No Pack, No Problem
Venturing into the great outdoors can do your body and mind a lot of good, but Mother Nature has a dark side. Whether you’re just planning to hike a few miles or you have a week-long hunting trip on the books, preparation is key to making sure your adventure doesn’t turn into a catastrophe, and it can easily be the difference between life and death.
Hopefully, you’ve got some essentials with you, such as a pocket knife, hydration tablets, or extra granola bars, but if, for some reason, you find yourself with nothing, here are some tips that can help you better handle whatever comes your way.
Hypothermia is one of the leading causes of death in a survival situation, and having a proper shelter can go a long way in preventing it. Natural coverings such as cliff overhangs, caves, or fallen or hollowed trees make a great shelter with minimal effort. Evaluate your surroundings to confirm animals aren’t already living there, and if using a cave, try to build a fire at the entrance to keep unwanted visitors from coming in.
Lean-tos and teepees are another great option and can often be built with limbs that you find lying around or are easy to break. After your larger branches are in place, fill in the gaps with smaller branches and top with debris to keep heat in and water and wind out. Make a bed out of dry pine needles or leaves and replace them daily.
In wintry conditions, construct a snow cave by finding a snowdrift about five feet deep and creating a tunnel with a larger chamber at the end. Don’t forget to poke some holes in the ceiling for ventilation.
While a proper shelter is very important, so is water, and humans can only survive about three days without it. If you find yourself without water or access to a river or lake, try first collecting dew or rainwater. To get water while you’re working on a shelter or looking for food, consider tying a piece of clothing to your leg so that it can absorb dew from plants as you walk around the woods.
In mountain settings, try walking parallel to a ridge to increase your chances of coming across a stream, and if it happens to be dried up, dig on the outside edge of the river bed to see if you can access water just below the surface. If you come across a damp or muddy area, try digging a hole and see if it fills with water, and don’t forget to check under rocks (right before dawn is best), since they slow down the evaporation process.
And remember, you aren’t the only one that needs water. Look around for animal tracks and follow them if you come across any. You can also pay attention to ants and let them guide you. If you see a train of ants climbing a tree, there is likely a source of water in the trunk of the tree. You may be able to absorb some of the water by putting a piece of clothing where you see the ants coming from.
Don’t forget, the overwhelming majority of water is not safe to drink and should be boiled before consuming.
Although humans can go roughly three weeks without food, having some fuel will give you the energy needed to complete tasks that will help you survive.
If it’s game you’re after, pay attention to where you see the most activity and set traps or nets along those paths. It’s not a bad idea to always carry a sharp stick or spear with you as well. This can help with hunting smaller animals such as rabbits or squirrels. Still, skilled hunters aside, most people will struggle to catch wild animals.
Instead, it may be worthwhile to focus on foraging and eating bugs. However, with a fair share of plants being poisonous, foraging is best not left to guesswork. A good rule of thumb is to avoid red and white berries as well as mushrooms unless you are certain they are edible. Also, pay attention to what you see animals eating, as there is a likelihood you can eat it, too.
While survival skills are no substitution for being prepared, they can provide you with peace of mind and may even save your life.