Surviving in the Natural World

If you listen to many of the shows on television, certain "survival experts" would have you believe survival entails hunkering down under a tree in the forest, fighting everything mother nature throws at you, and making it through. It is all about going toe to toe with the old girl, and beating her at her own game. You can watch British ex military operatives rush through terrain, making snap decisions, and at times quite literally jumping off cliffs into the abyss. This theatrical approach only works when you have a camera crew and medical team with you, or at the very least, within close proximity. In a survival situation, haste kills. It is important to slow down, take stock of your situation and your surroundings, and formulate a plan to keep yourself safe until you get back home.

My idea of survival is a little bit different. I like to think survival is simply being able to live comfortably in the wild. I am not talking about having your recliner and satellite television under a pine tree, but with some basic knowledge and a little planning, you can thrive in a "survival" situation. I practice long term survival. Our ancestors did it, I see no reason we cannot as well. Unlike many self proclaimed "survival experts" I do not see nature as a malevolent force hell bent upon our destruction. Nature is not sentient. It has no knowledge of us, and as such, it does not throw trouble our way. Nature simply is. We cannot beat nature. It may not make for good television, but simply put, survival is finding a way to adapt our behavior to thrive in any conditions in which we find ourselves.

The most important tools in your survival kit are your Intellect and your willpower. I have seen it time and again; a person can have all the latest survival do-dads, but without the proper mind set, that "will to survive", they will not make it. They failed before they even began.

I developed the acronym A.D.A.P.T. to describe my survival philosophy.

  • Assess your situation
  • Develop a plan
  • Adjust your thinking
  • Prepare for alternatives
  • Thrive


In a survival situation, it is extremely important to stop and assess your situation. You need to ask yourself a few important questions. Am I hurt? Am I in immediate danger? What items do I have with me? What items are in my immediate surroundings? When facing a survival situation, spending a few moments taking stock of your situation is perhaps the most important thing you can do. When scared, people will often panic, and become disoriented. This can quite literally be a death sentence. When presented with an adverse situation, it is wise to find a safe place to sit down, and calm yourself. You must remember that the decisions you make will have a profound impact, either positive or negative, upon your immediate future.


In a survival situation once you know what you have to work with, you must come up with a plan to satisfy your immediate basic needs. This plan must cover things like finding or building shelter, obtaining fire, water, and food. It must also include security. In most areas, humans are not at the top of the food chain. How will you protect yourself from animals and insects hell bent on making a meal of you? How will you signal for rescue? If rescue does not come, what are your options for self rescue?


In a survival situation one must adjust their way of thinking. You will more than likely have to do things, or eat things, that seem foreign to you. Flexibility is the mainstay of survival. The ability to roll with any situation can help you make it home alive. Even after developing the perfect survival plan, if your situation changes, you must be willing to throw out all or part of said plan. If you face a setback, the ability to adjust, coupled with a positive attitude will keep you from losing it.


Even with a great plan, and the willingness to adjust, you must also have built in contingencies. In the event of extraordinary rains, what will you do? How will you maintain a fire. What if it snows? How will you signal for rescue? If rescue does not happen, how can you self rescue? What if you are hurt in some manner? While contingency plans cannot account for all eventualities, they can give you a good start at protecting yourself from most of them. They can also make it easier to adjust to changing situations.


I do not believe in simply surviving a situation. Proper planning and implementation will allow you to meet your basic needs in a survival situation. If however you constantly work to improve your situation, you can actually thrive. Once you find and purify water for your immediate needs, try working on a means to collect and store a constant supply of potable water. Building an array of snares, deadfalls, and fish traps, can provide a steady supply of calories which will provide you the time and energy to improve your living conditions. A great shelter with a nice hearth, along with plenty of clean water, and a steady supply of food, will definitely allow you to thrive in any setting. The most important thing to remember is that in order to truly thrive in the wilderness, just like back in your real life, you should always work to improve your situation.

While I have presented these survival steps in what I feel to be the best order, the first thing you must understand is that everything is subject to change. You must be willing to ADAPT your actions as your situation changes.

Building Shelter

Shelter is the most important survival need

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Making Fire

Never underestimate the importance of fire

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Obtaining Water

Water is just as important as shelter

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Securing Food

Calories can be found in unexpected places

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Land Navigation

Important for self-rescue

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Wilderness Security

Situational awareness

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