The information provided in this article are the suggestions and opinions of the author, based on military experience and over fifteen years of outdoor experience. For more information on any of these topics you should consult with Park Officials, Department of Wildlife offices for your state, Search and Rescue organizations, conservationists, and wildlife biologists in your immediate area. For more information check in your local search and rescue or mountaineering organization to see if they offer any courses or instruction on survival information for your region.
No matter what situation you may find yourself in, always remember to try and STAY CALM. Panic or anxiety will burn valuable calories, that may not be replenished for a while. In addition these feelings or emotions tend to elevate your heart rate causing you to consume valuable energy that will be needed to overcome your condition. Remember an old indian saying – “Why is the rabbit not afraid of the panther? because the rabbit knows he is smarter.”
The three most important things to consider in a survival situation: food; shelter; clothing. How do you prepare for the worst? What should be in a survival kit? How do you get back on track? In a survival situation what are your priorities? What if you’re injured? How will anyone find you? These are just some of the issues we will discuss in this article. Knowledge is power and could separate you from becoming a statistic. Only you have the power and strength to survive your situation. Giving up is never an option. You must maintain a positive attitude, and be as proactive as possible to insure your own survival.
The statistics favor women and children to be more likely found by search and rescue teams. This is because they will stay put and not wander off into other areas or try to find their way again. The greatest issue facing men in a survival situation is to outrun the problem. “If I keep walking I am bound to run into the road.” Well in truth, you think this might be true but nobody ever walks a straight line. In fact, most of the time while being in the back country the individual will walk in circles. “If I climb that hill I will be able to see the road and find my way out.” If you climb a hill it usually turns into a mountainous effort, and if you get to the top and don’t see what you expect to, what then? Now you are tired, sweaty, and the wind is a bit cooler up there. Because of this fact woman and children have the greatest chance of being rescued, because they will stay put. So, if you find yourself disoriented or lost in the back country, remember to stay put and start thinking about your own survival.
In preparing to head into the back country always try to plan ahead, and take whatever equipment you think will be necessary. Always remember that sacrificing weight usually means sacrificing comfort. Travel light, freeze at night. Always plan for the worst and you will rarely be caught off your guard. Do your homework when hiking outside of familiar territory. Learn the regulations for specific areas, check with the fish and wildlife offices in the area you plan to visit, and take every precaution to have a safe and enjoyable venture into the back country.
Several states offer back country licenses or hiking licenses. Which in the event you become lost in the back country it is your insurance against having to pay for any search and rescue fees/fines. Additionally, most states have a small donation automatically deducted from each sale of your fishing license going directly to search and rescue efforts, covering you from hefty search and rescue fees should you ever, during the license period require these services. These are nice to have, and I recommend purchasing one of these licenses in the state you are hiking. These licenses serve as a “get out of jail free” card in the event that you should become lost in the back country. You should ask your park official or check with your state’s fish and wildlife department, on information about these licenses.
It is also a good idea to check in with a park ranger to find out about any incidences or wildlife issues to be on the alert for. In the western states the back country has wildlife dangers like bears and mountain lions that frequent the area. Adhere to any recommendations the park ranger can give you and always where a bell when traveling in bear or mountain lion country. This will alert the animal of your presence long before you get close to them, giving them ample time to move away. Most bear problems are caused by startling the bear with your presence. You may also want to keep pepper spray close by just in case the animal becomes to friendly. Sometimes these textbook procedures can’t really help you, so I recommend talking to park officials about precautions you can take to avoid these issues, before proceeding into bear or mountain lion country.
One thing that most people don’t do is the one thing that will insure their chance of rescue. Tell someone where you are going and when you intend to return. This may sound childish, but this one thing is your best chance for survival. If you fail to tell anybody where you are going, then you won’t be missed or expected. More often than not most search and rescue services are needed for the casual hiker only intending to be out for a couple of hours.
Let’s say you are beginning a two week vacation from work and you decide to spend your first day in the back country hiking. You only plan to be gone a couple of hours so you don’t pack very much equipment. Your hike begins nicely with excellent weather and the sun is shining. You are making good time on the trail and you are covering a lot of distance. There seems to be several other people on the trail for a weekday. You stop for a spell to eat some lunch and then start hiking again.
