When the brown stuff hits the fan, the great outdoors may be the only option for some to bug out. It may be a rugged option, but it still better than fighting with other elements of society and competing for resources. Even so, your ability to survive will depend on your own strength and the aptitude of staying healthy on the trail.
If you do not manage to take care of yourself both physically and mentally, you are at a heightened risk of not making it. You may end up injured or sick, and altogether, a burden for everyone around you. Even more, if people are depending on you, their only hope of survival is making sure you take care of yourself properly.
If you get injured or get ill while journeying through the wilderness, your survival performance would be significantly impacted and you will become more and more vulnerable to Mother Nature’s hazards.
You don’t have to be an expert survivalist to go into the woods and staying healthy on the trail requires certain measures. What is required of yourself is to put a little effort and become an example for those accompanying you.
Suggestions for staying healthy on the trail
Protect your feet
Your vehicle is your number one mode of transportation when it hits the fan. Your second means of transportation are your feet. In certain cases, your feet may become your only way of transportation. If you live in the city, chances are you won’t be able to use your vehicle to escape the chaos. You may use an alternative means of transportation like a bike or scooter, but it’s not a given.
Your feet will lead you to safety and will help you get to water and food. Providing protection and maintenance to your feet is crucial. This is required before and after any journey.
One of the first things you need to do is carefully selecting a pair of boots. You should check out a reputable outfitter to get some heavy duty boots. Although the name might imply, your boots shouldn’t be” heavy”. You need to pick a pair of boots that can withstand tough weather conditions while providing you with the comfort you need. Also, make sure you wear them in advance to avoid blistering on the trail.
When it comes to socks, you should pick your pair of socks depending on the climate. Go with wicking socks as an under-layer. Their synthetic material will pull sweat away from your feet. If you want to keep your feet dry and warm during winter, wool socks are a great choice.
Related article: Boots-Choice: A Bigger Deal Than You Thought
Keeping your feet fungal free means you need to keep them dry first. Fungal infections develop when the microorganism inhabiting your feet drain moisture from the skin. Staying healthy on the trail requires changing your socks often. Make sure you dry your pair of socks if you didn’t pack enough.
Trimming your nails properly (straight across) is also mandatory. If you have rounded nails, they will become ingrown during long journeys by foot. They can also fall off if enough pressure is being put on them (like going downhill).
In the Army, we learned that having foot powder is bliss. It will help with sweat absorption and provide you with the much-needed relief. When setting up camp, I also recommend using baking soda mixed with water to wash your feet. Do this before going to bed and it will help rejuvenate your feet for the next day.
Learn how to treat blisters since they will certainly occur during long walks on uneven terrain. There are several ways to treat them and I wrote about this in a previous article.
Pay attention to oral hygiene
This is one of the most neglected aspects of hygiene when people decide to go hiking. Many people don’t bother with it since they won’t be out there for long. However, not giving your teeth the proper care when bugging out will lead to excruciating pain.
You don’t need toothaches when fleeing for your life and they will affect both your physical and mental state. A long stay in the wilderness requires educating yourself with steps on how to keep good oral hygiene.
Bring a toothbrush when exploring the wilderness or learn how to make one from various plants. Here is how you can do it using the alfalfa plant:
- Take alfalfa roots that are thick around in diameter and strip the outer skin
- Dry the roots at room temperature
- After the roots have dried, you have to cut them in 3-5 inch pieces.
- Hit each end with a hammer to break up the fibers and form a brush (beat it enough to make bristles)
- Fold the roots in half and bundle them
Always soak the brush in warm water before using it and don’t press too hard on your gums as you may cause bleeding.
You can also make toothpaste, both powder and paste. For powder toothpaste you can try this recipe:
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup baking soda
- 2 tablespoon dried lemon rind
- 1 tablespoon dried orange rind
Grind the rinds to a powder using a grinding tool (either a blender or a mortar and pestle). Add the salt and soda and mix until it becomes a fine powder. You can pour the powder into your hand and rub the wet toothbrush to use it. This toothpaste can last for a long time if you store it in a dry place.
For a “classical” toothpaste you can mix 2 tablespoons of coconut oil with 2 tablespoons of baking soda.
Cleanse your body
Some say that getting dirty is part of the fun when exploring the great outdoors and it’s somehow true. However, staying healthy on the trail requires to clean your hands and body regularly. This is not up for debate when bugging out into the woods.
You will have to deal with various skin conditions due to the elements. Not to mention that insects, plants and even hard work (rubbing material on your skin) can cause a lot of problems. You will need to make sure you clean your skin regularly and wash your wounds properly to avoid infection.
Suggested article: Planning Tips for A Longer Wilderness Stay And Expedition
Keeping your body clean can also boost your morale and it provides a feeling of happiness. Freshening up on the outside can make miracles on your insides. You will be more focused and handle your other tasks properly if you stay clean.
However, to do all of this, you will need a water source readily available. While there are other alternatives available (baby wipes, hand sanitizer, etc.), you will needs a source of water in the long run.
While having a proper medical kit in your bug out bag is great, you also have to know that Mother Nature has your back. Supplies may run out, or you may have to share them with others. In a survival scenario, you should be able to quickly cure yourself even when things seem worse. Becoming knowledgeable of natural remedies and knowing which plants, trees, flowers and weeds are beneficial to your health is a must.
If you have a headache or fever, willow leaves can help you ease up the symptoms. How about burns and wounds? Plantain and aloe can help even better than modern medicine.
The thing I want to stress here is that every region of this beautiful country of ours can provide you with natural healing. You should know what vegetation grows in your area and what benefits can each plant offer. Always keep a plant identification field guide in your pocket.
Prepare to survive against all odds
Bugging out into the wilderness and staying healthy on the trail requires some out of the box thinking. You will find yourself in a place that needs to be taken seriously and you need to have options and a backup plan.
You need to keep your mind, body and soul healthy if you want to survive any obstacle. Before you ever take out your first pair of “survival boots” for a quick test, you should make sure all of the essentials are planned.
You should have a bug out bag packed with essentials, but you should also make a plan to carry essential items on you at all times. Assume that you will be separated from your bag and make various scenarios. Try to figure out an answer for each scenario and don’t make things “too easy” for yourself. Think about what you will do if you or someone in your party gets injured.
Think about using multi-tools that are lightweight and practical, but also learn how to do it like in the early days. How to do it like the primitives and the first settlers. Every task you plan on doing with modern tools should have a backup plan in which you make do without those tools.
Staying healthy on the trail is a game of planning and acting upon it. When was the last time you checked your supplies or bug out bag? Winter is in full effect, do you still have the proper clothing in your bug out bag? How about the food items, are they still edible?
Preparedness and well-thought actions are key elements for staying healthy on the trail. If you don’t plan for a bugging out scenario and act upon it, surviving the great outdoors will become an impossible task. If you have people depending on you, chances are you have to prepare for all of them and take into account their strength and weakness. Your ability to survive in the wild is dependent on your capacity to function at 100%. Staying healthy on the trail is mandatory if you want to reach your destination.