Introduction: Ultimate Survival
It’s how we describe the process of solving the problems of life when almost everything is a life-or-death call.
A survivor is someone who can think clearly, act decisively under extreme pressure, and understand the needs they really have, rather than the desires that pass for needs in our modern, comparatively comfortable world.
Survival is about how we deal with situations when they’re sharp, when they’re extreme, and when the quality of our decisions is what determines whether we live or die.
Survival situations strip away all the comforts of our modern world, and challenge us to understand what is really important.
They connect us to the crisis-driven primal human, the species which ultimately made enough right decisions to get us to a world where when we need water, we turn on a faucet.
When we need food, there are controllable heat sources in our kitchen, or restaurants and diners down the street. Where coffee comes in free refills, company can be both real and virtual, and there are whole other worlds of constant diversion in the phone in the palm of our hand.
So, ask yourself. If you had to survive indefinitely in the wild, could you do it?
We can’t hope to cover every eventuality, but our aim is that this handbook will help you say yes, and will give you a primer in the kinds of decision-making that would get you from a survival situation back to a cinnamon latte, a cream cheese bagel and the stupid jokes of your best friend.
Why Would You Need To Survive In The Wild?
The answer to this sounds flippant and obvious – if you’re in the wild, either you survive it, or you don’t. If you want to ever go back to the comforts of home, survival is not an option, it’s a necessity, for as many days as you’re there.
But beyond that, there are levels of need at play. The level with which you’re dealing will determine a lot about your experience in the wild.
For example, if your plane or your boat crashes somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Robinson Crusoe or Cast Away style, you’re likely to bring very little with you that will raise your odds of survival, and you might very well die, because unlike in fiction, in real life, you’re not guaranteed a happy ending just because you’re the star of your own story.
But beyond the survival crisis of a catastrophe, there are lots of people going into the wild in the 21st century as an extreme endurance test or a preparation for what seems like an imminent societal crisis.
21st century survival in the wild covers a broad spectrum. Some people go in with absolutely no cheat modes, and test themselves against the wild “barehanded.” There’s a purity to that experience, but if you choose to do it, you have to be aware upfront that You Might Actually Die.
Others, aware of the need not to actually die, take some modern conveniences with them, just to get them past the seemingly impossible stages of surviving in the wild.
Either way, you should be able to survive. But be aware, the fewer conveniences you take with you into the wild, the more you pay for your purity in time, in labor, and possibly in frustration, hunger, thirst, and pain.
For instance, if you take a flint, matches, or a lighter into the wild with you, you save yourself the time, labor, and blisters of making a fire with just pieces of wood and a stone.
If you bring modern metal fish-hooks and line with you, you get a jump on the catching of protein to fulfill your daily caloric needs, and so on.
Top Tip – Preparedness and attitude are the big determining factors of survival. Adjust your thinking to the wild, because the wild won’t adjust its dangers to suit you.
Let’s assume, given the relative rarity of undiscoverable plane crashes and shipwrecks in the age of GPS, you’re going into the wild with the intention of surviving for a known or unknown period.
If you’re going to survive in the wild, we’re assuming you intend to be apart from other people, away from the structures of civilization on which hikers or ultra-runners get to depend. That means there are different challenges to overcome.
Getting back to nature and living in it for any length of time means feeding yourself, homing yourself, finding the things you need to keep body and soul together, and quite possibly avoiding the interest of predators who live permanently in the environment in which you are a visitor, a time traveler from the civilized world of Man.
General Survival Principles: What To Remember
- Respect the environment and its wildness
- Be alert to what your senses tell you
- Hydrate or die
- Learn the basics of wilderness survival
- Learn some natural navigation skills
- Understand how to use what your environment provides
- Prepare before you go into the wild
- Get the best bag you can
Respect The Environment And Its Wildness
When you go into the wild, especially for the first time, you are almost necessarily a time traveler.
All the things you know, all the structures of a 21st century Western life, are the result of leaps forward in human development.
Surviving in the wild unpeels you from those structures and challenges you to find the primal human again.
What do we mean by respecting the environment and its wildness?
Obviously, make as little ‘human’ impact as you can on an environment that is wild when you arrive, and will keep on being wild after you leave – be aware of your garbage, be aware of any non-compostable waste you produce.
But more than that, respecting the environment and its wildness is about an attitude adjustment. The first time you do it, going into the wild will surprise you utterly, and it might take some days for the civilization to leech out of your system, and for the wild to replace it.
