Surviving in the wilderness requires you to be keenly alert about your environment, surroundings, and, most importantly, yourself. The wild comes with its own set of dangers and risks and is far from safe. However, if one is educated enough about the lurking dangers and how to cope with them, surviving in the wild can be made much safer and sometimes even fun. Even so, to prevent any misadventure, one needs to have a good sense of basic to advanced skills on how to deal with varying situations and survive the wilderness.
Below we have assembled the basic yet most important skills, dos & don’ts, and factors that you need to look out for when in the wild for a chance of survival. Most of this knowledge could mean life and death for someone stranded in the wild, especially if that certain someone has no prior training and lack adequate supplies to battle what is out there.
Keep your cool and make a plan
Probably the most important key to surviving in the wild is to get a hold of your senses and to manage your attitude. Panic and stress can turn out to be your biggest enemy out in the wild. Your body is dependent on your mind, and if you become scared or nervous too much, the body will just follow on. In a panic situation, adrenaline starts to shoot through your body, and you could feel your heartbeat and breathe speeding up. At the same time, digestion slows down, and muscles become tenser. As a result, your body won’t react the way it is supposed to in normal mode, and obviously, it is a situation you would want to avoid.
Therefore, it is crucial to take control of your mind and body first before anything else. Although it’s natural to be a little scared, let that fear dictate your mind and actions. Take time and recall everything you know about surviving in the wild so far. Think of all the problems you are either facing now or will in the recent future and think of all the possible solutions. Then decide your next step depending upon whatever you concluded from the recent brainstorming.
Look for water
Probably the most crucial factor you would like to care about in the wilderness is water. Research shows that humans can’t survive more a week without water. And by water here, I mean freshwater. Contaminated, unfiltered, seawater, and urine can sometimes do worse than good. However, I’ll get to them later.
At first, priority, look for freshwater sources. Such sources include streams, caves, underground water, and rain. A fast-flowing stream is going to be your best bet as running water is generally less exposed to sediments and pollutants. However, if possible, boil the water over fire since we don’t want to take chances with all the diseases that could attack us in the wild.
If you happen to be on a hilltop, try moving downhill as this is the direction where water flows. Mountain bases are often a source of collected water.
Keep in mind that where there is life, there is water. Look around you for signs of life. The presence of animals, birds, insects, and plants indicate that there is water nearby. That explains all the life in and around that region.
Roots of vegetables and other plants have at least some amount of water stored inside them. Mashing and squeezing them either by hands or rock can yield some liquid. You can try catching some morning dew with a cloth or container. Look for broad leaves in this regard. If it happens to rain, either dig a small hole in the ground for the water to collect or place any container you have in open.
Consuming seawater and urine can dehydrate you further, which you want to avoid. However, under extreme conditions where you can’t sort out any other source of water, it’s better to go with the unfiltered water. Even so, it’s best to boil the urine and opt for a few conventional methods of filtering water. Always avoid drinking water from agricultural areas and farmlands as they are likely to be contaminated with pesticides. It can prove fatal even if the water is boiled as pesticides remain.
If all the above fails, try digging for the water yourself. Rainy forests that receive a decent amount of rainfall annually generally have enough water resources underground. In this regard, areas with more green vegetation are a better source of underground water. So, preferably start digging from such grounds.
Look for food
A human can survive no more than 21 days without food. The most requirement after water is food. However, in the wild, not only you need food to allow the normal body functions, but you’ll need enough energy to battle other external factors such as temperature and move on towards safety.
Wild is bestowed with all sorts of nutritious and sometimes delicious food. You only need to look at the right place. If you are new to the wild, it is always best to bring along a decent amount of food just in case. However, if the food runs out, its time to explore other options. Fortunately, the wild can provide you with a good dose of nutritious plants, herbs, and fruits, so there is no need to wander around with an empty stomach. Apart from plants, you can also concentrate on the feeding of small animal species since they are easy to prepare and provide the necessary nutrition required by our body.
The key to surviving in the wild by eating plants is that you need to know which of them are safe to eat while which are not. You’ll need to have a good understanding of edible and non-edible plants based on their appearance, feel, and smell. Not all of them are safe to consume, and eating the wrong plants can make you sick or even worse.
