Just the thought of being alone in the wilderness gives most people a panic attack. And while it is good to be aware of all the dangers of the wilderness, it is more crucial to think with a clear head so that you can survive any situation, such as getting lost.
Wilderness survival is a lesson that you need to think about and learn before you leave your home. You need to make sure that you think about every scenario that you creep up while you are out in the great wide open.
You need to learn how to get by with just the supplies you have in your survival gear until you reach civilization or a rescue team finds you. It is also paramount to learn about how you can find food and shelter, how to make sure that you drink safe water, how to signal your position for rescuers, and how to ask for help using sound and light.
These are all extremely critical as the human body is not built to live in the wilderness for a long period of time. You will need fire and shelter to keep you warm and protect you from the natural elements and wild animals. The terrific news is that there are wilderness survival tips that you can follow, with or without a survival equipment, to make sure that you survive getting lost in the wilderness and come back to civilization safe and sound.
In this article 43 experts give you their best survival tips when you get lost in the outdoors so you can learn what the most important steps are to assess the situation, what you will need to do while waiting being rescued or what course of action to take in case that is not a possibility. Enjoy!
You might also find interesting our article about camping checklist and guide.
BEST SURVIVAL TIPS (VOTED BY 43 EXPERTS)
|SURVIVAL TIPS||PERCENTAGE OF VOTES|
|Let people know where are you heading||5%|
|Learn how to start a fire for heat and signaling||18%|
|Learn how to find and purify water||12%|
|Learn how to build a good shelter||12%|
|Learn how to find food||4%|
|Calm down and assess the situation||9%|
|Practice your survival skills||5%|
|Don’t waste calories||1%|
|Learn how to land navigate||10%|
|Carry a knife or a small survival kit with you always||7%|
|Learn basic first aid treatments||2%|
|Be smart and improvise with what you have||3%|
|Be humble and never give up||2%|
|Carry some good clothes according to the area||1%|
|Try to get some good rest||3%|
|Stay put and wait for rescue||5%|
ALAN HALCON – OUTDOOR SELF-RELIANCE
No two lost in the wilderness scenarios are the same. Each one of them has their own unique set of circumstances. In fact, even the same lost in the wilderness scenario, for say a group of friends, can play out differently for each one. One friend might have medical issues he/she must take into consideration, such as having scheduled insulin intake. Another friend might have certain phobias. Another friend might have situation anxieties that may mitigate clear thinking.
That said, make sure you leave a detailed travel plan with someone you trust and stick to the plan. In other words, let people know where you will be, what route you plan on taking there, the type/color of clothes you are wearing, and what time you are expected to be out. Take a photo of the sole of your footwear and leave it with a friend. This will help with SAR tracking. Above all, stick to the plan. Any deviation from the plan can lead rescuers astray.
If you have done that and become disoriented and lost anyway, at least you will have the confidence SAR will be activated and be sent to search for you in the proper location.
Always assume and prepare for unexpected overnight stays. Carry a jacket, even if lightweight, regardless of it being summer. Nights can get chilly regardless of daytime temperatures.
Carry a lighter. Just being able to start a fire can really help put one’s mind at ease, especially over the course of the night.
For goodness sake, check your ego at the door. Once you realize you’re lost, stop and hunker down. If you let your ego get the best of you, and you convince yourself “not a problem, I can get us out of here” You actually may make the situation worse by distancing yourself from a rescue.
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MIKE REED – MIKE REED OUTDOORS
How to find and purify water
We need at least half gal per day when were doing nothing so hiking and trying to get out alive we need 2 times that much to feel good .
How to build a dry shelter
To stay in at night or in bad weather really makes a difference stay dry is my motto.
Know what plants and tubers to eat
While I set some snares and dead falls many people go hungry because they don’t know the plants to eat.
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JASON MARSTEINER – THE SURVIVAL UNIVERSITY
Lost in the woods
1) Assess the Situation
If you believe yourself to be lost in the woods the first thing anyone should do is stop, sit down, calm down and assess their situation. Most people become excited and frantic when they discover they are lost and end up making the situation worse. They pick a random direction that they think looks familiar and head in that direction and usually end up getting themselves more lost. Because they are excited, they throw caution to the wind, and do not pay attention to important details such as how much time is left in the day or in which direction is the sun setting?
So sit down and calm down. What gear do you have on you that will help? Is there a storm rolling in? Is there fresh water nearby? In what direction is the sun going to set? How many hours are left in a day? Are you in a safe location? How long will it take before someone notices that you haven’t returned?
If you are truly lost, you should hunker down, tap into your skills, conserve calories and wait for someone to find you. By hunker down, I don’t mean shut down though. There are some tasks you need to get taking care of, like build a shelter, fire and procure food and water.
Due to my survival training, I always carry a few items with me no matter where I am going or how long I intend to be there. I don’t need the items but it sure does make things so much easier. Here are the basic items: bushcraft style knife, folding saw, 200’ paracord, ferro rod and matches, water filter, 40oz metal canteen, space saver cup, small fishing kit, military rain poncho (w/ grommets), rain pants, wool hat and wool gloves, extra pair of wool socks, flashlight and headlamp, bailing wire, mylar blanket, first aid/trauma kit. All of these items together weigh around 10 lbs and with these items, I can survive for an infinite amount of time and/or use the mylar blanket as a signaling device. Without the use of a compass or watch I can determine the direction and how many hours are left in the day. Do you know how to do these simple tasks?
2) Practice makes…well, sort of perfect.
Dirt time is important. There are a plethora of YouTube warriors out there these days. People base their survival skills on what they have seen on videos, read in an article or book or have seen on TV but few have actual hands on experience. So let me say this again. Dirt time is important! Get out there and practice all of those cool things that you see on the internet. As a survival instructor, the first thing I usually have people do in class is building a lean-to out of trees. I choose the “simplest” of tasks for a specific reason. Just about everyone has seen a lean-to either in a book or in a video but few have actually built one. Most think it’s super simple to do and that they can have one built in minutes but I have yet to have a class where someone doesn’t say “Man, I didn’t realize how physically exhausting and hard that was.” Now, I’m not talking about just any ol’ lean-to. I’m talking about one that is effective, warm and waterproof, using only what nature gives you except for a knife and folding saw (which I think people should always carry when in the outdoors) Now, combine this task with all of the other tasks that you need to do to survive. If you don’t have previous hands on dirt time, you are going to have difficulty keeping it together.
3) Conserve calories
It doesn’t take long to sap your strength and energy when you are working in the woods. Only perform the tasks that are absolutely necessary for your survival unless you have a substantial food source. If you know your wild edibles, you should be eating or foraging non-stop as you are performing these tasks. You should know how to make some traps and snares to do the hunting for you. Making a spear, gig or baton is never a bad idea, so that you can hunt for animals of opportunity but I wouldn’t waste calories going out hunting. And though it doesn’t sound appetizing, a handful of bugs will give you more calories than a handful of meat. It’s always a good idea to cook your bugs to kill any parasite that they may carry. Ants are safe to eat raw.
You should also be gathering water any chance you get. Water should be purified (filtered or boiled) before consuming but if you can do neither, then consider drinking it anyway. You can die in 3 days without water but it usually takes many more days for any sort of bacterial funk to set in and hopefully, you will be rescued by then and can be taken to the doctor. It’s not a wise choice to drink unpurified water but neither is dying from dehydration. However, there are ways to purify water without fire or man mad filters. Never ration water. You should always drink as much water as you need when you need it. Just always be on the lookout for ways to refill your canteen.