We live in a very noise-rich, self-important, self-driven society.
The wild doesn’t care a damn about you as a human. Like everything else in a natural environment, it will sustain you only as long as you do what is necessary for that sustenance.
Calm your busy personal monolog, and focus on what you need if you’re going to live in the wild for any length of time.
Focus on doing the things that get you from here to tomorrow’s sunrise. Shed the pyramid of modern, civilized needs you usually have, and appreciate the wild environment as a system that can supply those needs only if you make an accommodation with it.
Be Alert To What Your Senses Tell You
Part of the process of adjusting to the wild is learning to recognize what your senses are telling you. Again, in a modern, human world, our senses are largely either minimized or spoon-fed.
Getting used to the wild means using your senses to guide your decision-making – without the noise floor of civilization, you’ll hear movements in water that could lead you to a drink.
You’ll see breaks in branches or print-patterns in sand or mud that will reveal the path of predators or prey. You’ll interpret the movements of ants as potential indicators of water or a food source.
Tuning your senses from modern human to advanced primate in the wild might be the difference between a meal and going hungry, a drink and going thirsty, and between knowing when you’re in bear territory ahead of meeting the bear, and not knowing ahead of time.
These are things you’re going to want to know as far ahead of time as possible, so that shift in your sensory focus can be crucial to surviving in the wild.
Hydrate Or Die
Food is a thing for which you’ll have to work in the wild. Water though is non-negotiable. It’s the one thing human beings need more than any other – especially if we’re to make good decisions.
You already know that you can survive for a far shorter time without water than you can without food, as all human bodies, even the thin ones, have stored resources of fat to break down in extreme circumstances.
You can go days between meals if you really have to. Dehydration can start affecting you with fatigue, headaches, and dizziness, let alone impacting your decision-making, within hours, depending on your activity levels and the kind of environment you’re in.
Being water-wise will help you survive and make better decisions. Approach water in a whole new way. You’re not only looking for fresh or running water sources – dew, rain, collected condensation, all of them could help get you a drink when you really need one.
Learn The Basics Of Wilderness Survival
When you get into the wild, forget almost everything you know about your daily needs. Part of the point about an adventure in the wild is that it strips your needs down to their most basic.
The Survival Hierarchy Of Needs
Your first and most regular need, and so your first job in the wild will be to find a source of fresh water. Use every trick you can.
Dew on plants is drinkable. Condensation collected in pieces of cloth, like a bandana attached to your pack is drinkable.
Carry water into the wild in case of emergencies, but use your natural navigation skills to find fresh water as a matter of urgency.
Nights in the wild will be cold and full of uncertainty – and possibly nocturnal predators.
Choose the site for your shelter well – away from any tidal water and the things that might live in it, away from any potential rockfalls, and away from any obvious sign of animal tracks or insect colonies.
If making your own shelter, decide whether you are staying in one place long term, or moving from place to place, as this will impact the amount of work you should put into your shelter-building.
Fire is one of the main differences between Mankind and every other animal. Making a fire gives you heat, a cooking option, and some protection from predators.
Once you have yourself set up, getting enough calories to sustain your strength will become a major challenge of life in the wild.
While figures vary depending on age, state of health, and sex, both Dietary Guidelines For Americans and Harvard Health Publishing say a woman needs a minimum of 1,200 calories per day to maintain body weight, and a man, 1,500.
Finding those calories, day in, day out, is a key part of the survival experience, and might involve eating things from which you’d normally shy away, like bugs and grubs.
The Basics Of Shelter-Building
There are a lot of options for building yourself a shelter. The one that’s right for you will depend on a) whether you’ve brought an easy option with you, b) your shelter needs, c) the kind of wild environment you’re in, and what it can provide you, and d) your level of skill at shelter-building.
If you’ve brought a tarp and some cordage with you, you can make a simple tarp lean-to or a tarp tent, at least to get you through your first night.
A tarp lean-to is exactly as basic as it sounds – by tying off your tarp to a couple of trees, you make yourself a wind-break to huddle behind, though it gives you no protection from predators.
A tarp tent is almost as simple, but gives rain protection too – tie some cordage or guy ropes between two trees, throw your tarp over top and anchor it on both sides. Almost instant shelter!
By the time you’re thinking of building an A-frame shelter, it will probably be a new day. Building an A-frame involves finding a sturdy branch, collecting wooden poles, cutting them to the right length, and leaning or wedging them against your longer branch to form an ‘A’ shape.