So far this sounds pretty typical, everything is pretty light and you are feeling pretty good and confident.
After examining your trail map you decide to take a shortcut from where you are, to a short distance where you plan to intersect the trail again. The shortcut will save you almost one to one and a half miles. You immediately lose the trail behind you and follow your shortcut. The terrain is a little rocky and maybe a bit rougher than you thought. As you are trekking the brush you lose your footing and fall a short distance down an embankment. During the fall you have twisted your ankle. You continue to follow your shortcut but are now hindered by your soar ankle. As you are descending a steep and rocky hill your ankle gives out and you tumble down the jagged hill and are laying at the bottom. You cannot move your legs and you have a sharp pain running from the middle of your back to your waist. You are stuck. How long are you on vacation? How much food did you bring? The trail seemed to be pretty busy why isn’t anyone responding to your calls for help? You cannot find your pack, you must have lost it during your fall. What do you do?
Okay this situation has taken a few turns for the worse. Let’s backup and say that you can move. Other than your really soar ankle you are a little disoriented. You find your pack and try to gain your bearings but you are all turned around. Any ideas yet? No. Let’s continue on, and maybe later we will find out what to do. In the meantime let’s say that you told your friend where you were headed.
Always inform a spouse, friend, relative, park ranger where you are going, and when you plan to return. Then do not deviate from the area you are suppose to be without telling that person that you have had a change in plans.
A good survival kit could mean the difference between surviving and becoming a statistic. Think about what you would need should you become disoriented and find yourself in a survival situation in the back country. A few essentials will go along way in keeping you alive, comfortable, and healthy. The following are some items that I recommend for any outdoor excursion.
Pocket Knife – This is a very handy tool and can be used to sharpen sticks to be used as tent stakes, spears for fishing, and a good way to simply spend a few hours during the heat of the day under a tree whittling a piece of wood. You will find lots of uses for this tool from aiding you in constructing a shelter to cleaning your fish for dinner. I can’t mention how important this one tool can be.
Water purification tablets – These are the most portable method you have available to you for purifying your water. No boiling, no worries about filters, no bulky equipment in your pack like boiling pans and filters. Use these as directed on the package and be sure to purify any water you collect in the back country before drinking.
First aid cream and bandages – You don’t need an exotic first aid kit in your survival kit. You simply need some basic ointments, band-aids, and bandages to avoid infection and keep any scratches or cuts covered.
Fishing line, sinkers, and hooks – You can use this equipment to rig up a fishing pole to catch some fish, and they don’t take up much room.
Fire starter – This could be anything you choose to use as a fire starter. Don’t trust anything to work unless you have tried it previously, and proven that you know how to use it and that it works.
Signal mirror – This should be small and easily stowed away. This will be very valuable in signaling aircraft of your location. Someone that is flying over your area might be able to recognize your signal from miles away. This is a very effective addition to your survival kit.
These are some of the things that I believe every survival kit should contain. However, for added convenience you might want to consider bringing along the following items, especially if you plan on being in the back country for longer than and hour or two.
Poncho or Emergency Blanket – This will be very handy when constructing a shelter or using to stay warm and dry. They can be a little bulky but they are worth the extra room they will take up. Emergency blankets typically fold up very small, but ponchos aren’t quite as compact. If you have room in your day pack you should take at least one of these items.
Field guide of edible plants for your area – This will become the most used resource when finding yourself in a survival situation, for days on end. You will come to depend on this field guide to provide you with edible plants, berries, nuts, leaves, flowers and roots.
20 feet of cordage– Try and find the military utility cord from your local surplus store, and don’t settle for just any cord that looks similar. The military cord consists of several inner strings with an outer shell that make it very strong. This type of string is called parachute cord for its most common use. Using the inner strings you could tie them end to end and potentially have up to one hundred feet of string. The parachute cord is made of nylon and will fray very easily. I have frayed the outer cord and made a fishing lure that has actually caught fish. Most commonly used to tie off your poncho to create a shelter, but as you now know has many other uses.
Whistle – You can blow your whistle to signal your location. This can be more effective than hollering your location as the sound of a whistle can travel farther than the human voice.
This should be most of the essential items that your survival kit should contain. If you feel that you may still want more items in you survival kit you can review these items. The following items are perhaps more of a nice to have in your survival kit than an absolute.