4) Dirt time is important!
There is so much more to consider in this sort of situation but if you take what I have said here to heart, you are well on your way to making getting lost in the woods an adventure rather than a calamity.
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MIKE LUMMIO – BUSHCRAFT NORTHWEST
1) Fire: The ability to light and maintain fire, especially in adverse weather conditions, is a must. With it, you can keep warm, signal for help, purify water, etc. This skill goes hand in hand with shelter as you can be perfectly dry and still die of hypothermia. Always have at least two ignition methods on your person. Firesteels are great, but be sure you also carry something that goes right to flame.
2) Emergency Heading: This simple technique would prevent the majority of search and rescue emergencies and does not require a vast knowledge of land navigation or a fancy compass. Before you leave the vehicle, take a moment to evaluate which direction will get you back to a linear landmark. For example, if you parked on an East-West road and your hiking to the North, then South is your Emergency Heading. No matter where you got lost, South will take you back to the road and from there, to safety.
3) Survival Kit: So many survival situations begin with “I wasn’t planning on going that far…” or “I left my pack at base camp and…”. Always carry a small survival kit that can be worn on your belt. It should work in concert with the main pack and also function as a stand-alone item. Practice living out of it so you are comfortable with the gear inside. A quality survival kit also prevents forgetting important items and makes packing up a breeze.
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PAUL OSBORN – THE OUTDOOR ADVENTURE
1) Navigation – How to find out where you are, read a compass, etc. Can get you un-lost.
2) How to build a fire – A fire offers psychological comfort, it keeps you warm, can sterilize water and it makes you more visible to Search and Rescue.
3) How to identify wild edibles – If you still aren’t found after a few days you’ll need to find food. There’s almost always something to eat (living or not), and how to identify it is key to long-term survival
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MICHAEL BARTON – BUSHCRAFT BARTONS
3 main survival skills I think are needed are these(NOTE:The order of importance in when to use these skills depends on many types of scenario’s, climate, weather and where you are situated.)
Water: Finding water is absolutely a must if you want to be able to function somewhat to keep going. It is your gas. Hydration is so very important.
Shelter: This will provide cover from the elements and give you a sense of security. We all know how dangerous and deadly Hypothermia is.
Fire: So important to have fire. Fire will make your water safe to drink and its the only way of visually seeing that your water is safe. Fire will keep you warm, dry your clothes, cook your food if you got some, help make tools, it’s a psychological boost, gives you some light when it gets dark, gives you a way for signaling rescuers of your location and becomes a good friend when you’re alone.
NOTE: Food is also very important but in an emergency case you can go without food for weeks. So it gives rescuers plenty of time to find you and get you out.
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STEVE CHABOTTE – THE WEEKEND PREPPER
If I were somehow lost in the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on my back, here are three basic skills I would want to have practiced beforehand.
First, I want to know how to gather appropriate materials to start a fire. This includes knowing what I can use for tinder as well as what I can use to generate sparks or create enough friction heat to get the tinder and kindling burning.
Second, I would like to know how to build primitive tools. Utilizing rocks, branches, vines, etc. to build simple tools opens up many options – from having the tools to build a shelter to building weapons that will give me a chance to capture food.
Lastly, I would like to know how to navigate by the signs available in nature; the position of the sun, stars and clues on trees based on the side where moss grows. I’m of the opinion that if I’m ever lost, I already know the general area and would know the direction to travel to reach a road/civilization so if I can navigate, I can get out.
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JJ JOHNSON – REALITY SURVIVAL
If I was lost in the wilderness and could only know three survival skills, I would be mad at whoever made the rules of the game… I say that because in actuality there are 5 Basic Needs that any wilderness survival situation may have and I feel as though I got shorted on two! In no particular order those 5 Basic Needs we used to teach at the USAF Survival School are: Personal Protection, Medical, Navigation, Sustenance, Signaling. But if I had to choose only three I would choose Medical, Navigation and Fire building (which is a subset of personal protection). I choose those three because the vast majority of wilderness survival situations arise because of injury, people getting lost and exposure (hypothermia). So knowing how to handle first aid, knowing how to navigate and knowing how to build a fire are the three most probable skills that could save my life.
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SURVIVOR JANE – SURVIVOR JANE
First tip, don’t panic. Survival is just as much mental preparedness; if not more so, than physical preparedness. Look around, observe, and think basic needs of shelter, water, food, and protection. Start with a shelter first – remember high and dry, to get yourself out of the elements and then move on to the other needs.
Second tip, if you find yourself without a bug-out bag or an emergency kit you still have options. Everything that is on your body, shirt, pants, shoes, etc. can be used in a survival situation. Use a sock to purify water through it, or a hat to gather wild edibles in, or a shoe string to make a snare to trap small game or even the lint in your pocket to use as tinder to get a fire started. There are always options.
Third tip, a knife is the number one survival tool, and yet there are many who do not carry one on them at all times. I’m not talking about having one in a go-bag or kit, but physically with you. Make having a knife; or multi-tool, a priority to have with you. A knife or multi-tool can be used for so many tasks in the wilderness, such as making that shelter, cleaning a snared animal, cutting firewood or wild edibles, and yes, for protection.
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SCOTT KELLEY – GRAYWOLF SURVIVAL
1) Stay put unless you absolutely cannot survive in your current position. The search and rescue teams looking for you will use the last information known to try to get a fix on your location and get clues from there to track you. The more you move, the more likely they may lose your trail.
2) If you have to move, make it very clear where you are going. If you can’t leave outright notes, stack rocks in an arrow configuration in the direction you’re going to go and try to step in track traps, which are places that will hold your footprints and direction of travel easily. Once you find a position that you can survive in and be easily seen from above, stop moving.
3) Don’t give up. As Soldiers are trained, always improve your fighting position. Look at your current situation and try to improve it. Make your shelter stronger and improve its insulation. Definitely, get a fire going, no matter what your situation. Find ways to collect food passively such as traps. Find ways to better filter water. Think of how your rescue team would find you. Don’t let your mind have a rest to delve into a loser scenario, so adjust accordingly.
All this is IMMENSELY more effective if you’ve previously trained and walked through scenarios. People who haven’t done this are unlikely to survive. Those who have, are very likely to survive.
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MICHAEL DOUGLAS – MAINE PRIMITIVE SKILLS SCHOOL
Getting lost in the wilderness can either be a code phrase for “vacation” if your skills and nature literacy match the terrain you are in. Getting lost in the Wilderness can also mean floundering in unfamiliar territory to the degree that you are at risk to yourself and others. It depends on your nature literacy in the area you’re immersed in, your awareness, and your skill level. For the sake of this article, I will assume that you, the reader, understands that hypothermia and dehydration are our primary threats in the outdoors. With this starting point, let’s explore three essential skills needed by those who find themselves in wild places with emergent skill levels (survival) and used by seasoned practitioners toward deeper outdoor literacy where being lost in nature is an intentional, enriching, and lifelong practice.
Awareness is the first skill one must exercise. Knowing the landscape well enough to navigate back to safety, find a shelter location, and locate potable water is vital to staying alive long enough to figure out where you are, address being rescued, or make the woods your home. Cruising the areas you intend to explore via Satellite Imagery and ariel photos is a great start. So is learning how to read features of your landscape, such as limb lean, to indicate direction is also important. Other awareness tools include understanding the basics of field meteorology, seasonal availability of materials for shelter building, fire making, and the like, but the most important piece is the awareness of your “edge” of capability compared to what the landscape presents. An example would be to always carry a lighter. Seasoned friction fire practitioners are wise enough to have a backup. They are aware that a skill in one method of fire making isn’t always going to produce fire in an ever changing environment. Knowing your edge regarding primitive navigation, shelter building, fire making, water purification, and food procurement is an important foundation and best not discovered through an unexpected necessity in unfamiliar conditions.
