How to Survive in the Wilderness

Survival rules dictate that to survive in the wilderness you will need shelter, water, fire and food. Food is not as critical as shelter and water, because the average person can survive three weeks or longer without food, yet cannot survive longer than a few hours without shelter and fire in extreme cold. The average person cannot survive longer than three days without hydration/water.

Subsequently, survival experts design survival techniques and methods that center on building shelter, collecting and purifying water and making fire and then finding food. The reality of most situations is that lost or stranded individuals are, in most cases, rescued before they succumb to starvation. However, after just a few days without adequate nutrition the body will begin to lose energy, making other survival tasks difficult to perform.

The following tips will help you to do everything within your power to stay safe, find help, and get out alive. This list assumes that you have no injuries but are just trying to find your way to safety.


1. Evaluate the Area

Evaluate your immediate area to ensure it is safe, and as a rule, you should stay in one place if you are lost to make it easier for rescue personnel to find you.

2. Take Inventory

Inventory your supplies and consider what you can use. Use materials from any mode of transportation you may have used. Always keep shelter, water, fire and food in mind when assessing uses for your supplies, tools and material.

Your best chance of survival is being prepared with the right tools. If you’re going hiking or camping, consider taking items from the following list along with you just in case. This list of items is designed to provide anyone the needed tools and materials to build a shelter, make fire, collect and purify water, and collect/obtain a food source.

Multi-Purpose Knife/Tool
• Fixed Bladed Knife
• Magnesium Stick For Fire Starting
• Eight To 12 Pound Monofilament Fishing Line
• Fish Hooks
First Aid Kit
Sewing Kit For Wound Stitching And Repairs To Clothes or Gear
• Light Gauge Wire For Snares And Binding Material
Nylon Rope 50 Feet
• Two Vials Of 2% Liquid Iodine With Dropper For Water Purification
• Small Stainless Steel Bowl
• Small Camp Axe
• Signal Mirror/Flag
• Folding Wood Saw
• Two Rain Ponchos Can Also Be Used As An Emergency Shelter And For Water Collection
• Portable Water Filter
• Two One Quart/Liter Stainless Steel Canteens

3. Shelter

Find or construct shelter. If the weather is mild, you need protection from sun, wind, rain and early morning dew. If the weather is cold, you will need a shelter to prevent hypothermia and a means to stay dry during storms. Shelter can be constructed in less than an hour that will provide you sufficient protection from the elements.

Shelter can be constructed without any tools by using natural formations such as downed trees and forest debris. For instance, in cold weather you can pile brush along one side of a downed log. If it’s cold outside, pile the brush on the south side rather than the north side because you don’t want to be exposed to chilling winds.

An easy shelter to make is a teepee. Use wire or rope for lashing poles together. Start by lashing three poles together so they stand on their own. Once you have a tripod that can stand alone, you can add as many poles as needed. Fill in gaps with vegetation/foliage such as pine boughs.

4. Fire

Fire is important and you must have one to keep your spirits up, prevent hypothermia, to ward off insects, predators and to cook food and purify water.

Ways to start fires include friction, focusing sunlight to greater intensity by using a magnifying glass, pieces of glass, headlight fixtures, eyeglasses and even water in a clear plastic bag. You can start a fire using car batteries and batteries from handheld electronic devices, as well. Fires can be started by creating a spark and directing it toward a highly combustible material, such as, hand sanitizer that contains alcohol, alcohol wipes and petroleum jelly.

If you have a magnesium stick, take the small metal scraper it comes with or a heavy bladed knife and scrape some magnesium onto any dry tinder. Once you have some shavings on the tinder, take the scraper or the back of any fixed bladed knife and apply downward pressure while scraping along the flint toward the tinder. This creates a spark that will ignite the magnesium. Never use the backside of a folding knife blade because the blade can fold up on your fingers and always the backside to create a spark to prevent damage to the cutting edge.

5. Water

You must find a water source and be able to collect, store and purify that water. Water sources that must be filtered and purified include rivers, streams, lakes, puddles, natural springs and ponds.

When hiking or camping, you should always carry a portable water filter with you. 

6. Signals

Build signal fires and maintain them at night so spotters can see the flame and keep them going in daylight so the smoke can be spotted. Typically, rescue personnel will not be searching at night but others may spot your flame.

Find the highest spot near your camp and use a signal mirror, piece of glass, lens from a camera, and headlight from a car or bicycle or a bright cloth to signal potential rescue personnel. You may not be able to see them but they may be able to spot the reflection from the glass or mirror or they can spot the bright colored cloth. Use the signal material intermittently during the day.

7. Travel

After five days, you may have to consider traveling some distance to get out of your predicament. Typically, rescue personnel will begin search operations within 72-hours; this of course does not mean you will be rescued within that period. Walking aimlessly and not making progress toward civilization is simply a waste of valuable energy, increases your chance of injury, and makes it difficult for anyone to find you if they are searching where they believe you may have entered the wilderness. Be sure you are confident of your direction of travel before starting out.

If you need to travel get a good night’s sleep and start early in the morning. Follow any moving body of water downstream. Follow railroad tracks or overhead power lines. Avoid lower depressions that show obvious signs of flash flooding.

8. Remain Calm

The worst thing that you can do is panic. Remain calm so that you can think things through rationally and make the best decisions that will lead to your survival. Have you ever seen a panicked cat trying to escape a situation that scares him? He often ends up hurting himself and others because he’s acting through sheer emotion rather than logic. He flails all over the place, thrashes about wildly, and causes himself a lot of undue stress. Avoid causing yourself undue stress and stay focused on the tasks at hand. If you have other people with you, try to be an example to them in order to keep the whole group focused on finding solutions.

If you’re going to survive in the wilderness and make it out safely, you’ll need to keep all of these tips in mind. Remember, before you set out on a hike or camping trip, plan ahead and take the appropriate gear and supplies so you won’t be caught unprepared in an unexpected situation.


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July 01, 2014 5 tags (show)

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