To be prepared for disaster:

  • have a survival kit
  • know survival skills
  • understand the basic concepts of survival
  • tell someone where to be and when to expect you back whenever you plan travel
Basic Concepts

  • Attend to any immediate needs like first aid emergencies first. Then worry about signaling, fire, etc...
  • In extreme weather, making or finding shelter is your first priority.
  • Don't ration water. It is hard to tell if you are dehydrated or not.
  • Signal as many ways as you can. Make it easy for search and rescue people to find you.
  • Carry a Survival Kit
  • Gathering food is your LAST priority.
  • Unless you are sure that no one is looking for you, if you are lost, stay put.
  • Signal, Signal, Signal!
Survival kit

Be sure that you know how to use everything that is in your survival kit.

Many pre-made survival kits that you can buy in a store are almost useless, so make sure that you have the right things in your survival kit.

Your survival kit should be appropriate for the type of environment that you will be traveling in. If you are planning to go camping in the desert you should have plenty of water in your survival kit as well as a shelter that can protect you from extreme heat and cold.

Any survival kit should have:

  • A firestarter: Something to light fires with, a butane lighter can be used thousands of times if you conserve your fuel, so it is probably the best firestarter.
  • An Instant Body Shelter: Something that you can use to protect yourself from bad weather with little setup time. A tarp, sleeping bag, tube tent, and trash bags are all good instant body shelters. An instant body shelter should be usable to provide shelter from heat, cold, wind, and rain.
  • First Aid Kit: Any good first aid kit should have materials to handle serious bleeding, minor cuts, splinters, bug bites, and broken bones. More important than having a first aid kit is knowing good first aid skills. Learn how to deal with as many first aid emergencies as you can.
  • Signaling Devices: Things to attract attention to yourself, like flares, a whistle, a strobe light, dye markers, a signal mirror, rescue flags, and smoke signals.
  • A metal water container. Something that water can be stored and boiled in.
A Survival kit should also have
  • An extra supply of any special things that you need, like medication or glasses.
  • Some kind of water container
  • Some money: If you manage to find your way out of the woods, money for a phone call or a drink could be very useful.
  • A water purifier: to make water safe to drink.
  • A knife: to prepare meals, or help build a shelter or a fire
  • A flashlight: to prevent getting lost or injured by walking into something at night, and for SIGNALING.
  • Sunblock
  • A hammock - to stay off of the ground in hot weather or where the ground is wet
  • A waterproof container - to protect the survival materials and hold water
  • Rope and tent stakes: to help build a shelter
  • Bug repellent - to help keep bugs away
  • A strobe light - an extremely effective way to let search and rescue people know where you are
  • A mobile phone - if you have one of these you will be in a lot less trouble, if youre in a covered area. Even if you do manage to get help you may need to wait for a long time before they arrive.
  • A map and compass: If you know how to use this there is a very good chance that you will not get lost in the first place.
  • Extra clothing: This is especially important in cold weather or if you get wet.
Some things to know about keeping warm.
  • By wearing the proper clothing, using fires correctly, building a good shelter, or improvising clothing and instant body shelters you can stay warm.
  • Any clothing and shelters that you have should be designed to keep your body heat in.
  • Cold weather clothing should be: in layers that cover the whole body, especially the head, let moisture from sweat out, tight, and made of a material like wool that is good at holding in heat.
  • Cold weather shelters should keep out wind, rain, hail, and snow, and be strong enough to support the weight of rain or snow. Insulate yourself from the ground or build a shelter off the ground, if the air is cold, the ground is colder. To keep your body heat in, make your shelter very small, and make sure that the entrance is small and can be covered up easily. Don't make your shelter air tight though.
  • If you are cold, and have no extra clothing, you can keep yourself warm by using paper, trash bags, or other materials that you find, as improvised clothing. Place papers or cloth from towels under your normal clothing to keep your body heat in. In an emergency, if you do not know what to do, make a really good guess about what will help you stay alive and feel free to experiment, just don't do anything stupid.
To keep cool
  • Wear clothing that is loose. Loose clothing lets your body heat out a lot faster than tight clothing. It should be light colored and made of a material like cotton that lets your body heat out and keeps your sweat in. The main job of hot weather clothing is to keep the sun off of your body . So you need to wear clothing that covers your whole body. Khaki pants , aloose long sleeve shirt, and a hat would be a good idea.
  • Also, to stay cool, build a shelter at least 18 inches above or below ground, because if the air is hot, the ground will be hotter. In hot weather do not lie down directly on the ground. You will overheat. Find a shady spot, or make one, and either build something so that you can lie down on above the ground, or dig a hole.
To protect yourself from animals and bugs
  • Wear clothing that covers your whole body so that it will be harder for insects to bite you. If you do not have enough clothing, wrap something around yourself like paper or large leaves to keep the insects from biting.
  • To avoid attracting dangerous animals make sure that you are clean and do not smell like food before you sleep. Also, keep any food or things that smell like food at least 200 feet away from the area where you are sleeping.
To signal for help

Signaling is attracting attention to yourself and sending the message that you need help. It is one of the most important things that you can do in order to be rescued. It works best if people are looking for you, so always tell someone where you are going, or leave a note when you travel.