Shelter building is another skill that is best practiced before needed. Hands on experience and journaling your results will hone this craft to the point where you can be comfortable in temperatures well below freezing. You will also know how much time and effort it takes to build an effective shelter from natural materials that will shed rain, prevent conduction, trap radiant body heat and protect you from biting insects. Start your shelter building efforts with simple and fun tarp set ups. Once you can set up an effective tarp shelter and have water boiling in under fifteen minutes, move to a debris shelter. Once you reach the standard of “comfortable nights sleep”, one to longer term designs based on what folks were building in your area a thousand years ago. The spectrum of shelter development, whether it is the clothing on your back or the lodge built to last over generations, should address conduction, convection, and radiations. Cold weather and insect proof shelters should also be air flow management systems. Moving from fire dependent designs to shelters that rely on your radiant body heat to keep you warm is a big leap in effort expended and know how, but the reward is complete independence. In all cases, aiming for a proficiency that keeps you comfortable will work your “edge” of proficiency from “suffering until rescue” toward a productive member of the natural world.
Water management is a vast realm of study that includes everything from locating the water of minimal risk, to containers needed to boil and store this life sustaining fluid, to camp hygiene protocols. Start with the basics. Learn how much water you need to consume on a daily basis. While it is easy to remember to drink eight 8 ounce cups a day, it isn’t accurate. Typically, active men should be consuming closer to three liters and active women about 2.2 liters of water to replace daily fluid loss. Remember that dehydration affects judgment as well as problem-solving skills. Folks have been found dead of dehydration with full canteens, apparently in an effort to conserve their water. You can self-assess your hydration status by monitoring your own bodies systems. Clear and copious urine at least once an hour, capillary refill tests (pressing your fingernail and making sure the “white” fills back into a healthy pink without delay”, and a simple check for hypovolemia by checking the venation on the back of your hand when it is below your heart versus how it looks when you raise your hand above your heart can give you an accurate assessment of your need for water. A simpler method is that if you are having thoughts debating whether or not you need water then drink water.
Once you have reclaimed your understanding and respect for your bodies water needs, work on how to harvest safe drinking water from the landscape. Biological contaminants are easier to deal with than chemical contaminants. There are a whole host of filters and purification systems on the market. Tablets, pumps, ceramic filters, and Ultraviolet flashlights are some of the choices. Find something that works best for your needs with an emphasis on simplicity, durability, and ease of maintenance. Having a moving part fail on your only pump while three miles out is not a healthy scenario. If you have moving parts in one system, have another, such as purification tablets, as a backup. Redundancy in systems is important.
Awareness, Shelter Building and Water gathering skills will get you through a situation for about a month. This is normally enough time to find your way out of a situation. Fire making is easy if you have lighter and redundant systems in place. It is also not as pressing a skill to develop beyond dependence on modern commercial products if you have these primary skills dialed in. In short, I chose the three skills most critical to sustaining life, replacing the fourth (fire making) with inexpensive and easy to obtain technology (a lighter). Don’t let technology or your current skill level cause you to atrophy in your continued evolution towards self-reliance and survivability. Nature teaches us through both pain and pleasure. By making your forays into the real and natural landscape fun, you will increase your learning curve and your desire to sharpen your skills. Frustration, cold, and bug bites may not mean it’s time to come in, but it could mean go back to the tent, get a good nights sleep, and address your shelter design issues in the morning.
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JOHN PAUL TEDESCO – ECONO CHALLENGE
If I ever get lost in the wilderness, what would be the three tips or skills I would be glad to know?
The first tip or skill would be to remember to tell someone my plan and when I plan to return. This is not always easy to remember to do especially when traveling in a familiar location and when I plan to be out for a few hours. In the back of my mind I might think “oh I will be alright” but really it is just me being lazy. If I need to be rescued because I am lost and can’t find my way home I will certainly wish I did not skip this step. The faster help is dispatched when I need it the more likely we have a happy ending to the ordeal.
The second skill I would be glad to know is how to control my emotions and remain calm. If you get lost you might feel fear or panic when your mind starts to accept your situation. Your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing will increase. Your body will release adrenaline and cortisol which are designed to aid your ability to make quick decisions and improve your survivability. However, you are lost and need to remind yourself that you are not in immediate danger. Allow yourself time to adjust to the flight or fight response and make a conscious effort to calm yourself down.
The third skill I would be glad to know is how to make fire in any situation, winter, summer, clear skies or rain. By making a fire I am more likely to stay in one spot. The fire will help attract attention to my location. My mind will be focused on the task of making and keeping the fire rather than wondering to less productive thoughts. The heat and light will provide me with comfort, especially at night. I can use it to make water safe to drink and keep my body hydrated while I wait to be found.
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SOMEONE YOU KNOW – GSIEP
The first skill would be … Leave a Note
Yep, leave a note telling people where I’m going and how long I’m going to be gone so they can come rescue me if I’m late
The second skill would be … “Hug a Tree” at (The first link is the easiest to read and understand)
Greater Philadelphia Search and Rescue – Hug a Tree and Survive
National Search and Rescue Association – Hug-a-Tree Program (an in-depth explanation of the program, teaching materials, and other stuff)
The third skill would be … Plan for the Weather and carry some minimal gear. That’s right, carry a small pack (Nothing fancy, just the basics) two full one-liter water bottles, fire starting material, some snacks, a few 55-gallon trash bags, warm jacket, cordage, and other items to suit the trip to the wilderness.
KEITH CLARK – RAW HIDE SURVIVAL
Navigation by using sun, stars, or any other means would be invaluable to me. There is never a guarantee of survival, even for an expert, so if I could avoid an emergency I would.
Insulation becomes the highest priority when a cold overnight looms ahead, and most places on earth become cool, or cold, at night. Dry grass, leaves, snow, etc. made into a bed or stuffed inside clothing can ward off hypothermia.
Water finding and filtration, using fast and easy methods, would be third on my list. This is because hydration or food isn’t a priority if you’re freezing to death, and once hypothermia sets in you won’t care about eating or drinking anyway.
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EVAN – KNOW PREPARE SURVIVE
1) Know what poison oak, ivy, and sumac look like. Don’t make the mistake I did…
2) Know how to navigate – Whether by the alignment of the stars, using your watch as a compass, checking the moss on trees, listening to the colors of the wind, whatever. Being able to find your way back to camp, or just civilization, is paramount
3) Know how to find a purify water. Hopefully you won’t be lost for long enough for this to be a concern but having a source of fresh drinking water is invaluable.
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CHRISTIAN NOBLE – MASTER WOODSMAN – WOODSMOKE CAMPING
3 Skills To Learn Sooner vs. Later
1) Clothing – an understanding of your physiology as to why you need clothing and the physics of how it works; because, if you are dressed properly to begin with, situations such as being disoriented are much easier to deal with.
2) Fire – it makes up the greatest deficiencies should your clothing become compromised or is inadequate. No one has ever frozen to death in front of a good warming fire, even when wet. A fire has many other uses too, including improving one’s psychology, signaling, etc..
3) Knife Skills – a well-trained person can survive with just a knife. In the case of our lost person, it would likely aid in creating fire in adverse conditions as well bed/shelter construction.
