Back Tracking

Once a survival group has decided to move, and which way to go - they get moving. In situations where there is a track to be followed, this is easy, but in wild bush it's a constant negotiation between the group and the terrain. As in life, there is seldom a well paved and clear path ahead. Making your way requires effort, thought and consistent forward movement.

The most effective groups will use game trails where they can, because the animals have cleared the way a bit. Walking on a game trail is always easier than pushing through bush. In the absence of a game trail, effective groups will negotiate obstacles by looking well ahead and choosing the route that takes them as close to the right direction as possible. A straight line in the bush just doesn't happen and sometimes the best way is longer but easier. 

The very best of groups will make every step a step forward if they possibly can. They'll go sideways if they have to, but they'll avoid going backwards at all costs. Having to turn back is energy sapping and mentally tough. You quickly feel like you are going nowhere.

Less effective patterns see groups charging ahead, getting stuck and having to back track, sometimes over the exact the same ground they have just walked. Sometimes it's unavoidable, but that's rare. Usually back tracking is caused by these factors which have strong parallels in business:

  • Not having a clear enough plan.
  • Taking action too quickly resulting in confusion.
  • Spreading the group and resources out so far that they lose touch with each other and have to invest time getting back together.
  • Not looking far enough ahead to anticipate potential issues.
  • Taking short term easy options, that reduce or eliminate options further along. (one group walked down a wide sandy river bed, rather than cross a 50 metre mess of tangled trees at a river bend. 500 metres on they were stuck between a gorge wall and a 300 metre tangle of the same kinds of trees - it was back track or fight through.
  • Wanting to confirm in great detail exactly where they are, rather than just heading for the next obvious check point.
  • Not being proactive with resources - filling water bottles whenever it is possible, takes a little time, but avoids having to backtrack for water. 
  • Leaving critical gear behind.

Sometimes it is worth deliberately backtracking. It's useful when you want to learn more about something you have passed along the way, or want to avoid making a similar mistake in the future. Otherwise the most effective pattern is to keep moving forward.