Candles – A candle can produce enough heat to warm the interior of a tent in just a few moments. Candles are typically favored over campfires because they are safer and provide efficient light in the evening to work or read by.
Flashlight – This is valuable to signal aircraft at night and should be used sparingly to conserve battery life.
Survival knife – This could substitute several items in our survival kit, such as our trusted pocket knife; fishing line, sinkers, and hooks; fire starter; and may add a hammer and saw to your available tools.
Fishing lures – These are more of a luxury, especially if you intend to be in an area where you might have to depend on fishing. Otherwise fishing lures are extras, and may not be needed in every survival kit.
Pocket notepad – This could come in handy as a fire starter by tearing a couple of pages and adding to your kindling. You might even want to consider using a few sheets as toilet paper.
Everything we have mentioned with the exception of the poncho should be able to fit into a small container approximately the size of a lunch box, fanny pack, or day pack. This is important as you won’t have much room to take a whole lot of stuff. By keeping it small, light, and compact you will be more inclined to bring it along on all of your hikes no matter how short.
How many times have you gotten turned around in the forest, and thought you should go one way but finding later that you should have gone the other. An easy way to to help you find your way is to bring a map and compass. Maybe if you were a master tracker you wouldn’t have to worry about getting lost in the forest. If you are uncomfortable with traditional means you can now use technology to locate your position. That’s right our newest friend in modern navigation, our handy Global Position System (GPS) receiver.
Whatever navigation aid you choose to take into the back country will help your journey and keep you focused on why you are there in the first place. Nobody heads into the forest with the intention of getting lost, it just happens. So we are going to talk about a few thing you can do to help prevent you from becoming disoriented.
We should start with the map and compass. I bet you think you know how to use a map and compass pretty good. Well there aren’t any highways or rest stops to ask for directions out here in the back country, so you will need to be familiar with using a topographical map. These maps are available for every area in the country. You can get a topographical map for your area by contacting the United States Geological Society (USGS). You will need some time to examine your map and familiarize yourself with the area that you are venturing into. Learn to recognize hills, mountains, valleys, draws, cliffs, and saddles on your map. This will help you plot a course into a specific area that you are trying to visit.
Next you will need a good compass, I recommend one similar to what our military folks use. These are available at your local surplus store, and are relatively inexpensive. Practice using your compass to shoot an azimuth (Aim your compass in a specific direction and note the degrees or mills on the compass) and walk in that direction. Stay alert to how far off the exact azimuth that you walked, and pay attention to the lay of the terrain, and I’ll bet you will discover that more often than not, you walked downhill or to the left. How did I know this? Either way we will discuss it later in this article. Now take your compass into a wooded area and practice shooting an azimuth and before you begin walking look for a point of reference on your azimuth and walk directly to it (i.e. a tree, rock, or shrub). You have done it, and you can now use a compass efficiently. Now that you have a good map and a good compass you are ready for the back country.
How far did you just walk? You probably don’t have any idea unless it was less than a hundred feet from your starting point. This is what we are going to go over next. Direction and distance go hand in hand. You will always need to keep track of the direction you are walking, and you should make it a habit to track the distance as well. There are several methods to determine how far you have walked. The first is to use a range finder and read the distance from where you are back to your starting point. The second is to count your steps and compare the number to your pace count. What is a pace count? First off we need to know how many steps it takes you to walk one hundred yards or one hundred meters. Do not count every step, just count the steps you take with your starting foot, right or left leg. Using a rangefinder or a field tape measure to measure off one hundred yards or meters. Then proceed to walk this distance while counting every step made with your left or right food.
Remember just count the steps made with one leg not every step. The number you come to is your pace count in yards or meters. Write this number down somewhere so you don’t forget. I like to write it on my ID so I know I’ll always have it. Keeping track of distance in this manner will require you to pick up a handful of pebbles Then begin walking and counting your steps at the same time. For every hundred yards or meters you walk, simply move one pebble from your right pocket to your left pocket. Feel free to pick up more pebbles along the way, but remember to only put one in your left pocket when you have walked a hundred yards or meters. How far have you walked? Just count the pebbles in your left pocket and multiply by 100 yards, 300 feet, or 100 meters. Use the following list to calculate your distance.
