AskDefine | Define surviving

Dictionary Definition

surviving adj : still in existence; "the Wollemi pine found in Australia is a surviving specimen of a conifer thought to have been long extinct and therefore known as a living fossil"; "the only surviving frontier blockhouse in Pennsylvania" [syn: living]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. present participle of survive

Extensive Definition

Survival skills are techniques a person may utilized for an indefinite duration in order to survive a dangerous situation (also see bushcraft). Generally speaking, these techniques are meant to provide the basic necessities of human life: shelter, water, and food. They may prove useful in situations such as storm or earthquake, or in dangerous locations such as desert, mountains, and jungle. Every different situation or location presents a different range of dangers - (see hazards of outdoor activities). An environment may be dry, wet, hot, cold, high altitude, low altitude, desert, rural, urban, wilderness, subterranean, or an island. Techniques exist to fit most situations. Examples of survival skills include:
  • lighting and maintaining a fire
  • finding/creating shelter
  • finding/preparing potable water
  • finding and identifying food
  • treating injuries
  • climbing, hiking, and swimming
  • using specific or makeshift tools
  • signaling for rescue
  • tracking mental awareness/emotional status
Developments in outdoor equipment and survival techniques have skewed the scale towards man- if he is prepared. However, there is nothing to replace experience in a survival situation. Those who are most prepared physically and mentally stand the greatest chance of survival.
Among other things, a shelter should provide a comfortable place to sleep. To this end, it should account for the following:
  • Immovable rocks, animal nests, and other obstacles and hazards should be avoided.
  • Dry watercourses may be flat, sandy, and comfortable to sleep on, but they will flood in a storm.
  • Sunlight provides warmth (which is not always welcome), and can help one to wake up in the morning. However, sunny, open areas are vulnerable to wind which causes convection of one's body heat.
  • Heat transfer: an excessively large or well-ventilated shelter will not retain warmth well.
  • Flashing (weatherproofing) to provide protection from elements.
Examples of Shelter:
  • A cave can provide a very useful shelter because it can provide protection from wind, rain and snow, and maintains a constant internal temperature. Unfortunately, caves can also present problems such as ground water, dampness, disease, and wildlife. Histoplasmosis, Blastomycosis, and Coccidiomycosis are types of fungi found in caves that can infect the eyes and lungs of humans. Bird and bat droppings are prevalent sources of these fungi. Likewise, bats often roost in caves and, through their bite, they can transmit rabies and other terminal illnesses. Bears and other predators can also make caves uninhabitable.
  • The simplest and most mobile shelter is a tarp supported by make-shift frame work or rope. Vegetation such as fern or fir branches can be made into a latticework frame for a tarp. Branches propped against a fallen tree make a simple and effective refuge, but creatures such as ants and snakes may nest under the tree. Ferns on a shelter provide insect repellent.
  • A more advanced shelter is known as a debris shelter, which can be constructed without modern tools or implements. It consists of a central ridge pole supported by two forked poles. This ridge pole supports a latticework of branches, which is then finished by leaves or other insulating material.


A human can survive a maximum of three days without the intake of water assuming you are at sea level, at room temperature, and a relative humidity. In colder or warmer temperatures, and/or with rain or snow, the length or likelihood of survival is greatly reduced. In addition to the aforementioned priorities, length of survival also depends on amount of physical exertion.
A typical person will lose 2-3 liters of water per day in ordinary conditions, but more in hot, dry, or cold weather. Four to six liters of water or other liquids are generally required each day in the wilderness to avoid dehydration and to keep your body functioning properly. Other groups recommend rationing water through "water discipline".
A lack of water causes a condition called dehydration, which may result in lethargy, headaches, dizziness, confusion, and eventually death. Even mild dehydration reduces endurance and impairs concentration, which is dangerous in a survival situation where clear thinking is essential. Dark yellow or brown urine is a diagnostice indicator of dehydration. To avoid dehydration, a safe supply of drinking water must be located as soon as a shelter is built (or even before, depending on conditions).
Water can be gathered in numerous ways:
  • scooped out of a creek or pond
  • rainwater and dew can be caught in makeshift containers - (tarps, ponchos, cans, plastic bags, etc.)
  • cut tree roots and water-containing vines
  • scrape pulp from cacti
In a survival situation, any water supply may be contaminated with pollutants or pathogens (see Potability of backcountry water). Although little can be done to remove molecular contaminants, particles and microorganisms can be removed and/or killed (see Portable water purification). In a beach situation, digging deep in the sand below sea level can create a well that will fill with drinkable water. This water may taste salty or brackish, but the sand acts as a filter reducing the salt content the further you dig inland. Stagnant water can be made drinkable by filtration through a sieve of charcoal.
Animal blood is not suitable for rehydration as it may be diseased. In addition, because of the nutrients it contains, it requires energy to digest. Mammals all have blood-borne pathogens so the animal must also be cooked. Urine contains salt and other toxins, which also makes it unsuitable to drink, although it can be refined in a solar still.
Many birds, mammals, and some insects, such as bees, ants, and mason flies, are reliable indications of water. Many times, animal tracks or trails will lead toward a body of water.
While finding water is most important, preventing water loss is also an issue. Resting, avoiding smoking, and breathing through the nose are recommended.