The poisonous plant can be identified based on the orientation of their leaves. If a certain plant has leaves grouped in three, its most likely a poisonous one and you better avoid it. Secondly, note that the color of the plant sap. If it is oddly colored or, most importantly, if it is white or milky, then it tends to be a poisonous one as well. If a plant has a somewhat bitter smell and pods filled with seeds, then it is most likely non-edible. Next, avoid the plants with black or purple colored spurs. Flowers shaped like an umbrella and yellow or white berries signify a poisonous plant. Lastly, plants with thorns, spikes, or hook are also non-edible. It is best to void mushrooms unless you have a very good knowledge of the edible ones. This is because although some of them are safe to consume, many are toxic, so its best to avoid them.
Its easier to identify which plants are safe to eat once you know which are not. Plants like clovers, chicory, and dandelions are all edible and provide the necessary nutrients as well. However, it is still best to consume them after cooking. Plants found near on in a water source and mainly edible and nutritious. Also, they are easy to spot. Water plants like green seaweed are a decently healthy food source that you can find near the inland lakes or shores. Sorrel is another ideal plant to consume. It is mainly of two kinds that are wood sorrel and sheep sorrel. Both types are safe to consume raw and are a good source of vitamin C. Lastly if you can’t find anything else, you can always revert to the common grass. Grass found in the wild is mainly organic and is safe to eat.
Apart from the plants, you may find fruits throughout the wild. You can get your hands on all sorts of fruits ranging from bananas, wild yams to sugarcanes, and papayas. Do not eat faux strawberries called snake berries. Coconuts, mainly found in tropical jungles, are a good source of food and water. It’s recommended to familiarize yourself with the kinds of edible fruits found in that particular region before heading out to the venture.
Keep in mind that since you are in the wild, you should not restrain from anything that can provide nourishment. Refraining from such food sources due to personal beliefs or simply because you find it unappetizing would be a great risk for survival. You must eat anything available to continue survival.
You should know that just like plants, not all animals are safe to eat. Some are poisonous as well. However, such species are relatively few and therefore are easy to remember. With only a few exceptions, you can eat everything that walks, crawls, or flies.
Insects can be caught easily and are surprisingly up to 80 percent protein source. Although they might not be too appealing, but are an important food source in the wild.
However, there is a certain kind of insects that are to be avoided. Such include insects with bright colors and hairy bodies. Insects that sting or bite often end to be poisonous, so must not be consumed. Other such insects include strong odor and disease carriers like mosquitoes and flies.
Probably the best place to look for some protein-packed insects and bugs is rotten logs or downed trees. You may find all sorts of insects, including grubs, termites, and ants. Meanwhile, keep your eyes on the ground for insect nests that are often found under a rock or board. Moreover, fields and other grassy areas are a good site to look for insects such as grasshoppers and crickets. However, note that grasshoppers and other such insects such as beetles have an outer shell that may have parasites. Therefore, it’s recommended to cook them and also get rid of the wings and legs. Otherwise, most of the insects can be eaten raw. If not the insects, their larvae can also be consumed.
Worms can be found in damp soil and can be consumed raw. However, do wash them clean before eating. Freshwater can also provide you with shrimps, crabs. Lobsters and crayfish. Moreover, snails, mussels, and chitons can also be found in fresh or saltwater. All of these are edible and a good protein source.
Fishing is undoubtedly a great way to provide you the much-needed nourishment and feed the hunger. They are a decent protein source along with fats. However, to be successful at fishing, you must know about their habitat and habits. Fish are more likely to hide in eddy, dark corners such as rocks whenever the current is heavy.
Moreover, fish are also attracted by the light. Therefore, you should know when and where to look for the fish. However, keep in mind that fishing asks for plenty of time and energy, especially if you are not an experienced fisher.
You don’t necessarily need a rod to do so as a simple trap will do the job. You can make a small dam by selecting a portion from the shore and covering it withstanding sticks. Next, simply wait till the fish enters and gets trapped. Another way to catch the fish is by using the nets that you can make using fabric.
Although freshwater fish are not poisonous, however, certain species such as catfish have pointy protrusions on their fins. If not taken proper care, these can inflict wounds that are not only painful but also can become infected. Also, make sure to cook the fish caught from the freshwater to eliminate any parasites.
If you want to take inspiration from a Hollywood movie and want to hunt for animals such as deer and wild boars, then its best to abandon the plan. It is because, first of all, it’ll consume a lot of your energy, and there is a chance of inflicting an injury when facing or running after the animal. Also, it’s not an easy job to hunt down such an animal, especially if it lacks the proper equipment to do so. All you want to do in the wild is survive and not to go for a lavish feast. Therefore, one of the options mentioned above can do the job.
