Survival: the best tips for surviving in the wild

The art of surviving in the wild without equipment is called survival. It is less about the struggle for survival than about becoming at home in nature and using its offers.
Survival is the art of surviving in the wild with almost no equipment. This shouldn’t be a problem for us, because this wilderness, which we view today with a mixture of fear and fascination, has been our home for many millennia. Today, however, nature has become so strange to us that we can hardly imagine that you can survive at all without technical help. In order to be able to live in nature, two things can be called the father and mother of survival: the necessary skills and the right attitude.

The art of survival

In short, the skills consist of being able to find your way in the respective environment, to get food and water and to be able to protect yourself from the weather and dangers. In addition to the belief in oneself and the wealth of nature, the right attitude includes above all a basic trust in life as well as gratitude and humility towards nature. It is this attitude that makes survival an art. Those who see survival as a struggle will have an unnecessarily difficult time.
If you want to embark on your own wilderness survival adventure, the following ten tips can help you make this experience a very special one.

  1. Prepare for the survival adventure
    Even if survival is the art of “surviving with nothing”, you should be well prepared especially with your first attempts. To begin with, choose a forest area that is not too big and in which there are many forest paths and mountain lanes. Already a forest area with a size of four square kilometers is enough to get lost in it so much that you can not find your way out (more on this under point 8). Wear your clothes in the onion layer system so that you are prepared for any temperature. Avoid synthetic fibers, as these begin to melt when they come into contact with small sparks. Your equipment should also include a water bottle, some emergency food in the form of nuts and dried fruit, and a sturdy knife with a fixed blade. If this is your first experience of nature, you should also have a sleeping bag, a tarp (awning) and a sleeping pad with you.

Do not make your first survival attempts alone, but look for at least one partner. So on the one hand you have someone with whom you can share your experiences and on the other hand you can help each other in emergency situations. Under no circumstances should you leave without a third person knowing your tour and where you are.

  1. Know the dangers
    In order to be able to move safely in nature, you should be aware of the possible dangers that you may encounter. Most people are especially afraid of wild animals when thinking about nature and wilderness. In German forests you don’t need to worry about that. The most dangerous thing you can encounter here are ticks, and even they are not nearly as dangerous as their reputation suggests. Wild boars, which are often considered aggressive, are shy, peaceful and avoid any contact with people. The general rule for encounters with wild animals is: behave calmly and respectfully, do not attack and do not run away in panic.

The far greater dangers are hunger, thirst, cold, heat and injuries. Try to protect yourself from these situations as much as possible. Above all, make sure that you don’t take unnecessary risks. Survival does not mean fighting as hard as possible against nature and exposing yourself to every dangerous situation that can be found. Rather, it means becoming indigenous to nature and learning to recognize and use the offers it offers.

  1. Find food
    Many survival books state that food is not a problem at first because you can survive up to four weeks without it. In theory, this is also possible, but only if you keep away from any physical exertion in these four weeks. On a survival tour, however, you need a lot of energy to search for a suitable storage location, to build your warehouse, to procure firewood and water, and for some other tasks and challenges. In addition, your whole organism runs permanently at 100 percent because it is exposed to the weather and has to be constantly vigilant. For this reason, food can become one of the biggest issues from day one.

The best protection against hunger is to be familiar with nature. In Central Europe alone there are around 1,800 different edible wild plants. If you start your tour in the fall, chances are you will have a dinner in the wilderness as the forest will provide you with a variety of fruits and roots. So take a simple identification book with you on your first survival tours, or take a basic course on edible wild plants beforehand. However, never eat a plant that you do not know and that you are not 100 percent sure you can eat. It is better to get to know only a few plants that you can certainly determine than many that you feel unsafe about. When it comes to animal food, insects are easy prey to begin with. Many of them have a very pleasant taste (ants for example) and some are even considered a delicacy in other cultures.

