Tag Archives: desert

Introduction to Survival Psychology

IMG_7880It’s late October and you and your buddy are amazed by the unseasonably good weather. To enjoy the day, you decide to go on a mountain bike ride. You pack light since you won’t be gone long so you throw in a few bottles of water to go on the frame, some trail mix and your cell phone.

You ride hard, pushing each other. The scenery and weather are so great that you lose track of time and before you know it, the sun starts to set.  Moments later, disaster strikes. Dodging your buddy on a turn, you both tumble down a steep hill and break your leg. Your bike partner is shaken and bruised and both bikes sit below you in a tangled mess. Even at your weight, there’s no way your buddy can haul you out. You are several miles from your car.

You’re almost out of water, the snacks got left in the car, and your cell phone isn’t getting a signal.

Introduction to Survival Psychology

So often we have focus on how survival skills increase your odds of staying alive. With that, you need to understand it takes much more than the knowledge and skills of building shelters, finding food, and creating fires to live successfully through a survival situation.

There are numerous cases where people with little or no survival training have managed to survive life-threatening circumstances while others with survival training have used their skills and died. In a majority of thecases where someone comes home verticle and not horizontal, it can be attributed to positive mental attitude. Combining skills with a solid understanding of how you will react to a situation improves your capability to survive. In addition, placing yourself in scenarios, where you have to endure hardship, will strengthen your resilience. The key ingredient in any survival situation is the mental attitude of those involved. Having survival skills is important; having the will to survive is essential.

Stress and Survival

Technically there is good stress (eustress) and bad stress (distress). Stress can be described as our reaction to pressure. It is the name given to the experience we have as we physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually respond to life’s tensions.

The Need for Stress in Survival

We need stress because it has many positive benefits. Stress provides us with challenges and the drive to move beyond our current situation. It gives us chances to leverage our strengths. Stress can confirm our ability to handle intense pressure without breaking and tests our adaptability and flexibility to situations. All of this is known as eustress.

Too much stress can take its toll and create dangerous situations for the survivor. Too much stress leads to distress. Distress causes an uncomfortable tension that we try to escape and, preferably, avoid.

Below are common signs of distress often found in survivors when faced with too much stress:

  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Angry outbursts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Low energy level
  • Constant worrying
  • Propensity for mistakes
  • Thoughts about death or suicide
  • Trouble getting along with others
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Hiding from responsibilities


If not controlled, stress can be destructive. Not only does it discourage the survivor, but can be a catalyst of bad decisions. Feeling the need to rush, take unnecessary chances, or taking short cuts can all lead to disaster. When faced with a life or death situation, the human brain uses the Cerebellum to harness the capability to be rational. When immediate danger arrises, the ability to be rational is bypassed and hijacked by the Amygdala, the part of the brain that offers few options. With the Amygdala flee, freeze, or fight are the only real options. Any of these three can be the wrong decision. A survivor under new and uncertain stress can panic and forget all training. Key to your survival is your ability to manage the inevitable stresses you will encounter. The survivor works with stress instead of the other way around. A possible way to prevent Amygdala hijack is by practicing immediate action drills. This is discussed further in the lectures on video.

Survival Stressors

Any event can lead to stress. Chaos tells us that multiple events create a survival situation. These events are not stress, but they produce it and are called “stressors.”

Stressors are the obvious cause while stress is the response. Once the body recognizes the presence of a stressor, it then begins to act to protect itself.

In response to a stressor, the body prepares either to “fight, freeze, or flee.” This preparation involves an internal SOS sent throughout the body. As the body responds to this SOS, several actions take place. The body releases stored fuels (sugar and fats) to provide quick energy; breathing rate increases to supply more oxygen to the blood; muscle tension increases to prepare for action; blood clotting mechanisms are activated to reduce bleeding from cuts; senses become more acute (hearing becomes more sensitive, eyes become big, smell becomes sharper) so that you are more aware of your surrounding; and heart rate and blood pressure rise to provide more blood to the muscles. This protective posture lets a person cope with potential dangers; however, a person cannot maintain such a level of alertness indefinitely.

