Camping has become a pretty popular activity. It can be hard to find a campsite that really removes you from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
But an off-grid camping trip will place you directly in the quiet of nature as no other camping experience can. And, with the help of this deep dive into wilderness survival camping, planning your trip into uncharted territory will be a piece of cake!
Read on for an outline of your first steps to plan successfully and a quick lesson on the wilderness survival skills you’ll need in a pinch.
Why Go Off-Grid
Finding an area of untouched nature is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Imagine wandering along a coastline and having a beach all to yourself.
Or hiking through a forest and discovering a meadow of wildflowers that no one has picked or stepped on. Off-grid wilderness survival camping turns you into an explorer. And you never know what you’ll find.
No one knows a national park better than the animals that live there, including the locations of the densely populated areas so that they can avoid them.
When you go off-grid, you’re wandering into the territories that they inhabit the most, which will make them curious of you. Especially the bigger ones that don’t spook as easily.
All you have to do is relieve that curiosity. Talk to them, or play music. Wild animals don’t understand our speech, but they definitely recognize it. Once they realize you’re human, they’ll lose interest and move on.
If that’s not enough, they’ve probably smelt something that they want. That’s why an essential part of off-grid wilderness survival is keeping your smelly items safely sealed and packed away. Also, never leave garbage behind because animals might start to track you hoping for scraps.
How to Prepare
Picking the Location
First, do some research into the regulations surrounding off-grid camping. If you’re planning your trip in a park, its official website will let you know if they allow it and any parameters around your stay.
Another option is to explore areas owned by the Bureau of Land Management. In general, you’re never supposed to stay in one spot for longer than 14 days. After that, the distance you need to travel can range anywhere from 5 to 25 miles.
There will also be rules surrounding your campsite’s proximity to water sources and the minimum of days before you are allowed to return to an area.
Picking the Site
To make sure you never waste the long trek out on an undeserving site, use Google Maps’ satellite imaging to pre-scan your area.
If you’ve picked a spot in a national park, there are also interactive maps on the park’s website that will give you a pretty accurate idea of the land and the access points for getting there.
Picking the Dates
The season that you pick will have a big impact on the wilderness survival knowledge you need. This is why a lot of beginners and families choose to camp in the Fall and Spring.
The summer is harder because the more you sweat, the more water you need for drinking and cleaning. Truck campers that would usually be able to carry in all the water they need will probably need to replenish their stores on a summer trip.
And the winter cold will be hard in a tent. If there’s snow on the ground, you can pack it over the edges to add some extra insulation. Otherwise, blankets and another person’s body heat are your best options.
Truck campers can still bring heaters, but conserving your energy use is much more important when off the grid.
Check Your Gear
Wilderness survival is nothing without working gear. When preparing for your trip, bring your vehicle in for a tune-up and check all of your equipment for any wear and tear.
Truck and RV Campers
Truck and RV campers should always know in advance where the closest dumping and refill stations are, even if you plan to carry in everything you need.
If the trip is longer and carrying it all in isn’t possible, be sure to pre-plan your dumping and refill stops for effective wilderness survival.
Without the storage capabilities of a truck and RV camper, wilderness survival during an off-grid tent camping trip will require a lot more skills and knowledge.
You’ll likely need to replenish water supplies daily and food supplies weekly. You’ll also have to pick the type of tent you bring more carefully.
How to Purify Water
Being able to purify water is your first priority for wilderness survival. The most common method is keeping the water at a roiling boil for 3 minutes. You can also buy water purifying tablets, hand pumps, or gravity bags at a camping store.
In extreme wilderness survival cases, you can also purify your pee using the sun, a garbage bag, greenery, and a cup. Simply dig a hole and place fresh leaves or grass at the bottom. Now pee into the hole and place some sort of container on top of the wet greenery in the middle of the hole.
Cover the hole with any thin plastic material, place a light rock in the middle of the plastic, and seal the sides. As the sun heats the inside of the hole, the greenery will absorb your pee and release purified water into the air.
The water will eventually condense on the underside of the plastic and slide down the sloped roof before dripping into the container.
How to Conserve Water
To reduce water use, bring hand sanitizer to wash your hands and face wipes to clean your body. Biodegradable shampoos will also allow you to bathe in the lakes.
If the things you’re cooking require water, like pasta, reuse it to do the dishes. Or put the water in a spray bottle with some soap to minimize the waste while cleaning.
When you don’t plan to camp around water sources, use the rain to your advantage by placing your pots and containers at the ready.
