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Survival: it’s Actually a B*tch

Posted by Evan Hafer on

ReadyMan Challenge Escape & Evasion: Grand Finale

by Evan Hafer

The boys of ReadyMan Challenge 6 — Escape & Evasion — tore into their junked cars and their ReadyMan Wilderness Survival Cards. The guys came up with a number of tools and weapons without actually testing them against Mother Nature.

Having spent a fair bit of time “surviving” in the wild, there are a number of hard-and-fast rules of survival that are only obvious to those who’ve attempted it.

So, continuing from where the boys of RMC 6 left off, here’s what you should know:

  1. You will starve. Even the most disciplined nutritional monk of the modern world still consumes around 2,000 calories a day. Most of us, in honesty, consume north of 3,000 calories a day. Except for a few, rare environments speckling the planet, you will struggle to hit 1,000 calories a day, even if you know what you’re doing. In short, you will starve and you will hurt. Combing the wilderness looking for food is anything but fun when your stomach is rumbling and your attitude is sour. The best survivors typically do as a little as possible, staving off starvation via laziness.
  2. Nothing will work. At first. Especially if you’re anywhere but your most-familiar outdoor environ, the patterns and tempo of the wilderness will frustrate your best-laid plans. The plants and animals of your area will have been surviving there for millions of years. You show up, with your enlarged brain, and try to out-smart their patterns within a day or two. It’s not going to happen. Successes will be rare. More than half of the methods our boys built would absolutely fail. Josh will never kill a thing with that bow. The boys will fail to spear a fish with their trident (refraction kicking their ass every time.) And, the “rabbit net” snare will never snag a rabbit (since the rabbits will just hop around it.) If you don’t have respect for the survival skills of plants and animals, you will have respect after a day or two starving in the wild.
  3. Animals will suddenly become rare. We think of the wilderness as teeming with animals, but that’s rarely the case. Especially during the spring and summer, animals do a great job hiding and operating when you least expect it. On top of that, animals have an uncanny sense for when they’re being hunted. You will see FAR fewer animals as soon as you begin to hunt them.
  4. Animal protein has squat for calories. It’s a common mistake to think of wilderness animals as wild versions of farm animals. That’s not the case. Digesting deer meat uses a big percentage of the calories you put in your mouth. Wilderness protein contains very little fat, and the body employs an expensive physiological process to convert protein to sugars — the building blocks of energy. You can literally starve to death eating deer, elk, rabbits and game birds. Even salmon doesn’t have enough fat to support life indefinitely. It’s a common misconception to think that bears get fat for winter on salmon. They mostly get fat for winter eating grass and berries. When there are plenty of salmon, bears resort to eating only the eyes and brains — a desperate attempt to score a net-gain in calories. Fish and game will make a shallow dent in your caloric needs.
  5. No matter how hungry, you will refuse to eat some calories. For a bunch of reasons, you will find yourself literally unable to eat legitimate calories. Appetite fatigue, when you’ve eaten just as much watercress or stinging nettle as you can stand, sets in literally preventing your throat from swallowing. The same goes for fish and deer, eventually — though usually not as pronounced. Also, switching to eating lizards and sparrows is much harder than you probably imagine. Almost every kind of root, no matter how nutritious, tastes wrong. Count on the fact that you’ll pass on perfectly nutritious food. So, not only do you have to hunt and gather things that are nutritious, but you have to gather things that you’re going to be willing to eat.
  6. Shit will get real by the morning of the second day. Hunger sets in very fast, and it saps your will to work. It does get better, given a bit of time. But the adjustment from massive, fatty and sugary calories to DICK-NOTHING will wipe you out and make you tons dumber than you are today. 

With that said, it’s a fantastic exercise to throw yourself into a starvation outing. You’ll learn volumes about the environment and you’ll begin to pattern the animals and plants. While every environment is surprisingly different from every other, learning patterns in one area lead to possible solutions in other areas.

More importantly, when you test yourself and put yourself through pain and travail, you harden. Hardening yourself, in almost any way, leads to a building of your survival mind. No matter how well you prepare, your survival mind will become your greatest asset or scariest liability.

Watching the boys come up with their survival tools, you should then ask yourself: which tools would help and which are dead weight? Get some Wilderness Survival Cards yourself, head into the wilderness this spring and give them a try. If you’ve never done it before, you’ll be amazed.

And, you’ll be ten times the survivor you are today.

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