Lack of food and water is not the only factor that can be proved fatal in the wild. Unforgiving weather conditions are to be taken with utmost seriousness. Whether it is to hold or too cold, both extremes are to be dealt with properly for a chance of survival in the wild. Studies reveal that hypothermia, a condition characterized by the sudden loss of body temperature, is a leading factor of death in the wilderness. It is to be noted that weather conditions play a key role in regulating our body temperature. Therefore, proper care must be taken to battle the external factors. You’ll need a roof to insulate you from the sun, rain, or snow, and the best way to do so is to find yourself a suitable shelter.
Since you are in the wild, so obviously don’t expect a nicely furnished room with a warm bed. There are only two possible shelters you can get here. Either you can look for natural shelters such as caves etc. or make one yourself.
Often some components in nature will itself act as a shelter. If not a complete one, even a partial shelter will save you a lot of time and energy as you can simply complete the missing parts only. A tent is great, otherwise:
At the top, natural shelters include caves since they’ll protect you the best. A cave is generally covered from three or at least two sides with a proper roof. Therefore, not only it’ll protect you from the sun and rain, but its walls will also shut out the wind. Additionally, you can cover the cave entrance with a fallen branch or bush to keep out any wild animals that might also want to seek shelter in the cave. However, beware that caves also have their dangerous side. There can be holes where you might fall or trip on the uneven floor and get yourself hurt. Also, the caves are dark inside, and a possibility of wild animals is always there, so proceed with caution.
- Downed tree
A fallen tree will generally leave enough ground underneath that can serve as a shelter, though a partial one. The body of the root can act as a lean-to, and the broken branches from the same tree can act as a wall to provide basic cover. However, make sure that your shelter is doing its job because it’ll be of no good if it doesn’t insulate you from the sun and rain. In such a case, it’s better to explore other options.
- Leaf mound
It is probably the quickest and easiest shelter you can build in the wild. A dry leaf mound can act as a body bag to keep you warm and insulate from the cold. Surely it won’t be as effective as a real sleeping bag, but it’ll contribute greatly to your survival. Simply collect a huge pile of dry leaves or grass enough to cover your whole body. Make sure to cover yourself at least till chest as you don’t want to lose anybody’s heat in cold temperatures. A leaf mound can be made quickly and will protect you by not letting lose the body heat.
Remember, your clothes are the first line of defense against the temperature and other external factors. Therefore, make sure to dress decently in proper gear according to the weather conditions. In winter, makes sure to have warm clothing with protective footwear.
Light a fire
A fire in the wilderness can save you from unwanted situations in numerous ways. If you are going to stay overnight, then it is best to light a fire as not only it keeps you warm but also can act as a rescue signal. It can keep you safe from any wandering wild animals while also let you cook any raw food that you might have.
- It is best to choose a higher ground to light a fire, which can be noticed from far away.
- To start a fire, firstly, you need to find a suitable patch of dry ground, preferably 4 to 5 feet wide.
- Collect as much dry wood that you think will get you through the night.
- You would want to insulate the fire from wind for which you can build a circle of rocks around the fire. Also, you can dig the ground for a few inches and start the fire then.
- As a fuel, you can use dry leaves, thin sticks, or pine needles. Place them all in the center.
- If you are fortunate enough to have a matchbox or a lighter, simply light the fuel and keep on blowing gently.
- As the fire grows, keep on adding more fuel. Once the flame is decent enough, it’s time to add the collected firewood finally.
- If you don’t have fire lightning equipment, opt for the conventional methods. You’ll have to create the fire through friction.
Remember, building fire in the wilderness might not be the easiest task around. You’ll have to keep on feeding it up constantly at the start. However, once it flames up, make sure to keep it small as you would like to save up as much fuel as possible.
Signal for rescue
Apart from concentrating on food, water, and shelter, you should not forget about calling for help. Especially when the situation seems out of hand, signaling for rescue is an important skill that can save you. In a time of emergencies, you must opt for different ways for the rescue parties to notice you since it means life and death. It is already assumed that your phone won’t be of any help since, in the wild, a network connection is mostly unavailable. Therefore, it’s time for you to look for other options.
- Smoke signal
A smoke signal is probably the most recognizable one in the wild. Fortunately for you, rescue parties and planes are specifically educated on how to look for and spot smoke signals when out for rescue operations. However, campfire smoke won’t be enough to get the attention of the rescuers.
