Tips To Stay Safe In The Wild
Master your attitude
A survival situation is not the time to panic. You are more likely to survive a difficult situation if you focus on maintaining a positive, proactive attitude.
• Develop a plan.
• Inventory the resources you have.
• Identify the critical tasks required for survival (water, shelter, warmth).
• Determination: It’s often grit that separates a survivor from a non-survivor.
• Recognize feelings are not facts. You may feel hopeless, but keep your thoughts focused on the tasks that need to be accomplished.
Make an insulated shelter
Building an effective shelter can help protect you from hypothermia — and the elements.
• Think small: Since your body heat will be your primary source of warmth, build a shelter just big enough to accommodate your body when lying down.
• Construct the framework: To make a simple lean-to, use available resources, such as a fallen tree or rest a strong branch securely against a standing tree.
• Add the sides: Stack sticks close together on one side. Use progressively smaller sticks to fill in gaps.
• Add insulation: Cover the sides with bark, leaves, pine needles, moss, etc. — the thicker the material, the more protected you will be. Add similar insulation to the ground, the thicker the better.
Make a shade shelter
In some situations, protection from heat will matter most.
• Think cool: Digging just a few inches in the soil can uncover cooler ground.
• Build a lean-to: Use sticks or limbs to make a shelter over the exposed ground.
• Let the air flow: The purpose of this shelter is to create shade. Use available material such as bark, leaves, a poncho, an emergency sleeping bag or blanket or any available fabric to cover one side.
• Remain cool: Lie in the cool soil beneath the shade.
Find clean water
Finding clean, uncontaminated water is the holy grail of survival.
• Rain: Collect, store and drink.
• Snow: The energy it requires for your body to absorb the water from snow is high. Instead of eating the snow, melt it first. This can easily be done over a fire or with a camp stove. If those aren’t options, use the sun. Accelerate the process by chopping up ice and hanging it in a water bag in direct sunlight. If there’s no sun, use your body’s heat.
Find other water sources
Boiling water for a minute is the best and safest way to kill off any pathogens.
• Digging for water: Certain plants indicate water sources are nearby. Identify plants, such as cattails, cottonwood or willows, and dig a seep hole until you reach moisture. Wait for water to collect in the hole.
• Think topographically: Rock outcropping, or indentations are likely areas for water to accumulate. Remember, water found in puddles or streams should be boiled.
Collect water from vegetation
• Dew: Dew collects on plants and grasses. Using a cloth or piece of clothing soak up the dew and then squeeze it into a container. This can be a very effective method of collecting a considerable amount of water.
• Plant Moisture Bag: Just like humans, plants sweat. Tie a plastic bag around a leafy branch of a tree, and over time, water will collect.
Light a fire
You’ll want to practice alternative methods of fire starting prior to when they are needed.
• Easy: Use a lighter or waterproof matches. Keep your matches dry in a waterproof container.
• Medium: Use a magnesium fire starter. Shave magnesium filings off the stick, use the back of your knife to create a spark and ignite the filings.
• Advanced: A battery can be used to create a spark to light tinder. Use your vehicle battery (removed from vehicle or boat) by attaching wires or steel wool to connect the positive and negative posts. This will induce a spark or ignite the wool. With smaller batteries, align two batteries together, positive to negative. Use strands of steel wool to connect the posts to create a spark and ignite wool. A 9-volt battery works great.
Build a fire
• Create a tinder bundle: Gather pine needles, dry leaves, milkweed or thistle down and dry grass for tinder.
• Start small: Gather small, dry sticks for kindling.
• Go big: Find larger pieces of wood for long-burning fuel.
• Put it together: Using a larger piece of wood as a wind block, create a nest out of the tinder. Create a tipi out of smaller kindling so oxygen can get in. Ignite the tinder and place under the tepee. Use long, steady breaths to spread the flame. As the smaller pieces catch, add progressively larger fuel to the fire.
Know these knots
All outdoors people should know a variety of knots. When it comes to survival, make sure you have these two at the ready.
• Bowline: This knot is extremely useful when you need to attach something to a rope via a loop, because the tighter you pull, the tighter the knot gets. After you make a loop, remember this: the rabbit comes out of the hole, in front of the tree, goes behind the tree, and back down its original hole.
• Double half hitch: Used to attach one end of a rope around an object. This is a useful knot for building a shelter. Tie a half hitch around your object, like a tree or pole, and follow it by a second in the same direction to make it a double. Pull tight to make secure.
Make a spear
With a simple spear, you can improve your odds of catching a fish or other small game.
• Select a long, straight stick.
• Split the end of the stick to create a fork.
• Separate the fork with a wooden wedge or small stone. Lash it into place.
• Sharpen each fork with a knife or sharp rock.
To make a triple-prong spear, add a smaller stick after placing the wedge, sharpen, and lash it into place.
