“A clever man can get himself out of a situation a wise man would never get into”

In Yossi Ghinsberg’s book Lost in the Jungle he describes how, at a point when he feels more optimistic about self rescuing, he begins to hope that the search and rescue (SAR) team will not find him before he is  able to emerge victorious from the jungle:

“I was going to rescue myself.  Now I hoped that no one was looking for me yet.  It would be a great letdown if they found me just as I was about to make my own way out of the jungle.  It was going to be so simple.  I could make it on my own”

A few weeks later he is still lost in the jungle and basically lies down and waits to die…

I won’t spoil the end for you but, if you are interested in reading the veritable catalogue of survival mistakes he and his friends made then it is well worth a read (and you can learn a lot from other people’s mistakes).   That is not meant as a criticism of Yossi Ginsberg, he had no training in jungle survival and was poorly equipped for the trip (and there, if there is one, does lie a criticism) but I mention it as an example of the odd ways people can think when placed in a survival situation.

There are other tales from SAR teams of how the person they are searching for has hidden from them when they got close or purposefully injured themselves….what. you might ask, is going on there?

sutvival_cup_of_tea_pskA friend of mine called Stuart Goring wrote a short article called ‘Survival is all about a good cup of tea’ and it is well worth a read – here is the link – in fact I would strongly recommend reading it as it could very well save your life.  You will find the answers to why people hide from SAR teams (or purposefully injure themselves) there.

The truth is, that if you get lost in the jungle you will most probably go through a range of emotions – frustration, panic, fear, anger, shame at getting lost – and, in your hurry to get out of this situation that is making you feel uncomfortable both physically and mentally, are more than likely to make the wrong decision about what to do.

This is where a good PSK can make all the difference – it gives you the confidence that you can still camp out in the jungle with a relative degree of comfort and wait for rescue, it also gives you the tools that will make it easier to follow Stuart’s advice (fire to make a brew), a way to communicate with others (whistle, pencil and paper) and a way to determine which direction you are going (a compass).

PSK_SAR_kitThe golden rule, if you get lost, is to STOP (Stop, Think, Orientate, Plan) and, with a bit of luck, the rest of your group will find you by the time the water’s boiling and your brew is made.  However, it may be necessary to move onwards (e.g. in a search for water or if no-one knows where you went into the jungle) and then, the key thing is to leave a trail (trailblaze) that others can follow and markers or notes that they will hopefully find that tell them where you’ve gone.  Not only that, but leaving a trail from the point you realised you were lost allows you to backtrack to that point … which may end up being the best option.

PSK_SAR_itemsImagine a SAR team conducting a spiral search out from your last known location: if you have not left any sort of trail the only way they can find you is if their search spiral intersects with the exact point where you are.  However, imagine now that you’ve left a clear trail – a line between the point where you were lost to the point you are now – when the SAR spiral hits that line (anywhere on that line) it will give them a way of tracking you down quickly as all they have to do is follow your trail.

As with any survival situation your mental approach is going to be a (if not the) key factor that will determine whether you survive or not.  If you have a PSK with you when you get lost this is going to be an immediate boost to your mental state as you know you have the key items needed for survival and, with that knowledge, you are likely to be far more calm (and make better decisions) than someone who has gone in without a PSK.

Finally, there is one item that is missing from my PSK that is notable by its absence: a signal mirror.  This is not because I don’t own one – I do – nor is it because I think they are not effective – I don’t – but, in the jungle at least, there would have to be a very fortunate combination of events for it to be useful (a clearing, sun in the right position, rescuers in the right position etc).  However, signal mirrors (as long as you get a good one and by that I mean a glass one and not a plastic one) are something that in a PSK for sea or desert survival would be one of the first items to pack.

There are other items you could pack (flares, signal balloons etc) however, the probability in a jungle rescue is that it will done by foot rather than by air and although these items could be helpful they would make your PSK kit much bulkier.  Similarly communication devices (SPOT, GPS, radio, satellite phone etc) could also get you out of a jam very fast but the PSK is put together with the assumption that you either don’t have these items or that they have failed.