I’m going to be living off the wilderness for four nights – any survival tips?

This will be Man vs Wild / Survivorman style in the Midwest (upstate New York). I’ll have the following materials:
– 2 knives: a machette and a smaller pocket knife
– flint & magnesium
– a coffee can (with the thought that if I start a fire, I can boil water)

Any tips on food, shelter, starting a fire, or other survival tips would be awesome. I’m a suburban guy so I don’t get to experience the whole nature thing too often…

7 Comments on "I’m going to be living off the wilderness for four nights – any survival tips?"

  1. InTheShadows | January 20, 2010 at 9:28 pm |

    Don’t throw yourself in at the deep end. If this is your first time, just go for one night rather than four, and stay close to your vehicle or a settlement in case it goes wrong. Then build up in knowledge and confidence.

    Some kind of shelter, even if it is just a bivvy bag, would be a good idea. I know you’re probably trying to do it all natural and build your own shelter. Fair play if you can, but if you can’t hack it then its good to have a back up shelter rather than getting cold.

    Hope this helps – happy camping

  2. I completely agree with the first poster.

    Either way, I can’t physically stop you so I can only offer advice.
    1. Screw the machete, bring an axe. A machete is useless for anything other than yard work up here in the hardwood forests.
    2. I highly doubt you can identify wild edibles and it’s not hunting/trapping season in NY yet. If a park ranger or DEC officer were to find you harvesting protected game species illegally….you’re screwed (chipmunks, rock pigeons, woodchucks and crawfish are the exception). That being said, plan accordingly and bring food, preferably canned.
    3. If you really want to build a shelter, at least bring rope, better yet a tarp.
    4. Bring a friend. Having an extra pair of hands around is invaluable.
    5. Be careful where you set up camp. Make sure you are within easy distance to water, devoid of poison ivy and most importantly widow makers (tall, dead trees).

  3. I would agree that an ax or hatchet would be much better than a machete for building a shelter and gathering firewood. When you do make a fire for the night or to cook on you will want hardwoods to burn hotter and longer, an ax will make it easier to cut the wood into more manageable pieces than a machete would. I would also take one good, sharp fixed blade knife over two, and take a multi-tool instead of the second knife.

    You ought to know the different types of shelters that can be built before you go out. Lean-to, A-frame, etc.

    I would suggest bringing a water bottle as well as your coffee can. Water doesn’t travel well in a coffee can. And take a chemical treatment for the water as a back-up, in case you can’t boil.

    A reference book to edible plants in the area is a good idea, bad things can happen if you miss identify a plant and you are alone.

    Probably the easiest edibles to get your hands on other than plants are insects and grubs. If you really want to catch small animals you should look up how to set snares and traps like the figure 4, and practice them before you go.

    Think resourcefully while you out there and don’t be to proud to come in early if you find that it is more than you’re ready for.

  4. Mogollon Dude | January 20, 2010 at 10:05 pm |

    A pocket water filter and canteen . You may find all vegetation to damp to start a fire . A good tarp and sleeping bag . Some rope . A pound or two of trail mix . An a back pack to carry all . An a good walking stick . A compass .

  5. Before you go make out a will and leave everything to me. The list of things to tell you of who, what, when, where and how is too long. I suggest you make friends with an experienced wilderness expert and go on several trips with them before you attempt something like that.
    I get a lot of info here,


  6. Mountain man | January 20, 2010 at 10:49 pm |

    I agree pretty much with everybody else…let me tell ya, even a nice warm day can turn very sad and miserable when it gets cold at about 2-3 am and the temperature just keeps getting colder it seems…you need a tarp,string to tie it up,and no less than two blankets, or sleeping bag. bring freeze dried coffee or cocoa and oats or something you can eat cooked or not..it helps if you can have something hot to drink when you are alone and cold in the mountains….it maintains your sanity….and that will keep you from doing something desperate or dangerous…..dont travel after dark, set up camp two hours before it gets dark, gather enough wood for a fire that it is tall enough to reach your waist , thats how big a pile you will need to last all night. and keep the fire small about 20 inches in diameter…make sure you will be able to put it dead out before you leave in the morning..gosh! theres just so much you need to know…..luck!

  7. Listen to the wise words of the experienced guys above. I know those TV shows make this look like a blast but get a clue! Those guys have a crew following them and those “trips” are filmed over several days and spliced together to show the lucky foods and shelter they “find.” That “whole nature thing” can maim or kill you.

    Speaking of clues, upstate New York is NOT the Midwest, it’s the Northeast. The Midwest starts in Ohio. And if you are thinking about doing your thing in the Adirondacks, you should be aware that on average one person has disappeared in those woods every year since 1900, never to be seen again. Another statistic: you can die of hypothermia within a few hours of exposure if you get wet in the normal overnight temperatures in that area (mid 40’s). Finding safe water and ANYTHING a novice would recognize as edible in the woods is way tougher than you can imagine.

    Clearly, anyone who says he THINKS he can boil water IF he can start a fire has never done either and is no way prepared to survive a night in the woods.

    So, what should you bring? A cell phone to call your buddies to come pick you up within the first 6 hours (about how long you’ll last out there — half that if it rains) and a flaregun so they can locate your lost behind.

    And before you get indignant and insist that it’s strictly your business what you do out there, remember that the local rescue professionals are obligated to put their own time and lives on the line locating and extricating you from your little wilderness junket. Do yourself and them a favor and stay home, OR learn to properly trek and camp in the backcountry with the full kit of supplies and gear before attempting to play Nature Boy.

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