There are many other skills and tools that would round-out our lost person’s survival knowledge including; first aid, navigation, shelter, signaling, and more. These 3 skills aside, when it comes to your survival, learning to think is far more important than memorizing rules and lists.
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ERIK C. FALK – WILDERNESS SURVIVAL SKILLS
Original source: https://www.wilderness-survival-skills.com/alone-in-the-wilderness.html
Do you know what to do if you are lost and alone in the wilderness? Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan before you go into action.
alone in the wilderness
Sit down and stay put until the fear, anger, and or frustration has gone from the system.
- Think through your situation.
What do you have that can help you in this situation? Your mind is your greatest survival tool!
- Observe your surroundings.
Where should you stay? If you told someone where you were going, people may be searching for you. Is there an open area where the searchers would have a better chance of seeing you?
- Plan your action.
In most cases, the priority should be:
– Find or make a shelter against the weather.
– Build a fire for heat.
– Signal to attract attention.
– Find water.
If after several days of waiting no one comes to your rescue, you may decide that no one is looking for you. In this case, you must attempt to find your own way to safety. Also, of course, this is what you have to do if you know from the beginning that no one will be looking for you.
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MIKE PEWTHERER – WOODLAND WAYS – WILD MAN MIKE
Shelter! A shelter is so often misunderstood and poorly depicted on T.V. that many survival instructors botch them to the point being utterly useless. A shelter is not a kid’s fort. It needs to create dead air space such that your body can heat it and maintain that temperature, so make the interior space small. Leaves, grasses, and debris can do this and even work when wet! If you want to stay dry make the walls at least two feet thick and steeply pitched. If you use sticks for structural purposes, make sure that no part of them is exposed to the outside as they are easy channels for water to get inside your shelter. I add at least a foot or two of debris on top of any sticks. If your shelter sucks and you don’t fix it, you have just wasted all the energy you’ve already invested in the project. Practice this. Many times. You need to have faith in your ability to make shelter and this will come with experience. There are no shortcuts!
Get sleep! Without sleep, you lose energy, moral wanes and it’s a steep and slippery slope to hell. Without it, you will start sleeping when it’s warm which is usually during daylight hours. This in turn means you don’t sleep during the night so you’re awake yet unproductive. Each cycle like this drops your chances of improving your situation significantly, so get sleep! How? Build the best-damned shelter you can!
We all need it! But we need it clean.
Learn what your resources are for water containers – I love using white pine bark containers for rock boiling or clay for longer term survival situations. Green bamboo works well too both for cooking and boiling water.
Water in a clear bottle placed in the sun for 6 hours will be fine to drink as far as parasites are concerned. This method does not deal with pollutants however.
Do not confuse campfire charcoal with the activated charcoal of water filters, they are not the same. Fireplace charcoal will help filter out debris and maybe even some of the bugs, but don’t bank on the water being Giardia-free. Boil or expose to the sun after filtering. Practice!
Fire is a great tool so practice making it and using it. Knowing how and where to find materials in wet environments is important as is knowing how to use the tools you have or make – from bow and drill to Ferro rods to matches and lighters. Some of these things seem like no-brainers but after watching hundreds of people try and fail it is clear that many understand the procedures conceptually, but not practically. Practice!
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DAN F. SULLIVAN – SURVIVAL SULLIVAN
Getting lost in the wilderness is a challenge to both newbie and advanced preppers. A lot of things can happen out there, such as getting injured. This is why I think the most important thing to have when out in nature is a first aid kit. You will find that bandages are one of the best survival tools you could ever have. The best part is, they’re dirt cheap. However, they might not be so post-collapse, when the supply chain will be broken.
The second item would be a large survival knife, an axe or a machete… something that will help you build a shelter or cut firewood. A survival knife just isn’t suited for doing something like this. Believe me, I tried.
Last but not least, the 3rd thing I think is essential is finding my way back. Duh. This is more complicated than just using the GPS on your phone or even a compass. Sometimes it’s just better to stay put and wait for rescue. Being aware of one’s surroundings is also important if you’re going to remember trees and rocks that would help you find your way back.
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AARON LIFORD – SMART PREPPER GEAR
If I were lost in the wilderness the first skill that I would be glad to know is how to start a fire. It sounds simple but that’s not always the case. You have to be able to identify tinder, kindling, softwood and hardwoods. If you don’t have any gear then you will need to know how to make the dreaded bow drill. You can only survive 3 hours in rough weather conditions. So it is imperative to have a fire to keep you warm.
The second skill that I would be glad to know is how to retrieve, filter and purify water. You can only survive 3 days without water. Now there may be many water sources around but all are not always drinkable. Having the previous skill of making a fire will help to purify water so that you can drink it.
The final skill that I would be glad to know is navigation. Everybody these days can use a GPS or map. Navigating in the wilderness is whole other beast. You will need to know how to use the sun’s position along with a compass and topography map to identify what direction you will need to take.
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ALEX GARCIA – EARTH SKILLS LLC
1) First priority is the most difficult for people: to simply be still.
Sit, think, observe and plan (S.T.O.P.). After one finds himself in a situation that can potentially be hazardous, often the first reaction is to find a way out of it quickly. Sitting puts a person in a safe, primitive “fetal” position and helps calm the mind. These first decisions are the most crucial to make when lost and the wrong decision may cause one to get into further trouble. Ask yourself: how much sunlight do I have left? Can I shelter in place overnight? Do I have access to water and shelter? Do I have the means to make fire? etc. In essence, sitting still buys a person in trouble a valuable commodity: Time.
2) Shelter: Maintaining core body temperature and proper rest are essential to staying alive. Even in warm weather, strong winds will decrease one’s body temperature and the buffeting is known to cause a negative psychological impact on their well-being.
3) Fire: Making fire through the use of natural materials, quartz & steel, water bottle, or the lens of eyeglasses. Fire will disinfect water better than any self-made filter and keep one warm if in a cold weather environment. Also, it’s useful to make a signal fire if one wants to be found.
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TIM CORCORAN – TWIN EAGLES WILDERNESS SCHOOL
It goes without saying that I would want proficient training and practice in the basic primitive wilderness survival skills of shelter, fire, and water in place. Primitive so that one is not dependent on gear. However, more important than these three are three inner skills that also require regular practice and guidance from an experienced mentor:
1) Resilience Training. Resilience is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties. Difficulties are a given in a wilderness survival situation. Resilience is not so much a choice we make, as it is an “inner muscle” that we develop by facing challenges regularly and practicing efficient recovery. Guidance from an experienced mentor is key.
2) Holding a Positive Vision.This is the skill of, literally, finding gratitude for the positive in any situation, and focusing the mind on the desired outcome. It is human nature to worry about risks that we face. The human mind naturally turns towards concern about these potential risks. The hard work we have to do is to train ourselves to find something we appreciate about any and every situation life throws our way, and then holding a clear picture of the desired outcome. Again, this is an inner muscle we develop over time, one that can be developed much more efficiently with the guidance of a mentor who has developed that same skill themselves and is practiced in guiding others in developing that skill.
3) Adaptability. This is the ability to adjust oneself to a variety of diverse conditions. The ultimate role model of this is the Coyote. Coyotes have successfully adapted to every ecosystem in North America, from Eastern Woodlands to the Desert Southwest, from the warm Southern Swamps to the cold Northern Boreal Forests. From Central Park to Yellowstone Park, Coyotes are masters of adaptability. As humans, what does it take to develop this same quality of adaptability? Practice. Practice putting ourselves in situations that take us out of our comfort zones and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. It is the rare individual who can do this them self, and again having a mentor will make this journey a much faster one, and may very well be the difference between ultimate success and failure.
