Survive and Thrive in the 21st Century

Opinions, Experiences, Gear and Inspirations to Make the Most of a Complex New World

The Art of Getting Home Safe

I travel a fair bit for work, sometimes flying, but more often driving long distances into Michigan or Ohio. One way trips can be anywhere from four to six hours, and my preference is to get in, do the job, and get back, which can result in up to twelve hours on the road in a single day.

My preferred route is to take the 401 to Windsor and cross into Michigan from there, but sometimes it makes more sense to take the 402 and cross at Sarnia. For anyone who knows the 402, you know both east and westbound it’s about a hundred kilometres of two-lane highway with nothing but scrub, bush and some farmland to either side. It’s the place where, a few winters ago a snowstorm trapped three-hundred some drivers for several hours. When the rescue teams arrived many of the drivers couldn’t be extracted because they weren’t dressed for the weather, so could not be driven out on the back of the rescuers’ snow mobiles.

So last week, that was my trip. The weather going in was pretty good, dry and warmer than average for the first day of March. But coming back, late evening, after the sun went down, was a different story. After crossing the border at Port Huron and getting on the 402, the next seventy kilometres became a challenging drive complete with an unlighted highway, ice pellets, wet snow and high winds. Miles ahead I could see red taillights, and miles behind the headlights of another traveller, but around me, not a living soul.

As a “prepper” I had set out equipped with my get-home bag, my everyday carry I guess you could call it. Apart from my laptop, charging cables and mobile office the bag also contains my version of the SAS survival kit: compass, mylar blanket, water container, portable stove with fuel, signalling devices, water purifier tablets, and fire-making supplies, plus emergency food, instant coffee and hot chocolate. In deference to cross-border travelling I had left my SOG Aegis clip knife at home, but my bag did contain my SOG multitool.

Sounds pretty good, right? In the event of an emergency I could stay warm, stay sheltered (in the car), stay fed, and signal for help.

Except I made several big mistakes:

  1. As the day had started out warm, I had on only my tweed sports coat, and had brought no winter coat. By evening the temperature was approaching zero, with a high wind chill factor.
  2. I hadn’t brought any water. Instant coffee and hot chocolate aren’t much use without water.
  3. My gear was stowed in the trunk of the rental car. Not much use if I had slid off the road or became trapped in the car and couldn’t reach it.
  4. When I drive alone I habitually leave my cell phone on the passenger seat beside me. In the event of a roll-over or collision my most valuable communication tool would have likely been thrown out of reach and quite possibly damaged beyond use.

So for all my eagerness to prepare, in the event of a real emergency I could probably have been as stranded and helpless as any other driver who never gives their security a second thought.

Preparedness is more than having the right equipment at hand; it also requires the right mindset to envision what could happen, and be ready to react. You have to keep asking yourself “what if?” until you can cover as many possible scenarios as you can reasonably imagine, and then you will stand a good chance of coming out of any negative situation relatively whole.

What do you carry?

It’s no accident that the motto of one of the most influential youth development organizations of the last century-plus, The World Organization of the Scout Movement, ¬†consists of two simple words that say so much: Be Prepared.

What does that mean to most people? What does one prepare for?

It’s not always about a zombie apocalypse or devastating plague. In its simplest form, preparedness is about being aware of what could go wrong and having the means to deal with it. You could go to the extreme end of the spectrum and start talking about off-grid living, sustainable farming, alternative power sources and on and on and on. But for most people these scenarios have a doomsday connotation that bear no link to daily reality.

So how do you prepare for glitches in a normal day?

No one can foresee every possible event, but there are basic tools that can be used to deal with multiple situations, and these are things you should keep with you all the time. This is what we call Every Day Carry, or EDC.

My basic EDC is simple:

My Watch: A Rolex Oyster Perpetual Submariner. I can’t figure out people who don’t wear a watch, even with the advent of cell phones that have become more than our constant companions, rather electronic extensions of our brains. Also it never needs winding, and if I end up 1000 feet under water at least the watch will survive.

My Pen: It’s a CRKT Tao Tactical Pen which writes beautifully and since it’s made of 6061 aluminum, will pretty much last forever. It’s also nice to have when navigating dark parking lots late at night.

My Lighter: A Zippo silver body with snake-skin inlay, given to me for my birthday years ago, because being able to make fire is always a handy thing.

My Flashlight: This was another gift, the Fenix PD35 Tactical Edition, 1000 lumens of brilliance in a pocket-sized package. What will you have when the lights go out? (Also note: if something is described as “tactical” it’s probably a good gift for me, if anyone is wondering.)

My Knife: This is a simple SOG Aegis with assisted opening technology, which means it can be opened one handed faster than it takes to think about it. It’s a low profile carry that clips to my right hip pocket and never gets in the way.

My Multi Tool: Again from SOG, the Powerlock has 19 tools built in and contains a solution for almost any situation.

And that’s pretty much it. Of course, as a photographer I have extensive kits of equipment that I carry on a selective basis, but for day-to-day use, these six items go with me everywhere, and cover pretty much any eventuality.

Although I was never in the Scouts, it’s safe to say I am prepared.


Preparing For, and Surviving Everything

american_alligatorThese days you can find an immense amount of information about every aspect of this subject: Urban Survival, Backwoods Survival, Surviving Natural and Man-Made Disasters, Surviving Terrorist Attacks, Surviving Off-Grid, Surviving On-Grid but Under the Radar and on and on and on!

I will probably wander around among all these genres, and then some, as I am as interested in skinning squirrels as I am in surviving a terrorist attack.

There has always been something in me that wants to be outside, under the trees, exploring, being self-sufficient. Maybe it started when I was a kid, heavily influenced by classic stories of Robin Hood, or immersed in a huge leather-bound book of Norse myths borrowed from a neighbour.

There just seemed something right about at least knowing how to live like they did, even though I actually inhabit a world where food comes from a store and shelter is a brick house made by someone else, and security comes in the form of a uniformed police officer.

Life wasn’t always like that, and it may not be like that again, some time in the future.

So for anyone interested, that is what I will be concentrating on in future posts.

For the uninitiated, my first introduction to the survival way of thinking came when I picked up a copy of the SAS Survival Guide by John “Lofty” Wiseman. The link will take you to their website, but I found this illuminating tome long before the internet was public knowledge.

So anyway, stay tuned for more, if you are interested, or dismiss me as a loon and move on, if you are not.

Until next time, stay safe and be prepared.

Blog at

Up ↑