10 Tips for Surviving the Outdoors

Spending time in the great outdoors close to nature can be a great experience, but not if you aren’t prepared when things go wrong.

We all hope that our next camping or hunting trip will be full of great experiences and they probably will be – that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared for every eventuality.

With that in mind we’ve put together a list of things we believe you should have with you or be familiar with if you’re going to survive an outdoors experience when things don’t go as planned. Here are our 10 tips for surviving the outdoors.

#1 Notifying Friends and Family

The key to outdoor survival begins before you ever set out on your trip. Let someone know where you’re going!

Even if you’re just heading out for a short hike on a local trail tell a friend or family member that you’re going for a walk and how long you expect to be gone.

If you were supposed to be heading out on a 1 hour hike and you haven’t returned after 4 hours they’ll know something is wrong and send help after you.

Don’t assume you can handle anything that Mother Nature has to throw at you – it only takes an unseen hole in the ground to cause an injury that can leave you in a lot of trouble.

#2 Take Basic Tools with You

There are all kinds of tools you can pack with you in your day bag, but if there are two things that you should remember to take with you on every trip into the backwoods that would have to be a knife and some kind of rope.

A knife is a versatile tool that can be used to help you build a shelter, prepare food, and fashion other weapons by using it to carve through wood.

A rope is another versatile tool that can be used for a lot of different things including tying items together, hanging items, and as a clothes line to dry out those wet clothes.

#3 Bring (or Make) Your Own Tools

We’ve already touched upon the importance of having a knife with you and one of the reasons they’re so important is because you can use one to fashion other tools out of wood. For example, you can use a knife to fashion a spear out of a long piece of wood by sharpening the ends.

A spear can be a great tool for hunting small animals or fish with and as a weapon to protect yourself from large predators that may be in the area. If you don’t have a knife you can still make a spear using a sharp stone although it will probably be a bit more challenging.

Another great option is a kukri knife (similar to a machete) since it’s such a versatile tool. It can be used to do a variety of different things, including chop wood, clear brush out of the way, cut open cans of food, and other things like that. 

#4 Know How to Build a Shelter

There are three things to keep in mind if you need to build an emergency shelter to survive an outdoor adventure gone wrong – limbs, leaves, and rocks.

First you need to find a good area to build your shelter – preferably one that’s sheltered from the elements. After you’ve done that you need to find things to build your shelter.

If there’s any type of natural rocky outcropping you can use as shelter this may be your best option, but if you have to build one you need to be prepared.

Gather the largest tree limbs you can find to form the frame of your shelter and then use bark and leaves to cover your shelter. Everything you need should be available from your surroundings.

#5 Find Fresh Water

Once you’ve built your shelter it’s time to find a source of fresh water. A river, lake, or stream that’s nearby is ideal, but even if you can’t find something like this there are other options.

You may want to try setting up something to gather rain water with and you can also find enough water on leaves and plants to survive if you get creative.

If you are taking your water from a source such as a river or lake it’s important to boil your water before you drink it. As pristine as that water may look there’s a good chance that it’s full of things that can make you ill. Boiling it will eliminate a lot of unwanted contaminates.

#6 Know How to Build a Fire

It’s hard to boil water if you don’t have something to boil it on and that means you need to build a fire. While you don’t need a lighter or matches to build a fire it certainly makes things a lot easier so you should try to remember to bring one of these with you.

If you don’t have a lighter you can start a fire using some small pieces of wood and some dry brush to get things going. This is a skill that takes some practise so you may want to try it out at home before heading out on your trip.

#7 Bringing Food and Finding Food

It’s always a good idea to take a couple of protein bars with you or some jerky and chances are that will get you through most survival situations, but you do have other options.

If you find yourself lost for several days in the wilderness it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what types of wild berries are safe to eat, what mushrooms you can safely eat, and where you might find edible leaves or nuts.

Bugs can also be a great source of protein and you can use that spear we talked about earlier to hunt things a little bit bigger. Knowing how to find food to keep you going is one of the most important survival skills you should learn.

#8 Always Take a Compass and Map

No matter how well you think you know the trails you’re taking it’s still a good idea to take a compass and a map with you. In a heavily wooded area it doesn’t take much to become disoriented and if you accidently veer off the trail it can be a scary experience.

A good working compass and a map of the land can help you get back on track quickly and diffuse a potentially life threatening situation.

#9 Understand Basic First Aid

Applying tried and tested First Aid techniques when an injury happens can reduce the chance of infection and potentially save your life.

If you have the opportunity to take a First Aid course before heading out on a trip that could place you in a dangerous situation it’s a good idea. At the very least you should do your own research and become familiar with some basic First Aid techniques.

Understanding basic First Aid could potentially save your life.

#10 Send a Signal

If you’ve been missing for a few days and you notified someone of your plans there’s a good chance someone will be looking for you. You should be prepared to send a signal that can help your potential rescuers find you.

A fire that produces a lot of smoke is a great way to signal your whereabouts and you can also try spelling out a large SOS on a raised piece of ground.

You can use rocks for this or some tree branches. It really doesn’t matter what you use as long as it’s visible against the background around it.