The following article on survival tips is a guest submission from in-house writers of Authorized Boots:
When it comes to survival, the more you know, the better. While you can’t possibly prepare for every single thing that is out there, you can try your best to be as aware of as many of them as you can. Sometimes these bits and pieces of knowledge can seem quite like useless trivia at times, but don’t be fooled. The knowledge is there not to be useful ALL the time, but rather to be there when you need it the most. That is why we put together a massive list of 50 Survival Tips and Tricks for the outdoors.
1. Need Help? Create a Thick Fire Signal
A combination of fresh pine and spruce leaves produces a lot of smoke, which is what you want with the signal. Start out by building a small fire using dry leaves, twigs, or other tinder. Collect the fresh pine and spruce leaves and compile them into a bow. When the fire is up and smoking, put the leaves over the fire, making sure to cover it completely. This will cause the branches to burn intensely, producing even more smoke.
2. How to Stay Cool in the Desert
This may not be the best-smelling solution to preventing heatstroke when you’re out in the scorching desert, but it works. Take a piece of cloth like a bandana and soak it in urine. Wrap it around your head and it will keep your head from feeling the wrath of the sun. Heatstroke is the second leading cause of death in the desert, next to dehydration.
3. How to Tell Where North Is With an Analog Watch
If you need the help of a compass but you don’t have one, you can use an analog watch to do that. Point the hour (short) hand at the sun and draw two imaginary lines between it and the 12 o’clock point. You will create an angle between the two lines. Draw an imaginary straight line bisecting the angle. The line point away from the sun is north because the sun always goes to set in the west direction.
Disclaimer: telling time by the sun doesn’t work as effectively when you are too far up north or south.
4. How to Tell Where North Is Without an Analog Watch
Don’t worry. As long as you know what time it is, you can still tell where north is. Simply draw an analog representation of the time on the ground and draw the lines from there. Cellphones are particularly useful in telling the actual time regardless of where you are because mobile tech nowadays uses GPS to be able to tell the time of the day regardless of location. Of course, it’s always advised that a survivalist have a watch with them at all times.
5. Always Have Char Cloth Ready
Take any small piece of cloth and place it inside a metal container. Make sure that the container has a cover. Burn the container (with the cloth inside it) for a couple of minutes. You know you’re doing it right if the cloth remains intact but is dark from all the burning. Char cloth is really great for starting fires because it catches fire with just a small spark.
Tip: Try cutting or ripping a large cloth into really small pieces and neatly roll them inside a tuna can. You’ll have yourself an entire pack of char cloth!
6. Use Hand Sanitizer to Start Embers
Hand sanitizers may look like they’re only useful for cleaning your hands, but they’re also good for starting fires. This is because they contain alcohol, which is flammable. Simply use some of the stuff on a char cloth or some leaves or other tinder and they’ll easily catch fire from a spark. Always keep a small bottle in your pocket.
7. Use Pine Wood Shavings to Start Fires & Repel Mosquitos
The resins from pine trees are very useful if you reduce them into tiny shavings. They easily catch fire and can therefore be used as an easy-to-find ingredient for starting fires because they can be found practically everywhere. But what makes them special is that the smoke that’s produced from burning the shaved fat wood makes effective mosquito repellents.
8. Retain Body Heat With Readily-Available Items
This is a lifesaver in many situations where you’re caught in really cold weather and you’ve got no means of starting a fire. Simply stuff newspaper, dry grass, and leaves under your clothes and you’ll be retaining significant amounts of body heat when you need it the most. You can do this to almost all of your clothing, from head to toe.
9. Get Water from Trees
This works on any tree, but it works better on trees with leaves that are directly exposed to the sun. Wrap a plastic bag around the leaves. When the sun forces the water inside the leaves to evaporate, the water will be trapped inside the plastic bag and settle into the plastic bag. With proper positioning, the water will be trapped in a way that you can simply poke a hole through the bag so that the water flows through. You can then keep the water in a container. Note: Make sure your plastic bags are clean.
