The classic and enduring scout motto applies everywhere in life, but especially out on the land. It is absolutely amazing how even a little preparation can get us through challenges that could be insurmountable without a bit of prep time. After first aid, fire and shelter are the two most important considerations to be prepared for. You can survive just about any situation if you have the capability to get a fire going and make some kind of a shelter from the elements.
Hypothermia is the number one killer in the outdoors and fire and shelter are at the top of the remedies for this problem – and escalation to a life-and-death situation is common where fire and/or shelter are not available. The simplest preparation step is to carry a large plastic garbage bag and a Bic lighter(or two or three, as they don’t take much room.)
A simple survival kit is easy to make with wooden, strike-anywhere wooden matches; Bic lighters; a large piece of foldable plastic or nylon tent fly; tea bags, hot chocolate and/or instant coffee; a tin mug; energy bars; a small knife; twine or dental floss (very strong) and perhaps flares or a signal mirror.
These items will all fit into a small fanny pack which should be around your waist and not in the boat, truck, pack or back at camp. It will only help you if you have it on your body.
You might be amazed how often on a stalk while hunting you remove and leave behind your back-pack. If your survival gear is in that pack, you have just made a giant mistake. Hopefully you will find your pack, but often it is not until the next day and sometimes never.
An overturned canoe where you are in the river and your survival gear is still in your pack or elsewhere in the canoe is a very negative situation. Survival gear must be attached to you at all times or it is useless.
Topographical maps in various scales can help you prepare for a trek or a hunt as they show you the lay of the land in precise detail. They are currently fairly expensive, but will last forever if cared for. They can be copied for use on the trail which allows the original to be kept in good shape.
These maps show you what is ahead as far as topography is concerned and allow you to choose an easier route, or at least let you know what to expect on a route you are committed to following. They are useful in establishing an alternate route to the same place if other routes are impractical.
One of the best and often underrated preparation steps is simply telling someone where you are going and when you are planning to return. Macho attitudes often overlook this gem of preparedness and the results are sometimes fatal – and always more serious than they should be.
If you said Day 5 is the return day and gave your locations, anyone concerned such as Search and Rescue will find you very quickly and you will be safe and sound because of a little preparation.