Food is not urgently needed in survival situations because a human can survive for several weeks without it. However, much like dehydration, hunger can bring about many consequences long before it causes death, such as:
  • Irritability and low morale
  • Weakness
  • Loss of mental clarity, such as confusion, disorientation, or poor judgment
  • Weakened immune system
  • Difficulty maintaining body temperature (see heat exhaustion and hypothermia)
Food is abundant and easy to find in most wild environments provided one knows where to look. A basic knowledge of animal trapping, hunting, and fishing will provide meat. Equally important is a knowledge of edible plants, fungi, and lichens. A survivor cannot always rely on the most abundant or most easily accessible type of food. To survive for long periods of time, a person must maintain a balanced diet.
Many survival books promote the "Universal Edibility Test". Allegedly, one can distinguish edible foods from toxic ones by a series of progressive exposures to skin and mouth prior to ingestion, with waiting periods and checks for symptoms. However, many other experts including Ray Mears and John Kallas reject this method, stating that even a small amount of some "potential foods" can cause physical discomfort, illness, or death. An additional step called the scratch test is sometimes included to evaluate the edibility of a potential food.

First aid

First aid (wilderness first aid in particular) can help a person survive and function with injuries that would otherwise kill or incapacitate him/her. Common and dangerous injuries include:
The survivor may need to apply the contents of a first aid kit or naturally-occurring medicinal plants, immobilize injured limbs, or even transport incapacitated comrades.


Survival situations are resolved by finding one's way to safety. This requires some navigation or movement:

Other survival skills

For long-term survival some other skills are useful:
-A machete/kukhri for the heavier duty chopping.(like for small trees)
  • Knife or Multitool - usage and sharpening (a knife or Multitool is very important for all survival situations and for many aspects of bushcraft)
A sheath knife of high carbon steel with a 4 to 6 inch blade is invaluable for the creation of tools, splitting wood for fire building using a baton, building shelters and many other skills.
  • Climbing and Mountaineering techniques
  • Ropework
    • Making rope from materials such as the inner bark of trees, other plant fibers, or animal sinews
    • Knowledge of knots and their applications
  • Making a raft or boat
  • Weapons are an essential part of a large survival outfit. Weapons protect you and those around you and allow you to procure food through hunting. There are many points of view on this issue but by and large, a good .22 long rifle will serve to procure game and provide for moderate protection from predators both the four legged and two legged variety.
  • Be sure to get proper training to be safe with firearms.
  • Basic primitive weapons can be important tools: they include spears, Vietnam crossbows, longbows, the throwing stick, clubs etc. Many primitive tools can also fill the weapon class as well such as a stone axe. First hand instruction is essential.


Survival Training has many components, mental competence and physical fitness being two. Mental competence includes the skills listed in this article, as well as the ability to overcome panic and think clearly. Physical fitness includes, among other abilities, carrying loads over long distances on rough terrain. Theoretical knowledge of survival skills is useful only if it can be applied effectively in the wilderness. Almost all Survival Skills are environment specific and require training in a particular environment.
Survival Training is broken down into three types, or schools; Modern Wilderness Survival, Bushcraft, and Primitive Survival Techniques. Modern Wilderness Survival teaches the skills needed to survive Short-Term (1 to 4 Days) and Medium-Term (4 to 40 Days) survival situations. Bushcraft is the combination of Modern Wilderness Survival and useful Primitive Survival Techniques. It normally splits its skill acquisition between Medium-Term Survival Techniques (4 to 40 Days) and Long-Term Survival Techniques (40 Days Plus). Primitive Survival Techniques teaches the skills need to survive over the Long-Term (40 days plus). Many primitive technology skills require much more practice and may be more environment specific.
Several organizations offer wilderness survival training. Course ranges from one day to field courses lasting as long as a month. In addition to teaching survival techniques for conditions of limited food, water, and shelter, many organizations that teach bushcraft and Primitive Survival seek to engender appreciation and understanding of the lifestyles of pre-industrialized cultures.
There are several books that teach one how to survive in dangerous situations, and schools train children what to do in the event of an earthquake or fire. Some cities also have contingency plans in case of a major disaster, such as hurricanes or tornadoes.

