When braving the dangers we can face in the overwhelming circumstances of surviving in the wilderness, it is imperative that we are always prepared to the full extent of our abilities. Knowing how to behave and how to deal with specific situations you could find yourself in, and feeling confident in your ability to overcome obstacles, can be a deciding factor when stranded in unfamiliar surroundings.


In this short article we will cover the basic steps to follow when stranded in wilderness and carrying the bare minimum of supplies. Always expect the unexpected – you never know what might happen on your next camping trip, or how your next hiking might turn out. That’s why you should always think in advance and try to be always outfitted with the basic tools. The better you’re equipped on your outdoors adventure, the better your chances are if something goes not according to plan.


A lot can go wrong in the wild. Even if you made the decision to go on a hiking trip through the designated and marked trails, you can still find yourself easily lost, disoriented and frightened. If something like this happens, the number one priority, and an important thing is not to succumb to panic. Panic will only deepen the negativity of your situation and confuse your thinking. That’s why it is important to remember to remain calm – take deep breaths, think calmly and assess the situation.


What is the problem? What are my options and what can I do to resolve this?  If you came out properly prepared and aware of all the dangers, you should already begin finding the logical steps to take to get yourself out of danger. Following are some of the basic priorities you will need to address to ensure you are in minimal danger as you resolve your situation:


  • Finding water –
    Dehydration is a great danger and a major threat to effective survival. Your body depends on water, and being properly hydrated will ensure you are physically and mentally able to deal with your surroundings. Your personal supply of water will never be large enough to last for a prolonged period of time, and you will depend on your ability to find a source of clean water.
    As a crucial element in all natural life, water can be easy to acquire if you know how to follow the signs provided by your surroundings. Always a sure sign of water is lush vegetation that thrives around a pools, rivers and underground sources. Try to spot such a place, especially if you are in arid areas. If you find a pool of still water with no vegetation growing around, something might not be right. Always consider the purity of stagnant water and try to filter it or boil it beforehand. You can also collect rain water if conditions apply – collect rain with the help of your tent, clothing, or fashion funnels out of tree bark.
    Remember to look to your surroundings – if you see wildlife, try to follow them to a source of water. Deer and other herbivores are usually near watering sources. Observe and follow from a distance.


  • Provide food –
    The next crucial step after hydration is preventing hunger. Depending on where you are located, finding food may or may not be an issue. If you packed a supply of food, plan out your daily intake and ration accordingly. Take small portions to ensure enough sustenance until help or more food can be found. Always consider the food options available to you and know how to act when an offer presents itself. Study the local plant life and learn to differentiate the edibles from non-edibles. There is a great variety of nutritious plants that can be cooked, eaten raw or boiled for tea. Inspect them beforehand and look for suspicious, unsafe signs like withering, foul smell or discoloration.
    Another option you have is hunting and fishing. Know your abilities to tackle local wild life, always aiming to hunt small game or fowl that is easier to prepare – hares, squirrels, ducks or other wild fowl. Learn about trap making and construction of primitive weapons that can aid you in hunting.


  • Provide fire –
    It can’t be stressed out enough how important fire can be. Fire can help immensely with morale, confidence and vigor, as well as a means to signal, prepare food and boil water. It is a crucial step when setting up camp and surviving in general. When lighting a fire, pick a place sheltered from the wind. If you set up a proper camp than this place will be provided – for example in front of your tent or tarp. Before you begin, collect enough tinder, kindling and firewood to last you for the desired amount of time. Make sure the wood is dry to ensure a better output of heat and less smoke emitted. You can opt to make a circle of rocks around your fire. This can help trap the heat more effectively, as well as help with cooking and preparation. Many easily flammable materials can be used for tinder, but if possible choose wood shavings, dry grass or cotton – anything dry and fine will do. After lighting the tinder, build up and raise your fire with enough dry kindling – choose dry twigs and branches. Lastly, start adding the firewood and continue to maintain the fire, enjoying its many life-saving benefits.


  • Secure a shelter –
    Another important aspect to take as basic security is finding shelter for the night. Being exposed to the elements, especially when night falls, is never recommended. In many climates and areas, nightfall can bring drastically lower temperatures than during the day, placing you in a difficult situation. Always try to secure a shelter before dark. If you packed a tent or a tarp, look for a natural setup, preferably guarded from the wind with firewood close at hand. Always inspect your surroundings for any threat or imperfections. Once you have a suitable setup to spend the night, you can focus on preparing a fire and developing the plan for tomorrow. Spending a night sheltered from the elements and warmed up can do great things for your morale and confidence, giving you a much needed boost to keep you going on.


Following these basic first steps can hopefully get you aware of your situation and a little more eager and ready to tackle it successfully. Taking care of those four essential steps needs to be a priority before all else, only after can you turn your attention to finding a way to safety, or getting back to a marked trail. To ensure a successful way of getting out, you’ll need to take care of the following important aspects:



The important thing here is to find out where you are and where do you need to go. If you came prepared, you should already have a basic map of the area, a compass and knowledge of how to use them. Before committing to camping and hiking trips, always study the area and the routes towards safety. If you know a safe zone on the map, your compass can help direct you there. If you lack either or both, you can navigate by means of nature. Observe – sunsets and sunrises indicate west and east, as well as shadows and stars. Study the natural ways of navigation before going hiking. If feeling unsure about your heading, you can follow rivers as settlements can usually be found near water. Another thing you can do is find a high vantage point from which to observe your surroundings and possibly spot safety.


2. Signalling


In case of spotting a helicopter, a rescue plane or distant hikers or vehicles, you need to know how to effectively signal and alert them to your presence. Remember the three times rule – signals repeated three times usually indicate distress and a need for help. Provided you carried a survival whistle, produce three distinct and loud whistles to alert any distant hikers you might spot. Sound carries through vast open landscape, so there is a good chance you will be heard even if far away. If you have no signaling tools, light a large fire. Putting fresh, green foliage into the flames will produce large stacks of smoke that can be visible from a distance. Any bright colored materials that stand out from your surroundings can also help and make you visible.

With this basic introductory guide to logical and important first steps to take when you are lost, disoriented or insecure in the wilderness, we hope to give an insight and help you to cope better with often intimidating grandeur and wildness of nature. Make sure to study all the helpful rules and guides – to better prepare yourself before heading out into the great outdoors.