10. Use Toothpaste to Relieve Bug Bites
This is a well-known home remedy for burns and some wounds, but few people know that their toothpaste can help treat bug bites as well. This is because they have properties that will help soothe any itchiness or pain that most bug bites cause. They will also help reduce any swelling that might result from the bites.
11. Keep Tampons in Your Survival First-Aid Kit
Tampons are very effective in dealing with deep wounds because they were designed to absorb lots of moisture. They also gradually take the shape of the wound as they swell over time. You can bring lots of them because they’re small, lightweight, can be bought almost anywhere, and are pretty inexpensive.
12. Keep a Used-Up Lighter Handy
If your Zippo or flintlock lighters have run out, keep them because you can still use them to make fire. There’s usually cotton inside these types of lighters. Take them out and use the flint to create a spark. The cotton is usually so dry it will catch fire easily. Alternatively, you can keep using the lighter to create sparks that could help you start a fire with other types of tinder-like char cloth.
13. Have Aluminum Foil Within Reach
While you’ll always have this in your survival food kit to store your food, keep a separate sheet in your bag to always have a dry surface. This can come in handy as a dry surface to start fires on, especially when it just rained and the soil is too damp for you to be able to start a fire. Use this with your char cloth and other tinder you have with you and you’ll be able to start a campfire even when it’s wet outside.
Aluminum foil can also be used as a makeshift bowl. Simply place a rock on top of the foil and wrap it around, using the rock as a mold. Tinfoil can also be used as a reflector around a campfire to maximize the heat. The uses of aluminum foil are endless.
14. Reduce Excessive Light with Masking Tape
Having too much light from your flashlight could be dangerous at night depending on your situation. Placing masking tape over the light will lessen the amount of light enough to give you a low profile while giving you plenty of light to work with.
15. Know How to Find the North Star
The North Star always points to true north, which is great for when you don’t have a compass at night or when you want to check the accuracy of the compass you have. Try looking for the big dipper first, which is easy to find if you know your constellations. Then draw an imaginary straight line through the edges of the big dipper and this will lead you to the tail of the little dipper. This is the North Star.
16. Opt for a Guitar Case as a Survival Bag
This is a rather unusual but very useful alternative to the typical bug-out pack. The shape of the case will allow you to store an unbelievably large amount of items. Plus, it’s very inconspicuous, especially when a hiker’s or camper’s backpack is often the easiest way to spot a person who isn’t from around the area, which can have its disadvantages. It’s a good way to pack lots of stuff without sticking out in public.
Authorized Boots put together a guide for what to include in a bug-out bag. Check it out
17. Use Carbon Steel Parts as Body Armor
The carbon sheets that you can get from saws have been proven to be able to withstand 22 caliber pistol bullets. With just a bit of duct tape and some proper attachment, you can create armor around your backpack and clothes that will protect you from shrapnel, arrows, and certain types of bullets. They’re bendable, snap-proof, and pretty darn useful. There is a caveat though, carbon steel will rust and is not stainless steel.
Always check on the condition of your tools before use.
18. Grill Survival Food with Metal Picks
You will most likely have long, thin metal rods or picks (used for tents) among your equipment. You can use this to form a makeshift grill by laying them across two logs. Use twigs and strings to keep them intact when necessary. Set this up over a fire and you can grill fish over the picks. You can use an aluminum cup to boil water over this setup as well.
19. Use Hot Stones for Warmth & Water Purification
Even after the fire has died, the rocks will still hold on to enough heat to keep you warm. The heat of the rock can also be used to purify water. Simply place them inside aluminum cans filled with water. It will cause the water to boil, purifying it enough to be safe to drink.
In some scenarios, it might be necessary to boil water underground. Authorized Boots has you covered; here is its guide to how to boil water underground.
20. Improve the Taste of Water by Adding Charcoal
The water from swamps, even after they’ve been purified, can still smell really dodgy. To remedy this, add some charcoal to the water while it’s being boiled. Not only does this add to the purification process, but it also makes the water taste much more “drinkable.” It also takes away that bad smell.
