Stop the world for a moment to get out and experience the wilderness far from your comfortable couch and civilization – this is a dream of many adventurers! You sleep in the tent or build a night camp in the forest. You cook your food, which you collect in nature, over the campfire and for drinking you are looking for a fresh spring or condensation!
You are completely independent of any devices, departure or opening times and experience what it really means to be free. Free of all the things that are considered vital in our society, but which you do not need for life. On the contrary: You will find everything you really need in the wild without Google! Perhaps surviving in and with nature is one of the last great adventures that has remained with us in a world that seems to be overflowing with its technical progress – one thing is certain: being alone in the wilderness is pure thrill!
In this post, you will learn how to properly prepare for your adventure in the wilderness, what equipment should be in your backpack, and what you can leave at home. You also get a lot of survival tips thanks to which you can survive far from civilization and act correctly in an emergency.
The best survival tips for your adventure in the wilderness
This is how you prepare yourself properly for your adventure in the wilderness
Every trip requires that you prepare properly, but when it comes to a blatant adventure like surviving in the wild, proper preparation is everything! I will now tell you what you should definitely consider when planning.
The perfect place for your survival trip
Before you plunge into the detailed planning of your trip, you first have to find the perfect place for your adventure. To do this, you should make a list of things that are important to you. Do you want to experience a real wilderness feeling, but still stay close to a village? Do you want to sleep in the tent or bivouac? Are you ready to take care of yourself completely during your adventure or do you want to be able to stock up on fresh food in between? There is no right or wrong. It is your adventure and you decide how far you want to go!
In principle, you will find untouched corners almost everywhere in the world, which are just right to experience the pure wilderness for a few days or weeks. Regardless of whether you are spontaneously drawn into the depths of the forest over the weekend or you are looking for the adventure of loneliness on a longer trip to remote places, it is important that you inform yourself beforehand about the environment in which you will be traveling in order to be on the go to experience no unpleasant surprises.
Once your route is in place and you know exactly what to expect, you should share your plan with your family or friends. After all, you will hardly be reachable for the duration of your trip. It is important that those at home know where you are and know your approximate location in an emergency. If you are in the wilderness for more than a few days and want to be on the safe side, it is best to plan in stages. That means: Your route always runs through smaller towns, from where you send a short sign of life. If your family doesn’t hear from you for a long time, help can be called in good time.
Familiarize yourself with the dangers
Your route planning not only means that you decide when you are where, but also that you inform yourself about the entire area. You should know which plants are there, which are poisonous and which you can safely eat. Also get to know the wildlife! Do you have to expect to meet bears, wolves, poisonous snakes or insects or are there more harmless animals in the area? Especially if you are traveling in a place where there are dangerous animals, you should know what they look like and how to behave in an emergency if a bear, wolf or a venomous snake comes too close to you. The following applies to all animals in the wild: do not feed, do not touch and keep a distance of at least 50 to 100 meters.
Bears and other wild animals actually avoid humans. For this reason, you should draw attention to yourself when hiking through noise: talk to your companion aloud, sing your favorite songs and just make a noise! The animals are not surprised by this and can search for space in time. If you still find yourself in a situation in which you suddenly find yourself facing a bear or a wildcat, it is important to keep calm. Running away makes little sense, as the animal’s hunting instinct is awakened and they would easily catch up with you.
Just keep in touch with the bear! If you don’t have a bear spray, sticks or special flares, like the Bear Bangers that are available in Canada, you should give the bear the chance to recognize yourself as a human being: To do this, you move your arms up and down. If the animal comes closer anyway, you start to make noise – but do not give out loud cries and prefer to use your equipment, for example by hitting your camping pots against each other.
If the bear attacks you anyway, you should give up and stand dead. Most bears see nothing edible in you, but rather a danger to their young animals or an intruder into their territory: your fake death will cause most bears to stop their attack because you no longer pose any danger. The black bear is an exception, however, because it actually sees food in you: in this case you have to fight for your life! The chances of you being attacked by wild animals are very slim – the biggest dangers in the wild are: thirst, hunger and cold!
