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Improvise Adapt Overcome!
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Discussion Starter #1
Who has seen that movie?

What mistakes did the main character make that cost him his life? What would you have done different?
 

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I have seen the movie.

The mistakes I believe he made are:
-lack of proper food
-lack of outdoor survival skills
-lack of hunting and preservation skills (the moose incident)
-lack of information on where exactly he was going (topo maps, guides, etc.)
-lack of realization that a frozen river will get wider in the spring with the runoff
-lack of backup planning once the river became 'impassable'

I'm sure there are others but those are the ones that pop into my head at the moment.
 

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I enjoyed the book much more then the movie. One thing they mention in the book about the river incident is that there was a wire bridge across the river only 1/4 mile up river. There were also some well stocked hunting cabins only a few miles from the bus. Worst mistake was just turning around when he saw how high the river was. Most people would have the common sense to atleast scout out the river better. Kind of sounds like he never really explored the area besides vicinity close to the bus.

Most of the locals view him as a moron.
 

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I just watched this movie a month ago, and I give him kudo's for doing what he did, but also a slap up side his head for doing it the way he did. Ill prepapred almost like a death trip.
 

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Improvise Adapt Overcome!
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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the link!! I read through the other thread just now. it's not quite the theme I want for this one though. I am looking to use his journey into the wilderness as a framework to discuss not only his mistakes, but how it should be done.

For a few examples, in the movie he bought a book on local plants when he first got to Alaska. He proceeded to ignore it for recreational books untill he was starving and not thinking clearly anymore. THEN, and only then did he consult it to search for some food. He jumped into that without prior study that was deep enough, or through enough to find success.

As I have been slowly making my journey form family tent camping to light back packing, to now an interest in primitive survival skills, I have taken a study into edible plant identification. I have found several edibles and foraged a bit locally, and I can say the process took much longer than just trying to compare pictures. Infact, I bough several hundred dollars worth of primitive skills book this summer, a good 1/3rd of them on plant identification, harvesting and preparing for food.

At the rate i am learning, I should be able to go and forage quite well in my local area by end of next summer. That is a significantly longer learning curve than just spontaneously grabbing a book, while starving, comparing some pictures and munching away haphazardly.

The other huge mistake he made was in going to Alaska in the first place. I can certainly understand his minimalist philosophy, I myself admire it. However, when you lack material goods to aid your survival, you must more than make up by having real, sound skills. One of those skills is knowing how to pick a good living enviroment.

In my case, i'd go to Costa Rica, and live in the wilderness there. At least there, the weather can't kill you, and there are some primitive tribes that are open to western contact that one can spend time with to learn how to survive.

Even if I planed to stay in the US, I would be as far South as possible, to enjoy a less hostile climate. There at least, the enviroment is more forgiving to mistakes.
 

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The Punisher
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Plants are all well and good, but hunting skills are/can be much more important up here, if you're looking to survive out in the wilderness. Considering the winters here, and the short summers when plants are growing, being able to put meat on the fire would have been more important.

A bag of rice and a bus, words that always bring a chuckle among friends.:D:
 

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Improvise Adapt Overcome!
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Discussion Starter #8
Agreed to an extent.
Hunting is *VERY* important, however hunting gets lean. Plants pretty much cover every inch out there. Even in winter you can dig down through the snow and get at the plants that have dried for the winter. If you know how to identify them in all states of thier cycles, you have food year round that will allow you to live on when the hunting is lean.

This brings me to another point about the movie. There is a part where he is looking for game, and there is none. He starts screaming in frustration. This likely scared off any that may have been there before hand.

Also, I think he over hunted his area. That and the game is not dumb. When they see a hunter in one area killing them, they move to another area. You need to know how to follow them...and he didn't.
 

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For what it is worth, he actually had more experience foraging for wild plants then the movie shows. But his experience was all in the lower 48.

In real life he did avoid the river due to a fear of the water. It wasn't that far from his 'bus', you would of thought he would of spent alot more time near it.
 

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Improvise Adapt Overcome!
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Discussion Starter #10
Given that, then he should have known to study up on the local plants from day one, and not waited untill the 11th hour.
 