Mental Preparedness

It should not be overlooked what the will to live means in a life and death situation. Stories of heroic feats of survival by regular people with little or no training are not uncommon. Even with a strong understanding of the way we may be mentally affected, even a trained survival expert may feel the crushing effects of psychological strain during duress. In order to overcome these affects it is important to study stress and how it may affect us both good and bad.
Studying stress will reveal to us that while it may not always seem like it, stress is a necessary evil and belongs for not only for malice but good as well. It serves as a measuring stick for our success, it presents one with challenges, and it is a good way to show us how far we can bend and not break. Stress sometimes has a nice way of pointing out that things could indeed be much worse. On the flip side of the coin too much stress can be an awful thing. The carnage that stress can breed within a human being is almost without limits. Too much stress can lead to forgetfulness, increased propensity to making mistakes, lessened energy, outbursts of rage, and carelessness.
Emotions are hard wired into our brains. Survival situations are bound to invoke strong emotional reactions from anyone evolved. There are a few emotions that most often accompany this type of event. They drastically lessen our ability to combat the situation. It is not something that initially comes to mind when thinking of surviving but they are as important as any other survival skill.
There are 7 emotions that must be overcome to allow a chance at survival:
  • Fear - Once placed into a survival situation one of the initial reactions for anyone is fear. It is a perfectly normal reaction however fear is the enemy. It drastically lessens our ability to make clear decisions, which ultimately will lesson the chance for survival. In an effort to minimize our fears, we can train in realistic situations to condition ourselves to have the mentality needed to increase our confidence and more effectively manage fear.
  • Anxiety – Typically anxiety and fear run hand in hand with one another. It may start as an uneasy feeling in the pit of our stomach but by the time the mind is added into the situation it may quickly spiral out of control. Anxiety will often take over the mind and quickly make it difficult to make rational decisions. Anxiety must be fought through in order to focus on the tasks at hand. Typically once some of the critical survival needs have been met, anxiety will be easier to keep at bay.
  • Panic - If fear and anxiety are left unchecked, Panic will set in. Panic will lead to impulse actions and loss of self control. It could turn deadly as rationality is lost.
  • Anger – It is inevitable that in a survival situation there are going to be problems. With the endless possibilities of things that can go wrong and probably will to imagine that tempers may flair should not come as a surprise. Anger can sap one’s drive necessary to want to survive. Finding other ways to channel this emotion will prove more useful than losing ones temper.
  • Depression – An overall sense of malaise is not uncommon in wilderness. Being alone in the wilderness trying to survive is almost certainly bound to bring about a depressed state. Overwhelming depression can lead to the body shutting down and not unlike anxiety can also cause a human being to give up hope. Staying positive can allow one to combat this.
  • Guilt – Often accompanying a survival situation is loss of life. The guilt may not even come from someone taking responsibility for the person’s death, rather a sense of guilt as they are alive and the other person is dead.
  • Boredom & Loneliness – An often unanticipated side affect of being in a survival situation. Boredom or loneliness can both contribute to lowering morale. It is important to be able to keep your mind busy and your spirits up. It may be one of the most critical skills to survive.

Survival manual

A survival manual is a book used as reference in situations where a human's survival is threatened - emergency or non emergency. Typically it will cover both preparation for a trip, and guidance for dealing with eventualities.
There are many different types of survival manuals, but most have a section of standard documentation. These are sometimes republished for public distribution: for example the SAS Survival Handbook, United States Army Survival Manual (FM 21-76) and United States Air Force Survival Manual (AF 64-4). Other manuals have been written for more specific uses, such as wilderness or maritime survival.
surviving in German: Überlebenstraining
surviving in Spanish: Técnicas de supervivencia
surviving in French: Techniques de survie
surviving in Hebrew: שדאות
surviving in Japanese: サバイバル
surviving in Polish: Survival
surviving in Russian: Выживание
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