Far too often, even more experienced campers and hikers fail to understand basic survival skills and why they’re important. Everyone, not just hikers and campers, should have a few basic skills to fall back on should an emergence arise. Floods, snow storms, and other events create real threats for anyone. There are a few skills that will make it possible to survive even in severe weather conditions.
Shelter is Always Important
Hypothermia poses a real and immediate threat when people are, for whatever reason, facing an emergency in the outdoors. Shelter forms are determined by the surroundings. People stranded in forest areas generally have plenty of materials available to construct a crude shelter that will provide protection.
The trick is to be protected from cold temperatures, winds, and precipitation. That means, if you’re stranded in a remote location, it will be important to assess what options are available and take advantage of any materials at hand.
A Water Supply is Crucial
Even if you are driving on roads that are normally well-traveled, weather conditions can leave you stranded quickly. Always carry plenty of water when traveling by car. When you’re hiking, carry as much water as is reasonably possible. Injured hikers may have to wait a couple of days or more to be found, and dehydration sets in quickly. People can live for days without food, but most people can’t get by without water for more than a couple of days.
Of course, even that couple of days can be cut if a person is not in excellent physical condition or if they are injured. Always plan for the worst-case scenario. If there are sources of water, some type of purification system will reduce the need to carry large supplies of water. Today, experienced hikers routinely carry some type of water purifying system.
Fire Can Mean the Difference Between Life and Death
Heat of some type is also vital to stay alive when the temperatures drop. While body heat can be shared, having a fire is critical during cold weather. Again, different areas will have different types of fuel available, so look for anything that will burn.
In addition, there must be an effective way to light a fire. While it’s certainly possible to use native materials to light fires in some circumstances, it’s always a good idea to carry fire-starting supplies. There are many kits available that take up little space and are easy to use even in poor weather conditions.
Finding dry fuel during heavy rains or snow can be difficult, but there are nearly always sheltered areas that will tend to have enough dry material to start a fire. Most survival experts recommend carrying some type of self-contained fire-starting kit anytime you venture into a remote area.
Finding Food is Next on the List
While carrying enough food is the best option, emergencies will still create a need to be a little creative. Most areas of the country have native plants, animals, or even insects that can keep a person alive. Consider carrying a pocket survival guide that’s geared to the region to provide information on finding food while lost or stranded. Not all the options are particularly appetizing, but most people will be willing to eat whatever provides the necessary nutrition in a pinch.
In the event you are injured or become lost, the best option is to stay where you are rather than wandering around. That means some type of signal may be needed to guide rescuers to your location. If you’re in a car that becomes disabled in a remote area, stay with the vehicle.
Smoke is one good way to attract attention. If there is adequate fuel, keep a fire burning to generate smoke that can be seen from the air or from a significant distance.
Making noise is also a proven way to attract attention. Many experts recommend carrying a loud whistle that can be heard for a considerable distance. Some sounds, like those from a whistle, often carry great distances.
Today, cell phones and laser pointers are commonly used to get help. As with sound, the light from even a relatively small laser pointer can be seen for miles. Cell phones may not work in remote areas, but it’s often possible to find a signal if you can get to high ground.
Whether you’re hiking or driving through a remote area, it always pays to plan ahead. Remember that conditions can change rapidly, especially if you’re moving through dramatically different types of terrain. For example, always carry warm clothes if you’ll be traveling through mountain areas or if the seasons are changing.
Carry Some Type of First Aid Supplies
Don’t leave home without a first aid kit. Even a basic kit can be crucial if an injury occurs. Make sure the kit includes enough supplies to deal with a severe laceration or burns. Most survival guides will suggest what types of contents should be included for outings in specific regions.
It’s easy to assume your GPS will provide the guidance needed to keep you on course. Most experts today suggest you do not rely on a GPS alone. Always carry a quality compass in addition to that GPS.
In addition, having a paper map of the area is also a good idea. That’s especially important for hikers traveling in unfamiliar areas. Topographical maps are best for hikers as they show the terrain. That allows users to verify their location more accurately.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Far too many people have died simply because they panicked in an emergency situation. It’s always important to remain calm even when conditions are dire. If you remain calm, it’s far easier to evaluate the situation and take the steps needed to survive. There are plenty of other skills anyone can learn, but these are basic ones anyone can learn and use. Experience may be the best teacher, but it’s a good idea to learn all you can about surviving before you need to use those skills.