To signal for help:
  • Make a large smoky fire during the day by putting lots of green plants onto a large campfire.
  • Make three fires in a triangular pattern at night, they should be about thirty feet apart.
  • Shine a flashlight or signal mirror at the horizon, airplanes, boats, or anywhere that there may be people.
  • Blow a whistle three times, or make noises in groups of three.
  • Put large, bright colored objects, like clothing or sleeping bags, tarps, or tents out in a clearing.
  • Make an international ground to air symbol with whatever is lying around.
To get water
  • Put a plastic bag over a plant and seal it tight, wait for about a day to collect water given off by the plant.
  • Wipe dew off of plants and other smooth surfaces in the morning. This is how pilot Scott O'Grady got water.
  • Take water from a fast moving part of a stream or river, then purify it.
  • Catch rain in a plastic bag or tarp
  • Dig a hole in wet ground somewhere that you think it is wet below the suface
To purify water
  • Boil it for 10 minutes plus 1 minute for every thousand feet of elevation over 5000 feet above sea level
  • Add five drops of iodine to a quart of water
  • Build a solar still
  • Use a backpacker's filter
  • Use iodine tablets according to their directions
A positive mental attitude

A positive mental attitude is the ability to force yourself to do the things that you need to do to survive. If you have one you will not panic. You will be able to resist fear, sickness, loneliness, hunger, and pain so that you can do what you must to stay alive. To develop a positive mental attitude, practice forcing yourself to do things in your do not feel well or are scared, thirsty, hungry or tired, at times when you are not in danger.

When you first realize that you are lost or in danger


Stop - Sit down and relax

Think - About what you need to do to survive

Observe - What you have to work with

Plan - What the best things are that you can do to solve your problems. Figure out what order you will do things in. Be sure that you do not overcomplicate things, if you are separated from your group for just a few minutes, just relax, stay put, and blow a whistle.

After several days of waiting to be rescued you may decide that no one is looking for you, in this case you must attempt to find your own way to safety. If you told someone where you were going then people are probably looking for you, and you should stay put.

It is a very serious decision to abandon your position and try to find your own way to safety sometimes it is your only way to survive. Other times it just makes things much worse since when you are moving it will be harder for search and rescue teams to find you, and when you are traveling you may get hurt.


Hunting is not always a good idea. Often people who go hunting come back empty handed or burn more calories hunting than they gain by eating the food that they caught. Fishing is a much better option, because it doesn't require much energy. If you hunt, sit in one good place and let the animals come to you. Keep in mind that you can go as long as four weeks without eating food as long as you are resting, keeping warm, and have a decent supply of water. Never eat food unless you have plenty of water to drink.

Eating wild plants can also be a bad idea since many plants are poisonous. If you want to eat wild plants, take a class to learn which wild plants are safe to eat. If you plan to be in a remote area for an extended period of time, it may be worthwhile to learn at least a few of the more common edible plants that are available year round.


Fire is an extremely useful tool for survival. Fires provide heat, light, are a morale booster, can be used to cook and heat water, dry out wet clothing, and can be used as a signaling device. Any time that you build a fire you should have more than enough wood to get through at least one night. Do not burn all of your wood at once. To improve the heating efficiency of your fire build up a wall of wood or rocks on one side of the fire to reflect more heat towards yourself. Be sure to ration your fire starters. If you can keep your fire going all day then you do not need to waste matches or lighter fluid to re light it.

To start a fire

Read Starting a fire with flint and steel

Strike the edge of a hard rock like quartz, fools gold, or agate with another hard rock or a piece of metal. This will make sparks, which must hit a spark catcher in order to start a fire. A spark catcher is something that will light on fire when a spark hits it. Flammable liquids, grass roots, alcohol pads, and fuzz from clothing are all good spark catchers. Using flint and steel usually requires a lot of practice and trial and error before it will work.

Focus the light of the sun on some tinder with a magnifying glass, when the tinder starts to glow, blow on it until it lights a fire.

Touch the ends of several batteries to some 0000 steel wool, and then blow on it until it glows. When it does, put some tinder on top.

Use the sparks from an empty cigarette lighter to start a fire.

There are many other ways to light a fire without matches, but these are the most common and easiest to do.

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