Camping can be a fun and memorable way to spend time with friends or family. Unfortunately, certain circumstances can make one’s camping memories less than enjoyable. Illness, injuries, or getting lost while enjoying a hike, are just a few of the things that can ruin an otherwise enjoyable trip into nature; for this reason, anyone who enjoys camping and other related outdoor activities should be prepared for emergency situations. Understanding what can happen and what to do can make all the difference when it comes to survival.

Surviving in Cold Weather

While camping during the winter months, people must take extra precautions to ensure their safety. Cold weather conditions, wind, rain, and snow can create a dangerous environment for campers. Before going camping, people should pay attention to weather reports and any weather warnings. If a storm of any sort is expected, the trip should be postponed until it has passed. Because weather reports are not always accurate, people must be prepared for the possibility of extreme weather. The first step is to dress appropriately for the area’s weather by wearing loose, warm layers. Loose layers provide insulation and can be adjusted to prevent overheating and sweating. It is also important to wear some form of hat or other head covering to help retain heat. Clothing should be kept dry at all times, even from sweat. Rain or snow gear should also be taken, depending on where one is camping. When setting up camp, people will want to avoid the bottom of valleys and low meadows as colder air often settles in these areas. When setting up one’s tent, the location should be in a location that provides protection from winds. However, the tent should not be placed beneath branches if there is heavy snow.

Surviving in Warm Weather

As with cold weather, campers must be cautious of warm or hot weather conditions. Clothing should be loose and comfortable and a hat should be worn to keep the sun off of the face and neck. Sunscreen can help prevent injury from the excessive sun rays, while insect sprays can prevent bites from mosquitoes and other bugs. During the hottest parts of the day avoid hiking or doing any type of strenuous activity. Instead seek out shelter from the sun to help reduce the risk of heat stroke. Drinking plenty of water will also help reduce the likelihood of dehydration. If hiking in the heat, take small sips of water frequently. It is important that campers are aware of the signs of heat exhaustion and that they heed them if they should arise. A person suffering from heat exhaustion may experience headaches, dizziness, and/or vomiting. If this happens, the individual must lie down in a shaded area with his or her feet elevated. While it is important that he or she be given water, it should only be cool and not cold.

How to Find Water and Food

The ability to find food and water is an important skill for campers and hikers. When it comes to food, people must be able to recognize what is edible and non-poisonous. They can do this by carrying a reference book for a quick look-up of plants and their berries. In certain situations where a person has gone a long time without food, he or she may need to consume small animals. These can be caught using pit traps covered with sticks and other debris. Insects such as grasshoppers may also be caught and eaten in an emergency. Campers in need of water should use caution as not all water is safe for consumption. Typically, running water is safe for drinking; however, stagnant water should be boiled prior to drinking. People should also avoid snow as a source of water unless it has been melted first.

How to Start a Fire

To effectively build a camp, people will need to gather three types of wood: tinder in the form of twigs, small branches, and moss; bark and medium size branches; and large size branches. The wood must be arranged in a way that allows oxygen to feed the flames. A popular long-lasting method is to place a pile of tinder in the center of a fire ring and surround it with kindling, or medium size branches, at right angles. Kindling should then be placed at the top of the pile. This method is called the “Log Cabin” method. If available, use a lighter or matches to ignite the tinder. Flint and steel may also be used to create fire by rubbing the steel against the flint to create sparks. On sunny days, a magnifying glass or glasses may also be used to spark a fire on dry materials.

Making/Finding Shelter

When camping shelter is typically in the form of one’s tent; however, in the event of an emergency, a person may need to improvise and build his or her shelter from scratch. People who are lost and in need of a shelter must select a suitable location in an area that will not collect water in the event of heavy rain. It should also be set away from rivers or creeks that may rise at night. Once a location has been set, collect and build the shelter using strong, sturdy branches, twigs, and brush. If the ground is wet, first build a platform or foundation for the shelter. Extending the branches of the shelter’s roof can also be used to protect the occupants from rain and/or falling snow. To protect against strong winds, build it so that the entrance faces in the opposite direction of the wind. When looking for shelter, people should look for areas such as caves that are clean, dry and do not carry signs of wildlife inhabitants.

How to Find Help and Rescue

Other than staying safe and injury-free, the most important thing for a camper who has become lost is finding help and being rescued. For that reason, it is important to assist rescue efforts by being as helpful as possible. One can do this with items that they have on hand. For example, if a person is a carrying a mirror or some shiny object, he or she can use it along with the sun as a way to signal rescuers. Spare clothing or blankets or any bright object can be laid out in open spaces or even on trees to catch the attention of search planes. When using items, people should be careful not to use all of their extra clothing, which may be needed for warmth later. Care must also be taken when climbing on trees to place items high enough for airplanes. Smoke during the day and fire at night are also useful in attracting help from rescuers. When building fires, build them in areas that are away from trees and other forms of vegetation to prevent the fire from spreading. They should also be built high enough for the best chance of being seen. Smoke will be most visible on days that are clear. While camping, people should carry whistles on their person to make it easier to be found by fellow campers and in the event that they are lost.

Survival Tips

  • Before leaving on a camping trip, friends and/or family should be told where the trip is taking place and when the individual is returning home.
  • Call the ranger station or park office to file a trip plan.
  • Keep a portable first-aid kit on hand.
  • Remain as calm as possible if lost. Panicking can cause injuries or make unwise decisions.
  • Once a person realizes that he or she is lost it is important to stay in one location.