Common Wilderness Survival Mistakes Made by the Unprepared

survival mistakes

It starts out with an innocently planned hiking trip: you’ve checked your gear twice, stuffed your backpack with as many necessities as you can think of and asked other travelers about the trail you wish to conquer.

You’re brimming with confidence and can’t wait to put yourself on the line against the deep dark woods.

However, unforeseen accidents do happen and your bravado won’t be enough to pull you through with your limbs intact.

Before you set out, learn from others’ mistakes to save you the trouble. Here are several common mistakes of wilderness survival:

1) Underestimating the risk and/or gravity of the situation.

You may be confident that you are in familiar territory you’ve hiked and camped in again and again. However, you will inevitably be caught off guard as a predator attacks, a poisonous snake suddenly bites your ankle, a snowstorm hits your area or you get trapped in a forest fire. Your lack of experience translates to an inability to react well to extreme situations, leading to disaster.

2) Choosing a poor route.

By not seeing and planning your route wisely, you are unknowingly bringing yourself and your companions into dangerous situations. You might choose a shorter route to your destination that involves a lot of risk such as rappelling through a sharp drop or crossing a fast moving stream even if a longer but safer route is available. While you may believe this is convenient, you’re risking compromising yourself and slowing the movement of your group as a whole.

3) Not having the skills to build a fire.

Without the skills to build a fire, you cannot cook food, make a signal or keep yourself warm. Few other survival skills are less important, yet a lot of inexperienced travelers believe they can live through an outdoors trip without knowing how to make a fire.

4) Not having the skills to build a shelter.

If your tent is lost or torn in travel, how do you put a roof over your head to protect yourself from the elements and keep yourself warm? The wilderness is abundant with the means to make a shelter yet if you lack the ingenuity, you may find yourself at the mercy of various predators and a hostile environment.

5) Not knowing how to signal for help.

If you are in a survival situation for too long and hoping for help to find its way to you, you will run out of supplies and the environment may change for the worse. Signaling regularly for help will give you a sense of hope and security as you actually make ways for people to find you. A fire, radio transmitter, the ability to use Morse code among others will increase your chances of being discovered by patrols.

6) Not knowing how to purify water for drinking.

Without knowing how to purify water from sources in the wilderness, you risk severe dehydration as your energy saps out quickly. You can go for days without food, but not being able to drink is another story. As you sweat out and your body requires more fluid, replenishment is more crucial. You can purify water with tablets or by boiling it properly.

7) Setting out with the wrong clothing.

If you believe that a shirt and sandals is enough for you to walk through the woods, you are definitely dead wrong. You need the right clothing as insulation and to protect yourself from exposure in the woods. You won’t be wounded as easily and you can resist subtle changes in temperature. Protect your feet from wounds and blisters by wearing hiking shoes, not rubber shoes.

8) Not choosing to stop and set camp when lost.

Some people press on for too long even when it’s dark and the group is tired, hoping to reach civilization faster but risking too much. It is far more prudent to take stock and recollect yourself by settling in one carefully selected area for the night than to push yourself too hard.
It may take more experience to know the skills to the bone, but keeping these mistakes in mind can save you both life and limb. Don’t set off without serious thought and serious skills.

In our next article we discuss 10 Medicines That Are Important For Your Survival Kit.