Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

RV Driving Etiquette

RVs of various kinds, by their very nature, tend to be large and cumbersome and usually slow especially on hills or curvy roads.   Very often the drivers are in unfamiliar territory.  But that doesn't mean they have to be traffic hazards!  Poor driving is what makes them hazards.  I recently had the experience of driving over 100 miles on two-lane, mountain roads in my passenger car.   I am sad to report that virtually every RV I encountered was impeding traffic and ignored numerous opportunities to pull over and allow the traffic that was backing up behind them pass. Very rude!  They were obviously intimidated by the combination of their vehicle and the mountain road and were driving way below the posted speed limit.  This kind of behavior is inexcusable!  Most of these rigs were identifiable as rentals so the drivers were probably inexperienced, but that is no excuse for creating a traffic hazard.  Yes, big, heavy rigs are slow.  And, yes, many drivers are intimidated by mountain roads.  But all you have to do to be a good citizen is watch your rear view mirror and, when traffic starts to back up behind you, pull over and let them go around.   In California and many other states the law REQUIRES you to pull over if there are 4 or more vehicles behind you.   In any state, common courtesy demands you pull over when ever you are holding up any traffic.  Not only is it courteous, it is a safety issue.  Often the legal opportunities for passing are few and far between on mountain roads and impatient drivers may be inclined to attempt to pass when it isn't safe.  Not only do they risk a head on collision with oncoming traffic, which they may not be able to see around an RV until it is too late, any evasive action or accident they may be involved in is likely to affect the RV they are passing.  For your own safety, as well as a courtesy to other drivers, pull over and let them go around!  Any time you lose waiting for traffic to go around you will be insignificant compared to the time you'll lose if you're involved in an accident! 

Some drivers may try to justify their failure to pull over by claiming it is too hard and takes too long to get those big rigs moving again.   It is true that getting back up to speed on steep hills is difficult, but in most situations there are alternating up and down hill stretches so pulling over at the top so you have gravity to help you get going faster down the other side or pulling over on a down grade is usually an option.  And when it is not, the time you might lose pulling over and getting going again is nothing compared to what you would lose due to an accident from someone attempting to pass you -- or to how much of other drivers' time you're wasting.

On many mountain roads turn outs will be clearly posted and slower vehicles should use them whenever there are other vehicles behind them.  Even when turn outs aren't posted, savvy drivers will look ahead and take advantage of places they can get over to let traffic get around them.

Some other things you can do to minimize your negative impact on other traffic includes reducing the amount of weight you're hauling.   Lighten the load if/when you can.  Periodically go through your RV and get rid of unnecessary items.   If you are going to have a way to fill your water tank at your destination, bring along only what you'll use during the trip.   Water is very heavy:  8 pounds per gallon. A 100 gallon tank will contain 800 pounds of water when full.  You can probably get by with 5-10 gallons on the road, only 40-80 pounds.  That saves you more than 700 pounds!   Not only will you have better acceleration and climb hills with less effort, you may even save on gas. Think about it:  800 pounds is about 20-25% of the weight of an average car.   Imagine what loading 1/4 of an extra car onto your daily driver would do to the gas mileage and acceleration!

When caravaning with other RVs leave plenty of space between rigs to give other drivers room to pass you one at a time.   Try to signal other drivers when it is safe to pass by driving as close to the right shoulder as possible so they can see around you.   If someone attempts to pass you when there is oncoming traffic, slow down and keep right to allow them to get around you as quickly as possible. NEVER accelerate when someone is trying to pass you and NEVER speed up when you reach a legal passing zone.  RVs are not going to win the race, even if the vehicle passing you is a semi!  Passing lanes are clearly marked "keep right except when passing", and yes, that means YOU!  By the way, speeding up when someone attempts to pass you is illegal in most states.