The cumulative effect of minor stressors can be a major distress if they all happen too close together. A survivor’s body will already or soon will be subject to physical exhaustion or possibly injury. After awhile resistance to stress wears down and the sources of stress continue (or increase), eventually a state of exhaustion arrives. At this point, the ability to resist stress or use it in a positive way gives out and signs of distress appear. Anticipating stressors and developing strategies to cope with them are two ingredients in the effective management of stress. It is therefore essential that the survivor in a survival setting be aware of the types of stressors that will be encountered.


Injury, Illness, or Death

Injury, illness, and death are real possibilities a survivor has to face. Perhaps nothing is more stressful than being alone in an unfamiliar environment where you could die from an accident or have witnessed the death of someone else.

Illness and injury can also add to stress by limiting your ability to maneuver, get food and drink, find shelter, and defend yourself. Even if illness and injury don’t lead to death, they add to stress through the pain and discomfort they generate. It is only by controlling the stress associated with the vulnerability to injury, illness, and death that a survivor can have the courage to take the risks associated with survival tasks.

Uncertainly and Lack of Control

We are control freaks. We manage our time, set expectations for others, and chase after goals. We check sports scores through smart devices and and expect updates on major news stories. Some people have trouble operating in settings where everything is not clear-cut. The only guarantee in a survival situation is that nothing is guaranteed. It can be extremely stressful operating on limited information in a setting where you have limited control of your surroundings. This uncertainty and lack of control also adds to the stress of being ill, injured, or killed.


You are at the bottom of the food chain. Even as a seasoned outdoorsman your modern body was not built to withstand the environment for long term. Get over it, deal with it, and do something about it. Even under the most ideal circumstances, nature is quite formidable. In survival, you will have to contend with the stressors of weather, terrain, and the variety of creatures inhabiting an area. Heat, cold, rain, winds, mountains, swamps, deserts, insects, dangerous reptiles, and other animals are just a few of the challenges awaiting the survivor working to stay alive. Depending on how a survivor handles the stress of the environment, the immediate surroundings in the Comfort and Explorer Zones can be either a source of food and protection or can be a cause of extreme discomfort leading to injury, illness, or death.

Hunger and Thirst

The general rule is 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. Without food and water a person will weaken and eventually die. Thus, getting and preserving food and water takes on increasing importance as the length of time in a survival setting increases. For a survivor used to having his provisions in the pack, foraging can be a big source of stress.


Forcing yourself to continue surviving is not easy as you grow more tired. It is possible to become so fatigued that the act of just staying awake is stressful in itself. Rest is important, but in cold weather when the body is not able to keep its self warm, going to sleep can be a death sentence. Getting food, warmth and hydrated will allow you to take breaks and sleep, but only after you have everything else squared away.


There are some advantages to facing adversity with others. As outdoor enthusiasts we learn individual skills, but we often work as part of a community. Being in contact with others also provides a greater sense of security and a feeling someone is available to help if problems occur. A significant stressor in survival situations is that often a person or team has to rely solely on its own resources.

The survival stressors mentioned in this section are by no means the only ones you may face. Remember, what is stressful to one person may not be stressful to another. Your experiences, training, personal outlook on life, physical and mental conditioning, and level of self-confidence contribute to what you will find stressful in a survival environment. The object is not to avoid stress, but rather to manage the stressors of survival and make them work for you.


You have to make up your mind today that when you get into a survival situation you are going to make it back. Practice your skills in controlled environments, but you need to get out there and work when the odds are against you. Setting up a shelter in the wind, lighting fires in the rain, or fasting for a few days just so you know you can endure hunger will better prepare you when you face an actual situation.


Re-Post: Scepter

Our first write up has vaporized…Had intended to simply re-post but since we have still continued to test we thought we would just add to the content. There is already tons of info, pictures,  and tips posted on our podcast, throughout this blog, our facebook page, and our videos.