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BEN MCNUTT – WOOD SMOKE
Tip 1 – Stay put! The closest sensation I can think of that compares to being truly lost; is that moment when you were little and thought it was a good idea to see if you could put your head through some railings (successfully) but realized that it wasn’t quite so easy to get it back out again! That sinking sensation of ‘I’ve really done it now’, inspires a panic response which can compound your circumstances if you run madly off looking for the trail. Stop, calm down, think and make a plan.
Tip 2 – Learn how to make a fire and have the skills and confidence that you know you can light one successfully and quickly in any weather. This takes repeated practice and dedication. A good fire will keep hypothermia at bay if you have to sleep out without any kit and will help get you found faster. Carry at least three forms of ignition on you. A peanut lighter and a loud whistle on a string around your neck at all times in the woods is a sensible addition to your personal wilderness kit.
Tip 3 – If it all goes horribly wrong and after a few days you decided that no one is coming to find you, and you have to get yourself out – walk downhill! In most biomes, walking downhill will take you to a stream, which in turn will take you to a river, which will hopefully take you to human habitation.
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CARI SCHOFIELD – AMERICAN PREPPERS NETWORK
If I get lost in the wilderness, what would be the three best survival tips or skills I would be glad to know? My first tip would be to start surviving before you ever step a foot into the wilderness. Make sure your friends or family know exactly where you are going and when you should be back. Go over your map and where you intend to go on this trip. Let them know if they have not heard back from you by a certain time to send help. There are also many apps that can be downloaded to a phone that family members can use to track you if activated. A solar charger would come in handy so your phone doesn’t die. Stay put if possible so you are easier to find.
Prepare and Plan. Know your location. Research the weather, the type of animals in that area, dangers to be aware of and obtain a detailed map of that area. (Also, know how to use a map.) Think of all WCS (worse case scenarios) and pack your bag according to all of this information. If it is going to be 40 degrees then you want to be able to start a fire and have a sleeping bag or blanket that will keep you warm if you are stranded. If there are bears then you might want some bear spray or an air horn.
Mark your location (Small can of red spray paint to mark the trees with.) so you are easier to find or to find your way back to your camp and know how to locate water. Listen and look at your surroundings. Animals tend to stay where there is water and the vegetation is always much greener the closer you get to water. Be able to purify it either with a water purifier or the ability to boil it.
There are a lot more things I could add to this to ensure your survival, but I believe that if you do these basic things you will be located safely.
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SGT. COOLEY – AMERICAN PREPPERS ONLINE
1) Know how to find water, because it’s the most critical resource that you need. Knowing how and where to find and filter it could make the difference between life and death when lost in the forest or desert. You should always have a water container with you when you are in the forest even if you think you will only be gone for a few minutes.
2) The ability to build a fire, whether you use matches or starting one from wood friction, you need to know how to do it. I hear people say that they don’t need to know how to build a fire by rubbing sticks together because they always have a lighter on them. They could not be more wrong. When lost in the forest or desert, your very life can depend on what you know and not what you have in your pocket. Fire is essential especially in the Northern climates and deserts where the temperature can dip very low at night. Without the ability to build a fire, you could very well freeze to death while wishing that you had only taken the time to learn how.
3) Knowing how to build a shelter from the things around you is the next most important thing. If it snows or rains or just gets really hot, you need to be able to get in out of the elements. Many people underestimate the importance of this skill until it’s too late. They tell themselves that they will just hunker down beneath a tree and be OK. That’s the wrong thing to do especially if it is raining or snowing. You can have water and fire, but if you freeze or get over heated then they will do you no good. Think and prepare before you go walking in the forest or desert. Your very survival could just depend on what you know rather than what you have with you at the time.
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DROVER HALL – SARQIT
1) Fire Making! You will always be found if you catch the forest on fire 😉
2) Plants. It lifts morale and gladdens the heart when you find and eat wild raspberries, but when you run into stinging nettle and poison ivy … you get sad.
3) Sense of Direction. You are lost you want to get out! It lowers your chances when you start
walking in circles.
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JEREMY KNAUFF – HOW TO SURVIVE IT
The first thing to do is calm down. Mistakes have a greater impact and happen more often when people start to panic. When I was in the Marine Corps, a Marine was left at a checkpoint in the desert because all of the vehicles that drove by thought someone else was going to pick him up. After the last vehicle in the convoy past him, he panicked and started wandering around. It took the rescue team three days to find him, by which point, he had already died from dehydration.
Next, weigh the pros and cons of staying put vs. moving. If someone knows where you are, it might make sense to stay put and wait for a rescue party, but if not, you’ll have to find your own way back to safety. In that case, you’ll have to evaluate your situation. Are you far from civilization? Can you safely travel under the weather conditions? Can you carry enough food and water, and if not, are they both readily available from your surroundings? Are there other hazards like wild animals that could kill you? Every decision you make in a survival situation can be a life or death decision, so make them carefully.
The best way to improve your odds of surviving is to always carry a knife, fire starting tools, a way to purify water, and a container for water—at a bare minimum.
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JON HEFFRON – WINGMAN 115
Well, I live in the Coastal Desert Region of the South West. My needs would vary. But If I was lost in the Wilderness backcountry where I live and play. The 3 best tips or skills for me would be.
1) Wear light colored clothes and wear a brimmed hat. Dark clothes absorb heat from the sun and raise your core body temp.
2) Bring plenty of water. Water is rare where I live. If you get lost the chance of finding water is rare at best. Plus most rescues in my area are because folks went on a day hike and didn’t carry enough water.
3) The Coastal Desert Region gets cold at night. I always carry an emergency blanket it weighs next to nothing but may make the difference between freezing or waking up to see a new day.
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BERNIE CARR – APARTMENT PREPPER
There are so many skills that would help someone survive in the wilderness, but if I had to narrow it down to just three, it would be the following:
- Find and filter water
An average person can survive only three days without water, so finding water is of utmost importance for survival. You’ll then need to filter the water and disinfect it was best as you can with by using chlorine tablets, boiling the water or using a water filtration device.
- Fire starting
You need fire for warmth, to boil water and cook food, to keep animals and insects away, so being able to build a fire is important for survival.
- Navigation skills
To find your way back you need navigation skills, whether you use a compass, find direction using the sun and stars or even reading a map.
Of course what you are able to use depends on what gear you happen to be carrying with you when find yourself in the wilderness. A few essentials include a compass, flashlight, matches or lighter, knife, water purification tablets, signal mirror etc.
Gear and skills are only part of what you need to survive. Ultimately, your mental attitude and determination to succeed will allow you to withstand the difficulties and stresses of surviving in the wilderness.
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DAN FRIGO – BUGGED OUT PREPPER
I remember back when I was a youngster playing outside and on occasion getting lost in the wilderness. Well, not really the wilderness; it was more like a small patch of woods that seemed like a jungle to a young teenager. Regardless of how big the area was, I felt helpless. Thankfully I was never lost long enough then to need some of the survival skills and tips I will share with you now.
If you ever find yourself in a real survival situation while lost in the woods one of the most important skills to have handy is the ability to purify water in the wilderness. There are many different methods to make dirty water clean and having a few of them up your sleeve could be the difference between life and death.