So what if someone passes you?  Sometimes our instinctive competitive nature drives us be offended or get angry when someone passes us.   I had an experience once that really put things into perspective for me.  I was on a long trip with my Grandmother riding the front seat with me so I was being especially cautious.   Even though I was driving the speed limit, the fellow behind me, who had been tailgating me for miles, got impatient and sped around me.   I quipped: 'Go on, run ahead and spring the traps for me'.  Not five miles later I passed the same vehicle where he had been pulled over by a state trooper.   So sometimes letting people pass you is a really good thing!  My teen age son once observed a fancy sports car weaving in and out of traffic for more than 50 miles on the freeway through Los Angeles and when they both coincidentally arrived at the same rock concert venue, the speeding Porche was only 2 cars ahead of him in line.  He had to have used up a lot of extra fuel and put a lot of extra wear on his brakes and drivetrain for virtually nothing, to say nothing of the nerves of drivers around him and perhaps his passengers and his own.

Play nice!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Avoiding Deer Strikes

Deer strikes? We're not talking about avoiding the picket lines of some animal collective bargaining boycott. We're talking about hitting -- or being hit by -- one or more of Bambi's buddies.

Many of our camping, RVing, and OHVing activities take us into or through the habitat of wild animals.  Animals don't comprehend the danger presented by fast moving vehicles.   The instinctive reactions they have developed to avoid predators over millenia are not effective against vehicles.  In many cases their instinctive reactions put them in even more danger because moving vehicles behave very differently than predators.  The dangers presented to motorists by deer and other animals crossing highways and trails is significant.   Hitting a deer with a car -- or having your car hit by a deer -- can be an expensive and even life threatening situation.   Not all deer strikes involve the driver hitting the deer.   Sometimes the deer runs or jumps out into the side of the car.

There are "deer whistles" advertised that claim to emit a high frequency whistle at speeds over 30 mph that allegedly frighten the deer away.   Sounds like a good idea, but do they really work? Anecdotal evidence suggests there may some value to them.  I have used them on my motorhome for years and never hit a deer with it, but most of my motorhoming was in the desert where deer are not common.  My dad, on the other hand, did most of his traveling in the forests of Oregon where deer abound.  He said he noticed a significant reduction in the number of deer crossing in front of his motorhome after installing the devices.  However, more extensive scientific research has not found any proof that they work.  See http://www.ibmwr.org/otech/deerw.html.   Even if they did work they would probably be ineffective at the slower speeds we often drive large RVs on forest roads and at the normal trail speeds of OHVs.   Electronic version would supposedly work at any speed -- if they work at all.   You might think, "It can't hurt" and, except for the fact that it might give the driver a false sense of security and a reduction in his disposable funds, that is true.

The best way to avoid deer strikes is to avoid driving during periods when deer activity is high -- dawn and dusk.   But don't assume you're safe at other times.   While activity may be highest at those times, you may encounter deer crossing your path at ANY time.  First, slow down in areas where there may be deer -- especially areas where deer crossing signs are posted.  It will give you more reaction time if they jump out in front of you.  Secondly, stay alert.  Watch as far down the road as you can, scanning the trees on both sides of the road frequently for any movement in the trees or brush.  This technique us also helpful when riding OHV trails in the forest or even in the desert.   Deer may not be a likely problem in the desert but other OHV riders are.  When visibility is restricted, by fog, snow, rain, vegetation, or narrow, twisting roads and trails, further reduce your speed.  Reduced speed gives you more time to scan for hazards and longer reaction time to avoid them.  You may be anxious to get to camp but, believe me, you'll get there faster by driving at a safe and steady speed than you will if you have an accident.

If you see one or more deer crossing the road or trail in front of you, assume there are more to come.  After all, deer are herd animals and travel in groups.  You may see one or two by themselves, but more often than not, there will be several.   Be especially alert for stragglers who, in their eagerness to catch up with the group, may dash out in front of you -- or into you.

Remember, YOUR safety comes first!  Your first instinct may be to swerve or slam on the brakes to avoid hitting any animal.  But is missing a deer or a squirrel worth risking your life or the life of your family?  While we should have a respect for all life, you don't want to risk injuring or killing a family member to save a wild animal.  If nothing else, consider that death is a normal and routine part of the animal kingdom.  You may sacrifice your own safety to avoid injuring an animal only to have that very same animal killed by predators minutes later.  Even something as simple as slamming on your brakes to avoid an animal could have dire consequences.   It may cause the vehicle behind you to rear-end you -- or through chain reaction of braking, cause an accident several cars behind you. Sudden braking can sometimes cause you to lose control as the tires slide on pavement with unequal friction.   Any skid may send you into oncoming traffic or off the road.   Any loose object inside your vehicle may become projectiles that injure occupants or damage the windshield.  Once the brakes lock up you no longer have steering since the static patch of tread on the pavement is non-directional and inertia is going to take your vehicle -- and  you -- where ever it wants to go!