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Agreed to an extent.
. Plants pretty much cover every inch out there. Even in winter you can dig down through the snow and get at the plants that have dried for the winter.

not trying to be controversial here....but...have you been to alaska? do you know of what you speak here? from real life experience in alaska i have to say this is wishful thinking at best.

i loved the book...watched the movie...and have a very close person friend who had multiple encouters with "supertramp"...i admire him for having a dream and having the will to chase it...with that said he was very foolish in his execution.

i was raised in a 'survivalist family' i would go so far as to say i was raised in an extremist survivalist family...the 'games' we played as a family while at home were either about plant knowledge and identification, board games with survival themes, etc etc..

we were raised and trained with the knowledge of a remote meeting place that was/is supplied where we would all rally and then move to our permanent secure location...from my earliest memories we were trained that if there was ever an invasion, a draft, a national emergency, the potential of unjust imprisonment that we were to go to this location...we were trained from my youngest days to live off the land, through plant identification, hunting and fishing, shelter building, etc etc...and as our skills developed they were tested and built upon, from extended backpacking trips as a family to eventually being dropped off in the forest with the clothes on my back, a candy bar, a book of matches, and a pocket knife with the objective of reaching our rally point which was 2 days away on foot (not only until many years later did my father let me know that he was trailing me to insure that i was not in over my head)...the point i am trying to get to is that to enter the 'wild' and live off of very limited supplies and your own knowledge and skills is not a skill you learn overnight or simply by reading a book...it is a skill that demands a lifetime of learning..yes the basics can be taught in a shorter period of time but to truly become a proficient woodsman for lack of a better term takes MANY years, MANY experiences and often time MANY mistakes that you learn from...to put yourself into a situation such as "supertramp" did in my eyes is/was simply irresponsible and in my opinion suicidal, especially given the extremes of alaska. it would have been difficult enough in Costa Rica (to use your location) but to truly develop the skills and knowledge to live self sufficiently off of the land takes a LONG term learning curve...to expect anything less is simply foolhearty...in my humble opinion of course:rolleyes:

additionally plant identification from a book and being able to identify plants in print versus the real world can be a much different experience. not to mention that my plant knowledge from living and growing up in the mountains of Oregon wouldn't do me nearly a lick of good in Costa Rica...other than giving me some common sense guidelines.

i have also had many conversations with multiple survivalists about 'supertramp'...many of them alaskans. most of them have admired him for his dream and for taking action towards them..but most of them also consider him to have been very foolish to say the least. it is one thing to do some summer camping in alaska...from first hand experience it is a whole other world heading off of the proverbial 'beaten path'.
 

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Improvise Adapt Overcome!
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Discussion Starter #12
not trying to be controversial here....but...have you been to alaska? do you know of what you speak here? from real life experience in alaska i have to say this is wishful thinking at best.

i loved the book...watched the movie...and have a very close person friend who had multiple encouters with "supertramp"...i admire him for having a dream and having the will to chase it...with that said he was very foolish in his execution.

i was raised in a 'survivalist family' i would go so far as to say i was raised in an extremist survivalist family...the 'games' we played as a family while at home were either about plant knowledge and identification, board games with survival themes, etc etc..

we were raised and trained with the knowledge of a remote meeting place that was/is supplied where we would all rally and then move to our permanent secure location...from my earliest memories we were trained that if there was ever an invasion, a draft, a national emergency, the potential of unjust imprisonment that we were to go to this location...we were trained from my youngest days to live off the land, through plant identification, hunting and fishing, shelter building, etc etc...and as our skills developed they were tested and built upon, from extended backpacking trips as a family to eventually being dropped off in the forest with the clothes on my back, a candy bar, a book of matches, and a pocket knife with the objective of reaching our rally point which was 2 days away on foot (not only until many years later did my father let me know that he was trailing me to insure that i was not in over my head)...the point i am trying to get to is that to enter the 'wild' and live off of very limited supplies and your own knowledge and skills is not a skill you learn overnight or simply by reading a book...it is a skill that demands a lifetime of learning..yes the basics can be taught in a shorter period of time but to truly become a proficient woodsman for lack of a better term takes MANY years, MANY experiences and often time MANY mistakes that you learn from...to put yourself into a situation such as "supertramp" did in my eyes is/was simply irresponsible and in my opinion suicidal, especially given the extremes of alaska. it would have been difficult enough in Costa Rica (to use your location) but to truly develop the skills and knowledge to live self sufficiently off of the land takes a LONG term learning curve...to expect anything less is simply foolhearty...in my humble opinion of course:rolleyes:

additionally plant identification from a book and being able to identify plants in print versus the real world can be a much different experience. not to mention that my plant knowledge from living and growing up in the mountains of Oregon wouldn't do me nearly a lick of good in Costa Rica...other than giving me some common sense guidelines.

i have also had many conversations with multiple survivalists about 'supertramp'...many of them alaskans. most of them have admired him for his dream and for taking action towards them..but most of them also consider him to have been very foolish to say the least. it is one thing to do some summer camping in alaska...from first hand experience it is a whole other world heading off of the proverbial 'beaten path'.
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I tend to agree with you. That is why I made the example of my own learning curve. Just based on where I am going, and the time frame I am going at, it's going to take me at least until next fall to learn a handful of good edible plants in my area. I foresee years of pursuing the path before developing sustainable primitive skills, and maybe never fully getting there considering I am just romping around my local forest preserve rather than actually experiencing real wilderness.

