19 Tips for Surviving in a Post-Apocalyptic Wilderness

Surviving in a post-apocalyptic wilderness can be an overwhelming challenge. It requires practical knowledge, skills, and a resilient mindset to navigate the harsh realities of a world where modern conveniences are scarce or nonexistent. Whether you are dealing with finding shelter, securing food, or protecting yourself, understanding how to sustain and defend yourself becomes crucial for survival.

In such an extreme and demanding situation, following these strategies, you can increase your chances of staying safe and healthy in a world that has been drastically altered. Remember, the key to survival lies in resourcefulness, adaptability, and staying calm under pressure.

1. Find Fresh Water Sources

young hiker drinking stream water in mountain
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You need water to survive. Check for rivers, streams, or lakes. Moving water is usually safer to drink than stagnant water.

You can collect rainwater. Set up containers to catch rain. You can also find water in plants. Look for large leaves and put a plastic bag around them to collect condensation.

In deserts, cut vines to get water. Digging a small pit and covering it with plastic can help collect water from the ground. Always purify the water before drinking by boiling it or using tablets.

2. Learn Basic First Aid

First Aid Kit
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Knowing basic first aid skills is crucial in a post-apocalyptic world. Simple actions like cleaning and covering wounds can prevent infections. Being able to perform CPR can save lives in sudden cardiac events. You will need to know how to treat cuts, burns, and fractures to keep injuries from getting worse.

First aid training also includes recognizing heat and cold-related illnesses. Heat strokes and frostbites can be life-threatening if not treated quickly. Learning these skills can keep you and others safe in harsh conditions.

Keeping a well-stocked first aid kit is important. Include bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers. Familiarize yourself with these items and how to use them. The better prepared you are, the higher your chances of survival.

3. Identify Edible Plants

Woman Picking Wild Garlic In Woodland
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Being able to identify edible plants in the wild is crucial. Some plants can be lethal if eaten, so it’s important to know which ones are safe. Learn to recognize plants with distinct features like the shape, size, and arrangement of their leaves.

Avoid mushrooms altogether as they are often toxic. Steer clear of plants with milky sap, spines, fine hairs, or waxy leaves. Always perform a skin test by rubbing a small part of the plant on your inner forearm. If no reaction occurs after 15 minutes, test it on your lip before tasting.

4. Set Up Traps for Wild Game

Animal trap
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Trapping wild game is crucial for survival. One reliable method is the deadfall trap. This trap uses a heavy object to crush the animal. It’s effective for small to medium-sized animals.

The simple snare is easy to make. Use wire or string to form a noose. Place it near an animal’s den to catch them when they exit.

For another option, the treadle snare works well in cold environments. It traps the animal under water, preserving it in cold temperatures.

5. Create a Fire with Basic Tools

Fire making in the wild (wilderness survival). Two boys trying to make a fire with hand-drill method.
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To start a fire, gathering the right materials is key. You’ll need tinder, kindling, and fuel. Tinder consists of small, dry pieces of material that easily catch fire, like dry leaves or grass.

To ignite the tinder, use a round stick and a flat board. Create a groove in the board and scrape along it with the stick. Keep your kindling piled at the end to catch the embers.

Another method uses a magnifying glass. On a sunny day, focus the sun’s rays onto your tinder until it starts to smolder. This concentrates heat and helps you get a flame.

6. Navigate Using Natural Landmarks

trekking sticks mountain in background
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In the wilderness, natural landmarks are your best friends. Look for prominent features like mountains, rivers, and large trees. These can help you keep a steady direction.

Identify unique features in the environment. For example, note the shape of a distinct hill or the curve of a winding river. Remembering these details helps you avoid walking in circles.

Observe the sun’s position as well. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west, providing a basic sense of direction. This can be crucial when other landmarks are hard to find.

7. Signal for Help Using Mirrors

signal mirrors
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A signal mirror is a great tool in the wilderness. It uses sunlight to send a bright flash. This can be seen for many miles. To use it, face the sun and hold the mirror close to your eye.

Direct the light towards a rescue target like a plane or a person. Signal mirrors often have a sighting hole to help aim. You can also use any reflective surface like a cosmetic mirror. In emergency situations, the flashes can attract attention, increasing your chances of rescue.

8. Learn Basic Self-Defense Skills

self defence class
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Knowing basic self-defense is crucial in a post-apocalyptic world. It can help you protect yourself and those around you. Start with learning simple moves like blocking and striking. These can be lifesavers in dangerous situations.

Practice situational awareness. Always be aware of your surroundings. This means knowing where exits are and identifying potential threats. This skill can help you avoid conflicts altogether.

Learn how to use everyday items for defense. A stick or a rock can become effective tools if used correctly. Finding creative ways to protect yourself can give you an edge.

Consider taking a self-defense class. These classes teach techniques for various situations. They often include training in unarmed combat and defense against weapons. These skills are valuable and can boost your confidence.

Invest time in regular practice. Skills are best remembered when regularly practiced. A few minutes each day can make a big difference.

9. Store Food to Prevent Spoiling

Home food storage room. Various jars with Home Canning Fruits and Vegetables jam on shelves
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To keep food from spoiling, focus on dryness and cool temperatures. Moisture can cause mold and bacteria to grow. So, dry foods like rice, pasta, and beans should be kept in airtight containers. Canning is another effective method. Foods sealed in jars with vacuum pressure can last for years.

Another key to preserving food is to limit oxygen exposure. Without oxygen, many microbes can’t live. Vacuum-sealed bags are great for this. You should also consider dehydrating fruits and vegetables. Removing water helps food last longer and reduces the weight for easier storage.

