15 Essential Tips for Surviving in the Wilderness - 2015 by Bob Rodgers

15 Essential Tips for Surviving in the Wilderness

2015 by Bob Rodgers

4/6/20239 min read

When it comes to man versus nature, nature will always win if you are not prepared. Nature doesn’t give second chances and you are on your own if you get lost in the wilderness. It’s always good to know what you should do in the wild when there’s no one to help you. We should all know about the essentials before embarking on a journey into the wilderness.

You don’t have to be a survival expert to enjoy nature and you don’t have to carry everything with you to make sure you survive. Being able to survive in the wilderness is a matter of knowledge and preparation, and both can be achieved without struggling. The first mistake people make is to underestimate nature and most of them will say “How hard can it be? We will be fine!” when in reality, things will be completely different. And the second mistake that most people make is having that feeling of self-confidence that blends with arrogance and that doesn’t have any real base for it. Just because you make it in the modern world and you are used to accomplish even the most difficult task your boss gives you that doesn’t mean you will have the same success out in the wilderness. We forget that the survivor spirit has been dimmed out in most of us due to the excessive use of technology. Nature won’t care about your smart phone and it won’t care if you don’t have access to the internet, to look up how to make a fire.

Not to mention that most of the people die in the wilderness because they get lost. They never intended for that to happen, but somehow it did and they weren’t prepared. I know that you think it could never happen to you, after all, no one plans on getting lost in the wilderness. What are you going to do if that happens, shouldn’t you be prepared for it and know how to cope with such a situation?

These tips should keep you alive if you get lost in the wilderness

1. Map it and advertise it

If you are planning a camping trip, a hunting trip or anything else that will take you deep into the wilderness, you should map the area and surrounding area as good as you can. You should know where you go and not make the mistake “we will see when we get there”. Don’t forget to nag people about it and be specific. Some of them might not want to hear about you going fishing, but it’s better if people know about where you are. When you get there make sure to call, text or email someone your location. This is particularly useful because if something happens, the rescue teams will start from your last known location.

2. Pack it and use it

Having the right survival bag with all the items you need is crucial for surviving in the wilderness. I won’t stress about how important it is, but I will stress about knowing how to use what you carried with you. You bought new camping gear and you can’t wait to test it on the field, but that’s the wrong approach. You should test it a home first where you are calm and you have all the time you need. Being lost in the wilderness will put some people under pressure and they will easily run out of time. A few of the basic items you should have in your survival bag:

Water and a water filter

A reliable hunting knife

A firestarter or waterproof matches

A mini first aid kit

A snake bite kit (depending on the area you are traveling to)

A map and a compass

Nonperishable or long shelf foods and snacks (Pemmican would be a good idea)

A paracord and a tarp

A sleeping bag

A signal equipment (whistle, flashlight, flares, etc.)

Protection items

3. You got lost, don’t move!

If you get lost you first have to acknowledge that you are lost and you should stay put. Most people refuse to accept that they are lost and they continue to wonder off into the wilderness. Their first reaction is to walk around, hoping they will recognize something familiar, but in the wilderness all trees are familiar. Don’t do such a mistake because you will end up getting more lost. You could travel in an unfamiliar area and you could get injured. Remember that you texted your last location to your friends and the search teams will use it as a starting point. The further you go from your last location the harder will be for them to find you. Stay at your initial location and wait for help, it will come eventually.

4. Signal for help

If in 24 hours people don’t get any sign from you, they will start to worry and send help your way. Since the goal is to get rescued you should know how to signal for help. You should be able to find a clear area and build the biggest signal you can. There are many ways to signal for help and you have to know which method to use based on your situation and location.

Recommended reading: How to signal for help in the wilderness

5. Asses your situation

If your immediate situation is dangerous, then you must move. Carefully assess your situation and location. Based on the assessment you make you will be able to plan your next moves. You should think about the following things: Did you tell someone about your current location? When was that? Do you have enough food and water with you? Do you have a shelter to protect you from the elements? Do you know if there are edible items around you? A good assessment will establish your chances of survival in the wilderness and you have to think about the basics first: water, food and shelter.

6. Mark your movements

When you are moving around you should be able to mark your steps to avoid getting more lost into the wilderness. You should always go back to the starting point so that help search can find you quicker. Use a knife to carve some markings into the trees. Some people pack in their survivor bag a fluorescent permanent marker to write on trees or rocks. You could do it as well because it’s a good idea to let people know you were there and that you need help.

7. Build a camp

If things get serious and weather is not on your side, you will need a shelter. You can either build one yourself or you can try to find a cave or anything that will protect you for the elements. Being able to have and use a shelter in the wilderness will keep you safe and it will improve your morale.