Foundational First Aid
For basic bleeds, put pressure on the wound with a cloth to stop the blood flow. If you’re bleeding from a limb, you can also elevate it above your heart and tie a rope or cloth above the wound. But make sure it’s not so tight that you’re cutting off circulation.
Never pull large foreign objects out of a bleed. As it leaves your body, it will create even more tears in your tissue. The object is also stopping a lot of the bleeding by being in there.
If you’ve broken your arm or leg, the first step in wilderness survival is to immobilize it. For an arm, use a long-sleeve or towel to create a sling. For legs, place sticks on either side of the break and wrap them tightly with a towel.
A compound fracture is a break severe enough for your bone to tear the skin. So you’ll need to both immobilize the break and put pressure around the bone to stop the bleeding.
There are three degrees of severity for burns. First-degree results in the reddening of your skin, and feeling warm to the touch. As most sunburns are first-degree, cold water and aloe are the best treatments.
Second-degree burns are marked by blistering and bubbling of your skin. Repeatedly run the area under cold water while trying not to break the blister. Never put ice directly on the wound.
Third-degree burns are so severe the skin often becomes charred. Never let water touch these burns. Simply wait for the area to cool enough for you to wrap it.
Just because you’re camping off-grid doesn’t mean you should ever be lost.
Stay on the Map
A big part of wilderness survival is the rescue. You need to be able to get to a hospital as quickly as possible, so it’s important always to know your location.
Having a satellite GPS that can track it for you is the easiest option. But an up-to-date map and compass can be just as effective.
If you know your declination, there are landmarks within view, and you can find your bearing, a map and compass can also be used to triangulate your location.
Once you have your location, you’ll need to get out a signal somehow. A satellite phone is definitely the most reliable option, but a signal fire can also work.
To make it visible from great distances, use pine branches and needles. This will create a heavy, dark cloud of smoke for all to see.
The wild has an abundance of food and resources for those who know how to look for it.
Starting a Fire
The sites that you pick when off-grid camping will often be completely bare. That means you’ll have to make your own firepit.
For areas that are grassy, dig up the top layer so that you’re cooking on dirt. Then place large rocks around the edges of your pit until you form a barrier of at least 6 inches high.
To create a fire that will last long enough for you to cook your food, collect lots of large branches, tiny twigs, and pine needles or birch bark.
First, make a small pile with pine needles or birch bark. These burn hot and quickly and are the best way to start a fire. Over the top of the pile, build a teepee from the twigs you’ve collected. Finally, use the larger branches to form a square log cabin around it all.
Trapping and Fishing
Being able to provide your own food is a big part of wilderness survival. For catching small land animals, a noose trap is the simplest option.
Create a noose knot in a thin rope and tie the other end to a very low-hanging branch near some bushes around the perimeter of your campsite. You don’t need to monitor the rope or place bait.
Fishing wire and a hook can also be tied to a stick if you are staying by a body of water and want to fish. Since the wire will need to be short and fish shy away from boats, casting it off land is more effective.
In North America, the majority of plants are edible, but you should never eat a plant that you aren’t completely sure of. Bringing a plant identification guide will make foraging easy.
In terms of wilderness survival, be sure to hunt for more fatty tree nuts over leafy greens.
After water, warm shelter is the most important part of wilderness survival.
To create a basic wilderness survival shelter, string up all four corners of a tarp at a slight diagonal. That way, rainwater will simply slide off the back, but it’s still flat enough to protect from the sun.
For shelters for extreme weather conditions, use a rope on each side to tie the end to the base of a tree and a hole a third of the way across the edge to a point higher up on the same tree.
The opening should be square. All four corners should be pegged into the ground, while the back and sides are weighed down with rocks.
Fire lets off carbon monoxide, which is poisonous in large quantities. So any wilderness survival cooking shelter needs to have a lot of airflow.
Put the diagonal facing the wind to ensure your fire is protected as possible. But never have the shelter so enclosed that one side of the tarp is on the ground.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the 3333 rule for human survival?
You can only survive 3 minutes without oxygen or in icy water, you can survive 3 hours without a shelter in harsh conditions, you can go without water for 3 days as long as you have a shelter, and you can survive 3 weeks without food when you have access to water and a shelter.
How can I survive in nature without any supplies?
The first step when stranded in the wilderness is to find a water supply. Then you want to build a shelter within walking distance and focus on staying warm. Once you have a home base, you can start to worry about food supply. When these basic needs are met, you will be able to think about escape or rescue.
Wrapping Up a Deep Dive Into Off-Grid Wilderness Survival Camping
With this deep dive into wilderness survival, you’ll be ready for any curve ball nature has to throw at you!
And for more help on picking out the right gear, check out our Ultimate Camping Checklist.