How to Survive a Living Hell

Survival for extended periods of time in any extreme environment is a physically challenging and, more often than not, emotionally and mentally exhausting ordeal. But it can be (and has been) done. This article will teach you how to do it.


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    Never quit! In order to have any chance at all of surviving to "tell the tale," you must understand that your attitude is the single most important ally that you are likely to have. Above all, your will to live and to "beat the odds" will sustain you even when your situation seems utterly hopeless. This basic principle holds true for every situation in which a person is forced to live in a dangerous or outright hostile environment. It doesn't matter if you're in a combat zone, lost in the jungle, or if you've crashed your plane into the side of a mountain or find yourself in an abusive relationship, sheer determination is what separates the survivors from the "statistics".
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    Find shelter. A warm, dry place not only keeps you out of the elements and gives you a somewhat secure place in which to plan your next move, but also provides many psychological benefits.
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    Realistically assess your situation. It is imperative that you remain calm and think! If you let panic overrule common sense and critical thinking, then you set yourself up for a series of mistakes in a situation that leaves little room for error.
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    Gather your resources. Take stock of yourself and your surroundings. Surviving for a long period of time in adverse conditions means conserving your resources and knowing where and how to gather more. Resources can also include allies (anyone available to you who is trustworthy and willing to help). Don't isolate yourself, accept assistance from allies if it is available. This applies especially if the "enemy" is a human or large animal.
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    Know your "enemy". In most survival scenarios the elements (i.e. heat, cold, predators, terrain, etc.), along with hunger and thirst are the antagonists. In other cases, such as combat or an abusive relationship, the "enemy" is an actual person or group. In all cases you must learn as much as you can about what or whom you are dealing with.
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    Know when to keep moving and when to stay put. This is the tricky part because of the danger inherent in both of these courses of action. If you are relatively sure that someone at least has some idea of where you are then you might want to stay put so you will be easier to find. If you are unsure, then your best course of action might be to strike out on your own and move toward a location that will offer you the best chance of being rescued. You can literally "what if" yourself to death about this so trust your instincts and make a decision. Right or wrong, at least you will be doing something to save your own life.
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    Make a plan and stick with it. There are many ways to do this. One way is to come up with three workable plans incorporating the information and resources gathered in steps three through six and then work through a list of pros and cons for each plan. Pick the most feasible of the three and file the other two away as back-up plans. However, it is vitally important that you remember to remain flexible! No matter how good your plan is, it is likely that you will have to adjust to unforeseen circumstances.


  • Remember: Your mind is the best weapon you have. It is stronger and more resilient than you think. Most people quit long before they are truly exhausted simply because they have convinced themselves that they can't go on. There are documented cases of lost hikers wandering in the wilderness for days only to give up and die less than a mile from civilization.
  • Having a good plan when disaster strikes is not nearly as good as having one before you put yourself in harm's way. First-aid, CPR, and any additional skills and certifications that pertain are highly recommended! It's also a good idea to carry a first-aid kit with you at all times. You never know what's waiting around the next bend!
  • Although this may sound like a lot to carry it's really not. Most of these items are small and the whole kit should weigh no more than ten pounds. This particular kit can be carried in the trunk of a car or in a hiking pack and is well worth the weight.
  • In addition to your first-aid kit you should consider either purchasing or making a survival kit. It is recommended that you purchase one from a reputable manufacturer but either way you decide to go it should, at a minimum, contain the following items:
    • Dehydrated camp food,
    • bouillon cubes,
    • a small mirror for signaling,
    • water-proofed strike anywhere matches and a lighter in a water-proof container,
    • several small pieces cut from a fire starter log or a couple of steel wool pads (which is very good for starting fires, even if the wood you intend to use is wet) in a waterproof container,
    • fishing line and hooks,
    • a small .22 caliber pistol (this can be used to hunt small game, or to discourage large game from hunting you!),
    • an emergency rain suit,
    • an emergency blanket,
    • an L.E.D. flashlight, preferably "self powered"
    • a radio, preferably "Self Powered"
    • chem-lites,
    • a water-proofed map of the area(s) you will be traveling in,
    • a good knife,
    • a few road flares,
    • 550 (parachute) cord (this can be purchased at most military surplus stores),
    • a lensatic compass,
    • 1 qt. zip-loc freezer bags (for storing and carrying water),
    • iodine tablets (for purifying drinking water),
    • some extra socks in a water-proof bag (trust me, you'll appreciate them when the time comes!),
    • sun block,
    • a whistle,
    • a candle,
    • a sewing kit,
    • a small tarp (used to make an improvised shelter)
    • a small water-proof bag or backpack in which to secure these items.


  • If you plan on including a firearm in your kit, make sure that you meet the appropriate licensing and training requirements. Although some states don't mandate firearm training in their licensing requirements, it is highly recommended that you at least take a familiarization course.
  • The survival kit shown on this page is intended for use in warmer North American climates. It should be adjusted to suit the climate you are or will be traveling in.
  • Never venture out into the wilderness alone! Remember the "Buddy System". If you are an experienced adventurer then you should already know this, however, you might be tempted to disregard this warning because of that experience. Don't do it!

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Categories: Disaster Preparedness | Outdoor Safety