Prepare to spend the night
You don't need to have a tent or a sleeping bag, but think about what happens if you get stuck out there. Are you ready to survive?
Always bring a flashlight or a headlamp
If you're running a little late and darkness falls, losing the trail becomes a real danger. Having a light source can save your life.
Bring matches or a lighter and know how to use them
Knowing how to build a fire is one of the most important skills in the backcountry. Dress for the conditions you'll face where you're going, not the conditions at home
If you're climbing a mountain, it'll be colder, windier and more exposed than in your driveway.
Tell someone where you're going
Also, when you'll be back and make sure they know what to do (i.e. call 911) if you're not home at a reasonable time.
Bring a lot more water than you think you'll need
Seriously, a lot more. Dehydration is deadly in the desert but it's also deadly in the cold. Extra power bars or trail mix for emergency snacking are also a great idea.
Don't wear cotton, even if it looks awesome
When it's wet from rain or sweat, a cotton t-shirt can wick warmth away from your body. Wool or synthetics will keep you dryer and safer.
Don't trust your cell phone
You think it'll bail you out, but if your battery dies, you can't find a signal, or it breaks, you're in big trouble.
Do a little research and networking
Learning about a cool hike on Facebook or Instagram isn't enough to know what you'll actually face out there. Print out maps and simple trail instructions, talk to park employees and other hikers.
Have the right gear, which mostly means having the right footwear
If you're wearing flip-flops or heels, you're probably putting yourself in actual danger. But being prepared with the correct gear is essential too for safety and comfort.
Food and Water
First Aid and Sanitation
Tools and Shelter
Communication and Lighting
The best of all the outdoor survival tips is to remain calm. In a crisis, many people naturally panic and never go into survival mode. It is important to recognize when you are in serious trouble, take a few deep breaths, and think about your situation before springing into action.
After staying calm, prioritizing needs is one of the most essential outdoor survival tips. Your needs for survival will change based on the climate, area, and other outside factors. For example, if you are lost in the desert, your needs will be different than someone stranded in a snowy climate. Aside from taking the matter of the climate and circumstances into consideration, you should prioritize needs as what you need first and foremost in order to survive. You may need water right away or to seek shelter from preying animals at night or to start a fire in an attempt to fight off hypothermia. The needs should always be prioritized to determine which one is most important. Generally speaking, the major needs are shelter, water, and food, but the order in which you need them will vary based on your situation.
One thing that is absolutely non-negotiable in outdoor survival is the need for water. A general guideline is that most humans can only survive for three days without water. In extreme temperatures, this need is even shorter since dehydration can be exacerbated by high temperatures. When it comes to finding water, it is important to remember that you can’t drink from just any body of water without fear of bacteria and contamination. For example, drinking lake water could very well kill you. If you have a water purifier or filter in your pack (and you should), you can distill water to achieve a safe drinking outcome. To find water, a good tip is to follow the birds. Birds tend to fly in the direction of water because they use it to stay alive just like humans. Aside from having a filtration device, rainwater is better than lakes or rivers. The key is where you collect the water from. For example, collect rainwater you caught in a poncho you placed before the rain or rainwater from leaves rather than a puddle on the ground.
Start a fire
A fire is crucial for a few reasons. It will allow you to cook food which is important to staying alive. It will also help to keep animals at bay provided you don’t invite them in by cleaning any small game near the campsite. A fire will also provide light and warmth to help get you through the night. Best of all, a fire can act as a smoke signal to tell any rescue teams looking for you where to narrow in the search. Before taking any sort of outdoor trip, it is important to brush up on fire making skills to make sure you are prepared.
In certain climates finding shelter is the top priority even beating out the essential of water. If you are in a snowy climate, the guideline is you have roughly three hours of exposure before you begin to feel the effects of hypothermia. Don’t think just because you aren’t in extreme temperatures at the moment that all is well. The temperature can drop significantly at nightfall which makes finding shelter paramount. It is also crucial to seek shelter to avoid becoming prey to nocturnal animals hunting at night. Shelter can be anything from a tarp to block the wind to a shelter made of fallen tree limbs.
Monitor body temperature needs
Another important tip for surviving the outdoors in a dangerous scenario is to be aware of body temperature needs. While it can be hard to know when hypothermia or heat stroke set in until it is too late, you can take steps to prevent them as much as possible. For example, in hot climates, if you can find a body of water to safely dip in to cool off, take the opportunity. In cold temperatures, consider lining your jacket or vest with dry leaves to create an extra layer of insulation. You need to be resourceful and remember the importance of body temperature regulation in life or death scenarios.
Stay put for the night
Never try to navigate at night. Not only will you have a hard time doing so successfully due to limited visibility and not being able to use the sun, you will leave yourself most vulnerable to the elements and wildlife by traveling at night. The best bet is always to hunker down for the night and focus on other elements of survival such as building a shelter and starting a fire.