Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of forests! Whether you’re an avid hiker, a camping enthusiast, or just someone who enjoys a good walk in the woods, the forest can be an incredible place to explore and connect with nature. But as much as we love the forest, we also need to respect it and be prepared for the unexpected.
In this article, we’ll be discussing some essential survival skills you’ll need if you ever find yourself lost or stranded in the forest. From building a shelter and starting a fire to finding food and water, we’ll cover the basics you’ll need to stay safe and comfortable until help arrives.
Of course, we hope you’ll never need to use these skills in a real emergency, but it’s always better to be prepared than caught off guard. So let’s dive in and learn some forest survival skills!
1. Finding Shelter
Finding shelter is one of the most crucial survival skills to have when you’re out in the forest. You need a safe and secure place to rest, sleep, and protect yourself from harsh weather conditions. A proper shelter can also help you conserve body heat and energy, which is crucial in a survival situation.
The first thing to consider when finding shelter is location. Look for a spot that’s well protected from the elements, such as strong winds and heavy rain. Avoid low-lying areas or areas prone to flooding, and look for a place with natural cover like trees, boulders, or a rock overhang.
Once you’ve found a good location, you can start building your shelter. There are various types of shelters you can build, such as lean-tos, debris huts, and tarp shelters. The type of shelter you build depends on the resources available to you and your level of skill.
A lean-to shelter is one of the easiest to build and requires minimal resources. Find a fallen tree with a low-hanging branch, and use it as the frame of your shelter. Lean smaller branches against the frame to create a slanted roof, and cover it with leaves, moss, or other debris to provide insulation and protection from the rain.
A debris hut shelter is a more complex shelter that provides better insulation and protection. It requires more resources like branches, leaves, and other natural debris. Start by building a frame with branches and then layer the debris over the frame to create a thick, insulating layer.
Make sure to leave a small opening for ventilation and to keep the shelter small to retain heat.
Finally, a tarp shelter is a quick and easy shelter that requires a tarp and some cordage. Find a location with two sturdy trees and tie one end of the tarp to each tree. Use stakes or rocks to anchor the corners of the tarp to the ground, and adjust the tension to create a taut, wind-resistant shelter.
2. Finding and Purifying Water
Water is essential for survival, and finding a reliable source of clean water should be a top priority when stranded in the forest. But in the wild, water sources can be scarce and contaminated, so it’s important to know how to find and purify water.
- Look for flowing water sources like streams, rivers, and creeks. These are usually the most reliable sources of water in the forest.
- If you can’t find a flowing water source, look for depressions in the ground or low-lying areas where water might collect, such as near the base of a tree or rock formation.
- You can also collect dew or rainwater by tying a tarp or plastic bag to a tree or using a natural depression in a rock or tree.
- Boiling water is one of the most effective ways to purify water. To do this, fill a container with water and place it over a fire until it reaches a rolling boil. Let it boil for at least one minute to kill any bacteria, viruses, or parasites that may be present.
- Chemical purification can be used if you don’t have access to fire or boiling water. There are several types of chemical water purification tablets or drops available in outdoor stores that can help to kill harmful organisms in the water.
- Filtering water is another option. You can make a filter using natural materials such as sand, gravel, and charcoal. Alternatively, you can use a water filtration system, such as a portable water filter or a water bottle with a built-in filter.
It’s important to note that not all water sources are safe for consumption, even after purification. Avoid drinking water that is discolored, has an unusual odor or taste, or is located near sources of contamination like animal feces or human settlements.
3. Starting a Fire
Starting a fire in the forest is not only essential for warmth but also for cooking food, signaling for help, and warding off predators. However, starting a fire in the wild can be challenging, especially if you lack the necessary skills and tools. Here are some tips to help you start a fire in the forest:
Step 1: Choose a safe spot
Before starting a fire, ensure you choose a safe spot away from dry leaves, grass, and branches. Also, clear the area of any debris and make sure there is no overhanging vegetation.
Step 2: Gather your materials
You will need three types of materials to start a fire: tinder, kindling, and fuel. Tinder is any material that is dry, fluffy, and ignites easily. It could be dry leaves, bark, or paper. Kindling is small, dry twigs that catch fire easily, while fuel is larger logs and branches that keep the fire going.
