How to Survive in the Wilderness – 2023

Wilderness Survival Guide: Do’s and Don’ts

Finding yourself in the middle of nowhere may sound appealing to those who grew tired of the buzzing city routine. People romanticize everything these days, and running away to live in the forest is no exception. However, everyone who has ever gotten lost in the wilderness and was lucky and skillful enough to survive would tell them it’s an experience anything but pleasant. Wilderness survival has long ceased being a part of our necessary skillset, indicating how much our life quality has improved. Unfortunately, people still get lost in the woods, and more often than not, those who had no such plans.

Two Scenarios and How They are Different

There are two basic scenarios when it comes to surviving in the wilderness: controlled and uncontrolled. The first one is the lot of outdoor enthusiasts, and the second can take anyone aback. Controlled scenarios are those that were expected, the ones you had a chance to prepare for. For example, you were planning a camping trip and pack survival gear in addition to regular camping equipment just in case you should get lost. Or there is no camping trip, and you just want to test yourself against the elements. You know what you are about to experience and have time to read through relevant articles (like this one). That would be one kind of survival, not deprived of its difficulties, but undoubtedly much easier than the second type.

The second scenario snatches you from your daily life and throws you into a harsh embrace of the wilderness. You have no idea where you are, where to go, and what to do. You are probably panicking and walking in circles. You rifle through your pockets and find some trinkets, though no water-purifying tablets or space blanket. This scenario is dire, but it isn’t bound to end poorly. Many people got lost with hardly anything in their pockets and survived by making use of what was around them. Purifying tablets will certainly make your search for water easier, but they are not your only chance of finding potable water. 

For the sake of brevity, we’ll further refer to these scenarios as easy and hard modes respectively. Though survival strategy won’t be much different, the means of achieving vary significantly. It’s easy to suggest having a small critter for lunch to maintain your nutrient balance, but hardly anyone will happen to have hunting gear with them.

Planning and Determining Priorities 

The first thing you need to do is always assume you’ll get lost. You shouldn’t expect that, but you should pack as if you were planning to. It doesn’t have to be a Wilderness Survival Pack PRO, but your lost self will thank your packing self for taking a multitool, a set of matches, several non-perishable snacks like energy bars, an emergency blanket, and a first-aid kit.

We know this will hardly become a habit, and people won’t pack those things for every trip to the great outdoors. If you knew for sure you wouldn’t get lost, but despite that unbreakable belief managed to do so, a cool head is the first thing you should acquire. Panic is an ill adviser, and it will certainly scream a thing or two in your years when the realization comes. Clear thinking will also help you assess the situation or at least not jeopardize the situation any further. 

When you are sure the panic is gone, start assessing. Did you come in the middle of nowhere or stray away from a hiking trail? If it is a popular trail and you came in season, the chances are you may come across other hikers. Staying in place might be a better plan than wandering off further into the woods. If you decided to move, where to? Make note of things around you. You may come across some landmarks that could give you a hint either on where you came from or where to go. Places that rise above the treeline will give you a clearer understanding of your whereabouts and grant you a chance to spot signs of human presence. If the terrain is more or less even, go in the opposite direction you had been taking before you realized you got lost. 

Keeping Hydrated

A person can survive without food for about three weeks but no more than three days without water. Sooner or later, thirst is going to become an issue. Easy moders will only need to find a body of water and let the water-purifying tablets do their magic. To be completely honest, finding a water body is not easy either, but they will have more options nonetheless. If you have nothing to purify water with, then seek creeks, streams, and rivers. Running water is cleaner than stagnant water, thus you’ll mitigate the chances of getting down with something. In case your water body search should prove fruitless, remember that plants contain water. They won’t quench your thirst completely but can sustain you for a while. Remember you’ll have a chance to drink dew from the plants in the early morning: it’s clean and completely safe.

Making Shelter and Fire

Though fire safety is probably the last thing you think about when that cold starts biting you, you should be mindful of how to start a fire. That is, if you have the means to do so. Throwing a matchbox in your pocket costs a second but pays off immensely when the need comes. Firewood and kindling are not too hard to come by in the forest, but a spark is. While there are means to get it without firestarters and matches, they are very demanding. Lest this article should turn into a fire-starting guide, we won’t cover those means here. Just make sure to carry matches and learn the safety standards.

When it comes to seeking shelter, you can either make one yourself or use elements of the environment to gain protection from the elements. One way is more arduous, the other is less reliable and sometimes safe. Caves may sound like nature’s best shelters, but you are not the only creature who thinks this way. Only go in caves if staying outside would pose a greater danger, like during downpours, and don’t go too far inside. 

Making a shelter comes with its own challenges, but it’s doable even without tools. We suggest building a shelter leaning onto some other natural formation, like a pile of rocks or a fallen tree. You’ll need logs and branches for the structure and moss for insulation. Neither should be too hard to come by. An improvised shelter like that should keep you warm at night or at least protected from the wind.

Finding Sustenance

Three weeks is the maximum time a person can survive without food, so one week should be pretty doable. With that in mind, we all remember how hungry we feel after not eating for a day. Food is energy, and you’ll need it to perform basic tasks as simple as staying on your feet and keeping warm, not to mention physical activities. If you haven’t packed anything edible, you’ll have to rely on what’s around you. By that, we don’t mean making rabbit traps with three sticks or fishing rods with a stick and a shoelace. Those who are capable of making traps even with the help of tools hardly need any survival advice.  

Your best try is edible flowers, leaves, berries, and familiar insects. You will probably find mushrooms along the way, but one mistake in identifying them can cost you more than a spoiled lunch. Many mushrooms are poisonous, and while some scream about it through their appearance, others mimic edible mushrooms. Berries and insects are more reliable in that regard. They won’t make for a hearty lunch, but they can definitely keep you going.

The Most Important Thing

Before you set foot anywhere in the woods, tell someone where you are going. While people will eventually notice you are gone, they will not know where to send rescuers. The majority of people that make it are usually found, and only a few of them manage to find their own way out. By telling someone about your potential whereabouts you increase your chances for survival, if not through your own set of skills, but through helping rescuers find you.