They say backpackers live their lives in two types of jungles - the urban world and the real wilderness. Each has its own struggles, but there is a big difference when it comes to survival between the two. Mother Nature is not as nurturing as we believe it to be when you’re alone, in the middle of nowhere without food, fire or water. Surviving in the wilderness is a lesson that needs to be learned before you leave home and you need to get by with what you have in your gear till the rescue team gets to you or until you reach civilization.
Everything you have on you is a potential survival tool. A few basics would be learning about finding a shelter, how to signal your position and ask for help using light and sound, how to make sure the water you drink is pure and how to find food. Before that - Stop, Think, Observe, and Plan before you go into action.
First and foremost, it’s good to understand what we as humans need to stay alive — things like oxygen, shelter, water, fire and food. Those are our most basic biological survival needs. Sometimes you might even be separated from your gear and you have to manage living only by using your brain and your body. Is your knowledge rich enough to make it out alive and safe?
So what to do when you're lost in the wilderness?
Knowing how to make fire without your gear will help you cook food, bring body temperature to stable, stay dry, keep wild animals away with fire and signal for help using smoke. Making fire with the gear you have shouldn’t be hard - you will be able to start a fire with matches and fire starters. All you need is to find dry wood. Ensure to put off the fire when you’re asleep and that you’re not too close to the trees. Now how would you make fire without any matches or fire starters? There are several proven methods to make a fire without any man-made fire source but the easiest one is the bow drill. For this you’ll need:
- Spindle (made of bone dry stick)
- Fireboard (to fit the spindle)
- A socket (a rock or any other piece of wood - to hold the spindle in place)
- A bow (to make this you’ll need a slightly curved stick and a string - strong enough to resist the friction)
- Dry material (dry grass, dry leaves, hay, paper, bark, etc)
- Professional knife
First, make the bow - should be the length of your arm; put the string on the stick. Next is the fireboard - Make a notch in it using your knife, and a dent shaped like a V, right next to it. Put your dry material right underneath the notch. Then make a loop with the bow string and put your spindle through it; put one end of the spindle in the fireboard and apply pressure on the other one using the socket. Begin sawing. With the bow string, spin the spindle and create friction between the spindle’s tip and the fireboard. The movement should be quick and fast to create an ember. When you see an ember, put it on the dry and blow it until it catches on fire.
You can also make fire if you happen to have glass or any type of lenses with you using the sun. Try to concentrate a beam of sun light onto a pile of dry leaves and grass and the material will catch fire in sometime.
Next up is shelter! Once you’ve made fire and are warm, next thing to do is make shelter for yourself. Your wilderness survival kit must have at least a tarp and some rope; tie the rope to trees and put the tarp over it. You can add some sturdy branches to make the shelter more comfortable. Before making a shelter without any gear, consider where you want it - a place with a lot of building material (sticks, leaves, debris, and moss). Also make sure there are no insects around. Make the basic framework with a few strong and large branches and then cover it with branches (leaves, small sticks, grass, moss, ferns and pine needles).
Food and Water
These are pretty easy to find in the forest - plenty of plants, berries and mushrooms during summer and you can also hunt small animals if you want some extra proteins. Carry water purification tablets and water from a natural spring is pure. Make sure you know what you’re eating as many plants, fruits and mushrooms are toxic for the humans and even though they won’t kill you, they can make you feel very sick. A few things you can eat:
- Edible plants - nettles, asparagus, clovers, dandelion, etc.
- Birds’ eggs
- Small animals, edible insects and fish
- Edible berries - blueberry, raspberry, strawberry, and others
Get out in the open to get noticed. Find a large, open area that you can reach quickly from your shelter. You should have these items in your gear to assist you - whistle, signal mirror (or mirrored compass), matches and fire starter.
Surviving in the wilderness is an art so try to learn as much as you can every time you go out camping. You can try to build a shelter instead of making your tent or make fire without matches or any other man-made fire source. This is the only way you will be able to learn and be sure you have the capability to survive in the wilderness.