How to Avoid Survival Situations: 16 Top Tips from Experts

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By Bryan Lynch •  8 min read

From the overload of survival TV shows, movies, and online videos, you would think that survival situations not only happen all the time but suddenly, just happen.

A plane crash, vehicle accident, an overturned boat, pick your scenario. Now, I am not saying these things do not happen.

Situations can turn south rather quickly, and a person can find themselves thrust into survival mode. However, if you pay attention to the news, most survival situations do not unfold like many people have come to believe. 

Often when people find themselves in a survival situation it is because they put themselves there. On the surface, this may sound harsh or even idiotic. After all, who would willingly put themselves in harm’s way?

Let me explain. 

It is not that a person wants to be in a dangerous situation, but by not being adequately prepared and ignoring the warnings or “road signs” before one of these scenarios, a person has put themselves in a bad position. 

For example, many recent stories I have heard are of people becoming lost in national parks or some other tract of wilderness. 

Usually, these lost individuals are found relatively unharmed. 

But there are a couple of interesting aspects to these stories that glaringly stand out to me.


First, after being rescued, some of these people had little to no outdoor gear with them. This is usually attributed to what I call the “just/only” mentality. 

“I’m just going on a day hike,” or “I’m only going to be gone for an hour.” 

This way of thinking gets people into trouble more often than not because it lulls them into a false sense of security. When going into the outdoors one should always have a minimum amount of safety and emergency gear. 

Secondly, sometimes these people do have gear, however, it is still in the packaging or they may not have much experience with it. There is a saying among outdoors people that goes something like this, “the first time you use a piece of gear, should not be when you need it.” 

Over the years I have talked with a few people who purchase a tool or piece of gear who insist on leaving it in the package. When I asked why they do this the answer was that they wanted that item to be in perfect condition for when they needed it. 

Okay, this may be alright to do with a product that a person has a lot of prior experience with but not with one they have never used. 

Many times, people buy a product because they think it is what they need or due to the hype around it, only to find out that that item is not quality made. In a survival situation, you do not want to be trying to figure out how a piece of gear works or if it even works at all. Practice with your gear!

Lastly, it also seems to be a common theme that there is a lack of outdoor knowledge and skills among these people. Again, in their defense, these people did not plan on ending up in a survival situation, but it can also be said that they did not plan at all. 

Proper planning can completely change the outlook and outcome of a situation. It is the responsibility of anyone who ventures into the outdoors to have a basic understanding of how to deal with shelter, water, food, first aid, and navigation. 

Warning Signs

Let me get back to this idea of survival situations being thrust upon people. I would argue that there can be several warning signs before a survival situation that are typically ignored. 

These are far too innumerable to list and specific to the situations.

But here are a few general examples that have gotten people into a bad situation.  

Weather Forecast

I think everyone is guilty of ignoring the weather forecast at some point in their life. However, doing this when venturing into the wilderness will not be a forgiving decision. The lack of weather-appropriate gear or continuing when the weather could affect transportation is a dangerous mistake. 

Faulty Equipment 

All gear, tools, supplies, and vehicles should be checked and in the best working order before setting out on your journey. If an item is displaying a problem beforehand there is no reason to think it will get better as time goes on. 

Going Off Trail

I get it, you want to see something different or from a different perspective than everyone else who takes the same path. Established trails are there to help preserve the local environment as well as for a person’s safety. Staying on a trail is one of the main things a person can do to avoid putting themselves in a survival situation. 

Leaving the Group

This is a similar idea to staying on the trail. If you are with a group of people, it is always best practice to stay with the group. Never venture off by yourself. At a minimum always travel in pairs.  

Additional Tips for Avoiding Survival Situations

I know that we cannot be prepared for everything all the time because that is impossible, not to mention an exhausting endeavor. Although it is still true that the responsibility of a person’s safety falls solely on their shoulders.

This does not just apply to hiking in a large park but is true across a wide range of activities in life, including our daily lives. 

Here are some tips to better prepare yourself and to hopefully avoid turning an enjoyable experience into a survival situation.  

  1. Tell others where you are going and leave a detailed plan for your activities. Leave contact information for where you can be reached as well as where you will be staying. 
  2. Have scheduled check-in times.
  3. Have the proper gear that you need for the activity on hand as well as emergency supplies and be sure you know how to use them.
  4. Do not just know how to use gear but practice with it as much as possible.
  5. Dress appropriately for the weather and not for the short time you think you will be exposed to it.
  6. Know the weather forecast.
  7. Stay on the trail. 
  8. Do not venture off alone. 
  9. Always stay within earshot of the main group.
  10. Do not depend on your phone to save you instantly. 
  11. Be knowledgeable of the region you are visiting. 
  12. Always have a map and compass
  13. Have food and ways to filter water
  14. Have a first aid kit and know how to use it.
  15. Get rid of the mentality of “I’m only going on a day hike,” or “I’m only going fifteen minutes down the road.”
  16. If none of the above is done, then at a minimum go with someone who is prepared or do not go at all. 

Basic Supplies to Always Carry 

  1. Lighter and matches 
  2. Tarp 
  3. Trash bag
  4. Cordage 
  5. Knife 
  6. Map and compass 
  7. First aid kit
  8. Water bottle
  9. Water filter
  10. Signal whistle and signal mirror
  11. Emergency blanket

Wrap Up 

There is one last thing I would like you to think about and that is in a survival situation it is not only your life on the line. In fact there may be quite a few lives other than your own. 

When a person becomes lost there can be a great number of people that come together to find that lost individual. These people perform rescues by land, sea, and air and rescues do not always go according to plan. Sometimes rescuers are injured or may even lose their lives in their attempts to help others. 

I hope that this article did not come off as being “preachy,” as that was not my intention. But I do think we need to look at our plans and actions more in-depth and with a critical eye. 

Going on an adventure is not only fun but it is in our nature to explore and experience new things. Take the time to plan accordingly so that you can have fun but be safe at the same time. This will help to keep you as well as others out of harm’s way. At the end of the day, your safety is your responsibility. 

Be safe, be responsible, have fun, and thanks for reading!

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.