Outback Survival

Transpiration Bag

Transpiration Bag: Just one of the many methods for finding water in the Outback


“YourSurvival is 85% positive mental attitude; Your will to live"

Your first Priority is staying alive

It is essential before we go further and discuss survival, that "YOU the Outback Survivor"understand your priorities for sustaining life.
These are:

  •  The maintenance ofphysical and mental well being, stay mentally strong.
  •  The protect your body fromexposure to the elements, find or build a shelter.
  •  The replenishment of yourfluids, drink water (not alcohol).
  •  Find some food.

Prioritiesof Survival

The priorities of sustaining life are your priorities for yoursurvival.
These are:

WaterShelter Food Warmth

The order of these priorities may vary depending on the conditions thatyou encounter.

Purposeof Survival

          “To come throughalive” and “To continue to exist”

 Survivors must understand that the sole purpose of survivalskills is to enable the survivor to stay alive. UNTIL THEY ARE RESCUEDor FIND HELP.
 Most people live in cities, and are depend on, societies norms tosurvive.

         Where do go for yourfood when there are no supermarkets, can you really survive?

Outback Australian bush survival skills will only ever be, at best, asecondary skill and not a primary life skill, we are no longer nomatictribes taking what we can hunt and gather for our very survival. Theaim of any survivor is to be rescued as soon as possible so that thesurvivor can return to normal life and family.


MyRules for Survival

 The first rule of survival is "DON'T PANIC". Sit down, takestock of your situation and ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much water do I have?
  • Where is the nearest water?
  • How much food do I have?
  • Where is the nearest food source?
  • What protection from the elements do I have?
  • How can I improve my shelter/protection?
  • Does anyone know where I am?
  • When will I be missed?
  • How long once I am missed could I expect a search to move throughor over this area?
  • Where am I?
  • Courses open to me: move forward/back or remain stationary?

I have a few Rules for survival,you can best remembered these by remembering the word:
(S) SIZE UP YOUR SITUATION. Areyou in a safe location or in danger? you need to make yourself selfsafe and prevent further injury before you make your survivalplan. 

Understand Your Surroundings. Get a feel for what is going on aroundyou. Every environment, be it the  forest, jungle, or desert, hasit's own  pattern of life. This pattern includes animal and birdnoises and movements and insect sounds. It may also include dangers.

Take Stock of Your Physical Condition. The trauma of being in asurvival situation may have caused you to overlook wounds you received.Check your wounds and give yourself first aid. Take care to preventfurther bodily harm. For instance, in any climate, drink plenty ofwater to prevent dehydration. If you are in a cold or wet climate, puton additional clothing to prevent hypothermia.

Equipment? What do you have. Perhaps in the heat of battle, or theevent that caused you to be in the survival situation, you have lost ordamaged some of your equipment. Check to see what equipment you haveand what condition it is in. Now that you have sized up your situation,surroundings, physical condition, and equipment, you are ready to makeyour Survival Plan. Keep in mind your basic physical needs "water,food, shelter and warmth".

(U) Undue Haste Makes Waste. Youmay make a wrong move when you react quickly without thinking orplanning. That move may result in further injury or death. Don’t movejust for the sake of taking action. Consider all aspects of yoursituation (size up your situation) before you make a decision and amove. If you act in haste, you may forget or lose some of yourequipment. In your haste you may also become disoriented so that youdon’t know which way to go. Plan your moves. Use all your senses toevaluate the situation. Note sounds and smells. Be sensitive totemperature changes. Be observant.

(R) Remember Where You Are. Spotyour location on your map and relate it to the surrounding terrain.This is a basic principle that you must always follow. If there areother persons with you, make sure they also know their location. Alwaysknow who in your group, vehicle, or aircraft has a map and compass. Ifthat person is killed, you will have to get the map and compass fromhim. Pay close attention to where you are and to where you are going.Do not rely on others in the group to keep track of the route.Constantly orient yourself. Always try to determine, as a minimum, howyour location relates to:

  • The location of dangers.
  • The location of rescuers or help, regardless how far.
  • The location of local water sources .
  • Areas that will provide good shelter from the environment anddangers.
 This information will allow you to make intelligent decisionswhen you are in a survival situation.  

(V) Vanquish Fear and Panic.The greatest threat in a survival situation is fear and panic. If leftunchecked it can destroy your ability to make an intelligent decision.They may cause you to react to your feelings and imagination ratherthan to your situation. They can drain your energy and thereby causeother negative emotions. Previous survival training,self-confidence  and a positive mindset will enable you tovanquish fear and panic.

