The Basics of Bush Survival was not only interesting, it taught me some valuable skills. All-round there are some great strategies and tips. It was a lot of fun being on the course "out in sticks" not to mention how well put together the course is and just how much is covered in this short amount of time.
Being a quintessential city boy and also quite fond of electricity and running water, it’s hard to think why one (living in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg) would ever need to go on a Bush Survival Course. Not only was this a fun weekend away, but there were also some valuable bush survival skills learned on the course.
The course spans 1.5 days with 2 nights camping out under the stars in hammocks. You wouldn’t think it, but these hammocks are surprisingly comfortable to sleep in and the overhead fly sheet provides shelter from the elements. Elements which we experienced in all their glory when the heavens opened up and the wind howled through the trees as it bucketed down – the likes of which were mighty impressive. Now supposedly we’re all in a survival situation here. But none of us remembered our training, so instead of fashioning containers from the everyday items at the ready to collect all this valuable rainwater, for the gruelling “days” ahead – all that could be seen (and heard) was frenzied hysteria followed by some high pitched shrieking from the men stampeding to the shelter of their cars desperately clutching at their last bit of dry bedding.
This bush survival course is bite sized, but packs a wallop. You’re going to learn everything needed to keep you alive for those critical few days until you find civilisation, water, food, your saviours or a noose. The following is a list of the essentials covered on the course, they are:
Leaving you in a pretty pickle, if you have none of them. But water and fire would be essential to at least prolonging your survival which increases your chances of being found, or finding some of the other 3 essentials.
Short term survival is 72 hours or less, long term survival is 72 hours plus. With oxygen: 3 minutes without it and you’re in trouble; 3 days without water and your body starts shutting down.
The best advice given when in a survival situation was to “stay motivated!”
Much of keeping yourself from going vrot outdoors comes down to mental stamina. Tell yourself you are going to survive this no matter what. Why? “Because my wife and kids depend on me” or “because I just realised that I left a knife in the fork drawer” – whatever it is, let that be the motivation that keeps you going. Pictures of wives and kids kept in your wallet will keep you going. (this is of course assuming that you would like to see your wife and kids again, if not, then perhaps head for the Botswana border and onto freedom )
How to Build A Bush Fire
Probably one of the most important skills to have in a survival situation. Fire can keep you warm, fend off predators, cook food, prepare drinking water and have many other uses. On this course you learn about making a bow drill which although quite difficult, will mean you can make a fire from natural materials found nearby; as well as learn other techniques for fire making, such as sourcing the best tinder and building a fire that will last.
How to Pack A Bush Survival Kit
Most of the time these survival situations catch you unawares – and you will have not had time to prepare a survival kit. But it’s a good practice to keep a kit in your 4×4 or rucksack at all times. It will weigh next to nothing and may just save your life one day. Some of the most important things to include would be:
- Knife (backup knife)
- Matches (loose in a Ziploc bag)
- Cotton wool (great for tinder)
- Potassium permanganate (for firestarting and water purification)
- Small fishing kit (i.e. hook, line and float)
- Paracord (or tough rope for multitude of uses)
- Tin foil (folded can be used as a fishing lure, in food preparation and to reflect sun and signal for help)
- Water purification tablets
- Bags: transpiration (clear) and black bags
- Emergency blanket
- LED light
- Signal mirror (more powerful than tinfoil)
- Wire (for snares)
- Safety pins (can also be fashioned into a fishing hook)
- Mini hacksaw
- Pencil and paper
- Waterproof container (small)
- Torch (headlamp)
- Charcloth (which is cotton that has been burnt in a paint tin so as to leave a black fabric which is highly flammable)
- Dixie (cooking container)
- 1st aid kit
How to Make a Bush Shelter
Clothes are the 1st form of “shelter” against the elements. Keep them dry and CLEAN. Nobody wants to have a bush straggler on his last legs – that has been out in the wilderness for days – climb into your car or come into your house reeking to high bloody heaven; or contaminating the very air that you breathe with a stench that could bring down a buffalo.
- Never setup camp right next to a river. Always camp just elevated from the river a few meters up.
- Watch for loose and falling branches when camping near or under a tree.
- Don’t build your shelter on an animal path. You will have visitors eventually and not the sort that will bring you a pot plant or want to borrow some sugar.
Cordage (string, ropes etc) are very important and you will learn how to make cordage from bark, and straw and all sorts of cool things. You will learn how to make string/cordage from a type of fibrous cactus.
Making Bush Traps
Trap making is another neat part of the course, and you are shown the various traps which are designed to catch some interesting little morsels.
- Insects traps
- Rodent traps
- Spears (for small game)
- Karabiner bow and arrow
- Snares (very useful and efficient trap)
- Bird traps
- Hoist traps (for small game and fowl)
- Throwing sticks
Quite amazingly all of these traps can be made from branches, cordage and anything found nearby.
Finding Water in the Bush
“Water, Water Everywhere But Not a Drop to Drink” is an ancient mariners riddle. However this won’t apply to you one bit if you find yourself stranded in the African bushveld – water is scarce!
There are many ways to obtain water in the wilderness, you just need to be patient and creative. Finding water can be tricky though, so advice was given to go to the highest point possible and map out the surrounding landscape and look for vital signs.
Things to look out for are greener areas (riverines or water sources, duh!), paths (which are used by animals who will lead you to water), animals and birds (especially monkeys as these guys although not just about to keel over from dehydration, are just as thirsty as you are) and bees, which are never 1km away from a water source.
Trees to look out for are the Acacia tree – usually any thorny tree out in the wilderness. i.e. think of the First National Bank logo as this is loosely inspired by an acacia tree. So not only will FNB keep your money safe, and help you save on bank fees, they could also end up saving your life. No not really, that’s just silly – bank fees are horrendous wherever you go. But when you do find an acacia tree you will be pleased to know that their long tap roots bury their way to water systems down below, as well as their roots are very efficient at storing water.
Transpiration Bags – this ingenious method creates water through the transpiration of water from leaves. Tasty leaf sweat, is what you will be drinking essentially. But life saving leaf sweat nonetheless. Simply place a transparent bag over a bunch of leaves, tie the one end to the branch, create a well at the bottom of the bag and let the suns rays make those leaves sweat out your sustenance.
Water distiller – this is an nifty way to take otherwise dodgy bit of water (ahem, urine included) and turn it into drinkable “steam.” All that’s needed is a tin with salt/dodgy water or urine, a coke bottle or container and a collection container which will catch the condensation/steam that trickles down the coke bottle. Neat!
You will also learn about a solar still and make shift water filters using rags, charcoal and sand.
The Basics of Bush Survival Course was not only interesting, it taught me some valuable skills. Skills I probably might not ever need to use, but better to have them and not need them than the other way round. But all-in-all it’s a solid course covering the basics with some great tips, and much fun was had on the course. Not to mention how well put together the course is and just how much is covered in this short amount of time.
Herman, who teaches the course, is very competent and an extremely approachable and personable fellow. You never feel like there’s a rush to finish and there’s always time for questions and stories throughout. A great way to spend a weekend and whilst getting up to speed with bushcraft and bush survival.
Information for the Bush Survival Course from Boswa SurvivalVisit BOSWA
- Office / fax : 011-954-5088
- Herman : 072-916-5080