How Far Can I Push It?

Potential Survival Situations are Everywhere

Dealing with Potential Survival Situations are Important

Anyone who Spends Time in the Wilderness will Remember Occasions when the Drive for Success, the Unwillingness to Quit, Poor Weather or Sickness has Clouded your Judgement. I have fought that battle in my own mind; whether to push on in spite of the condition or stop short of the original trip objective. Those Objectives are often only a Rough Plan when laid out before the trip. Unfortunately these are often considered ‘Sacred’ once the Trip has Started.

Watercrossing Location in Tough Terrain, a likely Survival Situation

Usually the main underlying factors pushing me to continue were my own ego and my stubborn resistance to quitting. This stubborn resistance helped me many times surviving in the army. It must be remembered that the army is not about survival, rather it is about completing a mission. This is often counterintuitive to your own survival or the choices you make about how to survive.

The Critical Difference between a Cold and Wet Group who sets up Camp and a Cold and Wet Group that Decides to Push-on is that the Former have made the Decision to Survive and the Latter is Heading into a Potentially Critical Survival Situation. Unfortunately it is very easy to second-guess both ourselves and other travelers from the safe comfort of the, internet a lodge or coffeehouse long after the situation is over.

Each potential survival situation is different. Often poor weather can approach unexpectedly and because we are focused on the destination we fail to see it approach. We deal with each situation slightly differently. Group dynamics and experience can make a big difference in the decision making cycles. Both ego and personality often overshadow experience and common sense. For a real life example of this decision making cycle and its many underlying factors read Trina Jackson’s Article.

Going Too Far or Keeping to Your Schedule;
Difference between Life and Death?

It can be a real conflict when your group is on the side of a mountain with a snow or thunder storm approaching and it is unable or unwilling to come to any consensus about whether to camp, turn back or carry on. How we deal with these situations and make decisions are often a group breaker. Even in a group with a clear leader these can be hard decisions to make, especially when faced with loss of income or loss of face.

These tough decisions are the ones involving “Giving Up”, “Turning Back” or “Staying Safely in Camp”. The difference between going too far and keeping to that pre-planned schedule may mean the difference between life and death. This is were that drive for success and unwillingness to quit hinders our own survival in the wilderness. We need to throw away our egos in these instances and really consider both the situation and the consequences of our actions.

Potential survival situations are all around us. How we deal with them is extremely important to our survival in the wilderness. For the planning cycle use the universal survival adage of STOP; Stop, Think, Orient, & Plan. Stop and think about your actual situation. Orient yourself to the environment and decide what critical things you are required to do to survive. Then make a realistic plan, based on the situation, and calmly carry it out. You need to quickly come to grips with whether to move on, turn back or to camp.

STOP is an important part of an excellent decision making cycle. Remembering that it is often far safer to stop than to carry-on in poor conditionsmost of the time. If you do decide to carry-on plan a safe escape route in case it turns out to be a poor decision. Remember those who choose wisely will always be around to travel into the wilderness on another occasion and that those that choose poorly, may not.

Additional Resources

Article by (, Updated 13th June 2016)
Chief Instructor of the Boreal Wilderness Institute