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April 7, 2023

Preparing for the Worst: Essential Tips for Surviving in the Wilderness

Written by Zack Newsome
Updated on April 7, 2023
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survival tips for wilderness

When you’re out in the wilderness, anything can happen. A wrong turn, an unexpected storm, or a sudden injury can quickly turn a fun adventure into a life-threatening situation. That’s why it’s crucial to be prepared with the right knowledge, skills, and gear for survival. We all could brush up on survival tips for wilderness trips gone wrong.

In this article, we’ll provide essential survival tips for wilderness emergencies. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a novice camper, these tips will help you be better prepared for the unexpected. We’ll cover everything from basic navigation techniques and essential survival gear to finding food and water and building shelter. We’ll also discuss first aid and emergency response, so you can be ready to handle common wilderness emergencies.

Remember, when it comes to wilderness survival, preparation is key. By taking the time to learn and practice these essential skills, you can increase your chances of staying safe and coming home from your wilderness adventure. So let’s dive in and explore the world of wilderness survival together.

Tip #1: Understand the Environment

The first of our survival tips for wilderness emergency situations is understanding the environment you’ll be navigating. Different types of wilderness environments present unique challenges and hazards that require specific skills and gear.

For example, a desert environment requires special attention to hydration and sun protection, while a mountain environment requires preparation for rapidly changing weather and altitude sickness. Before you head out on your adventure, take the time to research and understand the environment you’ll be navigating. This includes studying maps, reading guidebooks, and checking weather forecasts.

Another important consideration is the time of year. Different seasons present different challenges, such as extreme heat or cold, heavy precipitation, or dangerous wildlife activity. It’s important to plan your trip accordingly and prepare for the specific challenges of the season.

In addition to researching the environment, it’s also important to be aware of your surroundings while you’re out in the wilderness. Pay attention to changes in the weather, terrain, and wildlife activity. This can help you anticipate and avoid potential hazards before they become a problem.

By understanding the environment and being aware of your surroundings, you can better prepare for the challenges of wilderness survival and stay safe on your adventure.

Tip #2: Pack Essential Survival Gear

When it comes to wilderness survival, having the right gear can mean the difference between life and death. Here are some essential items to consider when packing for your wilderness adventure:

  1. survival tips for wilderness
    A good knife is a must-have in your emergency survival kit.

    Knife – A good quality knife is a versatile tool that can be used for everything from cutting rope to preparing food. The Mini Praxis Folding Pocket Knife from CIVIVI is a highly-rated knife that is easy to carry and can be a lifesaver when disaster strikes.

  2. Water filter – Clean drinking water is essential for survival, but it’s not always readily available in the wilderness. A water filter can help remove harmful bacteria and other contaminants from natural water sources. The LifeStraw Personal Water Filter is the gold standard for small, portable water filters that should be a vital part of your survival gear.
  3. Firestarter – Fire provides warmth, light, and a way to cook food, so it’s essential to have a reliable way to start a fire. Options include matches, lighters, and fire starters. We recommend carrying a Flint Fire Starter as a part of your emergency kit.
  4. Map and compass – Knowing where you are and where you’re going is crucial for wilderness navigation. A map and compass can help you stay on track and avoid getting lost. The Sportneer Survival Compass is a handy piece of kit to have on hand in case of survival situations.
  5. First aid kit – Injuries and accidents can happen in the wilderness, so it’s important to have a well-stocked first aid kit. Make sure it includes items like bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes, and tweezers. We’ve highlighted first aid kits from Adventure Medical Kits in the past at Outward Spaces.  We love their wide selection of activity-based medical kits. We recommend their Explorer Medical Kit to keep you covered for most outdoor activities.
  6. Shelter – Protection from the elements is crucial for survival, so it’s important to have a way to create shelter. Options include tents, tarps, and emergency blankets. When you find yourself in a dangerous situation, you’ll be glad you have a Life Bivy from Go Time Gear on hand. The Life Bivy is an emergency bivy sack that will protect you from the extreme elements in an emergency.

These are just a few examples of essential survival gear. Depending on the environment and the length of your trip, you may need additional items like extra clothing, a water bottle, or a signaling device. Remember to pack only what you need and make sure your gear is high quality and reliable.

Prefer to have a bunch of great survival tools on hand in a complete kit? Check out this highly-rated emergency survival kit that includes 142 pieces of gear that could help save your life.

By having the right gear on hand, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges of wilderness survival and increase your chances of making it back home safely.

When considering survival gear, we prefer to carry an item that can avoid survival experiences altogether – a satellite communicator. The Zoleo Satellite Communicator is an affordable device that allows you to contact emergency services (or friends back home) in the case of an outdoors emergency.  It utilizes satellite technology to work even far from cell phone coverage areas.

Tip #3:Become Well-Versed in Navigation Techniques

Getting lost in the wilderness can be a terrifying experience, but with the right navigation techniques, you can stay on course and avoid getting lost. Here are some essential navigation techniques to consider:

  1. Map and compass – As mentioned in the previous section, a map and compass are essential navigation tools. Make sure you know how to read a map and use a compass before heading out on your adventure.
  2. Landmarks – Use natural landmarks like mountains, rivers, and rock formations to orient yourself and stay on track. Take note of these landmarks on your map so you can easily recognize them while navigating.
  3. Sun and stars – If you don’t have a compass, you can still navigate using the sun and stars. Learn how to use them to determine direction and time of day.
  4. GPS – While not a replacement for map and compass skills, a GPS can be a helpful navigation tool. Just be sure to bring extra batteries or a solar charger to keep it powered up. The Garmin GPSMAP 67i is a handheld GPS built for the outdoors and includes Garmin’s inReach satellite technology to stay connected with emergency services when far off-grid.
  5. Leave a trail – As you navigate, leave markers like flagging tape, cairns, or rocks to help you find your way back or to guide rescuers if necessary.

