The Ultimate Guide To Wilderness Survival: What You Need To Know

When you’re in the wilderness, it’s tempting to think that you can just make it up as you go. But that’s not a good idea: if something goes wrong, your life could be at risk. 

This guide will help you learn some basic skills for surviving in the wild and how to stay safe if the unexpected happens when you’re out there.

10 Wilderness Survival Tips in 10 Minutes
Wilderness survival requires proper preparation, equipment, and knowledge.
Bringing the right gear can be the difference between life and death in the wilderness.
Basic wilderness survival skills include starting a fire, building or finding shelter, procuring water, and foraging for food.
Wilderness survival also involves understanding and mitigating potential risks, like exposure to wildlife, extreme weather, and terrain hazards.
Knowing how to avoid common wilderness survival mistakes can help you stay safe and healthy while in the wilderness.

Learn Your Area

Before you set out into the wilderness, it’s important to learn your area.

When you know your surroundings, it will be easier to find food and water when needed. If you don’t know what plants are edible and where they grow, then you won’t be able to survive in a harsh environment. It’s also crucial to know how to navigate your way out of an area if things go awry.

Wilderness survival can be a challenging and complex task. To help you out, check out our guide on wilderness survival tips for beginners, which provides a step-by-step approach to surviving in the wilderness.

Don’t Panic

One of the most important things you can do when you’re in a wilderness emergency is to not panic. Panic can lead to poor decisions, and it can also be physically harmful. If someone gets injured while panicking, they’re less likely to be able to help themselves or others.

You may have heard people say that if you live through an accident, your survival instinct will kick in and make everything okay without any help from you. That’s true but only if there’s no immediate danger around, like injuries or fire nearby!

Don’t waste time thinking about what went wrong with any plan or equipment; instead focus on getting yourself out of danger immediately.

Keep Calm and Carry On: A Guide to Staying Calm in Stressful Situations

SituationSteps to Stay Calm
Lost in the wildernessStop, take deep breaths, and assess your surroundings. Use a map, compass, or landmarks to try and find your way back. If you are unable to navigate, try to reach high ground and use signal flares, a whistle, or fire to attract rescuers.
Vehicle breakdownPull over to a safe spot and turn on your hazard lights. Call for roadside assistance or use a designated app like Honk or to request help. While waiting, try to remain calm, stay put, and avoid making any rash decisions.
Public speakingTake deep breaths and practice relaxation techniques, like meditation or visualization. Rehearse your speech or presentation to be more familiar with the content. Start with a strong opening and engage with the audience to build your confidence.
Medical emergencyCall for help immediately and provide as much information as possible, including your location and the type of emergency. Follow any instructions given by the operator or medical professional. While waiting for help to arrive, try to remain calm and monitor the patient’s condition.
Plane turbulenceStay in your seat and fasten your seatbelt securely. Take deep breaths and focus on controlling your breathing. Listen to the cabin crew’s instructions and follow any safety protocols. If needed, use a relaxation app like Calm or Headspace to help you stay calm.

Make Yourself Easy To Spot

Wear bright clothes. If you’re lost in the wilderness, the best thing you can do is make yourself easy to spot. This means wearing bright clothing that will stand out against your surroundings, like a red shirt or an orange jacket.

Make a signal fire. When making a signal fire, keep these points in mind:

Make sure it’s big enough to be seen from far away by using dry wood and not too much kindling or twigs (this can lead to smoke).

It should be in an open area where there are no trees or dense brush nearby so that anyone flying overhead can see it easily without obstructions blocking their view of your fire (you’ll want this too so that you don’t get burned by sparks when lighting one up).

When preparing for wilderness survival, having the right equipment is essential. Our guide on essential equipment for wilderness survival offers a checklist of must-have items to bring with you on your next outdoor adventure.

Stay Put

If you find yourself in a survival situation, your first priority should be to stay put and wait for help. Moving around while injured or lost puts your life at risk.

If you are injured, don’t move around at night; if you’re in unfamiliar terrain, don’t move at all. You may never find your way back again or get yourself into even more trouble by doing so  and if help is on the way, it could take hours before they arrive. 

If there’s no sign of rescuers within 24 hours of getting lost (or as soon as possible after being injured), get to higher ground where searchers can spot you from the air.

