A survival kit should be carried by anyone who goes deep into the wilderness. What should be in it? Matches, a blade of some sort, and first aid supplies are among the usual recommendations. When you read the true stories of survival, though, you start to see that it is what’s in a persons head that often determines if they survive or not. What, then, should be in this mental survival kit?
A Survival Kit In Your Mind
1. Willingness to learn. Even those who know nothing about survival until lost in the wilderness can still learn as they go – if they are willing to. If you’re cold, watch that squirrel dive under a pile of leaves, and try that to stay warm (it works). Notice what’s working and what isn’t, and keep trying new things.
2. Willingness to do what’s necessary. This is one of the most important items in your mental survival kit. Hey, they can eat hissing cockroaches just for the chance to win some money on “Fear Factor,” so you can do it to save your life, right? Spoon with your buddy to stay warm, break open logs to find grubs to eat – do whatever it takes.
3. Positive attitude. This is an essential. In many stories of survival it is clear that those who expected to survive did. Even if you’re not sure you can survive, encourage this attitude by acting as if you expect to.
4. Inspirational thoughts. This is how to have that positive attitude. An easy and enjoyable way to get this inspiration is to read true stories of wilderness survival. Some of the stories are about situations far worse than anything you are ever likely to encounter. Remembering them at the appropriate time is a sure way to see that you can survive. tell them to others too, if you are in a group.
5. Wilderness survival knowledge. You don’t have to go to a survival training school to read and remember that you can safely eat all North American mammals, or that you can stuff your jacket with cattail fluff to create a winter coat. Any little bit helps, so learn a new trick or two each season, or take an edible plant guide on your next hike.
6. Reasons to survive. We all have reasons to want to live, but we need to remember to pull out those reasons when the time comes. Many people have attributed their survival to the constant thought of a loved one waiting for them, or something they want in the future.
Maybe you’ve already done this mental preparation, but it can’t hurt to look over the list above again. Is there anything you need to work on in your mental survival kit?
Steve Gillman is a long-time advocate of lightweight backpacking. His tips, photos, gear recommendations and new Wilderness Survival Guide can be found at
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