find your location. Even in the desert there are plenty of fire building materials.

Being unprepared to spend the night: No matter what you do or where you go. You should always think about getting stuck and not being able to make it home. Keep enough supplies to spend a night or two where ever you are going.  This includes work. Natural or man made disasters to not abide by your schedule.

Not stopping to make camp:  When people are lost they panic and keep moving. Never do this. When you are lost sit down, relax and think about your situation and make a plan. If it is getting late make camp. Sometimes that is all it takes. You sit relax and you hear traffic from a road. Or you make camp at night, then you see headlights, or lights from a home or local business, or someone’s camp fire. No matter what the situation if it is getting dark, stop and make camp.  In the heat you should only move in the morning and late afternoon, take shelter and relax during the heat of the day.



2 Comments on "Top Survival Mistakes That Will Kill You"

  1. Sandy on Sun, 2nd Aug 2009 12:33 PM 

    This family took what they considered a “short-cut.” Not the thing to do in Oregon! EVER!! Thanks for your article Trail Boss !

  2. Ed Harris on Wed, 30th Sep 2009 7:40 AM 

    Another essential safety step is letting a responsible person know where you are going, when you expect to return, and who to call, such as the sheriff to initiate a SAR mission, if they don’t hear back from you by a date and time certain. This is the same as a private pilot filing a flight plan.

    On short hunting trips in our local area we carry a cell phone and a portable 2-meter band amateur radio portable, (for which we are licensed). We make arrangements with a local ham for us to check in nightly to advise that we are OK and to update any adjustments to our trip intinerary or schedule.

    On trips beyond local repeater coverage we take a portable battery-operated HF-SSB, with wire antenna and coupler, and set up a similar comms schedule on 40 meters, which covers most of North America when band conditions are good, or about a 300 mile radius the rest of the time using near vertical incidence skywave.

    In remote areas where we don’t know any locals, we leave a trip plan envelope with the sheriff’s office. This contains description(s) of our vehicle(s), the number of people in our party with name, equipment and outdoor skill level, where we will park, foil impressions of our boot prints, description of our itinerary, cell phone numbers, communiciations skeds and working frequencies and a partially completed SAR Form 201B with the info needed to initiate a search, should it be required.

    Several times when hunting a new area in West Virginia, sheriff’s deputies would assign a radio amateur who was a member of their Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) to give us a local contact for daily PAR checks (Personnel Accountability Reports – to use common terminology of the fire service). We’ve met some great friends this way.

    This practice blizzard paid off during a blizzard when we got snowed in and are 4WD vehicles were unable to make it back out as we had planned. A radio contact to the RACES station advised the that we were holed up in camp, everyone was OK, we had plenty of firewood and food, and were waiting out the storm. The RACES member relayed a phone call home for us advise our wives that we wouldn’t be at work on Monday, but not to worry. The snow continued, so RACES used us to arrange a SAR exercise, using a snow mobile group bring us out. We left two 4WD vehicles in the woods, and we came back to get them after the snow melted. Inconvenience, but no disaster.
    The most successful SAR mission is the training one you plan, where everybody gets home alive.

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