5. Gain knowledge about survival skills — before you need to use them!
Humans are immensely social beings, and we rely on the people around us for protection. Think about the community in which you live. You rely on the people at the grocery store to make sure that you can purchase food when you need to. Again, you rely on the car mechanics to ensure that what you are driving is safe. You don’t worry about breaking down suddenly. Also, you depend on the plumber to do a good job. You don’t think your home will flood and the toilet water will destroy all of your belongings. Even in civilization, we rely on other people for protection.
When our nomadic, hunter-gatherer ancestors were living in the wild every day, they had to rely on each other for protection from wild animals, as well as from things like inadvertently eating poisonous plants. They all honed their survival skills together and helped each other in difficult situations. Many people today think that survival skills come naturally, but the opposite is true. Survival skills come by learning them from other people because we are social beings. Don’t assume that if you get lost, you will instinctively know what to do. Take the time to learn before you start venturing off into the woods.
4. Practice important survival skills to avoid getting lost in the first place.
Nobody plans to get lost. Even the most well-prepared and experienced hikers can find this horrifying situation happening to them. However, many people who get lost should not have been out on their own in the first place. They lack wilderness training beyond what they may have learned from shows on National Geographic and set out on their own without an experienced guide or another companion. You cannot learn survival skills from reality television shows; those have to be taught either in wilderness classes or from someone who has extensive experience in the outdoors. Likewise, reading books about survival skills does not make you a survivalist. Practicing survival skills with someone who has used them is what you need to do.
That said, do not be one of the people who watch documentaries and read books, then decide that they are ready to hike the Appalachian Trail on their own. Suppose you are not an experienced hiker. Always go out with someone who is. If you are uncertain about the trail you are heading to, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can talk to the local forest rangers, who are much happier to answer questions beforehand and make sure hikers are prepared than have to launch a rescue mission. Check weather forecasts. If a storm is in the forecast, you may want to stay in.
3. Learn to forage for food while camping and hiking.
Have you ever watched a survivalist television show? You probably know that one crucial survival skill is the ability to procure food from the woods. While you may have packed enough food to last you through your hike, if you do end up getting lost, you will need to obtain calories and nutrients. How? You will get them from the plant and animal life around you. Taking classes or learning from an experienced person beforehand can help you determine what plants are safe to eat. You can learn whether or not you should cook them first. It is vital to discover how to hunt when you may not have a gun.
If you ever get lost in the woods, that is the worst time to try to become an expert on the wilderness. Don’t pretend like you know what plants you can and cannot eat. At best, you will end up with a really bad bellyache; at worst, you may end up with a life-threatening medical emergency. Of course, it will be at exactly the time when there is no help to be found. If you get lost and experience foraging for food, you will be much more prepared to get through the trying hours and possibly days ahead. You may not be eating at a full-service buffet. Yet, until you get back home, you may not starve.
Are you worried about hiking through a wooded area and getting lost? One crucial thing that you need to do is try to get into an open space. Open country is much safer for building fires. Plus, it has fewer hiding places for wild animals to secret themselves to. You will also have a much better chance of being seen by others who may be looking for you. Small planes flying low overhead may spot you. Please, get prepared with a signal to let them know that you need help. You could gather rocks and make a giant SOS with them or some other phrase, such as help. You could also hold up a mirror or other shiny object to make a significant glare. If you have flares and it is dark, you can shoot them off.
Open country by a water source is the absolute best place to be. Just make sure that you stay at least 200 feet away from the water at nighttime. Why? Because nocturnal animals are likely to stop by for a drink. Also, some rivers are prone to change course very quickly. Therefore, you want to be far enough away that you won’t get swept away in the middle of the night. If you follow the stream along open country, you may find a trail. Hopefully, it can take you to where other people are also hiking. A bonus is that if your phone still has a charge and you find open country, you are more likely to get a signal.
One of the best things that you can do to prevent getting lost in the first place is to stick to the trails. You may accidentally end up off-trail. However, if you go hiking in an area that has a pretty well-established trail system, you should be able to find the trail within a reasonable amount of time. You can still get lost on a trail system. Nevertheless, you will be much less lost than if you go out on your own away from the trails. Trails tend to be well-marked with signage indicating which way to get to a particular location. Therefore, even if you do get lost, you should find a sign that will help you out within an hour or less.
If you decide to take an off-trail hike, make sure that you go with a well-experienced person. Stick to open country rather than wooded areas. Furthermore, aim for a location that has good visibility. That way, you can see where trails and roads are. Be extra prepared with a compass, first-aid kit, extra clothes, extra food, and anything else you may need should things go south. Preventing yourself from getting lost in the first place is worth more than all of the survival skills in the world. Make sure that you take the necessary precautions to be safe and know where you are.