  1. Sterilize water
    Besides food, water is the second basic need that you have to satisfy on your adventure. Originally, our intestinal flora contained the same bacteria that are found in wild water, so we could drink it safely. However, our sterile lifestyle has killed most of them. If your intestine is suddenly confronted with these bacteria again, it is so overwhelmed that it reacts to it with diarrhea and vomiting. Therefore, never drink water from streams, rivers or lakes without first sterilizing it. Only fresh spring water is free of germs and bacteria and can be drunk without hesitation. Everything else should be boiled or sterilized in some other way. Warning: chemical impurities, heavy metals, toxins and hormones cannot be removed from the water. So make sure that the water of your choice has not previously flowed through cities, industrial areas or agricultural areas and that no waste water is discharged into it.
  1. Select a place to sleep
    So that your first night in the wilderness does not become a nightmare, there are a few things to consider when choosing a place to sleep. Avoid places where there is high humidity. In winter the wetness ensures that you cool down faster and in summer it attracts mosquitoes. If you do not want to build emergency shelter out of leaves, coniferous forests are ideal as storage places, since the dense needle roof provides wind and rain protection. Make absolutely sure that there are no dead branches in the trees above you that could fall down during a storm.
  2. Protection from the weather
    Once you have found a suitable place to sleep, you must decide how you want to protect yourself from the weather during the night. First, look out for natural protection opportunities such as rocky outcrops, caves, fallen trees and the like. On dry nights where there are no freezing temperatures, a fire is usually sufficient to keep you warm. Alternatively, you can build a simple protective dwelling. The simplest form is the leaf sleeping bag. To do this, gather a pile of leaves that are about half a meter high and twice as wide as yourself. It should be about half a meter longer than your height. In the middle of the pile, lengthwise form a hollow into which you lie and cover yourself with the leaves to the left and right of you.

On nights with a high chance of rain, you can build a leaf hut by covering the leaf pile. To do this, first build a roof structure made of a stable ridge and many branches. Then cover it with leaves. To make it really waterproof, the upper layer of leaves must be around one and a half meters thick. In this case, crawl with your feet through the opening into the leaf hut to sleep. Start building the cabin early enough as it will take some time.

  1. Make a fire
    Nothing creates more coziness and comfort in the wild than a fire. It helps you to prepare your food and boil your water and gives warmth, light and security. There are a number of ways to start a fire.

The most original form is fire drilling. It takes a lot of practice, but allows you to light a fire even if you have nothing but a knife and a string (for example, a shoelace). For starters, matches, lighters, or sparks are the easier choice. Always set up your fire in such a way that the first embers can work from very fine materials to increasingly massive ones. Bulrush seeds, thistle seeds, dry fern, dry grasses and birch bark have proven to be particularly helpful tinder and firing materials. Dry spruce twigs are particularly suitable as easily combustible wood. If it burns, you can add branches as thick as a finger and then switch to thicker wood. Make sure that you extinguish the fire well before leaving your storage area.

  1. Find orientation
    Orientation is the art of always knowing where you are, where you want to go and how to get there. It is an art that can be learned just like playing the piano, math or painting. First of all, it is important to know and train some basics and techniques. Later, it becomes an intuitive skill that you don’t have to think about much anymore.

First of all, there is an important fact that you should consider. Everyone has a dominant leg. This means that you always go a little harder with one leg than with the other. If you have no clues in an area and just go straight ahead, you are actually walking in a circle that will eventually lead you back to your starting point. This is the reason why you can get lost in a forest that is only a few square kilometers in size. Therefore, always find a distant landmark that you can walk to, so that you actually follow the desired direction. In dense forests where there is no such landmark, you need to find three trees in a row to walk along. Whenever you have reached the first of the three trees, look for a new third as an extension of the other two. Always pay attention to landmarks such as rivers, streams, forest borders, hills, mountains, roads, lakes and gorges. All of this can give you clues about your position and help you find your way back.

  1. Predict weather
    The level of difficulty of your survival adventure is directly related to the weather. Your best survival experience is therefore best in late summer or early autumn. At this time you have a good chance of moderate weather conditions and at the same time you can use the variety of ripe fruits. In order not to be surprised by a sudden change in the weather, you should pay attention to the signs of nature. The birds in particular can tell you a lot about the weather. Always pay attention to the mood with which you sing. If, on sunny days, your twittering suddenly no longer sounds happy, but rather depressed, this is a sure sign that the weather will soon deteriorate. If you suddenly stop singing and there is a strong wind, you can be sure that there will be a heavy rain shower or a thunderstorm. However, if it starts to rain lightly without changing the song of the birds, the rain will be neither strong nor long-lasting.
  1. Don’t let it get you down
    The biggest challenge you will face in survival is your own psyche. You go out of the comfort zone of your everyday life into a completely unknown situation. As a result, you are confronted with many psychological challenges, with your own fears and weaknesses, which can be easily suppressed in civilization. At the latest when the first feeling of hunger arises, when you wake up bitten by mosquitoes, when you freeze because your fire has gone out, or when you are surprised by a rain shower in the forest, you will ask yourself the following questions: “Why the hell am I doing this? ? Wouldn’t it be much nicer to lie on my sofa at home with a good meal and a warm blanket? ”

Do not be discouraged by these doubts! They are a clear sign that you are currently learning a lot about yourself. The most important miracle cure for psychological depth is humor! If you are traveling in pairs or in groups, it is therefore particularly important that you do not pull each other down, but cheer up and make you laugh. Our body is incredibly robust and resilient. What can really kill us in a survival situation is our own mind, which tells us that we will not make it. It is therefore crucial not to lose humor and a positive attitude even in difficult moments. In retrospect, it will be precisely these situations that you often think back on because they have particularly enriched your life.