By mastering these navigation techniques, you’ll be better equipped to stay on course and avoid getting lost in the wilderness. Remember to always stay aware of your surroundings and make adjustments to your plan as needed.

Tip #4: Prioritize Finding Food and Water

In the wilderness, finding food and water can be a major challenge. Here are some tips for finding these essential resources:

  1. finding water in a survival situation
    You can find water via natural sources like streams, rivers, and lakes, but be sure to filter or purify the water before drinking to avoid waterborne illnesses.

    Water – Your body can only survive for a few days without water, so finding a clean water source is a top priority. Look for natural sources like streams, rivers, and lakes, but be sure to filter or purify the water before drinking to avoid waterborne illnesses.

  2. Food – While it’s possible to survive for weeks without food, finding a source of sustenance can greatly increase your chances of survival. Look for edible plants and berries, fish, small game, and insects. Make sure you’re familiar with the local flora and fauna and avoid any plants or animals that are poisonous or could make you sick.
  3. Fishing and trapping – If you’re near a body of water, fishing can be an excellent way to get protein. Make sure you have the right gear and know the local fishing regulations. Trapping small game can also be an effective way to get food.
  4. Survival skills – Knowing basic survival skills like fire starting, shelter building, and navigation can greatly increase your chances of finding food and water. For example, learning how to identify animal tracks and signs can help you track and hunt game.

Remember to conserve your energy and resources when searching for food and water. Don’t expend more energy than necessary and make sure to rest and hydrate regularly. By following these survival tips for wilderness emergencies, you’ll be better equipped to find the resources you need to survive in the wilderness.

Tip #5: Learn in Advance How to Build A Shelter

Having a shelter can provide protection from the elements, help regulate body temperature, and increase your chances of survival. Here are some tips for building a shelter in the wilderness:

  1. Location – Look for a shelter location that’s protected from the elements, such as under a rock overhang or near a natural windbreak. Avoid areas that are prone to flooding or that are in the path of potential hazards like falling rocks or trees.
  2. Materials – Use natural materials like branches, leaves, and bark to build your shelter. Look for materials that are dry and sturdy, and avoid using anything that’s rotten or diseased.
  3. Type of shelter – There are many types of shelters you can build in the wilderness, depending on your location and resources. Some common types include lean-tos, debris huts, and A-frame shelters. Research and practice building different types of shelters to determine what works best for you.
  4. Insulation – Adding insulation to your shelter can help regulate body temperature and keep you warm at night. Use materials like leaves, grass, or pine needles to create a thick layer of insulation between you and the ground.
  5. Fire – If possible, build your shelter near a source of fuel for a fire. This can provide warmth, light, and a way to cook food.

By following these tips and building a sturdy shelter, you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges of wilderness survival. Remember to practice building shelters in different environments and weather conditions to increase your skills and confidence.

Tip #6: First Aid and Emergency Response

Accidents can happen even to the most experienced wilderness adventurer. It’s essential to have basic first aid skills and knowledge of emergency response protocols to handle unexpected situations. Here are some tips for first aid and emergency response in the wilderness:

starting a fire - survival tips for wilderness
When in survival situations, it’s essential to have a reliable way to start a fire.
  1. First aid kit – Always bring a well-stocked first aid kit with you. Make sure it includes items like bandages, gauze, antiseptic, pain relievers, and a first aid manual.
  2. Basic first aid skills – Learn basic first aid skills like wound care, splinting, and CPR. Take a wilderness first aid course to learn how to handle common injuries and emergencies.
  3. Emergency signaling – In case of an emergency, you need a way to signal for help. Bring signaling devices like a whistle, signal mirror, or flare gun, and know how to use them.
  4. Emergency response protocol – Have a plan in case of an emergency. Make sure someone knows where you’re going and when you’re expected to return. If someone gets injured, decide whether to stay put or seek help, and know how to contact emergency services.
  5. Mental preparation – Accidents and emergencies can be stressful and traumatic. Prepare yourself mentally by staying calm, practicing mindfulness, and visualizing potential scenarios.

By being prepared and knowing basic first aid and emergency response protocols, you’ll be better equipped to handle unexpected situations in the wilderness. Remember to stay calm, assess the situation, and prioritize your actions to increase your chances of survival.

The Bottom Line

Surviving in the wilderness requires preparation, knowledge, and skills. By understanding the environment, having essential survival gear, knowing navigation techniques, finding food and water sources, building a shelter, and having basic first aid and emergency response skills, you’ll be better equipped to handle unexpected situations and increase your chances of survival.

Remember, the wilderness can be both beautiful and dangerous, so always prioritize safety and take necessary precautions. Don’t hesitate to turn back or change your plans if conditions become too difficult or risky.

We hope you’ve found these survival tips for wilderness emergencies helpful. By following the tips and techniques outlined in this article and practicing your skills, you can experience the thrill of wilderness adventure while staying safe and prepared for whatever challenges come your way.

Have additional survival tips for wilderness emergencies? We want to hear them, let us know below in the comments.

About the Author

Zack Newsome

Zack is a lifelong adventurer passionate about sharing the joy of the outdoors with others. He loves camping, fly-fishing, sailing, and exploring wild spaces. He launched Outward in early 2022 to inspire others to spend more time outdoors – improving mental health and more deeply connecting with the environment.

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