In any survival situation, there are several things that must be constantly kept in mind, including shelter, water, rescue, food and state of mind. However, when surviving in a tropical climate there is often one overwhelming obstacle: water. In a tropical climate, water is an issue as it is present in the form of both rain and humidity. Keeping your body, gear, shelter and fire fuel dry can be challenging and frustrating, and failing to do so can result in greater stress on both the mind and body.
Shelter and Fire
Surviving in the tropics, or anywhere else, is as much a state of mind as a state of body. It is vitally important to keep the mind focused and spirits up. A fire is a great source of comfort and also provides a sense of accomplishment and ability to affect an outcome. However, starting a fire in a tropical climate is often difficult because of rain, wet fire-building materials and wet ground. Look for dry tinder inside the bark of dead trees and larger limbs. Place flat rocks on the ground before building a fire to keep the wet soil from saturating the tinder and wood. Store any dry wood well inside the shelter, but first check for any unwanted insects. In regards to shelter, the abundance of moisture dictates a shelter with a good roof and at least three sides to ward off any driving rains. Be prepared to deal with high humidity and the resulting wet clothing. Pay special attention to wet socks and boots or shoes to avoid ailments such as trench foot.
Water and Food
Water may seem abundant in the tropics, but realistically there may be little that is safe to consume. Such nasties as giardia are just waiting to wrench the intestines and cause severe diarrhea, which can be life-threatening. Boil all water collected from any ground source, such as ponds or streams. Collected rain water is safe to drink. Using a spread tarp or even a large garbage bag can trap enough water to sustain you for a short period of time. The tropics often provide a wide variety of fruits and nuts for survival. However, just as with any other survival situation, know exactly what is being consumed and take no chances. Keep in mind that there is little that can be done medically, even if you are in a group.
A tropical setting is often lush with large, towering trees shading the undergrowth. As beneficial as this ecosystem may be to providing water and habitat for tropical inhabitants, it provides great challenges for rescue. In most scenarios, being rescued depends on being seen. When making a camp or shelter, search for suitable areas near clearings or large open areas in the tree canopy. A smokey fire is one means of being spotted among tall trees and vegetation, but heavy, wet foliage can block smoke if there is not a sufficient opening. Fire is the key; keep it burning and keep green, damp limbs with leaves nearby for placing on the fire to create billowing clouds of smoke.