An A–Z Guide of Awesome Wilderness Survival Techniques*

A young office intern's first-hand experience during an ill-fated wilderness expedition. New epistolary fiction by Michael McGlade.

Man wearing a sweater

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As written by Charlie Wilson — City Boy,
Office Worker, Allergy Sufferer

*Garnered from first-hand experience during his ill-fated wilderness expedition.

Angry Napping

If lost in the wilderness, never wander. I’d been on the trail an hour, alone, here in the wilderness, having been dropped off by Drake Tomahawk after a long quad ride into the depths of foreboding Slieve Gullion Forest Park. I’m an office intern and sent a quick text to Kimberly, the woman I had gone into the wild for, to prove my love. Looking up from the phone, I was lost. Embarrassed, angered, and fearful, I ran around searching for the trail. I got more lost. Unable to think straight, I found some nice moss and bedded down to take an angry nap.

Be Prepared

This is a trip of self-discovery into the endless Slieve Gullion mountainous forest. I have come here from the city to prove I am a man. Kimberly Clarke, relations manager at Synonym Call Centre (where I’m interning straight out of high school) will be well impressed when I return from conquering the wild.

Drake Tomahawk, grizzled proprietor of the Wilderness Preparedness Store, made me read — yawn — the 10 Basic Rules for Wilderness Survival. Scanning through the list, number 10 sort of made sense. Something about “being prepared.” Well, duh — obviously. That’s why I stocked up at the store. I’ve also seen Into the Wild on television. Most of it, anyway. Almost all of the first half, before I got distracted on my mobile phone. Anyway, that movie dude really knew how to live the life, hunting, eating berries, etcetera, etcetera. Preparation is key.

[Editor’s note: Charlie’s last words to Drake Tomahawk were that his story be told so as to inspire others to the betterment of their “poxy lives.” He thought his story “might be something that could be made into a film — because nobody reads anymore — something like Into the Wild but a true story, with a meaningful ending. No Hollywood bollocks.”]

Bear

Your mind is a liar and should never be trusted. I should have kept moving. Instead, I awoke to discover my backpack and supplies torn to pieces — bears! I’ve been robbed by bears. Now I keep hearing that nursery rhyme in my head: If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure for a big surprise. All my food is gone. Eaten. I’m starving, and I’m cranky. I’m lost. And I can’t get a signal on my mobile phone. Out of boredom, I resorted to playing Angry Birds. Bad idea because the battery’s dead now. Top of my practical survival list is Always bring spare mobile phone batteries.

[Editor’s note: There are no bears in Ireland.]

Berries

People used to be hunter-gatherers. They foraged their environment. But always remember, don’t eat something unless you know what it is, or you’re starving. I discovered blackbirds eating clumps of red berries. I’m bigger, so I shooed them away from my lunch. The berries tasted bitter. Needed some ketchup.

Check Your Kit

I had a tent, sleeping bag, pots, stove, and various sundries. I also had a Swiss army knife, the only survival item I brought with me from terrace house in Belfast. Also some iodine tablets to use … if I get cut, I suppose. And some wire wool — not sure what that’s for. Maybe insulation. I stuffed it in my trouser pockets. Found a battery too, not much use unless I find something out here in the forest that takes a 9-volt battery. Tomahawk ripped me off selling me useless stuff. I kept the battery anyway — that’s survival instinct for you — putting it in my pocket. The key to survival is you never know.

Getting back to nature, living off the land is going just bloody swimmingly so far. But maybe losing my food rations is the best start because now I’m having to survive on my wits alone. And in case of an emergency, I’ve seen pretty much every Chuck Norris film.

Diarrhea

Not sure what caused it. Could be I’m not used to the purity of this forest air. Have eaten some more of the red berries, which seem to have settled my stomach.

Direction

Always keep moving, stopping only to find shelter. I’m lost and there’s no way anybody will happen upon me accidentally. I will keep moving until it gets too dark to see. I have a map and compass (more on this later). High school taught me that learning is accomplished through fear, intimidation, and corporal punishment. I am periodically chastising and dead-arming myself. It is not working.

Ascertaining direction from the sun, moon, stars, wind, and plants is possible. But I don’t exactly know how to do this. So I will employ pure logic. The sun is always in my bedroom in the morning, on the left-hand side; this means that the sun rises on the left and sets to the right. Also, I know that moss only grows on the north side of trees.

