Below is a list of survival tips every hiker should know, inspired by (but not only) the movie Backcountry (great flick btw, thanks Bash)
First things first let me tell you this: when you’re out in the wild, worry about survival before you worry about comfort. Always.
Another basic tip and as a rule of thumb, never hike with a backpack that’s more than a third of your body weight.
Anyway, let’s get going:
- Dos and don’ts in the wild
- Never leave your food uncovered in the wilderness
- Always have extra energy bars and food in your backpack. Also, eat in rations, you never know what might happen next
- When you decide to take a break or to call it a day, NEVER leave food in your tent
- Always keep a survival whistle on hand. Survival whistles help scare off wild animals and serve as a signal in emergencies. Mine came in handy when I hiked in Patagonia (Andean forest in Argentina)
- Always keep a survival knife on hand
- Always keep a candle in your backpack, it’ll help keep you warm in extreme weathers, especially if you ever get lost in the wild (check out this video if you don’t know what I’m hinting at). For this technique to work, you will need something like a poncho or a blanket
- Learn more about edible plants and roots just in case you run out of food
- Learn basic first aid skills to fix yourself or other hikers in case of an emergency
- Always make a mental map of where you are and where you’re headed. A great hiker always knows where the nearest plain is. Plains are safer than the woods. Also, if there’s a rescue heli looking for you, you’d want them to actually see you
- Always check the weather before you head out
- Make sure your clothing ALWAYS remains dry. I made this mistake twice, once in Sweden and once in France, and both times I thought I was never going to make it. Never again !
- When packing your gear, try to pack the heavier gear against your spine with the lightest items on top and equal weight on either side. Remember to pack your rain jacket last so that it is accessible if needed suddenly, and make sure all loose straps are secured and neat so they don’t catch on anything as you walk.
- Learn more about the wild animals in your area and how to deal in the event of an unexpected encounter (bears, wolves, boars, snakes, elk, moose, cows, goats)
- Hiking and survival must-haves
- Backpack tips: Choose a backpack with a tubular design. A tubular design is easier to balance, and an unbalanced backpack will tire you out much sooner than you expect. Unbalanced packs also increase the risk of a twisted ankle or a fall. Always strap on because loose straps can be dangerous if they catch on rocks or branches. Make sure the weight doesn’t only sit on your back but rather on the side straps. Distribute as much weight to the straps as possible. With the weight on your straps, your shoulders should feel lighter and unburdened. A sternum strap is also a must when mountain hiking. It keeps the straps from falling off and tiring you out.
- One sharp, full-tang, carbon-steel knife. This is your most important tool in a survival situation. Pick one that fits your hand comfortably, has a single piece of steel from tip to butt, with a blade about 12cm long. Carbon-steel blades are easiest to sharpen and the back of the blade will produce a spark when struck with a hard stone
- Consider stainless steel bottle for drinking and heating up water
- Make sure your headlamp is easily accessible
- A survival whistle is often forgotten but it could come in handy in several situations: to call for help, to scare off snakes and other animals, to signal your presence to other hikers
- Touch as little things as you possibly can while hiking. Smell is how animals track their prey
- Learn how to start a fire with an ember rock or a flint fire starter in case your matches get wet
- Learn how to navigate a map with a compass
- Get a LifeStraw and/or purification drops
- Always have a first aid kit on. Stuff it with bandage wraps, medication for pain, allergies, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration and hypoglycemia
- If it’s allowed in your whereabouts, get a smoke or fire signal, very useful in case of an unexpected encounter with a deadly animal
- Invest in GREAT hiking shoes. I didn’t say good, I said great. You’re going to spend at least 60% of your time in them so invest well
- Rain and wind are your worst enemy. Invest in a windbreaker/raincoat
- Invest in good, warm socks and thermal underwear 🧦
- A cooking set and/or gas stove is a must in the winter when everything is wet and cold
- Keep a phone and potentially a talkie walkie on you. A talkie is much more efficient than a celly, and not everyone can afford a satellite phone. Talkies allow you to connect with other radios in the area
- Wear flashy hiking clothes in case a rescue team has to look for you in leafy forests
- Learn the basics of hunting. There are always chipmunks and rabbits in the woods that you can hunt if it’s a matter of life or death (I’m vegan but extreme situations require extreme measures)
- On the same note, keep fishing gear on you, just in case you have no other options but to fish to feed on
- Make sure your clothing always remains dry. The most effective way to waterproof your pack is to line the inside with a dry bag. Buy one that is slightly larger than your backpack so that it completely fills the main compartment and has enough extra space at the top for a tight seal. Once sealed, the dry bag will also serve as a floatation device, so if you do fall into water, your bag won’t drag you under.
- Grab a pair of tough gloves to avoid hand wounds and a better grip in extreme situations
- An axe could come in handy in many situations. Chopping wood, entertainment, an axe could also save your life in the event of an unexpected encounter with a deadly animal 🪓
- Get at least 3m of 550 paracord, super useful in certain situations
There you have it folks. I must’ve missed some other tips but if you follow all of the ones above, you’re very likely to survive any situation in the wild.
I didn’t add all the necessary gear one might need for a hike. That’s a not the primary purpose of this post.
That said, I may post a piece of my favorite hiking gear soon.
Goes without saying but be careful when you’re out there, fam. We humans are much weaker than we think we are, and sh!t happens, all the time.
Also, better safe than sorry.