(I) Improvise. In the AustraliaOutback, we have enough items available for all our needs.Many of these items are easy to replace when damaged. Our easy come,easy go, easy-to-replace culture makes it unnecessary for us toimprovise. This inexperience in improvisation can be a  threat ina survival situation. Learn to improvise. Take a tool designed for aspecific purpose and see how many other uses you can make of it. Learnto use natural objects around you for different needs. An example isusing a rock for a hammer. No matter how complete a survival kit youhave with you, it will run out or wear out after a while. Yourimagination must take over when your kit wears out

(V) Value Living "Your Life" Allof us were born kicking and fighting to live, but we have become usedto the soft life. We have become creatures of comfort. We dislikeinconveniences and discomforts. What happens when we are faced with asurvival situation with its stresses, inconveniences, and discomforts?This is when the will to live–placing a high value on living-is vital.The experience and knowledge you have gained through life and yoursurvival training will have a bearing on your will to live.Stubbornness, a refusal to give in to problems and obstacles that faceyou, will give you the mental and physical strength to endure

(A) Act Like the Natives. Thenatives and animals of a region have adapted to their environment. Toget a feel of the area, watch how the local people go about their dailylife. When and what do they eat? When, where, and how do they get theirfood? When and where do they go for water? What time do they usually goto bed and get up? These actions are important to you when you aretrying to a survive.

Animal life in the area can also give you clues on how to survive.Animals also require food, water, and shelter. By watching them, youcan find sources of water and food.

(L) Lean On Your Basic Skills.Without training in basic skills for surviving, your chances of livingthrough a survival situation are slight. Learn these basic skills now.How you equip yourself before  a trip into the outback willdetirmine your survival should things go very wrong. You need to knowabout the environment to which you are going, and you must practicebasic survival skills geared to that environment. For instance, if youare going to a desert, you need to know how to get water in the desert.Practice basic survival skills during all training programs andexercises. Survival training reduces fear of the unknown and gives youself confidence. It teaches you to "live".

OutbackSurvival Situation

Unexpected. Almost by definition, survival situations occur withoutwarning and with little or no notice that they are about to eventuate.They normally come as a surprise to the people involved and can provevery disconcerting. This type of situation gives rise to a variety ofstresses that can adversely affect the person’s will to survive. Thesestresses will be explained in detail in subsequent sections.

Unplanned. For most people, the sudden onset of a survival situationputs them in a circumstance and environment that they had not plannedfor. Many people do not consider “what could go wrong” and so areunprepared mentally and physically for such a situation. This can leavethem poorly equipped to deal with this challenge.  The betterprepared people are, the less affected and vulnerable they will feel.

You Need A Positive Mental Attitude

The first step in responding to a survival situation is to thinkpositively and take responsibility for your own future. You thesurvivor must realise that everyone has skills and knowledge, they canadapt to any survival situation in order to improve theircircumstances. All that is required is a logical, common sense approachto problem solving. Yes the greater the skill and knowledge of thesurvivor the more thorough and complete the process will be.Regardless, taking that first positive move towards improving yoursituation is an essential step along the road to surviving.

A key element to sustaining a positive mental attitude is to be awareof the survival stresses discussed below, particularly the way in whichthey can prey on the mind of the survivor. Remember that they are theenemy of a positive mental attitude and you must defeat this enemy. Howthis is achieved can only be determined by each individual  basedon their own circumstances. NO amount of instruction or theoreticalpreparation can adequately convey an appreciation of what thesestresses feel like. Only through experience can a person truly gainthis knowledge. However, an awareness of their existence, and thelikely effect they can have, can assist the survivor to formulate theirown strategies for coping with them when they arise.

When a person becomes stranded in the bush, they become vulnerable toany of a number of stresses. These attack the survivor’s belief intheir ability to overcome the situation they find themselves in anderode their positive mental attitude. These stresses are an insidiousenemy that is faced by any survivor. The stresses that can affectsurvivors can be divided into those that affect the individual andthose that result as part of group dynamics. These are listed below:

NineIndividual Stresses

1. Pain. Pain is nature's wayof making you pay attention to something that is wrong with your.However pain, once given in to will weaken your drive to survive. Keep your hope up and to keep working towards survival.  Pain canbe controlled, and if the survival situation is sufficiently grave,pain can be made an a friend to carry you forward. 

2. Cold. Cold is a grave threatto your survival.  It lowers temperature and your ability tothink, but can also lower your will to anything but get warm again.Cold is an insidious threat.  Cold numbs the mind and thebody.  You are cold, it is hard to move and you will want tosleep. "Sleep and you will die", keep moving to stay warm, find shelterand make warmth.

3. Thirst. Thirst is also athreat to your survival. Even when your thirst is not extreme, it canconsume your focus.  As with pain and cold, thirst can almost beforgotten if the will to survive is strong enough. It is also importantto drink water if you have it. Serious dehydration can occur insurvival situations even when there is plenty of water available.

4. Hunger. Hunger can bedangerous and effect the minds of some men, it may lessen the person'sability for rational thought. Not all people are concerned by hunger.

