Survival Skills 101: What You Need to Know for Outdoor Emergencies

Survival Skills 101: What You Need to Know for Outdoor Emergencies

Exploring the great outdoors can be exhilarating, offering a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Whether you're hiking through serene forests, camping under a star-studded sky, or embarking on a thrilling backpacking adventure, nature has a way of rejuvenating the soul. However, it's essential to be prepared for the unexpected. In this article, we'll delve into survival skills that can prove invaluable in outdoor emergencies, and we'll emphasize the importance of carrying a medical kit on every hike, trip, or camping expedition.

The Essentials of Survival Skills

  1. Navigation with compass:  Using a compass involves several key steps. Start by holding the compass level and flat, ensuring that the needle inside can move freely. If you have a map, orient it with the terrain by rotating it until the map's north direction matches the actual terrain. Hold the compass steadily in front of you at waist level and rotate your entire body until the magnetic needle inside the compass housing aligns with the orienting arrow on the baseplate. Once the needle aligns with the arrow, read the degree marking on the compass dial where the direction of travel arrow points. This reading is your bearing. To navigate, hold the compass in front of you and turn your entire body until the magnetic needle remains aligned with the orienting arrow. You are now facing the correct direction of your bearing. This method allows you to determine the direction you need to travel, helping you stay on course and navigate accurately in the wilderness.

  2. Fire Starting: Fire provides warmth, light, and a means to cook food. Learn various fire-starting methods, including using matches, lighters, fire strikers, or even natural materials like flint and steel. Starting a fire with flint and steel is a traditional and reliable method. Gather your materials: flint or a similar hard rock, a high-carbon steel striker, tinder (like dry grass or cotton balls), and firewood. Hold the flint and position the steel striker at a 45-degree angle. Strike the flint rapidly with the steel, aiming the sparks onto the tinder. The sparks should land on the tinder, creating hot embers. Gently blow on the ember to ignite it, and be patient. Once the tinder is burning, add small twigs and sticks, gradually moving to larger firewood as the fire grows. Practice and patience are key to mastering this method.

  3. Shelter Building:  Picture this: You're caught in an unexpected rainstorm during a hike, and the temperature is dropping. With your tarp and paracord, you quickly set up a makeshift lean-to shelter between two trees. You add a layer of leaves and debris for insulation, creating a dry and relatively warm refuge from the rain.

  4. Water Procurement: Knowing how to purify water from natural sources, such as streams or lakes, is vital to prevent dehydration. Portable water filtration systems or purification tablets can be part of your kit. To find water, look for signs such as animal tracks leading to a water source or vegetation that's greener than its surroundings. Remember that moving water is generally safer to drink than stagnant water.

  5. First Aid: Basic first aid skills can make a significant difference in emergencies. Here are the main rules for administering first aid during a trip:

Assess the Situation:
  • Ensure your safety and that of the injured person before approaching.
  • Determine the severity of the situation and the type of injury or illness.
Call for Help:
  • If the injury or illness is severe or life-threatening, call emergency services or seek assistance using a satellite communicator or a personal locator beacon (PLB) if available.
Stay Calm:
  • Maintain a calm and reassuring demeanor to keep the injured person calm as well.
Protect Yourself:
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as disposable gloves, to protect yourself and the injured person from infection.
  • Check the injured person's Airway, Breathing, and Circulation (ABCs).
  • Ensure they have a clear airway, are breathing normally, and have a pulse.
  • Administer CPR if necessary.
Control Bleeding:
  • Apply direct pressure to any bleeding wounds using a clean cloth or bandage.
  • Use a tourniquet only as a last resort for severe bleeding.
Stabilize Injuries:
  • Immobilize fractures or suspected fractures by splinting the injured area.
  • Support dislocated joints in a stable position.
Manage Shock:
  • Keep the injured person warm and comfortable by providing insulation and covering them with a blanket or clothing.
  • Elevate their legs slightly unless they have a head, chest, or abdominal injury.
Administer Medications:
  • If the injured person has specific medications (e.g., for allergies or chronic conditions), help them take it if necessary.
Provide Pain Relief:
  • Offer over-the-counter pain relief medication if appropriate and if it's part of their personal first aid kit.
  • Remember that proper wilderness first aid training is invaluable when hiking or engaging in outdoor activities. It equips you with the skills and knowledge to handle various emergency situations effectively. Always carry a well-equipped first aid kit and know how to use its contents. Additionally, inform someone you trust about your hiking plans and expected return time in case of emergencies.
  • Signaling for Help: Carrying signaling devices when hiking or in outdoors is crucial for alerting rescuers to your location in emergencies. Here's a brief overview of how to use them and their importance:

Carry Signaling Devices:

  • Whistle: A whistle is a simple yet effective signaling device. To use it, blow three loud, distinct blasts at regular intervals (a recognized distress signal). The sound carries farther than your voice and can alert rescuers to your presence, especially in dense forests or challenging terrain.
  • Signal Mirror: A signal mirror is a reflective device used to catch and reflect sunlight toward potential rescuers or aircraft. To use it, aim the mirror's reflection at your target, such as an approaching search party or aircraft. Signal mirrors can be especially effective in open landscapes or from high vantage points.
  • Personal Locator Beacon (PLB): A PLB is an electronic device that sends a distress signal to emergency services and provides your precise location via satellite communication. To use it, activate the PLB, and it will transmit a distress signal that can be received by search and rescue teams. PLBs are invaluable in remote areas where cell phone reception is unreliable or nonexistent.

The Role of a Medical Kit

A medical kit is a non-negotiable part of your outdoor gear. It contains essential supplies for treating injuries and addressing common outdoor-related medical issues. Here's what your medical kit should include:

  1. Adhesive bandages and sterile gauze: For covering wounds and preventing infection.
  2. Antiseptic wipes: To clean wounds and prevent infection.
  3. Tweezers: For removing splinters or ticks.
  4. Scissors: Useful for cutting tape, clothing, or gauze.
  5. Pain relievers: Such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  6. Antihistamines: For allergic reactions or insect stings.
  7. CPR face shield: In case of administering CPR.
  8. Blister treatment: Moleskin or blister pads to prevent and treat blisters.
  9. Triangular bandages: For creating slings or immobilizing limbs.
  10. Thermometer: To monitor body temperature.
  11. Tourniquet: As a last resort for severe bleeding.

Be Prepared, Stay Safe

Survival skills and a well-equipped medical kit can be the difference between a minor inconvenience and a life-threatening situation in the outdoors. As you plan your next hiking trip or camping adventure, remember that nature is both captivating and unpredictable. By arming yourself with essential survival skills and carrying a medical kit, you're taking a responsible and proactive approach to outdoor safety.

So, explore the wilderness with confidence, knowing you're prepared for the unexpected and ready to embrace the beauty and challenges of the great outdoors. And don't forget to take it with you on your next adventure: