Tents / Tarps / Bivies
Wild Camping

Lightweight Backpacks
Sleeping Bags

Wilderness Survival
Hiking Adventures

Edible Wild Plants
Survival Kits

Survival Techniques and Tips


Modern survival techniques are primarily about keeping yourself safe until you are found, and doing things to get found. Most wilderness emergencies are resolved by search and rescue teams, after all, and not by living off the land for weeks as you journey back to civilization. So food is not a priority. Staying warm and dry, or cool and hydrated, is what matters. With that in mind, here are a few survival techniques worth knowing.

Fire Starting in Wet Conditions

A fire can save your life. It is not only a way to get warm and dry, but a way to signal rescuers. But when you need it most - when it is cold and training or snowing, and everything is wet - that's when it is hardest to start a fire. Here are some tips that can help in these conditions:

- Break open wet logs and stumps to find dry parts inside.

- Small dead branches near the base of spruce, fir and pine trees are often dry even after hours of rain. You can also look for chucks of tree resin that have oozed out. These will burn when wet.

- Start the fire out of the wind and rain for best results. If there is no natural shelter from the weather, hunch over the fire as you start it, with your back to the wind.

Survival Shelters

The key function of a shelter is to regulate your body temperature. That means providing shade if you are in a hot environment. Shelters that do that are perhaps the easiest to make. A simple lean-to layered with branches will work, or even just getting in the shade of a tree or rock.

A shelter to keep you warm has to block the wind and any precipitation. Ideally it is also small enough hold your body heat and insulate you somewhat from the surrounding cold. Here are some examples to get you thinking:

- If there is no rain or snow, a pile of leaves or dry grass can be all the shelter you need to stay warm even in below-freezing conditions. Just burrow into it.

- To conserve energy, look for natural shelters that can be modified before you start making one from scratch. These can include rock overhangs, dry caves, "tree wells" (the sometimes snow-free hole around the base of evergreens in winter), and large fallen trees that you can fit under.

-You can learn more about building a shelter here: Survival Shelter - Think!

Getting Found

Survival techniques for getting found usually are about not moving around too much. There are many search and rescue stories that involve searchers finding campsites of lost hikers or hunters who have moved on. Many search planes now have a precise grid-pattern they can search based on GPS systems, so they don't miss any spot. But that doesn't help if you have moved back into the area they already finished searching.

Fires are a great way to signal searchers, so have one going when possible. You should also have a supply of green tree branches, wet leaves or something else that can produce a lot of smoke if you hear a plane coming.

Three is the universal number for distress or emergency. Fire a gun three times in a row or blow a whistle in sets of three blasts and you might get the attention of someone who can help. If there is an open area near your survival camp, you can also a triangle with three piles of rocks or tree branches that can be seen from the air.

For more survival techniques and tips, see the Wilderness Survival Guide.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Survival Techniques and Tips