Wilderness Survival Tips

Wilderness Survival TipsA wilderness survival situation is something that comes as a shock. No one goes out in the woods with the intention of getting into a life-or-death scenario, save maybe for TV hosts like Les Stroud and Bear Grylls, and that's a controlled environment. Given the completely unpredictable nature of wilderness survival, it is essential to prepare so you're ready if a situation presents itself.


Difficulty: Challenging

Gather the Gear and Learn How to Use It

Things You’ll Need:
  • Navigation equipment
  • Fire-starting equipment
  • Sun protection
  • First aid
  • Flashlight
  • Basic shelter (emergency blanket, bivy)
  • Signaling equipment
  • Water purification
  • Food-procurement tools
  • Knife/multi-tool
  • Multi-purpose tools (duct tape, rope, wire)
  • Extra clothing
Step 1
Practice. You've probably heard of the 10 (or 10-plus) essentials. However, simply compiling these items into a kit to bring with you is not really preparing. These items are only as useful as your own knowledge of how to use them. The time to practice is not when you're faced with a survival situation, but before you even venture out into the wild.
Step 2
Learn and practice navigation skills. A compass and detailed map of the area that you're hiking or camping in are two of the top essentials. If you ever get into a survival situation, these are the two items that are going to get you out of the wilderness and back to safety. Become comfortable with reading maps and using the combination of compass and map to effectively navigate. GPS can also be extremely useful, but don't think it replaces a map, compass and traditional skills.
Step 3
Use tinder and fire-starting equipment. Fire-starting equipment is another key to survival. You'll need fire to keep warm, ward off predators, boil water and cook food. Practice igniting a fire with whatever fire-starting equipment you carry with you. Also practice alternative means of fire-starting such as using a magnifying glass, bow drill or car battery. The more knowledge and experience you have with different fire-starting techniques, the less likely you'll be caught without a fire.
Step 4
Learn how to effectively use signaling devices. Practice using a mirror, whistle and other devices effectively.
Step 5
Familiarize yourself with your first-aid kit and basic first-aid skills. Again, the time to learn how to wrap and dress a wound is not when you're bleeding profusely in the middle of nowhere.
Step 6
Practice building shelters. Learn how to make different types of shelters from the natural supplies available and get hands-on once or twice. Perhaps even take an overnight camping trip where you rely solely on your own shelter-building skills.
Step 7
In the same way that gear without knowledge isn't helpful, knowledge without the right gear isn't either. Be sure to pack and prepare the survival essentials every time you're taking a trip into the wilderness. Use a waterproof case to keep your matches and tinder dry. Even if you don't think the trip warrants survival gear, you never know what could come in handy, and it doesn't hurt to be prepared.


Step 1
Know your location. While having the right skills and equipment is essential, your survival also depends on the wilderness you're in.
Step 2
Consider the possibility of wilderness survival ahead of time and learn characteristics of the land that could help you. What edible plant life exists? What types of animals could serve as food sources? What water sources exist? What types of natural navigation tools exist, such as river beds and ridgelines? What's the quickest way to get out? Finding the appropriate answers will provide some preparation should you become stuck in a survival situation.
Step 3
Gather information on the hazards of the terrain you're facing. Be aware of possible hazards such as predators, avalanche and flash flooding, and consider how to avoid these threats and what to do should they occur. Pay attention to forecasts and plan accordingly.
Step 4
Prepare for the conditions. In addition to the basic survival items that are recommended for any terrain, consider any additional items that you may need for the specific conditions/terrain you'll be facing, such as extra water in the desert or extra insulation for cold climates.

When Presented with a Survival Situation

Step 1
Remain calm and make clear, rational decisions. Do not panic, but use the information you have to determine your best course of action.
Step 2
Determine the greatest threats to your survival and how you will work around these. Threats could include things such as heat, dehydration, hypothermia and predators. Plan around the most imminent threats first.
Step 3
Make a plan of how you intend to get out and how you will take care of your basic survival needs like water, food, shelter and fire. Stick to your plan unless it becomes impossible, or it is prudent to make a change. Don't get flustered and confused and make quick, reactive decisions that aren't properly thought out.
Step 4
Keep motivated and focus on the task at hand. If in a group, delegate tasks and work as a team. Do your best to keep your will to survive and motivation strong.
Step 5
Don't rely too much on outside help. Even if you have signaling equipment or have called in for help via a cell phone, PLB or other device, continue to address your own survival needs. It may take a while for rescue agents to locate you, so you should continue relying on yourself until you have been rescued.

Article Written By Joe Fletcher

Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.

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