Beginning of the Idaho Overland Expedition

You better carry your own fuel and water boys and girls…and have in something that won’t fail…

Fuel and water are two of the most precious commodities for any adventure. I have had water canisters fail on me (see the write up on the Big Bend bike expedition in 2003) and the desert areas we explore require additional fuel to make it from one spot to the next.

We have tried both metal and plastic fuel and water canisters and have had mixed results. Earlier this year I came across the consumer grade canisters carried by Bass Pro Shops and ordered three for the Jeep. Highly impressed, we reached out to Scepter to provide us with the military grade cans for the Idaho Overland Expedition and our other adventures.

Scepter is based in Canada and it is great having a North American company provide gear instead of products coming out of China. This stuff is highly durable and if you have reservations about plastic versus metal, I can assure you- the plastic is light years ahead of the metal competitor.

When you buy the metal can, it comes pre-packaged with issues. Metal rust, the seems on the metal cans split under pressure or impact, and if you are buying new- you are buying China. Sure you can find one in a surplus store that either is on its way to a rusting issue, or for no charge you can get it with rust already installed.


Not only did we use the Scepters on the 5 day expedition across Idaho, where we traveled over 650 miles of dirt in all kinds of conditions, we continued to test the usability and durability including explorations into the Brunea Desert (5 days), our Idaho Mine tours, and the Owyhee County Historical Society trips…each of these either we were required to refuel using the Scepters or had someone else hat ran out of fuel.

Drop Test

Just as it sounds. We wanted to know if these came off the back of a rig, would they survive. We tested with them full, half full, and quarter full. We were not only looking for seam breakage, but wanted to know if the cap would blow. Standing on the bumper of the Jeep we hefted the first canister up and let it go. I was actually worried we would break something but the canisters held up great. In addition they have been pulled on and off the Jeep dozens of times, bounced in the back of pick-up trucks, and jostled around with no issues.


At first I was going to rate the ease of use as low, but then realized it was operator error. New laws require that the spouts be designed so they don’t leak fuel or vapors. It took some time, but I got the knack of refueling. Something to keep in mind is that if the refueling point on your vehicle is difficult to get to with a spout, you need to take a long funnel with you. An easy way to test this prior to going out is to fill only the bottom third of your fuel can and then try to pour it in your tank while you are at home. If its difficult, then take the fuel. Something else to consider (and THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED BY ADVENTURE IQ OR THE MANUFACTURER) is the filler nozzle on the consumer grade water can fits the fuel can. Honestly, we just use the long funnel and the nozzle already in place.

Heat Stress

Our trips into the Brunea Desert literally takes us to places that are 50-75 miles from the nearest pavement…not the nearest gas station…those are even further away. On those hot trips where we need extra water, we would strap four of the H2O containers behind the drivers seat and all of our fuel was placed on the racks on the swing gate. Because the cans are non-vented- they will balloon up. We had days where temps were well above 100 degrees and not once did we suffer a seam rip or have a cap leak.

Cold Test

Gas cans were not so much the issue- more to test the water canisters. In the past few weeks we have ventured up into the cold and the water in the cans is freezing. I have had plastic cans that will begin to lose shape and begin to split. The Scepters have retained their shape as well integrity. Keeping the cans inside the rig does prevent them from freezing and we recommend that you transfer water from the canisters to your hysration pack (as recommended in an earlier podcast)


This is not an issue- but more awareness. If you have both fuel and water cans, they are not inter-changable in the racks. Because the new fuel cans have to be tip resistant, that do not fit into a standard NATO rack/holster. We had to modify our rack to hold the fuel cans. So there are a couple of ways to solve this.