1 mile = 5280 feet
1 mile = 1760 yards
1 kilometer (Click) = 1000 meters
There are some shortfalls to tracking distance in this manner. There are many things that we encounter when walking in the woods that we have to sidestep, step over or walk completely around. This can often degrade your pace count and alter your perception for the actual distance that you traveled. The solution is just estimate the detour you took and add this distance in paces to your pace count. Another thing that is difficult to account for is the terrain. When you count off your pace count you are most likely on flat level landscape.
When the contour of the landscape changes your pace count can be drastically effected. If you are counting paces on a slope or incline you are not taking full steps. The basic rule of thumb for walking uphill will typically be two steps to every normal step on level ground, and for walking downhill will be two steps for every three steps on level ground. If you are traversing a hill or ridge line you typically will be taking smaller steps. To gauge this difference you might treat this the same as walking downhill or uphill depending on the terrain and how short or long your step is compared to your standard pace. Walking through water you have to determine if you are walking with or into the current and make another estimate. There are other ways to estimate these terrain changes and that is to gauge these distances on your map using a point of reference to determine your actual distance traveled. You should now be able to know in what direction and what distance you have traveled.
Now its time to check the map, and determine where we are. If you are like me you are pretty good at keeping track of your distance and direction, but don’t always have the desire to do these things because you want to enjoy your outdoor experience. Well you are in luck, because we can still find ourselves on the map by only having to know your direction or distance. That’s right only one. Let’s check the map and use a technique called intersection. Check your horizon and find a good point of reference, such as a hill, mountain peak, or lake in the distance. Now use your compass and shoot an azimuth to that hill and orient your map so North indicator on your map is facing North. Line your compass or a straight edge to the azimuth that you shot and draw a line from the point of reference towards the area you suspect your location to be. For your second point you might want to choose another point of reference that is at least greater than sixty degrees away from your first point of reference. Now pick your second reference point and find this on your map. Make sure you use your compass against your map to make sure your angle on your map matches the degrees of your azimuth. Now record this on your map and you will discover the two lines cross. This is your general location on your map. If for some reason your lines don’t cross then you have done something incorrect. Double check your azimuths and try again. You might not be selecting the right references on your map in relation to your position. Keep trying until you get it right. This might take some practice but is extremely valuable when trying to determine your exact location. You should practice this in a known area so that you can perfect this method before you head into the back country. Once you are comfortable with this method you will be amazed at how accurately you can pinpoint your position on a map. Now you can determine the direction and distance you have traveled on your map, by comparing your starting point to your current position.
If this seems like too much work you could always use a handheld GPS receiver. If you decide to use a GPS unit make sure you have read the manual and have become familiar with all the features, and are comfortable using it. You should practice using your GPS in a park or backyard. Try to become familiar with all the features and marking way points and navigating back to these way points at different times of the day. A few notes on day hikes and trail walks. Always mark your starting point and any features that you find interesting and may want to visit again. This will give you several known points for future reference on your GPS display. This means marking lakes, camping areas, trail intersections, and anything else you might use as a reference on your return trip. If you are only out for a short walk you might not want to spend your time marking every rock and tree you pass, so just use your own judgment. I like to place a way point or marker every mile or so. For overnight hikes I suggest that you mark a way point while in your campsite. When you take short excursions from camp to collect firewood or answering natures call, you will know how to find your way back. This is very helpful when you are trying to get back to camp after dark. These are just a few suggestions to help you better utilize your GPS receiver and allow you to have a more enjoyable time outdoors.
Another piece of information that is very useful would be to know what time it is. This does not mean that you have to bring a watch along. You just need to allow yourself enough time to pitch a tent, make camp or get back to your car before it gets dark. You really only need a good generalization of the time to be able to plan your return trip or to set up camp for the night. A good rule is to start your return trip before the sun is directly overhead. If you plan to stay the night in the back country then you should start looking for a campsite after the sun has disappeared from the forest trees, or low on the horizon. If there is not any sun to gauge the time, you might want to rely on the temperature to tell you this. When the air begins to get cooler then it might be a good time to start looking for an area to camp. You might also let your hunger be your clock. If you routinely eat at the same time every day, your body will begin to give you signs of hunger if you haven’t eaten when you were suppose to. Your body can be a surprisingly accurate tool for gauging meal time. In this case, you might start your return trip after you eat lunch, or looking for a campsite when you are getting hungry for dinner.
