By Tom Bergh

Survival is the art of staying alive. Mental attitude is as important as physical endurance and knowledge. Know how to find and take what is possible from nature and use it to its fullest. Know how to attract attention to yourself so rescuers can locate you. Know how to travel across unknown territory back to assistance. Know how to maintain a healthy physical condition, and heal yourself and others if wounded. You must maintain your own and your group's morale.

Establish and maintain a positive attitude. What you do in the first few minutes and hours, your attitude and decisions, often is the key to survival.

  • Will: Essential to Survive.
  • Knowledge: Breeds Confidence, Dispels Fear.
  • Training: Master and Maintain Skills.
  • Kit: Equipment is a Bonus.


Only positive action can save you; do not give up. Determination will bring you through seemingly impossible situations. Survival stresses are fear & anxiety; pain; illness & injury; cold and/or heat; thirst; hunger & fatigue; sleep deprivation; boredom; loneliness & isolation.

Be wary of panic, clarify your wants from your needs, don't complain - do something, BE HERE NOW. Be curious and harmonious.


Me first, me second, me third, my partner fourth, the victim fifth.

Have a plan based on topography, time, and resources.


Who is with you, what are the known hard skills, where is everyone's head: ability, commitment, responsibility?

What are the possibilities?

What are the costs?


Seashores offer abundant food and excellent prospects for survival. Be clear of the maximum high tides. Be aware of many food sources. Be cognizant of swimming dangers.

Islands can create acute isolation. Evaluate all resources; don't exploit.

Desert shores & arid regions.


Arctic & tropical regions.


Health Checks.

Group Members.

Planning: Entry, Objective & Recovery.

Contingency Plans.


Where are currents and wind carrying you?

Abandoning ship decision? When would you?

In the water: Clothing on? Wrap neck.

Know indicators of land: cumulus, birds, smells, current shifts.


  • You can survive 3 weeks without food, 3 days only without water. The body loses 2-3 liters of water per day.
  • How to retain fluids - Avoid exertion, rest. Keep cool, stay in shade, erect shelter. Don't lie on hot areas. Don't eat unless have water or eat as little as possible, fat is especially hard to digest. No alcohol. Reduce talk, breath through the nose. No salt water. No urine, no smoking.
  • Collecting water - Plan your catchment ahead, rinse and saturate cloth, avoid contamination.
  • Finding water - Study the topography, valleys, stream beds, traps, above high tide line. Dew & rain collection. Watch and use the animals & plants. Condensation from branches and leaves. Build a solar still.
  • Nutrition - You should have a basic understanding of general requirements of carbohydrates, protein, fat, minerals & vitamins.
  • Salt - Important for cramps, dizziness, nausea, tiredness.
  • Testing New Foods - Only 1 person should test:
  • Inspect - avoid slimy, wormy, old. 
  • Smell - crush and avoid bitter almond or peach smells.
  • Skin irritation - squeeze or rub onto tender skin.
  • Lips, mouth, tongue - waiting 15 seconds in between. Swallow and wait 5 hours. If you've stomach trouble, drink hot water, eat charcoal or ash.
  • Gather Plants Systematically - You should work on identifying plants of your proposed area, but some general rules IF not positively identified: avoid plants with milky sap, red plants, fruit divided into 5 segments, plants with barbs, old or wilted leaves that may be ok if young and tender, avoid mature bracken, wash salt from seaweeds.
  • Animals for Food - Finding & Capturing:
  • Trapping - mangle, strange, dangle, tangle.
  • Hunting - methods & tools & handling the kill.
  • Fishing - nets, traps and spears often better than lines.
  • All birds are edible.
  • Insects are rich in fat, protein and carbohydrates, but remove hairs, wings, casings. Avoid insects feeding on carrion or refuse, avoid grubs on underside of leaves, if brightly colored often poisonous.
  • Animal dangers are greater from diseases and parasites than attack. Beware of dangerous confrontations, animals can smell fear, move slowly, talk calmly. If you run consider zig zag. Climbing trees is a last resort.


Lay out signals, polish metal with sand, set fires ready to light, use your mirror.

Know your flares and use wisely. Alert and locate functions.


Shelter & making camp.

Fire fuel and lighting.

Types of fires & cooking.

Preserving food.


Ropes & knots: ladders, snares.


The Decision to Move. Stock up. Check gear, make packs & clothing. Carry signaling and shelter. Weather. Route Planning.


Matches, candle, flint, magnifying glass, needles & thread, fish hooks & line, compass, chem sticks, snare wire, flexible saw, med kit.

What would you add or delete?


You are only as sharp as your knife. Strong and able.


Know the signs and treatment.

Use clothing, huddling, bivy bags, hot liquids.


No medical facilities, extended patient management, delayed transport, limited and improvised equipment, severe environment.

Initial Assessment - ABC (Airway, Breathing, Circulation): fix as you find.

Scene - MOI (Mechanism Of Injury); exposure.

History - what do you already know?

SAMPLE - Symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Past medical history, Last, Events.

Exam (check head to toe): smell, hear, feel, see.

Patient trust.

Vital Signs (repeat at intervals) - Pulse (normal: 60-80 beats/minute), Respiration (normal: 12-20/minute), B/P (Radial, Femoral, Carotid), Skin Temperature and Color.

AVPU (Awake, Vocal, Pain, Unresponsive).

Medical Conclusions.

Anticipated and Current Problems List.

Treatment Plan (medical treatment and evacuation plan).

Know treatment for bleeding, sprains, dislocations, fractures, shock, infections, burns, wounds, drowning, and seasickness.


Keeps up morale; may be a valuable reference.


  • Any accounts of survivors and incidents.
  • SAS Survival Guide, Harper Collins, ISBN 0 00 470167 4
  • Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival, by Brown & Morgan, ISBN 0 425 10572 5
  • Sea Survival, by Huff & Farley, ISBN 0 8306 3077 7