My guide to Bear Grylls-style skills for the next time you get lost in the woods. Because, you know, your iPhone might not have any signal. Just make sure you have a few matches on you…
HOW TO LIGHT A FIRE
A fire will keep you warm and dry, it’ll cook your food, it’ll purify your water, and it’ll keep tigers at bay. It’s your best mate in the outdoors. First you need to find a sheltered site free from wind and debris that could be flammable. Start your fire on flat solid ground or a layer of flat stones. You need to begin with small pieces of wood (tinder) which must be completely dry. Forage for tinder such as small sticks, paper, leaves, grass or bark. Light the tinder (yes, you need a match or a lighter. Realistically, rubbing sticks together will just exhaust you and waste your precious daylight time) from upwind, sheltering the fire with your body or a jacket. Nuture your tinder – slowly add more as the fire starts to grow stronger, and watch like a hawk. When the fire is looking healthy, start to add kindling (small dry twigs and sticks). Once your kindling is crackling merrily you can add larger pieces of firewood – the drier the better. Dead trees are the best source of dry wood.
HOW TO BUILD A SHELTER
If you’re out in the elements without protection you won’t last long. Luckily, a shelter is easy to make and the components are readily available in the woods. Choose dry, flat ground that is sheltered from the wind. Make your shelter as small as possible for the number of people it has to hold, as your body heat will be better trapped inside (spooning is essential). Find a long, sturdy pole – this will be the main beam of the hut. Prop it up on rocks, tree stumps or a branch so that you can comfortably sit underneath it, then lean smaller branches at a 45 degree angle from the roof beam. Fill in gaps with wide branches. Cover this framework with leaves, ferns, more branches or bark. Place softer branches or moss on the floor of the shelter, as your body heat can ebb away into uncovered ground. Finally, build a door of branches and leaves that you can pull over the hole once inside.
HOW TO LIVE OFF INSECTS
Creepy crawlies are actually a fantastic source of protein, containing 60% more by weight than beef. I know they don’t look as appetising as a steak, but when you’re starving and alone in the wilderness, caterpillars start to be pretty appealing, I promise. Make sure you avoid anything that stings, bites, lets off a weird smell or any kind of goo, is a scary colour or is hairy. Look under rotting logs, in holes, under stones or in bark. Bugs with hard outer shells need cooking before consumption, but larvae and worms are fine eaten raw. If you can’t face putting a wriggly thing in your mouth, try mashing the insects into a paste and eating with vegetation. Delicious!
Whether you’re planning a trip to a meadow, forest, farm or field this summer, take a look at South Lakeland Park’s awesome survival blog post for more tips on living by your wits.