Now you should be starting to get comfortable in the outdoors. Just remember to use these techniques and you will have an enjoyable outing.
So you know where you are at, where you are going, and when you should be there, but do you know how to find or track a person or animal in the forest? How keen are your wilderness skills? This can be a very handy thing to work on. You can develop your wilderness skills by paying attention to the terrain and rock formations that you pass in the back country. You should look back often to see how rock formations, and landscapes look after passing them. Make mental notes along the way such as a unique fragrance or smell, the sound of running water nearby, fallen trees and changes in terrain. You might not remember a rock you passed a mile back on the trail, but you will surely remember the smell of a dead animal carcass ten miles ago. You might also notice something out of place, like a log that has recently been moved, the ground cover has been cleared out in an area, or the wet leaves have been turned over. Scan your path that you are traveling, and pay close attention to where someone might have walked off the trail, by examining the shrubbery, sticks, or leaves that have been disturbed along the trail. Then work on seeing how far from the trail you can track those signs, but don’t go wandering off.
Once you have mastered some of these basic skills of identifying where people have wandered from the main trail, it is time to begin on your tracking skills.
Without going into a lot of detail here, we will discuss some basic principals of tracking. Obviously you will not be able to follow every footprint verbatim, so you need to look at other signs such as terrain, location of water nearby, and examine the area for the easiest way to cross. Humans and animals will tend to walk downhill as this is habitually the most common practice. If you lose a trail in some brush or thicket just start heading in a direction relevant to the trail you are following, remembering to take the easiest way, and you will most likely pick up the trail again on the other side. You should also be examining the brush for signs that someone has passed through, like broken branches and tree limbs, and mud, soil, or sand on logs, low branches, or sticks indicating a potential track. Don’t get in a hurry and allow yourself plenty of time to find strong indications that you are on the right track. Building confidence is important to help establish some good base skills. Practice, practice, practice and you will be able to amaze your friends that you can track your dog better than he might be able to track you, through the forest.
One last thing to note is that you should always keep track of the direction and distance you traveled while tracking someone or something. If you lose the trail and you are out in the middle of nowhere, you might have a very difficult time finding your way back. That is if you aren’t able to follow your own trail back. This is why it may be a good idea when tracking to leave a good track for you to be able to back track. You might want to use or point sticks on the path or trail to indicate changes in your direction. Be sure to leave a good mark to follow so that even if it begins to rain or snow, you will be able to find your way back.
Your priorities will determine your chances for survival. Simply put you will need to have fresh clean drinking water every day, and you will need to stay warm if its cold outside and cool if it is hot outside. Make preparations for weather conditions to change for the worse. This means concentrate on shelter and maybe a small campfire. The most important thing to remember is that you now have a very limited amount of time and energy to get several things done. Stay calm and use your head. You might want to begin by checking your water supply. Next you might need to consider a make shift shelter or something to help you keep warm and dry. Finally, consider some method for signaling such as spelling out help on the ground or preparing a flare or other signal.
Water is too important to take any chances. If you have any question about its purity you should avoid drinking it. A few notes on collecting water for drinking is to pay attention to the wildlife. If you see a deer drinking water from a stream you should easily be able to collect and purify this water for drinking. You might notice fish swimming in a brook or pond this is another good sign that you will be able to purify this water for drinking. However, try to avoid collecting water from marsh or swamp areas, or any area with a lot of puddles and stagnate water. This water can be purified but will contain higher amounts of micro bacteria and other organisms that can make you very sick. Always remember to purify your water prior to drinking.
You might not have very much time to construct an elaborate shelter. The thing to remember is to keep it practical. You need something that will keep you warm and dry. Don’t attempt to take on a huge project here. You could simply tie off your poncho or emergency blanket to two trees and drape it like a tent securing the corners and you are done. This will help keep you warm, dry, and out of the wind. You might also be able to construct a lean-to just as easily with your poncho or emergency blanket. Do not exert a lot of energy or time setting up your shelter, as you have more things to do before it gets dark.
