We often hear about survival of the fittest but when put in unnatural or unfamiliar situations our instincts and skills could be what keep us alive. So if you are destined to be out in the wilderness make sure that you have some knowledge of what you may come up against and you are equipped with the right gear.
Never underestimate the knowledge and skills required to eat and stay safe in a emergency situation.
In this country, if you are stranded in a forest or a hilly terrain, you are far more likely to die by ingesting something poisonous than being killed by a dangerous animal or heat exhaustion. Even if you have taken food with you on a journey or trip, there is always the chance that you may have to forage for your own food, for example if you got lost in the woods and ran out of food or if your food supply was accidentally lost or destroyed it is vital that you know what you can and can’t eat and how to find it.
The time of the year and the area that you are in will highly influence what is available for you. If you are out in the wilderness in the late summer, you will probably recognise a lot of edible plants such as blackberries, rosehips and damsons and you can easily tell if they are ripe because they will have a little give when you squeeze them and will be easy to pull off the branch without tugging. Try not to eat them unripe as they may give you a stomach upset. A lot of berries are poisonous; if a berry grows on a vine it will probably be poisonous or if it is red or white it is more likely to make you sick or even kill you.
Much like berries, mushrooms also require careful identification and are best avoided unless you have a lot of prior knowledge especially as poisonous ones can very closely resemble safe ones.
Certain types of leaves and weeds are also edible, for example dandelions and clovers are both safe to eat and edible, however they are best avoided in areas such as public recreational grounds as they are likely to have been sprayed with pesticides. Nettles are plentiful and edible but need to be heated before being eaten to neutralise their irritating acid so they are only really a viable option if you have means to make a fire. Even if a wild plant is edible, everybody will have different reactions to eating them, especially if you have never tried them before so always try a bit and wait a couple of hours before you eat any more of it.
Remember that fresh, clean water is also vital for survival but, much like wild foods, is equally as dangerous if you are not careful. Avoid any stagnant water such as ponds and puddles; it should be clear and flowing. You can boil the water before drinking which kills a lot of bacteria but this is not completely foolproof. If you keep sandwich bags in your back pack, you can put these on branches overnight to collect dew which, although it won’t be a lot of water, will be a fresh supply. The weather even in the UK should not be underestimated and getting lost or stuck somewhere you can quickly become cold especially at night.
Surviving in the wilderness requires some background knowledge and common sense, but as long as you do your research beforehand and try to keep a calm head you will be able to cope until you find your way home.
Make sure you are kitted out with all the correct survival gear.