Survival Ingenuity
By Paul Vircsik

Every wonder what it would be like to be stranded in the snow, far from the maddening crowd? Skied off the trail onto a diamond slope that only exists in your mind.  Now the highway is closed, the ski lifts not running and it's getting dark.  Lions and tigers and bears, oh my.

You may not be as stuck as you think.  Improvising and ingenuity is the challenge frequently at the heart of survival situations, one that often involves thinking beyond obvious categories and limitations.

The best way to survive is to be prepared for the unexpected.  Use what you've got.  Most people don't have any idea of how much is out there, and how many different ways there are to use it.  Of course, tumbling down the hill, through the bushes and onto the deck of the chalet would be wonderful.  A tree with pine bows used to protect against the wind might have to do.  Making common items like your dentures pull double duty as a cup for water may make you and your skiing partner take a pact on silence.  At least you wouldn't be thirsty.

Eating nature is not for the squeamish, but if you don't nature might eat you.  Besides, the squeaks and squeals uttered under your breath as you plow into the mealworms found in the bark of trees will only be heard by you.  Still, better to eat the bait, than to become it.

Thinking outside the box requires a degree of what might be called cunning indirection.  Say, for instance, that you need to heat water for drinking, disinfection, or cooking and have a fire but no vessel to hold the water.  Through resourcefulness you are able to fashion a workable container by folding pieces of birch bark into a box or cup shape and hold it together with split twigs fashioned into cloths pins.  How do you heat the water without burning the vessel? One way would be to use heat transfer.  Primitive man used simple stone.  Heating rocks in the fire and then with sticks moving them to the water cup can bring the water to a boil.  Takes a while but it can be done.

So try to think your way clear of death by using some simple steps for survival improvising.

  1. Identify your main need or problem
  2. Examine and inventory your tools and materials, both natural and man-made.
  3. Brainstorm possible solutions, thinking beyond the barriers of convention and squeamishness.  Consider both direct and indirect ways of achieving the goal.
  4. Choose the option that is the simplest, safest, and most efficient in time, energy, and material expenditure.
  5. Try it, while staying open to other alternatives along the way.

Use survival ingenuity with anything and everything you brought and find.  The possible uses are as limitless as one's imagination, stimulated by the forces of necessity that drive the ever-impressive human capacity for survival.

Pass the hot chocolate.


Meet the author.  Paul Vircsik writes a monthly column, Preparedness Corner, on fire and home safety that every property owner should read.  Read about Paul Vircsik's background.