Survival Techniques and Tips
By Steve Gillman
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
- 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.
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!
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