For wind protection, cover the poles in other branches or brush to give yourself some insulation. You can also make a variant of the A-frame by suspending your longer branch between two trees for a more secure ‘roof beam.’
Bear in mind though, if you’re surviving alone, your branch has to be long enough to work, but light enough that you alone can lift it.
Top Tip - Never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. Do as much as you can to make your shelter wind-proof, rain-proof, predator-proof and comfortable.
The Basics Of Fire-Making
- First, gather your immediate kindling
- Find either some small-to-medium stones to act as a fire-break – especially if you’re in a forest environment – or one big rock against which you can build your fire.
- Build a small pyramid of dry sticks, set to one side.
- Use anything you have with you – a lighter, a match, a flint to make a spark. In extreme need, even the batteries from your flashlight, or the insides of an adhesive heating pad can be useful to get you a spark and some starter material.
- Ignite the kindling. Coax it into a flame by blowing gently on it. Put it in your stone circle, or near your rock, and cover it with the loose twig pyramid, so the fire has fuel.
- As the fire grows, feed it with larger branches.
- Maintain the fire on a low smolder if you intend to keep it through the night while you sleep.
The Basics Of Finding Calories
When you’re alone in the wild, you need regular calories to maintain not just your body weight, but your clarity of thinking to make good decisions.
Trapping small game animals and birds is best done by using the likes of deadfalls. Be aware of the work involved in turning live animals into calories though – they will need to be skinned or plucked, gutted, and thoroughly cooked to get rid of microorganisms and parasites.
If you don’t know the habits and movements of your chosen game or birds, you can end up expending a lot of calories setting traps and waiting for them to fill, so research your prey thoroughly before going into the wild if you intend to get calories this way.
A better option may well be fishing – if nothing else, it’s less labor-intensive, so you retain energy, and if you bring a fishing kit with you, you’re not reduced to making your own hooks and line from the likes of dogbane or milkweed.
Learn Some Natural Navigation Skills
Natural navigation is the art of using all your senses and some knowledge of the world to determine position, direction, and the recent history of any area of natural ground.
Sure, everything you own these days might come with a GPS chip fitted, so the idea of being lost is becoming an alien concept to us in the 21st century, but there are three important caveats to that.
1)Depending on the type of wild environment you go into, you might not be able to get a reliable GPS signal. For accurate positioning by GPS, you need to have a line of sight from four separate GPS satellites simultaneously.
Strong tree coverage, or, perversely, especially barren environments, can stop you from getting any useful GPS coverage.
2)Even if you can get a line of sight to four satellites, if you’re deep in a highly wooded area, you might well encounter something called ‘multipath error’ – where the signal hits lots of other things before it comes to you, causing reflected signal readings, so your phone gets confused ideas of your location.
3)And finally, to be competitive in the marketplace, the sort of GPS receivers used in commercial smartphones are about the size of a standard paperclip, cost just a little more, and while, considering that, they work extraordinarily well, they’re often not up to the task of giving you accurate position and direction information when you’re in the wild.
It’s not just the unreliability of GPS in the wild that makes natural navigation a great advantage in the wild though.
As part of that whole adjustment of your senses from the high-noise environment of the 21st century to living in the wild, knowing some natural navigation rules can radically increase the amount of knowledge you have about any environment.
If you can look at the moon through a peep in the forest canopy and immediately know which direction you’re walking in, or see a puddle and tell from its shape and fullness where the sun has hit it – and from that, work out which way is which, recent weather patterns and what creatures might have recently come through the area, you’re a lot closer to maximizing your natural, animal instincts than anyone depending on a multi-billion dollar space positioning system, or even a crackable, losable compass.
More often than not, living wild means using natural instincts and observations, more than technological solutions, so it’s worth learning some natural navigation before you head into the wild.
Understand How To Use What Your Environment Provides
As a final part of the transition to a wilderness mindset, if you have the chance before setting out, learn about the environment you’re going into.
Learn what leaves and saps can help you, and which to avoid.
Learn what fruits and fungi are in the area, which are edible, and which will cause you problems.
When you get into the wild, without this knowledge, you could go hungry in a natural larder, or get sick in a natural pharmacy.
If you don’t know how to use what’s in your environment, you’ll never move around that environment with confidence. Understand what’s around you, and the way you look at it, the way you interact with it, will be almost infinitely richer.