21. Always Wear a Survival Bracelet
More popularly known as paracord bracelets (because they’re made from the same material as military-issued parachutes and equipment), these bands are more than just accessories. They’re actually cords that are woven together, which you can unravel and use partly whenever you need the cords to tie stuff up. Almost every single piece of the paracord bracelet is a usable string – right to the small threads that are used to keep the end of the cords together. Use them to tie stuff, hang food, set up traps, and even as tinder to start fires.
22. Use Aluminum Sheets to Improve Your Survival Shelters
The aluminum blankets or sheets added to your shelter will significantly increase your shelter’s heat retention capacity. The aluminum facing outward of the shelter can also reflect sunlight, allowing you to stay cooler under the shelter. Among the survivalist community, these are referred to as “super shelters,” and rightfully so.
23. Use Glow Sticks to Improve Personal Visibility
These aren’t just for rave parties. Glow sticks make it easy for you to be spotted at night (i.e. by rescue groups). When needed, activate one of the sticks and tie them with a paracord outside your backpack, allowing it to hang freely. You will be very easy to spot even in pitch-black darkness with these glow sticks.
24. Use a Poncho for a Quick Shelter & Water Desalination/Collection
These seemingly simple disposable raincoats actually have so many uses in the outdoors. Obviously, it’s best used as a raincoat, but here are some other things you can do.
- Use it as a makeshift shelter. It’s big enough to fit one person.
- Use it to desalinate seawater. Just boil seawater underneath a tented poncho to catch the vapor and produce the water through condensation. This will separate the salt from the water, making it drinkable.
- Use it to collect rainwater.
25. DO NOT Use Unclean Water to Wash Wounds
While this sounds like common sense, a lot of people will make the mistake of using water in rivers to clean their wounds without treating them first. Bodies of water, as clear as they may seem, will have bacteria from all sorts of matter, including animal feces. If your hand has any cuts or lacerations, don’t ever dip them into the water.
26. Always Carry Water Purification Tablets
You can’t always depend on a fire source to be able to boil water, such as when it gets rainy and the ground and everything else is too damp to ignite. Also, you can’t always start a fire when you’re injured. In these instances, it’s better to pop a tablet into a container so you get the much-needed water instantly.
27. Use Animal Entrails & Feces as Survival Tools & Animal Attractants
When it comes to stuff that animals leave behind, make sure you don’t dispose of the ones that you can use as fishing bait, repellents, etc. Some of these include:
- Using bones to make tools/weapons
- Using urine of female dead animals to attract other animals for food
- Or using pelts and skins to make small pouches, etc.
Don’t just throw these things away. Figure out if there’s some way you can re-purpose the excess parts after you capture your game.
28. Process Food Away from Camp
Remember that when you process the food you catch (i.e. trapped animals or caught fish); you’re likely to leave stuff behind such as blood, bones, inedible parts, etc. If you process your food near you’re going to attract wild animals. They’ll be sniffing around the camp and around you, which could be dangerous. The same survival tips apply to disposing of food remains.
29. Save Energy on Chopping Wood with a Swift Kick
Don’t bother using an ax. Just place the wood pieces diagonally between the ground and a tree. Give the pieces of wood a good kick (inspect the wood before doing this and assess the right balance between force and strength to avoid breaking an ankle/leg). The last thing you want to do is have a broken leg, so do be careful with how you proceed with this tip. Using other tools will only waste your time. You’ll be using these as firewood, so they don’t need to be perfect when chopped. Of course, this doesn’t apply to the wood materials to be made into shelters.
30. Sleep on Elevated Surfaces
Sleeping on the ground will cause you to lose body heat faster, making it more likely for you to get cold. Sleeping on a poncho or a really thin blanket isn’t going to help this either. The best way to do this is to stack up leaves or logs to make a padded bed. Alternatively, you can bring a hammock with you and just set it up when you sleep.
31. Organize Your Survival Pack Efficiently
When arranging the stuff in your rucksack, follow these principles:
• Heavier stuff should be on top and the lighter ones at the bottom. This will help maintain your balance.