Aside from making clean water another useful skill to have would be you ability to stay calm. I know, you must be disappointed with this one but trust me, you definitely want to have the ability to not freak out the moment you realize you are lost or when things don’t go your way. Staying calm will help you focus on escaping and surviving. It will be easy to make mistakes when you cannot think straight. Practice managing stressful situation and come up with techniques to use in order to focus on your survival and to avoid falling back into a primitive flight response.
Lastly, make sure you have a well thought out and useful EDC (everyday carry). Carrying essential survival items on your person at all times significantly increases your ability to survive if you were ever to get lost in the wilderness. A good EDC will include at least the following; multi-tool, flashlight, waterproof pen and paper, paracord, whistle, fire starter and a compass.
If you ever find yourself lost in the woods pray you have the ability to stay calm, were carrying your EDC and know how to purify water. With these three items covered your likelihood of survival will significantly increase and you will be able to tell the story of your survival to friends and family around the campfire.
Be prepared, stay informed and never back down!
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PAT HENRY – THE PREPPER JOURNAL
Stop! When you realize you are lost, stop and sit down somewhere and think about where you are, what you have and what you are going to do before moving another step. Too often people react irrationally in stressful situations and that can not only cloud your judgment as your body reacts to its flight response, but it can also make your situation worse. Take some time to collect your thoughts and understand the reality of what you are faced with. Do you have any survival supplies or is this a case of you walking away from the trail in a national park without so much as your cell phone to commune with nature.
Inventory what you have – Usually we don’t see situations where someone is dropped completely into the woods without any notice, so chances are good that you intentionally put yourself there and know roughly where you should be. Bonus points if you have supplies on you and meant to be in the woods in the first place. What are you carrying that you either help you get out of the woods yourself or survive until you can be found? Do you have a means of making fire? Can you signal rescuers? Can you collect and filter or boil water? Do you have old receipts in your pocket that can be used for tinder? Half of a bag of trail mix? Knowing your physical inventory of supplies will help you with the next step.
Formulate a plan – Knowing what you have on you, the conditions you face what do you plan to do? If you are in an area that is relatively well-traveled, can you stay put and wait for someone to find you? Do you have shelter or can you make a shelter that will keep you out of the elements? Does anyone know where you were going and will expect you back by a certain time? Should you stay put or try to find civilization? Where are you on the map? Are you in the middle of thousands of acres of wilderness, or a relatively short walk to some type of civilization in every direction?
Humans are incredibly resilient and can survive days and weeks in the wilderness, but that so infrequently happens we believe we will die if you have to spend the night in the woods. Assuming you have shelter or won’t die due to the elements the most important part of survival is the mental aspect. Never give up and believe you will live. Calmly look at your situation and formulate a plan for getting out of your current situation alive.
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RANDY BREEUWSMA – KARAMAT
If I was lost in the wilderness I would be grateful that I am at peace with nature and to not panic for I have the skills to live here.
Knowing how to light a fire under any circumstances, for staying warm is a huge benefit in the Boreal forest.
Getting adequate sleep, whether that is at 2pm or 2 am is a huge benefit.
To know your approx location and which way north is.
Knowing that fasting in the short term is not going to kill you.
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NEAL RITTER – LAUGHING COYOTE PROJECT
1) Fire. Learning to make a fire in any condition, with modern, primitive and improvised methods could be the greatest asset in the wilderness. It is warmth, a tool, water purification, bug repellent, and perhaps most importantly, comfort.
2) Understanding the laws of transferring heat. This is a little abstract, but for me more useful than a concept like “shelter”. Understanding the conductivity of the ground and insulating from that can make a huge difference, even insulating from snow when sitting in the daytime in winter. Evaporative cooling in arid environments is a lifesaver in hot dry weather. What is the danger of being wet in cool windy environments? What materials insulate most effectively in different areas? How do we utilize radiation from fire or the sun?
3) Comfort in the wilderness. This is not as helpful in the moment of crisis, but a foundation of time spent in wilderness gives us a platform to adapt to adverse conditions. In a way, common sense has to be cultivated from experience. The improvisation needed to survive in the wild is a product of hours spent in nature, in as many conditions as possible.
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DENIS KORN – LEARN TO PREPARE – PREPARE DIRECT
Besides the obvious water, food, shelter/warmth, communication, and medical I offer the following.
The three most essential tips/skills for those who find themselves lost in the wilderness:
- One’s attitude is foundational – an attitude of calm, hope, patience, adventure, and self-encouragement.
- A reliance on God – for security, peace of mind, being found, or divinely directed to safety.
- Faith through prayer – while you discover a valuable meaning to your experience.
DAN BAIRD – CALIFORNIA SURVIVAL SCHOOL
Each year, California Survival School’s back-country survival experts teach THOUSANDS of FAMILIES and PROFESSIONALS the skills needed to survive in LOW GEAR/NO GEAR outdoor emergency situations WHEREVER they might find themselves around the world.
First & Foremost, California Survival School students learn to:
– Have a P.L.A.N. (Pack what you need. Learn what you should. Alert the right people. Never skip steps.)
– Tackle Survival Needs In Order.
– Signal, Signal, Signal.
Have a P.L.A.N.:
Pack What You Need.
One of your main priorities when preparing for outdoor travel & adventure is to make sure you have an emergency back-up for covering your physical living needs and emergency essentials.
CALIFORNIA SURVIVAL SCHOOL RECOMMENDS PACKING THE FOLLOWING OUTDOOR ESSENTIALS ITEMS AT A MINIMUM:
1) SHELTER: An effective emergency solution for regulating body temperature overnight for each member of your group. Your chosen form of shelter should do at least TWO things.
a. Keep you dry.
2. Insulate Heat.
Options are almost limitless. One simple solution would be a small tarp and a blanket.
2) WATER: (1/2 GALLON per person/per # of days travel from closest potable water source.) For normal city travel, enough drinking water for a normal day is sufficient. Adjust water levels to fit group size, weather, and travel circumstances.
3) FOOD: Some extra calories with a long shelf-life. Granola bars works fine.
4) FLASHLIGHT: A simple spare light source can be extremely useful at night.
Store batteries separately so they don’t run down. Check flashlight functionality regularly.
5) CUTTING TOOL: A basic knife or multi-tool with a blade will do the trick here.
6) FIRST-AID KIT: A basic travel first-aid kit.
7) FIRE STARTER: A reliable and safe method for making fire. Matches and lighters (at least two ignition sources) plus good emergency tinder material are a good place to start.
8) ROPE: Quite possibly one of the most underrated survival tools, rope is amazing. Use it to rig up a shelter, fix a shoe-lace break, splint a leg, and so on.
9) SIGNALING TOOLS: Tools that have good environmental contrast/movement as well as multiple ways of attracting a much attention as possible. Good basic items to have with you for signaling include cell phones, signaling mirrors, a whistle, and a flashlight.
10) NAVIGATION TOOLS: Basic navigation tools include maps, compasses, trailblazing tape, a watch, and paper/pencil, and GPS. The proper tools depend on your intended trip parameters.
Learn What You Should
AS IMPORTANT AS THE GEAR YOU TAKE IS THE KNOWLEDGE YOU BRING! Always consider the following essentials before heading outdoors:
1) WEATHER: How is the weather along my travel route & at my destination NOW? What does the forecast say for LATER? What are potential bad-weather changes for this area? How would they affect me? Do I have the right gear with me to handle a realistic worst-case weather scenario for this area while traveling?
2) VEHICLE: When was the last time my vehicle had maintenance? Have I checked the tire pressure & integrity? Have I checked engine fluid & gas levels? Do I have my Emergency Vehicle Go-bag with me?