There is value in avoiding animal strikes when you safely can.  In addition to preserving the animal's life, you may avoid damage to your vehicle.   Hitting even a small animal with a motorcycle or other OHV can often cause you to lose control.   Even small animals can cause a surprising amount of damage to cars, trucks, and RVs, especially at highway speeds.  My wife hit a rabbit on a rural highway.   It smashed into one of the openings in the front bumper hard enough to crack the plastic, doing about $800 worth of damage.  I've seen birds break windshields.   Birds usually get out of the way before you reach them, but sometimes they will misjudge the speed and distance, especially if they're focused on picking their dinner out of an existing road kill.  I was once pondering the ability of birds to get out of the way when one in front of me failed to move fast enough and got smacked by my windshield.  Reminds me of the story of a woman who encountered a bird that got caught on her windshield wiper after an unfortunate miscalculation in escape.  She turned on the wiper to dislodge the bird.  The carcass flew over the top of her car and into the windshield of a Highway Patrolman behind her.  He then pulled her over "for flipping him the bird".

The bottom line: stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.   Adjust your speed according to driving conditions and continuously can the road and both sides as far ahead as you can.   Make this scanning a habit.  Don't wait until you see the deer crossing sign to do it. Practice the technique all the time.  You will be a safer driver for doing it.  It is valuable even in urban situations where kids and pets may dart out from between parked cars.  The only warning you may have is just a flash of movement.

Don't strike out!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Choosing a Campgroud

How do you go about choosing a campground that will be appropriate for your needs?  To a large extent you can just pick a campground because you like it or because someone recommended it,  it is convenient, or you have heard or read good things about it.  Truly bad campgrounds are few and far between, so you can seldom go wrong.  The most common complaints are noise (usually from traffic on nearby facilities or roads, sometimes from uncontrolled tenants  or noisy neighbors) but sometimes you may encounter a poorly maintained facility and/or unpleasant management.  The only real shield against that is checking out the parks beforehand as best you can.  Look for online reviews or call local public park rangers or even law enforcement or check with local businesses or contact the Better Business Bureau.  Members of the Good Sam Club can check the Good Sam or Trailer Life directories for ratings.  Better yet, do a drive by and check it out yourself if you can.  Generally you cant count on any campground rated as a "Good Sam Park" to have been well screened to ensure a quality experience.  If you're on the road you may need to find an available spot as night time approaches so you might end up just taking your chances wherever you find a "VACANCY" sign, but is always good to plan ahead if you can.  If you're new to RVing, OHVing, and/or camping, here are some things to help you figure out your best options.  First of all, your camping life style will determine whether you need an RV park or a tent camping space.   If you're in an RV, your need or desire for comforts and conveniences will dictate between boondocking or a full hook up campground.  Some forest service campgrounds allow RVs, but don't have any hook ups so you'll have to be prepared to dry camp if you go there.  Forest Service campgrounds also frequently have size limitations.   Dry camping in a tent versus staying in a campground is less of a difference than dry camping in an RV compared to full hook ups, but you still need to consider whether you have the will and the equipment and supplies for remote camping.   If you're staying in a campground you will probably have access to water and toilets. If you're camping in primitive "dispersed camping" areas, you won't.   If you're into OHV riding, you will need to choose a location that gives you access to OHV trails.   Often this means dry camping on open BLM lands where there are no existing facilities.  Even though a majority RV buyers much prefer units that are self-contained something like 3/4 or more usually stay in developed campgrounds with hookups where they seldom use the self contained features.

How large is your group?   If it's just your immediate family you'll probably only need one space but if you're group camping, you may need to reserve several spots and/or a group facility.  If you're boondocking with a group you'll need to locate and stake a claim on a spot big enough for everyone you are expecting to join you.  Designated campgrounds may require advance reservations for groups and you can usually request adjacent sites so you'll be near each other.  When group camping in primitive areas it is best to get their early and stake out an area for your group before all the good spots are taken.  This is especially important on holiday weekends where there will be a lot of competition for sites.  We always tried to get out on Tuesday before Thanksgiving weekend be make sure we could stake out our favorite staging area for our Desert Rat group's annual "Turkey In The Dirt".

