Essential Wilderness Survival Skills

We are all aware that some ‘survival situations’ happen very quickly and there may be no time to prepare. You may be in an accident. Your vehicle has rolled and you are miles from civilization. Your cell phone won’t pick up a signal, so you’ll need to save your own butt!

In this hypothetical scenario, you are carrying cold weather clothes, but nothing much in terms of food, water or equipment. You decide to walk out rather than wait. So, what survival skills will you need to give you the best chance of being found (alive)?

Lets start with your attitude. In an emergency you need to remain calm and level headed. This does not come naturally for most of us, so we may need to consciously and very deliberately put ourselves in that state of mind. We do this by;

  1. Firstly, stop whatever you are doing and focus on slowing your breathing. Breath deeply in and out for a few minutes to get more oxygen-rich blood flowing to your brain.
  2. Assess your situation. Are you injured? Can you walk? Look around you. What can you salvage that you can use? Clothing, containers, tools, matches or a lighter.
  3. Plan your next steps. Depending on the time of day, do you stay where you are for the night or leave? If you are going to leave, can you write a note to leave behind with your planned travel direction in case your car is found before you are?
  4. Execute your plan. What sort of terrain you are in? Are you confident in your ability to find water, construct a shelter and find food in that terrain? Will you be able to light a controlled fire?
    Now that your plan is in motion, here are a few things you should keep in mind.
  • Everything you do should aim at conserving energy. Travel downhill instead of up. Valleys are more likely to have water.
  • Stop frequently to look and listen. There may be a stream nearby or the distant hum of machinery.
  • Do you have something to signal with? That rear-vision mirror in your car would come in real handy if a plane were overhead!
  • Try to travel in open terrain if possible. The easier it is for you to be seen the better.

This is where basic survival skills will be worth more than gold. Can you put up a simple ‘lean-to’ shelter? Can you recognise edible plants and nuts? (See our article: A Quick Guide To Edible Plants) The more you know about the natural environment around you the more calm and level headed you can remain as you work through the situation you’re in. These are simple skills that you can practice if you go camping. Learn how to build a small fire in damp conditions. Learn different ways to purify water. Erect a lean-to shelter. Every time you practice something you get better at doing it.

I hope this brief article prompts you to learn as much as you can. If someday you find yourself in an unplanned situation, having some basic survival skills can make the difference between a good outcome and a bad one.

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