Whether you’re camping for several days or find yourself in a survival situation, choosing an appropriate campsite can determine whether you have a comfortable time in the wilderness or endure a miserable and potentially hazardous ordeal. From a survival standpoint, opting for a suitable location significantly impacts your safety and access to essential resources, ultimately ensuring your well-being and survival in challenging circumstances.
When out in the backcountry overnight, there are five crucial factors that should be taken into consideration to ensure your comfort and safety. These factors are water, wood, weather, widowmakers, and wildlife, collectively known as the “5 W’s.”
If you find yourself in survival mode in the wilderness, the first thing you should do is find a clean water source. Even if you’ve brought water with you, there’s a chance you will run out. Humans can’t survive for more than a few days without water, so finding a potable water source is crucial for survival. In addition to drinking water, you can use this water for cooking and cleaning as well. Once you find your natural water source, you’ll want to position your camp nearby, but not too close to prevent flooding.
In a survival situation, building a fire is vital and can mean the difference between life and death. Fire provides warmth, light, a means to cook food, and protection from wildlife. Search the area for an adequate supply of dry wood of different sizes for kindling and fuel wood. In addition, you’ll also want to look for dried leaves, moss, or bark to use as tinder to start your fire. Check out our guide on how to build a campfire.
Depending on your climate and location, the weather may be a critical factor in survival. Snowy conditions, thunderstorms, or extreme temperatures will likely require you to seek shelter immediately. They will also determine the kind of shelter necessary to protect yourself from the elements and ultimately, for survival. For example, in extreme wind situations, you may need to find an appropriate shelter to block the wind, whereas in hot temperatures you may need to dig into the ground or find a cave to find cooler temperatures.
Widowmakers are any natural objects or hazards that could cause injury or death. When building your shelter and campsite, you want to look out for potential widowmakers to ensure you remain safe and out of harm’s way. You want to settle in a safe area that you remain protected. For example, you don’t want to set up your campsite under a rock ledge that could become dislodged, under dead tree limbs that may fall, or right next to a river that could flood your campsite.
When alone in the wilderness, it’s important to remember you’re not completely alone. You’re sharing it with an abundance of wildlife and some can harm you if you don’t keep an eye out. However, with a little extra planning and precautions, you can avoid them or prevent a dangerous interaction. Protecting your food and keeping it packed away properly can help prevent animals from raiding your campsite. It’s also important to know how to interact with predators to reduce the risk of an attack. For example, if you see a bear, your first instinct may be to run. However, running from a bear will alert their prey drive and they may attack. Before embarking on a journey, it’s important to research what dangerous wildlife you may encounter so you can be fully prepared on how to manage it if you do find yourself in an encounter.