• Make sure the backpack is positioned to be on your upper back always. This will allow you to walk freely without your rucksack getting in the way of your legs.
• Don’t forget to tighten those straps to prevent stuff from falling off. The wilderness can be full of snags, thanks to branches and bushes.
32. Minimize Clothing Layers
Campers often think that you have to bundle up all the time to protect yourself from the cold. But if you cover up too much even when you don’t need to, you’re likely to sweat inside, which minimizes insulation. As long as you’ve got your extremities (i.e. hands, feet, and head) covered, you can go about in cold environments as long as you’re moving. Reserve those extra layers for when you’re sleeping, because you’re not moving around at all.
33. Bring an Extra Pair of Socks
Aside from the fact that they can help keep you warm, socks are really good for a lot of things, such as filtering water and suspending small objects off branches. Wearing socks when you’re in the wilderness will also keep you from getting blisters, which is likely to happen when you’re walking around and exploring the wilderness all day. Plus, these are pieces of warm clothing that are very easy to dry out in case they get wet.
34. Treat those Blisters Fast
Blisters can be a literal pain, and they happen a lot when you’re out in the wilderness. If you have a blister, take a needle and a string and poke a hole between two opposite ends of the blister. This will drain the water out and allow the blister to heal faster. If you think you’re about to get a blister, use duct tape to cover the area. This will prevent the blister from forming in the first place because it minimizes friction.
35. Balance Food & Water
Too much of either one can be harmful, if not fatal to your body. If you’re dehydrated, do not eat anything until you’ve had water because the food will only absorb the remaining water in your body and cause you to be dehydrated even more. Drinking too much water can also mess up your metabolism and cause lots of complications long term. Always make sure you have enough of both food and water.
36. Learn S.O.S Signals
This signal is literally a lifesaver, so you need to know how to do it in both light and sound. The signal is represented by three dots followed by three dashes, followed by three more dots. In sound, this means having three quick taps followed by three slow taps, and then three more quick taps. The same can be applied to using light signals. Make sure you practice this before you go out there.
37. Know the Universal “Wave”
Stand up with your legs apart. Raise both your arms and wave them up and down. You’ll look like you’re doing jumping jacks, only without the jumps.
38. Set Up Camp in the Proper Location
The rule is to stay high and dry. Staying dry means you stay away from bodies of water, as convenient as it may seem. This is because water attracts both insects and animals; the presence of either near your camp could cause complications. The higher ground also means a better view of your surroundings while making it easy for rescuers to spot you. You can also work on picking a place that makes your camp easy to spot from the sky.
39. Use Fungus to Start a Fire
Coal fungus and horse hoof fungus have both very flammable properties. Break the fungus in half and you’ll reveal their flammable parts right in the core. They easily catch sparks. Most of these fungi are usually found in dead trees, which means you’ve got a good source of dry material there as well. What makes fungi particularly unique as tinder is that they smolder – all you have to do is to blow into the ember to make the fire grow. Because of this, they make portable firelighters as well.
40. Make a Torch Using a Branch & Tree Bark
Torches are pretty useful to wave at a rescue team from above. It’s also a good way to light your path during the night if your flashlights die on you. To make one, take a long branch and split the tip in half. Take some tree bark and insert them between the split branches. Ignite it and you’ve got yourself a torch. Birch trees are pretty ideal for this because of their flammable material.
Note: Make sure you invest in a handy flashlight to be safe.
41. Collect Rainwater from Plants
After a rainfall, you can bet that moss, leaves, and all sorts of plants around you are wet. Collecting bundles of them and wringing them over a container can net you as much as a liter of water. Make sure you check out the tall grass as well. This is good for collecting fresh water because rainwater is guaranteed to be clean. This is also one of the easiest ways to collect water without having to purify it. Alternatively, you can also rub your clothes against the grass and wring out the moisture that gets stuck to them.
