10 Survival Tips for When You're Naked and Afraid
Last Updated: Apr 20, 2017
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Planning to take a relaxing boat ride soon? For the sake of safety, let's just say things go sideways and the engine stalls in the middle of a freak ocean storm. Would you be able to survive? While you may have the skills to draw an imaginary friend out of a volleyball, it turns out that there are actual necessary steps that must be followed in order to survive the wilderness.
Let's get started with the essentials. Mykel Hawke, a retired U.S. Army Special Forces captain and survivalist, author of “Hawke’s Special Forces Survival Handbook” shares tips from real-life combat and other dire situations which could save your life.
“The best answer is to make a mini survival and medical kit and carry them with you at all times and have a bigger pack in your vehicle and office,” says Hawke.
Just in case of emergency, read on for more life-saving tips.
BE READY TO PLAY DOCTOR
Let’s hope you won’t be dealing with any “127 Hours” situations, but severe bleeding can be a real problem when trudging around in the unknown. Arterial bleeding is the most severe, characterized by bright-red, pulsating blood flow.
Immediately apply direct pressure until the bleeding subsides, preferably with a cloth, but don’t waste time looking for one if it’s not immediately available. Follow with a pressure dressing. “Always carry a scarf or handkerchief as a great bandage…” advises Hawke.
Venous bleeding will be dark red, and treatment mimicking that of arterial bleeding is called for. Capillary bleeding, such as a small scrape, is minor. So slap a Band-Aid (or handkerchief) on it and stop your whining.
Related: Harvard Health Publications: Emergencies and First Aid - Direct Pressure to Stop Bleeding
DON'T SLACK ON YOUR HYGIENE
While looking dapper will be at the bottom of the list, basic hygiene prevents infection and illness, according to the USAF Survival Training 64-4 Manual. If water is limited, strip down and take a literal “air bath,” which will prevent bacterial growth. Use ashes, sand or clay as soap if water is abundant.
Prevent dental problems by chewing on twigs, using the frayed ends to brush away grime. And don’t take care of business just anywhere — dig a “cathole” which is better for fast decomposition, the environment and hiding any “smelly surprises”.
Related: Section Hiker: How to Dig A Cathole
Without water you’ll die. (Shocking!) But in some situations water doesn’t come easy. Seawater will only make matters worse, ultimately leading to your demise.
Preventing water loss is vital, so protect yourself from the sun (you can work on your tan some other time). Dip cloths or a shirt in some water and drape them over you for cooling. When water is lacking on land, collect morning dew on plastic material, then transfer it to a container. If you don’t have a container, Hawke notes that a Ziploc bag can serve as a canteen. It is also possible to desalinate seawater.
In the desert, cacti can be hydration sources. Also, try to keep your mouth shut in dry environments to prevent rapid dehydration.
Related: USGS: Saline water: Desalination
YOUR HOME AWAY FROM HOME
A lean-to is a simple, easy-to-build shelter that’s been used since ancient times. It’s not the Hilton, but it provides wind protection and fire reflection.
Made from sticks, leaves, vines or bark, materials for this effective structure are often plentiful. Location is vital, so stay away from brittle trees, questionable foliage and trenches. No time to build a shelter? “Always have a spare coat, but a trash bag makes a great poncho,” adds Hawke.
Related: Field & Stream: Seven Primitive Survival Shelters That Could Save Your Life
DON'T BE A PICKY EATER
Your search for food should begin immediately. Strength and energy will fade fast without it, making your fight for survival grim.
The U.S. Army Survival 21-76 Field Manual suggests a steady diet of locust, ants, termites and grasshoppers when food is scarce. Grasshoppers should be cooked, and be sure to remove their barbed legs that could get lodged in your throat. (Broccoli doesn’t sound so bad anymore, does it, kids?)
Cooked snake can be a delicacy, but only indulge if you had to kill one anyway. But be careful: Snakes can still release venom when dead. Consult CDC’s list of venomous snakes so you know what is safe.
Hawke also points out that only 10 percent of plants are safe for human consumption. So be sure you know your plants before fixing up a salad.
Related: Survival Life: "Need to Know" Rules When Picking Edible & Medicinal Plants
KNOW WHEN TO GET MOVING
Pros need to outweigh cons. Is there a water source? Can you find food? Is the area ideal for signaling help? If these elements are lacking, determine if you can safely move to another spot. That said, the USAF Manual notes that it’s usually better to stay put.
Related: Wonder How to Survival Training: Eat & extract water from a cactus
GET YOUR SLEEP
Most people can go five days without adequate sleep before damage sets in, according to the USAF Manual. Sleep whenever possible, taking catnaps here and there. Sleep deprivation stunts healing and clouds judgment.
Related: Prepping to Survive: Eating a Snake
DON'T BE AFRAID TO CUDDLE
Ideal body temperature is 98.6 degrees. Twenty degrees below or six to eight degrees above can be fatal. If it takes spooning with a buddy to survive a night in a frozen tundra because you took a wrong turn at that last glacier, we won’t judge you.
Also, don’t eat snow for hydration! It will quickly bring body temperature down, so heat it over a roaring fire first.
Related: CDC: Types of Venomous Snakes
SPARK A FIRE
Don’t listen to Frankenstein’s monster: Fire is amazing, and it could determine how comfortable your stay at the Le Castaway Inn is. Starting a fire enables you to stay warm, cook, dry clothing, fend off wildlife, purify water and signal for help.
“Carry a tiny Bic lighter always, but hand gel is a great fire starter,” says Hawke. It may not seem like rocket science, but it takes serious skills to start a fire. Without matches or a lighter, a Native American fire bow can be made from a variety of sticks.
Related: Alderleaf Wilderness College: Making Fire with a Bow and Drill
If you start hearing strange voices, noises or even banjo music, it is vital to control your emotions. The USAF Survival Manual stresses, “A survivor’s psychological state greatly influences their ability to successfully return from a survival situation.”
Optimism, stability, determination and even humor are some of the most important survival tools you have.
Related: Mykel Hawke: Books
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