If you find yourself in a jam, remember the word SURVIVAL.
S is for Size up the situation. How much trouble are you really in?
U is for Undo haste makes waste. Calm down. Take a second to think. People often make poor decisions under duress and abandon essential equipment, i.e. jumping ship without a survival kit.
R is for Remember where you are. Know your surroundings. If you are a passenger, don't be afraid to ask questions.
V is for Vanquish fear and panic. Remember, what one person might consider a survival situation, another might consider sport.
I is for Improvise. Make the wrong tool do the right job if necessary.
V is for Value living. Never say die.
A is for Act like the locals. If the monkeys are eating the fruit, it can't be that bad. Fish heads don't taste that awful after a couple of days without food.
L is for Learn the basic skills. Do you know how to use that Emergency Position Indicating Radiobeacon (EPRIB) and new life raft?
Survival expert John "Lofty" Wiseman, author of the SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea ($19.95, Harper Resource), believes the best way to teach survival is to focus on the "survival pyramid."
The pyramid has three components: kit, knowledge and will to live.
Wiseman spent 26 years with the British Special Air Service and served as chief survival instructor. The SAS prides itself on being able to send people into any environment, be it frozen tundra or a steaming jungle, at a moment's notice. And although the terrain may differ, the knowledge it takes to make it out alive remains the same.
Survival knowledge can be acquired from numerous sources, including books and the feature story on pages 8 and 9.
The "will to live," or what I call "fire in the belly" — the spark that keeps you going when everyone around you wants to quit — is far more elusive.
But your "kit," or emergency supplies, is easy to master. There are certain items that you should always carry in the woods, such as matches, compass, signaling device, space blanket, etc.
Years ago, traveling through the Amazonia region of South America, I put together a survival pack that was no bigger than a baseball.
My kit held everything from hooks and fishing line to water purification tablets. I never had to use it, but I always felt good knowing it was there in my pack just in case.
My survival kit was expensive and took weeks to assemble, but now Adventure Medical Kits (www.adventuremedicalkits.com) has taken some of the guesswork out of survival.
The New Hampshire-based company has a new line of products geared for hunters, fishermen, backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
The Pocket Survival Pack: This 3.9-ounce waterproof kit contains everything you need for signaling, fire starting, food gathering and more. This "PSP" fits in a day pack or tackle box. At just $33, this could be the best investment you ever make.
The S.O.L 3: The acronym stands for "Survive Outdoors Longer." This all-in-one kit contains survival, medical and gear repair equipment. The kit contains a 2-watt LED headlamp for working at night, a two-person survival blanket for warmth and shelter, a magnesium fire starter, a signal mirror, a rescue whistle, heavy-duty aluminum foil for boiling water, duct tape, nylon cord and more. Price: $56.
Thermo Lite 2 Bivvy and Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy: If you have ever spent a long, cold night in the woods, you will appreciate the importance of a good "space" blanket. The small, pocket-sized sheets of aluminum foil can be real life savers. Adventure Medical Kits has improved upon the old standard with the Thermo Lite 2 ($33) and the Heatsheets Emergency Bivvy ($15), which are more durable than the old-fashioned disposable space blankets.
Terry Tomalin's 10 favorite survival books
U.S. Army Survival Handbook, Department of the Army, Lyons Press, $14.95. One of the best books ever written on the subject.
Fieldbook Boy Scouts of America, $19.99. After Hurricane Andrew, rescue workers found this book helpful.
Five Years to Freedom by James N. Rowe, Ballantine Books, $7.95 A portrait of perseverance, the true story of an American POW in Vietnam.
Survivor, Michael Greenwald, edited by Steve Callahan (Adrift) and Dougal Robertson (Survive the Savage Sea), $26.95, Blue Horizons Press. This is an excellent guide book on survival at sea.
Practicing Primitive: A Handbook of Aboriginal Skills, by Steven M. Watts, Gibbs Smith, $24.95. Learn how to live like a cave man and love it.
Surviving the Extremes: A Doctor Explores the Limits of Human Endurance, by Kenneth Kamler, M.D., St. Martin's Press, $25.95. Attitude is everything, especially when it comes to life or death.
SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea, by John "Lofty" Wiseman, Harper Resource, $19.95. The author served with the elite British Special Air Service for 26 years.
Encyclopedia of Outdoor & Wilderness Skills: The Ultimate A-Z Guide for the Adventurous, Chris Townsend and Annie Aggens, McGraw-Hill, $22.95. A good comprehensive guidebook for every outdoor enthusiast.
We Die Alone, a WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance, by David Howarth, introduction by Stephen E. Ambrose, Lyons Press, price varies. One of the best tales of survival ever written.
SAS Encyclopedia of Survival, Barry Davies, Lewis International, price varies. Another book from an SAS veteran, this one has great photos and illustrations.