Here we had modified the right canister holster…we have since modded the left so both can hold fuel and water cans are strapped in the backseat area

  • Use a Scepter Fuel can and a Scepter Consumer Grade can
  • Have a separate rack for each on the back (as we discussed in footage of the Idaho Overland Expedition)
  • Place Scepter Fuel can(s) on external rack and strap Scepter (NATO) canisters inside (as we are doing now)

For us- the trade-offs are a no-brainer to have high quality canisters holding our stuff.

Something to point out- you definitely want locks on your Scepters- they apparently are high demand. We were teaching some classes over in Oregon and decided to do some exploration. We had decided to use the diesel canisters since at that point they had been immune to our testing We were using them to carry a fire starting concoction we had been experimenting with for the survival courses. Apparently, bright yellow is a popular cover and our cans were lifted from the Jeep. Perhaps karma will shine down on the poor souls when they poor our highly flammable-yet controllable substance into their tank.

UV Resistance

Impressed. We have had Scepters on our rigs since we received them this summer and there has been absolutely no perceived fading. I have even done side by side comparisons.

The “what just fell” drop test.

Now this is one that was not planned…

Cruising down Mud Flat Road at 45 mph and the rear rack for the water can fails. I look out the window and see one of test cans about 3/4 full bouncing and skidding behind me trying to keep up. Scratched…yes. Minor dent….yes. Still in use with zero defects…yes.

So if you can’t tell, I love these canisters and we will continue to use them.

To see our other postings where we show off the Scepters

Water Bladder Cool

Idaho Overland Expedition

Why We Hate Metal Cans

We have also put tons of info on our podcast, our facebook page, and in our blog.

You can also order Scepter Fuel canisters from:

Tech Supply & Services

Leesville, LA.
Bottom Line Military Sales, LLC
Easley, SC

Howe was a planned gas stop on the expedition….Howe did not have gas…but we had 10 gallons in our Scepters!

Post Scooter’s Camp Check In

What an amazing camp we had this year. So thankful to be a part of it!

Months of planning and prep work – coming to the beginning of the end for us Friday morning as we re-packed the trailer, I practiced my presentations- and then headed out for set up in Emmett. We made it back to the house around 10 pm– in time to make a few modifications, in bed at midnight and after unrestful night we headed back to Emmett at 5 am. On our feet, answering questions, running seminars, breaking down the camp, late meal with friends, and back to Meridian and unloading the rigs and in bed around midnight again….yes I slept all day Sunday!

I brought in a new face to my seminar, Travis Rosenbury. Travis understands the philosophy of AIQ and is part of my advisory group. I have a whole bag of experts I could bring in for this from the survival standpoint- Travis has the people skills I needed to compliment the demonstrations. He was a great addition.

255 kids- and lots of questions from parents- in fact- enough that we did a parent’s seminar during lunch!

I have lots of updates to make in the next few weeks– we are going to go through each question we had and make an individual video for it– plus a special video on what goes into a kids pack.

New stuff this year:

We introduced fire puck- specifically to parents. Huge hit- I probably could have sold 30-50 of them!

Signal mirrors this year we had our participants using it on an appropriate target — Jeff our knife guy. (Jeff and I have a seven-year banter going on– makes it fun for the kids)

Increased the interaction of participants on water purification.

A move away from the magnesium block to more modern fire strikers.

Up next– I have to get sponsors on board– Fire Puck was a great start for us–they donated demo material and I already have reports this morning of residual sales at Home Depot.  Now if I can get SPOT locator, Light My Fire, and either MSR or Katadyn on board with their product– we will have a healthy start.

We have also decided that this year we are going to do something different with our survival classes. I have never accepted a dime for providing training. We still have a few private sessions open this year. From this point forward we are requesting a donation to Hunt of a Lifetime to do our survival course. This is a great cause to support. I am not the guy to take a kid on a hunt, but still want to bring awareness and raise money for this organization. If you already booked- I won’t hold you to it, but would appreciate something if you feel lead to do so.

Again- a great camp and I was impressed with how nice the kids were this year and how involved the parents were. This was also a great year for me as I really got to know the other volunteers around me– what an awesome group Scott as brought together!

