The Sad Would-Be Survivalist, and Why You Should Know His Story

Scotland isn’t exactly the most barren, God-forsaken place on the planet. Frankly, it has some larger towns (Edinburgh has a population of almost a half-million and 1.3 million people in that area), but, like in many areas in the U.S., there are some more remote and rural areas. And the weather in Scotland isn’t always the most pleasant.

Occasionally, someone take a few survival courses and thinks that they can make off-grid for an extended period of time. This was the case with a 29 year old gentleman named David Austin who set out to survive for a year off grid carrying with him only a journal and a knife. He was found about three weeks after his 29th birthday. He had died of hypothermia a few weeks before he was found.

A sad, sad story.

But, like many sad stories, there are things you can learn from it. Cody Assmann gives seven points that you can learn from Austin’s story, along with our comments:

  1. Survival isn’t easy. If survival were easy, everyone would do it. And, the fact of the matter is that, to do it you have to go against the grain, which many people cannot (or are unwilling to) do after so many years of conditioning. Taking a few courses, like Austin did, may give you the information that you need to survive, but you should always seek to learn more and test out your knowledge before you need it.
  2. Bring a lifeline. Austin went out with only a journal and a knife. Don’t hamstring yourself. Better safe than sorry even when testing out your skills.
  3. Take baby steps. Learn, test small, learn from your mistakes, test again. If it was a successful test, test slightly bigger. Don’t bet the farm on a giant, untested show of bravado.
  4. Expect surprises. If there is one truth in life, it is that something unexpected will happen. Again, have a lifeline, have the extra equipment that you don’t think that you need. Better safe than sorry.
  5. Prioritize. Assman puts it this way: “Most of the chatter about survival seems to focus on food. Yet food is perhaps your lowest priority in most situations. […] The case of David Austin can remind similarly minded people about the very real dangers of weather. Finding a way to stay warm/cool, dry and protected should likely be your top priorities.
  6. Study geography. It appears that Austin didn’t realize how cold that part of Scotland can get in December, and he paid for that ignorance with his life. If you have the chance to study up on the area where you will be, it can give you a better idea how to prepare and survive when you are there.
  7. Level with yourself. Bravado and ego can get you killed. Get a realistic viewpoint about how ready you are in general and how ready you are for the geographic area when you will be, and then work to get better.

David Austin’s story is tragic, and even more so because it could have been prevented if he had used some common sense. For your own safety and for the safety of your family, take the seven points above into consideration as you prep and train.


  • Frederick Douglass

    stupidity kills.
    Everything is harder and takes longer than planed for. Count on it. — Wise old man.