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Gone Missing?| How to Survive All Alone In The Wilderness

Updated on February 12, 2016

Staying Alive!

You come home from work, turn on the television and quickly get bored. You realize that it’s too nice of a day to be indoors. You think perhaps it would be a good day to go for a canyon drive. You grab two granola bars, a water bottle and leave for your evening trip. Sounds like a relaxing evening right? Sure, if everything goes perfectly, but if it doesn't?

Last minute wilderness planning is more dangerous than we think. If we are not adequately prepared for the "What if’s": "What if I get lost", "What if my car breaks down", etc?". We could find ourselves in an emergency situation fairly quick. Here are 7 tips to stay alive.

1. Stay Put

Did you get separated from a group? Does anyone know that you are missing? Stay put! When you don’t have a sense of direction, stay where you are, especially when you are lacking food or are injured. Not only is this where your group is most likely to be searching for you, you will also be able to conserve your energy.

2. Self Confidence

The will to survive is the key to survive! Most of us are not survival experts but that doesn’t mean we can’t survive like them. We all have the fight in us and the will to live so put aside fear, panic and use the resources around you to survive. Focus just on survival, use all the techniques you have learned in your life from family, campouts to childhood concepts like burning bugs with a magnifier. Put what ever skills you have acquired to work! The more knowledge of survival techniques we practice and understand now, the less fear and panic we will have when lost.

3. Shelter

Hypothermia is the #1 outdoor killer. Make building a shelter your top priority! In extreme conditions humans can only live for 3 hours without shelter. Get a shelter built as soon as you become lost. Conserve your energy to build and don't wonder around. Plan on there being a high chance you’ll be spending the night. This will help you stay calm as time passes.

4. Signal Fire

Don’t expect that you can be easily seen or found. Thick brush and tall trees are overwhelming for those searching to find you, especially when the landscape looks the same. You can raise your chances of being found significantly by finding an open area (or closed depending on conditions) and making 3 signal fires in a straight line. Unfortunately, the problem with only making 1 fire (no matter how big it is) is that it won’t seem usual and can easily be confused with an overly excited camper enjoying a night out.

Remember that you are looking to make the darkest smoke you can. Green shrubbery or leaves make a nice gray smoke. Your fires should be set up to visually scream “EMERGENCY”. Once you get your fire started (3 Creative Ways To Start A Fire) keep them going! It’s a lot of work but it’s one of your best chances to be found alive.

If you are having a difficult time maintaining all 3 fires and only seem to keep 1 or 2 going, another option is to start building a large X with what ever you can find. This letter is an emergency signal for HELP! You want this X to be close to your fire(s) as possible and It's best if you make this X in a open area.

5. Improvise

Now that you have built your shelter and have a strong signal fire, you can now focus on making a plan. Mentally list everything that you have on you. What is in your pockets? Do you have anything that shines and can reflect or catch someone's attention? How about some string or a sharp key to cut with? Improve your situation as much as you can, stay in control, improvise and use what ever is around you.

Improvising includes eating insects and other usual foods. Check under rocks or wood stubs for grub. You don’t want hunger and fatigue to ruin your efficiency. Sharpen the end of a stick on a rock to spear prey or for protection. Try the ideas that come to mind (Being mindful of energy consumption) and this will help make you, not Mother Nature, get control and heighten your morale.

If you happen to have food on you when you got lost, do not eat any of it on the first day. Ration out the food, eat the food in small amounts at a time and chew it slowly. Find edible plants to supplement your body in between your food rationing.

6. Find Water

Humans have been able to live for 3 weeks without food, but only 3 days without water. The most obvious sources are streams, rivers and lakes. If you have the means you will want to purify your water.

Another option is to get your water from the soil. In a muddy area dig a hole one to two feet in the ground. You should be able to find water there.

If it rains, use any source of containers, clothes, leaves, etc to catch as much water as you can. The human body needs 2 quarts of water daily to maintain good health.

Is there snow or ice in higher areas? If you have the health, it will be worth to hike to those locations to retrieve snow. Bring it back, melt it, purify with heat if possible and you will buy yourself some time.

Heavy dew in the morning can be a great source of water, but you'll want to capture it before the sun comes out. Take your shirt or any source of fabric and run it along high grass, leaves, and any area that dew forms. It is possible you can obtain quite a bit of water depending on your location.

7. Stay Positive

Use your imagination to dream about what you are going to eat after you “get out alive”. This will lift your spirit and leave out room for fear to take over. If you can control your thoughts to be positive, your actions will follow the same route and success in surviving will be more likely. Allowing fear to take over will lead to panic. Panic will lead to hopelessness, hopelessness will lead to no action and no action equals death. Remember, your goal is to survive!

Following these tips can make a difference between dying or coming out alive. If there would only be ONE thing to take away from this article that would be this:

Before even leaving the house, you NEED to tell someone where you are going! It doesn’t matter if you plan to be gone only 5 minutes. If no one is there to tell, write down your plans on a note. Write down where you are going and when you plan to be back and stick your note somewhere noticeable.

You will thank yourself for this when you find yourself lost and all alone!

Kenny Crandell - President of


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