Surviving overnight in the woods

I got this notice from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and was fascinated by the survival kit suggestions. Considering they are all readily available items, maybe folks should just throw a few together and stash them in your outdoor backpacks … just in case.

Here’s the DNR press release:

DNR says everyone should have wilderness survival skills

Three lost Minnesota bear hunters, recently forced to spend the night in the woods is a good reminder that anyone enjoying the outdoors should know the basic rules of wilderness survival, said Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Education Program coordinator.

Panic is the biggest enemy if someone gets lost in the wood. Hammer said the acronym S.T.O.P. could save a person’s life.

·         SIT: Collect your thoughts and realize that you are not lost; you just can’t find your camp or vehicle.

·         THINK: What do I have at my disposal both physical and mental that can help me in this situation? Inventory your survival kit and start to develop a plan.

·         OBSERVE: Look around, is there shelter, water, an open area where searchers could see you?

·         PLAN: Create a plan of action. Pick a spot that you can build a fire for heat and signaling. In addition, can the spot provide basic shelter? Most of all remain positive, you will survive.

A basic survival kit can be packed into a quart zip-lock bag and should contain the following.

·         Basic shelter materials: Two 55-gallon garbage bags and 30 feet of braided mason’s line.

·         Means to start a fire: Disposable lighter, waterproof matches or matches stored in a waterproof container, or 10 feet of toilet paper or petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls in a 35 mm film canister.

·         Means of signaling: Whistle, signal mirror (could be an old CD). A fire is also a signal.

·         Means of knowing direction: A compass.

·         Comfort food: Food bar, nuts or trail mix.

When heading outdoors, plan for the unexpected and be prepared to spend the night in the woods.

Here are some things to do before heading out.

·         Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

·         Carry a compass or GPS and know how to use it.

·         Carry a basic survival and first-aid kit.

·         Carry a cell phone since they work almost everywhere.

·         Check the weather and dress for it.

These outdoor safety tips and much more about outdoor survival are part of the Minnesota DNR Hunter Education Firearms Safety Program. There is a free online study guide for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts that can be found on the DNR website at then click on HunterExam .

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6 Responses to Surviving overnight in the woods

  1. Tansey says:

    “Carry a cell phone since they work almost everywhere.”

    You don’t have to go very far from the city of Ely to loose cell phone coverage-

  2. Jodi says:

    I agree with Tansey, I go north on HWY 2 and I loose coverage with my cell. Not all cell phones work almost everywhere.

  3. a a says:

    Ditto on the cell phone, there’s even a camp ground here practically IN town that we only get service if we stay on one side of it. But majority of the tips are good ones. As for starting a fire, a 9Volt battery and steel wool will also do the trick. The steel wool shorts out the battery and ignites, but you have to get it onto kindling fast or you lose your chance. Also, don’t store them in the same place in your backpack, incase they accidentally touch. (Learned that one from watching Discovery Channel!)

  4. Brian says:

    The key is to always let someone know where you are “planning” to hunt and don’t deviate from that general area without letting someone know. then if you don’t show up at an expected/reasonable time, they know where to start looking. Relying on cell phones in the thick NE MN woods is ridiculous. However, when you dial 911 (if you get signal) they will get your coordinates and the search team will be able to walk right to you (so stay in the same area you dailed 911 from). Finally DONATE BIG to your local “Search and Rescue” squad. They are not part of government and the equipment, technology, training, etc. that is purchased in order to rescue you is primarily from private donations. You NEVER know when you or loved one may need their help to return to safety. Believe me, you’d be willing to pay any price when lost so why not give to an organization that is there solely to search and resue lost hunters, campers, hikers, boaters etc…

  5. Gerry Sibell says:

    In addition to all the other good comments, invest in a “Spot”. I have had one for several years now. It works great as long as you are not in canopy that is too heavy. I spend a lot of time by myself in the woods looking for sheds, checking my trail cameras, and wildlife photography. My wife can check my progress online. There is a signal sent every 10 minutes to a satellite which she can view on Google Earth.

    When I get back to the truck at night, I send a prerecorded message to our email saying I am OK and am back at the truck.
    There is also a button to press if I need help but isn’t life threatening. If I am in a life threatening situation, I can push the 911 button and the cavalry will called out! For a veery few extra buck a year, there is insurance available that will pay the expenses, if say a helicopter, is needed to get you out.

    I think of all the tragic situations that could have been averted by having a Spot. The one that really comes to mind is the incident involving the three football players whose boat capsized off the Florida coast. Having a Spot would have save the two that died.

    I am completely sold on the Spot. Having it “allows” me get out of the house more, if you catch my drift!

    Here is a link to their website if interested. They now have an updated version but mine works fine and is all I need.


  6. Dick says:

    I was moose hunting near the BWCAW this year and I had poor to no cell service for voice calls. I was however able for some reason to send text messages. If you are in trouble and can’t make a voice call, try texting.

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