With temperatures dropping below zero lately, this frigid weather has gotten me thinking about survival in the outdoors.
Did you know that most people could survive up to three weeks without food? But less than three days without water will make your body start to shut down, and only three hours with a body core temperature below normal can be fatal.
Knowing how to survive, and having the right materials, can make the difference between life and death.
Having a survival kit ready made before heading into the outdoors will often make the difference of surviving or becoming a statistic. The buzz word today is “bug out bag”, or BOB, neither of which we are talking about. I never did like the label given to this form of survival, as people tend to lump all types of survival together, and become confused about what they will need in a kit. A bug out bag is designed for evacuation purposes from a disaster, which will help you survive while fleeing from some tragic event. This is not our topic today. We are discussing surviving in the wilderness in the event that you become lost or lose your method of transportation. Simply staying alive until you are rescued or are able to find your way to civilization.
I will also mention that one of the best ways to survive is to have someone with you as you venture into the wilderness. Two heads are better than one, and two people together can do the work of three individuals. Whether you are going camping, hiking, mountain climbing, hunting, fishing or simply sight seeing, it’s always best if someone else is along to help if something goes wrong.
Here is a list of the essentials for surviving in the outdoors when you aren’t able to get help right away. These items will help you eat, drink, find shelter, stay warm and dry and signal for help. It is by no means a comprehensive list, and you should add items as you see fit. There will be a section in the second part of this article listing some other materials and tools that you may want to add. I have pared this list down to ten indispensable items that must be in your kit which will be listed in two articles, the first five today and the other five next week.
One of the first items to add to your survival kit is a knife. I suggest a fixed blade knife over a folding knife. A folding knife is handy, and you may want to have one of each as a back up, because two are better than one. A knife will be extremely useful for survival, helping you to cut rope, cut sticks, sharpen sticks for weapons, skinning animals for food, and a host of other uses. A knife will become one of your best friends when trying to survive.
Second item on the list is fire starter. I recommend at least three methods of starting a fire. These can include, but not limited to, waterproof matches, butane lighters, flint and/or magnesium striker, or bow and stick. There are other synthetic materials and devices for helping with fire starting under difficult conditions. I also suggest having some tinder, a material for helping to get a good fire going. Tinder is dry material that will catch fire quickly to help your sticks and wood get going. Having all of this in waterproof containers, separately, will give you options when trying to get a warm fire going. This way, if one item gets wet, or won’t work in the current situation, you have another way to get a fire started.
Fire will be a huge asset in the outdoors. You can use fire to stay warm, especially at night, keep away predators, cook your food and signal for help. Having a fire will be imperative to survival.
Your third item to add to your survival kit is a map and compass. I put these two items together as one, because they are both necessary to find your way. If you find yourself in circumstances that require you to find your way back to civilization, these two items will be a necessity. I also suggest a paper map, whether it’s a road map or topographical map, it will still be of use at all times. I know that in this day of electronics, it’s popular to use GPS equipment and digital devices, but there is not always a signal available, and batteries will only last so long. Having a paper map will give you a method of finding where you are, and where you need to go.
It is also a good idea to know how to use these two items. If you are unfamiliar with the proper use of a map and compass, and how they can be of value to you in the outdoors, you will have a tough time of it when it counts. Practice using a map and compass, even if it is in a familiar area. Learn how to chart your course, see where you’ve been and where you’re going, and reading directions with your compass. If this becomes second nature to you, your trek across the wilderness will be much easier. Be sure to purchase maps ahead of time for the area that you are entering and pack it in your kit.
Fourth addition to your survival kit is a first-aid kit. This kit needs to include items such as bandages, antiseptic, gauze and tape, disinfecting wipes, and possibly a pain reliever. If you get hurt in the outdoors, you need to take care of any wounds as best as possible to ensure your survival. A first aid kit is a must.
The fifth article for your kit is some extra clothes. You may want a complete change of clothes in case your clothing gets wet. Staying dry will be paramount in trying to stay warm in colder weather. You will also want enough clothes to add layers for warmth. An extra hat is also important. No matter the time of year, it always cools off at night. Avoid cotton and stick with wool and synthetic clothes for optimum wicking, water repelling and warmth.
The last five items for your survival kit will be revealed in next week's article.