Don’t Make These Mistakes of Wilderness Survival
People tend to make mistakes when their routine is broken or when they feel uncomfortable in a new environment. By avoiding the “BIG” mistakes, one can minimize risks…
Off-Grid-Survival has the story…
Build a Good Shelter
This is a major mistake, of not having a proper shelter with you, or not having the knowledge to build a shelter from nature’s tools which are all around you, could cost you and your loved ones lives in a wilderness survival situation. Exposure is a common term that you will hear come up when talking about someone or a group of people who died in the wilderness. Whether it is hypothermia or heat stroke, the bottom line is you either did not have shelter (tent, tarp, sleeping bag) or you didn’t have the knowledge to build a suitable shelter to shield yourself from the elements. Remember, staying dry is the first rule of survival.
Learn and practice often making shelters out of tarps. There are lots of different ways to make shelters out of tarps that can use little energy and can be setup in a matter of minutes. Often times you only need short pieces of rope and two trees and something to anchor one edge with. If time permits you can make a more elaborate shelter for longer times.
Always carry a tarp in your pack. You never know when your tent will rip beyond repair, or the tension poles break, any number of things go wrong that will cause you to be without shelter. It makes for a good backup.
Using natural material you can also make a good waterproof lean-to shelter. After making the frame, place poles on the backside of it as close together as possible lashing them at the top to the ridge pole. Then cover the poles with moss, dead leaves, even small branches with leaves attached to fill in the cracks between the poles. Then cover this with dirt until its about an inch thick. Lay some branches with leaves over this starting at the bottom and work towards the top. Do this until you have about 3 or 4 layers. This should keep you dry and keep the warmth in when you build a fire with a reflector throwing the heat towards the open part of the shelter.
Lack Navigation Tools or knowledge
People who venture into the Wilderness without a map and compass are flirting with disaster. Anyone who has spent time in the woods knows that within seconds even the best woodsman can get turned around in thick trees and bushes and begin to walk the wrong way. The key to navigation is having a back-up method to find your way to safety, never rely on GPS alone. Having a good understanding of cardinal directions using the Sun and Stars is also beneficial if you are thrown into a situation where prior preparation wasn’t available (plane crash, boat wreck).
Check your map often, Rely on your compass, and have it handy at all times. Have your buddy check his against yours to make sure they both are working correctly and haven’t been damaged. Before you leave make sure you have the correct maps for the area you are going into and that they are up to date. Use Topographic or geologic maps whenever you are in a wilderness area and do not use road maps.
“Be Prepared” is the motto of the Boy Scouts, unfortunately most people who find themselves in a wilderness survival situation have very poor knowledge on how to survival and are usually totally unprepared. You must know the 5 keys to Wilderness Survival.
1. Know how to build a proper shelter in all weather conditions
2. Know how to signal for help and make it visible day and night
3. Know what to eat & how to find it, carry a field manual with you at all times
4. Know how to build and maintain a fire, know the different types of fire lays, fireplaces, and their uses
5. Know how to find water and the different ways to prepare safe water to drink.
Most Wilderness Survival situations start off very innocent, like a fishing trip with friends, a day hike on a familiar trail, or a planned father & son hunting trip. Then things go terribly wrong and suddenly you are faced with a life and death scenario. The only thing you can do is plan for the unexpected. Sit down and go through contingencies before you set off on your trip. Once you leave, it is too late. There is an old military saying “Failing to Plan is Planing to Fail.” Make sure you have done this same process with your emergency car kit.
When you are in the planning stage always remember: Plan on what to bring: your first aid kit, emergency survival kit, 72 hours extra survival food, if something happens you will have 3 days of food to hold you over should you need it and it should be in survival ration form.
Wearing The Wrong Clothes
As a rule you should always dress one layer warmer than you need. You can always take stuff off and wrap it around your waist, stuff into your pockets or put it in your backpack if you get hot. Once you leave an article of clothing behind there is nothing worse than being cold, knowing that you left your jacket in the closet.
Also remember, the outdoor sayings about Cotton: Cotton Kills, Friends don’t let friends wear Cotton, and Cotton is Rotten. Find and wear clothes that retain their warmth even after they become wet. Also have a shell jacket and pants of some kind for rain and snow. Remember, most cases of hypothermia happen in temperatures over 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
I always pack winter clothes in my bug out bag because I never know where I might go, and most of the time its above 8,000 feet above sea level, and usually in the mid spring or early fall, when the temperatures can be cool to cold in the mornings and cool to warm in the afternoons. But back home it would be in the 60s and 70s in the mornings. So be prepared for the changes, dress warmer than you need, dress in layers.
Getting Drinkable Water
We all know that the human body doesn’t last long without water. The question you have to ask yourself in a Wilderness Survival situation is “Will this water make me sick?” Waterborne organisms such as cryptosporidium and giardia can cause severe diarrhea and vomiting that increases dehydration and reduces your ability to carry on your other survival efforts such as building shelter, finding food, and signaling for help. On the flip side dehydration will kill you in a matter of days. Without a good supply of pure drinking water, the body can become dehydrated very quickly. Along with dehydration comes poor judgment, loss of energy, and eventually you will lose the will to survive. There are several methods for purifying water (Boiling it, Chemical tablets, Condensation & Water Filters) and there are several methods for catching rain water or dew. Learn these strategies and be prepared.
No Signal Plan
Being able to signal for help is a key trait in Wilderness Survival. If you go to almost any outdoor store they will have a whole section dedicated to these devices. The most common ones are whistles and signal mirrors but you also have to think about being able to use fire starting devices and high beam flashlights. Other good tools to have are radios, bright clothes, and emergency beacon devices such as ACR or SPOT. If you are caught in a Wilderness Survival situation without any of these tools, have an understanding for creating an emergency signal using rocks, trees, snow, or dirt.
Build a Fire
It is only one word but in Wilderness Survival it has many meanings. Warmth: a good fire can keep you and your loved ones warm in some of the worst conditions. Protection: a strong fire can keep you safe from predators and a long burning stick has scared more than one animal away. Signal: a blazing fire can be seen for miles away at night and the smoke can be seen during the day. Purifier: a hot fire can be used to boil water and keep your drinking water safe. Keep several methods of making a fire with you when traveling in the Wilderness and also learn how to make a fire the old fashion way……with two sticks.
That’s it for now, Stay Safe, Stay Informed, and Practice Your Skills.