Hiking is gradually gaining popularity as a recreational activity, especially within the last five years, with over 50 million Americans hiking annually. Unfortunately, hikers get lost in the wild after veering off official hiking trails across the country.
Although statistical data on the number of hikers lost during hikes is scanty, one study shows it happens to amateur and professional-level hikers alike. Regardless of whether you remain lost for a night or weeks, you will need intuition and survivalist training. So, here are ten crucial survivalist skills to keep you alive in the wilderness.
Do Not Panic
It is petrifying to realize that you are in the middle of nowhere without cell reception and probably surrounded by vicious wild animals. While your instinct in such an extraneous situation is to panic, it can cloud your judgment severely. Instead, stop and consider your options.
For one, as a discerning hiker, you can look for monthly outdoor subscription boxes instead of buying individual gear and equipment, meaning you have accumulated a collection of helpful outdoor gear. One study shows that lacking equipment shortage while lost often triggers unfortunate events, leading to adverse situations.
So, stop and breathe before considering your options since you can access your gear. Clear your head to retrace your steps, and then take a mental inventory of your available hiking gear to help you strategize on an efficient survival plan.
Learn How to Gauge Distance
The ability to estimate distance is vital while pondering your next course of action. For instance, having a rough idea of the distance you’ve walked is essential should you resort to retracing your steps.
Moreover, you can decide to take your chances and find the next landmark on your map. Estimating distance should help you gauge how long and treacherous your journey will be, helping you plan. As a result, basic knowledge like learning the inches in one stride and the average steps you take per mile is helpful.
Learn How to Read Celestial Bodies For Direction and Time
As an outdoors person, you probably have GPS and a compass app on your phone. However, the prudent thing to do while lost is to save your cell phone battery for an area with signal reception.
Considering that you may lose your compass in the thick of unprecedented events or have it but need a second opinion for assurance, interpreting celestial bodies, including the stars, moon, and sun, are crucial.
Using the moon’s cyclic movements and its position and phases relative to the sun’s light (since it reflects sunlight) should help you decipher direction. The moon’s position in the sky can also help tell time, while specific star constellations point to the true north. Alternatively, the shadow and stick method or a non-digital watch can help you tell direction using the sun.
Find or Make Shelter
A hiker should have no problem setting up a tent. However, the challenge comes in identifying a conducive spot. Wild camping enthusiasts recommend setting up your tent on raised ground, away from water bodies to avoid flooding and bugs.
Setting up the tent near a trail is also a good idea because such locations have fewer wild animals. However, if you came unprepared or lost your tent, look for safe spaces like caves or use branches for a makeshift camp.
Either way, ensure you use leaves and soft plant brush to insulate yourself from the wet, cold ground, and be wary of snakes, scorpions, and other venomous creatures. Lighting a fire next to your camp also helps keep critters away.
Learn How to Repel Bugs
Bug spays and headnets are staples in a hiker’s gear because, besides being irritating, bugs’ vicious bites may cause terrible illnesses. Falling ill while lost spells doom for you, so consider the following options if you don’t have bug spray.
Put on long-sleeved clothes for maximum coverage and smear a layer of mud on exposed skin. Also, consider burning resinous or funky wood in your campfire to repel insects. Finally, researching local plants beforehand can help you identify natural insect repellents.
Stay Warm and Dry
40% of mild to moderate hypothermia cases result in death. This is why staying dry and warm can be life-saving. Always carry waterproof and some quick-dry clothes, even if you are hiking for a day.
Proper hiking boots, a raincoat, and even a trash bag or piece of tarp also help protect you from sudden rain since wild weather is unpredictable. A dry and waterproof shelter and a waterproof lighter are other significant additions to your gear.
Send Help Signals
The one thing that will keep you going during this ordeal is the thought that the search and rescue team is trailing you. So always have gear that you can use to send distress signals. Simple items like a mirror, a brightly-colored cloth, or a whistle can help them track you.
Moreover, you can also improvise and use rocks and sticks to draw an SOS or “HELP” sign on the ground. Burning wet wood or petroleum products to produce dense, black or white smoke may also improve your visibility.
Your body can resort to alternative metabolic states like ketosis to keep you alive during starvation. However, vital organs shut down during severe dehydration, leading to death in roughly three days.
Therefore, staying hydrated during your wilderness ordeal improves your chances of survival. Your water reserve will run out fast, so always look out for water sources, including streams and puddles. Having a water bottle with an integrated water purifier is advantageous, although you can also boil the water to kill microbes. If you fail to find water sources, consider collecting dew or sucking water from available moss.
Expand Your Plant Knowledge
Your vegetation and foraging knowledge will be helpful as plants can act as insect repellents and a hydration source (succulent plants). Moreover, plants can supplement your rations or be your primary nutrition source if, unfortunately, your rations run out. Plant medicines can also help with any injuries you may acquire.
Learn How to Improvise Splints
Bone injuries from falls are arguably the most prevalent injuries that hikers experience. So, in the absence of a first aid kit, you should manage to improvise and do a split out of available materials like twigs and clothing. Such modifications reduce pain while keeping your limb in place.
While hiking is fun, adventurous, and fulfilling, it is also unpredictable, so as you hope for the best, prepare for eventualities. Go beyond preparing a comprehensive hiking gear checklist and practice the above survival skills should unfortunate events force you to fight for survival.
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