When asked, the vast majority associate combat survival training with the military and see very little use for it outside of its obvious use.
Many of the skills and techniques that are covered on a combat survival course can be of great benefit not only to the environment, but also to the wilderness adventurer. A good deal of the regulations that many wilderness park authorities try to enforce are to do with keeping the park as natural as possible; these regulations restricting much of what wilderness adventuring is all about. While we all do our best to work within these regulations wherever possible, the fact is that those who have training in combat survival will always have much more freedom. This increased freedom allowing them to venture on longer trips without re-supply and to penetrate more sensitive areas. Let’s take a look at it using no more than common sense.
In many parks there are strict rules on lighting fires, these are in the main sensible and have been brought about by people building fires with little or no idea about safety, often leaving unsightly scars for everyone else to see; a classic example of “the few spoiling it for the many”. The benefits of combat survival training where fire is concerned can be explained easily. The very fact that the person is on the run from his/her captors means that lighting a fire will seriously compromise invisibility; it will only be done when absolutely necessary and for a specific purpose, perhaps cooking, water purification or emergency warmth. This being the case, the fire will be as small and as contained as possible, producing little or no smoke, in addition to this the flames will also be kept from sight as much as possible. The by-product of doing all this is that the safety aspect is covered as completely as possible. As the person does not want to be found, the area will be returned to its original condition; this is done to such an extent that no evidence whatsoever of a fire or indeed, his/her presence will remain.
Building shelters is also frowned upon in many parks; this again is because people go in and hack down trees, bushes and anything else they feel they need to make a shelter. A suitable shelter can be made with no tools and only what you find around your chosen area; this type of shelter (a windfall shelter) does not use anything that the area has not naturally discarded. There are two main reasons that this type of shelter is preferred in combat survival. The first is that you are likely to have no tools at all on your person; the second and more important reason is that if you cut-off or break branches etc. you will leave a sign of your presence. Once signs are noticed in two or more locations your general direction will be revealed reducing your chances of escape dramatically.
Damage underfoot is not normally a problem in the wilderness as two people will never tread on the same piece of ground twice; however, there is a benefit here for both the ground and the wilderness adventurer. The fact that the escapee will be aware that he/she is being tracked and that leaving clues will indicate a general direction they will be extremely careful not to tread where a print will be left or a twig will be broken; in fact, there are many things that the escapee will be avoiding to maintain invisibility. The benefit to the wilderness adventurer is that by learning to move stealthily through different terrain will result in using less energy than would normally be the case.
Where does that leave us?
We have only just scratched the surface of this subject leaving many unanswered questions I’m sure. I’m certainly not suggesting that to be a good, careful, wilderness adventurer you will need combat survival training; it just opens people’s eyes to all the minor avoidable damage that is done on a walk through the woods. In addition, it highlights the fact that with a little care and knowledge we can do a lot more with little or no environmental impact. It no doubt sounds like an immense amount of trouble to go to and I’m sure to many it conjures up thoughts of covering yourself in mud and crawling about in the undergrowth; as is so often the case, the reality is quite different. These little things will only be apparent to the trained eye and go unnoticed by the vast majority. As for hard work, well, not a bit of it really; if there is any, it’s more mental than physical but it comes as second nature after a while. In practice, the reality is that wilderness adventurers that possess these additional skills are able to travel wherever and whenever they like, doing whatever they like as no one will be any the wiser; if you are proficient, the environment is unlikely to betray you!
I am in no way saying that the rules should be disregarded, but as these rules have been brought into play to control the careless, it seems extremely unfair that they should affect the enjoyment of everyone else. Just taking the fire rules present in many parks as an example, it seems to be acceptable to say “No Fires” to eliminate the risk of fire in the park, but it would never be deemed acceptable to say “No Automobiles” to eliminate the risk of automobile accidents on the roads; surely the problem is one of education. It’s very easy to make a rule but enforcing it is something entirely different; we must rely on the people using the wilderness to keep it as it’s meant to be. Keep the rules for the people who only venture 100m from the car and educate the rest. By learning combat survival skills you will be able to travel unhindered by these restraints; the real winner of course being the wilderness, the home of the true adventurer.
I saw this somewhere recently and can’t think where, but I would like to share it all the same.