Last Updated on September 1, 2020
Whether you are a Deep Woods Backpacker, a off-grid preparer or just interested in survival tactics having a great understanding of the skills needed to survive in the wild is very important.
Surviving in the Wild
I’ve been honing my wilderness survival skills over the years when I started as a boy going hunting with my grandpa. Today you can learn on your own or even spend lots of money for a wilderness survival course. But I think it’s important to know the basics before you start going in that deep and spending tons of money.
To properly survive in the wilderness you must be prepared to handle brutal conditions and your skill-set must cover a wide array to ensure your safety in the wild.
Basic wilderness survival skills are not intended to help you live off grid for extended periods of time but instead to help you survive during shorter periods of time where you are cut off from civilization.
One of the first things you must be prepared for in the event of wilderness survival is that you must be able to handle being cold hungry and tired.
Being in the wilderness with limited tools does not allow one to have the luxuries they are used to in day-to-day life and you must be okay with that. If you think about your normal day, most of your comforts depend upon the skills of other people, but when relying on your own in the wild you are responsible for all of your needs and that leaves no time for the comforts of modern civilization.
Keeping Yourself Warm
If you are in the wilderness for an extended period of time, the most likely cause for death is exposure to the elements that can lead to hypothermia.
This becomes particularly dangerous if you become wet as you will become much colder in your core body temperature if out in the elements. It is imperative that you are able to build a fire and do this in 5 minutes or less.
A fire serves many purposes when in the wilderness but the most important thing is that it will keep you dry and warm allowing you to survive in cold temperatures.
Building a fire without tools is a very difficult skill to master and one that you should practice until you are able to do it consistently. Whether it is summer or winter, depending on where you are at, temperatures can dip down to dangerously low levels at night.
You must also understand how to build a temporary shelter to keep you safe from the elements. Snow and rain can quickly increase the likelihood of death in the wilderness. A basic shelter can be made from the items you can find in the environment around you.
From lean twos, to caves, to makeshift huts a simple shelter can be the difference between survival and death.
The easiest shelter is one that’s already present. If you are in an area where there are large rock outcroppings, huddling underneath an overhang can be just enough to keep you dry while you are out in the wilderness.
If you are an area with caves this is again another area that can keep you safe. These types of shelters can be improved by piling tree branches and other items in the opening to help keep your shelter dry and warm. This will also add insulation to the shelter.
Now that you have your shelter under control you have to take care of the next most important step, securing drinkable water. Here is a guide on how to purify water.
Dehydration can set in within a few hours of your last drink of water and depending on how much physical exertion you are putting out this can quickly become a life-threatening situation.
Dehydration symptoms can be spotted easily if you know what to look for. The main symptoms are experiencing diminished energy, headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, and in extreme conditions the loss of consciousness.
If it is raining, rain is often safe to drink if you collect it in a container that you have on hand or something from the environment such as on toxic leaves.
This is usually the way to go if it is raining out unless you live in an area that is heavily polluted in which case rain water may not be safe to drink.
If you are in a location and there is no rain you will have to have a different plan to secure safe drinking water. The next step is to find a water source such as a river, lake, or stream.
This water is very often not safe to drink as is and it is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to water.
The quickest way to get water safe to drink is to boil it. Because you already know how to build a fire all you need to do is make sure you have something that can handle the water while it is being boiled.
Boil your water for at least 20 minutes to ensure that it is safer to drink. Sometimes finding something to boil the water and is just as difficult as finding the water so you have to be resourceful and creative.
Once you have shelter and water secured you are now prepared to survive in the wilderness for multiple days, or at least as long as your water supply holds out.
And while you can last for many days without food, not eating will severely impact your health and potentially make you too weak to continue to survive until help comes.
That is why it is important to understand how to forage or secure food in your local environment. Make sure that you study the local flora and fauna and have an understanding of what is edible and what you can catch or trap with limited tools.
To prepare for this you must practice your identification of edible plants and practice you’re trapping skills. If you are going to be in the wilderness in an area where fishing is a possibility learning how to rig up a makeshift fishing system is also going to help you secure plenty of food.
Many trees have bark that is edible and this may become an important source of energy while you are surviving in a forest setting. Nuts from certain trees also can provide nourishment so be sure to understand which ones are edible for humans. Berries are another common source of foraged food but you must be sure that you can identify the ones that are safe to eat.
Killing an animal for food without hunting gear is an incredibly challenging task. Learning how to make a sling from pieces you find in the environment can make it much easier to do. This takes significant practice so you must be prepared before you find yourself needing to survive in the wilderness but the protein you can get from wild game will make a huge difference in your survival rate.
While all the skills listed above can be the difference between life and death, it is also important to have the survival gear on hand to increase your chances for survival. Survival gear often comes in handy during grid down situations and other large-scale emergencies. Having the right tools and gear and knowing how to use it will make you much better prepared to survive in the wilderness. Please check out the following articles for specific survival gear guides and recommendations and always take time to practice your skills so you are prepared when the time to survive in the wild comes.
- Best Survival Machete
- Best Survival Shovel
- Best Survival Kit
- Best Survival Food Kits
- Best Lensatic Compass
- Best Bushcraft Knife
Fred is the Ready Zeal owner and editor. He has been passionately pursuing all things emergency preparation since working alongside his grandfather as a boy growing up in the Midwest. When not working on the family homestead he can be found brewing coffee and reading a good book or backpacking in the wilderness. Contact Fred at firstname.lastname@example.org