We've often said that survival is primarily about what you know, not what you have. Knowledge weighs nothing, and it's the key factor that will allow you to think your way through challenges and overcome them. Quality gear can obviously give you an advantage and make the work easier, but with the right knowledge you should be able to improvise or scavenge most items.

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We recently came across a YouTube video by an outdoorsman named Trip Smith (formerly SailingandSuch), and this video posed a thought-provoking survival challenge. You've probably got a carefully-prepared bug-out bag or get home bag in your closet at home, one stowed in your vehicle, or one at your workplace. You might even have all three. But how would your odds of survival change if you needed to head off the grid with a mystery backpack full of unknown gear?

Check out Trip Smith's 39-minute video below, and see how he fares with his friend's pack.

This is an interesting challenge that can prepare you for a number of potential scenarios:

  • Dealing with lost or inaccessible gear — how would your survival plan change if you didn't have access to your own backpack?
  • Utilizing scavenged items — how prepared are you to work with gear you found abandoned by someone else, especially items you haven't trained with?
  • Surviving with friends —  how ready would you be to integrate your existing gear with unfamiliar equipment carried by group members?
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Borrowing a friend's meal kit can expose you to new packable foods you might enjoy.

Note: Any time you attempt a survival challenge, make sure you have safeguards and an escape plan in place. If you find the challenge too difficult to overcome, you should have several contingency plans to make it back to safety or call for help. You don't want this fun learning experience to turn into a real life-and-death situation.

In this case, Trip had to improvise due to the lack of an insulated under-quilt.

In this case, Trip had to improvise hammock insulation due to the lack of an under-quilt.

Surviving “blind” with a mystery get home bag will also help you streamline your own survival kit. You might find a superior alternative to the gear you carry, or you may find a type of gear that's totally absent from your own pack. By swapping packs with a friend, you can also test the viability of their gear, and give them an outside perspective on items you'd suggest.

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So, next time you go out into the woods for a camping trip, it may be helpful if you agree to switch packs with a trusted buddy. You'll certainly learn some things — hopefully not that one of you is woefully underprepared. But even if that's the case, you'll improve your improvisational skills.

For more videos, check out Trip Smith's YouTube channel.

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