How to Survive in the Wilderness Alone

How to Survive in the Wilderness AlonEveryone who frequents the backcountry should learn basic survival skills. Accidents sometimes happen that could place you alone in a strange environment. To lessen the chances of having to survive, always leave a trip itinerary with someone you can trust, and don't hike alone. Familiarize yourself with the characteristics of the land that you will visit, and get acquainted with any new gear you take. Also, remember that surviving is ultimately about getting out of the wilderness. Staying in the backcountry for extended periods requires advanced skills.

Instructions

Difficulty: Challenging

What to do:

Things You’ll Need:
  • Map and compass, or GPS unit
  • Shelter
  • Water purification filter or chemicals
  • Fire-starting materials
 
Step 1
Don't panic. When people panic in the woods, they often start walking or even running, searching frantically for the right trail or a familiar landmark. More often than not, this results in disorientation and can get you even more lost. Sit down instead, and breathe slowly and deeply for several minutes. When you feel calm, take a look around and get your bearings. You may spot a path that you would have passed over in a frantic search.
Step 2
Use a map and compass, GPS unit or memory to estimate where you are. Basic orienteering skills and gear will help you. A map and compass should always be in your pack in the backcountry.
Step 3
Decide whether to move or stay put. If you left a trip itinerary with someone, rescue might come soon after that person realizes you are overdue. Staying near your original route is a good idea in this case. If you have already wandered far or if you're able to pinpoint your location and see an escape route, hiking out is better. In many situations, lost hikers can get themselves to safety before their food runs out.
Step 4
Make the best of your gear. If you're in the backcountry for an overnight or extended stay, you should have a small supply of food, cookware, shelter and warm clothes. A cooking stove can even be used as a makeshift fire starter. This equipment makes it relatively easy to stay in one location for up to several days. If you have no gear but are familiar with the land and know your own location, consider trying to hike out.
Step 5
Find shelter and water during the night and build a fire, if possible. Shelter is more immediately important than food, since hypothermia can be caused quickly by low nighttime temperatures and moisture from dew and rain. A fire will also help you stay warm and offer psychological benefits. Drink clean water as often as you can to combat dehydration, which also can increase the risk for hypothermia.
Step 6
Make a signal fire if you stay in one place for a long time. Build it with dry materials on the bottom that can burn hot enough to ignite green leaves and branches. Place it on bare ground far from dry grass, leaves or other materials that might cause an uncontrollable blaze.
 

Tips & Warnings

 
You may have to move a short distance to find shelter and water even if you plan to wait for rescue. Just remain in the same general area if you can so that search teams won't miss you. Don't tire yourself when you move. Energy is extremely valuable, especially if you have no food. Keep hydrated and rest often.
 
You may have to move a short distance to find shelter and water even if you plan to wait for rescue. Just remain in the same general area if you can so that search teams won't miss you.
 
Don't tire yourself when you move. Energy is extremely valuable, especially if you have no food. Keep hydrated and rest often.
 
Don't eat any wild plants unless you've been trained in the edible varieties of the area. The danger of poisoning yourself is very high if you're inexperienced.

Article Written By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson earned his Bachelor of Arts in creative writing from The Ohio University. He has been a professional writer since 2008, specializing in outdoors content and instruction. Johnson's poetry has appeared in such publications as "Sphere" and "17 1/2 Magazine."

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