Survival Tips For Staying Alive In The Backcountry

i-shouldnt-be-alive (1)You’ve heard those stories about people who venture out into the wilderness, completely unprepared, make a dumb decision and end up lost, by themselves in the dark in the wilderness? There’s even TV show dedicated to the reenactment of these stories called “I Shouldn’t Be Alive”. Here are some good ideas on how you might not become a statistic, and what to do if you find someone who seems hell bent on becoming one.


When on a long, backcountry expedition, we try to get the most out of our days. Usually this means waking up early to get to camp with some sunlight left, but as we all know, there are still nights where we arrive after dark.  Nights, after a long trek in the sun all day are the perfect opportunity for you to get lost while venturing out for a walk. If arriving after dark, establish camp immediately. Set up your tent, bag, and cooking equipment, a fire pit and take note of every feature that will reference where you are, then go find a water source, and explore.


Always carry a knife, some food and a compass on your person. Sure, these things are easily stashed in your pack; but what if a boulder comes flying off a cliff while you’re rummaging thru your pack on the side of the trail and you only have enough time to jump out of the way as your pack is sent off the cliff. What then? Carrying a bit of  food, a knife and a compass can be the difference between life or death if you find yourself in a remote location with no gear or references.


Stay where you are if you get lost! Classically the number one reason why Search and Rescue Crews have the hardest jobs; people like to move when they are lost. Unless you are sure you know which direction you are going and you are keeping a mental note of what you passed and where you were (which you probably haven’t because you’re lost and scared) you should stay where you are and wait for help. Needless, frantic movement, especially in the day’s sunlight can result in a critical loss of energy as a result of the depletion of nutrients in your body. Once this has happened, you are more likely to make other, equally irrational decisions that can put you at risk and drop your survival rate by 50%. Outline your resources, develop a plan and only depart on foot if you are physically and mentally sound and able to retrace back to your starting point if unable to find a trail.

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Don’t go by yourself! This is more of  a suggestion than a guideline. Solo trips are often very fun and can be extremely rewarding. Just be sure you let people know how long you are going, where you are going and when you expect to be back at the latest. Doing this can mean the difference between life or death when you end up unable to make it to your takeout point. Be prepared and prudent, and you will find that your chances of getting stuck in one of these situations diminishes greatly.

Have fun on the trail, don’t get lost, and always be prepared. Have an outdoorsy week!

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