Step 3: Build your fire
There are several ways to build a fire, but the most popular method is the teepee method. First, form a teepee shape using kindling, leaving a small opening at the bottom for tinder. Then, place the tinder inside the teepee, light it, and blow gently to ignite the kindling. As the fire grows, add more kindling and fuel to keep it going.
Step 4: Use fire starters
If you don’t have dry tinder, kindling, or fuel, you can use fire starters such as matches, lighters, or firestarters. Carry these items with you whenever you venture into the forest.
Step 5: Practice fire safety
Once you start a fire, it’s essential to practice fire safety. Never leave the fire unattended and ensure you put it out completely before leaving. To put out a fire, pour water on it, stir the ashes with a stick, and pour water again until it’s cool to the touch.
Navigation is a critical survival skill in the forest, especially when you’re lost or disoriented. Without the right navigation tools or knowledge, you may wander aimlessly for hours or even days, putting yourself at greater risk of injury, dehydration, or hypothermia.
To avoid such situations, here are some essential navigation techniques that every outdoor enthusiast should know:
A. Using a Map and Compass
A map and compass are two of the most essential navigation tools you should carry when going into the forest. A map can help you understand the terrain, locate water sources, and identify landmarks, while a compass can help you determine your direction of travel.
To use a map and compass effectively, you need to learn how to read the map symbols and terrain features, align the compass with the map, and take accurate bearings. If you’re not familiar with these techniques, consider taking a navigation course or practicing in a safe, controlled environment.
B. Following a Trail
If you’re lucky enough to come across a trail in the forest, follow it as it may lead you to safety or a nearby town or road. Look for signs that indicate the direction of the trail, such as blazes, cairns, or footprints. Avoid taking shortcuts or deviating from the trail, as this can increase your chances of getting lost or injured.
C. Using the Sun and Stars
If you don’t have a compass or a map, you can use the sun and stars to determine your direction of travel. During the day, you can use the position of the sun to estimate east and west. In the northern hemisphere, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.
During the night, you can use the stars to navigate by locating the North Star or the Big Dipper, which point north.
D. Using Natural Landmarks
Natural landmarks, such as rivers, mountains, or valleys, can also help you navigate in the forest. You can use these landmarks to orient yourself, locate water sources, and find your way back to a known location.
If you’re not sure which direction to take, look for a higher vantage point, such as a hilltop or a tree, to get a better view of the surrounding terrain.
E. Leaving a Trail
Finally, leaving a trail of markers, such as ribbons, rocks, or sticks, can help you retrace your steps if you need to backtrack or find your way back to a known location. Make sure to mark the trail clearly and consistently, so you can follow it easily in both daylight and darkness.
By mastering these navigation techniques, you can increase your chances of survival in the forest and stay safe even in the most challenging situations.
However, keep in mind that prevention is always the best strategy, so make sure to plan your route carefully, bring the right navigation tools, and stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
5. Finding Food
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to survival in the forest is finding food. Without a reliable source of sustenance, it’s impossible to stay alive for very long. Fortunately, there are several ways to find food in the forest, even if you don’t have any tools or supplies.
Foraging is the act of searching for food that naturally grows in the forest. There are many edible plants and fruits that can be found in the forest, such as berries, nuts, and roots.
However, it’s important to know which plants are safe to eat and which ones are poisonous. Some common edible plants in the forest include dandelions, wild onions, and wild garlic.
If you’re near a body of water, fishing can be an excellent way to find food. You can fashion a fishing rod out of a stick and some string, or even use your bare hands to catch fish. Look for shallow areas of the water where fish are likely to swim and use natural bait like worms or insects.
Trapping involves setting up a trap to catch small animals like squirrels, rabbits, and birds. There are many different types of traps you can make using natural materials, such as a deadfall trap or a snare trap. It’s important to know how to set up the trap correctly, so that it’s both effective and humane.
Hunting involves killing larger animals for food, such as deer or wild boar. However, hunting requires tools like a bow and arrow or a hunting knife, which may not be readily available in a survival situation. Additionally, it’s important to have a good understanding of the animal’s behavior and habitat before attempting to hunt it.