Desert Rat

Over the next few weeks you will see a shift on the Facebook page, the trip reports on the blog, and maybe a video of two on youtube with a concentrated effort on the desert. Honestly this is nothing new. We live in and on the border of some of the most facsinating deserts, I grew up in Arizona and then Texas- both famous for its deserts, I am drawn to notional parks like Big Bend, Zion, Canyon Lands, and other places where water is scarce, navigation can be difficult, and help is out of cell phone reach. Early on in my military careerI focused on desert survival and warfare when the trend was Soviet invasion in Europe. I love the desert for its beauty,its harshness, and its complexity.

For me, of all the environments, the desert is the most unforgiving. Here you better know your stuff and keep your head together. You may go out for a day, but should be ready to spend three. I have dirt biked and ATV’d in remote locations on hot days, only to have a sudden thunderstorm come in and make the trails home impossible. Blown radiator hoses, flat tires, and sink holes can extend your stay. Its difficult to navigate and at times possible to communicate. If you go out on Sunday, make sure your boss knows that if you don’t show up for work on Monday, you are in a jam somewhere. On the kitchen pass from your spouse, be sure to list where you are going and stick to the plan.

This last weekend we had the opportunity to visit Winter Camp. Thijs was a small homestead in the Bruneau Desert. After a 30-mile trip down a gravel road and then a few miles in on a not likely to ever be improved road, we were met by the land owners.

Many of the pristine homesteads still sit on working ranches and are only available through the cooperation of land owners. We went out with the Owyhee County Historical Society and the trip was led by Steve Silva. Steve has written a few books on the Owyhee area and is not only an expert in the history, but is an avid biker and knows every little trail from Eastern Oregon to Western Idaho, and for kicks, throw in Nevada as well.

I will do a more indepth trip report on Winter Camp after I have a chance to double check and verify my notes. I mainly wanted to point out the availability of these adventures as an opportunity to get out and explore….safety in numbers. I also wanted to provide some guidance before you venture out on what to take along.

Water. Those little bottles you picked up at the store are not enough. Don’t think in terms of ounces, think in terms of gallons.

Fuel. Even with a group going to a known destination I carry two 5 gallons cans of fuel plus I top off at the last known stop.

Small tool kit with extra parts. I worked with Carl from the local ATV club who has extensive experience on extended range travel in this area. Last month when we changed belts and hoses, I kept the old parts as spares. I also have two gallons of coolant and two quarts of oil with me. Jumper cables and tow lines are also their weight in gold.

Communication. Cell phones rarely work. I have a ham radio, cb radio, and aircraft radio. Be properly registered and qualified. In fact I highly recommend a ham certification.

Keep survival pack in the rig. As a rule I look at how many people (and pups) you rig will hold. Since I know I will max out at 3 people and two dogs, my kit will work for all of us for three days. I also carry my own personal survival bag in case I need to start walking and others have to stay put. Know how to use the stuff and train with it. In the next few weeks I will include this in one of my postings.

GPS is great but know how to read a map.

I keep two first aid kits, well three if you count the small one in my personal survival kit. Let’s focus on the two in the rig. The first sits behind the passenger seat. Its small and made for those little cuts and abrasions. Easy to get to and doesn’t require a medical degree beyond what mom’s do to take care off boo-boos. The second is a full blown EMT bag. Everything short of a heart by-pass is included in it. In addition, we are trained to use everything in the bag. I highly recommend the NOLS Wilderness Medic Course. This will train you to keep someone stabalized until either help arrives or you have to transport. I sent a few of us through both the NOLS course and the Red Cross course a few years ago. The Red Cross version was pathetic at best. Go with NOLS, theyare used to sending people into the back country on a regular basis….including third world countries where you just might be the best medic. Stay current on CPR and other courses, and check your kits. I do mine everytime we bounce between daylight savings and standard time.

