Who doesn't like nature in its raw form? It is the dream of every nature lover and thrill seeker. However, this very dream can turn into a nightmare if you somehow manage to get lost in the wilderness and find yourself all alone in the midst of nowhere. Scary, huh?
Surviving in the wild is not child's play. You need to pull up all your wits to make it through each day, considering you get stranded for days together. It's an unlikely scenario. Even if it happens, when Aron Ralston, Joe Simpson, Mauro Prosperi, Yossi Ghinsberg, Colby Coombs could do it, so could you. What do all these gentlemen have in common? Well, they all got marooned in the backyard of Nature's harshest terrain. They all stared at the face of death and said, "Rain Check!" and survived to tell their hair-raising tales. If you are in such a situation, what will you do? How badly do you want to make it back? Here are some tips that will help you retain your sanity in the madness of the wild.
Every now and then, you hear stories of people fighting tooth and nail to stay alive in the wilderness. Most of these cases are the direct result of unpreparedness. Do some research before heading off to the far reaches of the earth. Dig out information about the flora and fauna of the place you are about to visit. Assess the route you are going to take, and also make note of the landmarks in that area.
Always prepare a backup route plan just in case you lose the way, or get separated from your buddies. Print out the map of the place or sketch out all the possible routes on a piece of paper. This could make all the difference in the world in the times of emergency.
Inform Others of Your Whereabouts
The real Aron Ralston of 127 Hours fame, is an inspiration to all of us. However, he made a huge elementary mistake. He did not tell anyone where he was heading to and how long he would be gone. If you get lost while exploring the outdoors, people should be aware that you have gone missing in order to rescue you. Needless to say, solitary exploration in the wild is not just dangerous, but also foolhardy. By just informing someone, you can actually save your own life.
Carry Basic Survival Gear
Suppose you are admiring the natural beauty around you, and then you happen to see a rare bird on a towering tree, it is obvious that you will take your time to click away its pictures. Next thing, you find your group has left without you, and you can't figure out the direction. It can happen to best of us. Always be prepared with a survival kit.
For tough times, it is wise to carry a well-equipped survival kit that has a GPS, waterproof map, compass, flares, cell phone, lighter, Swiss knife, bandages, antibiotic ointment, your medications, some energy bars, plus water.
Find Water Source
While you are waiting for the rescue team to find you, your supplies will start dwindling down. If worse comes to worst, you can survive three days without water. Look for surface water like rivers, streams, or lakes. When lost in the wild, try to move to low lying areas. If there is water in the area, you are sure to find it in low lying lands, as water always flows from higher levels to lower levels.
If you are in a forest, a swarm of insects can indicate presence of water close by. Whenever you are resting, listen for sounds of a river or stream. In the quiet wilderness of a forest, the sound of flowing water can be heard from a distance.
If you cannot find surface water (when you desperately need water), look into rock crevices. Rainwater often collects in the gaps between rocks. Muddy areas may have groundwater available below the surface. Dig a pit i.e. one foot in depth and diameter each, and wait for sometime. Water will collect in the pit. This water might be muddy. Hence, strain it with a cloth before drinking it.
Avoid drinking stagnant water as it might be infested with harmful bacteria. Water flowing from rivers and streams are generally safe for drinking. Plants can also be good source of water. Drinking sap of birch and maple trees can help you meet the water requirements. This sap is also a useful source of carbohydrates.
Forage for Food
After finishing up the last of your food provisions, you need to think about the alternatives. However, nibbling any leaves from the wild can be very tricky, as it can either be full of vitamins and minerals, or kill you after making you violently sick. That's why, stick to those vegetation that you can identify and are absolutely sure of, your life may depend upon it.
If you are very hungry and have no food, some edible wild plants are dandelion, burdock, cattail, plantain, purslane, Lamb's quarters, Shepherd's Purse, dock, etc. Bear in mind that some of the wild plants may require boiling before consumption. In a survival situation, you can also catch fish and birds for food. However, catching them require a lot of skill, with"skill" being the operative word here.
Start a Fire
Being able to light a fire in the wild is crucial for survival. Not only would it keep you warm, but it also would scare away wild animals in the night and can be used to cook food and boil water. In case you have a lighter or a match box, consider yourself blessed. Collect some dry twigs and leaves, and light a fire. During the day, you can also use the lens of a magnifying glass to converge the sunrays on a heap of dried twigs or leaves.
When you urgently need to light a fire and none of the amenities of the civilized world are available with you, get two pieces of dry wood. Sharpen the tip of one of them and use it to drill into the other piece. Put dry grass into the pit and rub it with the pointed piece of wood. As soon as sparks are produced in the pit, turn the wide piece of wood over a pile of dry grass and twigs.
Beware of Wild Animals
You would be deluding yourself if you believe that a forest is like Bambi's world. In reality, wild animals act like wild animals; they have predatory instincts. Unfortunately, if you are lost, alone and in their territory, you can easily become their prey. Therefore, it's best to maintain a respectful distance from them. You do not want to get too close to a bear, snake, cougar, or any wild animal for that matter, unless you want to be mauled, bitten or become someone's meal.
While moving around in the jungle, make sure that you make enough noise. This way, no animal will get surprised by you and attack you in its defense. Stay away from the young ones of any animal, even if the babies look abandoned to you. Always be on the lookout of wildlife encounter by keeping your eyes open and your ears on the ground.
When you make a shelter, ensure that it is not too close to a waterfall or loud water stream that can mask your noise. Also, try to avoid crossing paths with seemingly harmless animals, like deer, raccoon, moose, etc. Never ever go near a carcass or a fresh kill unless you want to be next. If a big animal is on your trail, make yourself appear larger than you are by moving your arms. Know that your movements should not be sudden, or else the animal might construe it as an attack.
Climate and terrain are two important factors that should be taken into consideration, while finding (or making) a shelter. If the area is rocky, search for caves. Before taking shelter in a cave, ensure that it is not the home of a wild animal. If there is a natural pit under a tree, enlarge it and line it with tree branches.
To make a quick shelter, like a lean-to, lay down long branches against something solid like a rock or a log, and crisscross this structure using smaller branches or shrubbery on the top. Make the lean-to small as it will provide better insulation than the bigger one.
If the area where you want to take rest is damp and wet, build yourself a log bed. Put branches on top of each other in a crisscross pattern to make a solid and dry foundation for a lean-to, or use it as an open bed pad. Whatever material you use for making the shelter, check that it is free of insects or other small poisonous animals.
If there is a faintest possibility for you to get back to the civilization, work in that direction without further delay. Otherwise, wait out for help to arrive. Make yourself conspicuous by marking out your location that is visible from above. Most importantly, do not hit the panic button because your survival depends on your ability to think straight in stressful situations. So next time you are out in the woods, be safe!