True North Blog

We Practice What We Preach

In the last ten days, there were two search and rescues missions reported in the national news.  This, in and of itself, is by no means remarkable as I see at least a dozen such incidents reported each week alone as I scan the online headlines.  What is remarkable is how absolutely unprepared the parties were.  The first involved two brothers who set out for a “four hour hike” only to end up, after getting lost, spending three harrowing days in the woods — After their rescue, one of them stated to a group of reporters, “I didn’t think that it could happen.”  The second involved a lost hunter who, after already spending one night in the mountains, was left behind by a military helicopter searching for him because he didn’t know how to properly signal to it.  By contrast, whenever I head into the outdoors, no matter how short a time I plan, I always carry emergency gear, just like I teach my clients.  After all, at True North, we practice what we preach.

By this I mean, each time I head into outdoors, I prepare with two core thoughts in mind.  The first is What if I find myself in bad situation?  No matter how skilled I may be, accidents happens — I could get lost; the weather could suddenly turn for the worse; or I could break a leg.  The other is What if I find someone on the trail that needs my help?  That person may be lost, injured, or suffering from the weather so I know that I will feel responsible to step up and help.  Either way, I want to have the necessary gear needed to facilitate protection from the elements, dealing with a medical emergency, and expediting rescue.  In sum, even when I plan a day-hike, I prepare for an overnight.

That’s because at True North, we believe that wilderness survival isn’t just about helping oneself, it’s also about helping others.  It also could help to turn a situation that could be a life threatening emergency into a mere inconvenience.

So, in addition to water and a few granola bars, I always carry survival gear, a first-aid kit, a map and compass, and an emergency signaling device (an ACR Artex personal locator beacon, and increasingly also a Zoleo satellite-communicator).

Yeah, I get it, this means more weight on my back, which seems strange.  The longstanding trend in the outdoors community — including amongst wilderness survival schools — has long been to carry as little gear as possible.  The core belief is that one can simply improvise what one needs when needed.  While, yes, I fundamentally agree that improvisation and adaptability are indeed the foundation of wilderness medicine and survival, and, moreover, it’s impossible and impractical to carry everything that you might need, having a few core tools and supplies goes a long way when needed.  That’s why at True North we teach the same modern approach to survival that is taught in the U.S. military.

But consider two caveats.  First, despite what the vast majority of search-and-rescue groups advise, there is no such  thing as “the 10 essentials.”  Instead, what you choose to carry should be influenced by the activity at hand, your skill level, and, certainly, your financial budget plays a factor.  Besides, consider, while a map and compass is one of the listed essentials … How essential is it, really, if you don’t even know how to read a map or use a compass?  Which leads to the second caveat: effectively dealing with an emergency requires far more than just carrying gear, it requires knowing how and when to use that gear.  So I encourage you to take a course where you can learn the fundamentals of survival, first-aid, and land navigation.

I know that I would enjoy the privilege of working with you so consider an upcoming Basic Wilderness SurvivalBasic Land Navigation, or Wilderness First Aid course.  You’ll learn invaluable skills … and have fun in the process!

For more on this issue, check out our video, We Practice What We Preach, from our TN YouTube.  If you subscribe, you’ll get updates about other related topics (I’ll soon be posting about what I believe to be genuinely essential survival gear) and others that’ll help you to explore with confidence.

Erik Kulick leaning aginst wall with True North badge on blue shirt

About the Author

Erik is the founder of True North Wilderness Survival School. He is a police officer, EMS provider, a Wilderness EMT, and a Fellow of the Academy of Wilderness Medicine. He has been featured in national and international media, including CNN, the Associated Press, and Backpacker. To learn more about Erik, visit him on LinkedIn and be sure to follow him on Facebook and YouTube.

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