In addition to the plants and animals, you should also familiarize yourself with the applicable regulations in advance. In some countries you can easily pitch wild tents, while elsewhere you can only camp in designated places. Sleeping in the open air or under a rain tarpaulin is allowed for almost every night.
The rules you should keep in mind when lighting a fire are almost the same everywhere. The basic rule: Your fire should be at least 100 meters from the edge of the forest and other flammable materials, such as dry undergrowth or scrub, and be as small as possible. A small fire is sufficient for cooking and warming. If you want to hunt or fish in the wild, check in advance whether this is allowed and whether there are certain rules that you have to follow – often you need a hunting or fishing license.
While planning your wilderness adventure, it’s worth taking a look at the climate table of your travel destination. Especially if you are traveling outside of Europe, you should pay attention to monsoons and rainy seasons. Too much rain is not only uncool if you are outside all the time, but can also completely change the terrain. Small streams become raging rivers you can’t cross, and normal fields turn into mud holes where sleeping is no fun! Moderate climate that is neither too hot nor too cold and does not expect you with excessive rain is perfect for your survival trip.
The right equipment
If you know where to go and what to expect there, it’s time to pack your backpack. Since you are traveling on foot, you should pack as little as possible – a backpack that is too heavy puts an unnecessary strain on you and limits your freedom of movement. Here’s an overview of what you really need to survive in the wild!
The basic equipment
Your basic equipment consists of things that are priceless on the go. This includes a good knife with a fixed blade and a multi-tool, such as a Leatherman Toolkit. To be able to light a fire, you need at least one box of matches, which you pack in a drybag, waterproof, together with dry clothes and your sleeping bag. You can also protect your matches from water and moisture by covering the ignition head with a thin layer of candle wax. For emergencies, you should take a lighter or flint with you.
So that you stay dry in the rain, a thin rain poncho or a large garbage bag should be on your packing list. In addition, a few meters of parachute cord, a compass, a detailed map, a signal mirror and a snap hook are useful things that you should have with you. It is also very important that you have a first aid kit and your cell phone, including a charged power bank or a radio, with you in an emergency. So you can not only take care of minor injuries, but also get help if necessary!
Before you start, you should check the function of all devices again and familiarize yourself with the correct application. Any tool is of no use to you if you do not use it properly: for example, if you have never been with a compass before, you should definitely try it in a region you know.
Here you have to decide how extreme your wilderness trip should be. If you want to live completely from nature, you need a water bottle and a water filter or water purification tablets in your backpack. You also need a guide to help you determine which wild plants you can eat. This book should be designed for the region you are traveling in. After all, there are completely different plants in South Africa or Japan than, for example, in Iceland or America.
If you are near rivers or lakes during your trip, it is worth taking a fishing rod with you. Or you can carve a spear on site, which you can also use to hunt smaller animals. Eating completely from the things you find on the go is a blatant challenge, especially if it’s your first survival trip in the wild. If you are unsure, it is recommended to pack an emergency ration of food. Canned food and dry foods such as nuts or dried fruit are suitable for this.
You need a saucepan to prepare hot meals – a complete outdoor cookware is really practical. It’s super light, doesn’t take up much space in your backpack and you have a pot, pan, cutlery and bowls with you! For places where open fire is prohibited, you need a pocket stove. Because of the size and bulky shape, you should do without a gas stove for your luggage and take an Esbit stove or a small wood stove with you! The wood stove has the advantage that you do not have to carry any special fuel with you: you collect a few branches and you can start cooking!
Clothes and sleeping
So that you don’t sweat or freeze on your adventure, you should dress according to the onion system every day so that you can easily put on or take off layers when it gets too warm or too cold for you. Special outdoor clothing, such as from Tatonka, is designed to keep you warm and to transport liquid away from the body. In addition to functional underwear, T-shirts, fleece jackets and hard-wearing trousers, you need an outdoor jacket that you can rely on. If it is raining or windy, your jacket should ensure that you stay warm and dry. The quality and a good fit are crucial. Depending on where your trip is going and what time of year you are traveling, the jacket should be lined. In addition, waterproof pants or gaiters that you can put on if necessary are a good thing!