Insects may not be the most appetizing source of food, but they can provide a good source of protein in a survival situation. Look for insects like ants, termites, and grasshoppers, which are safe to eat and abundant in the forest.
6. First Aid
In a survival situation, it’s essential to have some basic first aid skills to treat any injuries or illnesses that may occur. Here are some essential first aid skills that every outdoor enthusiast should know:
A. Stop the bleeding
If you or someone you are with has a bleeding wound, it’s crucial to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. Apply direct pressure to the wound using a clean cloth or bandage. Elevate the affected limb if possible to help reduce blood flow. If the bleeding doesn’t stop, apply additional pressure and seek medical help immediately.
B: Treat shock
Shock can occur due to a severe injury or infection. If someone is in shock, it’s important to keep them warm and comfortable. Elevate their legs to help improve blood flow to their vital organs. If they are conscious, provide them with warm fluids to drink.
C. Dealing with burns
Burns can happen easily in a survival situation, especially if you’re trying to start a fire or cook food. If you or someone else has a burn, immediately cool the affected area with cold water for at least 10 minutes. Cover the burn with a sterile dressing or clean cloth. Seek medical help if the burn is severe.
D. Treating sprains and fractures
Sprains and fractures are common injuries outdoors. If you suspect that someone has a broken bone or sprain, immobilize the affected area with a splint or bandage. Use a sling to support the arm or shoulder. Seek medical help immediately.
E. Recognizing and treating hypothermia
Hypothermia can occur when the body’s temperature drops too low. Symptoms include shivering, confusion, and drowsiness. If someone is showing signs of hypothermia, move them to a warm, dry place and remove any wet clothing.
Cover them with warm blankets or clothing and provide warm liquids to drink. Seek medical help immediately.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a lifesaving technique that can be used if someone has stopped breathing or their heart has stopped. To perform CPR, start by checking for a pulse and breathing. If there is no pulse or breathing, begin chest compressions and rescue breaths. Take a CPR class to learn this technique properly.
By having a basic understanding of first aid techniques, you can better handle any unexpected injuries or illnesses that may occur outdoors.
7. Packing Wilderness Survival Gear
When heading into the forest, it’s important to have the right gear with you to ensure your survival in the wilderness. While there are many items you could bring, it’s important to pack light and only bring what’s necessary. Here are some essential items you’ll want to consider bringing:
- Survival Knife: A sturdy and sharp survival knife is a must-have when venturing into the wilderness. It can be used for various tasks such as preparing food, building shelter, and cutting rope or branches.
- Water Bottle and Filter: As we mentioned earlier, finding and purifying water is crucial for survival in the forest. A water bottle and filter will make it easier for you to carry and drink water, especially if you’re not close to a water source.
- Shelter: A lightweight and portable tent, tarp, or hammock can provide shelter from the elements and protect you from the harsh weather. Make sure you pack a high-quality sleeping bag and sleeping pad to stay warm and comfortable.
- Fire Starter: Starting a fire in the forest can be a lifesaver. You’ll need a reliable fire starter such as waterproof matches, a lighter, or a magnesium fire starter. Don’t forget to bring tinder and kindling to get the fire going.
- Compass and Map: Navigation is key when exploring the wilderness. A compass and map will help you navigate and find your way back to civilization. Make sure you know how to use them before you head out into the forest.
- Headlamp or Flashlight: A headlamp or flashlight will come in handy when you need to navigate in the dark or when you’re setting up camp. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries!
- First Aid Kit: Accidents happen, and having a first aid kit can be a lifesaver. Make sure you pack bandages, antiseptic, pain relievers, and any necessary medication.
- Multi-Tool: A multi-tool is a versatile and handy tool to have in the wilderness. It can be used for various tasks such as opening cans, cutting rope, and repairing gear.
- Emergency Whistle: An emergency whistle can be used to signal for help in case of an emergency. Make sure you know how to use it properly.
- Sun Protection: Sunburn can be a painful and dangerous condition. Make sure you pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.
These are just a few essential items to consider when packing for a wilderness adventure. Don’t forget to do your research and pack according to your specific needs and the terrain you’ll be exploring. Remember, the key to survival is preparation!