The major reasons people find it difficult to survive in the outdoors in an emergency situation is down to their lack of understanding about the basics of survival alongside a tendency to panic.
In knowing what the basic skills of survival are and learning how to put them into practice you’ll be able to withstand an emergency situation more competently and, in extreme cases, it can even mean the difference between life and death.
There are 6 key elements to survival and they are shelter, fire, first aid, food, water and signalling.
This is the number one priority no matter how cold or hungry you may be. Obviously, in an emergency where someone has been seriously injured, you may need to apply first aid first but in a typical survival situation where no-one is hurt, it’s important to find shelter first. It will protect you from inclement weather, prevent you from suffering from hypothermia and enable you to rest, conserve energy and get some sleep. Moreover, it’ll boost your morale.
At a very basic level, your clothing is your immediate form of shelter. Extra layers as opposed to one thick layer are preferable and a warm hat is an essential item you should always carry with you.
You should build the shelter small as it will retain heat far better and you can use any materials you can find to construct it. Branches and large leaves tend to work best but you may have to adapt materials to suit.
Try to avoid building it in areas where there may be a risk of flooding and, although it may seem beneficial to construct it where the sunlight reaches it best, if that means it’s out in the open, you are more liable to be at risk of wind reducing any benefit you might obtain from the sun’s warmth.
To increase your chances of survival, you have to keep warm so building a fire is your next priority, once again, even at the expense of food and water. Building a fire has several uses. Not only will it provide you with warmth and a heat source to cook on, it will scare away any potentially dangerous animals, allow you to purify water and can be used as a tool for signalling help. It, too, has a morale boosting effect which is also vital for you to retain a clear and positive frame of mind. If there’s plenty of material around with which you can construct a fire, a few small fires are better at giving off heat than one large one.
You may be starving but water takes next priority over food. We can survive for several weeks without food but only 3 days without water. A lack of it means we become dehydrated and that will cause us to slow down, suffer from headaches, become nauseous and dizzy and will eventually result in death. Water can be gathered in several ways. You can construct makeshift containers to catch rainfall which is pure and safe and there may be a pond or river nearby. Beware collecting water from ponds and rivers, however, as it may be contaminated. Although you may not have a purification system with you, you can still make water fairly safe by boiling it for 10 or 15 minutes and you can use something made out of thin material, such as a handkerchief or a spare T-shirt if you have one to act as a strainer. You can also use any spare items of clothing to collect dew from the ground and any plants nearby.
Education and knowledge are the key to finding food in the outdoors if you’ve lost your supplies or run out. You should try and obtain your nutrients from a meat or fish source and supplement that with berries, fungi and vegetation. Therefore, a little knowledge of fishing, hunting and animal trapping will come in useful. Knowledge is also the key to eating vegetation and berries etc. If you’re uncertain about what a particular object is, don’t eat it. It could make you very ill at best and even kill you at worst. Also, don’t assume that if an animal is eating something that it is safe for you to eat it too. That’s simply not the case. No matter how hungry you are, if you’re not sure, do without.
Remember, you can survive without food for several weeks. And although you’re likely to experience fatigue, irritability, low morale and a lack of food may also prevent you from maintaining a good body temperature, at least you’re alive which might not be the case if you eat poisonous plants, berries or fungi.
Having a first aid kit and knowing how to use it is crucial. You may have cuts which could become infected if not treated or you may have even fractured a limb. Try to remain calm if injured and apply proper first-aid. This will enable you to keep functioning physically.
Many people have lost their battle for survival because they have panicked in a remote area and have tried to walk out of the location they’ve found themselves in. Unless you’re 100% sure of how to get out and are able to do so, take no chances and wait for rescuers to find you. Having a fire burning will create smoke which, in a remote area, is very useful in enabling you to be spotted from the air. If there are enough rocks and branches around, and a stretch of open land which can be viewed from the air is close by, spelling out SOS with the rocks or sticks can also alert air rescuers if they’re flying overhead. Alternatively, you may have a small mirror or even a metal watch with you. Anything which reflects sunlight can also be used to summon help and, if there are buildings in the distance, you might also be able to alert somebody that way.
The important thing is to understand these basic rules of survival, to put them into action and to remain as calm as possible. That way, you’ll have a greater chance of surviving the difficult situation you’re faced with.