Sure, you’re in decent shape, and your iPhone has GPS and an app for everything. But what happens when you’re injured or stranded and the batteries die? You need a few key skills for the inevitable moment when you find—or lose—yourself without that digital crutch.
Survival expert Creek Stewart, author of Build The Perfect Bug-Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit, has spent thousands of hours testing himself in real world survival scenarios and training others to be competent in the skills he’s learned. “It’s not if disaster will strike,” he likes to say. “But when.”
“You can read countless books on survival methods and watch YouTube instructional videos all day long,” Stewart says. “But until you get out into the field on your hands and knees and practice those skills yourself, all you’ll have is a false sense of security that you’d know what to do in a crisis.”
If you’ve haven’t mastered these 12 core tenets of wilderness safety, there’s no time like the here and now to practice. Bring your most backwoods-savvy friend along for guidance—and don’t forget to let someone else (friends, family, park rangers) know exactly where you’re headed before you take off.
Survival Skill #1 Locating a Suitable Campsite
“You want to stay high and dry,” Stewart says. Avoid valleys and paths where water may flow toward you (flash floods get their name for a reason—they can deluge a low-lying area in minutes). Choose a campsite free from natural dangers like insect nests and widow-makers—dead branches that may crash down in the middle of the night—as well as falling rocks. Ideally, you want to be close to resources like running water, dry wood (from which you can assemble your shelter and build a fire) and rocky walls or formations that can shield you from the elements.