Over the last fifty years or so humans as a species have established an unsettling dependence on new technology, leaving basic survival instincts virtually extinct. While there are obvious advantages to making the most of all things technological, it’s never a good idea to solely rely on gadgets and gizmos, particularly given their lack of reliability and tendency to run out of battery, break or fail at critical times. Granted, actual life or death situations are few and far between for most, but it doesn’t hurt to be prepared for all possible circumstances. With this in mind, here at Surplus, we’ve created a list of just seven of the most useful outdoor survival tips for you to brush up on the next time you head into the out and beyond.
As with many things in life, prevention is the best cure. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and not always applicable to unexpected survival situations, but there are certain steps you can take to minimise the risks involved. Always tell a member of your family or a friend where you are going, the rough route you will take and when you expect to be back before you set off for a trip. The technological landscape as it is means it could take as little as 30 seconds to type and send a text message that could save your life – can you afford not to?
First and foremost, it’s vitally important that you stay calm, regardless of the unsettling circumstances that are unfolding around you. The biggest mistake made by people in this kind of situation is beginning to panic, which puts a barrier to solving the issues via a sound and rational approach. Find a safe place to have a moment where you can take deep breaths, calm your thoughts and begin to devise a plan to get out of the situation you find yourself in.
Being stranded in a potentially dangerous setting means you will have hundreds of things that could be done, but it’s integral to split these into those that would better your situation and those that are essential for survival. Food is not a priority to be concerned about at first. Staying warm and dry, sourcing drinking water and signalling for help will all be priorities initially.
Fire is essential for both keeping warm and boiling dirty water to kill the germs, but this can be difficult without lighters and matches, so knowing how to build a fire from scratch is a fantastic skill to have. In order to start a fire, you need fuel and oxygen, both of which are usually available in abundance in the wild. The final element you need is a spark, which in the absence of a lighting tool, can be made from flint and steel or creating an improvised magnifying glass out of a clear plastic bag tied into a sphere shape and held focussing the sun about 1-2 inches away from the kindling. Once the fire is made, surround it with rocks to prolong the heat that is provided.
It might be easy to get lost in the world of survival but remember first and foremost your aim is to get yourself out of the situation. Once basic needs for survival have been accounted for, think about how you could attract the attention of planes flying overhead or boats on the horizon. You may have seen it in films but spell out words like ‘help’ and ‘SOS’ on any open spaces, or think about attempting a large fire to make smoke signals. The quicker you can raise the alarm, the better.
Building an effective shelter will be next on the agenda and providing an environment where you can at least get some rest and respite is essential to preserving energy levels. Go back to the den-making escapades of your youth and think small to make the most of your body heat. Use a large structure such as a fallen tree or large branch and build around it using leaves, moss and undergrowth for insulation. If you find yourself somewhere that shade from the sun is a necessity, then consider that while constructing your shelter and make it as breathable as possible.
Finding clean, uncontaminated water will be integral to survival in the wilderness and can be gathered in multiple ways. Collect rainwater in any which way you can and keep a store if there is enough to allow you to do so. If you find yourself in snowy conditions, melt the snow over an open fire instead of just eating it which requires more energy from your body. In the absence of fire, hang it in a water bag in direct sunlight. Only as a last resort, use your body heat to melt the snow so that you can drink it. Boiling water is the best and safest way to kill pathogens and means you can look at other ways of collecting water if you need to. For example, identify water-based plants such as cattails, cottonwood or willows and a dig a hole until you reach the moisture that is allowing them to grow. Think strategically about where water is likely to gather depending on your surroundings, but remember, it is essential that any water collected in this way should be boiled.
These are just some of the basic outdoor survival tips that you can refer to if you ever find yourself in a compromising situation. Here at Surplus, we provide a range of survival knives, clothing and accessories all of which can be kept on your person during hikes and adventures to make life that little bit easier should the worst occur. Do you have any other survival tips you’d like to share with other Surplus customers or us? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment via social media if you think we’ve missed an important point from our list!
If you enjoyed this blog you may also find it useful to know what to do in the case of a nuclear emergency.