Injury, Gear, Weather: Three Survival Challenges

Issues related to weather, injury, and gear can cause some of the biggest outdoor survival challenges. Often, I think of these three things as deal-breakers…when something’s not right here, then it’s often time to bail, or re-group, or go home for good.

In the summer of 2010, I encountered challenges in each of these three areas as I walked and biked through France on a forty-day journey. Eight days into the journey, I got tendonitis in my ankle. It swelled up, and I couldn’t walk…so I had to decide what to do next.


In response to this challenge, I basically had to quit walking, and I thought I might have to quit altogether. But I rested for about 10 days with bags of ice on my ankle, and I made a plan to continue the journey on a bike to relieve stress on my ankle while it continued to heal. This solution required me to get creative with my gear.


I borrowed a bike, and I used zip ties and bungee cords to strap my backpack onto a rack that I attached to the bike’s rear pannier. It worked, as I rode hundreds of miles through France and camped along the way until I reached the foot of the Alps.

Throughout the journey, and especially in the Alps, I had to make difficult decisions based on the weather.


In some areas, such as the one above, low clouds obscured the trail, which often got faint as it passed through high alpine pasture. If I knew that I had to cross such an area, I watched the weather carefully, and in this instance, I had to wait an extra day for the weather to improve before it was safe to continue.

When you have a goal in the outdoors, it’s often hard to give up that goal when confronted with challenges. But sometimes, surviving means giving up goals–or returning to go after them again when the time is right.

Want to know more about survival scenarios involving injury, gear, and weather?
Read my article on the Survival Skills website:

“Survival Scenarios: Turn Back Now”

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.


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