Firstly, you’ll need to choose a higher ground to start the fire and signal the rescue. The ground must have enough open area that can be spotted from far away. To create thick and heavy smoke, you’ll need materials such as spruce leaves or pine. A single fire won’t be enough, so you’ll need to create three fires and place them in a triangular shape. That is because a burning triangular shape is an international symbol for rescue.
- Signal mirrors
The use of mirrors is another effective way of signaling to the flying rescuers. However, you’ll first learn to know the proper technique of using the mirror by the varying sun angles. If not the mirror, then any other reflective material such as belts or wristwatches can be used, but they won’t be as effective. Apart from regular mirrors, there are specialized survival mirrors that are designed to reflect maximum light to create a vivid signal.
If you spot the rescuing plane, aim the mirror in a direction that reflects the light and aims towards the plane. Next, tilt the mirror up and down and left and right to create a movement for the pilot to notice easily.
- Ground signals
Ground signals are an effective way to signal rescue as they can be picked up easily from the sky if visible enough. The key is to choose a wide-open area without any long grass or plants. Next, gather anything that can be used to make the signal such as tree branches, large rocks, or your clothes. Make use of the following equipment to make messages such as a letter “V,” HELP or SOS that are internationally accepted standards for requesting help. However, make sure to write your message clearly and large enough. If a plane happens to notice you and starts circling your signal, then its time to start the smoke and waving for help just to make clear to the rescue crew that you seek help.
- Audio signal
Probably the most simple and conventional method for signaling for rescue is to scream for help. This method can come handy if you happen to be somewhere near a residential area or road. However, instead of screaming at the top of your lungs, blowing a whistle would be better if you have one as you might not want to spend all that energy. Keep on blowing the whistle for every short period, and hopefully, anyone passing by can take this as a distress call. Another way to send an audio signal is to fire a gun in the sky. A gunshot sound may also do the job.
Lastly, don’t hesitate to opt for more than one of the above methods at a time to maximize your chances of rescue. You should always be equipped with necessary gadgets before leaving for a journey in the wild to avoid any unfavorable situations.
More tips: https://www.tacticalogy.com/survival-tips/
Give yourself a direction
If you don’t know where you currently lie and in which direction to head, then you are only calling for a disaster. Knowing where safety lies and how to reach a certain destination will always serve as an escape route for you. This way, all you need to do is survive until you finally reach safety. Wandering in the vast wilderness aimlessly with no sense of direction will do no good. Therefore, wilderness survivalists need to have a good sense of navigation in the wild. To do so, there is some basic navigation equipment that you should know how to use.
Compasses will operate effortlessly due to their design that automatically aligns the magnet to the magnetic field generated by Earth. The needle will point to the north and south that lets you figure out other directions as well. A compass will come greatly handy in the wild and point you in the direction where you are sure that safety awaits.
Maps will represent you with a pictorial view of the area you are in, and therefore, it will be much easier for you to sort out where to proceed. Just look for the surrounding landscape and try to pinpoint the same location from the map.
However, if, for some reason, you lack the necessary navigation equipment, then there are some other conventional ways to sort out the direction as well. For instance, the North Star has been used for centuries as a reference to figure out the directions.
Treating the injuries, first aid
The last thing you would want in a survival situation is to get an injury that would either slow you down or get infected. Most of us ignore the importance of first aid kit while concentrating only on food and water when going out in the wild. A minor injury or illness, if not tended well, can become worse over time and can be proved fatal. Since our body can already be weak than normal in a survival situation, the wound needs more time and care to heal. Therefore, always carry a well-equipped first aid kit whenever going out in the wild. As a skill set, you should know how to stop excessive bleeding, give CPR, check to breathe, and handling someone in a shock.
- The kit
Just like a normal first aid kit, yours too must consist of anesthetic spray, sterile gauze pads, adhesive bandages, pain-killers, anti-biotics, and anti-allergy pills, etc. Additionally, you can carry along mosquito repellent creams or sprays since you’ll be in the wild.
However, if you lack the first-aid kit, then you have to resort to more conventional methods of treating the wound.
- Cuts and minor wounds
Tending a cut in the wild is very much similar to doing so at home. Firstly you’ll need to stop the bleeding. Next, clean the wound as soon as possible. However, remember never to clean a cut or any wound with the water from the stream or lake. The water from these sites might not seem polluted, but there still are bacteria present that can infect the injury. Its alternative will be to use alcohol to clean the wound if you, by chance, have any. Lastly, wrap the wound with a clean piece of cloth and avoid exposure to the external environment to keep it safe from germs.
