Wilderness Survival Tips Every Parent Should Know

Wilderness Survival Tips for Parents

There’s nothing like a camping trip or a simple walk in the woods with your kids.  It is a refreshing and relaxing experience that can bring the family together. Unfortunately, all too easily something can go wrong.  You wander off the trail and you’re lost, disoriented, and scared because as a parent, there is more than just your safety at risk.

However, with some basic knowledge, focus, a cool head, and common sense, survival until rescue is possible.  I’m going to take you through some of the basic wilderness survival tips every parent should know. Remember knowing these things could make all the difference to your survival.

What to Do If You Get Lost

While traveling or camping with kids, make sure to be aware of your surroundings.  Play eye-spy with the kids to help make mental notes of landmarks or things you could use to orientate yourself.  Leave a trail. Every so often break branches, make piles of rocks or carve on trees. Anything that will be a signal for you to find your way back. If, however, the worst happens and you do become lost, remember to “STOP!”

STOP– If you think you are lost, stop! You do not want to make the situation worse.

THINK–  Do not panic! Keep calm and try to think about the last place you knew where you were.

OBSERVE – Examine your surroundings, can you orientate yourself?  Look at landmarks, the weather, the time of day, and if you have one, your map.  What supplies do you have on hand, and how can those help you?

PLAN – Create a plan. If it’s early in the day and you think you can orientate yourself you may choose to try and get back on track. If you decide to do this leave a trail so you don’t end up going in circles. If it’s later in the day or you think moving will cause more harm than good; it’s time to start making camp.

Making a Shelter

Finding or making a shelter is the number one priority in a survival situation. Our bodies are not made to combat harsh conditions such as extreme heat or cold, whereas you can go a few days without food or water.

There are 3 basic shelters you can build quickly with limited resources:

  1. Leaf Hut – The leaf hut is a simple shelter to build, but a poor defense against wind.  You can build this by gathering a pile of leaves and climbing inside. To make it more secure, place sticks in the ground along the outside of the leaf hut.
  2. Teepee Shelter – This shelter takes a few hours to build, but is more sturdy.  Find three long sticks to act as poles and stick them to the ground, having them lean against each other.  Proceed to place more sticks and leaves all over the shelter to act as a wall. If possible, tie the poles together with a vine as this will make it more secure. Placing leaves and grass inside will help protect you from the damp ground.
  3. Lean-to or A-Frame – This shelter will protect you the best from the wind but is the most complex.  Find two trees that are about six feet apart from each other. Place a pole/stick horizontally between the trees and secure with vines or your shoelaces.  Once secure, lean poles along the side (against the wind) to act as a wall. For more protection, place poles along the other side as well. As before, lay leaves and grass on the floor for insulation.

Having sorted shelter, water is the next most important element needed for survival.  In generous conditions, humans can survive for up to a week without water, but on average, it’s only 3-4 days.  Therefore the need to find a source of water when you’re out in the wild is vital.

Where to Find Natural Sources of Water

  1. Look down!  Water easily runs down hill, so look for low spots and valleys.  Also, let the animals help you; they need water just as much as you do, so follow them.  Look for tracks that lead down hill or overlap with other tracks.
  2. Look up!  Watch the birds.  Birds get water in the morning and evening.  When they are flying towards a water source, they fly in straight, fast lines, and meander more after visiting a water source.  Follow the direction birds are flying in to find water.
  3. Collect dew.  Tie cloth around your legs and walk in high grass in the early morning.  Pause regularly to wring out the water into a container. If you are stuck near a vehicle, you can also wipe the dew off of that.  If you have a plastic bag, put a rock in it and tie it to the end of a leafy branch. The rock will weigh down the bag and water will condense and fall to the bottom of the bag after a few hours.  Untie the bag carefully or cut a small hole in the corner to pour out the water. You can tie a knot over the hole so you can reuse the bag.

How to Check if Water is Safe to Drink

Dehydration makes life harder, especially in a survival situation, but you do not want to put yourself in any more danger by drinking contaminated water.  While water testing kits and filters are ideal, you may not find yourself with one in a survival situation. Before you drink, there are a few things you can look out for:

  • If the water appears cloudy or has a color to it, stay away.  Clear water is the best water.
  • If the water has an odour, do not drink it.  It may contain harmful pollutants.
  • Finally, perform a small taste test before gulping down. If it tastes salty or metallic, do not drink it.