The kinds of activities you plan to enjoy will further refine your choices.  If you're into water sports, you'll want to be close to a lake, beach, or marina. OHV riding usually means headed out to open BLM or forest service lands, but there are a few developed campgrounds with access to OHV trails. I spent a summer as an ATV mechanic at one such resort in Utah.   If you are focusing on visiting specific historical sites, pick a campground that provides convenient travel to your various destinations.  For example, Pinewoods Resort in Duck Creek Village, Utah, where I worked, has direct access to 500 miles of ATV trails and is centrally located between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. For most of our dirt bike outings in southern California we dry-camped in open BLM camping areas in the Mojave Desert.  As I recall there was one private RV park outside of California City that also catered to dirt bikers but most everyone dry camped in open camping areas.   It may take some research to locate the perfect place for your needs.  The good news is you'll probably have fun and enjoy yourself anywhere you camp.   But over time you'll find some places you like better than others and will want to return often.

Campgrounds versus RV parks.  Many, but not all, campgrounds include both tent camping spaces and RV spaces.  Some may allow one or the other but not both. It isn't unusual to find forest service campgrounds that have RV restrictions.  Some may not even accept them at all while others will have size restrictions. Private campgrounds may be limited by the size of their available spaces.   Note that size restrictions are NOT arbitrary ways to harass RVers.  They are usually based on legitimate physical restraints like the size of the spaces themselves or limitations on access roads.   Long RVs in short spaces leave part of your rig extending out and blocking the road or parking on and damaging landscaping. Roads may be narrow or have sharp turns that don't accommodate rigs beyond a certain size.  There may be weight, height, and width limits on bridges on access roads getting there.  To avoid uncomfortable situations where you don't have anyplace to turn around and have to back out of untenable routes, pay attention to size restrictions, which are usually posted well in advance.  Some RV parks don't have tent camping spaces and will not allow tents to be set up in RV spaces.   Be sure you understand the available resources and any restrictions BEFORE you book a reservation or commit your plans to a particular location.  When you roll in at midnight it is NOT the time to learn your rig isn't accepted or you can't set up your tent at your planned destination.

Boondocking or dry camping gives you a lot of choices.  Many forest and BLM lands are open for dispersed camping, which means you can camp just about anywhere in the open areas.  Others may allow camping only in designated areas.  Still, if you are willing and able to camp without hookups, your options will be greatly expanded.  There are seldom size restrictions on open camping areas although there may be size considerations on the roads getting there.  If you ride OHVs it is likely dry camping in open areas will be the best if not the only way to have direct access to trails.  When camping in open areas, try to take advantage of places others have already camped.   This will usually make your setup easier as well as minimizing the impact on the environment.   By using a previously used campsite someone else will have already found the most level spot and will probably have already built a rock fire pit.  Don't know of any existing camp sites?   Stop in and chat with the local BLM ranger.  If you can't do that, look for tire tracks that lead off the road, then look for areas that have been previous used as indicated by disturbed vegetation and a primitive rock fire ring.

If you need or want hook ups be sure to check web sites or call ahead to confirm you can get what you need. Some RVs are wired for 50 amp electrical service.  Older campgrounds may have only 30 amp electrical connections.   Using an adapter you can still connect your 50 amp rig to a 30 amp pedestal, but you will only have 30 amps of power available so you won't be able to run multiple high-powered appliances (like air conditioners) at the same time.  And, of course, you'll need to have an appropriate adapter so pick one up before you need it.   If you really need to run both air conditioners at once on a large RV, make sure you have full 50 amp power or plan on running your generator when you need both air conditioners.   Sewer and water connections are pretty standard at most locations that have hook ups and usually don't require special adapters.  However, it is a good idea to carry a multi-size sewer adapter, just in case.   If you are camping in freezing weather, bring along some heat tape to wrap your water hose AND the pipe all the way to the ground to prevent it from freezing.  Tent campers usually don't need or can't use hook ups, but at least having water faucets and toilets available in a developed campground is a valuable consideration.  During late season (fall) outings you may find restrooms have been closed and water shut off, so find out ahead of time so you can bring enough water to last as long as you plan to stay.