How much change of clothing you pack is up to you. Try to take as little as possible to save weight. You need at least one replacement set that is safely stowed in your drybag and maybe one or two more sets. You can easily wash dirty clothes in flowing water on the way by tying them to a long branch and holding it in the water.
So that you have enough energy during the day, you should not do without sleep. In principle, all you need is a good sleeping bag and a tarpaulin, which you use the parachute cord to protect over your sleeping space. To make it comfortable on the floor, build a bed of leaves and moss or take your sleeping pad with you. If you don’t feel like sleeping outdoors every night, pack your tent – so you can spontaneously decide whether you want to sleep under the stars or in the tent.
Live in the wilderness
Surviving in the wild doesn’t mean you have to outsmart or fight nature. On the contrary: it is about living with and from nature and finding your way around with the simplest of means. Moving through pristine forests, collecting berries and fruits, drinking water fresh from the spring and roasting a fish by the fire in the evening that you have caught yourself is pure freedom!
In addition to the right preparation, you also need to know how to behave on the go to experience the wilderness with every fiber of your body!
Thirst is worse than hunger and while you can survive for several weeks without eating, your body gives up after a few days without liquid. Your adventure in the wilderness is physically demanding, which means: You need a lot of water to stay energized!
The best way to find drinking water is to follow birds, such as finches or pigeons, which are often near water, or to look for a larger accumulation of animal tracks, which in most cases will lead you to a water source. In general, clear and fast flowing water is usually cleaner than cloudy water from slow flowing or stagnant water. You can safely pour the water into your water bottle directly at the source. Otherwise, you must make the water ready to drink with your water filter or cleaning tablet before drinking. If you don’t have both at hand, just boil the water over the fire. It is important to boil the water properly until it bubbles!
As an alternative to rivers and streams, rain and dew are also suitable as drinking water sources. When it rains, you simply catch the water with your pot or a large piece of tree bark, boil it and fill your water bottle with it. To collect a large amount of dew, you can use your tarp or poncho as a baptismal trap overnight. Dig a small hole, the lowest point of which is in the middle, spread your tarp or poncho over the hole and secure it with stones on the edge. The next morning a puddle of dew has formed in the middle of your tarpaulin, which you can also boil and drink. Especially when the temperature difference between day and night is great, the baptismal trap is a great way to get water.
There are a lot of edible things in nature: from roots to plants, berries, insects and worms to fish and small wild animals such as rabbits. The easiest way is of course to collect plants, fruits and other small things. For hunting and fishing you need not only a permit in some places, but also the necessary experience and the right tools. Catching a fish for dinner yourself sounds incredibly awesome, but you shouldn’t rely on it to work! In the event that you return empty-handed from your side trip to the river, you will need an emergency ration of food. It is best to always fill up your collection stocks to such an extent that you can live on them for at least one day and one night.
If the thought of fried ants, earthworms, maggots and grasshoppers sounds uncool to you, you can eat a completely vegetarian diet during your wilderness adventure. In america you have more than 1,800 edible plants at your disposal. Your best travel companion is a simple identification book with which you can identify the individual wild plants. If you are not 100 percent sure whether the leaves or fruits are edible in front of you, then do not eat them. Edible wild plants that you can find almost everywhere in America and that also taste really good are, for example, nettles, dandelions, daisies, arugula, juniper, peppermint, wild strawberries and daisies. In addition, many roots, bark, mushrooms and nuts are edible. The resin and the inside of the bark of a pine tree, for example, are super nutritious and even provide you with vitamin C on the go!
Make a fire in the wild
Making a fire sounds easy, but in the middle of the wilderness without suitable and trimmed fuel, it is sometimes a great challenge.
Once you have found your storage space, you should start looking for firewood and kindling. The best tinder you can find in nature is dry leaves, grasses, birch bark and brushwood. If your surroundings are damp, you will usually find dry brushwood, leaves and scrub under conifers that grow close to the ground. Next you need branches of different thickness, which should be as dry as possible. Dead wood that you can break off from trees is ideal. Once your fire is properly lit, you can also burn fresh or damp wood.