Typically it is not a good idea to have a campfire in the forest especially when forest conditions are on high alert for forest fires. Never under any condition should you build a fire in any area that is under a fire or burning ban. If your fire gets out of hand you have a whole other situation to deal with that will compound your problems. If you must have a campfire, and there is no ban in progress for the area you are in, then you need to take the following precautions when building a campfire. If you have seen evidence of a previous campfire use this area to build your fire. Do not create a new fire ring if one is already available to use. Sure it may need some service but it will do just fine. Clear out plenty of brush and leaves where you intend to build your fire.
Always make sure that there are no branches directly over the area. Try to stay at least twenty or more feet from any trees nearby. Dig a whole in the ground approximately eight to twelve inches deep, where you intend to build your fire, and place the dirt in a pile to the side (we will talk about this pile of dirt later). Next line your campfire ring with rocks. Don’t skimp here, try to get rocks at least the size of bowling balls or stack up small rocks into a ring at least one foot high around your fire ring. This will help contain the fire and will produce more heat by heating the rocks around the fire ring.
Building your fire may prove to be more difficult than it is worth, however, you will need to gather some small sticks, grass, dried moss, bark chips, and other forest debris you can use for kindling. Next, we probably need to talk about fire starters. There are several ways to start a fire. You could use any of the following to start your campfire:
Oil, fuel, gasoline, or any easily attained flammable liquid that needs only a spark to ignite.
Flint and steel has been used for hundreds of years to start a fire. This method requires scraping the flint against the steel to cause a spark, use this spark to ignite dry grasses or other kindling.
Waterproof matches, lighters, and grill igniter’s.
Use a knife to scrape shavings from a magnesium block, this will ignite by throwing a spark on the small pile of shavings. These are available in most sporting goods and surplus stores.
A typical homemade option would be to soak cotton balls with a lighter fluid and seal in a small film canister. Simply take the canisters to the field and use the cotton balls as kindling. The cotton will light easily, and you can save the canisters for next time.
Another good fire starter is to use steal wool and a nine volt battery. Place the steel wool under your kindling and press the battery against the steel wool. The battery grounds itself causing the steel wool to glow and light your kindling. Remember to pull your battery out so you can use it again next time.
You might also just bring some fire starter sticks. These are found in most sporting goods stores and are very easy to light.
Finally whatever you plan to use as a fire starter, always remember to experiment with it first and be sure you know exactly how to use it to get a fire started, before you head into the back country.
Now that you have your fire ring, kindling and fire starter we need to discuss actually building a fire. I recommend only building a fire to serve a specific purpose. If the purpose is to get warm then you do not need a very big fire to accomplish this. On the other hand if you plan on cooking something or boiling water you will need a bit more wood in your fire to get the job done. The smaller the fire you build the longer you will be able to maintain it and keep it burning. Plus, you will not be expending more energy than necessary gathering firewood.
A fire needs two things to burn correctly fuel (branches, twigs, and logs) and air (oxygen). Start by placing smaller branches and kindling in the center of your fire ring. Use bigger twigs and branches to stack on top of them. A fire needs to be able to breath so leave lots of room for the fire to breath at the base. Begin stacking sticks up towards the center forming a conical or teepee shaped campfire. Be sure to leave an area that you can access your kindling in the bottom center of the campfire so you will be able to start it easier. Now that you have several small logs on your campfire you are ready to start the fire. Remember to continue to monitor your fire as it will take a little nursing to get it burning good and generating some heat. Never place too much wood on your campfire. You never want the flames to go above your fire ring unless you are signaling or maybe cooking something on a spit. Continual to monitor your campfire while it is burning. Do not leave your fire burning unattended. Be sure to have plenty of fire wood before you start your fire.
When you are finished enjoying your warm fire, you will need to make sure you get it completely put out. You can do this by spreading out the smoldering logs and covering them with the dirt that you cast aside earlier. This will smother the fire and extinguish it in about thirty to forty minutes. Try not to expend any water on the fire as you may need it for other things. You can also collapse your rock wall around the fire to help smother any smoldering logs. Never doze off or go to sleep while tending your campfire, and always make sure your fire is completely out before you retire for the evening.
