Some pro tips for keeping that fire going, from the Wilderness Awareness School: Create several small fires instead of one big one to generate more heat, collect more than ample firewood to keep the fire going, and conserve fire fuel by arranging the ends of large logs in the middle of the fire in a star shape and pushing them inward as needed.
4. How to create shelter
Protecting yourself from the elements is important, especially if you’re facing nightfall, low temperatures, and rain. If you don’t have a tent, tarp, car, or abandoned structure, be resourceful with what’s at your disposal—like using a huge rock or fallen tree trunk as a wind shield, per UW Medicine.
You can also get crafty and construct a small, barebones overnight survival shelter. Use a long, sturdy branch or log as a ridgepole for the backbone, smaller branches for the ribbing and lattice structure, and dry material (like leaves and ferns) for insulation. For detailed instructions, see the Wilderness Awareness School’s guide.
5. How to perform basic first aid
Of course, having a first-aid kit with things like bandaids, gauze, antibiotic ointment, and ibuprofen is clutch in a survival situation. But if you don’t have one, there are ways to improvise.
With cuts and scrapes, there are a few general steps, according to the nonprofit National Outdoor Leadership School’s (NOLS) Wilderness Medicine textbook. Clean your hands before starting if possible. First, control the bleeding by applying direct pressure or using a pressure dressing (like a clean piece of fabric with an elastic wrap or strip of fabric around it) and elevating the wound. Next, clean the wound by scrubbing off contaminants around it and irrigating the wound itself with disinfected water. Then, put on a bandage (using a makeshift bandage if necessary like fabric or a bandana).
With suspected breaks and sprains, you can immobilize and protect the injured body part (like a wrist, leg, or finger) using an improvised splint with whatever materials you have, according to NOLS. Think rolled socks, puffy jackets, sturdy sticks, cord or rope.
It’s also a good idea to know the symptoms of conditions like heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia, and dehydration, the Forest Service explains, so that you can identify and treat them as early as possible.
6. How to signal for help
Fire, flashing lights, bright colors, flags, whistles, and mirrors can all be used to send distress signals out to rescue teams or passersby, according to the Wilderness Awareness School. For example, you can arrange three signal fires in a triangle, as well as send literal smoke signals by throwing organic material on the fire (during the day). You can also lay out an S.O.S. message using something that will contrasts against the ground surface (like an open field), such as colorful clothes, rocks, or logs. Think about what someone in an aircraft could see.
7. How to survive a wildlife encounter
In general, you want to avoid a wild animal if you see one and give it a chance to escape and avoid a confrontation. Your exact behaviors depend on the animal, though.