Fire

How to make fire without matches. I saw an episode about a survival guy who was so hungry he ate earthworms. He also made fire by rubbing two sticks together. I found two sticks on the forest floor and rubbed them together vigorously. Friction starts fires. But it blistered my hands, making them impossible to close. At least I’m warm now.

I burned everything connected to my old life: my credit card, ATM card, National Insurance card, and driver’s license. I have become wild now. I kept my wallet (for my eventual return to civilization) and inside is a piece of paper with Kimberly Clarke’s phone number. She’ll come and collect me when I call, when I prove I am all man.

Gear and Garb

Drake Tomahawk made me waste an entire morning in his store trying on clothing and equipment. Total waste of time. Where’s my rifle? To go out into these woods, I should be protected from wild animals and wolves, as well as vampires. Where’s my crucifix, garlic, and holy water? With those items in my kitbag when I killed a bear/wolf/vampire, I could have seasoned, cooked, and eaten it, with plenty of holy water to drink.

Instead, all I got was a lousy tent, backpack, sleeping bag, and stove.

[Note to self, if a bear didn’t rob me, it was probably some feral ungulate, possibly now deranged on the high sodium content of my pre-packed rations. Be prepared for a repeat attack when it picks up my scent after dark.]

Godsend

Blackbirds circle above me, always cawing. It’s a godsend. Like an albatross. Anybody searching for me will see the birds from a distance. Funny how they keep staring at me with their beady black eyes. Probably still a little pissed at me for eating their berries earlier.

Grow-Out

Appearances are important. Develop a thick grow-out of beard. I haven’t shaved since my arrival in the wilderness. Although, I don’t need to shave much anyway. But my moustache is filling out nicely. In a few weeks, it might even connect to the hairs on my chin. Kimberly will be unable to resist this man-bear I’ve become.

Hot Pocket

Somehow the 9-volt battery in my pocket set fire to the wire wool in my pocket, and my trousers went entirely up in flames. Burned them right off me. I’m now naked from the waist down.

Part of all survival kits should be proper clothing appropriate to your wilderness environment, such as a waterproof jacket and fire-retardant trousers. And a warning on wire wool! In fact, all survival kits should contain wire wool and a 9-volt battery because they’re highly combustible. Wish I had known this before blistering my hands rubbing two sticks together.

Hunger

Do whatever is necessary to survive. I’m so hungry I could amputate my arm and eat it. Would I really miss my left bicep?

[Note to self, if I escape this hellish predicament, fabricate my A-Z guide to make me appear much more competent and manly.]

Knife

A Swiss army knife has all the blades and utensils required to survive. I have a saw, a fork, and a thing to remove stones from horses’ hooves.

Map

Knowing how to read a map and use a compass is essential. I really should learn how to read a map and use a compass.

Pizza

Everybody loves pizza. Even squirrels. I just fought a squirrel for a half-eaten slice of pepperoni pizza. The squirrel won.

Positivity

I remain positive that the crippling depression of my impending and inevitable demise will soon disappear.

Rain, Dew, and Condensation

I licked dew off a stone. I’m not proud of myself but I will do whatever is required to survive.

Safety

Survival depends on your ability to calmly withstand stress in emergency situations … what was that noise? A bear? Are there really bears in Ireland? Have decided to dig a series of punji pits to protect myself while sleeping. I placed sharpened sticks at the bottom of the pits. If any bears should fall in, then I’ll eat lordly well tonight. I am master of my environment.

Shelter

Shelter is important. I had never put up a tent before and after a couple of hours toil I succeeded, having just some useless metal spikes left over. Not too shabby for my first attempt. Then a gust of wind blew the tent over the edge into a steep ravine. It was dark, and there was no safe way to climb down and retrieve the tent.

Fortuitously, I have shelter already in the form of a punji pit. I climbed into the pit, slipped, and gashed my leg. I used my shirt to tie around the wound. I’m completely naked now, and it is getting ever colder and darker. A wolf howled.

Must remain vigilant and awake all night. Wish I could set tripwires and flares like Arnie in Predator.

Sky

Remember the old saying, “A red sun rises. Blood has been spilled this night.” Legolas, Woodland Realm elf.

