If you are in a wilderness situation in which you need to dig deep and survive, you need a certain set of skills to make sure that you can get back home safely.
Here are 5 wilderness survival tips every outdoors person should know to stay safe:
1. Master Your Attitude
It is never a good start to a survival situation when you begin to panic. If you want to get out safely you need to focus on maintaining a positive, proactive attitude at all times.
Understand that the feelings you have are not the facts. You may feel hopeless, but keep your thoughts focused on the tasks that need to be accomplished. Consider the following:
- Make a plan
- Take note of what resources you have around you
- Identify the critical tasks required for survival (water, shelter, warmth)
2. Make a Shelter
A properly constructed shelter in the wilderness can keep you from being exposed to the elements as well as protect you from hypothermia.
- Don’t build your wilderness shelter too big. This is not a time for comfort it is a time for survival. Build your shelter so that it is just big enough to accommodate your body when lying down.
- You can consider building a debris hut using resources available in most wilderness settings.
- Don’t forget to also add insulation to the ground to better protect yourself.
- In settings in which heat is what you need protection from, remember that by digging just a few inches into the soil you can uncover cooler ground. You can then use sticks or limbs to make a shelter over the exposed ground. The main purpose of this type of shelter is to create shade and air flow.
3. Find Clean Water
You aren’t going to last very long at all without clean water to drink. Luckily you actually have various methods of collecting water in the wilderness but remember that the energy it requires for your body to absorb water from snow is high. You should never eat snow, melt it first over a fire or if that is not possible, use the power of the sun.
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. Rock outcropping, or indentations are likely areas for water to accumulate. Remember, water found in puddles or streams should be boiled. A couple more ideas include:
- Dew collects on plants and grasses. You can collect this up using a cloth or piece of clothing to soak up the dew which can then be squeezed out into a container.
- Just like humans, plants sweat. Tie a plastic bag around a leafy branch of a tree, and over time, water will collect.
Boiling water for a minute is the best and safest way to kill off any pathogens.
4. Get a Fire Going
The more methods you have a starting a fire the better off you will be. The easiest option is to use a lighter or matches however you will also need to make sure that your matches stay dry and if you planned ahead for this then you probably would have planned ahead for other things and wouldn’t be in a survival situation in the first place.
A little more advanced method is to use a magnesium fire starter. This will take plenty of practice before you ever actually need it but you shave magnesium filings off the stick and then use the back of your knife to create a spark and ignite the filings.
If you happen to have a battery such as if you have your vehicle close-by you can start a fire 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 also works great.
When building the fire, consider the following:
- Gather pine needles, dry leaves, milkweed or thistle down and dry grass for tinder.
- Start off with small, dry sticks for kindling.
- 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.
5. Make a Spear
You can create a simple spear which can improve your odds of catching fish or other small game. Do the following:
- 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.