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Friday, 18 January 2019

Bushcraft and Survival in the News; Happy New Year

Here in the UK Brexit has been big news since the referendum back in 2017 and it has sparked a lot of prepping, I hope the panic will turn out to be unnecessary just like it was with the 'millenium bug' back in 2000. Unfortunately there will be some consequences of Brexit, hopefully the fears about shortages of medicines, food and fuel will prove unfounded but people are prepping and they are making headlines;

Red Cross preparedness kit.

In preparation for what he thinks is an inevitable breakdown in society due to brexit a man from Glasgow has spent over $2000 on prepping and stockpiling food and gear for a major breakdown and in the event of civil unrest is planning to head into the highlands to get away from the chaos.

What worries me about this strategy is that people get their 'experiencec' of preparedness by watching too many episodes of doomsday preppers and focus too much on equipment and not enough on skills. Stockpiling kit and spending money is easy, using that kit is the hard part and knowledge and experience is far more valuable than a rucksack and a vague idea that you will head for the woods in the event of a crisis. People have been caught out before when they have headed for the wilderness with an over inflated sense of their own skill after watching too much television and have died, like David Austin in 2007, or needed rescuing like a pair of hikers on Scafell Pike back in November last year. 

California Regional Mountain Rescue Association 2016 Re-accreditation Test
A mountain rescue team
Whether it's prepping or survival related or just recreational activities that take you out of doors you have a responsibility for yourself. That's not to say that you shouldn't go outdoors if you are not experienced, I've spent a lot of my career trying to persuade people to spend more time outdoors but don't let your enthusiasm get the better of yourself and put someone else in danger by taking them with you to somewhere you can't handle or by calling out rescue services who will willingly risk their lives in poor weather to save you if your stupidity and carelessness puts you in an avoidable situation. Focus on your skills and gradually increase your comfort zone rather than throwing yourself in at the deep end. By the time you need your survival skills you for real make sure you have practised them otherwise by running of to the wilderness at the first hint of trouble you will have relegated yourself from the status of a survivor to a statistic very quickly.

Unfortunately there are plenty of people falling into the trap of thinking equipment and stuff is all thats required for emergencies and some of them clearly lack the necessary experience to choose the right 'stuff' let alone know what to do with it or without it.

The Daily Mail reported in December about mums who are stockpiling food for fear that Brexit will affect food supplies. Now there are probably better reasons to stockpile a bit of food as we saw when shelves were empty last year after the 'beast from the east' but I'm not going to criticise people for having a bit of extra food on hand, its very sensible. The problem is the pictures of these mums with their stockpiles show a complete lack of understanding of the best foods to store, one person is pictured with what amounts to little more than a normal grocery shop for a few days, except for the addition of several kilos of pasta. It's a stock of food for a few days at most, after that they would be eating plain pasta, there is also no water shown but there are three cartons of expensive fruit juice. For the price of the fruit juice she could have purchased about fifty litres of bottled water from Aldi, the Branston pickle could have been six litres of pickling vinegar allowing her to preserve fresh fruit and veg or store and use for pickling seasonal  foraged foods, and for the price of the branded pasta sauce about thirty tins of plumb tomatoes. If you are going to stockpile and store food do it right and cost effectively and remember that you shouldn't  necessarily base your food storage on what you normally eat on a weekly basis. If their poor choice of food to storage is down to bad advice and potentially the purchase of 'brexit boxes' which are becoming popular and have been reported on by the Independant as well as other outlets that is a concern as someone out there is profiting from people who don't know better by selling them a product that isn't up to scratch.

Prepping and brexit isn't the only newsworthy bushcraft and survival topic though:

In November last year John Allen Chau, an American adventurer, and Christian missionary, was killed by tribes-people on North Sentinel Island when he landed there after paying fishermen to drop him off in defiance of laws putting North Sentinel Island out of bounds.  

Nth Sentinel Island (Vector Graphics)
The Andaman Islands in the Bengal Sea with North Sentinel highlighted red
The tribe there is known to be hostile to outsiders and have resisted attempts at being contacted in the past. Many bushcrafters start their journeys into bushcraft and traditional skills with the books of anthropologists such as Colin Turnbull and Thor Heyerdahl, something Ray Mears talks about in his autobiography but as fascinating as the lives and bushcraft skills of surviving tribes are we shouldn't necessarily be seeking them out and disturbing their lives away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.

Speaking of the hustle and bustle of the world I'm heading outside to get away from this computer but you can expect more of my opinions on the news relating to bushcraft and survival at the end of each month.


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