5. Fatigue. Even a verymoderate amount of fatigue can materially reduce your mental ability.Fatigue can make you careless. It becomes increasingly easy to adoptthe feeling of just not caring. This is one of the biggest dangers insurvival. The confused notion that fatigue and energy expenditure aredirectly related may be responsible for many deaths in survivalsituations. Certainly there is a real danger of over exertion, butfatigue may be due to hopelessness, lack of a goal, dissatisfaction,frustration, or boredom. Fatigue may represent an escape from asituation that has become too difficult. If you can recognise thedangers of a situation, you can often summon the strength to go on.

6. Fear. Fear of the unknown,fear of discomfort, fear of animals and fear of  your ownvuneralablity. You  may fear the terrain and the environmentbecause they are new and strange.  These fears are easily overcomeby action. A lack of confidence in a persons own ability can breakpeople who could survive, just as easily a child who knows no fear cansurvive on a strange land by trusting thier instincts.

7. Boredom. Is a threat tosurvival. Lack of interest and feelings of strain leading to anxiety oreven depression. Humans are structure creatures they need to be keptbusy and or active. Create structure in your survival life focus onhunting and gathering, building better signal fires or making a morecomfortable situation.

8. Loneliness. The feelings ofloneliness, helplessness, and even despair, which are experienced bysurvivors when they are isolated and have to contend with threateningand trying conditions, are among the most severe survival stresses.However, these, like the other stresses already discussed, can beconquered. Isolation is not an all-or-one situation. The countermeasurefor conquering loneliness is to compensate for the changed situation,to be active, and to plan and think purposefully. Development ofself-sufficiency is the primary protection since all countermeasures insurvival require that you first be able to control yourself. No one isborn self-sufficient; self-sufficiency is learned during the process ofdaily living. Doing things by yourself, being comfortable while alone,and being able to accept new surroundings and new problems are learnedby experience.

9. Group Stresses.  Theissue of Food and Water: the division of these resources is a potentialthreat to the harmony of the group. This is particulary evident withfood focused individuals. The division of resources needs to be fair toall. Essential survival Items: These include knives, water bottles,fire lighting tools.  If items are owned by an individual, thenthis person may have to be convinced of the need to share them for thebenefit of group survival as the group is stronger than the man in mostcases.

The Shared Shelter: Every individual has in the begining of a survivalsituation what they consider to be their own personal space. Beingforced together in a group shelter will invade a survivor’s personalspace. Prolonged exposure to such a situation may lead to conflict anddepression or can build a much stronger interdependant team. Hygiene:Disease and infection are a constant threat to any group of survivors.People with poor hygiene can threaten the health of the group.

Good hygiene standards  are required to maintain health, a simpletoilet pit and an area to wash down stream from drinkingsupplies.  Sex. Human sexuality is a powerful force in nearly allpeople, even in a survival situation. Sexual issues such aspreferential treatment, partnering and perceived physical favours cancause deep divisions within any group.

Religiousand Political Beliefs

A person’s beliefs, be it religious or political, can be a drivingfactor in maintaining a positive attitude and surviving a difficultsituation.


Poor or no leadership can degenerate into disharmony, infighting andeven splinter groups, Effective leadership, is essential, how to dothis, either accept an individual who the group has faith to make sounddecisions or through group consensus, Groups that fail to resolve theleadership issue severely compromise their chances for survival.


The majority of western peoples including Australians have ready accessto large varieties of food and water capable of providing all theenergy and nutrition we require. The ability to access these resourceswithout effort or forethought means that most take them for granted. Ina survival situation this level of resources may not even exist in thesurvivors location and what resources are available will requireanticipation, planning and physical effort to acquire.

Consequently it is unlikely that a survivor will be able to achieve ormaintain the same input of nutrients, fluids and energy that they areaccustomed to. This process of degradation of physical and mentalcapabilities is known as deprivation.

The derogatory affects of deprivation, the survivor must understandthat at the point they realise they are in a survival situation, thenthey are at the healthiest and most capable they will be until they arerescued. How quickly the survivor deteriorates from this point ondepends on their skills, knowledge and determination as well as, to alesser extent the resources of the area.

Once this is acknowledged and accepted, the need for careful planningto make the best use of this initial period is self-evident. Thesurvivor’s actions and decisions during the first 24-48 hours will havea significant, even crucial influence on that person’s chance forcontinued survival.

You Can Survive

The most important requirement for survival is the ability to acceptthe reality of the situation and act appropriately. Self-confidence isimportant in controlling fear and panic which are the real enemies.Survival knowledge will serve to minimise fear, assist in developing apositive mental attitude and therefore prevent panic. Faith in theknowledge that a search will be conducted will aid the survivor.

A positive mental attitude is the key factor in survival. Knowledge of the basic skills, selection of priorities and anunderstanding of the effect that "survival stresses" will all have, allhave an impact on morale. However, if you are determined enough, youwill survive!

Further information on thepractical application of surviving the Australian Outback:

Click here to read the PDF in your browser, or right-click to download it.Outback Survival Guide

Watch our HOW TO Videos:
 Australian Outback SurvivalTechniques


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