One has to consider Primitive man in such a quest. They were born into it, and learned to survive as part of growing up. It was total immersion not just in survival skills, but complete tribal living. It was never One alone in the wild, it was allways a community, a Tribal living adventure.

Primitive man foraged all day long. He most likely got HALF his daily food intake from foraged plants, and then gorged on the day's kill in the evening. he didn't have 3 square meals, but many small ones. He casually grazed as he roamed around looking for the night's dinner. This is what the kid in the Movie should have done from the start.
 

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Mountain Critter
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In my case, i'd go to Costa Rica, and live in the wilderness there. At least there, the weather can't kill you, and there are some primitive tribes that are open to western contact that one can spend time with to learn how to survive.

Even if I planed to stay in the US, I would be as far South as possible, to enjoy a less hostile climate. There at least, the enviroment is more forgiving to mistakes.
You have said that you are putting some real effort into learning the wild edibles in your area, so why plan on moving to an unfamiliar environment where you will have to start all over? The single most important factor to success in "living off the land" is long familiarity with your area--the terrain, the plants, the weather, the habits and seasonal patterns of the small and large game animals. I suppose if you had plenty of time--years--to start over and learn a new place, this could work for you, though.

Hunting is *VERY* important, however hunting gets lean. Plants pretty much cover every inch out there. Even in winter you can dig down through the snow and get at the plants that have dried for the winter. If you know how to identify them in all states of thier cycles, you have food year round that will allow you to live on when the hunting is lean.
Yes, hunting/trapping/snaring can certainly get lean, but it's still where most of your calories are going to come from. I'm not in any way trying to put down the importance of knowing and using your local wild plant foods; I've spent years studying and doing this myself, and think it's great that you are making this effort. But unless you are in an established location and are gardening/farming, plants will for the most part be a supplemental source of nutrition.

As far as digging down through the snow to get at edible plants at any time of year....well, not in Alaska, and not in my section of the Rockies, either! You may be able to find a few rosehips or dried out Serviceberries clinging to the bushes under the snow, and maybe a bit of dried grass, but aside from that, you're pretty much going to be limited to things like the inner bark of evergreen trees (can be roasted till crunchy and eaten) for most of the winter. Cattail roots are always there, but good luck clearing away five feet of snow and chipping through the ice to get at them!

As far as the biggest mistake made by "Alex," I would have to say that it was arrogance. You just don't go into a situation like that (if your intention is to go on living) without a good bit of knowledge, preparation and time spent learning and practicing basic skills.

It sounds like you are already well on your way towards developing these skills. Keep it up!
 

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Improvise Adapt Overcome!
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Discussion Starter #14
You have said that you are putting some real effort into learning the wild edibles in your area, so why plan on moving to an unfamiliar environment where you will have to start all over? The single most important factor to success in "living off the land" is long familiarity with your area--the terrain, the plants, the weather, the habits and seasonal patterns of the small and large game animals. I suppose if you had plenty of time--years--to start over and learn a new place, this could work for you, though.
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Simple, I live near Chicago, and the winters here will kill you. I would rather be somewhere that I don't have to worry about freezing, and where natural food sources are "a plenty" all of, or most of the year.

Learning the wild edibles here is an exercise mostly. Once I can identify the ones her, it will be easier to identify others elsewhere.Besides, according to Botany in a day, plants can be identified by thier general patterns. Most plants in the same pattern have similar properties and uses.

So once I master that, then all i would need to do is learn what any potential poisonous look alikes are in each area I am in. In "Theory" I should be able to forage for food every where on th planet if I can master this skill, with nothing more than a field guide for that locations poisonous plants.


Yes, hunting/trapping/snaring can certainly get lean, but it's still where most of your calories are going to come from. I'm not in any way trying to put down the importance of knowing and using your local wild plant foods; I've spent years studying and doing this myself, and think it's great that you are making this effort. But unless you are in an established location and are gardening/farming, plants will for the most part be a supplemental source of nutrition.
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Based on my own informal study into primitive peoples today, it seems they actually get about half thier daily intake from foraged plants and casual grazing during day. Since primitive man did it this way, I am thinking that is the direction I should try and take my training.

As far as digging down through the snow to get at edible plants at any time of year....well, not in Alaska, and not in my section of the Rockies, either! You may be able to find a few rosehips or dried out Serviceberries clinging to the bushes under the snow, and maybe a bit of dried grass, but aside from that, you're pretty much going to be limited to things like the inner bark of evergreen trees (can be roasted till crunchy and eaten) for most of the winter. Cattail roots are always there, but good luck clearing away five feet of snow and chipping through the ice to get at them!
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Good point!! This reinforces my thought that one should seek warmer, lush climates if they wish to go "Into The Wild"

As far as the biggest mistake made by "Alex," I would have to say that it was arrogance. You just don't go into a situation like that (if your intention is to go on living) without a good bit of knowledge, preparation and time spent learning and practicing basic skills.

