During my camping trips, I often had the pleasure to chat with different park rangers. We often discuss about wilderness survival and about the rescue missions they partaken. After countless discussions I can state that wilderness survival is based on three factors: survival knowledge, equipment and will to survive.
These are the main factors that will greatly influence the ability of a person to survive in the wild. There is no room for luck out there and it’s all up to what you can do. Acquiring survival knowledge and developing skills can be done by anyone. Buying the proper equipment should be no problem either as long as you have the funds. However, the will to survive cannot be taught in a book or magazine.
I firmly believe that you can increase your skills and knowledge through others and I try to learn as much as I can from people around me. Every trip I make is carefully planned, regardless the environment I’m in. When it comes to wilderness survival I have a three-step approach to help me overcome any scenario. Understanding and using this approach keeps me organized and stress free. I’m sharing my method hoping it can do the same for you.
My approach to wilderness survival
In the great outdoors, your needs remain constant regardless of your climate, terrain or health. It is up to you how you met these needs and how you prioritize them. However, most importantly is how you improvise to meet them. I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it till the day I die, improvisation is the key to survival. The three steps to wilderness survival are: acknowledge your situation for what it is, identify and prioritize your survival needs, improvise to meet those needs (using available resources).
If you find yourself in a difficult situation that may threaten your survival, you need to stop and acknowledge the situation for what it is. If you think you lost the trail, you probably did. Once you are lost, there is no use to try and spot “familiar trees or rocks”. I heard this one so many times, it always make me laugh. There are no familiar things in the wild, everything is different and unless you see a trail mark, you’re lost.
If you walk around when you are lost, all you’re doing is burning up daylight. Even more, you will move far beyond the search and rescue zone. Once you acknowledge that you are lost, you should stop wandering around. You will make yourself a service and you will help rescue teams as well. Use the time you have to cover your needs for survival and to increase your chances of being rescued.
Related article: Signal For Help – Wilderness Survival Tips
If you keep your calm and acknowledge the situation you are in for what it is, it’s time to move forward. Start by identifying and prioritizing your survival essentials in order of importance. Although the wilderness survival scenario can change, the survival essentials remain the same. You can adjust the order following how your situation develops. The survival essentials are:
- Personal protection (shelter, fire and clothing)
- Rescue signaling (improvised and man-made)
- Short-term sustenance (consuming the food and water you brought along)
- Health (environmental injuries, traumatic, etc.)
- Long-term sustenance (identifying and procuring water and food)
Maintaining life is closely related to health, personal protection and sustenance. Rescue signaling and travel are steps needed in order to return home. The wilderness survival scenario you’re experiencing influences the order of the survival essentials. If you have a tent with you, but you don’t have any food, you can imagine that short-term sustenance becomes a priority. If you get lost in an area that is popular for hikers and campers, you might want to get on building a fire rescue signal.
The way you plan for these survival essentials will simplify or complicate your efforts for wilderness survival. If you have a good survival bag and if you have the proper gear, all that remains is to know how to use what you got.
Since nature doesn’t play by your rules, chances are you may need to improvise to meet the survival needs. You will do so by using man-made and/or natural resources. All the comfort you have at home is not present in the woods. Things such as tap water, a nice bed, proper heating or lighting are not part of an outdoor experience. However, these needs can be met using your gear and what nature provides.
It’s unlikely that you packed everything you need.Maybe you get separated from your bag. Wilderness survival requires for you to improvise with what you’ve got and what you can find. As a general rule, I keep a few items on me at all times. These items will give me a fighting chance even if I get separated from my gear.
Nature can provide you with everything you need. The key is to know what you are looking for and how to improvise with it once you found it. Sometimes this task is easy, and other times it may require all your effort and imagination to complete it. There is an approach to improvising that can help in the decision process.
Wilderness survival improvisation
- Determine your survival needs (shelter, food, etc.)
- Make a quick inventory of the man-made resources you have an the natural ones you can find
- Consider the ways to meet your needs (do I need a one man shelter or a big shelter? do I know what to forage for? Do I need to fish or hunt?)
- Always pick the one that best utilizes your time, energy and materials. The one that doesn’t affect your physical integrity.
- Plan before you build or do, ensuring that the final result is the safe one.
The only limitation during a wilderness survival situation is your imagination and lack of knowledge. No matter what you are experiencing, the three steps listed in the article will help you survive during a time of uncertainty. Focus on your tasks and make a safe return home.
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