Sometimes we camp for fun, sometimes we camp as a means of survival, and sometimes this type of outdoor expedition can turn quickly into a disaster. There are many reasons you could set out into the woods for a brief window of time only to find yourself there much longer. It could be yourself that falls ill or a member of your party becomes injured. Then what?
No matter how hard we try, it is impossible to ward off every potentially dire situation you may face in the woods. This is exactly why we practice preparedness, in order to be able to pull through whatever comes our way. Whether you are in the woods for recreation or because societal collapse has forced you to seek refuge, there are a few steps you must take to survive your time in the wilderness.
1. Have access to enough water and food. Sure, you typically hear the phrase "food and water" but in a survival situation, water should come first. Bring with you enough water and food to sustain you for the duration of your trip and then a few days beyond that because you never know when you may become stranded. Even a leisurely stroll through the woods could result in a broken ankle and extended time passage until aid appears, so those granola bars in your pocket sure will come in handy while you wait. Since water is cumbersome and hard to carry, consider a portable water filtering straw and refillable container as long as you know a body of water is present from which you can drink. Lastly, always keep some water and food on you. If your camp is three miles away from where you fall ill, it won't do any good to have water in that location when you're stranded elsewhere. Additionally, all food should be stored a couple hundred feet away from your campsite, ideally in bear canisters or hung in bear bags.
Photo: Tactical Intelligence
2. Ensure you have protection from the elements. This means that, rain or shine, you are able to keep your body safe. If the sun is beating down on you for extended periods of exertion, heat stroke becomes a possibility. You can also suffer a sunburn that could go on to blister painfully. In the event of rain, it is possible to become wet and therefore cold, winding up with hypothermia. Though it is not always feasible to carry a form of shelter with you, familiarize yourself with plans to create one. Even packing a simple plastic poncho, a hat, and some sunscreen can make a big difference when you need it.
3. Location, location, location - as in, let people know yours. When setting out, always let someone know where you're going and when to expect you back, whether you are leaving home or simply leaving camp to go for a hike. This way they can notify help or search for you themselves if you become overdue. In unfamiliar areas, use trail markers not only so you don't get lost but also so that someone else can follow you in and locate you if need be. Having a whistle or air horn can help you summon help as well.
4. It is important to be able to see where you're going, especially in the woods at night. A slight diversion off of a trail, accidental or otherwise, can leave you in unfamiliar territory with plenty of natural hazards to trip you up. A headlamp or small flashlight are inexpensive ways to see where you are putting your feet before you roll an ankle on a tree root. Additionally, lights with a strobe feature can aid others in locating you if you become lost.
5. First aid ability and supplies are a must for you, your companions, and any canine participants. Avoiding accidents is not always possible no matter how much you prepare and learning how to administer first aid on the fly is not really an option. Small first aid kits with the basics can be bought for very little and are condensed to fit in pockets or bags, but don't forget the bug spray and Benadryl for reactions to bug bites or poisonous plants. Beyond that first aid kit, look for items that can pull double duty. Even if you are making a splint out of duct tape and toilet paper, you need to be able to stabilize injuries. Equally important is an ability to treat wounds. That paracord bracelet you're wearing can also be used for first aid purposes.
Photo: The Survival Place Blog
Whether you just want to go have some fun in the woods or are forced to seek shelter in nature, part of a successful plan includes embracing the possibility that something might go wrong and preparing to remedy it immediately. With many of us outdoors enjoying the warm weather, this is actually when accidents are quite likely to occur. Have fun, but pay attention to your surroundings, be safe, and be prepared.
Are there any other wilderness survival tips you recommend? What are the staple items you take along on hikes or camping trips? Let us know in the comments.