That is probably just the start of it. As I set here in the desert, one of those storms is moving in and its starting to pour on me. I left this morning with a 20% chance of rain, and most of the day it has been in the 90s.

The last thing is join and participate in forums such as Expo Portal

There is so much to see out there. Remember to tread lightly which keeps the outdoors in good condition for all of us. If you get opportunities to visit private lands, be sure to thank the owners, respect their property, leave stuff alone. Never venture on to land you are not sure of.





Spinning Wheels


Bike Racing in Texas

From 1998 to 2007 I was a bike commuter. I did everything by bike. At one point I commuted 36 miles round trip to work. As a family we did our grocery shopping by bike. Riding 5 miles to the store with panniers, and bike trailers, we took care of our dietary needs. One trailer held Abby, the other a huge ice chest. We attended hockey and football games, the Fat Tire Festival, and took in some great movies- all a 30 mile round trip. I have hunted bear by bike, planned entire vacations, and even moved across the country to be in better biking conditions.

Riding in Ojanaga, Mexico...the crossing was...interesting

Bikes are simple and efficient. I believe in so many situations bikes are better than cars. Traveling around the world I have found that where more people have used bikes instead of cars, the environment seems to be a much better place for it. I have found that people are healthier in spite of other contributing factors to bad health. They are without a doubt more physically fit, and with the exception of the stress placed on them by cars, are mentally healthier.  

I often hear about cars complaining about bikes.  Not going to start a rant, but the fact is everyone benefits from fewer cars. Fewer cars mean less traffic, less pollution, and fewer  traffic deaths . Since I enjoy hunting, the pollution in my city has an effect on the woods I roam. I enjoy the beauty of the landscape and know I am doing my part to preserve it. If you don’t believe the effect pollution has on the woods, check out recent pictures of Shenandoah National Park now and what it looked like 30 years ago. Devastating.  To be a hunter means I am a conservationist, which means I care about the environment.

My journey through biking began like most, that first bike as a kid. This granted freedom, adventure, and independence. Later in high school I began commuting 15 miles each way. In between that commute I also participated in track, cross-country, and football. I wasn’t out to become a super athlete, I only wanted to avoid trouble on the school bus.

When stationed in Germany, my bike was often the most reliable means of getting to work each day. 12 KM back and forth with a 45lb ruck with all my gear for the day tucked in home-made panniers. My cars (yes plural) were always breaking down so I became proficient on the bike.

Several years later I was introduced into mountain biking by a boss and I instantly fell in love with it. I devoted hours to weeknight rides, weekend trips, and vacations that would include several weeklong treks in some of the most remote regions of the south and southwest.

 I took bikes with me on business travel so I could explore areas like Mobile, Tucson, Chicago, and other cites and country sides. I shipped my bike ahead of me and it was ready when I got to the hotel. For me it was much better to do some exploring along the Gulf of Mexico than hanging out and drinking in a bar.

The other advantage, I could eat whatever I wanted. I tipped the scales at a consistent 155, a weight I would love to be back to again.

In 2005 we moved to Boise to get closer to biking. The first year I commuted by bike for the majority of my work and week days. I was also really big into restoring old bikes, including a 1953 Columbia and a 1968 Raleigh. I was also building bikes for people who for one reason or another lost the ability to commute by car. I was in great shape and felt very complete. I also completed a season of bear hunting all by bicycle. With my longbow mounted to my handlebars and gear pulled behind me in a trailer, I peddled my way through April to June in search of a big brownie. I also hunted a deer season as well, at least until both bike and hunter were snowed in.

 I think it was during this time though I began to lose focus….and gain weight. I went through some staggering depression in 2006-2007 and after the initial weight loss gained 55 unwanted pounds. I lost motivation to build, repair, or ride any bike.

This last weekend, the desire to bike has returned. Once I get a rack built on my Jeep, I plan to trek across some of the most remote regions of Idaho. Already feeling better and dropping 20 lbs through swimming, going back to the bike is a natural step for me.