Your fireplace must be at least 100 meters from the edge of the forest. Make sure that there are no easily flammable materials such as bushes or dry grass in the immediate vicinity. The surface on which you start your fire should be hard. You can dig a small depression that you lay on the edge with dry stones to limit the fire. In damp or wet stones, an internal tension can form due to the heat, which can break the stone – this can quickly become dangerous!
Ignite a fire
There is a limited amount of matches in your backpack that you need to get by with. To light your fire with just a match, it is important that you set it up properly. If the floor of your fireplace is damp, you first need a suitable surface. To do this, lay out the fireplace completely with thin branches so that the entire floor beneath it disappears. If the ground is dry, you can save yourself this step. The next layer consists of the dry leaves, grasses and bark that form the inner core of your fire. This core should contain as little air as possible – so press everything together well! Once you’re done, cover everything with the brushwood and place the thin, dry branches around it. In the end, your fire should look like a little pyramid. Leave a gap on one side through which you can use the matchstick to light the fire.
So that your burning match does not go out immediately, you sit down with your back to the wind to light it. Try to light the fire as low as possible. Once your match has done its job, light up your campfire. To do this, blow slowly and evenly into the embers until large flames form and the brushwood catches fire. As soon as the thin branches burn, you can gradually add more wood. Make sure that all branches come into contact with the flames, but you don’t destroy the structure of the fire. So don’t put too much at once or branches that are too big! To save fuel and ensure that your fire does not go out, you should only put on new wood when your campfire has almost burned down to the embers.
Important: As soon as your fire burns, you should no longer move away from it and keep it small so that you can extinguish it quickly and safely in an emergency.
Extinguish your fire
If you want to go to sleep or leave your camp, you have to put out your fire. The best way to do this is to burn it down and let it glow for a while. The rest of the embers can be easily extinguished with a little water or earth.
If you do not have the time and need to extinguish your fire spontaneously, you can carefully remove larger logs that have not yet started a fire from the fireplace and individually extinguish them with a little water or soil and the remaining water or soil into the fireplace pour until the embers are extinguished and no more smoke forms.
Stay warm and dry without fire
In some areas, making fires in the wild is prohibited. You can use a pocket cooker here for cooking, but the flames are too small to warm you up or to dry wet clothes.
Sometimes it gets cool at night even in summer. If you are not allowed to light a fire to warm up, you should still go looking for dry leaves. Leaves and grasses are perfect as thermal insulation: you can simply stuff them between you and your jacket and build an insulation layer. This also works on the floor: If you don’t have a sleeping pad or the floor is really cold, a thick layer of leaves helps to keep you warm at night.
In the rain, it is best to try not to get wet at all. As soon as the first drops fall, you should protect yourself with appropriate rainwear or a large garbage bag. If you get wet anyway, just move! As soon as the sun shines again, you can hang your wet clothes to dry in small trees and bushes or attach them to your backpack while you run!
Sleep in the wild
After an adventurous day in the wilderness, you certainly don’t care where you sleep as long as it’s reasonably cozy and you can lie down. Nevertheless, you should not just camp somewhere, but choose a safe place to stay. Avoid sleeping in an open field and in damp areas such as directly on a river bank. Not only the wind is fatal here, but also the annoying mosquitoes, which are usually close to the water.
Your sleeping place should protect you from wind, rain and cold. Either you are looking for a place, such as a cave or thick bushes, that regulates this in a natural way, or you build your own shelter. The easiest way is if you have a tent, tarp or tarpaulin with you. For the tarpaulin you stretch your rope between two trees, put the tarpaulin over it like a tent roof and weigh it down with large stones on the left and right – done! If you don’t have a tent or tarp with you, you can build a shelter from what you find in the wild. To do this, you first need a wooden scaffold. You can put together long and stable branches so that there is a small cave at the end in which you can lie stretched out. Next you stack earth, brush, leaves, grass and twigs as thermal insulation on your scaffolding and you have already built a weatherproof shelter.
