Basic rules if you are
lost and alone in the wilderness

The fear of the unknown can be a very scary experience. It can make a strong man panic, a brave woman act irresponsibly without thinking and a mature teenager cry. But to feel fear is normal and necessary. It is nature's way of giving us that extra charge of energy. Our adrenal glands release a mixture of chemicals commonly known as adrenaline. The release of adrenaline draws blood into the major muscle groups in anticipation of the "flight or fight" reaction. We can use that extra shot of energy to get us out of harm's way, if we have the willpower to control our actions. Everyone feels adrenaline. The only difference is the way we react to it. We control it or it controls us.

The wilderness can be frightening if we got lost, our supplies run low or our gear disappears. How do we find food and water, how do we make fire, how do we find our way back and how do we stay warm at night? What about those wild animals out there and the weird sounds at night? It's the fear of the unknown that can creep into our mind before the adventure begins.

Knowledge and experience are the first step to overcoming fear. Self-assurance can be established by the knowledge of survival skills and understanding your relationship with the plants, animals, the land and the weather around you. Practice and experience will give you the basis to test your skills to have more confidence in handling difficult situations. You can overcome obstacles that you may face with knowledge, practice, common sense and the will to survive.

  1. Stop :- Sit down and stay put until the fear, anger, and or frustration has gone from the system.
  2. Think through your situation :- What do you have that can help you in this situation? Your mind is your greatest survival tool!
  3. Observe your surroundings :- Where should you stay? If you told someone where you were going, people may be searching for you. Is there an open area where the searchers would have a better chance of seeing you?
  4. Plan your action :- In most cases, the priority should be: Find or make a shelter against the weather. Build a fire for heat. Signal to attract attention. Find water.

Build a Shelter :- 

A small shelter which is insulated from the bottom, protected from wind and snow and contains a fire is extremely important in wilderness survival. Before building your shelter be sure that the surrounding area provides the materials needed to build a good fire, a good water source and shelter from the wind.

Wilderness shelters may include:


  1. Natural shelters such as caves and overhanging cliffs. When exploring a possible shelter tie a piece of string to the outer mouth of the cave to ensure you will be able to find your way out. Keep in mind that these caves may already be occupied. If you do use a cave for shelter, build your fire near its mouth to prevent animals from entering.

    Enlarge the natural pit under a fallen tree and line it with bark or tree boughs.

  3. Near a rocky coastal area, build a rock shelter in the shape of a U, covering the roof with driftwood and a tarp or even seaweed for protection.
  4. A lean-to made with poles or fallen trees and a covering of plastic, boughs, thick grasses or bark is effective to shelter you from wind, rain and snow.

    A wigwam may be constructed using three long poles. Tie the tops of the poles together and upright them in an appropriate spot. Cover the sides with a tarp, boughs, rain gear or other suitable materials. Build a fire in the center of the wigwam, making a draft channel in the wall and a small hole in the top to allow smoke to escape.

  6. If you find yourself in open terrain, a snow cave will provide good shelter. Find a drift and burrow a tunnel into the side for about 60 cm (24 in) then build your chamber. The entrance of the tunnel should lead to the lowest level of you chamber where the cooking and storage of equipment will be. A minimum of two ventilating holes are necessary, preferably one in the roof and one in the door.

Build a Fire :-

Building a fire is the most important task when dealing with survival in the wilderness. Be sure to build yours in a sandy or rocky area or near a supply of sand and water as to avoid forest fires. The most common mistakes made by those attempting to build a fire are: choosing poor tinder, failing to shield precious matches from the wind and smothering the flames with too large pieces of fuel. The four most important factors when starting a fire are spark - tinder - fuel - oxygen.

