By: Rich DeMuro
Warmer weather means more of us are headed outdoors. From camping to hiking, in the U.S. alone more than 280 million people make the trek out to the wilderness each year.
And for most of us, it’s a great time with friends and family. But if you do find yourself lost, being prepared can mean the difference between staying lost and finding your way back home.
“In an emergency situation in the wilderness… the first thing you should do is calm down and focus your mind,” said survival expert Thomas Coyne. “Don’t act on fear or panic. [G]et to a high point to get your bearings. You may not be as lost as you think, and there could be a road, cabin or outpost nearby.”
After you’ve gather yourself, the next step is to protect your body from the elements.
“The number one killer in wilderness survival is exposure,” said Coyne. “Thats why if you are going to be hitting the hills you should have some gear on you that takes care of those things.”
To keep warm, Coyne recommends a simple fire kit instead of traditional lighters and matches. Fire steel, for example, are simple tools that create a spark using two metals. They are waterproof and can stand up to the elements.
“[C]ombined with the proper fuel source, this can make all weather fire making quick and easy,” said Coyne.
Another useful tool to have onhand are survival bracelets–a long cordage that comes easy to carry as a wrist strap.
“[R]ig your shelter together, improvise a signal, to make a trap and catch game,” said Coyne.
Though not very common on short hikes, having some kind of emergency signal like a GPS beacon is highly recommended as a backup to your smartphone.
GPS beacons often work where phone signals can fail and they automatically send a distress signal when turned on.
Finally, remember to keep hydrated.
“It takes weeks to starve, but you can die from dehydration and heat stroke in a matter of hours,” Coyne said.
If you find a water stream, a simple water filter can be a lifesaver. Attach one end to a standard sized water bottle with the filter end in a stream of water. It not only takes out harmful bacteria but can remove bad odor and taste.
No matter the tool though, in the end, the most important thing to have is the motivation to survive said Coyne. “If you focus your mind, you have a few simple tools and address your exposure needs, you can make it for days to weeks even until potential rescue.”