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Wilderness Survival Backpacking Tips

Why should you learn wilderness survival skills just for backpacking? They may save your life someday, and for ultralight enthusiasts like myself, skills replace gear, and therefore weight. The best reason, however, may be that it's just a good feeling to know you can deal with whatever comes up. It makes you feel more at home.

To survive means to stay warm and dry, hydrated, uninjured, and to find your way out of the survival situation. Eating is nice too, but not crucial if the situation is for a few days. Below are some more or less random survival tips, just to get you interested.

Wilderness Survival Tips

1. Warmth: Sleep with your head slightly downhill to stay warmer. This may take some getting used to, but it works.

2. Food: In North America, there is no berry that looks like a blueberry, strawberry, or rasberry, that can hurt you from one taste. Just spit it out if it doesn't taste right. If it looks and tastes like a blueberry - it is.

3. Fire starter: If you put dried moss or milkweed fuzz in your pocket as you walk, you'll have dry tinder to start a fire, just in case it's raining later. Experiment with different materials.

4. Direction-finding: Mark the tip of the shadow of a stick, and mark it again fifteen minutes later. The line between the the first and second marks points east. A few techniques like this can save you when your compass is lost.

5. Weather: In the Rocky Mountains you can see the clouds forming just before the afternoon storms. Being able to read the sky can keep you out of trouble. Lightning kills hikers in Colorado regularly.

6. Staying dry: Hypothermia is the biggest wilderness killer, and getting wet is the biggest cause. Watch for ledges or large fir trees to stand under if you see the rain coming.

7. Shelter: A pile of dry leaves and dead grass can keep you very warm in an emergency.

8. Hydration: Fill water bottles every chance you get, and you won't have such a hard time with any long dry stretches of trail.

9. Injury: Pop a "blister" on the trunk of a small spruce or fir tree, and you can use the sap that oozes out as an good antiseptic dressing for small cuts.

10. Fire starter: White birch bark will usually light even when wet.

These are just a few of the wilderness survival tips and techniques you can easily learn. Why not practice one or two on your next backpacking trip?


About the Author: Steve Gillman is a long-time advocate of lightweight backpacking. Visit his website for tips, photos, gear recommendations, a free book and a new wilderness survival section:




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