The Core Four - Location

Recognize the importance of your location to improve your chances of survival and rescue. You will usually have two options: to stay or go. Your preferred option should be to remain where you are and use anything at your disposal to mark your location to help rescuers find you. If you can’t stay where you are (perhaps due to imminent danger), you may have to move to another location that provides either a better chance of survival or rescue or both. Select a location aid that offers you the best chance of attracting attention.

Understanding your environment 

Before you head off into the wilderness, it is important to fully prepare for the environment. Research how the native inhabitants dress, work, and eat. Knowing how they have adapted to their way of life will help you understand the environment and allow you to select the best gear and equipment, adopt the best techniques, and learn the correct skills. This is crucial, given that most survival situations arise due to a sequence of events that could have been easily avoided.  

Surviving in temperate areas 

Most temperate environments have a mild climate and good natural resources, making them favorable places for long-term survival. The abundance of rain means that rivers and lakes are common, and swampy wetlands form in areas with poor drainage. Potentially the greatest threat is hypothermia, especially in winter and at night. 

Before you go: 

Climate and terrain can vary widely, so prepare for a range of eventualities: 

  • Weather can change quickly.
  • Carry an AM/FM radio to listen to local weather reports. 
  • Plan a realistic route. Be ready to reassess your route during the trip. 
  • Take clothing for all possible conditions. 
  • Carry a survival can, knife, emergency equipment, cell phone, and first-aid kit, and learn how to use them. 
  • Carry adequate water, and the equipment to purify more if needed. 
  • Carry some form of basic shelter, even if only going out for the day. 
  • Take a map and compass 

Surviving in the rainforest 

While natural resources are abundant here, heat, humidity, animals, and voracious vegetal growth can make it uncomfortable. Mosquitoes can cause more fatalities than any other creature. The identification of edible plants is crucial to avoid poisonous species. The greatest danger is getting lost since dense undergrowth makes navigation difficult. 

Before you go: 

Rainforests contain everything you need for survival, but remember the following when venturing out: 

  • Most animals in the jungle want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them making noise will scare most away. 
  • Boil or treat all water. 
  • High humidity encourages infections, so keep yourself covered, and wash whenever possible. 
  • Always build shelters and sleep off the ground. 
  • Dry tinder is hard to find, so if you find any, keep it dry. 
  • Rivers in the jungle usually run downhill to civilization, and eventually to the coast. 

Surviving in the cold 

In cold environments natural resources may be scarce, so your survival is likely to depend on your equipment and supplies. Shelters can be dug from the snow, but fire essentials are limited in polar and tundra areas. The greatest dangers are hypothermia and in northern areas polar bears. Survival is more feasible in the taiga, where wood, freshwater, and edible flora and fauna are available 

Before you go: 

The main threats in cold environments are hypothermia and exposure, so ensure you are fully prepared: 

  • Dress in loose-fitting layers of clothing, avoid overheating and make sure that your clothing stays dry and clean. 
  • If your hands are cold, warming them with your breath will make them wet; instead, tuck them under your armpits. 
  • Get off the ground, snow, or ice. Sit on your pack or make a sleeping platform using boughs to avoid losing body heat. 
  • Regularly check your extremities (face, toes, hands, and ears) for frostnip, the first stage of frostbite. 
  • Wind-chill is dangerous, so take shelter from the wind at every chance, particularly if you are in a survival situation. 
  • Ensure your shelter is ventilated keep vent holes clear and check them, especially during heavy snowfalls. 
  • If a fire is your primary means of warmth, triple the amount of firewood you think you need you will need enough to last the night.  

Surviving in the desert 

Hostile temperatures and few natural resources limit the chances of survival in the desert. Water and shelter are scarce, so the greatest dangers are dehydration and heat exhaustion, although African savanna areas may be home to dangerous mammals. Desert areas are home to a range of venomous snakes. 

Before you go: 

Survival in the extreme conditions of the desert is impossible without full preparation. Consider the following:

  • Always notify someone of your plans before entering a desert area. 
  • Carry extra water, and carry equipment to maximize your chances of procuring more. 
  • If your vehicle breaks down, leave it only if staying is no longer safe or feasible. 

Surviving in the mountains 

The prospects for survival are good at lower elevations, where trees, rivers, and edible plants and animals are likely to be present. At higher elevations, there are fewer resources, and the risk of avalanches and crevasses, and cold-related injuries pose the greatest threat. 

Before you go: 

High altitude and lower oxygen levels place higher-than-normal demands on your body and equipment. 

  • Respect nature and err on the side of caution. Rescue is unlikely to be quick or easy on a mountain. 
  • Plan an achievable route. 
  • Dress in layers. Start a walk lightly dressed (cold) and add or remove layers as necessary. 
  • Wear a hat and gloves. 
  • Take a flashlight. Weather changes and unforeseen problems may mean you are on the mountain in darkness. (never travel in the dark)
  • Carry an avalanche transceiver. 

Surviving at sea 

Natural resources in the open ocean are virtually nil, so improvising shelter or location aids is limited to your supplies. Seasickness, especially in a small liferaft, can affect your ability to remain both hydrated and motivated. Your only drinking water supply comes from rain or mechanical desalination devices. Reaching shipping lanes greatly increases your chances of rescue. 

Before you go: 

Consider the following to increase your chances of survival at sea: 

  • Pack sea-survival equipment as if your life depends on it - it might! 
  • Take emergency immersion-survival suits to protect yourself and aid floatation and location. 
  • Always carry a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB). 
  • Take several means of obtaining water. 
  • Don’t abandon your vessel until absolutely necessary. 
  • Take anti-seasickness tablets. 

Author: Paul

Paul has had an interest in the outdoors since he was a young kid. Walking, tracking and exploring the wilderness around him, from disused overgrown railway lines to the vast wilderness of the UK national parks. Over the last few years Paul has honed his skills into specific areas of bushcraft and survival. He is an expert in map reading, shelter building and knots, traps and fishing.


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