42. Invest in Waterproof Gear
This means going for waterproof versions of equipment (i.e. watches and compasses) and getting equipment that will keep your other stuff protected from water. Always use containers that have waterproof seals and never mix anything damp with all your other dry stuff. This is especially important for food containers because moisture can only hasten spoilage. Water may be essential for hydration, but for everything else, staying as dry as possible is a must for survival.
43. Filter Water with a Sock & Charcoal
You never know what’s inside a stream or river. It has all sorts of stuff that you probably don’t want in your system. Grab a sock and fill them with charcoal. Follow it up with a layer of sand and then finally a layer of grass. The grass will catch the large particles in the water while the sand will filter out the fine granules. The charcoal will purify the water of any harmful chemicals.
44. Reflect Heat with a Natural Reflector
Even without aluminum foil or a space blanket, you can still conserve heat from a fire by creating a natural reflector. First, create four stakes that will serve as a rack next to the campfire. Stack green (as in fresh) stakes into the rack until they pile up into a small wall next to the campfire. This will reflect heat otherwise blown away by the wind, giving them all to you. This will work as long as you sit across the reflector.
45. Always Have Two Signal Mirrors
Relying on one signal mirror isn’t a good idea because the sun always travels south. This means that a single mirror will not allow you to catch the attention of rescuers flying from the north. The second signal mirror will be essential to reflect the light you get from the south to reflect it into the northern direction. Simply hold one of the mirrors facing south and another facing north, making sure that the light bounces off both.
46. Learn About the Medicinal Properties of Plants
Crab apples, for instance, have healing properties in their raw form. They possess astringents that can be rubbed across cuts and lacerations, causing the wounds to tighten and heal faster. Pine resin, on the other hand, are great antiseptic. They can be used topically on wounds or gargled to clean the mouth. They’re usually found in solidified form within the tree, but you have to melt them first before using. If found fresh and still gooey, you can apply the substance immediately.
47. Fight Intestinal Infections with Acorns
These, along with oak bark are rich in butyric acid that combats the effects of diarrhea, among other things. Additionally, you can make medicinal tea by brewing them in hot water. The tea alone will help you fight intestinal problems like dysentery and cholera. You can also use the tea to help treat mouth ulcers. This tip also applies to blackberry leaves. They have less butyric acid than acorns but they will help as well.
48. Fight Constipation with Rosehips & Dandelions
On the other hand, the fleshy part of rose hips can be used to treat constipation. The outer shell, on the other hand, provides lots of vitamin C. You can also make tea out of dandelions. The plant is edible as well.
49. Use Dock Leaves for an Instant Antihistamine
For those who get bitten by bugs, simply take the sap of these leaves and mix it with saliva. Apply the mixture to help relieve some of the discomforts while effectively preventing the bite or sting from getting worse.
50. Use Willow Bark as Natural Aspirins
Chewing on the middle barks of a willow tree is known to have helped with sudden headaches or colds. Don’t try this if you know yourself to be allergic to aspirin.
Remember, it’s always much better to know more than less of the best survival tips when you find yourself in the wilderness.
General Survival Tips:
- Always plan to memorize the map of the area. You should always aim to have a laminated or waterproof case of a map to ensure the security of the map. We highly recommend that you try to memorize major landmarks, rivers, roads, and other areas that stand out on the map.
- Redundancy in the wilderness is your friend: always have extra knives, compasses, water gathering tools, and fire-starting tools. Remember, surviving is all about making sure you have secured basic necessities to cook, stay warm, and self-defend.
- Fish tastes the best when it is smoked but when you boil it, it offers the most amount of nutrients. It saves the fat under and in the skin. If you smoke it, the excess fats evaporate.
- When you are getting really low on calories, never forget that insects are a source of protein. Look under logs, rocks, and near trees to source them.
- If you have the luxury, catch a small fish with a hook and string and use that fish to catch an even bigger fish.
- Did you know that animal organs like bladders and snake skins can be improvised to store water?
DISCLAIMER: The survival tips provided in this list do not guarantee survival. We are providing insights based on our own knowledge and experience. We simply share our personal ideas and opinions with our audience. Use the outlined advice at your own risk.