The most common ways to create spark are:

  1. Waterproof, strike-anywhere matches are your best bet. Matches may be water-proofed by dipping them in nail polish. Store your matches in a waterproof container.
  2. A cigarette lighter is also a good way to produce a spark, with or without fuel.
  3. The flint and steel method is one of the oldest and most reliable methods in fire starting. Aim the sparks at a pile of dry tinder to produce a fire.
  4. The electric spark produced from a battery will ignite a gasoline dampened rag.
  5. Remove half of the powder from a bullet and pour it into the tinder. Next place a rag in the cartridge case of the gun and fire. The rag should ignite and then may be placed into the tinder.
  6. Allow the sun’s rays to pass through a magnifying glass onto the tinder. Dry grass, paper or cloth lint, gasoline-soaked rags and dry bark are all forms of tinder. Place your tinder in a small pile resembling a tepee with the driest pieces at the bottom. Use a fire starter or strip of pitch if it is available.

    It is important to keep in mind that smaller pieces of kindling such as, twigs, bark, shavings and gasoline, are necessary when trying to ignite larger pieces of fuel. Gather fuel before attempting to start your fire. Obviously dry wood burns better and wet or pitchy wood will create more smoke. Dense, dry wood will burn slow and hot. A well ventilated fire will burn best.

Find Civilization :- 

Look for "human footprints" :- By footprints, I really don’t mean literal human footprints. I mean any tell-tale signs that one or more human being has lived, worked, or even passed through a certain area. Some tell-tale signs of human existence include: roads, domesticated animals, buildings of any sort, bridges, tree stumps that are a result of sawing or chopping, tire tracks, abandoned fire pits, etc. If you find any human footprints, chances are much higher that there is someone who can take you to safety nearby, or that a person may at least pass through the area again sometime soon. If it’s safe for you to do, explore the areas that surround these human footprints in order to find out whether rescue is closer than you might expect.

Find a High Vantage Point :- If you find you’re in a spot where it’s incredibly difficult to see what surrounds you, try to find a high vantage point in order to take a better look at what’s nearby. To get a better idea of where to go, you’ll need to have a reasonably clear idea of what surrounds you. As doubtable as it may be, there may be individuals nearby, and if not, there may at least be some human footprints left as evidence of their having been someone present at one time or another. Be sure when using this method that you are being incredibly safe. Although climbing an incredibly tall tree will give you a nice vantage point, the risk of falling if you’re an inexperienced tree climber is not worth the risk of injury. Remember, no one can give you the medical attention you need if you’re already lost and may not be found anytime soon, and finding people on your own will be especially difficult if you’re injured (think about having to walk long distances on a broken leg – not a pretty picture). Climbing a steep hill is more likely to be worth the risk, especially if you’re unlikely to slip. Always err on the side of caution in survival situations because in survival situations your health is the most important asset you can have.

Head for Clearings: Get Out of the Forest :- If you absolutely cannot find a high vantage point near you, say because the area is too densely populated with trees that are much too dangerous to climb, you should try getting out of the forest. Clearings make it much easier to get an accurate picture of your surroundings, which will almost certainly help you to assess what your next step should be. You may even find domesticated animals grazing in a clearing that turned out to be a field, or find that the clearing was the result of a massive number of trees being sawed down to be used as lumber. Clearings may also lead you to finding low-flying aircraft, which when signaled to, may provide rescue. Whatever the case may be, heading for a clearing, so long as it’s not dangerous to get to or too far to travel to, is a good idea.


Your body is 75% water by weight. This water is needed for circulation and other bodily processes including respiration and converting food to energy. Your body loses water through sweating, urinating. Defecating and breathing. The fluid your body loses must be replaced for you to function properly. So, one of your first objectives is to obtain an adequate supply of water in a survival situation. You can't live long without it, especially in hot areas where you lose so much through sweating. Even in cold areas, you need a sufficient amount of water a day to maintain efficiency. People can survive without food for weeks or even a month, but go without water for even just one day and it will decrease your ability in doing even the simplest task. A lack of water causes dehydration, which may result in lethargy, headaches, dizziness and confusion. Insufficient water will also increase your susceptibility to severe shock if you get injured. You will easily be vulnerable to the effects of cold or heat. Morale will drop and a host of other problems ensue.

Thirst is no indication of how much water you need. Even when you are not thirsty, drink small amounts of water regularly to prevent dehydration. Dark yellow or brown urine is a diagnostic indicator of dehydration. If you are exerting a lot of energy or are under severe conditions, increase your water intake. You should be drinking 2 to 3 quarts of water daily.