3) AREA SPECIFICS: Do I know my route? Where are the gas stations? Hospitals? Ranger stations? Do I have a good map? Have I checked the news for current conditions? Can I pay with credit card or only cash? Do I need Gov I.D. with me?
4) USEFUL SKILLS: A SECONDARY back-up to the gear you put in our transportation go-bag can be your ability to improvise and improve your situation from your present environment. THIS IS WHERE SURVIVAL SKILLS TRAINING COMES IN!
Alert The Right People.
EVERY TIME you leave home, let the RIGHT people know. This goes double anytime you plan on heading into a remote or unfamiliar territory.
WHO are the RIGHT people? The persons who you would want to know where you are if you suddenly disappeared & those OBLIGATED to come looking for you if you turn up missing. (Park Rangers, etc.)
LET THEM KNOW:
1) Your planned travel: route & destination
2) Your expected travel: time-frame.
3) When/who to contact for help if they don’t hear from you.
FAILING TO PROPERLY INFORM THOSE WHO NEED TO KNOW YOUR PLANS IS A GREAT WAY TO DIE.
Never Skip Steps.
Learning about the P.L.A.N. method is pretty worthless if you FAIL TO PROPERLY IMPLEMENT IT. If any piece of the P.L.A.N. is missing, you’re unnecessarily putting yourself and others at risk.
Tackle Survival Needs In Order:
We can sum up physical needs and prioritize these as follows:
Stay Calm/Get Safe:
Get Calm: The first order of business is to get calm and effectively manage your mental/emotional state.
Panic kills. Becoming mentally/emotionally overwhelmed leads to frantic, ineffective, and wasteful behaviors THAT KILL PEOPLE FASTER THAN ANYTHING ELSE WHEN LOST OUTDOORS. Combat panic by remembering that Oxygen is the ENEMY of Adrenaline. Long, slow, measured breathing allows one to regain control of faculties and put the body back on track towards normal mental/emotional function.
Get Safe: Within the limits of your situation, do whatever you can to mitigate/reduce/remove immediate life-threatening dangers from your situation.
Are you the tallest object on top of a mountain in a thunderstorm? Get lower. In a canyon with flood waters rising? Get higher. Have an arterial bleed? Stop the bleeding.
Being attacked by a Zombie Horde? Put em’ down.
After that, move on with tackling your other survival needs as follows:
Rule of 3’s Assessment: As a general rule, the average human body can go roughly 3 MINUTES without AIR, 3 HOURS fighting severe exposure conditions, 3 DAYS without WATER, and 3 WEEKS without food before experiencing complete INCAPACITATION and/or DEATH.Remembering the Rule of 3’s helps us to prioritize survival tasks, INCLUDING WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT TO PACK.Caution: Keep in mind that this is a general rule (individual human limits are dependent upon actual environmental conditions as well as individuals personal physiology & condition of health prior to the emergency. Incapacitation/death can occur much sooner or later.)
If you get lost/stuck outdoors. Remember to tackle your survival priorities in the order of most importance. Shelter/Thermo-regulation, then Water, Then Fire (or really anything else that will improve your physical situation), then Food.
Off-the-cuff outdoor survival statistics from working with Search and Rescue tell me that in the U.S., roughly 80% of people who end up in Search & Rescue situations are NOT expecting to be out for the night. Additionally, roughly 80% of people who die in the U.S. during a Search & Rescue situation DIE FROM EXPOSURE (Getting too hot/cold to the point where body is incapacitated/dies.)
If you take care of exposure issues, and then water, you greatly increase you odds of making it out alive.
At the end of the day, your survival situation doesn’t end until you effect rescue. If this requires professional intervention, it all comes down to getting them to you.
– Signaling/Effecting rescue really starts with “Alerting the right people” & “Learning What You Should” from the P.L.A.N. acronym above. Getting professional rescuers mobilized quickly and understanding their search protocols and methods will greatly increase your chances of successful rescue. (Example – Check in at the Ranger Station and follow the guidelines provided for backcountry emergencies.)
– Beyond this, remember that effective signaling is mainly about attracting as much attention as possible. Contrast and movement are the name of the game!
Having tools on hand that can increase your capacity to attract senses/sensors of those searching for you is a HUGE help.
These tools have been listed above in the packing section.
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TOM MILLER – THE PREPARED NINJA
If I was to get lost in the wilderness, the three survival skills that I would be most like to have would be:
1) How to start a fire.
2) How to build an improvised shelter.
3) How to find water and food.
3 1/2) How to ensure the water is safe to drink and the food is safe to eat.
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SERGEANT SURVIVAL – BE SURVIVAL
1) Knowing how to start a fire
This skill is critical for just about everything else. Purifying water, cooking, staying warm, signaling…the list goes on.
2) Knowing how to tell directions
Knowing which direction civilization is and which way you’re headed is the critical difference between being found and being found alive.
3) Knowing when to stay put
More people would be rescued alive if they simply stayed close to their last known location because that’s where a rescue team will check first. On the other hand, you have to know when to leave too, because help isn’t always coming…
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TODD WALKER – SURVIVAL SHERPA
1) Getting lost can happen to the best of outdoors people. The answer to your question depends on two things: A) Did you leave a trip plan so people know where you went and when you are expected to return? B) No one knows your whereabouts and you’re on your own. The first situation warrants staying put, making yourself comfortable, and waiting for rescue. The second scenario may require self-rescue. Either way, the first step to dealing with what may be an unexpected stay in the woods is to S.T.O.P. (Sit, Think, Observe, and Plan) if you’re not in imminent physical danger. Every situation is different. Skill level and context determine how you respond. The key is to try not to panic.
2) Fire is life out there! I carry a Bic lighter, ferrocerium rod, flint and steel, and magnifying lens. While I practice friction fire craft, bow drill and hand drill, these methods are last on my list in an emergency situation. My favorite emergency method is the “thumb drill” – Bic lighter. If you’ve injured an arm, flick your Bic one-handed and you have an open flame to ignite your tinder and kindling material. Hardcore survivalists may frown upon open flame ignition. But even with an open flame, you must learn to build a fire lay (from your local wilderness resources) which will produce a sustainable fire. Mother Nature is unpredictable so practice fire craft in all weather conditions. With proper cover (clothing and/or space blanket) and fire, restorative sleep is possible to get you through the night. Sleep may be the most underrated and least covered survival skill in our community.
3) Always go prepared. Have a minimum amount of gear on outings, even day hikes. I recommend carrying a couple of ways to make fire, metal water bottle, emergency space blanket, knife, and clothing appropriate for conditions. Of these mentioned, fire forgives a multitude of survival sins. Train by Doing the Stuff to be comfortable in your woods with the resources available before you actually need to know the stuff.
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JAMES L – PLAN AND PREPARED
Conrad at Survivor’s Fortress approached me with a question. He asked me what three skills I was glad to possess should I ever become lost in the wilderness. While I think this is a very interesting topic, I realized that the skill sets I would use could change based several different variables.
For example, do I get to have my GHB? (Get home bag)? Am I with just my EDC? Was this a car crash? A plane crash?
Am I in the desert? Alpine mountains? Life raft on the ocean?
The different scenarios could go on and on. So, for simplicity’s sake, I decided to give myself at least my EDC, and that “wilderness” does not mean the middle of the ocean.
Regardless of my location or what equipment I had on me at the time, my top three priorities would being rescued/being found, maintaining my core body temperature, and finding and purifying drinkable water. So the skills I would use would be based on those priorities.
