Friday, January 31, 2020

Practice in Both Practice and Theory

As I was taking a look at recent posts by my fellow authors, and reading comments on the Facebook group from some of the members concerning those posts, it struck me that I am facing a somewhat serious crises of conscience right now.

We talk a lot about skill sets, and making sure we have the proper tools on hand to meet whatever types of emergency that life and Mother Nature happen to throw in our direction.  Whether those proper tools happen to be an in-car emergency kit with reflectors and a pair of jumper cables and maybe a few tools to change a hose or belt in a hurry, or a water filter straw, emergency blanket, and fire tab emergency stove in a GHB that happens to live in the trunk next to the jumper cables, its not always about what we have, so much as it is how we use what we have.

During a recent discussion concerning manual can openers prompted by Chaplin Tim's post, many of us were jokingly about whether, what type, and how many manual openers we happened to have on hand in various locations.  I've got... a lot of them.  Let's leave it at that.

I realized something important, though: out of the plethora of styles that I happen to have easy access to in my home, my car, and my camping equipment, there are only 4 or 5 out of the dozen or so that I've actively used more than once or twice.  My first reaction to this realization was to tell myself "No big deal, we don't stock much in the way of canned stuff in this house anyway -- it's all fresh, or shelf-stable non-canned, or home canned!" 

Then I started thinking about it further, and realized that the deficiency extends further than to just my multitude of can openers in various styles. I maintain 6 or 7 different non-bic lighter methods of starting a fire in my BoB/GHB, as well as always carrying at least one or 2 lighters in my pockets (I'm a smoker, what can I say - I'm never without fire!)  But I've done very little work with most of those methods.  I used them just enough to assure myself that with some work, I could use them.  I did not, however, use any of them sufficiently to actually become proficient with them, or for any of them to become second nature.

Skills deteriorate over time if left unused, and it's been a couple of years since I even made an attempt with some of my various methods of lighting a fire.  I honestly don't know, as I'm sitting here writing this blog post, whether I can still accomplish the task with most of the tools available to me.  And while its not such a big deal today - right this minute, right this second, or even probably tomorrow or next week - it could be, because you can never be sure during an Oklahoma winter whether Ma Nature is gonna toss a rather nasty ice storm in your direction that takes down the power lines and causes massive problems.

So I need to start making myself practice with all of my gear more regularly, instead of smugly allowing it to simply sit in its bag in the car.  And so do you!  Make sure that you actually practice with the tools at your disposal, instead of blindly assuring yourself that you're in good shape simply because you have access to them!


  1. Why not simplify? Instead of stocking 1 each of multiple methods of starting fires, have 7 of one way?

  2. That leaves you vulnerable to a single point of failure. Butane lighters, for example, don't work well when wet or very cold so having multiple lighters won't help. Zippo-style lighters tend to lose fuel due to evaporation. Ferrocerium rod strikers are brittle and can break. Matches can break or get damp. Flint and steel is about the toughest method available, but requires practice to use efficiently.


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