Essential Wilderness Survival Tips

When hiking or going on an expedition in the wilderness, you hope that everything goes as planned, but that may not always be the case. You can get injured, become lost, or come face-to-face with a top predator. This is why planning for the worst is vital and when put in certain situations, thorough planning just may be the difference between life and death. 

From the top survival needs to what gear is a must, here are the essential survival tips to keep you safe and ensure you’re prepared for the worst. 

Stop and Strategize

If you happen to get lost or stranded in the wilderness, it’s vital to remain calm. Once you’re in the right headspace it’s important to take inventory of all your gear and the resources available to you in your surroundings.

Once you’ve taken inventory of your gear and the resources available to you, it’s time to strategize and come up with a plan for survival. The three most vital survival needs are water, shelter, and warmth. Searching for water should be your top priority and will also determine where you should build your shelter and create a fire. 

Find a Clean Water Source

Finding a clean water source is imperative for your survival. Hopefully, you have a map with you that will show what rivers and streams are nearby where you can collect water. If there’s rain in the forecast you can collect it in any open container. During the winter you can also collect snow for drinking water. It’s important to melt it first before consuming it as your body uses up a lot of energy attempting to digest it frozen. 

If you have the means to do so, boil any water you find before drinking it to kill any bacteria or pathogens that could make you sick. 

Check out our guide for more tips on how to find clean drinking water in the wild. 

Seek Shelter

Once you’ve located a clean water source, it’s time to find shelter. A good shelter will protect you from the elements as well as wild animals. More often than not, the environment will require you to seek out warmth for survival. In this case, try to find a small space like a cave or overhang that can help capture your body heat when inside. If you’ve brought a tarp and rope, you can create a shelter with that. If not, you’ll need to get creative with what you have around you. 

Once you’ve found a proper space you can use tree branches to create a framework that will trap your body heat while also protecting you from the elements such as wind, snow, or rain. Once you’ve created a framework, leaves, bark, and moss can help to insulate your shelter.

Make a Fire

Once you’ve found water and created shelter, you’ll want to start a fire. A fire will not only provide warmth and light but you’ll also be able to cook and boil unfiltered water to drink with it. 

Gather Kindling and Make a Tinder Bundle

First, collect kindling such as dry sticks and then create a tinder bundle of any dried foliage around.

Ignite Tinder 

It may help to dig a shallow hole to prevent your fire from being blown out by any wind. Once you’ve collected your tinder and kindling, you’ll want to ignite your tinder. This is where your essential gear comes into play and you should have brought matches, a lighter, or a magnesium fire starter. Once you get a small flame, blow on it to help it spread.

Stack DRY Wood

Once your tinder and kindling are burning, add larger pieces of wood to keep your fire going. However, it’s important to make sure they’re completely dry or you run the risk of smothering your fire. Stack larger logs and branches to create a tipi-like structure that feeds the fire oxygen and ensures it burns properly and doesn’t go out. You can also use larger logs to block the wind while placing smaller branches inside.

10 Essential Must-Have Gear

Whether your adventure is for a few hours or a few days, having the proper gear is vital. Here are the 10 essentials you should include:

1. Navigation: Knowing where you are and where you’re going is crucial. While you’ll likely have a smartphone on you, these can run out of battery or lose signal. It’s best to bring along the appropriate map, compass, and/or a GPS unit. 

2. Hydration: Probably the most important aspect of survival is hydration. Carry enough water for the duration of your trip or know where you can find natural water sources along your route. A water filter, chemical tablets, purifier, or means of boiling unfiltered water before drinking it may also be helpful. 

3. Nutrition: Snacks like dried fruit and granola bars or other nonperishable foods are essential for energy and endurance. 

4. Fire Starter: Matches, flint, and/or a lighter are an essential part of your gear. It’s ideal to bring more than one fire starter just in case. Make sure to keep them in a waterproof case to keep them dry.

5. Waterproof Bag and Rain Gear: A water-resistant bag or case is vital to keep your gear dry and in good working condition. In addition, proper rain gear can keep you dry and warm if the weather takes a turn. 

6. Multi-Tool Knife: A multipurpose tool can be an incredibly important means of survival that provides a variety of uses from cutting things, for sharpening makeshift tools, etc. 

7. Shelter: While you don’t necessarily need to pack a tent, having the right multipurpose equipment to make a shelter if need be is essential. A rope and tarp can protect you from the elements while also being useful for keeping provisions out of reach from animals or collecting rainwater. 

8. LED Headlamp: A smartphone typically won’t provide enough light in extreme dark. An LED headlamp provides adequate light while also leaving you hands-free. 

9. First-Aid Kit: A good first-aid kit will have everything you need to deal with minor to major injuries. However, the knowledge of how to treat injuries is equally important. Consider taking a wilderness first-aid course to ensure you’re confident and prepared for anything.

10. Sun Protection: Sunglasses, SPF 30+, and a hat are important items to protect you from harmful UV rays and potential sunburn.