Primitive campgrounds are usually designed for tent camping but can sometimes accept small RVs. They won't usually have any kind of hookups but may have water available at shared community faucets to refill your fresh water tank.   Be considerate of other campers and don't monopolize the faucet.   Some primitive campgrounds will have flush toilets but many older sites will have only pit toilets inf they even have that.  In "the old days" pit toilets were often very foul smelling and dirty. These days most are regularly pumped out and pressure washed and quite acceptable and far superior to digging your own latrine, but they'll still probably not be as pleasant as flush toilets or your own RV, especially on long weekends when they may get a lot of use between cleanings.   Poor conditions in public toilets and showers is one of the reasons people like to have their own RVs.

Commercial RV parks and campgrounds often provide loads of activities and amenities, along with full hook ups.   Ofttimes the additional conveniences are well worth the extra cost. These days you can check out most facilities on the Internet and read reviews from previous guests so you have a pretty good idea what to expect.  If you still have questions, give them a call.   Any reputable establishment will be happy to answer your questions.

Good Sam Parks.  The Good Sam Club reviews thousands of campgrounds each year.   Those that qualify as Good Sam Parks have to meet specific criteria of cleanliness, appeal, and functionality and offer a 10% discount to Good Sam Club members.   Even if you're not a Good Sam member, the Good Sam Park rating ensures a quality and consistency of facilities and services for everyone.

Membership campgrounds offer free or discounted camping to folks who pay an annual membership fee.  Membership camping is a good option for many people but you need to be sure you can and will make use of their facilities before you lay out a chunk of money for membership. Membership camping organizations have strict rules that govern availability, cleanliness, and functionality, delivering a high level of consistency among their member campgrounds.  Some require advance reservations and may have "black out" dates so be sure you are properly prepared so you don't get turned away in the middle of a trip or be asked to pay unexpected extra fees.

Fire restrictions may be a serious concern, depending on location and season.   During the fire season you can expect restrictions against open fires just about anywhere you go.  So, if a campfire or bonfire is part of your plans, make sure you choose a campground where it will be allowed.  Most forest service and many BLM areas will have posted Fire Danger signs.  NEVER ignore a Fire Danger sign.  They aren't just there to scare you or keep you from having fun! High Fire Danger designates a condition where fires are easily started and quickly spread.  Even the heat from the catalytic converter on your vehicle exhaust system can ignite dry grass so stick to the roads when the fire danger is high.

Private versus public campgrounds.  Your choice will probably be determined by other factors such as location, availability of spaces, and compatibility with planned activities.  Sometimes you will find both private and public (government operated) campgrounds in the same area.   Usually, but not always, private campgrounds will have more complete facilities and more amenities and will be more expensive.  Public campgrounds, operated by various government agencies (city, county, state and federal), will usually have more limited resources since they are not profit-oriented and their budgets are often at least partially based on tax revenues.   Make sure you compare the features as well as price when comparing campgrounds.   Prices at campgrounds near major attractions, like national parks or theme parks, may be higher because of their location without providing any additional amenities.  The convenience may be worth the additional cost but sometimes you will save money or gain features by driving just a little further.

Camp out!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Wilderness Survival

Wilderness survival.   Its not as hard as you think -- IF you think.  The biggest problem isn't as much knowing what to do and how to do it, its thinking about doing it.  Just think about it for a while. Mankind lived for thousands and thousands of years without civilization and modern conveniences.  I only have to look back 3 or 4 generations in my family to find real pioneers who crossed the American plains in covered wagons and handcarts and had to live off the land.  What makes us different from our ancient ancestors?  Why can't we survive a few days in the wilderness?  You'd think it would be instinctive.  True, we've lost a lot of the basic knowledge that sustained our forefathers, but with our more advanced education and fundamental knowledge of scientific principles, we  should be able to make it.  I submit attitude is the biggest factor.  We have been taught or have come to believe that we can't survive in the wilderness, at least not without special training. We have become totally dependent on our modern conveniences, but we don't have remain dependent.  Our ancestors got the training they needed the same way our kids learn to walk and talk -- from their parents.   Unless your parents are survivalists, you won't have the benefit of home schooling for survival.  That's OK.  As I have mentioned before, the biggest factor is attitude -- the WILL to survive.   A lot of the things you might learn in a survival school are largely common sense, things you can figure out yourself if you have to.  After all, somebody had to figure them out the first time.  You don't have to be an engineer to work out how to tie some branches together or pile up some leaves to make an emergency shelter.  With a little thought, most people can figure it out by themselves.  The biggest factor is knowing that you need a shelter in the first place and the will and good sense to build it in time to prevent dangers of exposure.

