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For other activities, see the Activities Chapter.

If you don't think that sleeping out in the woods with all the bugs and animals or eating grubs and worms would be fun, then perhaps you should learn some techniques for not getting lost and being put in a wilderness survival situation. Learn more about Staying Found.

As you can see by the amount of information below, this is one of my favorite subjects. One reason I am so interested in this is that I have such a bad sense of direction, I know that some day I may very well need to know everything here.

Your survival in a wilderness situation will depend on what you know and how you use it. Any wilderness survival situation can be very dangerous. It is important to remember the priorities. Preparing for it can be fun and should be educational. Many games can be made involving a variety of situations and a list of available items. It's also a great challenge trying to see how many items you can stuff into a small survival kit container.

It is important to know not only the information, but why it is so and what conditions can change things. The Boy Scout merit badge book on wilderness survival is a good resource. Tom Brown's field guide to wilderness survival is excellent. There are also many other books and Internet sites that cover the topic.

Children are especially at risk because behavior in a survival situation goes against how they normally react. Remember that they are not as knowledgeable of or experienced with the wilderness. It is very important that they be taught what to do and why. At least discuss with them the first priority below - S. T. O. P.

Survival will be a lot easier if you have the knowledge, skills, and the equipment. Practice your skills frequently (see the practice activities below). It is one thing to "know" the information and skills and quite another to be able to do them in real situations. Consider how hard it can be to start a fire, how about in windy weather, how about after a hard rain, how about with only one match, how about with flint and steel. Now think of a worse case scenario - at night, in the wind, after a rain, with only your knife and whatever else you can find.

The chances of you finding your way out are very small. So your responsibilities are to stay alive and make it easier for searchers to find you. Make yourself as comfortable as you can.

The information below assumes that the prevailing wind is from the west, which is true for most of the United States. This means that storms will come from the west. Local terrain and conditions can vary so use your best judgment.

Below is a list of priorities. I carry a copy in my survival kit. One does not always think clearly in emergency situations and having a small piece of paper with the priority listed could help. The priorities are based on how quickly you could die without help. If you are seriously injured, you may only last a few minutes. Without shelter, you could die from exposure in a few hours if it is cold and wet. You can survive without water for at least a couple days, and without food for at least a week.

The list is not meant to be a hard and fast set of rules. Each situation will be different depending on the weather, if you are injured, what type of area you are in, ...

Wilderness Survival Priority List
  1. Positive Mental Attitude - The most important item you have is your brain
  2. First Aid
  3. Shelter - protection from heat, cold, rain, sun
  4. Fire - warmth, security, signaling, ...
  5. Signaling - mark X, signal in 3's
  6. Water - you can survive a few days without it
  7. Food - you can survive a week or more without it

    Thoughts on Priorities
  1. Positive Mental Attitude
  2. First Aid
  3. Shelter
  4. Fire - Fire is magical, it is such a powerful tool. First, it helps maintain a positive mental attitude, keeps you in one place, provides warmth, smoke for signaling, and heat for purifying water, cooking and making tools. Don't abuse it, but respect it. Keep fires small so you can keep them under control.
  5. Signaling
  6. Water
  7. Food

Why might you include a snack in a survival kit? Contrary to what you might think, it is not for it's value as food (Priority #7), but for helping you with a positive mental attitude (Priority #1). If you have something to snack on, you are more likely to sit down and think about your situation. People usually put food much higher on the priority list maybe because they don't know how to obtain it in the wild. Securing food from the wilderness may be the most difficult of the priorities above (along with fire building) because it is the least practiced. Having a small snack on hand can give you a sense of security.

Here is a test. You are in a survival situation and you only have one match. In your pockets, you find a candle, some string, pocket lint, and a paper napkin. Which do you light first?

It's a trick question - light the match first!

OK, all this said about surviving in the wilderness, the best thing is to stay found. Before you go make a plan. Where will you start and end? When will you leave and return? What equipment will you be taking? Once you have a plan, leave it with someone along with contact information. Take a copy of your plan for yourself and above all stick to your plan.

Pay attention to landmarks, weather, which direction you are going, and where the sun is. Watch your time.

Be prepared! Know your basic Scout skills - first aid, knots, fire building, map and compass, ... Always carry some extra food and a survival kit.

You are a member of a space crew originally scheduled to rendezvous with a mother ship on the lighted surface of the moon. Due to mechanical difficulties, however, your ship was forced to land at a spot some 200 miles from the rendezvous point. During landing, much of the equipment aboard was damaged and, since survival depends on reaching the mother ship, the most critical items available must be chosen for the 200-mile trip. Below are listed the 15 items left intact and undamaged after landing. Your task is to rank order them in terms of their importance to your crew in allowing them to reach the rendezvous point. Place the number 1 by the most important item, the number 2 by the second most important, and so on, through 15, the least important.

You and a friend are in a small plane going to a July Fourth celebration near Denver, CO. Your plane has electrical problems. The radio stops working before you can get out a distress message. You manage to land safely. Below is a list of gear on the plane. Your task is to rank order them in terms of their importance. Place the number 1 by the most important item, the number 2 by the second most important, and so on, through 15, the least important.

I came up with a Scoutmaster Minute that draws a parallel between Wilderness Survival and Spiritual Survival.

Copyright © 2003 Vincent Hale