Water can be purified by purifying tablets or straws.  If you do not have access to such measures. Boiling would be your best option.  Start by filtering the water through your sock to remove solid contaminants, and then boil over a fire.

How to Build a Fire

Knowing how to build a fire can make a big difference in a survival situation.  Even if you are not faced with cold temperatures, a fire can be used for cooking, boiling water, keeping wild animals and insects away, and signalling for help.

In order to build a fire you need kindling (grass, dry leaves), tinder (small twigs, sticks) and fuel (branches, logs). Start by making a small pile of kindling and tinder, light the kindling using matches and then slowly add more tinder to the pile. Gradually add bigger sticks and branches as the heat builds up, once it’s hot enough, place logs in to the middle of the fire in a star pattern, pushing them further in and replacing them as they burn.

If you have no matches:

  1. Flint and Steel – Striking flint against steel creates a spark that can be used to start a fire.
  2. Fire Plough –  All you need is a hard stick and a soft plank.  Simply push the stick down the plank along the same line, creating shavings. Push the shavings into the tinder and once enough hot shavings hit the tinder, a fire should ignite.  This method requires stamina and endurance.
  3. Magnifying Lens – In sunny weather, a magnifying glass, eyeglasses or a glass of water can be used to start a fire.  Using one of these, focus sunlight onto a small point on tinder which will ignite the fire.
  4. AA Battery and Gum Wrapper – Using the foil from a gum wrapper, create a coil that spans for the negative terminal, to the positive terminal. Hold the wrapper in place on both ends and the wrapper will ignite from the middle.  Apply to tinder quickly because it will burn quickly.

Finding Food

Finding food in the wilderness with limited resources is challenging. Therefore it is recommended that every parent carry an essentials bag wherever they go with their kids. It should contain at the minimum a new unused garbage bag, matches or lighter, knife, basic first aid kit, water and basic food. This will become invaluable in a survival situation. If, however, you find yourself without your bag, there are a few options:

  • Try fishing using a sharpened stick as a spear or fashion a net out of vines and long grasses.
  • Look for plants you recognise, such as blackberries, wild strawberries and stinging nettles (the leaves can be eaten if rolled with the top of the leaf facing out).
  • Search for fallen nuts

Be careful not to eat anything if you are unsure of what it is. Remember your body can go 3 weeks without food but if you eat something poisonous you could be dead in hours.

Basic First Aid

Every parent should know basic first aid skills and these are even more vital in the wilderness.  In your essentials bag you should have a first aid kit that contains at least the following: painkillers, plasters, bandages, sharply pointed tweezers, antiseptic wipes, and antiseptic cream.  If you do not have anything with you and find yourself in a survival situation, here are a couple basic tips:

  • Clean wounds with running water until you cannot see any foreign particles.
  • Stop the bleeding by elevating the limb above the level of the heart and applying sustained pressure.
  • Make a splint out of a straight branch secured with vines or long grass.

An extra piece of advice:

Make sure you check for and remove ticks immediately.  Ticks can cause serious health issues if not handled right away.  To remove: grip the tick with tweezers as close to the head as possible and pull it.  Make sure you remove the whole tick, if you pull too hard it can break. Be careful not to squeeze as you may release the venom into the bloodstream.

These skills and tips should help to ensure you and your kids survive in the wilderness if the worst happens.  While you may never find yourself in these circumstances, kids are unpredictable and parents all too often find themselves in situations they never thought they would face. Knowing this information will help you keep a cool head, not panic, stay focused on the tasks at hand and help keep you and your kids motivated until rescued during an emergency. Always be prepared!

About the Author – Survival Dan is a knowledgeable and passionate survival blogger who wants to ensure everyone has as many safe and exhilarating adventures as possible. From what to do if the apocalypse happens, to getting trapped in a car in a blizzard, to a simple day out with the kids; Dan covers it all. Check out his blog www.survivaldan.com.

Let me know your thoughts on this topic!