Having fun outdoors doesn’t have to be complicated, so we bring you a reminder that even some of the most vital skills every outdoor enthusiast needs to have are often more simple than we make them out to be.
These principles of wilderness safety are some of the most important you’ll ever need to learn, and you should always keep them in mind when you’re heading out for an outdoors adventure.
Survival Skill #1 – How To Locate An Appropriate Campsite
The most important thing when looking for an acceptable location for camping out is staying dry and staying high. You want to avoid paths and valleys where flowing water may run towards you. There’s a reason flash floods got their name; they can inundate a low-lying area in minutes.
Your campsite should also be free from falling rocks, caves that could be a shelter for animals, and widow-makers, which are tree branches that could crash down in the middle of the night. You want to preferably be nearby to resources like dry wood (this wood is useful for cobbling together a shelter and building a fire), running water and rocky formations or walls that are able to act as a barrier between you and the elements.
Survival Skill #2 – How To Build A Shelter
It probably doesn’t surprise you that the biggest danger you can face outdoors during cold weather is hypothermia. Therefore, in a prolonged survival situation, your first priority should be a shelter that is properly insulated. To create a simple shelter, find a fallen tree reclining at an angle, or securely place a sizeable branch against a tree, stacking smaller branches on one side. Layer debris like moss and leaves across this angled wall, and scatter some debris on the ground. This layer between you and the cool ground will work as insulation and help maintain your body heat.
Survival Skill #3 – How To Start A Fire Using a Battery
To start a fire, you can use any battery, as it’s all about creating a short-circuit. You need to connect the positive and negative terminals with foil (gum wrappers will do in a pinch), steel wool or wire, creating a spark that can be transferred to a bundle of tinder.
Survival Skill #4 – How To Find Clean Water
In the wilderness, you’ll come across two types of water: potable water which has already been purified, or water that may kill you. Stay away from everything that’s remained on the ground for awhile, such as a stream or a puddle and look for running water instead. If you’re stuck and that’s your only source of water, then make sure you boil it first, which will kill all the pathogens.
Other reliable sources of clean water than you can easily collect come from snow, dew, and rain, with the added bonus that no purification is needed. If you don’t have a recipient to collect water, a bandana or t shirt will do, just soak up the dew and wring out the fabric. Water can also be squeezed from thistles, vines, and some cacti. Bonus if you’re around maple trees, just cut a hole in the tree bark and enjoy nature’s energy drink.
Survival Skill #5 – How To Collect Water With A Transpiration Bag
Plants, like humans, “sweat” during the day, in a process called transpiration. The water that they sweat is pure and clean, meaning it’s a great source of water. To collect it, place a clear plastic bag over a branch with lots of leaves, and close it very tightly. Water will accumulate via condensation during the day, so you’ll have a bag full of water that’s ready to drink.
Survival Skill #6 – How To Identify Edible Plants
In a survival situation, there’s no need to (probably fruitlessly) attempt to bring down big game. You can make your living by eating small and edible plants. You can also eat small animals such as frogs, lizards, and fish.
To be able to separate the plants that are edible from those which are poisonous, you will need to read up and flex your memory skills. We recommend buying a book and familiarizing yourself with the plants in different habitats. If you’re uncertain about something, take no chances. No time to read up? Just remember that some edible plants which are easily found include dandelions, wild spinach (or lambsquarter) and cattail.
Survival Skill #7 – How To Navigate By Day
Say your phone ran out of battery, you don’t have a GPS navigator, and you forgot to bring a map and compass. Not to worry, you will still be able to use the sky to determine your location. Look at the sun to get your general bearings during the day, as it will always rise in the east and set in the west.
You can use an analog watch to find the north-south line. Place your watch parallel to the ground and place the hour hand in the direction of the sun. Visualize a line running precisely midway in between the 12 o’clock hand and the hour hand, and that will be the north-south line. During daylight savings, you should imagine the line in the middle of the one o’clock hand and the hour hand.
Survival Skill #8 – How To Tie A Bowline
Knowing how to tie a knot is a useful skill to have in a myriad of survival situations. Knots will come in handy for securing a shelter, tying a snare or lowering yourself down the face of a cliff. In an ideal world, you should know a wide assortment of knots in your repertoire, from loops to bends to hitches, but the bowline is one you definitely need to learn as it will be your rescue knot. A useful mnemonic to remember when tying a bowline knot is “the rabbit comes out of the hole, around the tree, and back in the hole.”
Survival Skill #9 – How To Send Up a Survival Signal
Supposing that you can’t move due to an injury, augmenting your visibility could be your only hope for getting saved, as it will mean rescuers will be able to spot and you and rescue you. If you use the survival signals correctly, the following two methods will guarantee that someone will see you if they’re looking for you.
The first survival signal method is a fire, and you need to make sure somewhere that allows for maximum visibility. You need to find a clearing in a forest or a hilltop where nothing can spread the smoke, such as trees or a cliff face. The foundation of the fire needs to be away from the ground by a platform, so moisture from the ground doesn’t seep into the wood. You need to use your best combustible material, therefore guaranteeing your fire will light quickly. Thick smoke is your best bet, so throw green branches into the fire once it’s been lit. Remember that this fire is not about keeping you warm, it’s about getting you seen.
The second signal is using a mirror to reflect light. The flash from a mirror can be seen for miles, even at night, using the reflection from the moon. No mirror handy? You can concoct a signal with any reflective surface you have around, such as cell phone screens or headlights, even mirrored sunglasses.