Sit Tight and Stay Safe: A Guide to When and How to Stay Put

SituationWhen to Stay PutSteps to Stay Safe
Wilderness survivalWhen lost or injured and unable to find your way, or when awaiting rescue.Find a safe and sheltered spot, preferably near a water source and with good visibility for rescuers. Signal your location with a flare or whistle, and use reflective materials to attract attention. Conserve energy and resources, and focus on staying warm and hydrated while waiting for help.
Natural disastersWhen advised by authorities to shelter in place due to a severe weather event, earthquake, or other natural disaster.Stay inside a sturdy building or underground shelter, and avoid windows, exterior walls, and doors. Listen to emergency alerts and follow instructions from authorities. Have essential supplies on hand, including food, water, and medication.
Traffic accidentsWhen involved in a minor accident and waiting for authorities to arrive on the scene.Turn on your hazard lights, pull over to a safe spot, and stay in your vehicle with the seat belt fastened. If possible, move your car to the shoulder or off the road. Call for emergency assistance and provide your location and details of the accident.
Elevator breakdownWhen stuck in an elevator due to a malfunction or power outage.Stay calm and press the emergency button to call for assistance. Use the intercom or phone to communicate with building staff or emergency services. Avoid trying to pry open the doors or climb out of the elevator. Wait for help to arrive.
Building lockdownWhen told to shelter in place during an emergency situation, such as an active shooter or other violent event.Lock or barricade doors and windows if possible, and turn off all lights. Stay quiet and out of sight, and avoid any contact with the outside until authorities give the all-clear signal. Have a communication plan in place if possible, such as texting or using an app like GroupMe or Slack to communicate with others.

Always Be Prepared

It’s a good idea to always carry a survival kit with you when you’re in the wilderness. The kit should include the following items:

  • Pocket knife or multi-tool
  • Matches (and/or fire starter)
  • Water purification tablets, iodine tablets, or water filter pump (and/or portable water filter)
  • Emergency whistle

The next step is how and where to store your survival kit. It should be easy to reach and not get lost or damaged by falling objects or animals, so it should be placed inside of one of your pockets (this will prevent it from being separated from the rest of your gear during an emergency). 

If possible, keep the items for eating in separate locations than those for staying warm–that way if some become wet then they won’t ruin everything else!

If you find yourself stranded in the wilderness, knowing how to survive is crucial. Our guide on real-life strategies and tactics for wilderness survival provides practical tips and advice to help you stay safe and healthy.

Never Eat Unknown Plants Or Berries.

Never eat unknown plants or berries. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re lost in the woods, but don’t do it! 

If you’re not sure about a plant, don’t take a chance by eating it. You could end up with serious stomach problems or even death. If you have no other choice, make sure to test any plants on yourself first before giving them to others.

If you happen across something that looks edible and isn’t poisonous (like an apple), make sure it’s ripe before eating it so that there aren’t any toxins left behind in unripe fruit. 

Unless someone has told me otherwise, I always assume that unripe fruit is toxic just because I’ve heard of so many children getting into trouble while they were playing outside with their friends and accidentally finding something they shouldn’t have eaten because they didn’t know what was safe vs what wasn’t safe enough yet.”

When in Doubt, Leave It Out: A Guide to Avoiding Poisonous Plants and Berries

Types of plants and berriesAppearanceTypical habitatToxicity
Poison ivyThree-leafed plants with a shiny or dull appearance, and often a reddish tinge.Moist woodlands, fields, and along roadsides.Causes itchy, red, and blistering rashes on contact.
HemlockWhite, umbrella-shaped clusters of small flowers, similar to Queen Anne’s lace.Damp areas, fields, and along waterways.Contains toxic alkaloids that can cause paralysis, respiratory failure, and death.
Deadly nightshadeSmall clusters of bell-shaped flowers, and glossy, egg-shaped berries that start green and ripen to black.Fertile soils, rocky slopes, and hedgerows.Contains toxins that affect the nervous system, causing dizziness, dry mouth, and difficulty breathing. Ingestion can be fatal.
PokeweedTall, green plants with long, pointed leaves and clusters of dark purple berries.Damp soils, fields, and fence rows.The leaves and berries contain toxins that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. The roots are more toxic and can cause respiratory paralysis and death.
Holly berriesBright red berries that grow on evergreen shrubs or trees, usually in clusters.Woodlands, gardens, and parks.Contains toxins that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. In severe cases, can lead to breathing difficulties and collapse.

Note: This table only provides basic information for identification purposes and is not intended to be used as a comprehensive guide to poisonous plants and berries. If you are unsure about a plant or berry’s toxicity, do not eat it, and seek professional advice if you experience any symptoms of poisoning.

Stay Hydrated.

  • Drink plenty of water.

Water is essential to your body, and you can’t survive without it. Make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially when sweating or doing physical activity in the heat. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty—by then, it’s already too late!

  • Eat foods that contain water as well (bananas are perfect for this).

To avoid making common mistakes in wilderness survival, it’s important to educate yourself on the potential risks and dangers. Check out our guide on the most common wilderness survival mistakes and how to avoid them to help you stay prepared and informed.

