By Luke Douglas
Wilderness hikes can be the best and most educational experiences in your life, especially if you love adventure and the outdoors. However, there are many hazards that can befall you and ruin your trip. You have to consider the extreme temperatures, falls, animal encounters, getting lost and staying without food or help, none of which are pleasant. Depending on how far you’ve ventured, it might take help days to reach you, so if you’re not prepared for an emergency, your trip can end deadly. Every wilderness vacationer needs to know a few basic survival tips, so check these out before your next trip.
This is a skill that will come in handy in nature, especially if you get lost. Make sure to start studying navigation with someone with experience, so you can soak up all the knowledge. Also, keep in mind that different terrains require different navigation skills. For instance, if you’re rafting, you need to know how to recognize major rapids, track the shoreline and find a way to locate your campsite. On the other hand, if you’re somewhere on land, you’ll want to know how to read a map and study a compass so you can find a good campsite, water or high ground.
Stay warm and toasty
Losing body heat is one of the biggest problems when struggling to survive, so make sure to know how to stay warm. It’s best to keep your head warm and covered to minimize body heat loss and adjust clothing to prevent sweating. Sweating will make your clothes wet, make your body cooler and even cause dehydration, so wear something insulating yet pleasant. To dry your damp boots, place them between the liner and shell of your sleeping bag to dry them off faster.
Learn to light a fire
Having fire can save your life since it provides warmth, protection, visibility and cooking, so you need to know how to start it in the wilderness. You can use the hand drill method you often see in movies, but there are various other methods. If you have a battery, a gum wrapper and some dry tinder, you can start a fire quickly and effortlessly. However, to be completely safe, make sure to pack matches, a lighter, flint and steel and some tinder —these will always help you start a fire even in the worst of conditions.
In case you get lost, it’s best to stay in place and wait for help. In that case, you’ll need to build a shelter to stay protected from the elements and wildlife. If you have a reliable OTF knife that can cut rope and branches, you can build a quick survival shelter. With only a few materials at hand like rope, rain poncho, branches and leaves, you can use your knife and skills to stay safe until you get rescued. Keep your shelter away from water that can flood or land that can slide.
Ration your food
The biggest question when struggling with food is whether you should eat it when you’re hungry or spread it over your time. Packing the calories in has advantages, but what about after a few days of fasting? Good news is that we can live weeks without food, so if you divide your food supply well (focus on calories instead of food volume) you can push through almost any necessary period of time.
When it comes to water, we can’t stay long without it—72 hours without it is all the human body can take. Luckily, there are various sources of water you can use, especially if they come from somewhere deep in nature—rainwater, melted snow and melted ice. On the other hand, if you come across a lake or a pond, standing water puddle or any other water made by not very recent rainfall, it’s best to stay away from it. You can also use all liquid from canned goods, so make sure to save it in a bottle. Collecting condensation is always a safe idea, so learn how to do it before you go out in nature.
Call for help
It’s also smart to have a few items with you which can alert the rescue team. Having a whistle with you is always a great idea, but you can also leave strategically-placed clothing or plastic bags, so planes can spot you. Climb up a tree to hang clothing and use a contrasting fabric color. If you have a small mirror, you can use the sun reflection to start a fire, but also to signal rescuers. Smothering a blaze can also be used for signaling, especially if you manage to create a lot of smoke on a clear and calm day. At night, you can use fire to attract people, but make sure to build it somewhere elevated and with minimal vegetation.
Keep these tips in mind—you never know what might happen during your next wilderness trip that will force you to use these survival techniques. It’s best to come prepared than to suffer any unpleasant consequences of underestimating nature.