Survival is about mindset, not the gear you have. I was just reminded this yet again this weekend as I was hiking through the woods with a small day pack and too small of snowshoes, packing my gear to a cabin which I had planned to drive to.
The snow had mostly cleared from my AO and I wanted to get out into the woods. I’ve been doing lots of snowshoeing locally with a buddy but I needed an over-nighter. So I rounded up an equally crazy friend, jumped in his lifted diesel truck with the gear we wanted – beer – and headed up to the cabin I care take for some elderly neighbors. Its only about an hour and a half north of me, same(ish) elevation so I figured we could make it with some chains on the truck.
Now this cabin is remote, but it can be driven to. Its well built, but I have only just this last fall taken a sheep herders stove up to it and had yet to bring up the pipe and get it installed although I had a good stash of wood set aside up there. What a better time, right? Wrong. We made it about two hundred yards from where the drive intersects the plowed access road. That left about a mile of two and a half foot deep snow to ferry our supplies up by foot. Thank god at the last second I threw in two pairs of snow shoes – they were going to be used for us to go look for elk and moose sheds…
So after we called it quits on the drive, we talked for a minute and said, “well, its always an adventure…” and loaded the day packs with enough gear to make it overnight and into the next morning. This included the mini dutch oven i had pre-assembled our dinner in at the bottom of my pack, not the lightest thing in the world. Regretfully, this did not include the stove pipe and pieces we would need to have heat inside. But Jason grabbed the beer so you know, we called that a wash.
Now I’m not much of a fan of Military style gear. First, I grew up backpacking and think, scratch that, I know that gear not made by the lowest bidder and fitted for one size fits most is better. I own quality backpacking gear because I can tailor fit it to me and my style of activities because there are so many options. Now that being said, there are a few pieces of mil surplus gear that are just great. The sleep system is one of them. As we were at the truck deciding what essentials we would take, I utilized the ability to break down the components of the sleep system, leaving the gore tex bivy and inner fleece and just taking the green, snapped over the black bag (knowing we would be sleeping inside the cabin) and used the compression bag to cinch it all down. No it wasn’t as comfy as a negative 30 flannel bag, but it works every time and is tough enough to stand up to the abuse I seem to find a way to always inflict on my gear.
As we hiked up the hills to the cabin I thought about that for a minute and came to a realization that the difference isn’t that civilian made backpacking gear is always better, its just different. I don’t think my best packs or bags could hold up to year round use in the woods. I think the military set ups would come a lot closer though.
The whole bug out to the woods forever philosophy is unrealistic in my opinion. There are too many people and not enough wilderness to do it. Yes you can go hide for a bit, but never have another modern convenience again? There are way too many homes, cabins and trailers out there to not ever have a roof made of modern materials over your head again. Its just a fact no matter what the situation.
That doesn’t mean I don’t like to still know and practice primitive bushcraft staying. Yes ‘staying’, instead of ‘living.’ We didn’t pack a tent this weekend. If we got to where we were going and the cabin had somehow burnt down or been destroyed by a tree falling on it, we would have bushcrafted up, built a shelter, lit a fire and popped a top. It’s mindset. A lot of practiced skills and a developed and hardened mindset, but mindset all the same.
Even the best gear can rip, tear or break. Trust me, its happened too many times to me to be surprised by it any more. You still have to get back home so you adapt, make do and otherwise tough it out. That’s what this whole bug out thing really should be called; Bug Out Mindset not Bug Out Bag. You can starve or freeze surrounded by the best gear, the only way a person will know how to use that gear to help them live is to get out and use it and usually, learn how to work around its short comings.How are you going to figure out how to do a task when gear piece A or B aren’t cutting it? Thats the survival mentality that gets forgotten when looking through the catalogs filled with Survival This and Wilderness That.
Go for a hike with less gear and learn something about yourself, even if its just how to smile when you wish you had something. Smile, then keep on trucking back to your SUV with the heated seats and stop by Starbucks on the way home. Its all relative.