When sleeping, you should not only be protected from wind and weather, but also from animals. If you are traveling in a country such as Russia or Australia, where there are large wild animals and poisonous insects that could possibly be dangerous for you, you should carefully inform yourself in advance how you can recognize the dangerous animals, insects and snakes where to stay overnight and how to behave in an emergency.
Especially when insects or snakes are involved, you should never sleep directly on the floor. So before you go to bed, build yourself a small wooden elevation or have a hammock with you so that reptiles cannot reach you. If an overnight stay on the floor cannot be avoided, sprinkle a thick layer of cold ash around your bed. This will keep most insects away.
Orientation in the wild
Finding your way around with your GPS device is super easy and also practical in the wild. However, modern technology sometimes fails and in this case you should know how to get from A to B using a map and compass or other tools!
Get a compass and detailed map of the area you’re traveling in advance. Before heading out into the wild, practice aligning the map with the compass a few times to get your bearings. For an absolute emergency, you should also know how to find your way around the site without any aids.
Nature shows you the way
On sunny days you use the position of the sun to determine the cardinal points. In the northern hemisphere, the sun is in the morning in the east, at noon in the south and in the evening in the west. The only difference in the southern hemisphere is that the sun shines towards you at midday from the north and if you are on the equator, the sun is at zenith at midday – just above you – and does not indicate any particular direction.
On cloudy days, you can orient yourself on trees. In general, the following applies: fewer branches grow on the west side of a tree, it is generally wetter and covered with moss. If you find an anthill on one side of the tree, you can be sure that it is in the south! If you are out at night, it is worth looking up. The polar star is the brightest star of the little bear – a constellation that is also known as a small car – and is always in the north. If you imagine a line perpendicular to the horizon from this star, you know exactly where north is.
In order not to get lost, you should always keep your eyes open and perceive as much of your surroundings as possible. Pay special attention to striking things like weird trees, bizarre rock formations, ruins, towns or signs to remember your way. If you want to go the same route back to your starting point, turn around now and then and take a look back – after all, an area on the way back often looks very different from the way there. If you want to be on the safe side, you can also mark your path. Small pieces of fabric that you tie to branches or bushes are suitable for this. These markings help you take the right direction, especially at fork in the road!
Hygiene and wilderness sound totally opposite. However, it is important in nature that you pay attention to good basic hygiene and cleanliness. This includes keeping yourself, your storage space and your equipment clean.
Personal hygiene in the wild
Of course, you cannot shower extensively in nature every day, but you should still wash yourself regularly. The easiest way is to walk past a river or lake, just jump in and dive. If it is colder or you don’t have as much water available, you should especially wash your armpits, navel and genital area regularly. Dead skin cells and dirt are particularly popular here and can quickly lead to inflammation. It is also important that you clean your hands regularly. Before you eat or treat minor injuries, you should wash your hands with a wet rag. If you injure yourself, the following applies: Clean the wound daily and best protect it with clothing, plasters or a bandage. This will prevent serious inflammation.
Since modern soaps, shampoos and even toothpaste are largely made up of artificial ingredients, some of which can be really harmful to the wild, you either do without them entirely or use natural products. You can brush your teeth on the way with the white ash of your campfire or you can use xylitol – this will clean your teeth and you will do the environment a favor.
There are no toilets in the wild. So you have to find a quiet place that is best away from your storage area, where you can relieve yourself. If you stay in one place for several days, you should dig yourself small holes. So you can easily bury unpleasant smells. Normal toilet paper rots, so you can take a roll with you on your trip – in an emergency, use moss or a few leaves!
Cleaning in the wild
Of course, you don’t have to clean on your adventure in the wilderness, but you should still keep your equipment clean. This is especially true for your dishes, because leftovers attract insects and other animals that you can do without in your bed. Rinsing is super easy near flowing water. You don’t even need detergent, you can simply rinse your cookware in the river. If water is scarce, look for a bit of brushwood, which you can use to easily remove the coarse dirt, and a handful of moss for the final cleaning!
If you have packaged food with you, put a garbage bag in which you stow plastic waste. You can burn garbage in the campfire and bury leftovers a little away from your sleeping place, so you leave your storage place as you found it!
