Enjoying the outdoors is something more and more of us want to do these days. Getting out into open spaces, breathing in that fresh air, finding that stunning view, and sharing it with someone that matters. Many of us can agree that those things are important, not to mention the great mental and physical benefits we get from those experiences as well. I think it’s fair to say that it helps us thrive, and encourages us to be and do better.
As beautiful and fun as all that can be, we must never take it for granted that stuff happens, sometimes by accident. Finding yourself out there in a tough situation, could end up putting you into a spot where your suddenly hiking for survival. Hiking in the wilderness doesn’t have to be something to be afraid of, as long as you have knowledge of what your in for and how to deal with any problem, after all knowledge is power.
In this article I am going to share with you some things that should make you more confident when venturing into the unknown frontier.
Topographical map basics
When it comes to maps, the most familiar to everyone are your typical road maps, the other that many people are unfamiliar with are topographical maps. While road maps most often are reference to man made structures, topographical’s give you the finer details of the terrain which includes bodies of water and the contours of the land.
To fully understand the use of such maps you must be familiar with the color codes of topographical maps, which are as follows:
- Black – refers to man made objects
- Brown – are contour lines
- Blue – indicates water
- Green – woods and vegetation
- Red – are boundary lines (such as between provinces, states, or countries)
- Purple – new changes on latest versions
Marsh areas may have both blue and green such as blue ares with green grass sprigs or vice versa. A combination of brown and blue may be used in and around a glacier where it advances or retreats. Areas shaded blue are for lakes and ponds. Brown will usually be used for dry areas, and speckled brown for sand.
Contour lines of topographical maps give you a view of how the land is formed with lines that show the elevation, steepness, and shape of the terrain. These series of lines are generally brown and give the elevation above sea level. The contour lines consist of three different types.
- Major contour lines: note elevation periodically along the line, and are bolder.
- Regular contour lines: help to identify shape of the land, are a light brown, indicate vertical elevations of ten feet, and help to break up space between major contour lines.
- Supplemental contour lines: are light brown dashed lines used in flatter areas where contour lines are farther apart.
The closer the lines are together the steeper the terrain. Tops of hills or mountains will have ovals or circles with the elevation inside it, and concentric rings surrounding it. These maps are set in a grid pattern that can be used to measure distance when calculating according to the scale, for example each grid square could indicate one square kilometer or more depending on the size of the map.
Carrying a compass whenever you venture into the wilderness is always a good idea. Especially when using a topographical map. Having a compass is necessary when using those maps to properly identify your exact position, and navigate the land especially if your not on a trail.
Getting lost on a hike
Losing your way while out on a hike is a fairly rare situation. Usually if you stay on the trail you started on all you have to do is follow it back to where you started. Although sometimes our ambitions can get the better of us, and if your not careful it isn’t hard to get into trouble. In the event that you become lost and have minimal gear and supplies lets discuss the most vital things you must know to survive.
First and foremost, the thing to remember when you find yourself lost in the woods is to be calm and collected, and assess you situation. When faced with being forced with spending one or more nights in the wilderness your top concerns are, fire, water, food, and especially shelter.
Your location and the environment are also critical to determining your situation. Are you in a valley, or on a mountain side, is it hot or cold, winter or summer, and is it or will it rain or snow? These are definitely thing to consider before you make some of your first decisions as to what to do first to protect yourself.
Avoiding hypothermia and having a supply of water are your first necessities when figuring out what to do first. Whether its hot or cold dehydration installs quickly so make sure you can properly hydrate yourself. Depending on your situation, along with fire shelter may be your next important task, especially if night fall is approaching or there is prolonged precipitation.
If your properly prepared food should be your least concern. When venturing in the wilderness you should be carrying a EDC (Every Day Carry) kit, and at least one MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) along with protein bars and/or trail mix, with a bottle of water. Your EDC kit should contain:
First aid kit Rain gear/thermal blanket Fire starter kit Whistle Compass Note pad and pen/pencil Paracord Flashlight Knife Mirror
Being sure to let your family and friends know what area you’ll be exploring will be vital to rescue being able to find you, so if you find yourself lost you must stop and stay in one place. It will do you no good if lost to keep moving, you will waste energy and put yourself in a position where it will be more difficult for search and rescue to find you.
Building a wilderness shelter
Finding yourself lost in the woods will force you to assess your situation. Shelter will always be one of your priorities, fortunately the wilderness can provide you with the resources you need to protect yourself from the elements. If you didn’t bring a tarp or tent with you finding loose vegetation like small logs, branches, cedar bows, ferns, moss, and rocks can all be used to construct adequate shelter.
Although finding a cave is rare, that would be the most ideal way to protect yourself from the elements. A good alternative would be building a lean-to against a large rock or along a cliff wall, under thick foliage trees such as cedars or spruce, or even among wind fallen trees. Lean-to structures are relatively simple to construct, however rope is an important component to have in order to secure the structure.
If you need to make rope, tying clumps of long grass together works, as well as strips of bark from some shrub type plants, such as vine maple. Your lean-to should be started with larger material first, like small logs and/or bigger branches, being sure they are fastened together well. The next two layers should be smaller foliage used to cover the spaces between the larger material, followed by moss and bark if possible. Piling rocks at the base of the structure will also help secure it.
Weather and communication
When heading out into nature be sure to share with others where you intend on being and when you expect to return, this will ensure that your rescuers have a better chance of finding you quickly.
Try not to just rely on how the weather looks out your window before you decide to head out. Not only should you check the forecast for the next several days, but knowing what the weather has been for a few days before you go is important as well.
Try to be prepared
Knowing how to navigate the wilderness, and having a few basic bush craft skill can make all the difference when faced with being stranded away from civilization. It would be a good idea to gather some knowledge on the topic if you hike, or like to spend time out in nature.
It can be a fun family and friends activity to go out and practice some of these skill when you have the chance. Hypothesizing different scenarios, and refining your survival skills will better prepare you for most any unforeseen circumstance out in the wilderness.
So put you best boots on and find your path.