Assuming that my cell phone does not work, the first skill I would want to use is my ability to make fire. The light from a campfire can be seen for miles at night. During the day, the smoke from burning green foliage can be seen for miles as well. When it comes to being found, a campfire is a beacon for your would-be rescuers. And if I am rescued, I no longer need to rely on my other skills.
I carry a small FireStash Miniature Key Ring Lighter on my key ring as a part of my EDC. But should that fail, I have made bow drill fires in the past. It is not easy, and can be very tiring. (I could also use the cell phone battery to make a fire.) But I would be grateful for that skill.
My next concern would be my ability to keep my core body temperature at 98 degrees. Yes, a campfire is a wonderful heat source, but I do not want to rely solely on that. Should it rain, I could be in serious trouble.
However, I have the ability to make my own shelter to try and protect myself from the elements. I can do this all via nature using tree branches and leaves, or use the resources I have in my GHB should I be so lucky to have it with me.
Normally, you do not want to sleep on the ground. But if you have no other options, an hour before you sleep, dig a small 4-6 inch trench in the ground where you will sleep, and bury hot coals from your fire in the trench. I know from experience, it will help keep you warm throughout the night.
I also know which areas in the wilderness to avoid. Flash floods and other unseen hazards could be a huge problem without any advanced warning.
Finally, I have made a solar still before and have found other sources of water. Like under the mud of a muddy creek bed. I can collect that, and then use the campfire to bring the water to a boil, killing all of the pathogens that might be in it. I also know that adding a small piece of charcoal from the fire to the water will help improve the taste.
With these three skills, my hope is that I should be able to sustain myself long enough to be rescued.
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MARK SUTER – PRIMITIVE TEXAS
If I got lost or stranded in the Wilderness, the most valuable skill that I would want to have is how to build a high-quality shelter that would be appropriate for the terrain and weather conditions. Most people who perish in the wild do so as a result of exposure to cold or hot conditions. The second skill that would be essential is how to locate and purify drinking water. A person can usually only last 3 days without drinking water and much shorter in the hot Texas heat. The third skill that I would want to have “under my belt” is how to make fire without matches (a couple of the fire by friction methods: bow drill and hand drill). Fire does so much in a survival situation. It purifies our water, cooks our food, helps us make primitive tools, helps keep bugs away, and keeps us warm just to name a few. If I could only take three items to help me accomplish these skills, they would include a fixed blade knife (full tang; 3-6 in. non-serrated blade), a machete and a metal pot.
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GREG WEISS – LOST CREEK ADVENTURES
Natural navigation: Knowing how to figure out where you are, so you can get out of being lost. Landscape, geography, animal and plant sign, etc.
Shelter building: a quick quality way to keep your body temp at 98.6
Fire making for the same reason but also to cook, purify water, and keep you in place psychologically and physically.
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CHRYSTLE POSS – SURVIVAL SPOT
1) Be prepared – If you take a trip into the wilderness the best thing you can do is be prepared before you leave so that you can avoid getting lost in the first place. Always take a survival pack with you and be sure to let someone know where you are going and when they should expect you to return. Never travel into the wilderness alone unless you are an experienced hiker and you are familiar with the terrain.
2) Assess the situation – If you do become lost, it is important not to panic but take your time to assess the situation you are in. When you’re calm and collected you can make wise decisions about which action to take next. This will enable you to logically plan your escape strategy without wandering further astray or missing a rescue opportunity.
3) Find your way out – Once you have assessed the situation you should be able to plan your best method for survival. At this point you can determine whether you want to shelter in place and wait for rescue or try to find your way out. Always bring a compass and familiarize yourself with basic navigation techniques so that you can find your way back to safety in a potentially life threatening situation.
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RANDY JOHNSON – BRAVE HUNTERS
When it comes to getting lost in the woods, it is not about your intelligence but your preparation for what is coming. The more thorough your preparation is, the fewer troubles you may get into in the woods. Here are 3 main tips or skills which are essential for you to survive there when getting lost:
1. CALM DOWN AND SIGNAL YOUR CURRENT LOCATION
At the moment you realize that you are completely lost and have no idea where the others are, just calm down and take a deep breath. This is very important because in this situation, panic usually causes inner chaos that will mess with every plan you make.
The first thing you need to do is to signal as well as keep track of every location you have passed. Therefore, you can make sure that you are not walking around the area.
2. FIND THE NEAREST SOURCE OF WATER AS WELL AS FOOD.
Remember that human beings can survive for weeks without food but it is a whole different story with water. Because no one can survive for more than even 3 days, especially when you have to struggle in the jungle. Thus, it is vital for you to find a source of water when being isolated from everyone.
The best source of water you can find is a spring, but you are not always lucky like that. Sometimes, when I can’t find any source, don’t be desperate and give up. You can totally gather dew from plants in early mornings or even drink from a river. It may cause illness, but can help you stay alive longer.
When you are hydrated, it’s time to find food. But you have to tell the differences between safe and dangerous food in the forest. Because it’s still better to be healthy and hungry rather than ill. If you can catch any insect as well as small animals, build a small campfire to cook them.
3. IF YOU CAN’T FIND THE OTHERS BY NIGHTFALL, BUILD A SHELTER
If you see any chance of spending the night in the woods, immediately prepare to build a shelter. This can keep you away from extreme cold, rain, snow, and even dangerous insects and animals.
First, start with determining the position of the shelter you are going to build. It is quite good to build a shelter in a ditch. However, if it’s about to rain, you will be invaded by the rain-water so be careful with that. After that, look for existing structures like an old cottage. Then find a tree or a rock to make the base of your shelter in order to keep yourself away from the rain.
Besides gathering as much wood as possible to build the skeletal structure for your shelter, you also need to gather leaves. The leaves will help make your shelter waterproof and windproof, therefore, keep you safe during the night. Building a shelter like that will take you a couple of hours so your creativity is a vital factor which determines how quickly it’s done.
The tips above are the 3 most necessary things for you when you are lost in the woods. Therefore, if you are planning to have an adventure in the jungle, make sure you already master all of those tips. Because whether you can survive in that difficult situation or not depends mainly on how well you prepare for it. However, keep in mind that you always have to think straight no matter what happens. Or else, any little mistake you make will probably be the cause of your death.
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JOHN WINGER – TACTICALOGY
It is only human nature to respond with fear and panic when finding yourself lost in the wilderness. To prevent such a horrifying experience, planning and preparing for any possible emergency is crucial to your survival. Keep these two simple tips in mind when setting out on any journey into the wild:
Once you’ve established that you are lost in the wilderness, the logical first step is to seek help by signaling. Smoke signals only require fuel, oxygen and a spark, two of which are readily available to you in the wild. You can get a solid spark from hitting flint against steel, which is why it is always a good idea to have a flint and steel set. You can use this as a last resort and pack matches, but keep in mind that matches can get wet and easily be rendered useless.
- Sense of Direction
As the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, many people use the sun as a point of direction if they are lost. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help much at night, but you can use your surroundings to help you find your way to safety. For example, moss grows away from sunlight and can thus be found on the north sides of plants and rocks. If you stumble across a river, you can use this to your advantage knowing that animals breed on the west of the water.
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Wilderness survival is a skill that you achieve after lots of practice, so you should try and learn as much as you can every time you go on a backpacking or camping trip. Next time you go on an outdoor adventure, you should try building a shelter instead of making your tent. Or try to start a fire without using any man-made source of fire. Practice plays a key role when it comes to surviving in the incredible outdoors.
This is the only way that you can learn and make sure that you survive when you get lost in the wilderness.