Survival: 27 things everyone should know about survival

01 Start a fire
Making a fire in the wild is not as easy as you would imagine. First of all you need tinder: bird nests, lint from clothing, lichening of trees or plucked tampons are suitable as tinder. This creates a glow nest (see right: How to make a fire?). In order to protect this embers nest from below, it makes sense to start the fire on a so-called fire island. Fire grass, dry grass, thin branches or bark cut into strips are used.

  • First you need a base made of dry branches.
  • Then make the tinder glow and create flames with some kindling wood.
  • Gradually pile thin branches and pieces of wood into a pyramid.
  • If present, wax or resin can now be placed on the top of the pyramid to feed the fire.

02 How do you make a fire with a flint?
You don’t necessarily need a flint to create a spark, conventional quartzites are also suitable. The sparks are not struck from the stone, but the stone strikes them from a piece of iron or steel.

03 How do you make a fire with a burning glass?
You can ignite tinder with glasses, a magnifying glass or even plastic wrap when the sun is shining. The film is filled with water until you have a balloon. The round shape turns the film into a magnifying glass like a magnifying glass. The sunlight is now focused and the focus is on the tinder.

04 How do you make a fire with a battery?
For this technique you need steel wool or aluminum, e.g. B. chewing gum paper. A strip of aluminum foil is folded so that one end can be held to the positive pole and the other end to the negative pole of the battery. Important: The aluminum snippet must become thinner in the middle, where the heat builds up and ignites the film.

05 How do you build a branch hut?
Hypothermia is the greatest enemy of people outside, especially in autumn and winter. Even light wind lowers your body temperature – especially when it is wet and damp. The first signs of hypothermia are coordination problems, fatigue and carelessness. Before these occur, you should have built a shelter that protects against wind and rain. A simple two-story hut is quickly erected – a warm fire in front of the entrance with a so-called wooden reflector behind the fire ensures tolerable temperatures even in winter.

06 How do you dry shoes?
Never put wet shoes close to the fire. They break on the outside – and are still wet on the inside. Here’s how it works: Put on the (wet) socks and hold your feet up to the fire. Not too close, the socks should only get warm. Slip on your shoes with warm socks. Repeat until the shoes are dry.

07 How do you recognize good weather?
If the morning dew dissolves quickly, you can expect good weather. If you have made a fire, vertically rising smoke also indicates this. Many mobile phones have an air pressure sensor / altimeter: if the 12-hour comparison shows a lower altitude without moving, the air pressure has increased and the weather is good.

08 How do you recognize bad weather?
If the sun rises red in the morning, the evening sky was gray or the wind increases, one should assume bad weather. If there is no wind when it rains, this indicates long-lasting precipitation.

09 How do I properly abseil?
In the mountains, abseiling is often the quickest way down – and, if you do it right, the safest. The most important rule: only abseil from absolutely safe fixed points. Can the tree or rock support the body weight without breaking or sliding away? If the rope is long enough, you should put it around more than one fixed point. The rope is not knotted around the fixed point, but simply laid twice so that you can pull it towards you after the descent – so you only have half the rope length. The two ends are knotted.

10 How do you purify water?
To filter the water roughly, you can let it run through clothes, sand, gauze bandages and the like (left). The general rule is: All water from nature should be heated to at least 85 ° C to kill any germs. The closer the water is to the source, the safer.

11 How do you make salt water drinkable?
Salt water dries out the body. That is why the salt has to be taken out of the water. To do this, let salt water boil and catch the water vapor with a foil or funnel. If it hits the cold foil, the steam condenses into water, which can then be drunk.

12 How do you build an igloo correctly?
For an igloo you need above all solid snow, in Germany you have to go to the Alps. Important: The entrance must be below the insulated (!) Lying surface so that you are not lying in the cold draft. Be sure to provide fresh air.

13 How do you cook without a saucepan?
Without a metal pot, you can build a container out of birch bark, aluminum foil or waterproof material. However, this is not placed on an open fire. Instead, stones are heated in the fire and placed in the auxiliary container filled with water. After a short time you get so hot water.

