Day hikes can turn into a fight for your life in a matter of minutes due to an unexpected weather event, an encounter with local wildlife or you simply become lost. Being lost in and of its self is not necessarily dangerous but the environment you become lost in can put your life at risk if you are not prepared. Your car can slide off the road or breakdown leaving you stranded along a remote section of highway and help can be days or even longer away. Anything can happen to anyone at any time. As you go about your daily life, you may not think about survival preparedness until you are in a situation, and then it may be too late. Some survival experts will tell you they do not prepare for the unexpected, because they expect anything can happen. To many it is not a matter of if, but simply a matter of when disaster strikes.
You need certain things to stay alive in the wilderness and the basic essentials are shelter, water, and fire along with an eventual food source. Depending on the weather, you may have only hours to either set up a shelter you have brought with you or construct one from materials you find in your environment.
Ideally, you will always have a survival kit with you on any outdoor adventure. This means however, you will have to have an emergency kit packed and ready to go with you at all times. The kit will need to contain the tools and materials needed to construct a survival shelter, collect and purify a water source, build a fire and have the means to fish, hunt and/or trap. People tend to over pack thinking they need food and water for an extended period and soon the pack is too burdensome to carry. Your kit is for when your normal supplies are depleted, it will provide you the means to endure for extended periods. Prioritize the items based on the basic essentials of shelter, water, fire and food. The items in the pack are for surviving on what you find in the wilderness and not with what you can carry. Water weighs 8.5lbs/3.8kg per gallon so you can as a practical matter only carry about three days worth if you use the one gallon a day per person recommendation. You will run out of water after three days, and you must have the means to collect and purify a surface water source.
The following is a list of items that will provide the essentials. The kit is designed to be in addition to any supplies and materials you would traditionally carry with you. Therefore, food and water is left off the list because it is assumed you would be carrying enough for the length of time you expect to be gone. Matches are purposely left off the list as well.
- Multi-tool knife and a heavy fixed bladed knife
- 15-20 pound fishing line with assorted hooks and tackle
- Magnesium stick and Ferro rod for fire starting Matches are unreliable and they can put you in a life threatening situation if you rely solely on them for fire starting
- 20-24 gauge wire for snares, shelter construction and general binding jobs
- Sewing kit for gear repair and for emergency wound treatment if you do not have a suture kit You must have an assortment of needles and thread and consider a fine monofilament fishing line that can be used to sew up wounds Monofilament is less brittle and will stretch to a certain extent before breaking
- Two rain ponchos large enough to cover you and a shouldered pack can also be used for shelters
- Light nylon ground tarp
- Camp ax/machete and/or a folding saw
- Iodine or chlorine dioxide tablets for water purification
- Small stainless steel bowl or camp coffee pot for boiling water and food preparation
- Two stainless steel canteens
- Cotton balls and petroleum jelly used as fire starting aids
- Medical supplies
- Magnifying glass as an alternative fire starting tool
- Emergency solar blanket (thermal blanket)
The list has the tools and materials for you to construct a shelter, collect and purify water, build a fire and hunt, fish or trap food.
Without protection in cold weather, you can succumb to hypothermia in a matter of hours or less in some cases. You are in the first stages of hypothermia if your core body temperature is reduced by three degrees. You must have cover quickly from the cold. Clothing and fire also play an important role in keeping you alive.
Various examples of shelters that can be constructed with what you have with your or built from forest debris. The tarp cover would not be adequate for extreme cold without a quality sleeping bag, thermal blanket and fire. The inside of the snow cave can be as much as 20 degrees warmer that the outside air.
Once you realize you are lost, you must stay in place. Panicking will use up valuable energy, get you injured and force you to drink more water. You have to accept the fact you are lost and begin preparing for an overnight stay. You cannot hike through the woods at night. Nocturnal predators will begin hunting at dusk and this includes dangerous snakes. You can also walk off a cliff, fall into a gorge or simply trip and break a leg. Traditional wisdom dictates you stay in place at least for the first night and this means you need cover and a fire.
If you are not prepared by, having your emergency kit with you can use what you find in the forest to include snow, pine boughs, sticks and vegetation to build a cover for protection from the cold, animals and insects. The rule of three states you need protection within three hours. You can use the side of a fallen log by digging out a shallow depression using a stout stick and leaning poles and vegetation against the south side of the log if it is cold out. Crawl under the covering and pull vegetation in behind you to cover the opening.
You must have insulation between you and the ground. Warm air always moves from warm to cold in other words heat from your body will conduct into the ground chilling you. You must place pine bough, grasses, pine needles and other debris on the ground for a sleeping mat. You can get hypothermia even if the air is relatively warm because of the heat conduction from your body to the ground.