Survival Tips

posted: 04/11/12
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Professional advice should always be sought before entering any dangerous environment.

Overall Survival Tips

— Always make sure that someone knows where you are going and when you're planning to come back. If something goes wrong, they will know to alert the appropriate authorities.

— Do your homework before going on a trip — know the basic geography of your destination and familiarize yourself with edible flora and fauna. Also, be prepared for the environment you're heading into — bring the right tools and supplies.

— Use common sense. If you are lost, try to get your bearings before moving on. If you're tired, rest. If you're hungry, try to find food.

— Expect luck in your life. If you look at all the great survival stories, people come through hopeless situations because they push themselves to extraordinary places. Don't underestimate how far you can go.

Moab, Utah

— The best advice for people lost in the desert is to get into the shade and wait to be rescued. The biggest killers in the desert are heatstroke and dehydration, which come on very quickly. The most important part of the body to keep cool is the head. Fashioning a headdress with a light colored material will keep the sun off the skin.

— The Moab contains two major rivers: the Colorado and the Green. Finding one of them will be the key to getting out. They will provide water for drinking, and following the river will eventually bring you to civilization.

— Plants need water, so signs of vegetation indicate that water is nearby.

— Canyons provide shade and can contain water sources that could lead to bigger rivers. Find a canyon that runs downhill — it is a good sign that water is nearby since water runs downhill.

— It is key to find running water to drink — stagnant water is likely contaminated with dead animals and other debris.

Costa Rican Rain Forest

— One of the worst aspects of a jungle wilderness is the density of the vegetation, making it difficult to get your bearings. Climb a tree as high as you can; you get a better viewpoint by going above the canopy. Depressions in the jungle where one side is higher than the other often suggest a river, which means civilization will be nearby.

— Just walking in the jungle can be hazardous — watch where you tread. Step over a log or grab a vine without looking and you could get bitten.

— In the jungle, it's not worth wasting energy hunting animals or setting traps because there are plenty of plants to eat. Familiarize yourself with edible plants before you set out on a trip.

— Falling trees and branches are the biggest killers of people in the jungle, so if you have to make camp, find clear ground.

— Balsa wood is a light wood that is perfect for creating a makeshift raft in the jungle.

Alaskan Mountain Wilderness

— The biggest threat to skiers is avalanches, which kill 58 skiers every year in North America.

— When traveling to an avalanche risk area, carry a beacon that, when activated, will transmit a signal that the rescue services will follow if you get lost.

— The key to avoiding avalanches is to read the snow. Use a ski pole to test the snow to see if it's compacted or in layers. If it's consistent when you push in the snow, it's fine. If it suddenly drops off, that indicates it's in layers and dangerous.

— Glaciers are a good landmark that, if you follow them down, will lead you out of the mountains.

— Temperatures in Alaska can reach as low as minus 60 degrees F, putting you at risk for frostbite. Keep your extremities as warm as possible. You are getting frostbite if your skin goes a waxy, red color, then black.

Sierra Nevada

— If you need to find your bearings on a sunny day, you can find north, east, south and west by using the shadow and stick method. Find a stick, insert it into the ground and you'll see that it casts a nice shadow. Mark where the end of the shadow is and leave the stick for 15 minutes. Mark the next point and that will create an east-west line. Anyone going on a trip to the Sierra Nevada should know the basic geography of the area. In this case, the Nevada Desert is east, so west is the best direction to head.

— Often dew will collect on leaves and pine needles overnight, so if you're desperately in need of water, this can be a lifesaver.

— If you are lucky enough to successfully hunt food to cook, remember to dispose of any leftovers, or else you're at risk of black bears in the area coming for your leftovers.

— The manzanita bush, which is indigenous to the Sierra Nevada, is a great food source in the wild. The Mono Indians used them for their fruit, which they dried or used for drinks. If you come across the bush, chew the outer bit of the fruit, then spit out the hard seeds. The fruit is high in vitamin C.

— If you can't swim well but you need to cross a large body of water, you can use your pants as a flotation device. Remove your pants, fill them with air, then tie off the legs. Raise the pants over your head in the water and it will act like a life jacket.

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