Top Tip – Never underestimate the importance of water. Learn the variety of ways of capturing it – dew on leaves, condensation in folds of cloth, and more can all give you a drink in emergencies. But make finding fresh water your first concern in the wild.
Prepare Before You Go Into The Wild
There are a few things that can improve your survival odds in the wild, and some of them you can do before you even set foot in the wilderness.
1.Tell everyone roughly where you’re going – and for how long.
While everyone intends to go into the wild for just as long as they want, if nobody knows where you’re going, you’re relying on the curiosity of busy people to wonder where you are.
If they know you’ve gone into the wild, they have a ready spur to questions and action if you don’t check in shortly after you intended to return.
2.Make or update your will.
No, that’s not morbid. No, it also is not ‘bad luck.’ Everybody wants you to have a great time in the wild, get to grips with nature and its challenges. But in the event that Unforeseen Things happen, you want to know that your wishes for your estate will be respected.
3.Get your permits.
If you intend to trap or hunt your own game, make sure you’re aware of what you can legally kill within the environment you’re entering, and that all necessary permits are arranged.
Also, if you intend to trap or hunt game, make sure you know how to kill, gut, skin, and cure the animals, because this is a bad thing to get wrong once you’re out in the wild.
4.Stop using strongly scented soaps, gels, and shampoos a week before you go into the wild.
OK, that’s a long shot, and by no means for everyone. In fact, it’s directly contradictory to the hunting and trapping advice. But you’re going into an environment where human squeamishness has no place.
An environment with wild animals, both predators and prey, who use scent as a part of their fundamental language of awareness. Like it or not, the sweat of people who eat meat smells significantly stronger and more acrid than that of vegans.
It takes several weeks for the toxins of a meat-rich diet to leave the body, so if you don’t want to give yourself away as a potential predator to anything with a sharper sense of smell than your own, cut down, or cut out meat and meat-products for a while before you head into the wild.
6.Pack your bag.
This is one of the moments on which your survival in the wild depends.
Get The Best Bag You Can
When you go into the wild, you will know the level of survival you’re comfortable with. As we mentioned, you can go in with a bagful of modern aids, or you can go relatively light and force yourself to improvise and make everything you don’t take with you.
There are some basics that apply to everyone, and some essentials which vary in their nature according to your survival comfort level.
If you’re taking a backpack into the wild – and everyone going into the wild should take a backpack with them – make sure you take a good one. You need a pack that meets a handful of criteria that are unique to you.
You should be able to fit all the things you need in your backpack, or securely attach them to it, so you can be ready to move quickly if necessary.
The most voluminous backpack in the world is no good if you can’t lift it quickly onto your back and move off.
It is in the nature of the wild that you will grow to loathe the weight of your backpack however light it is over time, but by choosing one lightweight or weight-balanced enough to let you get moving quickly, you can minimize the pain and the loathing.
While you need some solid central space for clothes, a backpack maximizes its usefulness if it has a lot of compartmentalization. Why? Two reasons.
First, it allows you to go directly to a specific pocket or section, get what you need, and not disturb everything else in the pack – which means the weight distribution stays consistent, rather than changing every time you need something. And second, because compartmentalization acts as insurance.
If you put all your food in one section of the bag, and that section happens to get wet, all your food is potentially spoiled. If you spread the food out around the bag, you minimize the risk of one unfortunate incident becoming a survival catastrophe.
On the subject of areas getting wet, one of the chief pluses when buying a backpack is the quality of its waterproofing.
If you’re going to spend extra money on your backpack, spend it on three key areas – the weight-distribution, the comfort, and the waterproofing. These are three areas that will materially improve your experience in the wild.
Whether your time in the wild involves fording rivers, tramping through rainy weather, or simply camping out in a steamy, condensation-rich forest, water is going to be a major factor. Spring for a backpack that resists as much of that water as possible.
If you’re moving around a lot during your time in the wild, you’re going to grow to hate the moment when you have to put on a possibly soggy backpack, get used to the weight again and move off.
Getting one with comfortable straps, well-sewn to take the strain of haulage, will pay you dividends of happiness in those moments that can affect your mood for the whole day.
Remember – you’re going into an environment where other creatures live out their lives. You’re already likely to stick out like a sore thumb because of your not-we odor profile.
If you have an electric blue or shocking pink backpack, while you might never lose it, the difference of it from anything the animals are used to seeing will pick you out in a heartbeat. Go camo if possible, matching your color profile to the nature of the environment you’re in.
Got your pack?
Great. Now let’s fill it.
