Survival Thermodynamics

Posted on: July 29, 2014

I have long been a fan of Ragnar Benson. He’s written numerous survival books for Paladin Press, all from the perspective of “been there, done that.” Safe to say that Benson, along with Dr. Bruce Clayton, helped me to form many of the survival philosophies I have to this day.

One of the key elements common to many of Benson’s books it his theory of Survival Thermodynamics. Simply put, the idea is to never expend more energy to achieve a survival goal than what you’ll gain for doing so. To do otherwise is to end up with a net loss and never getting ahead of the game.

Here’s how this works. Let’s say you spend several hours tramping through the woods, hunting game. A bad day results in you bringing back just one scrawny squirrel. Your efforts have caused you to burn far more calories than you’ll be gaining by eating said critter. This is why trapping is an important option to consider for food acquisition, as is gathering wild edibles. It takes fewer calories to pick berries, dandelions, and other plants than it does to hike around tracking game.

While a giant bonfire will certainly aid in someone finding you, assuming you want to be found, of course, you’ll also burn a lot of calories gathering and chopping fuel maintaining that blaze. A smaller fire is easier to feed and control, just sit a little closer for warmth if need be.

My father instilled into me a similar philosophy, though he didn’t think of it in survival terms. Work smarter, not harder. I’m sure many of you have heard that phrase before, right? This is really the same concept as survival thermodynamics.

Conservation of energy is a key element of survival. By giving thought to what you stand to gain by following a certain course of action, you can preserve your energy until it is truly needed.

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