And it will go wrong, at the worst possible time. The most important step in any adventure is Preventative Maintenance and Checks to your gear, and yourself. Whether it’s the checking tire pressure in the family RV before a big trip, pressure testing your scuba tank, or taking the time to study a map of your adventure area; there is no way to know when an emergency might arise, you can only be prepared. Prepping involves much more than just buying a bunch of survival gear and throwing it into a pack. Being well prepared means having the working knowledge of how your gear works, it involves studying a map of the area you’ll be adventuring in, and it entails checks with possible maintenance on all equipment that will be used on the trip. Whether you’re planning a small trip, or multiple day trip, equipment failure, or simply not knowing how to use a certain tool, can ruin a day fishing, or turn an emergency into a catastrophic one.
Often, when people are thrusted into an emergency or survival situation, it’s due to multiple unfortunate events that were not properly prepared for. Having the proper equipment, for the type of adventure you’re on, can mean the difference between getting out of a situation, and complete disaster. Perhaps more important than having the proper gear, is having the know how to adequately operate your safety and survival gear. My favorite example happened to my mother and sister and left them stranded on a small island in the middle of Lake Livingston one very humid Texas summer day. If a multi-tool features 20+ different functions, and you only know how to use the knife, but never knew about the ¼” driver, something as simple as a loose coolant hose and rusty socket wrench can end up leaving you stranded, when it could have been repaired, somewhat easily. If you have questions about something you aren’t sure how to use, simply refer to the user’s manual, dealer/manufacturer’s website, or the all-knowing, Google.
You yourself are not immune to falling victim of an emergency simply because you studied and double checked all the gear in your pack. If you are the only one in your group knowledgeable about the area or gear, then you are severely limiting the chances of yourself making it out of a situation in which yourself is the victim. It is always a good idea to have a quick 5-15-minute pre-trip briefing with everyone involved immediately prior to go time. This ensures that no one, that followed through with the trip, misses anything. Take this time to go over things like a map of the area, VHF radio channels, traveling route, and anything that someone may have questions about. Having everyone on the same page will significantly improve group performance in everything from first aid to full-on survival situations.
Emergency or survival gear is not limited to just your tools. These terms can describe a long list of medical or first aid equipment, repair tools, signal devices, food/water rations, etc. There is an ever-growing list of available products that can aid in a hectic situation. It is up to you to determine what tools will be best suited to your application, or applications. Of course, there are plenty of gear guides, prep classes, and books that can help you in finding the proper gear, but if you try to take everything they say to take, you will be severely over-packed. When it comes to trip planning, the most important thing to remember, is that nothing will get you farther than you and your group’s knowledge. Knowledge about the equipment, knowledge about your area of adventuring, and knowledge about yourself can get you through most modern-day survival situations. Of course, a little good luck can go a long way as well.