Now that the weather is turning nasty, only the hardiest of adventurers will be getting outdoors, and only the cleverest of those will be genuinely prepared for emergency.
That’s because survival is less a game of equipment and more one of knowledge. I can remember a snowshoeing trip in college where we ended up turned around pretty badly. Some in our group were as hapless as Hansel and Gretel, actually saying things like, “I know, let’s head back to that tree that has the bird in it.”
I had my ubiquitous survival can, packed with all I would need to build a fire, shelter, catch fish and be seen by rescuers, but I really had no interest in breaking it out and spending the night in the snow with those people, so it was fortunate when I and one other hiker managed to find the trailhead after taking a chance on a road that could just as well had taken us deeper into the forest.
The lesson was that being prepared means knowing what to do when it matters. Maybe the best cinematic example of that idea is the wonderfully over-the-top 1997 movie, The Edge starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin.
It involves two rich city guys who find themselves stranded in the mountains with no survival gear at all, but Hopkins’ character has encyclopedic knowledge of survival techniques. He’s a billionaire who’s spent all his time reading absolutely everything on the subject, and so, faced with a life-or-death survival situation, he manages to survive, in classic hollywood fashion, using his knowledge, and his will.
One thing that stuck with me from that film was the constant question, “How do you make fire with ice?” It’s a thread throughout the movie, and it has always left me wondering if it’s practical. The idea is to fashion a lens out of ice and then use it like a magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight on tinder.
I’ve never tried it myself, but apparently it’s a thing. So maybe before you strike out on a winter adventure, you could give the technique a shot, or at least settle in to enjoy The Edge. It’ll make you want to survive, I promise.