Staying Health and Safety in the Wilderness
Staying Health and Safety in the Wilderness

A part of staying safe while in the wilderness involves staying healthy. It also involves knowing how to treat yourself or others in your group if they were to become ill or injured. This, along with the proper equipment and a will to survive, will greatly influence your outcome if you should ever be faced with a survival situation.

In this article, we are going to focus on the steps to staying safe and surviving the wilderness. We will also begin to discuss keeping your mind and body healthy in a survival situation.

The Necessary Steps to Wilderness Survival

It is something that cannot be said enough. Part of wilderness safety is survival. You must know how to stay safe (and survive) no matter what situation you face. This means having the right equipment. It also means knowing what to do if you become lost, stranded, or injured. It means making sure you have done everything and learned everything possible so that you stay safe and survive any situation or condition that you face while in the wilderness.

The first step to staying safe and surviving in the wilderness is to recognize your situation when it occurs. If you think you might be lost, then assume that you are. It may be your first instinct to pull out your map and try to get yourself or your group back on course, but that is not a survival instinct. It may be fear, panic, or simply an inability to recognize your true situation. Not being able to recognize your true situation puts you and anyone with you in danger. If you are lost, do not move around. Not only will you make it harder for rescuers to find you, you will use up valuable daylight and energy.

Instead, whenever you face a situation that puts your safety in jeopardy, stop and identify the situation. Next, identify your survival essentials. These essentials will increase your chances of survival and rescue. The survival essentials you will need are listed below.

Health. This includes mental, traumatic, and injuries sustained due to the environment.

Travel. You should always have a map and compass, but this also includes travel without them.

Sustenance. While this includes food you have on hand, it also includes being able to identify and obtain food and water sources in the wilderness.

Personal protection, such as shelter, clothing, and fire.

Signaling. You should have some signaling equipment with you, but you can also improvise.

While health, sustenance, and personal protection gives you means to sustain life while in the wilderness, signaling and travel will help you to return home. You may not have all the equipment or resources needed to completely provide the essentials. This is when you will have to improvise. If you find the need to improvise, use the following four steps:

1. Determine what you need for your situation, such as shelter, signal, and so on.

2. Determine what materials you have (based on your needs), as well as materials you can get from nature.

3. Determine how you can meet your needs. For example: shelter might be a snow cave or a tree-well.

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Basic Wilderness Safety course?

4. Choose the best solution to meet your needs. It should be a solution that best utilizes your time and energy, as well as materials.

These are not simply just steps that you should study as part of the article. It is not something you should learn now with the hopes that you recall it later - when it is needed. These are steps that you could commit to memory so that they hopefully become part of your thought process when in the wilderness. It is these steps that will help keep you safe when safety is uncertain.

Staying Healthy in the Wilderness

Staying healthy is one of the key factors to safety and survival in the wilderness. When we are in the comfort of our homes - or even in the comfort of civilization - we do not think twice about the basic things we do daily to stay healthy. We take these things for granted perhaps, or maybe we are so accustomed to having these things in abundance that we do not need to make them our focus. These basic things are hydration, nourishment, cleanliness and rest.


You need water to survive. Without it, you will die within five days. What is more, staying hydrated will help you to make better decisions. You will be able to think more clearly and better handle any problems that arise. While at home, staying hydrated is not an issue. We drink fluids throughout the day, and we know to increase our fluid consumption during strenuous activity or hot weather. However, most of us are not aware of the amount of fluid we actually drink to stay hydrated, or do we make a conscious effort to drink enough fluids.

When you are in the wilderness, it is important to make a conscious effort to stay hydrated. You lose fluids as your body warms. You also lose it during activity, when you urinate or defecate, and when you sweat. If you are not consuming enough water to replace fluid loss, you will start to become dehydrated. You will have excessive thirst. You will become weaker and more irritable. Your head may start to hurt, and you will become dizzy and nauseous. Eventually, your vision will become affected as well.

Keep in mind that you need to drink at least two quarts of water during light activity. If it is hot or your activities are more strenuous, you need to drink four to six quarts - or even more. If you are dehydrated, you should drink enough water so that your urine output is one quart in a 24-hour period. Water is the most important resource you have, and it is also one of the most critical resources for survival.