It sounds like you are already well on your way towards developing these skills. Keep it up!
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I am working on it. I have a LONG way to go though!
I don't think I would actually go fully into the wild though. Not solo anyway. Primitive man was a tribal creature. I'd probably try and find a group to join if I were to ever do it.
 

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I wouldnt fully shrug off the Rockies as unihabitable. It would just take a different mind and skill set to live in an area like this. Take a look at the high North and the native Eskimos. They live in a climate that most of us wouldnt dream of venturing into for long periods and yet they've managed to live there and thrive (to an extent).

As much as I'd love to move somewhere warmer during a SHTF situation, I'd probably go North/West and into the foothills of the mountains. There would be way too many people going South to get away from the cold North. It would be chaos and refugee camps would start popping up with disease and hunger throughout.

Those of us who live close to the Rockies will probably go there and form small villages to get through the cold and sometimes bitter winters. I honestly think that people will come together in order to survive.

I still view this movie as a great warning to many of us to remember that all it takes is a small mistake that will turn a survivable situation to death. Yes, he was stupid for going to Alaska unpreppared and not heeding the warnings of the locals but how many of you have done something stupid in your youths that could have honestly turned really bad but somehow you got through it with the thought "I should be dead right now"? Its easy for us to sit here and criticize him but he went out after his dream and died doing something he wanted. The movie really does a good job of hammering down the "be prepared" mantra.
 

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Had he lived he might have had many useful things to add to the human experience. I read the book and was struck at how arrogant and foolish he was in regards to preparations for outdoor living. I grew up in cold New England and live in central New York State where the weather can kill you in a heartbeat if you are not prepared. Even with the best of training, experience, and preparations, any one of us can end up in a survival situation, and have to use our brains, initiative, experinece, and supplies to get out of bad situations. He chose to go almost totally unprepared, and even gave away much of his money with which he could have bought some useful survival items. The moral of the story was that he chose to selfishly ignore just about all preparations, and now his parents and family have lost a child. Parents are not supposed to bury their kids. He will never be at the Thansgiving dinner table again, you get the point. Nature will kill you in a moment if you are not prepared.
 

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Only Half Human
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I also grew up in New England have hiked too far out in the winter before and realize how dangerous it can be. The cold takes you over. Your muscles stiffen up. You get this feeling that if you go asleep you may never wake up. There is nothing so beautiful as a moonlit night in the woods in winter. With the snow glistening all over. So quiet and peaceful . The air so crisp and clean.
 

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they say that hypothermia is not a 'bad' way to end your life...not that there is a good way in my opinion..but after the initial feeling of cold followed by numbness...you drift into a hallucinating state...often times people become euphoric, happy, laughing...

just a sidenote to the above posts about walking too far in the winter unprepared...........
 

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Mountain Critter
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Simple, I live near Chicago, and the winters here will kill you. I would rather be somewhere that I don't have to worry about freezing, and where natural food sources are "a plenty" all of, or most of the year.
Well, the fact that you are near Chicago is reason enough to seek a new location....don't blame you at all!

But that's because of the huge concentration of population in that area of the country, not because of the winters. With the proper skills and knowledge, your local weather (whatever it may be) can be turned to your advantage. Personally, I would feel far less at home/less equipped to survive in a far southern or tropical environment where I have to worry about all of my gear mildewing in the heat and humidity, that I do here at 9,000 feet in my soon-to-be frozen mountains! While the winters here can indeed kill you, and will, if you are not properly prepared, they also mean we do not have to deal with poisonous snakes, fleas, chiggers, malaria, and a number of other problems that go along with year-round warmth, and they seriously tend to deter the masses of unprepared, welfare-minded people that you may encounter in a softer, gentler climate. Looking at it that way, the climate here is one of my biggest survival assets!


I wouldnt fully shrug off the Rockies as unihabitable. It would just take a different mind and skill set to live in an area like this. Take a look at the high North and the native Eskimos. They live in a climate that most of us wouldnt dream of venturing into for long periods and yet they've managed to live there and thrive (to an extent).
Agreed. And this (besides the simple fact that it is the terrain I know best) is why I choose to stay here rather than seek a more favorable climate, of which there are many. Very few people have the mindset, and fewer the skills/experience necessary to make it here, so that means those of us who do will have more room, and consequently less competition for the game animals that we may find ourselves largely relying on for food in an extended survival situation.
 

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Improvise Adapt Overcome!
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It sounds like you are a good fit where you are. I on the other hand really hate the cold! I seem to be at my best when it is nice and hot, and a bit on the muggy side!.
 
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