There are so many ways to enjoy the great outdoors, from hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, and boating, to more extreme sports such as kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing and more. What all of these have in common is that the unexpected can turn your day of fun into a survival situation. The more extreme outings are many times more likely to result in some sort of traumatic injury such as broken bones, severe sprains, cuts and lacerations. Most extreme sports, as well as hiking, hunting and even fishing takes people into remote areas far from civilization. The areas are usually rugged and hard to get to if not impossible to access with a vehicle. Which means, if you’re injured out there, the SAR (Search & Rescue) team will have to use a helicopter or ATV’s to get to you. In extreme circumstances they could be forced to hike for many miles into the remote wilderness to rescue you.
Of course one of the most basic common sense survival tips is simply to let people know where you are going and when to expect you back, that way if something does go sideways somebody can alert the authorities that you may be in need of rescue and give them at least a rough idea of where to look. Also, bring a emergency locator beacon. PLB’s or personal locator beacons are simple electronic devices which when activated sends a signal to emergency responders and other authorities letting them know you’re in trouble.
If you’re in a particularly remote and rugged area, or for some reason your locator beacon doesn’t work, you got turned around, carried by a current, fell off a cliff, or simply changed your plans last minute, this could mean you are on your own for days before you can be found. In that case, you certainly want to be as prepared as possible until you are rescued or can make your own way back towards civilization. (Typically the advice is to remain in one spot; every situation is different though). If your situation dictates that you must move to remain safe then move. If you need to get to lower ground to avoid a storm, or higher ground to avoid a flood, or find/build shelter then you should move, but only when your safety is at risk if you stay put. Use your best judgement.
There are a variety of situations here, but much of the information will be the same with the only real major differences being dependent on the weather/season/climate you are dealing with. Skiing, snowboarding, ice fishing and other winter/cold weather activities will mean trying to keep warm while others may have the need to keep cool or minimize activity in hot, arid, desert climates. More specifics can be found in our discussion that dealt specifically with extreme climate scenarios.
While many of the techniques and much of the gear will be the same in previous scenarios (we will provide a suggested list), what could be much different is that the odds of injury are higher when engaged in more extreme activities outdoors.
Whether you are rock climbing, skiing, white water rafting, mountain/dirt bike riding, etc, you are at a much higher risk for some sort of traumatic injury. Having the right gear is important, but even more important is knowing how to use it and how to make do with whatever you happen have regardless. Broken bones will require a splint to help reduce further damage and make it easier to move around, while severe cuts and lacerations could require stitches or other methods of sealing the wound and stopping the bleeding. A good quality first aid kit as well as a trauma kit is advisable. Your Walmart special $4.99 medical kit isn’t going to cut it. A few Band-Aids and some Neosporin is not being prepared, it’s asking for trouble. If you’re going to do extreme sports or hunt and fish in remote and rugged areas, have a serious medical kit!
That’s not all. You will need a solid wilderness survival medical kit, not just an ordinary first aid kit. Get a med kit or multiple med kits which have sutures, hemostats, scissors, some kind of thread or even dental floss will work temporarily on a cut or gash. Make sure the kit ‘contains supplies to treat the most common injuries, including penetration wounds from bullets or arrows, fish hook removal, splinting fractures, and stopping severe bleeding and a host of other supplies to take care of any injuries you sustain in the field.’
Also good items to have with you are duct tape, paracord, super glue, and a sewing kit. They all have multiple uses and be life savers out in the wild. Duct tape and paracord can both be used to secure sticks/branches or other rigid materials for a splint. Duct tape can also be used as emergency bandage and if needed super glue can help seal a small cut or gash. These may not be ideal but remember these are supposed to be short term solutions in order to maximize your odds of survival until you are rescued.
Waiting for rescue could take days so you need to stabilize yourself, find shelter or build it and get a fire going. Be careful not to exert yourself too much though. You don’t need to build a mansion or log cabin. A simple lean-to or A-frame shelter will work just fine. Also, we’re sure we don’t need to say this, but make sure you have a way to start fire. Temperatures drop at night and hypothermia can set in quickly even in healthy uninjured people. If you’re injured your body is already fighting itself to heal your injury, your energy levels will be depleted and you will most likely be weakened by the injury. Take it easy, stay calm and build your shelter as best you can. Move slow if you have to move, and always stay calm.
If you (or a friend) has a cut or open wound, the inner threads of Paracord can also be used as temporary suture material. Having a small sewing kit (or a couple of curved needles expressly for sutures) can really come in handy. Plus, paracord and duct tape can both be used to help build a stretcher/sled if you have an injured friend, or crutches if you’ve got a fractured leg.
Always carry a knife. Aside from the fact that a knife is the #1 survival tool…having a knife can help you to remove and partially shape branches to use for splints, stretchers, or even crude crutches. Carry a space blanket. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing, even if you aren’t out in the cold. If you are kayaking or rafting, falling into water is very likely, and while not a huge deal if you are expecting to head home after just a few hours or a day on the water, if you find yourself stranded and injured, you will need a way to get warm and a space blanket can help conserve body heat. Use it to cover up while you get a fire going to dry your clothes and avoid potentially deadly hypothermia. Space blankets can also be used in a pinch to make shelter and keep the rain off of you. Staying dry is key to staying alive. Have a signaling mirror, which obviously can be used to signal for help to planes or helicopters above, but you can also use it to help focus sunlight to start a fire. Water purification tablets and water filters are pretty self explanatory. Fire starters and/or waterproof matches should allow you to get a spark to start a fire. Having both may seem redundant, but both are so small that having a backup plan won’t take up any space or add any weight to your kit, so why not? Extra batteries, an LED flashlight, and even a solar charger for your phone will come in handy even if you don’t have an emergency.
Always carry extra clothes including a good pair of wool socks inside a waterproof bag in your pack. Having a set of dry clothes to change into can mean the difference between life and death. In the event you fall through the ice or into a cold river or stream, or get caught out in a freezing rain or snow storm, being able to get dry and warm will save your life.
In any survival situation trying to keep calm, evaluating your situation, and knowing how to use your gear beforehand can give you a big leg up when it comes to survival. The gear listed here is only a portion of what you could probably use, and it is often the more basic items. Having more specialized or tools such as hatchets, solar chargers, small pots to boil water and cook in, etc can help make things easier or give you even more options in a tough spot, but the items we tend to list are things that are often small, compact and lightweight enough to be included in your gear for almost any situation.