Environmental Checklists

The development of checklists as “cheating tools” or “training wheels” can be an effective means of furthering survival acumen. An opportunity to practice this approach is presented in the picture above, “Environment Checklists.” Examine the picture, with the intent of creating a checklist for four major survival needs: shelter, water, fire (or energy,) and food.

Shelter – The ground is covered with pine needles that can be used for warmth via the “squirrel’s nest” principle, also known as the “use of dead-air space”. Debris of this nature can be compiled into a natural shelter, such as a debris hut, for overnight warmth, or stuffed in between layers of sweatshirts and jackets to create natural insulation. Note: Man-made equipment, such as a hammock or tent, will prevent night-time contact with creepy crawlies, and the squirrel’s nest principle applies to all of these options.

Water – While there is no water source in the picture, these types of plants grow in areas that are not void of water. In this case, I would scan the environment and walk downhill to find drainages, ponds, creeks, or springs. Note: the next section of the growing checklist, Fire, could be used as a mechanism to boil and purify water.

Fire – Pine forests are full of pitch stumps (the remnants of dead pine trees.) Pitch wood scrapings are the perfect natural tinder, as they ignite quickly even in humid conditions. Pine needles serve as kindling. Pine branches are easily harvested as medium-to-large sources of fuel. It is also fun to use globs of pine sap in firecraft, as in most cases it lights easily and can be manipulated in place.

Food – Glance at the photo again. The palmetto branches have edible bases and berries are often found beneath the leaves. Note: do not eat these or other plants without professional identification. Pine needles, when boiled into a tea, release high concentrations of vitamin C. The inner bark, or cambium layer, of pine trees can also be eaten.

Below is another image to be examined:


Shelter – More pine needles and branches that can be used in shelter construction. Note: this is a poor shelter site due to the threat of flooding.

Water – Yes! This water source was found by simply walking downhill and seeking low-lying areas. Puddle and pond water definitely need to be purified.

Fire – As mentioned above, pine needles are abundant here. The stump presents fuel that can be easily gathered, as well.

Food – The leaves of yaupon holly (seen with red berries) can be steeped into a caffeinated black tea – a Starbucks alternative!

These images and checklists illustrate how this type of exercise should unfold. The goal is to become adept at examining the immediate environment and cataloging ways to meet survival needs. Ultimately, rather than carrying a checklist, a person should strive to “become the checklist.” Instead of building a survival kit, they should strive to “become the survival kit.” The development of checklists as an exercise will enhance these abilities so that skills can someday improve or act in place of the checklist when needed.

If you enjoyed this article, please check out The Survival Template and The Cave and The Sea, A Novel for more information from John A. Heatherly.

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