Survival Pocket Reference
Posted by Jackie Judge on 11/17/09
Developer:Double Dog Studios
Release Date:September 17, 2009
Summary:Make like the Army and go pro with your survival skills. The chapter on wilderness medicine is of particular use to backpackers deep in the backwoods.
Scene: Siskiyou Wilderness – Night
A somber fog hushes the woods. A fog so thick it’s palpable, able to be indented, as it undulates, clinging to the craggy faces of rocky outcrops and the splintered shell of an antique, befallen stump. A deer steps out from the thicket, dew cascading from her mange-bitten fur, her doleful eyes searching for something. A piece of bark with those chewy grubs, maybe. A spot of grass. Lowering her muzzle to nose the ground, she huffs hot air into the soil, revealing tender shoots of grass, and the deer starts eating mindfully. But, the grass is so tender, and the fog so quiet, the deer makes the mistake of snuffling a bit too loudly, and chewing with nary an ounce of abrupt, onset fret, like most, inherently flighty deer. Had she minded her species’ instincts, her god-given skills, she would not have been unaware of the strange, crepuscular creature to her left, hidden in the underbrush, the creature with no fur, and lanky, joint-ridden extremities. She also, would have been aware of the snare.
* * * *
In situations of peril when you are alone, lost, in the wilderness, there will come a time when you must fend for yourself, meaning you must find food, water, and shelter. You must survive. Relying on your instincts, your body and senses, is an arduous, challenging task, and one that many people fail at – some people never make it out of the wilderness. Think about the odds – it’s you against nature. Wild animals, rocky precipices, extreme temperatures, lack of water, poisonous plants, giardia, broken limbs, and far more pose serious threats to the untrained individual. Unless you’re a wilderness instructor, a ranger, or a member of the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy or Air Force, you’re fairly plumb out of luck. However, some reading can be done on the subject, and what better way than with the new Survival Pocket Reference app, a guide to Survival Tactics by the US Military, itself (developed by Double Dog Studios). Hell, they’re only the authority on the subject.
This app doesn’t kid around. Starting off in quintessential military fashion, the app opens with a lively background splash of camouflage, with the next few pages dissecting the given mnemonic of S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L into its various mantras and codes. Either flip through like a book, or double tap the screen to access Chapter, to bookmark, and to otherwise easily navigate. The app then delves deeply into 11 chapters covering all the most important areas of knowledge. Some are more militaristic than others, dealing with evasion techniques in enemy territory, and proper POW interactions (in short, no interaction), but a lot of the information in these sections can be applied to the outdoor enthusiast, as well. Skills like radio communications and fire signals (Chapter 4), and navigation (Chapter 3) – knowing how to make a sun compass, determining your position, star navigation, triangulation and more – are truly exceptional assets that can spell success for the hopeless wayward. Even the chapter on “Evasion”(Chapter 2) can be relayed from avoiding enemy detection to avoiding animal detection. It’s good to know how to move along the ground, how to conceal yourself and your odors, and to understand that binnocular vision is best for direct examination – when tracking an animal, say – and that peripheral vision is better trusted at night for recognizing movement in the twilight. Some tips seem common sense, sure, but reading them from a recognized manual gives them some credence, some tangibility, over your basic first instincts.
Scene: Siskiyou Wilderness – Day
Greg bit hard into the heavily charred thigh of venison. No grubs, a good sign. He had put the meat away before the flies could get to it. Rolling the meat around in his mouth, trying for the best angle of chew – game meat is always so rubbery – Greg noticed the cut on his arm looked a little worse for the wear than the night before, a few pustules visible just below the skin. That deer’s hooves sure were sharp.
Did I wash it enough?
Yes, yes, I did. A foreign body, maybe.
Maybe it’s impetigo.
He closed his eyes and sighed, knowing if it was impetigo, then there likely was an infection. He would have to find some tree bark, possibly from that acorn tree where he had made shelter the previous night. Finishing up the last stringy piece of meat, he threw the bone into the flailing fire, the last dying embers valiantly leaping in dazzling, futile trajectories toward those tempting pine needles scattered in clumps in all directions.