Blisters are fluid-filled pimple-like pockets that form upon the upper layer of the skin. Shoes that are either tied too tightly or loosely tend to create friction when rubbed against the skin that can give rise to blisters. They can be painful and prevent you from walking normally and therefore slowing you down. To prevent blisters, use duct tape to cover your toes to avoid friction. It’s better to puncture a developed blister with a clean, sharp object and draining the fluid. Cover the site afterward.
- Broken bones
Treating broken bones can be a very daunting and tricky task because if you try to tend it improperly, you can unintentionally make it worse than it already is. If you are not trained enough to treat broken bones, its best to avoid trying to straighten the bone. If the bone is set wrongly, that can damage the surrounding blood vessels and muscles. Instead, try to keep the bone firm in one place and avoid any movements. To prevent swelling, keep the broken bone part above the heart. Next, if you are tending someone else with such an injury, you can make a splint. It’ll require straight, strong sticks tied with a rope or a piece of fabric. Wrap the splint around the broken bone to keep it stabilized. However, you might need someone to do it for you.
- Sprains and strains
Research shows that around 70 percent of recorded injuries in the wild are linked to sprains and strains. The most common method to tend a pulled muscle or twisted ankle is the “RICE” method, which is an abbreviation of rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
Firstly, put your ankle to rest and avoid any movements for a while. It is doubtful that you’ll be having ice with you in the wild, so as an alternative, you can soak a piece of cloth in water and place it around the affected area. Next, keep the wound compressed by wrapping a piece of cloth around it. However, make sure not to tie it so tightly that it prevents normal blood circulation. Finally, to prevent swelling elevate the affected area above the heart. Since you are in the wild, you can’t spend too much time resting around. However, go with the “RICE” method for at least 20 minutes before continuing on the journey. Before moving, lose any extra weight that you were carrying before to prevent any unnecessary load.
Another leading cause of death in the wild is drowning. If you are out in the wild with your partners, then you should ask beforehand if they can swim. Remember, someone who is drowning might not be able to call for help since he/she will be struggling to catch their breath. Therefore, if a person does not respond to you for more than 30 seconds in the water, you might want to help immediately. Avoid jumping to water directly if the current is too strong, as it’ll get you in trouble as well. As soon as you get the person out, look for pulse immediately. If it is necessary to attempt CPR and replace the wet clothes with a dry one.
Wild animal encounter
Since you are in the wild, so the probability of an encounter with a wild is relatively high. Those who are new to the wildlife may not know how to react, and that could very well end up deadly for them. Therefore, one should know how to handle a face-off or even an attack by a wild animal. Some common such animals that you may encounter in the wild are bears, wolfs, coyotes, or mountain lion.
- Don’t run
The animal won’t hesitate to rip you apart once it realizes that you are prey. And that would cross its mind once you start running. And unfortunately for you, outrunning such predators might just not be possible for a human since they are simply faster. Not only you’ll tire out before them, but you’ll be encouraging them to chase you further.
- Intimidate it
Instead of running, you must try not to look weak. Stand tall, scream, wave your arms, raise your stuff overhead and try to look as threatening as possible. Moreover, you can hurl rocks at it and yell at the top of your lungs to scare it off.
- Don’t play dead
Contrary to what you may know about how playing dead works, it’s a big risk that should be avoided. If the animal is hungry, it won’t hesitate to prey on you. So, all you’ll be doing is serving yourself as the dinner.
- Keep Calm and retreat
A sudden encounter with a scary beast can put you in shock or panic. In both situations, you’ll be as good as dead if you don’t get a hold of yourself. Keep your cool, take deep breaths, and try to retreat slowly and without making any noise or sudden movements.If you see or hear a snake, then walk the other way.
The wild can be a cruel and unforgiving place for someone who lacks proper training and knowledge. Sometimes even the most experienced hunters and forestry people can find themselves struggling to find the way back home or surviving an animal attack.
Therefore, always prepare yourself with sufficient supplies and good knowledge about the wild before actually heading out. No matter how trained or experienced you are, always carry the necessary tools with you. These tools include a pocket knife, first-aid kit, compass, map, protective clothing, and a communication device.
Hopefully, with all the information above, you can make it out alive if you happen to be stranded in the wild. Don’t forget to keep calm, collected, and be prepared for whatever comes next.