did his experince help keep him alive
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Yes, definitely they helped him. Rainsford's expertise is exactly why Zaroff wanted to hunt him. Rainsford makes it a challenge for Zaroff to track him. Rainsford moves in a path intended to confuse Zaroff. He winds around and doubles back, walking (running) in loops. This attempt to lose Zaroff is unsuccessful. Rainsford's first true trap is what was called a Malay mancatcher. He made the trap by balancing a dead tree upon a cut living tree. One of the boughs is then set as a trigger for the trap, which when set off would cause the dead tree to fall.
There was also the Burmese tiger pit. This trap was created by digging a hole in the Death Swamp and filling it with stakes, which were then hidden by woven grass. One of Zaroff's dogs is killed in this trap.
Rainsford's final trap was a trick he'd been taught in Uganda. He fastened a knife to the end of a young tree (the youth of the tree would have made it pliable).