If you were to ask some tech-addicted college student what they would absolutely need to survive in the woods for a week, the list would include a cellphone, WiFi-booster, Xbox, and a gadget to make lattes. Of course, unprepared humans growing up in the technology age probably wouldn’t notice they were alone in the woods anyway. That’s because their eyes never leave an electronic device’s screen.
But humans have been making a go of it off the grid for roughly 200,000 years. When you get right down to it, you need only four things to survive in the woods — water, food, shelter, and warmth. An experienced survivalist or determined human can sustain themselves indefinitely. But for now, let’s start with how to get these necessities for one week.
What You Need to Know About Water
The average human can go without water for approximately three days. Age, health, height, weight, and physical engagement can increase or lower the need for hydration. If you are out in the wilderness without water, securing H2O should be your top priority. These are ways to replenish your fluids in the wild.
- Find Body of Water: Consider getting to high ground and looking out over the trees. Look for wide gaps in the greenery. These could be bodies of water cutting through the wilderness. Keep in mind, wildlife also need water.
- Check for Fowl: When ducks, geese, and other waterfowl fly over, watch where they are headed. They are likely traveling to water.
- Eat Fruits: Berries, apples, pears, and other types of fruits generally enjoy a high water content. If you cannot find a lake, river or stream, gathering these foods can help buoy your hydration.
- Collect Rainwater: Create a funnel from a water-resistant material such as canvas or tree bark to collect water. Another method is to collect dew from leaves in the morning.
With a reasonable way to collect water in place, the next absolute necessity is finding food.
How to Feed Yourself for a Week in the Woods
Out in the woods, credit cards are of no use, and there are no drive-thru windows. You will need to rely on your self-preservation skills and do what is necessary to eat. The good news is that there is plenty of nutrition available if you know how to get it.
- Fish and Water Creatures: If you manage to find a lake, river or stream, fish can be secured by sharpening one end of a stick and skewering them. Remember that refraction makes things under the water appear to be in a different location. Beyond fish, dig around for crayfish, shellfish and other sources of protein.
- Plants and Nuts: Pine nuts and acorns are tried-and-true sources of nutrition, among others. Plants can be a tad more difficult to the untrained eye. But if it smells like onion, eat it. Other easily identifiable resources include cattails, chicory, clovers, and dandelions.
- Birds and Animals: A sharp stick and some hunting skills can have you eating well for a week. Without experience, aim for small game such as squirrels, birds, turtles, and prevalent game.
At this point, you have food and water, and your biological necessities are stable to make it through the week. It’s time to take the next two steps.
Why Fire is So Good for Survival
More than a few outdoors survivalists rank fire above shelter in a pinch. Unless you are confronted by severe weather, fire delivers needed warmth when temperature drop at night. It also provides a way to cook food and, lastly, fire and smoke are natural deterrents to mosquitoes and biting flies. That being said, starting a fire requires some patience and technique if you don’t have matches or a lighter.
- Tinder: Prepare a full handful of dry tinder comprised of dead grass, fallen leaves, and bark.
- Fire Board: Find a relatively flat piece of hardwood such as oak. Make a notch in the center and place your tinder around it.
- Spin: Take a dry stick, preferably a hardwood, and start spinning it down into the notch to create friction and generate heat. Keep the tinder close and continue until it sparks up.
- Transfer: Move the smoldering tinder gently into a waiting fire pit and blow on it gently.
Fire can cure a lot of problems in the wild. It also makes everyday people feel safer and secure at night.
Don’t Spend Energy on a Makeshift Shelter
It may seem counterintuitive, but the effort required to create a one-week shelter is not necessarily an effective use of your time or energy. It may be better to look for large rock formations and locate a sturdy, overhang to get cozy. This type of natural shelter protects your backside and helps reflect your fire’s warmth.
It’s also advisable to steer clear of caves. The woods are not populated only with humans. The last thing you need is a bear, large predator or a skunk wandering in at night. Just be sure the rock mass is stable and safe from falling debris. See you in one week.