Ultimate Survival Checklist: 6 Essentials You’ll Need
There’s a strategy to packing a rucksack in a way that helps you minimize back and shoulder strain.
Your heavier items – emergency food, water, any heavier technology – should be packed towards the middle of the bag, where they will sit with less strain on you.
Use any softer, middleweight gear to act as insulation and cushioning for those heavier items. All the things you’re most likely to need on a regular basis should be in easy-to-reach sections or compartments, for minimal disturbance during your time in the wild.
What you actually fill your bag with will depend on the level of survival with which you’re comfortable.
Whatever level of survival you’re going for, there are some non-negotiable items.
Six Essential Items For Survival
A mixture of layers, including waterproof outerwear, enough underwear and socks for several changes, separate nightwear, hat and flexible gloves. Go pocket-heavy where possible, to carry essentials without needing to take your pack everywhere.
Water will be your first and most regular requirement in the wild. Bring a refillable water bottle, full at the time you start.
Emergency Rations & Energy Boosters
Bring protein bars, jerky, a few dehydrated meals. These will give you necessary protein and energy boosts as you establish yourself in the wild.
Flashlight & Batteries
You could use a self-made torch in the wild, and probably will, but for directional light, a flashlight helps enough to be essential.
Some Fire Making Aid
Depending on how hardcore you go, either a lighter, some matches, or a flint will give you a shortcut over Neolithic Man.
First Aid Kit
You can rely solely on natural remedies if you want, but for the simple things like cuts or wounds, bring a First Aid kit.
A note on clothes.
A variety of sensible clothes is a must, because the wild is not a clean, dry place. Pack for layers and for full outfit replacement. Don’t skimp on underwear and socks, because discomfort in either area will cripple your effectiveness in the wild.
Bring separate sleeping clothes, not just for comfort, but because if you sleep in the clothes you’ve worn all day, you’ll intensify discomfort, chafing, and your body odor profile in an environment where smell is a potent identification signal.
Make sure you have enough layers to keep you warm, but also prioritize multi-use clothing – pants that can convert to shorts, water shoes in addition to your boots, etc.
Always have a complete layer of waterproof outer clothes, to maintain the usefulness of the other layers. Always pack or wear a hat and a pair of flexible gloves.
Camp out a few nights at home if you have space, before setting out into the wild. If nothing else, it will acclimate your body to potential cold and discomfort. You can also use it as a guide to the balance of clothing you need to bring.
There are any number of items you might want to take which, while they’re not essential, do make for useful additions to your experience.
5 Useful Additions For Survival
A Good Night’s Sleep
Whether you end up making your own shelter or not, bringing a sleeping bag, a tarp and some guy ropes will add an element of comfort to your trip into the wild.
For extra comfort at night, as you’re unlikely to be able to safely bring fire inside your shelter, bring adhesive hot patches to beat the cold.
Never underestimate the importance and the power of a good night’s sleep on your energy levels, your motivation and your morale.
A Machete Or Similar Tool
If you only take one tool into the wild, make it a short-handled machete.
This will save you hours looking for and using a sharp stone to find and adapt wood, branches and leaves for your shelter and fire. It will also help you make progress through thickly wooded areas.
A Cooking Pot
If you intend to cook any food you hunt, trap or forage, at least one pot makes a world of difference.
Fishing & Sewing Kits
Bring a fishing and sewing kit if possible, both to potentially add easy protein to your diet and to make repairs or adaptations to your clothes and your rucksack.
There will be a thousand tiny moments in the wild where just the right tool will save you hours of effort. A compact, strong multi-tool like a Swiss Army knife is a worthwhile, weight-efficient addition to your gear.
Bringing a sleeping bag? Put towards the bottom of the bag, or better still, tie it securely to the underside to save space for other items.
Similarly, if you’re bringing a tarp, tent or guy ropes, center them lower on your back, so they don’t take up too much space and don’t add much to the weight you’re carrying.
If you want to be extra-cautious or extra-comfortable while in the wild, there are things you might consider worth bringing along.
5 Luxury Items For The Wild
A Dedicated GPS As Backup For Your Paper Map And Compass
Dedicated GPS units have stronger receivers than smartphones, and usually the ability to transmit your location to the authorities.
Your Smartphone And A Portable Charger
Your smartphone, used sparingly, might get you weather updates, mapping, even a book to read or a game to play, to help you get to sleep in your new environment.
A Flare Gun
In the event of emergency, a flare gun could warn off predators and summon help.