Another piece of advice to share about priorities is that you can live about three days without eating. This does not mean that you don’t have to eat, just that it shouldn’t be very high on your priorities. You might be able to look around and gather some acorns or walnuts to tie you over, maybe even some berries or fruit trees. Never eat anything that you are not completely sure it is safe. You don’t have the luxury of taking any unnecessary risks out here if you plan on surviving. If you aren’t certain about those berries that look really good then simply avoid them. You can make a tea from just about any type of pine needle and the pine cones have small nuts inside of them that are pretty good.
You should check your field guide on edible plants, before eating anything that you are not absolutely sure about. For the first couple of days try to concentrate on being a vegetarian, unless you are near an area where fishing might be a possibility. The most important thing about food gathering is that you should never spend more effort or energy on trapping, catching or killing your food than that food will replenish.
Water is the single most important thing you need in a survival situation. Look for lakes, ponds, and streams near your immediate area to collect water from. Never drink directly from ponds, lakes, streams, reservoirs, or any water source without properly preparing the water for drinking. You should use one of the following methods to prepare water for drinking.
Carry two canteens, and mark one as “drinking water” and the other as “non drinking (potable) water”. Use the potable canteen for collecting water and boiling it in a bucket or pan for at least 20 minutes. Then pour the water from the pan into your drinking water canteen. Do not get the two canteens mixed up, and upon returning home, be sure to sanitize both canteens for future use.
Carry iodine or water purifying tablets and follow the instructions that come with the tablets to purify your water for drinking.
Carry a portable water filter and be sure to filter your water before drinking. Be sure you are familiar with how to to use it and how often you need to change filters to maintain proper filtration.
You might find it quite refreshing and motivating to simply make some time during your day to bathe in a nearby stream, pond, or lake. Even if you don’t have a convenient place to bathe, you could simply soak a piece of cloth and use this to wash your body. This is highly encouraged because your skin pores will become clogged after a day or two in the outdoors, and by cleaning your body you are helping yourself stay cool during the heat of the day, and warmer at night. Additionally, you can wash any dirt from your cuts and scratches, and apply new ointment and bandages.
I thought it only fitting to mention the unmentionables. This is a subject that few want to discuss but still needs discussing. I will be brief and to the point on common field sanitation methods and concepts. When you decide upon your camp area, if you should have that choice, you should choose your bathroom area appropriately. Take into consideration the wind direction, during both the day and night. Choose a spot more than one hundred feet from nearby streams, lakes, ponds, and drainage areas. Look for sandy or dry soil conditions, so you won’t have to squat in the mud. Most important once you have marked a place continue to use that same place until you leave the area.
When using your outdoor bathroom, you should always dig a small cat hole about eight to ten inches deep, using a stick, rock or whatever you may find at your disposal. Aim well and cover the hole with the dirt that you removed, to help minimize any foul odors.
Search And Rescue
Another aspect that is important in a survival situation is making your location known as best you can. You might lay out sticks or stones on the ground that spell HELP. Be sure to make the letters at least six feet tall so they can be seen from the air, and try to use contrasting colors to make it more legible. Dark sticks on a light sandy area, or light aspen sticks on the dark ground.
When aircraft fly overhead or you hear search teams in the distance you should begin signaling your position. During daylight a mirror or sometimes a piece of glass can be used to reflect light to aircraft or search and rescue teams. In limited visibility or after dark use a flashlight, strobe light, emergency light or a lantern. You should also make as much noise as possible calling for help and using a whistle.
When search and rescue teams start honing in on your position you will need to be alert and respond to their calls and signals in whatever manner you can muster.
One final note on survival is to try and always remain calm and use your head. Maintain a rational state of mind and busy yourself with little things to keep your mind from drifting, and help you stay focused on the one thing that is most important, your survival. Let’s all hope that we never have to use this knowledge, and if we should ever find ourselves in this situation, then we should draw upon our strengths and let our knowledge be our guide.
The information provided in this article are the suggestions and opinions of the author, based on military experience and over fifteen years of outdoor experience. For more information on any of these topics you should consult with Park Officials, Department of Wildlife offices for your state, Search & Rescue organizations, conservationists, and wildlife biologists in your immediate area. For more information check in your local search and rescue or mountaineering organization to see if they offer any courses or instruction on survival information for your region.
It is unwise to rely solely on one source for your survival and outdoor information. The information contained in this article is believed to be true and accurate at the time of this article.
If you have any suggestions or considerations to add or correct within this article please don’t hesitate to contact the author directly.