Keep Warm

Keeping warm is essential, and there are a number of ways to go about it. Fires are the most important thing you can do to stay alive in the wilderness, so building a fire should be your first priority. 

You can use matches or a lighter, but if neither of those options are available then you’ll need to find tinder (dead grasses or leaves) and kindling (small pieces of wood). 

The next step is building your fire: place larger pieces of wood on top of these smaller ones until they’re all burning nicely.

Next up is clothing; this one’s pretty straightforward wear multiple layers so that when one layer gets wet from rain or sweat, another layer will still be dry enough for you not to get hypothermia or heatstroke. 

Cotton clothes might seem like an obvious choice because they’re cheap and readily available at most stores around town, but studies have shown them to decrease your body temperature by up to 30 percent! 

Woolen fabrics keep their insulating properties even when wet so if you find yourself in watery conditions wearing wool would be beneficial for both keeping warm and staying dry.

Make A Shelter

You need to make a shelter that will protect you from the elements. The shelter should be big enough for you and your dog, and it should be waterproof. You can use tarps or blankets to keep out the rain if it starts pouring down. 

If you have any extra items of clothing that are waterproof, put them over things in your backpack so they don’t get wet. A tarp or blanket also makes a good ground cover for when there’s snow on the ground!

Another thing you can do is make a fire inside your shelter so that once it gets dark outside and cold outside (which usually happens at night), it will still be warm inside because of all those flames roaring away in there!

Having the right camping gear and gadgets can make a big difference in your ability to survive in the wilderness. Our guide on the top 10 camping gear gadgets for every outdoor enthusiast offers practical and effective tools for improving your wilderness survival skills.

Make Fire

To make a fire, you will need to build some kind of heat source. The easiest way to do this is with a fire starter. There are many options for creating a spark, but the most common ones are matches and lighters. 

If you don’t have either of these available, look around for dry grasses that can be ignited with friction or use your knife blade as both flint and steel (the sharp side will create sparks when struck against metal).

If building a bonfire isn’t possible in your situation, then you’ll want to find something else that will burn. This could include tree branches, fallen logs or even piles of pine needles! 

If all else fails (you’re really lost), try using natural tinder like spider webs or dried out leaves from plants like sagebrush or cattails; once lit they’ll burn slowly enough so that they can be transferred into larger pieces of fuel material until there’s enough heat generated by combustion for them all at once too.”

Be Careful With Your Cell Phone

In a wilderness survival situation, your cell phone is not going to be of much use. While it can be a great tool for communicating with family members and friends, it’s also extremely delicate. In fact, most phones are designed to withstand only a few drops from low heights or being splashed with water. 

So if you drop your phone in the snow or accidentally spill coffee on it while camping out in the woods, there’s a good chance it will break and stop working.

Also remember that if you have any kind of emergency that requires police assistance or medical attention, calling them on your phone will often result in getting lost in the shuffle between departments at best—and at worst could mean they can’t find you at all because they don’t know where exactly they need to go!


We hope you’ve found the information in this guide useful. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of everyday life, but it’s important that we don’t forget our skills as human beings. If we all know a little bit about wilderness survival, then we can help each other out when disaster strikes.

Further Reading

Here are additional resources that can help you learn more about wilderness survival:

The SAS Survival Handbook: This book provides extensive information on a wide range of survival techniques, equipment, and strategies.

Ultimate Guide to Wilderness Living: This guide offers practical advice on survival skills in any situation, from foraging and shelter building to first aid and navigation.

Wilderness Survival Guide: This online guide provides a comprehensive overview of wilderness survival skills, from fire-making and water procurement to animal tracking and shelter construction.


Q: What are some basic wilderness survival skills?

A: Basic wilderness survival skills include starting a fire, finding or building shelter, procuring water, and foraging for food.

Q: What is the most important item to bring for wilderness survival?

A: The most important item to bring for wilderness survival is a knife, as it can be used for a variety of tasks such as cutting wood, preparing food, and building shelter.

Q: How do I know if water is safe to drink in the wilderness?

A: Water found in the wilderness should be filtered, boiled, or treated with water purification tablets before drinking to remove harmful bacteria and pathogens.

Q: What should I do if I get lost in the wilderness?

A: If you get lost in the wilderness, stay put and try to attract attention by making noise or building a signal fire. Look for sources of food and water, and conserve your energy until you can be rescued.

Q: How can I prevent hypothermia in the wilderness?

A: To prevent hypothermia in the wilderness, dress in layers, stay dry, and use shelter to protect yourself from wind and rain. Stay active to maintain body heat, and consume high-energy foods to fuel your body.