A small incident, such as a graze or a sprained ankle, can quickly become a real emergency in the wild. It is important that you can realistically assess your own body and your strength and know how to act in an emergency.
First aid kit
The basic equipment for your survival trip includes a well-equipped first aid kit. In addition to disinfectant spray, plasters, scissors, bandages, triangular cloth, tape, scalpel, tweezers and tick tongs, you can also add an emergency blanket, band aid and Burnaid gel to your package. You should also have a small first-aid kit with you, which is equipped with your personal medication in sufficient quantities, painkillers, gastrointestinal tablets as well as a wound and healing ointment and a sunscreen.
If you injured yourself so badly that you can no longer walk or need help for another reason, your cell phone or radio will be used. Since there is always the chance that your devices will let you down, you should know how to call for help without a cell phone etc.
Fire as a cry for help
A fire is perfect if you have got lost or are stuck in the wilderness with an injury, for example, and want to draw attention to you. To do this, build three campfires in a straight line or in the form of a triangle on an open area. It is important that the fires are clearly visible from the air. If you run out of fuel, you can put a large triangle of leaves, branches, sand, or your clothes on the floor. A triangle in the wild is a sign that there is a problem – the perfect silent cry for help! If you are in a place that is difficult to see, it is still worth lighting a fire. As soon as your fire burns properly, you put on fresh or wet wood, which creates dense smoke that can be seen for miles and guarantees that someone calls the fire brigade.
Noise and shouts
If you need help, it’s easiest to call for help. Of course, it depends on where you are traveling, whether there is a road, settlement or hiking trails nearby. In general, it is always a good idea to call attention to yourself in an emergency with the help of calls or other loud noises. After all, you never know if there is another adventurer behind the next bush. However, you shouldn’t waste all your energy making noise. If after ten minutes no one responds to your calls, take a 20 minute break and then try again. Alternatively, you can knock the Morse code for SOS using stones. To do this, tap three times short, three times long and three times short – after a short pause you repeat the code!
The SOS signal can also be sent super with light signals. For this you need a reflective object. If you don’t have a signal mirror with you, you can use your glasses, the display of your smartphone, a broken glass or your wristwatch to reflect the sun. Hold your object so that the reflective side is facing the sun – now you can move your hand back and forth to send three short, three long and three short light signals.
When to cancel your trip
On your adventure in the wilderness, it is almost inevitable that you will hurt yourself. A small abrasion, harmless scratches from branches or blisters on the hands and feet are usually harmless and can be treated with your first aid kit on the go.
It is important, however, that you can distinguish between these harmless injuries and serious situations in which you should definitely stop your trip. In any case, this includes inflammation. Even a small scratch can ignite unpleasantly and possibly lead to life-threatening blood poisoning. As soon as you notice that the skin swells around an injury or turns red and hot or you develop a fever, you should go to a doctor.
Even if you have had your tick vaccination refreshed before your trip, you should closely monitor tick bites on the way and end your adventure if you cannot completely remove the tick, if you notice symptoms of inflammation or your skin turns red around the bite and you feel sick. The same applies to bites from wild animals!
In general, you should stop your trip if you have any symptoms that last longer than 48 hours or worsen within a short time!
Experience the wilderness: the ultimate adventure!
The ultimate adventure is to move into nature without provisions, modern aids and other people to experience the wilderness as it is most natural! You don’t need much for this: a tarpaulin, a sleeping bag, a knife and a cookware are enough to live from and with nature for days.
Far away from civilization, the Internet, your everyday life and all the regulations and norms that you encounter in society every day, you will experience that life is so much easier than you previously thought! It’s not about how you look, what clothes you wear, how much money is in your account, or what car you drive – we’re all the same in the wild! It doesn’t matter where you come from or go to, it is not about what you have experienced in the past or how you imagine your future. All that matters is the moment and what it brings: that’s life, that’s adventure – everything else is just noise!
Do you feel like an adventure in the wilderness, or have you ever been on a survival trip in nature? What have you experienced? Please let us know in the comments below!