If water rations are insufficient, then movement should be reduced to the cool times of the day or night. Stay in the shade as much as possible. This will reduce the water lost by excessive sweating. Move slowly to conserve energy. In very hot areas, it is better to take smaller quantities of water more frequently. To maximize your water intake, drink slowly and in sips. Don't eat anything if you don't have water to drink with it. By consuming food you'll burn up your body's supply of the vital fluid all the quicker. Do not remove your clothing, even in the sun. Loose layers of clothing help to control sweating by keeping the humidity near the skin to maximize the cooling effect.

The best place to keep water is in your stomach. When you get to a water source, start treating your water. Keep hydrated and drink as much water as needed. Fill your water containers and drink your fill of water before departing.

Basic filtering is the first step in removing particulate matter in the water :- Three sticks can be lashed together near the end of the sticks to form a tripod. Tie a piece of cloth or your T-shirt under the lashed area of the sticks. If you have four corners on your cloth, bind two of the corners together. You will now have three corners. Tie each corner to one of the three sticks. The cloth should not slide downwards on the stick. Use cordage if necessary to secure the cloth to the sticks. Water from a stream, pond or any water source is poured into the cloth to filter out any debris or mud in the water. Additional pieces of cloth can be tied under the first cloth to create a multi-layered filter. A container is placed under the last cloth layer to catch the dripping water.

A plastic water or soda bottle can be made into another filter system. Cut off the upper top portion of the plastic bottle. Perforate the bottom of the plastic bottle with small holes. Place a layer of grass in the bottom, followed by a layer of sand, layered with many pieces of very small charcoal, another layer of sand and a final layer of grass on top. The five separate layers should fill up your plastic bottle. Water is poured into the plastic bottle filter and allowed to drain out of the small holes at the bottom of the plastic bottle into a water container. Take the water from the container and filter the water as many times through the plastic bottle until it comes out relatively clear.

Three techniques for obtaining water (if a creek, river, lake or any major water source is not available) :-

  1. A solar still can be constructed with a plastic tarp. This is a system to extract water from the soil. A hole is dug where there might be moisture in the soil. A water collecting container is placed in the middle of the pit. The plastic tarp covers the hole and is lined with heavy rocks to seal the perimeter of the pit. A small stone is placed in the center of the tarp over the container in the hole to create a funnel. Create an angle of about 45-degrees from the edge of the hole to the center on the tarp. Water condenses into droplets on the underside of the tarp and gradually drips into the container. Crushed herbaceous plants can also be placed in the pit to increase the still's output. Be careful to use only edible plants as many poisons will evaporate from toxic plants and drip down into your water container. You can also pour impure or filtered water into the solar still pit and allow it to evaporate and condense into your container.
  2. A branch with foliage or a small shrub enclosed in a plastic bag can be used to obtain water. Plants loose water vapour into the atmosphere through a process called transpiration. The water vapour will condense on the inner surface of the bag and slowly flow towards the lowest part of the bag. Angle the bottom of the bag to capture the water droplets. This installation should work for a few days as long as the plant is not too exposed to the sun. Avoid killing the plant from overheating in the bag. Never use plants that may be poisonous. It takes a long time to collect liquid from a plant. This method is best used to stay the pains of thirst or to obtain temporary, "quick relief" emergency water.
  3. Water can be collected from early morning dew. Also, a depression in a rock or the nook of a tree or a stump may contain water. Soak up the water from the catch with a piece of cloth or some dried grasses, wring it into a container, then filter and boil the fluid.

Food :-

Food is an important part of helping your child stay calm and positive. Teach him how to ration his food and water supply to last as long as possible. If the duration of the survival experience outlasts the food supply, knowing how to recognize and forage for food in the wild can keep him busy and increase the odds of survival. With the ability to build a campfire, he can boil or toast green and brown grass seeds, young dandelion shoots or sunflowers, cattails or pine needles. Teach him that he should sample only small amounts and wait for any adverse reaction. Conserving his energy is paramount so he should stick to foods that he can collect easily and eat small portions to avoid stomach upset and diarrhoea, which can put his health at risk.



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