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How To Survive In The Woods- 12 Important Things To Know

Camping is a great way to spend a vacation away from the hustle and bustle of city life. As eager as you must be to leave the city, are you sure that you are prepared for what’s about to come? If this is your first time camping, you need to educate yourself properly before planning a trip to the woods. In this guide, we’ll share some of our most important tips on how to survive in the woods that will make camping easier for you.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Water Procurement and Purification

how to survive in the woods

We’ll start this guide to how to survive in the woods with the most important thing one needs to survive- water.

Water is sneaky. It likes to hide in plain sight—underground, in plants, or just hanging out in the air as humidity. One method for collecting water is by creating a solar still with a plastic sheet, which is basically convincing water vapor to turn back into liquid form because you asked nicely​​. Morning dew can be a lifesaver, literally. You can collect it by spreading out a tarp overnight and then wringing it out in the morning. Just imagine you’re milking a giant, damp cow made of plastic​​.

In colder climates, snow and ice are the go-to. But remember, eating snow directly is a rookie mistake—it’s like trying to quench your thirst with a freezer. Melt it first, and for goodness’ sake, don’t burn it. Scorched water is the culinary equivalent of burnt toast​​.

Once you’ve found your water, it’s time to purify it because, as it turns out, nature’s water park is full of E. coli and its friends. Boiling is the old reliable method—just a rolling boil for a minute or so, and you’re good to go​​.

For those who prefer a more sophisticated approach, portable water filters and purifiers are like having a miniature water treatment plant in your pocket. They can remove everything from bacteria to bad vibes (results may vary on the vibes).

Building A Shelter

shelter camping

This guide to how to survive in the woods wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t cover the topic of building a shelter.

The first step in building a shelter is finding the perfect spot. You’re looking for the Goldilocks zone – not too open to invite every mosquito to feast on you, but not too closed that it’s prime real estate for falling branches. And remember, water is life, but not when it’s unexpectedly joining you in bed. Avoid the natural beds of streams unless you’ve always wanted to try out being a human raft.

The lean-to shelter is the starter home of wilderness abodes – functional, with a hint of rustic charm. You’ll need a long stick for the spine and lean other sticks against it, sort of like you’re creating a tent skeleton. Then, layer it with leaves, branches, or your hopes and dreams for insulation. Just kidding on the last part; hopes and dreams are notoriously poor at keeping out the cold.

The lean-to shelter is the starter home of wilderness abodes – functional, with a hint of rustic charm. You’ll need a long stick for the spine and lean other sticks against it, sort of like you’re creating a tent skeleton. Then, layer it with leaves, branches, or your hopes and dreams for insulation. Just kidding on the last part; hopes and dreams are notoriously poor at keeping out the cold.

Speaking of insulation, let’s talk about the ground. It’s cold, it’s hard, and it will suck the warmth right out of you. To combat this, think about a “bed” of leaves, pine needles, or spruce boughs. It’s nature’s mattress, and while it won’t have the same support as memory foam, it also won’t have a monthly payment.

Fire Creation and Maintenance

campfire how to survive in the woods

Fire creation is another one of the most important aspects of how to survive in the woods. First things first, you’ll need to play matchmaker – and I’m not talking about setting up your single friends. Gathering tinder is your initial step; think of it as finding the kindling equivalent of love at first sight. Dry leaves, grass, or small twigs work best. They’re eager to ignite with just a spark – truly the Tinder of the wilderness but with less ghosting.

Now that you’ve swiped right on your tinder, it’s time to create that first spark. If you’re old school, flint and steel is your go-to method. Striking them together is like trying to get a laugh out of a tough crowd – it requires persistence, technique, and a bit of elbow grease. Modern adventurers might prefer a ferro rod or even a trusty lighter, because let’s face it, sometimes you want to skip the small talk and get straight to the flame.

Attire and Footwear

drying clothes camping

Planning a trip to the woods always starts with packing the right clothes. Even if it’s for a day, you need to pack a few sets of clothes (but don’t make these packing mistakes). Anything can happen in the wilderness. You can trip and scratch yourself, get wet in the river, or get rained on. Additionally, since you will be doing a lot of hiking, jumping, and rowing, you will need extra clothes so that you don’t smell horrible on the way home.

The thing with the woods is that it can be warm during the day, but the nights can be super chilly. So, make sure to put on moisture-wicking long pants and long-sleeved shirts, and pack a couple of extra sets as well. The goal is to stay comfortable no matter the temperature but also to keep the bugs away. Also, carry a bathing suit, synthetic or camping socks, underwear, gloves, a lightweight jacket, hat, polarized sunglasses, and a good pair of waterproof shoes. If you don’t know what to pick, check out this list ranking the best waterproof shoes by Faveable.