Do not be afraid to try different types of food if you are faced with a survival situation in the wilderness. A lot of different plants are edible.  You can also fish and trap for food if you have the appropriate supplies. That said, do not panic if you run out of food or cannot find any safe to eat. Your body can go without food for possibly weeks. The important thing is to stay hydrated.


Keeping your body and clean not only improves your mood, it also wards off infection and illness. In the wilderness, you can bathe in creeks, streams, and lakes. You can also sunbathe. Sunlight not only provides you with vitamin D. It also cleans your skin. What is more, it penetrates through the skin to clean your blood. You should sunbathe for 30 minutes to two hours each day if you do not have access to regular bathing. In addition, you should keep your feet clean and healthy, as well as floss and brush your teeth and gums.


Make sure you get plenty of rest. Rest helps your body rebuild strength. This is strength you will need in survival situations. In addition to strength, rest helps the mind. Adequate rest will help you make better decisions and deal with any undesirable situations you may face.

Dealing with Survival Stress

Stress can be physical or mental. It can come from the conditions you face or the fear and panic that come with being lost, injured, or stranded. Although you cannot avoid or eliminate all stress, the effects that stress has on you can greatly influence your outcome. It can affect your decisions. It can also affect your will to survive.

To reduce the amount of stress you might feel in a survival situation, make sure you properly prepare for your trip ahead of time. This includes leaving pre-departure plans with a trusted friend or loved one. Knowing that someone knows where to look for you if you do not return on time can be a relief to the mind. In addition, following the following three steps will help reduce the amount of stress your mind and body will feel in a survival situation.

1. Preparation. In addition to a pre-departure plan, make sure you pack a survival and medical kit. Bring the appropriate equipment that you will need for your destination, including food, shelter, and other essentials. Plan for the worst, but hope for the best. Never assume the best, thinking the worst will not happen to you. You could be hundreds of miles away from a store, hospital, phone, etc. You will not have access to thinks you might need, so bring them with you.

2. Assess your situation. Stop what you are doing when something goes wrong, and think. Are you lost? Stranded? Determine the problem, then possible solutions. Whatever you do, do not panic. Not only does this increase stress, it takes away the ability to clearly think and assess the situation.

3. Identify your needs. Do not forget the five survival essentials. Prioritize these essentials in the order of importance, as well as the order you will need them. What you need and how quickly you will need it will depend on your conditions. Remember to improvise if needed, and be willing to make adjustments whenever necessary.

Recognizing the Different Stressors

As stated in the last section of this article, stress can be both physical and mental. It can be caused from worry, fear, or panic. It can also be caused by other factors, such as the environment. Let's take a look at the different types of stressors you may face in the wilderness.

1. Your condition. Being thrust into a survival situation is stressful. The effects of that stress on your body and mind can influence your decision-making. In a survival situation, make sure you recognize the stress you are under. Be very careful to make decisions based on logic, not on emotion.

2. The environment. The climate, terrain, and life forms you encounter in the wilderness can affect your outcome in a survival situation. While these factors can influence your outcome, it is your ability to adjust and adapt that will have the greater impact. This is why you prepare ahead of time for any situation. It is also why it is important to stop and assess your situation if you should become lost, stranded, injured, or ill. There are reasons why some perish in the harshest of conditions, but others survive. Most of the time, it comes down to preparation and adaptation.

3. Physical stress. A survival situation places a hardship on the body. Again, preparing ahead of time can help reduce this type of stress. Make sure your immunizations are up-to-date. Be physically fit for the environment you are going to enter. In addition, be sure to stay hydrated.

4. Psychological stress. It is easy to start to feel hopeless while awaiting rescue. The longer the rescue takes, the more hopeless you may start to feel. When you start to feel hopeless, you increase the amount of psychological stress. Hunger, thirst, fatigue, cold, heat, pain, and fear can also affect psychological stress.

5. Materials. Having access to the materials you need helps to reduce the amount of stress you feel. This includes materials you brought with you, as well as those found in nature that you can use to improvise. You may not have all the tools and equipment you need. However, the more you have, the better you will feel about your situation. As a result, you will feel less stress.

There is one common and recurring fact when it comes to safety and survival in the wilderness. That face is preparation is key. Not only is it key to your physical well-being and survival, but also to your mental state. Take another look at the stressors above. Make notes on how preparation can reduce the effects these stressors might have on your body and mind.