Survival Tips

Trust in these nuggets of wilderness wisdom.

BOIL IT SAFE All wild water is suspect; if possible, purify drinking water by boiling it for one minute at sea level and one additional minute per every 1,000 feet of elevation.

LOOK LOW Find water by looking in the low spots of natural drainages where run-off would seek a path.

OASIS PLACES Green foliage in an arid environment indicates increased moisture in the ground; a bit of digging may uncover a water source.

WATER COURSES Desert game trails often lead from one watering hole to another.

DRINK IT Store water in your stomach-you cannot extend your life by rationing water to conserve it.

WET WRAP If you have no water container, but you do have a sheet of plastic (poncho, game bags), form a bowl shape by folding and pleating the plastic so it will hold water.

SUN SCREEN Drape a hanky or other cloth from the back of your cap to protect neck and ears from sun, wind, precipitation and body-heat loss.

STAY COOL In hot weather, conserve body fluids by pacing activity to prevent fluid loss through excessive perspiration.

COVER UP In hot weather, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to avoid exposure to the sun and wind.

TAKE IT EASY If you become lost, conserve your energy, using it mainly to improve camp, provide food and water, keep the fire going and prepare signal methods to assist in rescue.

DRY AND SNUG The most important consideration for an emergency shelter is that it be dry and protected against the elements.

SPARE FIRE Always carry extra fire-starting essentials-one firestarter in your pocket and another in your survival kit.

SHED CLOTHES Remove layers of clothing promptly to prevent perspiration during periods of excessive warmth or heavy exertion.

QUICK SHELTER Use long branches to form a teepee framework, then cover the frame with brushy material to make a wickiup.

DON’T LOSE IT Tie a string to your belt or other anchor point to protect against accidentally losing your knife, compass or eyeglasses.

TAKE STOCK If lost, inventory everything you have and determine alternate uses for each item.

SMOKE SIGNALS To make a smoky signal fire, gradually add green foliage to the flames.

LOOK UP Before building a fire, make sure it won’t ignite an overhanging tree. Clear the area where the fire will be built so it doesn’t spread to flammable debris.

ROOT SHELTER Use the uplifted root system of a downed tree as a windbreak or as one wall of a lean-to shelter.

AVOID HEAT LOSS In cold weather, protect against these types of body-heat loss: radiation (losing body heat directly into the atmosphere), convection (air movement around your body), evaporation (after becoming damp) and conduction (direct contact with cold surfaces).

WOOD TO BURN Find dry wood in wet weather by searching for small, brittle dead twigs high on a tree trunk beneath the limbs that protect against rainfall. The small branches might be difficult to remove, but they make reliable tinder.

FIRE STARTER Make tinder more flammable by adding pitchwood shavings, pinesap or even a few drops of oil-based insect repellent.

LIGHT MESSAGES Make expedient signal mirrors by removing the sideview mirrors from your truck, or using the shinier side of a CD.

FISHING FOR WATER If you find water that you cannot approach because of difficult terrain, use a rope and piece of cloth to sop up and retrieve the water.

BEFORE YOU GO If you decide to abandon a disabled vehicle or leave camp and hike out in a self-rescue attempt, leave behind a detailed note describing your intentions, your clothing and equipment, time and date of departure, direction of travel and physical condition and identities of everyone in the party.

LEAVE WORD BEHIND Before leaving home, file a plan stating where you’re going, whom you’ll be with, the type of vehicle you’ll use and your intended time of return.

WATCH THE TIME When hiking cross-country, make camp well before dusk to avoid being caught unprepared for the darkness and chill of evening.

WORK SMART In hot weather, to conserve energy and body fluids, schedule physical activities during the cool hours of the day and pace your activities to prevent perspiration and fatigue.

STAY PUT In a survival situation, it is usually better to await rescue in a disabled vehicle or in camp than to attempt to hike out for help. Empty camps and abandoned vehicles are almost always found by search teams long before wandering individuals are located.

CROSS CAREFULLY To cross a river, choose a path where the current is slowest and use a long pole stuck against the river bottom on the upstream side to help stabilize you.

AVOID TEMPTING BEARS Don’t share your peanut butter sandwich with a bear-in other words, discourage bear and cougar encounters by maintaining a clean camp and storing food well away from camp, suspended by rope from a high tree limb.

WEATHER WATCH Progressively thickening and lowering clouds signal an approaching weather system that may produce wind and precipitation. Prepare or locate a shelter before the bad weather arrives.

MAKE A SIGN To help rescuers who are searching for you, place brightly colored fabric (a jacket, backpack, tent fly, etc.) on the ground in a clearing to make it easier for search aircraft to spot your location.

KEEP YOUR SOCKS DRY When crossing a stream, remove your socks to keep them dry but wear your boots to protect your feet.

LOUD WHISTLE A police whistle is the most effective audible signal because the high-pitched sound carries over a great distance and takes little physical exertion to produce.