Navigation and Camping Tools

planning a trip to the woods

Another important aspect of how to survive in the woods is taking the right navigation and camping tools. You might not need all of these things but mentioning all of them might help you decide what you actually need for your trip. The list might include maps, a compass, binoculars, flashlights, batteries, camera and camera accessories, headphones, knives, whistles, a gear repair kit, a lighter or matches, umbrellas or raincoats, an altimeter, a route guidebook, a Personal Locator Beacon, headlamps, helmets, a GPS device, chargers, and power banks.

Finally, in order to carry all the clothes, shoes, and tools, get yourself a nice, high-quality collapsible backpack. To set up your camp, you will need some travel pillows, sleeping bags or an air mattress, a tarp, and, of course, a tent.

Navigation Techniques

stars camping

Learning to navigate by the stars isn’t just for sailors and pirates. The North Star (Polaris) has been a reliable buddy for northern hemisphere navigators because it’s like the anchor of the night sky, stubbornly sitting nearly directly above the North Pole.

Using the sun to navigate is as straightforward as it gets, with a few caveats. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but its path changes with the seasons. A simple method is the stick and shadow technique: place a stick in the ground, mark the end of its shadow with a stone, wait about 15 minutes, then mark the end of the shadow again. The line between the two marks points east-west.

You’ve probably heard the old adage that moss grows on the north side of trees. While there’s a kernel of truth here, relying on this method alone is like trusting a broken clock—it’s right twice a day. Moss grows in moist, shaded areas, and in some regions, that could indeed be the north side of trees.

If you have an analog watch (yes, they still exist), you can use it as a makeshift compass. Point the hour hand at the sun, and then bisect the angle between the hour hand and the 12 o’clock mark to find south.

Survival Gear & Tools

survival gear

First up is the multitool, essentially the Swiss Army knife’s more muscular cousin. From pliers to bottle openers, a good multitool is like having a toolbox you can fit in your pocket.

Next, we have the fire starter, whether it’s a ferro rod, waterproof matches, or a good old-fashioned lighter, having a reliable way to start a fire is crucial.

Water is life, but untreated water can be a one-way ticket to misery town. So, don’t forget about the portable water filter or purifier.

A good shelter system, whether it’s a high-tech tent, a tarp, or an emergency bivy, is like your personal bubble against the elements.

Lastly, we have the headlamp, because holding a flashlight in your mouth while trying to set up camp in the dark is about as fun as it sounds.

Encountering Wildlife


This guide on how to survive in the woods couldn’t be complete without a few tips on what to do when encountering wildlife during your trip.

First off, let’s talk about what not to do, because, let’s face it, sometimes our inner Snow White wants to come out, but this isn’t the time. Don’t feed the animals; despite how much that squirrel might resemble your pet dog with its begging eyes, feeding wildlife can lead to aggressive behavior and isn’t good for their health (Intermountain Healthcare). Also, resist the urge to pet them.

If you stumble upon a bear, the encounter depends greatly on whether it’s a black bear or a grizzly. For both, never approach them, especially if cubs are present. If you spot them first, back away slowly while keeping your eyes on them. If they haven’t noticed you, keep it that way by quietly retreating. If a bear approaches, make yourself look bigger and make noise if it’s a black bear; if it’s a grizzly, however, try to stay calm, avoid eye contact, and slowly back away. If all else fails and a black bear attacks, fight back. For grizzly attacks, playing dead is your best bet (REI Co-op).

Encountering a cougar or mountain lion? If you see one, don’t run—this might kick-start their “chase” reflex. Instead, make yourself look larger, keep eye contact, and back away slowly. If attacked, fight back vigorously, aiming to appear as threatening as possible (Bearfoot Theory).

How To Survive In The Woods- Health and Safety

planning a trip to the woods

When planning a trip to the woods, it’s important not to forget all the necessary medications you might need for the trip. Take any prescribed medication, blister ointment, antibiotics, and medicines for allergies, food poisoning, migraines, pain, motion sickness, and insect poisoning, and bug repellents. Insects that carry poison or disease are super dangerous. Additionally, consider carrying a lip balm and a lotion to keep your skin moisturized. Be mindful of menstrual hygiene as well. Other than that, pack some wet wipes, hand sanitizer, tissues, soap, a toothbrush, toothpaste, a hairbrush, hair ties, and sunscreen.

