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Outdoor Survival - What it Takes
By Steven Gillman

Many think that outdoor survival is all about skills and knowledge. Some understand that the will to survive is just as crucial. But having the right priorities is also an important element. Here they are, in the order of importance.

1. Get Your Attitude Right

Read many stories of outdoor survival, and you'll quickly notice that many people are alive who should have died. Maybe after a plane crash they wander into the wilderness where they can't be easily found by searchers, or they almost freeze to death even though there are plants that could be used to keep them warm. Why do they survive? Their will to survive.

It's a great start, responsible for survival in the most terrible situations. But another part of proper attitude is the real belief that survival is possible and likely. You can create this by thinking of your favorite stories of survival against impossible odds, and by focusing always on the things you can do. Don't ignore a problem, but don't think about it for a minute without also deciding what you can do to solve it.

2. Stay Warm Or Cool

Hypothermia is the primary killer in outdoor survival situations. It is simply the lowering of your core body temperature. Stay warm. This means staying dry, having enough insulation, and staying out of the wind if you can. You might sleep during the day and travel in the cold of the night in some environments, and thus stay warmer. Stuff dried grass between layers of clothing for more insulation. Make a fire when possible.

Hot environments can kill as well. In that case, you might want to travel at night or early in the morning, and sleep in the shade during the heat of the day. Fashion an umbrella of any materials available, to shade yourself while walking. If water isn't drinkable, it can still be used to cool you. Soak your clothing in it - wet handkerchief around your neck will cool down quite a bit.

3. Stay Hydrated

Water is almost always a higher priority than food. A few days without water in a survival situation and you may be dead. You should immediately locate a water supply, and find a way to purify the water. Reduce your need as well. Stay in the shade more, breath through your nose instead of your mouth, and if water is really short, use it only for drinking, not washing yourself.

4. Avoid Injury

You may like the "Man Against Wild" television program. I even learn something from it now and then. However, the host likes to show off his skills and daring more than his thinking. Enjoy the show, but when you are in a survival situation, don't jump off a cliff into water or climb down a water fall to save a bit of bush-whacking (he did both in recent episodes). Just avoid obstacles, move slower on dangerous terrain, and generally try your best to avoid injuries.

5. Be Found

In most outdoor survival situations your goal will be to be found. If you think people are looking for you, stay where you are, and have a signal fire ready to light, to help searchers locate you once they are near. If you have to try to get out on your own (perhaps nobody knows where you are), leave a note specifying your plans. Then mark your trail as you travel.

6. Find Food

From physiological perspective, food is a low priority in most survival situations. Most of those lost in the wilderness, whether hikers, boaters or plane wreck survivors, are rescued or dead from other causes long before starvation is a problem. But having something to eat can help you maintain strength, warmth, and a sense of comfort, so once the other priorities are addressed, it's time to think about food.

Food can be rationed severely when necessary, unlike water (many have died of dehydration with water still in their canteens). Of course, you can also look for more food. Mammals and birds are almost all edible if you have the means to cook them. You may also want to learn to identify a few wild edible plants if you think you could someday be in an outdoor survival situation.

  Mountain House--The #1 Backpacking Food!

Copyright Steve Gillman. To get the ebook "Ultralight Backpacking Secrets (And Wilderness Survival Tips)" for FREE, as well as photos, gear recommendations, and a new wilderness survival section, visit:

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Like this article?  You may also enjoy:  Ultralight Backpacking by Steve Gillman, Breakfast Recipes by Steve Gillman


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