When All’s NOT Well? Improvise!

See the items on the right? Trekking poles, an emergency blanket, some duct tape, and a silk scarf. Imagine yourself stranded in the backcountry with only these items in your backpack. After you’ve cursed and then forgiven yourself for going out into the outdoors horribly unprepared, how could you use these items to survive a desperate situation? Leave some comments below with your ideas, and if you’re utterly stumped, see my article on the About.com Survival Skills website titled “Survival Improvisation: Craft Improvised Tools and Gear,” which uses these four items as examples of how to use common items for new or creative purposes in outdoor survival situations.

Survival improvisation is more like a mindset, and it requires practice. But when you’re practicing something new, be prepared to fail. Then regroup and revise your approach. Share your experiences with friends, and learn from the experiences and advice of others.

Just in case you don’t believe me–about the trying and failing part–I wanted to share an experience in which I practiced making an improvised shelter in the Aiguilles Rouges, near Chamonix, France.

Four of us went out for a few nights, and the weather forecast wasn’t superstar. It was just so-so, not great. Nonetheless, I decided to take only a bivouac sac and a tarp. I planned to bed down on some comfy, leafy rhododendron bushes with my tarp spread out over trekking poles, like this:

But. A horrible storm came rumbling through…

…and I abandoned my bare-bones shelter plans. Luckily, two of the others were cozied up inside of a four-season mountain tent…

…and even though it was more of a two-person variety, I hoped in and curled up into a ball and slept at their feet, cramped and uncomfortable–but at least dry. I guess you could say that my improvised shelter was a great big FAIL in this instance. However, if mooching off of your friends counts as survival improvisation, then I did a great job here!

Want more ideas about how to improvise in the outdoors?
“Survival Improvisation: Craft Improvised Tools and Gear”
Learn the art of survival improvisation–creating tools out of available items in order to aid survival–by thinking of new uses for common itemsclick here to continue reading

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.

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