8. Be able to build a fire, the right type of fire

You should be able to build a fire if you have a fire starter packed, but you should also be able to build one without any tools. There are many methods to build a fire and you can find more about them in this article. Making a fire has a big impact on your morale and it will help you to push forward, this is something hardcoded in our DNA and you might have noticed that looking at a fire has a calming effect. If you are able to build a fire you will increase your chance of survival, if you are able to build the right type of fire, you will double your chances. Many people don’t know this, but there are many types of fire you can make. Each type can be useful for a certain situation and environment.

Recommended reading: How to build the right fire type in the wilderness

9. Be able to find water

You can live quite a few days without food, but you cannot without water. Make sure you set up camp in a location that will provide you with a good amount of water. water2Make sure you know how to find water and how to purify it. While a water filter will be an ideal solution for your troubles, you might not always have one with you. The next best thing would be to build your own and it’s quite simple if you follow the basic rules. Read the articles below about how you can find water and filter it in the wilderness.

Related article: Water procurement in the wild and How to filter water in the wilderness

10. Control your emotions

Having the right mental attitude is all up to us and not being able to control our emotions will make survival difficult. Fear, anxiety, frustration and loneliness are all possible emotions that will try to take control of your thought process. When that happens everything you do will be a mistake. You should remain calm and focused on your task. While you can improve your spirit by being able to build a fire, finding water and making a shelter, in the end it’s all about your personality and your mental attitude. You should want to survive and you should work for it. Don’t let your mind trick you that everything will be OK and that help will come. If your situation extends past a few days, wishful thinking will not keep you alive, a positive attitude and work will.

11. Emergency food procurement is on your To Do list

Most of us aren’t expert survivalists, hunters, fishermen or botanists and finding food can be a challenge. Your environment plays a key role in your survival and you should know as much as you can about it. There could be edible insects in your area. You could locate bird nests, eggs are edible and are a good protein source. Knowing the plants and being able to identify what plants are edible and which are poisonous will keep you alive. Having a guide packed in your survival bag will help you pick the right plants when you get lost in the wilderness.

Related reading: Edible insects that can save your life in the wilderness

12. Keep an eye out for dangerous animals

When you get lost in the wilderness you should keep in mind that not all dangerous animals are big. Nature took care of its smaller creatures and it provided them with deadly defense mechanisms. You should know about the dangers from your area before you go out. Scorpions and black widows can be deadly, but even a cute raccoon can be dangerous when pissed off. Having a field guide in your survival bag is a smart idea and it will provide you with valuable information. You also have to pay attention how you can build your camp in order to be easy defensible from large animals. Have some sort of weapon available, even if you have to improvise one. Bears, wolves or mountain lions can stumble into your area and you don’t want to be on their menu.

Related reading: Dangerous spider bites guide

13. Cold weather is a silent killer, stay warm!

You took care of food and water, and you have a shelter built. Even so, cold weather can be a killer and many (including skilled people) have died as a result of cold weather. You should be able to deal with cold weather and this means that you should keep your clothes clean and dry. You should wear loose clothes with many layers and you should avoid overheating. If you don’t have a sleeping bag with you, bringing an extra change of clothing is a smart idea. You could use it as a second layer if needed. Covering yourself with dry leaves can keep the temperature in. Being able to build protective walls from stones and branches can help keep cold wind off you. Making a long log fire will be ideal for keeping a steady body temperature.

14. Avoid getting injured

You should know your limit and you should be smart enough to know when to quit. Once you get lost in the wilderness you should avoid getting injured because it will make survival even more difficult. Keeping a good health is crucial and you must do everything in your power to survive. Depending on your injuries you should remember this:

Stop any bleeding as soon as possible.

Keep yourself hydrated

Stay warm and dry at all times.

Be able to defend yourself from whatever nature throws at you.

Having some basic first aid training is something that will prove useful in the wilderness. It’s the type of knowledge that you never know when it might come in handy.

15. Don’t take shortcuts

Being brave is normally a good thing, but confusing stupidity with bravery is something totally different. Nature will prove you wrong with every occasion it gets and only you will be the one who suffers. When you are lost in the wilderness don’t be stupid and don’t do “brave” things. Most people die because they taught they could do it, they thought that taking a shortcut will save them time and they will be alright. It’s better to take the longer path if it keeps you safe and it’s better to think twice before doing something that can’t be undone. The main point here is that you shouldn’t take unnecessary risks in an environment that you don’t know.

A whole book can be written on survival skills, but these basic tips should be enough to keep you alive in the wilderness. It’s something we all should know before embarking on a journey, regardless if it’s a fishing trip or a hiking trip.