A One-Person Tent
If you prefer security over building your own environment, a pop-up tent or hunting hide can give you quick protection from the elements.
A Separate Mini-Bag
A separate Flee-Bag means if, for instance, predators like bears rip open your main bag to get at your emergency rations, you can grab your mini-bag and leave the area without challenging the predator.
Top Tip – Keep a bank or credit card and some folding cash in a plastic, waterproof bag or pocket, fairly high in your rucksack. It’s your ticket home when you’re done with the wild for now.
Danger Ahead: Your Greatest Threats
Without a doubt, the greatest danger you face when heading into the wild is your own refusal to take the environment seriously.
Go in expecting a jolly woodland romp, and the wild will kick the living daylights out of you. That’s why it’s key to prepare well before you go in, learn everything you can, and practice the skills you need to survive.
Water is your fundamental need. More than sleep deprivation, more than calorie-cravings, more than anything else, not having water will drive you out of the wild.
But before it does that, it will give you cramps, headaches, paralyzing weakness, and fatigue, each of which will make doing all the necessary things much harder.
Whether you’re going into desert territory, snow, or a steamy forest that chills at night, temperature can drive you to make bad decisions in the wild.
Part of the make-up of a survivor is being able to prepare for – and cope with – changes in temperature, from day to night and throughout their time in the wild.
1,200 calories for a woman. 1,500 for a man. Every single day, to maintain body mass. That’s a lot of effort you have to put into finding sources of food – because you probably can’t live on protein bars, jerky, and ramen for that long before you start to feel malnourished.
Be aware – you will be hungry in the wild for most of the time you’re there.
The differential between a modern, civilized diet and the availability of diverse foods, and what you can catch, forage, and eat in the wild is so vast that hunger is likely to be a major factor, and quite possibly a major driver to get you out of the wild.
The survivor mindset is to know you’ll probably be hungry, and to make the best decisions anyway, to boost your calorie intake from unusual sources like protein-rich bugs and grubs.
The things that everyone assumes is the main risk of surviving in the wild are the other things surviving in the wild.
Knowledge of the area and its wildlife is a crucial factor here, as well as knowing how to react if and when you come face to face with it.
From boars to bears, a major survival strategy is to get out of their way, and ideally their area, as fast as you can without spooking them. If you don’t force them to have to deal with you as an interloper in their territory, your chances of seeing tomorrow increase exponentially.
The Great Escape: Getting Yourself Out Alive
There’s a common conception that everything about the wild exists with the sole intention of killing you.
That’s a misconception. More or less, everything about the wild exists to give you the opportunity of killing yourself.
It’s an environment that tests you not because it wants to, not because it gets pleasure from it, but just because humans as a species have grown unfamiliar with what it takes to survive in the wild. If you’re going to get out alive, you need to adjust yourself to the wild.
The wild will not adjust itself to you – though it will give you much more than you might be aware of. From wood to make shelters, potentially berries, edible flowers and fungi, insects, grubs, fish, and small game, the wild can give everything you need to succeed in it.
You just need to make that attitude adjustment we talked about. Sharpen your senses. Learn the area. Understand what you’re seeing and sensing, and how it can be useful to you.
When it’s time to come out, it might not be as simple as just turning around and heading back the way you’ve come. Getting a bearing, with either your GPS, your map and compass, or if you’re very lucky, your smartphone, will show you the nearest point of civilization.
If you’re extra smart and confident, you could pre-arrange for friends, family, or even a car service to pick you up from a specific place on a specific day, subject to a ping, a text message, or a call on the day.
Otherwise, use any bearing you can get – or if you can’t get one at all, use your natural navigation skills to find east (where the sun rises), and take your cue from that.
While the whole point of going into the wild is to escape from civilization, when you want to escape back to civilization, having maybe one bank card and a fistful of dollars in a plastic bag inside a waterproof, sealed pocket in your rucksack will smooth your journey back into human society.
You will have proved you can survive in the wild, and be ready to return to the modern world – until the next time.
Top Tip – on the day you intend to come out of the wild, it’s a good idea to pick out your least stained and smelly clothes, and to use your water source to get clean, to wash some of the wild and grime off your face, body, and hair. Particularly wash areas from which you may emit body odor, as otherwise, cab drivers, stores and the like may not want to serve you.
You can even ritualize this cleansing as a thank you to the wild, and an acknowledgement of your leaving it for now, as part of your overall experience in the environment.