Situational awareness.  In many professions, such fire fighting, personal protection, and law enforcement, applying the concept of situational awareness is a critical skill.   It would also be applied to wilderness survival and even regular RVing and OHVing and other outdoor recreational activities.  Situational awareness basically means paying attention to your surroundings and constantly watching for things that might affect you.  In many cases it means watching out for things that are hazardous or could become hazardous, but it also covers watching for things you can use.  Situational awareness in a survival situation might be demonstrated by recognizing you aren't going to be rescued before dark and need to build a shelter and a fire.  It might also mean remembering a cave or overhang that might be a good start on a shelter.  You can practice situational awareness all the time, at home, at work, while you are shopping and especially when  you are involved in outdoor activities.  Just look around you.  Is there an erratic driver on the freeway that might pose a hazard?  What would be your escape route from a restaurant or store if a dangerous situation sprang up?  What things might be within your reach that would be suitable weapons if they were needed to defend  yourself or protect your family?  Where is the nearest fire extinguisher, hose, or fire alarm?  These are all things you should be paying attention to everywhere you go.

Wilderness survival situations are often the result of some kind of accident -- a plane or vehicle crash or a hiker or hunter falling down a cliff or steep slope or just getting lost.  Even without physical injuries, just finding yourself in a survival situation is traumatic.  You and/or your companions are likely to experience going into shock, especially if you are injured, which is going to seriously affect and probably cloud your thinking.  And, yes, you can go into shock from the trauma of being lost even if you aren't injured.  If you can remain calm and think clearly, you will significantly increase your chance of survival.  A useful acronym for surival is STOP Stop, Think, Observe, Plan.  Stop moving, Think about your situation,Observe your surroundings and your resources, then Plan what to do.  Then is is time for action, implementing you plans in a thoughtful and methodical way to maximize your chances of survival.

So why do people perish in the wilderness?  One of the main reasons is panic.  They don't know what to do and instead of trying to figure out their best options, they panic.  Once panic sets in there is little if any room for intelligent thought.  Frightened people often just run which usually only makes their situation worse.  They get even more lost and put themselves further from where searchers will be looking for them, get injured or make existing injuries worse.  Many injuries are the result of panic.  Running from predatory animals is usually a bad idea.  First of all, you will never out run a wolf, a bear, or a mountain lion.  Secondly, when you run the animal's instinct tells it you are prey.  Another dangerous reaction is "negative panic" where you simply freeze and are incapable of doing anything. That can be just a dangerous as running as it leaves you totally vulnerable and unable to react appropriately to any threats.  If you feel yourself losing control and feel like running or unable to react at all, hug a tree if there is one around and take time to calm down.   Consider your situation.   Evaluate your options.   Should you stay where you are or move on?   Do you have materials to build a shelter?  Do you have fuel for a fire?  Do you know how to build a fire with what you have with you or available around you?   Do you have access to food and water?   Do you have any idea which way to go to get help?  Does anyone know where you are?  These are some of the main things to think about when deciding whether to go or stay.  If no one knows where you are (shame on you!  You should have told someone where you were going.), staying put may not be your best option 'cause no one is going to come looking for you.   If you have no shelter, no fuel, no food, or no water you will probably have to move at least a little to seek them.  Whenever you do move, take care not move into a less desirable spot that the one you're leaving.  Always seek improvement.   You don't want your move to make things go from bad to worse.  And exercise caution when you move.  The last thing you need in a survival situation is to become injured or to aggravate any injuries you already have.  If you feel like running, stop and hug a tree until you calm down a little and can start to think straight.  If there are no trees, hug yourself!  Of course hugging a suitable companion may be more therapeutic (and enjoyable) for both of you.

