Wilderness is a place where your mental strength and physical prowess are tested, but what if an accident happens and you need to survive in the wild? What are the most important tips, tricks and skills to help you out? Well, there are some basic steps you need to follow to make sure you stay alive and get home safe.
1. Get a grip
Having the right mental state is essential for surviving. Panicking will only ruin it for you, making you take rash decisions with no thought for the consequences. So if you get impulsive, you’re actually minimizing the chances of being found.
Even if you feel you need to act fast, taking a minute or two to relax will help with the decision-making process, so you can find efficient solutions. So even if adrenaline and some cortisol are essential for helping you move forward, try to lower your blood pressure by doing some deep breathing exercises. Inhale for 5 counts, then exhale for 4, slowly, and repeat until you feel your head is cooler.
2. Make a plan
Start with the most important things that need taking care of and respect that order. For instance, if you have an injury, deal with that first. So make sure you have a first aid kit before you actually leave home, it can prove lifesaving, but you should also know how to treat the most common hiking injuries.
After you’re safe, you can decide with the other members of your group who will take turns doing what, so it’s essential to divide your chores. You should also establish when it’s time to move forward, and where.
If you’re lost, you should wait until help arrives, but with the best survival watch, you have increased chances of finding your own way out. That’s because these devices have built-in compasses, barometers, and altimeters, which help you tackle the weather and head the right way.
If you decide to move, plan what you’ll do in terms of shelter and water. If you already have a tent and a water purifier, that’s great. But if you don’t have a tent and there aren’t water sources you know of ahead, read on.
3. Build a shelter
If you don’t have a tent and sleeping bag or if carrying one is too difficult in case you’re injured, you need to make your own shelter. That’s particularly important if the night is just around the corner but avoid crevices, places that can get flooded or dark caves where wild animals might dwell.
Find a fallen log or one that you can safely lift up and prop it on a bigger tree or on a rock to build the foundation of your shelter. Now, gather some branches and lean them on the log, covering the spaces in between with brush and leaves. Add a tarp over them to make sure you have a water-resistant shelter.
Make sure the ground is free of bugs and small rocks so you can sleep without getting stung or hurting your back. Add some twigs and leaves to make the ground feel more comfortable if you don’t have a sleeping bag and sleeping pad.
A hole in the snow is also a good idea for a shelter, particularly if you’re afraid of an incoming avalanche or snowstorm. You can find shelter in a small cave too if you’ve checked and there aren’t any animals, bats or insects inside.
4. Make a fire
This can easily be done if you have some waterproof matches to light some twigs and then add increasingly bigger branches. Of course, all these wood and leaves have to be dry, or otherwise, you’ll work very hard to actually start the fire since the water in green branches works against you.
If you don’t have waterproof matches, you can use the power of friction to produce a spark, so start by building a tinder nest from things like dry grass and leaves. Find a board-like piece of wood and make a notch inside it where you can introduce a spindle-like branch.
Take a piece of bark under this notch because once a flame is produced, you need to have something that catches it. Spin the spindle as fast as you can and roll it until the board lights with ember, which you can transfer on the bark. Now, you can light the tinder nest and start your fire.
If it’s very sunny and you have eyeglasses, you can use your lens to direct sunlight towards the tinder nest and make it catch fire. You can do the same with a plastic water bottle if you have one at hand.
5. Find water and food
Water is essential for your survival, so start with that. If you have a water purifier with you, and lots of water sources, you’re covered. If not, you need to produce your own water and that includes collecting rainwater or dew. You can also take advantage of leaf perspiration by placing plastic bags on green tree branches and waiting for them to sweat.
Regarding food, make sure you ration the food you already have with you to about 500 calories each day. Otherwise, you need to find some food and the safest are animals, which you can hunt or set a trap for if you have the skills and tools.
The easiest to find and eat are insects, like worms, larvae and small bugs which have a good amount of protein and can be found hiding under rocks, and in humid, dark places. Plants are tricky, you can only eat those you’re sure aren’t poisonous.
6. Signal for help
Signaling for help means using everything you have around you but in groups of three. So if you’re on the move, blow your emergency whistle three times, then wait a few seconds before doing that again.
You can also build three campfires, leave three rock mounds or tie ribbons around groups of three trees if you’re on the move. If you have a satellite phone with you, you have increased chances of being able to send an alert message, and it’s always a good idea to let people at home know where you’re going and your itinerary.
Rebecca lives in USA, but loves hiking all over the world. Her favorite is Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal. It usually takes 16 days, but she likes to slow down, enjoy mountains, company of other adventurers and take more pictures, so it took her 28 days last time. Another of her passion is the ocean, so all short and long hikes along the ocean shore bring a lot of joy. She also writes for hikingmastery.com.