How To Survive The Woods

You can be thrown into a survival situation when you least expect it. And because it is impossible to know when you might experience such a thing, it is vital you prepare before you set out on your woodlands adventure.

Here are three common survival tips every outdoor enthusiast should know:

Building a Signal Fire
If you get lost on a hike or encounter bad weather that leaves you stranded, stay calm, assess your surroundings and start a signal fire. It takes a few basic fire-starting skills.

First, choose a location that is protected from the elements and near a water source, as well as your food and camping gear. Build your signal fire at the highest, most wide-open point you can find, so rescuers can see you from above.

Fire-starting materials:

- Tinder, kindling and fuel
- Green wood, leaves and branches
- Lighter, matches, spark tool

Clear the debris from the area where you will be igniting your fire. Follow a basic fire-starting method: Use dry materials to create a tinder base and add kindling and fuel to keep it going.

Surround the fire with a green wood structure built to resemble a log cabin. The green wood walls should be three to four feet high. Dry fires may not create enough smoke, but burning green wood will attract more attention, because these materials produce smoke that is visible from a greater distance.

If you have enough space and fuel, build three fires in the shape of a triangle, which is recognized as an international distress signal.

Treating a Sprained Ankle
Injuries on the trail happen, and it is essential you have a first-aid kit that includes an instant cold pack in your backpack. One of the most common injuries is a sprained ankle, and, according to the National Outdoor Leadership School, sprained ankles account for 53 percent of injury-related wilderness evacuations.

Hikers who trek all sorts of terrain from desert landscapes to snow banks are at risk of sprains.

First, take a look at the ankle. If there are any signs of swelling, discoloration or pain when pressure is applied, a sprain is likely. Use the RICE method to treat it. RICE stands for rest, ice, compress and elevate.

Rest: Get off your feet.

Ice: Apply ice to the ankle. If you do not have ice, use the instant cold pack in your first-aid kit. If you do not have one of those, use a wet T-shirt, snow or stream water.

Compress: Use an elastic wrap to reduce the swelling. Do not wrap too tightly or you might risk cutting off the circulation. This can pose a serious risk and can potentially lead to more injuries.

Elevate: Prop the leg and ankle up. It should be propped higher than the heart.

Maintain the RICE method for up to 30 minutes. Be sure to allow the ankle to rewarm for at least 15 minutes before applying any pressure or getting back to the trail. Medications such as ibuprofen can be used to remedy the pain.

To prevent ankle sprains from the start, invest in a pair of stiff boots that offer ankle support, such as mid-height styles. These types of boots support and protect the ankle against strain in both moderate and challenging terrain.

Counteracting Dehydration
It does not have to be sunny and hot out to get dehydrated, although the need for water is higher in this type of environment. In arid climates, people can lose up to 3.5 liters of water per hour. Losing only 5 percent of your body fluids can cause nausea, weakness, irritability and thirst, according to National Geographic, and a loss of 15 percent severely impairs both hearing and vision.

People who are dehydrated might have a swollen tongue or show signs of delirium. A loss of more than 15 percent of body fluids is usually fatal.

Take adequate water. Take small sips at one-hour intervals, even if you are not thirsty. In any type of situation where your food intake is low, be sure to drink six to eight liters of water each day. If you are caught in a survival situation, do your best to conserve the water you do have until you find a new suitable water source.

Outdoors enthusiasts can make a rehydration solution from water and sugar to help the body absorb fluids faster. Simply mix a liter of water with two teaspoons of sugar. A daily intake of the rehydration mixture (half a liter) can ward off serious dehydration for up to a week in addition to limiting fluid loss and physical activity. Always keep sugar in your fist-aid kit.