The military, aside from shooting M16s and planting landmines and driving ACEs (Armored Combat Earthmovers), know a thing or two about survival. The great news for civilians is that many of the Armed Forces’ techniques are easily transferable to non-military field endeavors. Below is a list of five of the most important tips you can take with you into the rough and tumble outdoors.
Detect Danger In 10 Seconds Or Less
Scanning is a part of “target acquisition” in military lingo and it’s used to uncover threats in a minimum of time. Scanning comes in two flavors: Rapid and slow. Rapid scanning involves dividing the area in front of you into sections. You then sweep your gaze from foreground to horizon in each section. The total time to rapid scan should be no more than 10 seconds. Slow scanning is similar but the scan area is smaller. With slow scans, you sweep the land in front of you in a 50-meter strip from foreground to horizon. Then you sweep the next 50-meter strip behind that one, repeating this process until you’ve exhausted your field of vision front-to-back and side-to-side. Slow-scanning takes more time but is important for unearthing dangers along your path that rapid-scanning may not pick up.
Turn Your Eyes Into Night-Vision Binoculars
Remember when you were a kid and you’d make giant O’s with your hands, put them over your eyes, and pretend they were binoculars? Believe it or not, you weren’t far off from the advanced night vision hacks practiced by the military in the field. Because of the way the human eye is built, looking directly at an object at night actually impedes your clarity. Look immediately to the side of the target for crisper vision, and move your eyesight back and forth in quick bursts to avoid losing focus. Furthermore, playing “pretend binoculars” blocks out extra darkness and maximizes the light that enters your eyes. You may feel silly at first, but remember that combat vets were doing it long before you to great success.
Escape Without Being Seen
In the event that you need to beat feet out of a given area without being seen, your best option will probably not entail making a mad dash in a straight line. Instead, you have three options for maneuvering the field: low crawl, high crawl, and rush. Low crawls offer the most protection when you don’t have a lot of natural concealment, but they also take the most time. To perform one, lay flat on your stomach, bring one of your knees parallel to your hips (known as a fight leg), and stretch out the opposite arm (called a pulling arm). You will use this arm and leg until you tire, at which point you can switch legs if need be. With high crawls, you maintain contact with the ground using your forearms and lower legs but alternate pulling arms and fight legs as you advance. This method is faster than low crawls and is great if you have brush or other concealment readily available. If you have to move more quickly and have the cover to do so, try implementing a 3-5 second rush. To rush, spring from whatever crouched position you’ve assumed while under cover and run along the shortest route to the next cover.
Customize Your Exits
Ex-military, preppers, and other survivalist types are most likely familiar with the concept of “bugout routes” and bugout caches. A bugout route is a path chosen as the safest and quickest route to get the individual to their pre-determined shelter in the event of an emergency. A bugout cache can be anything–a bag or a box or even a bucket–filled with food and other supplies the individual wants during their escape. The cache is hidden along the route in order to deter humans from stealing it and animals from eating it, but the precise location is always known by the owner. If you’re venturing into the field and you want to ensure a supply of backup resources, choosing an exit route and stocking it with a bugout cache can help your evacuation go that much more smoothly.
Stay Dry When Neck-Deep In Water
Poncho rafts can get you across wadeable water while keeping your stuff dry. Fair warning, though: Most soldiers hate poncho raft drills. They require precise arrangement to work (think Tetris) while equalling the weight of a hundred dead bodies (at least, that’s what it feels like). No worries, however, as your civilian raft probably won’t weigh as much. Spread out a large poncho on the ground and lay your belongings in the center. You’ll need enough room to snap the two sides together, life the snapped edge, and roll it as tight as possible. This creates “pigtails” at either end. Fold the pigtails on top of the poncho and tie them together using one of your boot laces. Then secure the entire poncho around the middle with your other boot lace. If you can spare the extra time, strip down and pack your clothes into the raft before entering the water. Obviously, this won’t be an option in sub-freezing temperatures without risking acute hypothermia. Milder weather is risky, too, but the fact that you can keep your clothes dry may spare you once you make it across. As always, employ discretion within your own context.