Fall is here. The summer heat is receding. Color season has begun. Hunting season is either already here or fast approaching. It’s time to get outside and start exploring!
Those who venture into the wild know that there is an element of danger involved. That’s part of what draws us to the wilderness. But there’s no reason to venture out recklessly. A critical part of preparing for your expedition is planning your survival strategy. Below is a list of some of the most critical survival priorities. These priorities are not necessarily listed in rank order, as your survival priorities may change based on your situation.
Protection from intense heat, extreme cold, or precipitation is generally what we’re thinking about when we talk about a survival shelter. Your plan probably includes a shelter of some sort. Think about how you’ll build an emergency shelter if you find yourself in a situation where your plans didn’t go—well, according to plan. If you’re sheltering from a thunderstorm, then it’s a bad idea to hang out under trees which can act as a lightning rod. You’re better off finding a low area and hunkering down under a poncho until the storm blows over.
Dehydration is a killer. It can kill in the cold just like it can in the heat. Cold weather is actually insidious, because your thirst mechanism is not as pronounced in cold weather as it is in hot weather. But your body uses a lot of water trying to keep warm. Know where your water sources are. Have a plan for purifying water if you need to tap into a source of non-potable water.
Clothing / Warmth
There’s a lot of overlap between clothing, shelter, and fire. The point is, you generally need the means to get dry and warm to maintain your core body temperature. A change of dry clothing in a waterproof bag will provide a big morale boost if you find yourself cold and wet in the wilderness.
So you’ve got shelter, and hopefully, you’ve got dry clothing. Now you need to consider whether or not you need an external heat source to maintain your core body temperature. If so, then you need a plan for starting a fire. There’s a big variety of fire starter kits on the market, and they are pretty small and light. Get a good one and become proficient with it. Know how to find tinder and fuel. No responsible person should venture into the wilderness if they don’t understand basic fire safety. Use caution—especially in dry environments. An errant spark can ignite a devastating forest fire.
If you take prescription medications, ensure you have a supply that will last a few days longer than your planned trip. Have the ability to address allergies. It might be prudent to carry an epi-pen if you suffer severe allergic reactions to things like bee stings. You might want to carry a snake-bite kit.
Carry an up-to-date and comprehensive first aid kit. Know how to use it. You’re planning to be far from medical care facilities, so you’re worried about things like traumatic injuries (impact injuries, broken bones, internal bleeding), open wounds, wild animal bites, and venomous snake and insect bites.
If you receive a traumatic or serious injury, you’ll need competent medical attention. Be able to provide immediate first aid for yourself or your companions so you can survive long enough to make it back to a medical treatment facility.
Unless you are staying in the wilderness for an extended period of time, then food is not likely to be a survival priority. It wouldn’t hurt to know which plants are edible and how to make basic snares to trap small game. But in a short-term survival situation, food is likely to be your last priority.
Your body uses a lot of water trying to process food that you ingest. So if water is scarce, you’re better off not eating, and conserving your water.
The importance of planning for the crisis scenarios you are likely to encounter cannot be understated. Your chances of survival go up quite a bit when you’ve thoroughly planned for contingencies. Your greatest risk is the surprise emergency that you haven’t prepared for.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that the more skills and tools you possess, the greater your chances of survival across a broad range of crisis scenarios.
Be educated. Be inspired. Now get outside!