Camping & Survival

5 Tips to Help You Survive Until Help Arrives

Snake curled up under an outcropping

Unless you are Bear Grylls, you probably will not find yourself unexpectedly stranded in some remote region of the world where you are forced to drink stagnant water or munch beetles to survive.

Impression of an animal track in the dirt.
Wild animal tracks, such as this coyote track, are easily identifiable by the diamond-like shape and obvious claw points.

Most have the luxury of planning when and where our adventures will take us, and hopefully, during the planning process, we gather up plenty of provisions to get us through a few extra days in case we get stranded. Occasionally, the unexpected can happen, and we may be forced to rely on our instincts and skill set to survive and get home alive.

Knowing what and how to do certain things is useful, and here are a few other helpful things to think about until help arrives.

  1. Depending upon the area, dangerous animals may be a concern. Avoiding wild animals, especially predators, is a good thing, so be on the lookout for tracks, slide or heavy game trails. Keep your eyes open for scat as those to get a good indicator of the types and sizes of animals so you can avoid them.
  2. If you are looking for a place to get out the elements, such as a cave, log or even an abandoned shack, be sure to first observe from a safe distance any shelter you may find. Look for animal tracks or game trails entering and exiting any shelter.Also look for scat in the immediate area of a possible shelter because rarely does an animal defecate in its bedding area. If you find a cave or den-like area and see no evidence that it is being occupied by four-legged creatures, then check for snakes. If you see evidence of small critters, such as mice or chipmunks, present (look for small tracks and scat because rodents do poop where they live), then there probably is not a den of snakes. If you are still unsure, throw some decent-sized rocks into the den first and listen for sounds, such as rattling or other movement.
  3. Never sleep or make camp on the floor of a ravine or canyon or directly on the water’s edge. Flash flooding is an obvious concern, and animals often cruise shorelines, creek beds (even dry creek ones) for food. They also use those areas as travel corridors.
  4. Unless you have memorized a local guide to toxic plants, it is hard to know what plants and berries are toxic in certain areas. If you see that birds are eating the berries, chances are they is not toxic for humans, although there are always exceptions. Frankly, there are too many types of berries and plants that grow in specific locations to know, so proceed with caution. Although many plants and berries are not classified as toxic, they still can make you extremely sick.
  5. Finally, it is important to let people know, before you head out, what time you expect to return and exactly where you are going. Even if you plan to be gone for an extended time, it is a good idea to plan a few check-in times during your excursion.
Snake curled up under an outcropping
You often find snakes in caves, rock outcroppings and abandoned buildings.

Hopefully, with a little ingenuity and a lot of luck, you will get home alive.

Have you had unexpected delays getting home from an adventure? What did you do? How long did you have to wait for help? Share your experiences in the comments section.


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Comments (4)

  1. I’m pushing 70 y/o and completed the USAF aircrew survival course more years ago than I care to admit. Having grown up hunting and living in the woods it was more fun than a lot of the other guys would admit. But I never forgot a thing they taught there. I never go hunting without at least a basic survival kit; weighs maybe 1/2 lb. The absolute most important thing is common sense. There seems to be a terrible shortage of it these days. Almost forgot to mention my Colt Woodsman. What a great little meat provider.

  2. Back in the mid ’80’s, a friend of mine was having Coyote problems at his homestead in North-Central California. After several sleepless nights of trying to stay awake and catch the Coyotes in the act of feasting on his livestock. He got the idea of getting some “Ghost Pepper Extract”. Then applied a liberal dosing of the extract on all the fresh kills he could find. And waited. After a few days, he notice that the killed animals, had hardly been touched by feeding Coyotes. He figured, rightly, after getting a snoot full of the “Ghost Pepper Extract”, that the Coyotes got it through their heads. That there something seriously wrong with the meat of his livestock. After several week, he began to notice. No more Coyotes, apparently they moved on too greener pastures, and try feeding on somebody else’s livestock, and never had a problem with Coyotes since. In 2005, or so he sold his land and moved to Alaska. And just sort of fell off the “Radar”, whereabouts unknown. Whether he pass on his “Ghost Pepper Extract” too anybody else is, unfortunately unknown, as of this writing.

  3. Coyotes are cowards and cautious unless in a pack, but I believe they are only Solo Hunters. AKA Bumper Dogs. So many people venture out everyday without a clue about what could happen. Been there, done that , but you still need to exercise your thinking cap once in a while.

  4. If you venture into the wild by design, you should already know what you need to pack. Even if your journey is extended by design or necessity there are requirements and then there are comforts. In my experience there are four requirements to survive in the wild….
    1) Pure drinking water is your Most Important Asset. I do not recommend putting any chemicals in your water simply because, too much chemical in too little water can be toxic. There are many types and sizes of “Water Purifiers” on the market. My personal choice is a PUR backpack size purifier (@$80 USD).
    2) Shelter from the elements. Either a good quality tent or the knowledge and ability to build an adequate structure with materials at hand.
    3) The knowledge and ability to make fire in wet or dry conditions.
    4) You must have a sustainable food supply.
    I lived totally off the land for eighteen months. One year in the mountains of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Then six months in the desert of Arizona. Living off the land as I traveled, by bicycle, between those areas. I did have modern firearms to supply myself with meat, a 45acp handgun and a 22 rifle. I ate no vegetation that I did not physically see the local wildlife eating. Observing the wildlife up close is easy if you are invisible, meaning, smell like the woods around you. I stayed clean enough to be healthy but dirty enough to be part of the landscape. Fully, half the weight I carried was ammunition, 1000 rounds per firearm. As you all are certainly aware of, surviving in the wild is not easy. My journey was the hardest thing I have ever done but also the most gratifying.
    One last thing… Never Put Yourself In A Situation Where Injury Is Possible!!! I had a small first aid kit…never needed it.

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