Surviving Until Found
So, you make the best choice and decide to wait to be found. Now, you need to take steps to ensure rescuers find a live person and not a body. There are a handful of problems that tend to be the most common threats to your chances for survival. Be aware of these and be ready to combat them:
Loneliness – If you begin to feel lonely and bored, it means you are not taking your situation seriously enough. When lost, the only resource you have is yourself. Either you are not really convinced that you may die or you’ve given up – either way, this is a common threat to lost hikers. To combat this, make a list of useful tasks that need to be done and stay busy doing them. Things like collecting water, firewood, bedding, and insulation materials, or setting up signals. There should always be something else to be done. Even sleeping is a survival task that rests your body and conserves energy.
Fear – There have been plenty of scary movies made about bears, wolves, cougars, and other nasty wild animals. When you’re alone with just your pocketknife for protection, fear about what might be out there can build up. Also, being afraid that no one will find you, or that you’ll get hurt, or that it will snow tomorrow can all work against you. Everyone will experience some fear when lost, but turning that fear to a motivating driver is your goal. Being afraid of the cold night ahead, you quickly build a small shelter, make a fire and gather plenty of wood for the night. Being afraid a plane might not see you, you lay out some bright cloth and have leaves and green boughs ready to throw on the fire. Or, you curl up in a ball and wait for a miracle. Fear can motivate or paralyze – you need to control it or it will control you.
Thirst – you can last 3 minutes without air, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. Don’t worry about collecting berries or eating pine nuts. Dehydration is the most common physical ailment of lost hikers. Find a water source, filter or treat the water, and keep your body hydrated. Even if you can not treat or filter the water, it is better to be sick a week from now rather than dead 3 days from now.
Exhaustion – Whenever you feel tired, you should try to sleep. Catnaps all day long may be what you need, especially if you were too cold or scared to sleep at night. When you are tired, you can not complete your tasks effectively and you are more apt to become injured. Get as much rest as your body seems to need. By making a somewhat comfortable and warm sleeping area and shelter, you are more likely to sleep better and this will help you ward off the other threats.
Hot/Cold – Unless the temperature where you are lost is right around 90 degrees, your body will either be fighting to stay warm or to cool off. Not being prepared to combat the weather will be disastrous. Hypothermia and heat illness are two very common problems effecting found survivors, and both can be prevented with preparation and sense. Staying dry and warm are two of the most important tasks you have when lost. When you are wet, your body gets colder much faster and you can die from hypothermia when its 60 degrees. Preventing unnecessary sweating is a good goal to help keep you dry. When clothes do get wet, do whatever you can to dry them out as soon as possible. Using the sun or your survival fire are good options.
Injury – Of course a broken leg is going to really reduce your ability to get anything done. But, even small cuts and scrapes and burns can become serious in the dirty outdoors. Its important that you clean and treat any wound you might get immediately to help prevent infection. A burn or cut on your hand can make gathering wood or filtering water more difficult. Every small thing makes survival a bit harder and you don’t need the extra challenge.
Hunger – anyone lost for more than a day when they were just going on a day hike will probably experience hunger. Every day that you don’t eat is another day you are consuming your body’s stores and becoming weaker. Fortunately, you can go many days without food, but every day will see you weaker. It’s important to complete all the survival tasks you can early on so you aren’t required to do them as you weaken. It’s also important to understand what edible plants are available to you.