It’s not like anyone plans on getting lost outdoors, or to need some of the most basic outdoor survival skills, but life happens and in our modern culture, too many things are taken for granted by far too many people. Ask just about any average city dweller what they would do if they found themselves in an outdoor survival situation and odds are they will look at you as if you had two heads and tell you, matter-of-factly, that they would merely pull out their phone and call for help.
For the rest of us who have some common sense and a sense of what it is like out in the wide open wilderness, we’re pretty sure that cell phone towers aren’t in rampant use in the mountains. The following are the five most important outdoor survival skills that anyone should understand, even if their idea of adventure is moseying on down to the local Fifth Avenue department store and trying on some shoes.
These skills could save your life someday.
Psychology of survival
The first and perhaps the most important survival skill that anyone should possess is the mental calmness to handle the situation. How many movies have we seen through the years where a group of people find themselves in the worst situations possible and there is always that one individual who can’t handle it, causing grief and frustration for the rest of them?
Remaining calm in a nerve-racking situation is the most important skill to have. You don’t have to be a leader if you’re in a group, but you need to have your mental fitness in shape to deal with the survival situation at hand. This can be practiced by imaging the worst situation you could find yourself in, such as hiking in the woods during a blizzard.
Remain calm and think through your situation before yelling blindly into the deep wilderness, wasting your voice and your energy. In most weather conditions, a person will not perish in a matter of hours, so you will have the time to evaluate, focus, and determine your strategy.
You may not realize it when you’re lost in the wilderness in the morning, but your shelter will be your key to survival overnight. It can also save you from the impending blazing sun of a hot August afternoon. Find shelter. It doesn’t have to fancy, of course, but it should provide a basic protection from the elements. Nights can be much cooler than daytime, so find a location that would act as a good buffer against cold, biting winds.
Nature often provides the best shelters, in caves and hillside enclaves, but if you can’t find one already there, you can construct one with branches, twigs, leaves, and other debris. Fallen trees that are hung up a few feet off the ground make excellent core structures to build around. Before you try to find your way out of a tough situation, build a shelter.
If you are prepared for any situation, then odds are you would have flares to fire up into the sky when you hear the familiar patter of helicopter blades or a twin engine airplane. If you don’t have flares, then you need to determine the best way to signal for help. Wide open fields make for the most visible locations. Make your signal large enough to be easily seen from several thousand feet in the air.
If you have never made a fire without the aide of lighters or matches, then it’s time you were trained on this prehistoric art. Contrary to common misconception, fire doesn’t occur because you flick a lighter and place the flame to wood or paper. Fire occurs as the result of an object’s combustion temperature being reached.
In the wilderness, dry kindling has a much lower threshold. Use two dry pieces of wood, rub them together and place old, dry pine needles or other flammable objects at the base of the friction point. Fire also needs oxygen, so breath lightly over it when you get the smoke billowing. With some practice, you will have fire at your disposal for warmth, cooking, and even signaling.
Food and water
Depending on how long you will need to survive in the wilderness, you will need food and water. If there are no streams of rivers near you, many plants hold water within their leaves. Focus on those that are under the cover of other leaves.
Plants offer a bounty of nutrition. Knowing which ones are healthy to consume and which are dangerous are important. Learn the basics of food in the wild.
If you find yourself in a survival situation, first aid can be a life saving knowledge. Take a course and learn the basics, from applying a tourniquet to sterilizing a wound to treating a concussion.
If you have the most basic outdoor survival skills in the back of your mind, you will have the best opportunity to make it through and return home.