Saturday, November 26, 2011


What do I consider the single most important survival skill  I'd have to say that awareness, the simple state of consciousness of your surroundings, potential opportunities, actual or perceived threats and your own physical and mental condition and levels, is, without a doubt, the one thing  that can contribute the most to one's success.
In a survival situation you must be aware of a host of different and ever changing conditions and possible situations. When to build a fire, the best shelter, whether to travel or hunker down, drinking water and food needs - the list is almost endless - and your decisions and actions may mean life or death.

Survival situations demand the ability to remain calm, flexible and to make rational decisions even while under very stressful and unfamiliar conditions.  When pushed to the limits and totally outside your comfort zone it can be very difficult to make quick decisions that may have such grave results. It's at times like these that awareness can contribute the most.

Is awareness a skill that can be learned?  Absolutely!  Awareness can be developed by training and practice just like any other skill. Once you recognize the need, that is - become aware of, its importance and how it can effect or even direct your decision making you'll be on your way to learning this as a skill. It's an important and essential skill that can aid you in everyday life whether functioning in the modern world or in the wild.   
Here's a simple example what I mean: Let's say you are totally lost, no hope of finding your way back to camp before dark and have decided to hunker down for the night. Right then and there you are faced with a number of quick decisions you'll have to make. Do you need to build a shelter? How about a fire? Where's the best place to spend the night and why? If - during all that time leading up to and previous to this exact moment in time, you were paying attention- that is: aware of: your surroundings, the environment, weather conditions, your physical condition  etc., etc., the decision and next course of action would be easy. 

You'd already have it figured out and know exactly what to do. Why? Because you were aware. You had already made a mental note of the weather conditions, what materials you had available for a shelter, how much time you had to accomplish the tasks and the best possible course of action. In other words: You were practicing awareness.

Can you take this to higher levels. Most certainly and, again, it's by training and knowledge.  Ethnobotany and Primitive Skills are two perfect examples of skills that will help greatly in developing awareness.  The more you learn about nature: plants, trees, animals and their uses the more aware you will become of not only your surroundings but of their many survival uses. If you are hiking through the woods and know that certain plants can be used for making fire, others are great sources of food, others for shelter, cordage, etc. the more awareness you will practice and develop.  When you walk through a forest and can't see the forest for the trees as the old saying goes - you can't really " be aware" of anything but the most basic - Yep, duh, I'm in the woods. Your goal should be to be aware of and be able to make use of  all that nature can provide. That Willow Tree you passed - that's medicine, fire, shelter, baskets, cordage, all there for the taking. Those Cattails next to the pond: more food ( lots of it), shelter, fire, medicine. Those rocks you tripped over: fire, heat, weapons, tools.

Once you become aware of what nature can provide and just as important - how to use it,  then the more aware and better prepared you will become.