Basic Wilderness Survival Tips

When venturing out into the great wide open, it’s a good idea to know some basic wilderness survival tips and plan for any circumstance. It’s a fairly simple task, but each year, experienced hikers, campers and novices alike get lost and sometimes killed out in the elements simply because they are not properly prepared. Check out these survival techniques to keep you alive in the wilderness.

1.    Always inform people where you are going. This is the first and MOST IMPORTANT step. Before you head out on your trek, let friends and family know the location you are headed and how long you plan to be out there.

2.    Prepare a wilderness survival kit to bring with you. Survival gear is easy to come by (usually available online and at most stores that carry camping gear) and is compact enough to fit in a small pack you can carry with you.

Your survival kit should include:

  • Flask of water
  • Water purification tablets
  • Multi-purpose knife
  • Pencil and paper (leaving notes; paper can be used for fire starting)
  • Lighter (with fuel!)
  • Compass
  • Plastic tarp
  • Flint
  • Whistle
  • Flashlight (and extra batteries)
  • Fishing line and hooks
  • Survival blanket
  • Cooking vessel
  • Plastic bags (can be used to purify water)
  • Instant food / protein bars
  • Mirror (for fire starting – just in case lighter doesn’t work)
  • Rope
  • Any medication you’re on
  • Flares
  • Pocket stove
  • Small first aid kit

3.    DON’T PANIC! If you find yourself disoriented and lost in the wilderness, try to conquer your fear. Panicking and letting your morale dip are two of the most certain ways you can do yourself in. People come out of these scenarios usually do so because of a positive attitude and a blatant will to survive. Take care of any injuries you have immediately with your first aid kit.

4.    Remember – S.W.F.F. – Shelter, Water, Fire, Food. These are your 4 basic steps in taking care of yourself while you’re stranded.

  • Find an area to build yourself a shelter. Exposure to the elements is not something that is going to help your cause. Generally, a lean-to type of shelter (built with small logs) or a tent structure – using your tarp – are the best kinds of shelters for a novice, and are quick to build.
  • After your shelter is built, search the area for a source of water. Follow animal tracks (animals – especially birds – usually congregate around water. Use your senses – listen for streams or running water. Water usually collects at the base of cliffs, or in shallow crevices. There are sources of water everywhere, just be patient and use common sense. Remember that you must boil your water or use water purification tablets. Unpurified water can contain parasites and bacteria that may put you in a life or death situation. Diarrhea is a common side effect and will cause rapid dehydration (and it’s just not a lot of fun either!) While you are searching for your water source, gather dry kindling, mosses and grasses for your fire.
  • After you locater your water, be sure to get started on that fire! Fire could be your only source of light and heat during the night and you will need it to boil your water to purify it. Find some larger logs to have for use after your fire gets started. There is no use in getting a fire started and having nothing to burn. Use the lighter, flint or mirror (obviously try the other two options first) from your survival gear, to light the kindling, grasses and mosses. Arrange your materials in a teepee shape – the small branches and sticks in a cone shape with the mosses and grasses on the bottom, in the middle.
  • The average human can survive for 2-3 weeks without food – it’s not pleasant, but it can be done with proper hydration. Food should never be your first concern, but should always be on your mind. There are a lot of ways to find food in the wilderness – you just have to make sure you know what is edible and what isn’t. Read up on edible plants, insects, berries and mushrooms or carry a pocket guide with you. Fish and bird eggs are a great source of protein; unless you have trapped animals before, it is a waste of energy to try and do so.

5.    Signals and navigation are two rescue methods that can be used as a final push to get if you are lost in the wilderness, navigating your way out can be done using solar and lunar navigation (the sun and the moon both rise in the East and set in the West) however, staying in the same spot is highly advisable for those who do not know how to use compasses and navigation methods properly. Use your flares in the dark (they are best seen at night) and your mirror during the day. If you can find an open spot, an S.O.S. sign or a signal fire close to your shelter should do the trick.

Remember, whether you’re trying to learn more about becoming a survivalist, hiker or camper, these basic wilderness survival tips are going to make you self reliant and help you survive a situation that can be highly dangerous and extremely intense. Being prepared is the key.