What Is Wilderness Survival Camping?
By Steve Gillman
The idea of a wilderness survival camping trip is to have
a new kind of backpacking experience while practicing some skills
that might someday save your life. Bring matches, in other words,
but try not to use them to start that fire. Bring some food as
a backup plan, but try to live off the land as well.
I often do this to some extent. I eat wild raspberries, cherries,
pine nuts and fifty other wild plants when I am hiking and backpacking.
On a kayak trip on Lake Superior a friend and I ran out of food
by the next-to-last day of the trip and as a result had to gorge
ourselves on wild blueberries on rocky islands along the way.
Earlier in the trip we added beach peas to our soup and ate seven
or eight other wild edibles.
Sometimes I just want to travel so light that it becomes a
kind of survival camping. For example, when I did an overnight
trip to climb Crestone Peak here in Colorado I went with just
nine pounds on my back. I ran into four feet of snow and had
to give up the summit a couple thousand feet short, but it was
a good opportunity to practice survival skills - I had no tent
and only a 17-ounce down bag.
To stay warm I found a clearing where the snow had mostly
melted off, and I collected armloads of dead dry grass and thistle
stalks. The stalks, with the grass topping them, made for a great
warm mattress. I ate old dry wild rose hips and wild carrots
before settling in for the night.
On this trip, like on others, I tried to start a fire without
matches. Honestly, I have never succeeded at this. I can make
a fire-trough and get smoke in twenty seconds of using it, but
I just can't get that red-hot coal to ever appear.
In this case I had matches, but I didn't need a fire. It dropped
to about 25 degrees Fahrenheit and I was very warm with my grass
That is the essence of a wilderness survival camping trip.
It isn't a survival trek, so bring food, matches and all the
other necessary gear if you try this. But try to start that fire,
and eat wild plants or go fishing. Build a shelter if you are
in an area where it will do no harm. See if you can sleep without
the sleeping bag.
See the Wilderness
Survival Guide to get the knowledge, then put it to use and
practice the skills on a camping or backpacking trip.