It is absolutely imperative to be prepared for anything while backpacking through the wilderness; you never know what situation you might encounter. Your backpack is your lifeline, holding all the gear and supplies you need to survive away from society. However, space in your pack is limited.
Since it is impossible to pack enough gear to prepare for every possible disaster, smart backpackers equip themselves with survival skills instead. Skills don’t take up space or add weight, and they decrease your reliance on physical gear so you can survive longer with less. Having the right skills and a few basic tools, like an LED flashlight and a hunting knife, will increase your chances of survival.
Here’s a list of skills backpackers should acquire:
1. Start a fire without a match. If you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere, staying warm is your biggest concern. Hypothermia can kill you more quickly than dehydration or starvation. You might have brought waterproof matches, but what if you lose them or run out? Smart survivalists can start a fire with just a sporting knife and a few other materials. It takes practice, but it’s possible to start a fire using the primitive friction method; you could even do without the sporting knife. You should learn how to proficiently strike a spark various ways, including using the friction technique, before venturing out.
2. Purify water to drink. Hydration is your next priority. You can only carry so much drinking water, and water from lakes or streams could contain dangerous contaminants that need to be removed before it’s safe to drink. You could bring water purification tablets or another filtration method, but it’s also a good idea to learn how to manually strain, boil and distill water for drinking, in case your water runs out before help arrives.
3. Obtain sustenance. There are plenty of edible plants that will keep you alive, but there are poisonous plants as well. The trick is understanding what to look for and how to eat it. Learn how to identify local edible flora and dangerous plants to avoid. Your hunting knife will be a valuable tool to help you harvest and prepare these edibles.
4. Treat minor injuries. If you become injured, you need to know how to treat yourself. Heat stroke, blisters, sprained ankles, burns, punctures, snake bites and infections are just some of the common issues backpackers face. Learn how to treat these injuries even without the first aid supplies in your pack.
5. Signal for rescue. If you do end up injured or stranded, someone will eventually come looking for you. You need to be able to get their attention and communicate your position. An emergency whistle is a great tool; the sound carries farther than voice and takes less energy. You should also be able to send a visual signal with your LED flashlight. Teach yourself multiple ways to attract the attention of a search party, like how to emit a distress signal with an LED flashlight or how to build a signal fire.
You’ll be more confident and less likely to panic in an emergency if you practice these important skills before you end up in a dire situation.