Introduction: Overview of Wilderness Survival Skills
Wilderness survival skills help keep you safe and thrive in the outdoors. It is important to learn these skills whether you’re a hiker, camper, hunter or any other outdoor enthusiast. This guide will help teach you the basics of navigating through the wilderness, setting up camp and staying safe in emergency situations.
In the following sections, you’ll learn about different types of navigation, how to read a topographic map, tips for estimating distances and much more. You’ll also find information on foraging for edible plants and professional courses for wilderness survival.
What is Navigation?
Navigation is the ability to find your way around while outdoors. It involves a wealth of knowledge and skills about the geography of an area, understanding of the equipment used in navigation, and the skill of orienteering. Navigation covers a variety of skills and techniques, which can vary depending on the environment.
Types of navigation commonly used in the outdoors include:
- Map Reading – Using maps to identify landmarks and features, calculate distances, and determine direction.
- Orienteering – Navigating through unfamiliar terrain using a map and compass.
- Using a GPS Receiver – Using satellite technology to determine global position, speed, and elevation.
- Estimating Distances – The ability to accurately estimate distances by eye or with the use of a pacing technique.
Outdoor Orienteering: Navigation Basics
Orienteering is the navigation technique of using a map and compass (or GPS) to move around in unknown terrain. In orienteering, you learn how to read a topographic map to determine your position relative to the surroundings. Orienteering is an incredibly useful skill to have for wilderness survival as it can help you find your way through challenging terrain or even locate resources such as food, water, or shelter.
To learn orienteering, you’ll need a few pieces of equipment including a topographic map, compass, and a GPS receiver (optional). A compass will help you identify landmarks in the terrain, and a GPS will give you an exact location of where you are at all times.
Once you have the right equipment, it’s time to begin learning the fundamentals of orienteering. Start by learning how to use a compass and different features of a topographic map that will help you navigate. Take some time exploring the terrain before starting to use the map, so you can get a better sense of your surroundings. Find a couple landmarks that are easy to recognize, and practice drawing a basic map of the area using the compass and landmarks.
As you progress, challenge yourself by trying more difficult orienteering tasks such as identifying contour lines on the map or estimating distances between two points. With practice, you’ll be able to use your navigation skills with confidence wherever your wilderness adventure takes you!
Map Reading Basics
Map reading is an important skill when navigating in the wilderness. A topographic map, or simply “topo map”, contains useful information such as contour lines to indicate relief, as well as areas of vegetation, water features, roads, and trails. Understanding how to interpret a topo map can help you find your way around the outdoors.
When looking at a topo map, the symbols are key to understanding what is represented. Some common symbols you may find include those for:
- Contour Lines – Indicate the elevation of land and show mountains and valleys.
- Vegetation Areas – Show the various types of vegetation present, such as forest or meadow.
- Water Features – Represent rivers, lakes, springs, and other water sources.
- Roads and Trails – Represent the different paths you can take.
You should also pay attention to the map scale, which shows the ratio of distance on the map to the equivalent distance on the ground. Map scales range from very small, such as 1:24,000, which is a detailed map with much smaller distances, to very large scales, such as 1:50,000, which is a less detailed map with larger distances.
Reading a topo map requires practice. The more topo maps you look at, the easier it will be to make sense of them. Be sure to also carry a compass when navigating in the wilderness so that you can find your bearings in relation to the map.
Using a GPS Receiver
GPS receivers are a great tool when it comes to navigating in the outdoors. They can be used to mark waypoints and track your progress, allowing you to accurately map out your route and monitor your progress. Here’s how to set up and best use a GPS receiver:
- Turn on your GPS receiver and wait for it to find satellites. This process can take a few minutes, so be patient.
- Once the signal is acquired, enter your current coordinates into the GPS to get your starting point.
- Set Waypoints along your route and mark off changes in elevation or areas of interest.
- Track your progress and distance travelled. Make sure to always carry extra batteries in case your device runs out of power.
- When using your GPS receiver, avoid using it near any bodies of water as this can interfere with the signal.
- Always keep your GPS device in a waterproof and shockproof bag while travelling outdoors.
Using a GPS receiver can be a great asset while travelling outdoors. With the right set up and proper caution, your GPS device can help you navigate the wilderness with ease.
Tips for Estimating Distances
When you’re out in the wilderness it can be difficult to accurately gauge distances, but there are certain methods and techniques you can use to help you when navigating unfamiliar terrain. Learning how to estimate distances accurately is an important skill when you’re spending time in the outdoors.
Here are some tips for estimating distances in the outdoors:
- Determine the walking speed at which you feel comfortable. Count the number of steps per minute and multiple that by the number of minutes it takes to cover the distance.
- Practice using a rangefinder. This tool helps you determine the distance between two points, and can be especially helpful when you’re travelling across uneven terrain.
- Use pacing. Counting your steps and noting the time it takes is a great way to get a rough estimate of how far you’ve gone.
- Use natural visual cues. If you’re able to determine the size of the object you’re looking at, you can estimate the distance to it.
- Get familiar with the terrain. The more time you spend in the outdoors, the easier it will become to recognize and approximate distances.
Estimating distances accurately when you’re in the wild is an essential skill for outdoorsmen and women. With a little bit of practice and these simple guidelines, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a better wilderness navigator!
Building a Camp
If you are going to be spending the night in the wilderness, you will need to know how to build a good camp. Knowing how to build a secure and comfortable camp is an important skill for any wilderness survival enthusiast. With the right knowledge and tools, setting up a camp can be quick and easy!
