Wilderness Survival Tips

People do not plan on getting lost or injured, but it can happen. Therefore, you should take the time to remember a few basic survival rules, before you begin travelling in the wilderness.

Do not Panic

If you become lost in the wilderness, the worst thing to do is panic. When you panic, you lose your wits and you will no longer be able to think logically. If you feel fear, then take a few deep breaths to calm down, and then focus on how you can better your position. Doing something positive will increase your confidence, which is important for survival.


Fatigue is another factor that you must take into consideration. When fatigue sets in, your judgment becomes cloudy, and you will begin to make careless mistakes. Extreme fatigue may destroy your desire for survival, and it will lead to feeling hopeless. The cause of fatigue is overexertion, as exertion burns up calories and causes perspiration that wastes body fluids.. Therefore, to help reduce the risk of fatigue, your movements should be slow and deliberate.


Fire is one of the most important requirements for survival. It provides warmth, dries your clothes, and acts as a signal. For any outdoor excursion (i.e. camping, hiking, berry picking, etc.), you should carry matches in a waterproof container. Fires can also be started by using glass, cigarette lighters, and flint and steel.

First Aid Kits

The following is a suggested list of items that you should carry with you when travelling in the wilderness.

  • Adhesive bandages
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Bug repellent
  • Compass (make sure you know how to use it)
  • Flashlight
  • Full water canteen
  • Garbage bags - Orange or Yellow
  • Hand mirror/reflector
  • High-energy snack
  • Lightweight blanket
  • Map of the area you are in
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Nylon Cord (50 to 100 feet, 1/8 inch thick)
  • Plastic food bags
  • Pocket knife
  • Water purification tablets/filters
  • Whistle


Hypothermia occurs when the temperature of the body drops below 35° C (95° F). It is brought on by exposure to conditions that cause the body to loose heat faster than it can generate it. Therefore, hypothermia can be caused by falling from a boat into cold water, being outside without any head gear during the winter season, or wearing wet clothes for a prolonged period of time in windy weather.

Symptoms include:

  1. Uncontrollable fits of shivering
  2. Vague, slow, slurred speech
  3. Memory lapses, or incoherence
  4. Immobile, fumbling hands
  5. Frequent stumbling
  6. Drowsiness
  7. Apparent exhaustion. Inability to get up after a rest


  1. Find shelter
  2. Build a fire
  3. Strip off all wet clothes
  4. Drink only small amounts of warm (not hot) fluids
  5. Get into dry clothes and a warm dry sleeping bag

Remember prevention is the best method to fight hypothermia. Therefore, to avoid exposure to hypothermia:

  1. Stay dry
  2. Beware of the wind
  3. Understand the cold - hypothermia cases have occurred even in temperature ranges between 0° C and 10° C

Emergency Shelter

A variety of shelters can be fashioned using materials found in the woods and using natural formations such as fallen trees.

To conserve energy, build your shelter near the building material (i.e. logs, rocks, etc.), close to a fuel source and nearby drinking water (i.e. creek). Avoid overhanging rocks that may spill gravel, and keep a certain distance away from lakes and rivers due to possibility of floods.


Any item that has the ability to alert any and all potential rescuers is a good signaling item. Some of these items are fire, flashing light, mirrors and other reflectors, bright colour markers, flags and whistles. If you are using a fire, be careful that you do not ignite any surrounding area. Ground signals can be made from branches or logs, and should be about 10 metres long, and 3 metres wide. There are different types of ground signals that you should know about, as they are recognized by all search and rescue workers worldwide.

Call For Help

If you bring a two- way communication device, make sure you know how to operate it prior to departure, ensure that the batteries are charged, and make arrangements with a party to receive your distress call and act on it appropriately.

Carrying a personal locator beacon is recommended for back-country travel on either land or water.

Stay Where You Are

Do not try to walk to safety unless you meet all of the following conditions:

  1. Know where you are and where you want to go
  2. Have a compass or some other means for maintaining and setting direction
  3. Have suitable clothing that will stand up to any type of weather that you may encounter
  4. Have sufficient food, fuel, and shelter that you can carry with you


Water is more important to your survival than food. You can survive for several weeks without food, but only for a few days without water. When you are dehydrated, your susceptibility to fatigue and hypothermia increases.

Main sources of water can be found at lakes and streams. Most plants also contain drinkable water. In the winter, snow and ice can be melted for drinking water. Do not melt them in your mouth as they will lower your body temperature, which could contribute to hypothermia.