14 How do you sharpen a knife?
No tool in the wild is as important as a knife. But there is no knife that does not have to be sharpened every now and then to stay sharp. If you don’t have a grindstone, pick up another smooth and wet stone. The maximum angle is 30 degrees.

15 How dangerous is the chill factor?
The stronger the wind blows, the lower a person perceives temperatures. At a wind speed of 20 km / h, thanks to the chill factor of 0 degrees Celsius, it feels like minus 10 degrees. From a sensed temperature of minus 30 degrees, freezing threatens within just one minute.

16 How do you build a fishing rod?
A stick as a rod, a piece of wire or a branch with a thorn on it as a hook – the most difficult thing to make a line with a fishing rod. Bast is ideal as a fishing string. But even with your own hair you can twist a string. To connect different lines to a long fishing line, you should use the blood node.

17 How do you dry wet clothes?
First you have to stretch a tarpaulin 1.5 to 2 meters high. A small fire is lit under it. The air under the tarpaulin should feel warm but not hot to the touch. Now you stretch a rope on which you can hang your clothes to dry directly under the tarpaulin. You should always check the temperature – and watch out for sparks.

18 How do you cross a river?
If you want to cross a river alone, you have to be able to secure yourself. This is done using a solid object in the field, such as a tree. The rope is placed around the tree and tied around the waist. The other end of the rope is held in the hand. So you can pull yourself back on land if necessary. In general: Always leave your shoes on when crossing, always look against the current and cross when the water level is as low as possible.

19 How far is a thunderstorm?
Because light is faster than sound, you can easily calculate how far a thunderstorm is. You count the seconds between lightning and thunder, divide them by three and get the distance in kilometers. Example: At 6 seconds (divided by 3) the thunderstorm is 2 kilometers away.

20 How do you protect yourself from lightning?
If available, you should sit in a car, the body looks like a Faraday cage that leads the electricity around the outside. That doesn’t work with convertibles! Open water areas should be left immediately – you should avoid wet and damp places in the area. Water conducts electricity extremely well. You reduce the risk of being struck by lightning, even if you get rid of all metal objects that you carry with you. You should also not be near metal structures such as rails or pasture fences. Caution should also be exercised with single trees. It is safer in the middle of the forest than at the edge of the forest. In addition: squatting (just touching the dry ground with your feet) is five times safer than standing.

21 How do you search for a missing person?
If you are combing the terrain alone after another person, the so-called spiral search is recommended. Starting from the last known position of the missing person, you take a certain number of steps (x) in one direction and then turn at a 90-degree angle, following this direction as far as before. Then you turn right again, but go twice as far (2x). Turn again, twice the length. After the next turn, that’s three times the length (3x), etc.

22 How do you find north at night?
As is well known, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west – orientation is therefore not particularly difficult during the day. But at night you have to shimmy along the stars. In the northern hemisphere, Polarstern is in the north – as long as you are not too close to the equator or the north pole. The polar star is a bright star in the constellation of the little car. It is easy to find if you look from the big car to the small car. Both constellations revolve around the polar star.

23 How do I behave in an avalanche?
In an avalanche, you immediately detach yourself from all objects such as skis and backpacks and try to clasp a tree. With swimming movements you can try to stay on the surface of the avalanche. If you are buried, you should take a crouch position.

24 How do I avoid a lack of fluids?
In extreme situations, a person can lose up to 15 liters of water a day through sweating, feces, urine and breathing. On hot days, you should therefore only stay in the shade, keep your clothes moist and always wear headgear.

25 How do you preserve meat?
If you have managed to kill an animal (see point 27), you should allocate rations. To preserve the meat, you can smoke it or preserve it with salt. The easiest way is to cut the meat into strips (approx. 1 cm) and dry it near a fire.

26 How do you process fish?
Fish should be stunned after being caught and stabbed to the heart. Large fish are filleted and fully cooked to kill parasites. Small fish can be dried whole and then finely ground. This powder is stable for months and has a tasty flavor.

27 How do you build a snare trap?
Loop traps are prohibited and should only be built and set up when life and death are involved. The basic idea: When animals run through the noose, the loop is drawn. This is extremely painful for the animals, but can save a person’s life in an emergency. Loop traps should be installed in narrow places where wild animals can hardly avoid. Such constrictions can also be created artificially with branches and bushes.

Would you like to know more about surviving in the wild or are you interested in this topic? Then I have put together a few books for you where you can read everything again in detail. These books are really worthwhile and prepare you optimally for survival in the wild!

Survival guide
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