When you set out to build a camp, there are a few key things to consider. Firstly, you should make sure to choose a safe and sheltered campsite. It’s important to look for a spot that has good visibility so you can easily spot any potential hazards. Secondly, ensure that the ground is free from debris and large rocks. This will make it easier to set up your tent or sleeping bag and will give you more comfort during the night. Lastly, make sure to be aware of any wildlife activity around the campsite. If you are lucky, you may even spot some animals while you are setting up camp!
Once you have found the ideal spot, it’s time to start setting up camp. To make the process easier, you should bring along a few essential pieces of equipment. A good quality tent with poles and stakes, a tarp and paracord are all important items to have when creating a campsite. Additionally, you should bring along a few items for cooking such as an camp stove, fuel, and cookware. Having a comfortable and well-equipped campsite is a must for any wilderness explorer!
Building a Fire
Starting a fire in the wild can be an important part of wilderness survival. Knowing how to find fuel, light the fire, and keep it burning is essential for staying warm, cooking food, purifying water, and signaling for help. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Start by scouting out the best place to build your fire. Look for dry places with plenty of space and ventilation, and make sure you have a clear patch of dirt or sand at least three feet in diameter to build the fire.
- Gather fuel for your fire – dry branches, sticks, and logs. The drier the wood, the easier it will be to light the fire and keep it going.
- Create an effective fire-building structure, such as a teepee or log cabin. This will keep air circulating around the fire to help it burn hotter and stronger.
- Light the fire with either matches or a lighter. Place kindling (small twigs and sticks) near the center of the fire and light it carefully. Blow gently on the kindling if needed to keep the fire going.
- Once the fire is lit, add larger pieces of wood to the flames. You can adjust the size of the flames by adding more fuel or removing some of the wood.
- Keep an eye on the fire to make sure it doesn’t get too big or too out of control. Put the fire out completely before leaving the area when you’re done.
Foraging for Edible Plants
Foraging for edible plants in the wild is a great way to supplement your outdoor meals. Knowing what plants are edible and how to identify them is essential, though, for proper wilderness survival. There are a few key steps you can take to ensure that you are correctly identifying wild edibles:
- Familiarize yourself with the edible plants common to your region. This will give you a good starting point.
- Inspect the plant closely. Look at the leaves and stems for characteristics that can help you identify the plant.
- Research the plants that you may have found. Use a trusted resource to get information about the edibility of certain plants.
- Taste test the plants. Before eating any wild plants, do a small taste test to make sure it is safe to consume.
By taking the time to properly identify edible plants and following the precautions above, you can safely and accurately determine which plants are edible in your area. Doing this will give you an additional source of food and nutrition while out in the wilderness.
Professional Wilderness Survival Training
Having the skills and knowledge to survive in the wilderness can be invaluable should you ever find yourself in an emergency situation. Even if you are an experienced outdoorsman, there are times when professional training can help you learn new tips and tricks that can help increase your chances of surviving outdoors.
Taking a course in wilderness survival is one of the most effective ways to learn the necessary skills for surviving in the wild. These courses provide hands-on experience with the equipment, techniques, and strategies needed to ensure your safety and successful navigation in the outdoors. Professional wilderness survival courses typically cover topics such as first aid, shelter building, navigation, fire-building, water filtration, tools and equipment, and basic survival skills.
In addition to professional courses, there are a variety of other resources available for learning wilderness survival skills. Online tutorials, books, and videos offer an overview of the basics, while outdoor clubs and meetup groups in your area are great sources for finding experienced instructors who can teach you specific wilderness survival skills. Other helpful resources include online forums where members can ask questions and share advice.
Wilderness Emergency Situations
When in the wilderness, it’s important to be prepared and on the lookout for dangerous or difficult situations. Here are some situations you should know how to handle:
- Injuries: If someone in your group is injured, take immediate action and assess the situation. Seek help if necessary, and keep the injured person warm. Apply pressure to any bleeding wounds, and cover them with a sterile bandage.
- Extreme Temperature: Be aware of sudden changes in temperature and take extra precautions. Dress in layers that can be adjusted according to the weather. Bring extra materials in case of extreme cold, and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated in hot temperatures.
- Wild Animals: Respect all wild animals and do not approach them. Make noise regularly so that they know you’re in the area, and stay alert to avoid startling them. If you come across a wild animal, back away slowly and do not make any sudden movements.
- Lost: It’s possible to become lost in the wilderness, so always travel with a companion. If you do get lost, don’t panic – stop moving and identify your location, then take steps to find your way back.
- Dehydration: Always bring plenty of drinking water with you and be sure to drink consistently throughout the day. Recognize the signs of dehydration – headaches, dizziness, and confusion – and replenish your fluids with each rest stop.
Be prepared for any of these wilderness emergency situations, and practice appropriate safety measures while enjoying the great outdoors.
Wilderness survival skills are essential for anyone going outdoors. They provide knowledge and strategies to navigate backcountry terrain, build camps, start fires, and forage edible plants. The skills also help us respond to wilderness emergencies which could arise during our adventures.
The key areas covered in this guide are navigation, outdoor orienteering, map reading basics, using a GPS receiver, estimating distances, building a camp, building a fire, foraging for edible plants, professional wilderness survival training, and wilderness emergency situations.
These skills provide us with the confidence to tackle any environment we find ourselves in and enjoy our time outside. Learning and practicing these skills helps us safely explore the great outdoors and thrive in a wilderness situation.