Thirst

Dehydration is a killer. And I’m so very thirsty. The survival guy in that TV program, he drank his own urine. The worst part was having to pee upward — I almost drowned twice.

Thoughts

Lack of stimuli can bring about dark thoughts and hallucinations. I believe I can smell barbecued meats and can hear people talking, chatting, drinking. But it is not real. Just a mirage.

To survive in the wilderness, it’s important to ignore your instincts and repress all hallucinations. In fact, I can hear someone calling my name. To block it out, I jam my fingers in my ears and say La, la, la, la, I’m not listening until I’m hoarse.

Trails

Trails are excellent places to set snares or traps. I know this because, this morning after limping out of my punji pit shelter and taking the nearest trail, I got ensnared in one. Luckily the wire was only rated for a rabbit or rodent. I gnawed my way out.

Unexpected Surprises

I read somewhere that nobody dies from hypothermia — they die from not being properly prepared for extremely cold situations. Bollocks to that. It’s impossible to expect the unexpected, otherwise it would be an expectation. Duh. Have decided to run around to keep warm. First I need some energy, so I will eat more wild berries for sustenance.

Walking

Keep walking, eventually you will come to somewhere habitable with people who will help you escape the nightmarish wilderness. In fact, that’s why most people, like me, don’t live in the wilderness. Civilization has electricity and internet and paddy pizzas. So always keep walking, you will naturally keep a straight line.

Water

Never pass up water. Without water you die. I stumbled onto a pool of greenish water. Drank straight from it because I knew I might not be back this way again. I drank as much and as quickly as possible.

Zebra

I didn’t think Zebras were native to Ireland, but I’ve just seen one. I’m so very tired, so tired and cranky, I’m going to take an angry nap. Go sleepy sleep now. Zzzzzz & zzzzzzzzzzzzz & zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Editor’s note: Charlie Wilson’s A-Z Guide is published verbatim, as he had requested. He has earned his title of City Boy, Office Worker, Allergy Sufferer.

In response to the accusations of misconduct leveled at Drake Tomahawk, he explained how he had warned Charlie from entering the forest park, and offered to enrol him as part of a scheduled camping trip leaving that evening, but “the boy just flat-out refused. He wanted to go into the wild. Kept saying that over and over again. Every time I spoke, he was on his mobile …”

Charlie was discovered wandering naked 10 yards away from the Wilderness Store.

“Exactly,” Drake replied. “Because that’s where I dropped him off. I left him in the backyard of the store, for his safety.”

Drake decided to give Charlie the full experience. He took him out into the forest, then returned to the rear of the store, leaving him to camp for the night. He had even called out to Charlie that evening, inviting him to join the campsite barbecue, but “the buck eejit had his fingers in his ears, going la, la, la.”

Drake, proprietor of the Wilderness Survival Store, had arranged to collect Charlie two days later, and was the person who discovered him, delirious and “totally starkers, bollock-naked.” He went on to state: “The boy had been outside for less than 24 hours. I don’t know how you lose all your clothes, set yourself on fire, and get pneumonia in such a short time …”

Drake took Charlie to the hospital, saving his life.

When 18-year-old Charlie awoke in the hospital, he was greeted by the love of his life 55-year-old Kimberly Clarke. Kimberly was the first person to attend Charlie’s hospital bedside because the only item of identification he had on his person was a scrap of paper inside his wallet with her telephone number. She “absolutely adores the rugged outdoors type” and seeing that Charlie had almost died wrestling a bear, a wolf, and a vampire (according to his account of events), she couldn’t help but fall in love with him. Up until this point she had thought him “pale and weedy, like something dragged though a ditch backwards.” They were immediately married by the hospital chaplain.

That evening, she took her new husband back to their mid-terrace house in Belfast to introduce to her children (28 and 30, both still living at home).

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Comments

  1. This was quite a story, Michael. Frankly, the whole thing sounded like a nightmare to me; the hunger, safety, and thirst to name three.

    Then there’s the Hot Pocket situation which was REALLY something else! Wow, right?! Bad enough, but could have been worse. At least Charlie didn’t have the Samsung Galaxy 7 Note phone in his pocket. It could have caused a whole other kind of wienie roast that makes me shudder at just the thought.

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