So You Want To Survive In The Wild?

Severe bearded man with an ax at sunset

The 10 most important wilderness survival skills:

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1. Take Inventory of Your Supplies

Everything you have on you is a potential survival tool, and can be utilized. For example, with some creativity and ingenuity, a shoelace can be used to fashion a bow and arrow and a $20 bill and hatchet to start a fire without matches. Take advantage of everything you have.

2. Get Your Head Right

Maintaining a positive attitude is perhaps the hardest and most important wilderness survival skill to develop. Studies have shown that when people adopt a positive attitude their thinking is more creative, integrative, flexible, and open to information. Moreover, positive people tend to bounce back more quickly from physical sickness and injuries than people with negative attitudes. These two traits, creativity and physical resiliency, are essential to survival.

When you’re alone in the wild with little or no provisions it’s easy to slip into depression and feel sorry for yourself.

Resilient men have an internal locus of control. They’re the masters of their own destiny and tend to handle stress well. Those with an external locus of control curl up into a ball and cry big crocodile tears about how bad they have it. Which man do you think is going to survive when their back is to the wall?

While you should maintain a positive attitude while lost in the wild, you don’t want to delude yourself into thinking that things are better than they really are. First, you only set yourself up for disappointment when things don’t go your way, and second, maintaining a realistic outlook will keep you from getting complacent. You always need to be planning and working as though you’re in your situation for the long haul.

In short, hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

3. Learn to S.T.O.P.

A key to survival is to frequently S.T.O.P. (Stop, Think, Observe, Plan)

The key to surviving in the wilderness is keeping yourself from panicking. Sometimes the best thing you can do in a survival situation is to do nothing and just think. You’ll save yourself a lot of wasted effort.

4. Small Mistakes Are Magnified in the Wilderness

In the wild, small mistakes can kill. If you break your leg in suburbia, you’ll just have to prop your foot up on a pillow for a few days and hobble around on crutches. An inconvenience, but you’ll get by. Now, break that leg in the middle of nowhere and you have a world of problems. You won’t be able to walk, which means you won’t be able to hunt. If you can’t hunt, you can’t eat. If you don’t eat, you die. All because of a stupid broken leg.

Granted, completely avoiding mistakes isn’t possible, but you should limit them as much as you can. Taking the time to S.T.O.P. can definitely prevent most blunders. Staying constantly vigilant will help, too.  Be aware of your surroundings. You never know if you’ll end up face to face with an angry mother bear or a raging bull moose.

5. Always Carry a Good Tool

Any cutting tool would come in handy out in the wild. Even a lowly pocket knife. Another essential tool worthy of praise is a high beam tactical flashlight. Put these tools in the hands of a crafty, able-bodied man, and he’ll not only survive the wild, he’ll conquer it.

6. Know How and Where to Get Clean Water

People often underestimate the importance of water in a survival situation. Your body can still function with little or no food for weeks, but go without water for a few days and you die. Water isn’t hard to find. It’s everywhere (well, except for deserts). The problem is finding clean water.

Most wilderness survival experts recommend boiling water before drinking it to kill any harmful pathogens. This technique, of course, assumes you have a pot on hand. If you don’t have a pot, several techniques exist to procure drinking water like collecting rain or creating a water still. It’s also possible to create filtering systems with things you have on hand, like a t-shirt.

7. Make a Safe Shelter

After finding water, finding (or creating) shelter to protect you from the elements should be your next priority. Take advantage of your surroundings when creating a shelter. Rock overhangs make excellent shelters. If you don’t have a rock overhang nearby, you’ll need to use materials like limbs, leaves, and pine boughs to make a shelter. A lean-to is an easy and popular wilderness survival shelter. Other shelter designs exist and each one has their pros and cons.

8. Find Food

A man cannot survive on fruit alone. Your body needs protein to give you strength. You can prepare to feed yourself in the wild by becoming familiar with edible plants, berries, and roots. Moreover, learn how to create rudimentary traps to capture small game.

9. Know How to Start a Fire Without Matches

Fire provides warmth, light, protection from animals and insects, and a rescue signal. Fire is also a big morale booster — almost like a companion.

When you’re in a wilderness survival situation, don’t count on matches. Even if you have them, windy and wet situations will render them virtually useless. Thus, it’s essential that a man knows how to start a fire without matches. You should try learning several methods so you’re prepared for any situation. In addition to knowing how to start a fire, you should also know how to build a campfire appropriate for your different needs.

10. Prepare a Signal

In the wild, surviving is your top priority. Your second priority should be to get the hell out of there and back to safety. Fire works as a great signal.  A reflection mirror is another great option. While you can purchase a special signal mirror, any shiny, metallic object could work in a pinch. You can also create search signals by using rocks which contrast with the ground’s color to spell out “SOS” or “HELP.” The letters you create should be at least 9 feet tall in order for pilots to see them from the air.



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