politically incorrect survival

I was sitting around the campfire a while back with my good friend Walter (not his real name). We were discussing survival training, of all things. If by discussion you mean a red faced, strident, saliva spraying conversation.

What started the conversation is the fact that I keep a small personal survival kit (PSK) in my day hike bag. It’s tiny, perhaps the size of a can of Spam. No matter which bag I’m using for the trip, the PSK is always the first thing I pack. I’ve misplaced myself a couple of times over the years and I’ve been caught out after dark more than a few times, so I’ve had to use the kit.

Now good buddy Walter is a soft walking, earth friendly, pack it in – pack it out, poop in a plastic bag, environmentally friendly kinda guy. I look at him as an elitist snob (is that redundant?). I call him my favorite Eco-Nazi. Sometimes he thinks that’s funny.

What made the veins in his temples throb was my carefully studied and unrepentant view of survival. I’m not talking the survivalist movement with camo uniforms, armed compounds and anti-government rhetoric. I’m talking about staying alive and relatively healthy in the event of an outdoor mishap. That can include injury, loss of direction, or being caught out by unexpected bad weather.

Tablets_l_tns Walter’s solution to all of this is to pack in all of the latest ultra-light Capilene, Gore-Tex, Silnylon, electronic wayfinding  and camping gear he can stuff in a bag. He stood over me with finger pointed and shouting with the righteous rage of the prophets of old – Thou shalt not burn wood, cut live growth or slaughter innocent animals for sustenance. I felt truly lucky that it was OK to suck water from a stream – giardia and cryptosporidium aside.

He was well and truly offended that I think it’s OK to take a knife to a poor defenseless sapling if I need it to make an emergency shelter. It’s not like I’m striding across the land decimating entire forests. I’ll even chop a few evergreen boughs to make a warm bed and to overlay my impromptu shelter if it’s needed.

If I plan on camping overnight I’ll carry all the goodies I think I’ll need. I’ll be as low-impact as possible. But I’m talking about being on a simple walkabout in the woods when something unforeseen happens.

As far as my snares and fish hooks are concerned, I’ve got an opinion on that, too. If it’s slower than me and closer to the ground, it just might be food. Sorry, but if you’re lower down the food chain than me you’d better watch your back. That’s why they call it a food chain.

I’m always amazed that Walter and I can have these lively discussions and still remain close friends. It might have something to do with the fact that I always do the driving. Or that I’m the one with the big knife and the will to use it – at least against helpless saplings.


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