Wilderness Survival Guide

Why a section on wilderness survival on a backpacking site? It’s a related topic, but it’s especially relevant to ultralight backpacking. When you know a few basic survival skills you can safely go with a tarp instead of a tent, use a lighter sleeping bag, and bring less food. In other words, you can substitute skills for weight, and still be as safe in the wild.

The U.S. Army Survival Manual uses the word survival as a memory device to get the important principles firmly in your thinking:

S – Size Up The Situation (Your condition, tools, surroundings)
U – Use All Your Senses, Undue Haste Makes Waste
R -Remember Where You Are
V – Vanquish Fear and Panic
I – Improvise
V – Value Living
A – Act Like the Natives
L – Live by your Wits, But for Now, Learn Basic Skills

You may not be able to “vanquish fear,” but that’s okay. Panic, on the other hand, is not okay, so vanquish that at least.

To “value living” seems a given, but many people in survival situations get discouraged and lose the will to live. There are ways to regain it. They include talking about the future, if you are with others, and imagining the people you love that are waiting for you.

“Act like the natives” in a wilderness context can mean watching what animals do. They’re not a safe guide to what to eat, by the way. However, you can follow their lead when you see birds settle down before a storm and small mammals burrow under leaves to stay warm.

“Living by your wits” certainly works better when you know some basic survival skills. You can start learning using the links below. I borrow heavily from the U.S. Army Survival Manual for many of the pages. Note: Although the principles are the same wherever you are in the world, this wilderness survival guide is meant for survival in North America.