Consider this:   some people have survived being stranded in the wilderness with absolutely no survival training while some people with training have perished.  Why?   Panic probably played a significant factor.   Those who survived kept their cool and figured ways to deal with the situation until they were rescued, and then took appropriate action.  Those who froze or forgot their training, perhaps because of panic or just non-use, perished.  One of the first human reactions to a crisis situation is denial: "This can't be happening to me!" or "I can't believe this is happening!"  Just knowing that negative panic and denial are likely to occur can help you recognize and combat them. On the other hand, if you're not expecting it, you will very likely fail to recognize it, succumb to it and panic or become immobilized . And that is a sure recipe for failure.

What is the value of survival training?   First of all, having some idea what to do in an emergency situation will greatly reduce your tendency to panic and increase your confidence.  Secondly, knowing some fundamental survival principles and having some basic survival skills will make things easier, which will further improve your attitude and enhance your chances of survival.   Certain skills may be essential to survival, such as making a fire and finding water.  But even more important than these fundamental skills is your overall mind set and ability to stay calm and make good decisions.  Your brain isk, with out a doubt, your most important survival tool, followed by your own two hands.  External tools, such as a good knife and a fire starting kit, will make your tasks easier, but are really secondary.   With a little creative thought you can  usually find a way to acquire or make the tools you need to survive.

For example, knowing the rule of threes can help you prioritize your efforts.  The rule of threes: you can survive about 3 minutes without air, you can survive about 3 hours until your body temperature reaches dangerously high or low temperatures in adverse weather conditions, you can survive about 3 days without water, and you can survive about 3 weeks without food.  So, if you're underwater or buried in a snow avalanche, get your head clear so you can breath!   If you have an injured companion who is not breathing, make sure their airway is clear and attempt CPR.  Then, consider if you need shelter. In cold or wet weather you'll need someplace dry and out of the wind and a way to stay warm. In hot weather you'll need shade.  Even in desert areas nights can get dangerously cold, so seek shelter long before it begins to get dark.  Then look for sources of water and finally try to find something to eat.  We are all too accustomed to eating when we are hungry, and hunger is often one of the first symptoms you will experience, many people think they're hungry when what they really need is water  -- but food is the lowest priority in terms of survival.   THINK about what you need to do, then plan your activities so you address the most important issues first.  Finding food and water won't do you any good if you die of exposure in the first few hours because you didn't have necessary shelter.  I have read that the longest anyone survived without water was eleven days, but there wasn't any description of the circumstances.   Remember, the rule of thumb, is three days without water before you become dangerously dehydrated.  It may be possible to get water from things you eat, but mostly it takes more water out of your body trying to process any food than the water it can provide.  You can begin to experience symptoms of dehydration in a lot less than 3 days.  Debilitating heat cramps, mental fatigue, and lethargy can begin to set in after just a few hours.  Hot weather and physical exertion will accelerate dehydration.

Once you have made plans based on prioritizing your survival needs, take inventory of what you have available and rank the items according to their value toward survival.   Begin by collecting everything you think might be useful, then narrow the list down to those things that will do the most toward helping you survive.   You don't want to waste time and energy lugging around a bunch of useless junk.  As you rate items, consider how they relate to your priorities.  For example, in a cold and/or wet climate, staying warm will be one of your highest priorities so anything that will help you stay warm (fire materials, warm clothing, shelter materials, possible insulation for your clothing) should be high on your list. In survival mode you will often find that what you normally consider junk may be useful, so think "what can I do with that" as you make your inventory.

I'm NOT encouraging you to boycott survival training.  Quite the opposite.  The more training and practice you have the better prepared you will be, the less likely you will panic, and the easier it will be to survive.  I just want you to think about what you would do if you unexpectedly found yourself in a survival situation.  Try to realize YOU CAN SURVIVE if you have the will to do so and use your head.  Just think it through!  Then seek all the training and practice you can get.  Developing survival skills will make your ordeal less uncomfortable and improve your chances of success.  Once you find yourself in a survival situation take stock of your resources, plan your moves, and then carefully implement them.