First Aid Tools

benefits of having travel insurance

General-purpose first aid kits are quite small. However, for your hiking trip, you need to gear up. A typical camping first aid kit should contain a first aid manual, antiseptic wipes, safety pins, tweezers, all the necessary medicines, sterile pads, adhesive tape, gauze pads, bandages, antibacterial ointment, sunburn gel, eye drops, lozenges for a sore throat, a medical waste bag, a CPR mask, medical gloves, a thermometer, cotton swabs, and a pair of scissors. It may look like a lot to carry, but you never know when you might need them. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Energy Food and Drinks

camping food

Camping in the woods is a very demanding activity, and you will need to pack up food and drinks that give you lots of energy. Consider taking portable cookware, including a camping stove, reusable cups, and plates, a cutting board, and reusable utensils if you want to try a few new camping recipes, and if you can’t live without coffee, don’t forget to bring portable camping coffee makers, etc. Get some easy-to-cook meals, like mac n’ cheese, burgers, pasta, sandwiches, grilled meat, burritos, french toast, and salads.

Gummy bears, protein bars, sports drinks, nuts, snacks, and chews are great choices to keep up your energy when camping in the woods. Additionally, carry fruits in Ziploc sandwich bags to keep your body nourished with water, minerals, and vitamins.

Entertainment Essentials

entertainment camping

Solo camping in the woods is exciting most of the time but sometimes, things might not go as planned. For example, what if it starts raining, or the weather is too chilly to swim? That is why you should consider packing some entertainment essentials in the trunk so that the trip is not completely wasted. Consider bringing a bicycle, fishing gear (such as poles, line, reels, tackle, and lures), kayaking gear (including paddles, life jackets, and repair kits), or some board and card games (especially if you’re traveling with a group).

Final Thoughts

If you’re camping, you need to travel as light as possible and you can lose some weight by not taking things like your camera. Packing for the day trip will require a checklist. By noting down everything mentioned here, you can sort out what you need and what you don’t. It will help you to not leave important things behind.

You don’t necessarily have to follow the entire list but it’s a great starting point when planning a trip to the woods. Have you ever been on a trip to the woods? Do you think there are some more tips on how to survive in the woods that we didn’t mention in this article? Let us know in the comments below!

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planning a trip to the woods
planning a trip to the woods


Wednesday 26th of June 2019

I LOVE camping in the woods! Its one if my favourite childhood memories - camping with friends and family, just for one night, so much fun! We have never wrote lists, we managed somehow! But today I like to prepare a bit when I go to longer trips!

Passport Symphony

Friday 28th of June 2019

Thank you, Andreja- I'm glad to hear this post brought back some warm childhood memories.


Wednesday 26th of June 2019

I find it so interesting that people camp is such different ways. Reading your article, I found that I'm very much a lowkey camper compared to others. I hardly worry about all the extra and focus on the necessities: good hiking shoes, layers, water, tent, and easy food to cook such as "poor-boy" dinners and brats. I hadn't even thought about bringing a first aid kit or cooking other foods such as pasta. I just might expand my horizons on my next camping trip!

Passport Symphony

Friday 28th of June 2019

Indeed, Martha. Everyone is different, and hence, there are different ways for camping and packing for camping :) The goal of this list was to give the ultimate checklist of all items one might need.

Annick Lenoir-Peek

Wednesday 26th of June 2019

I used to go camping with my boys all the time when they were younger. Your list of what to bring is thorough. You’re right that first aid kits tend to be too small and you need to think about what you may need until you can get help. As I’ve aged and gotten aches and pains, I no longer enjoy it as much, but the memories we created will stay with us forever.

Passport Symphony

Wednesday 26th of June 2019

I'm sorry to hear you don't get the chance to go camping as often anymore, Annick but I'm glad you liked and could relate to this post. Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts :)

Ryan K Biddulph

Tuesday 25th of June 2019

Good to know Daniel. I was destroyed by bugs hiking in Connecticut yesterday bro. Insane amounts, like the jungles of Costa Rica. We've had so much rain in the Northeast US over months that bugs are in abundance. I need good repellent and a willingness to have bugs in my eyes I guess hahaha.

Passport Symphony

Wednesday 26th of June 2019

I can totally relate, Ryan. Bugs can be a real pain in the ass. A good repellent is always a must when camping in the woods :)

Adele Gee

Tuesday 25th of June 2019

The last time I was camping , was eons ago. How nice it would be to do so again. Apart from the very valuable informational checklist, I am tempted now to start camping.. in my garden to practise before I do the real thing. I love that you included backup plans in case of bad weather!

Passport Symphony

Wednesday 26th of June 2019

Thank you, Adele. I'm glad you enjoyed this article.