The First Aid section of this app (Chapter 6), is exceptionally thorough for a quick guide to survival. A whole section on Plant Medicine shows the different uses of the Common Cattail, the Common Plantain, Willow leaves, Aspen leaves, tree bark, and several other less common plants that can be used to treat dystentary, boils, infections, and more. For the more serious bodily injuries, the app makes sure to include handy and easily deciphered illustrations going over the various steps in, say, how to properly apply a compression bandage for a snakebite. The big offenders are obviously included in this chapter, conditions like Hypothermia and Frostbite; Heat Stroke and Sun/Snow Blindness; Burns, Fractures, and Shock; and tools like how to apply a tourniquet, how to perform CPR, and how to properly apply a bandage. The First Aid section pays great attention to details, covering even pressure points along the body, to ease hemorrhaging, and covering the concern of a “sucking chest wound,” a frightful condition where the chest wall has been penetrated, causing the victim to gasp for breath. Many of these techniques require some technical skill, but it’s nothing so far advanced that a thorough perusing of the chapter won’t prepare you.
The chapter on Personal Protection (Chapter 7) may be overlooked by some for its sheer common sense value, but it would be unwise to do so. Remembering that your priorities are to 1) construct a shelter and 2) procure water, are absolutely vital to your initial 24 hours of survival. This section also covers helpful clothing amenities, such as how to improvise gaiters, foot pads, bedding, and snow goggles. It’s of great significance that this chapter heavily covers different types of shelter: immediate shelters (ones from already present objects that require minimal action on your part), thermal A frames (like an angular, sideways teepee), snow trenches, snow caves, molded domes, and more. Pitch (i.e. sap) from trees may be used as tinder (defined by the app as a smaller version of kindling, meant to be finely shredded to provide a low combustion point), and fires may be created through any one of various designs, all of which can be narrowed down to what’s available in your situation. If you think all this is mind-blowing, then wait until you check out the water section. I, for one, had absolutely no idea you could whack off a piece of bamboo and drink the water within. Next time I’m in China, I’ll have to try that.
The other chapters cover, obviously, Food (Chapter 9), and two of a more curious nature. Chapter 10 probably won’t pertain to most people stuck in the wilderness, it covering Man-induced conditions like post-nuclear, post-chemical or post-biological attacks. But, for those completely stricken with the never-ending fear of terrorists, such knowledge isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Chapter 11 – an appendix that concerns Edible and Medicinal Plants – is definitely more useful, but it treads a thin line of reliability on personal judgment. For anyone who has read Jon Krakauer’s heartbreaking book, Into the Wild, you can understand how mistaking one plant for another can spell the difference between health and a crippling, drawn-out death. Take the elderberry, for example. Commonly found all over the East Coast of the United States, the elderberry is a delicious berry I would eat as a kid in Pennsylvannia in the form of jellies, jams, and baked into cobblers. It’s quite good for sore throats, and we would pick them by the basket load in the summer. However, it’s all too easily confused with the water hemlock, cicuta, a highly poisonous plant that, upon ingestion, releases a toxin named cicutoxin, which causes seizures and other central nervous system disorders. Some varieties of elderberry, too, have poisonous properties, like the bush with red berries, sambucus racemosa, which is toxic regardless of cooking. The edible elderberry is even toxic raw, as it contains a large quantity of cyanide.
For anyone who makes a habit of plundering in the backwoods of some remote area, like the Siskiyou in northern California (the most isolated stretch of forest in the continental U.S.) or in the trenches of Appalachia (Deliverance, anyone?), or anywhere else in the world, the Survival Pocket Reference is your new best friend. In one backpacking excursion in the Siskiyou with three friends, one of the girls and I had become lost in the woods, disoriented from our camp location. Thankfully, I knew enough about compass and topography to re-situate ourselves; every backpacker or ardent hiker must know how to read a topographical map. But, then again, what if we didn’t have our map? Who knows, we could have gone off in the wrong direction, and ended up miles away from our destination. Had we not been as bright, or more inclined to panic, we could have been in serious peril. This app, certainly, could have saved our lives.
Scene – Siskiyou – Smith River – Day
Greg surveyed the scene. The river was fully engorged, a sheer white sweep of rushing liquid, freshly thawed from the spring sun’s rays. Should he cross? He thought better of it. He could be swept away in the torrential river, and whatever strength he could muster wouldn’t help him any once his body hit a rock, his body thwacking with incredible force, and ribs cracking, no doubt. There would also be hypothermia to contend with. No, he would have to follow downstream. Or, was it upstream? If only he had gotten lost in the winter.
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Tagged as: basic survival skills, Double Dog Studios, First Aid, paid iphone app, Survival Pocket Reference, wilderness survival