Food stored at cooler temperatures spoils more slowly. Find a cool, dark place like a basement or root cellar. This keeps food from spoiling quickly. Keep an eye on expiration dates and rotate your stock, eating older items first. This helps ensure you always have fresh food on hand.

10. Make and Use a Fish Trap

fish trap
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Making a fish trap is a crucial skill in a post-apocalyptic wilderness. First, find a 1-liter bottle. Cut the bottle into two parts towards the top. Poke some holes in the bottle to allow water flow.

Put stones inside the bottle to act as weights. Add bait if you have some. Place the trap in an area where fish are likely to swim. Make sure the opening faces the water flow.

Check the trap every few hours to see if you’ve caught any fish. Fish traps are an efficient way to catch food while you attend to other survival tasks.

11. Make Sure You’ve Got Adequate Weapons

knife for camping
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While the idea of crafting weapons from natural items might appeal to some, it’s easier, safer, and smarter to make sure you’re already well-equipped. You need a decent survival knife, at the very least, for defending yourself, setting up shelter, getting meat, and more. A reliable, lightweight rifle and plenty of ammo are also essential. Between looters, raiders, and wildlife, you really do need some way to protect yourself, your family, and your supplies.

Sure, you can faff around, making a slingshot or making napping flint or stone to make a crude “knife” or “ax”, but you need real, effective weapons in a post-collapse world.

12. Use Solar Power for Electricity

A solar panel charges a phone on a nice sunny day. The phone is in the hands of a man who is charging it. Portable powerbank for hiking and tourism.
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In a post-apocalyptic setting, solar power is a reliable way to generate electricity. Solar panels convert sunlight into usable energy, which you can store in batteries for use at night or during cloudy days.

Position solar panels in an area with maximum sun exposure. Ideally, place them on a roof or elevated structure. The more sunlight they receive, the more power they generate.

Invest in high-quality solar panels and batteries. While the initial cost might be high, they offer long-term benefits by providing a consistent power source. In an emergency, this setup can keep essential devices running.

13. Practice Foraging Skills

little kids mushroom pickers go to the forest or woodland by the hand with their grandmother. family of survivalists gathers a wild fungus harvest and outdoor foraging in nature.
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Foraging is a vital skill in a post-apocalyptic world. Learning to identify edible plants, berries, and roots can help you find food when supplies are scarce. Look for common wild plants like dandelions, plantains, and clover. These can provide essential nutrients.

Understanding which plants are safe to eat is crucial. Some, like the Amanita mushroom, are deadly. Always double-check before consuming anything. You can use field guides or apps to help with identification. Practicing these skills now ensures you’ll be better prepared in any survival situation.

14. Learn How To Purify Water

Man and woman couple using water filter on hiking trail river in Colorado to purify drinking water into bottle
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In a survival situation, purifying water is crucial to avoid waterborne illnesses. First, filter the water to remove large debris using a cloth or coffee filter.

Next, boil the water for at least one minute to kill pathogens; at higher altitudes, extend this to three minutes.

If boiling is not possible, use water purification tablets or drops following the product instructions. Alternatively, you can use household bleach, adding 8 drops per gallon of water and letting it sit for 30 minutes.

15. Finding or Building a Shelter

Shelter and Exposure
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Securing shelter is vital in a post-apocalyptic wilderness. Start by seeking natural shelters like caves, rock overhangs, or dense tree cover, which provide immediate protection from the elements.

If natural shelters are unavailable, build a makeshift shelter using branches, leaves, and other materials. Construct a simple lean-to by leaning branches against a fallen log or tree, covering it with leaves and debris for insulation. Having a tarp in your emergency kit is really useful for helping you build a temporary shelter.

Ensure the shelter is sturdy and provides adequate ventilation. Position your shelter away from potential hazards like falling trees or flood-prone areas. A well-built shelter will protect you from harsh weather and predators, ensuring your safety and comfort.

16. Prepare a Bug-Out Bag

Lady prepping a bug out bag
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A well-prepared bug-out bag can help you survive in a post-apocalyptic wilderness. Start with the basics: food, water, and shelter. Pack enough food for at least three days. Include items that don’t spoil easily, like canned goods and dried fruit.

Water is crucial. Your body can only go without water for about three days. Aim for at least one liter per day, per person. Water purification tablets or a small filter can make questionable water safe to drink.

First aid supplies are necessary. Include bandages, painkillers, antiseptic wipes, and a tourniquet. You never know when minor injuries might turn serious.

Clothing should be layered and durable. Think about the weather in your area. A lightweight rain jacket, a warm hat, and gloves can make a huge difference.

Tools like a multi-tool, a good knife, and a fire starter are essential. These items help you build shelter, prepare food, and stay warm.

Don’t forget personal items. Prescription medications, a flashlight, extra batteries, and a map can be lifesavers. Tailor your bag to your specific needs. The right items can keep you alive and make your journey easier when disaster strikes. Remember, a well-prepped bug-out bag is your lifeline.

17. Understand Basic Astronomy for Navigation

sky at night with stars in the sky
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In a post-apocalyptic world, technology might not be available. Knowing basic astronomy can help you find your way. The stars, moon, and sun have guided travelers for centuries.

Learn the positions of key stars like the North Star. It stays almost still in the sky and points to the north.

During the day, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. This can help you figure out directions. At night, look for constellations like Orion’s Belt. They can help guide you across vast distances.

Mastering these skills can be a lifesaver when modern tools fail.

18. Develop Camouflage Techniques

Couple wearing camouflage clothes hiding in a woods
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Camouflage is crucial for staying hidden in a post-apocalyptic wilderness. Use nature to your advantage. Blend in with your surroundings by wearing clothing that matches the environment. Brown, green, and grey are good choices.

Don’t overlook your shadow. It can reveal your presence. Stay in the shade of trees or buildings whenever possible. Move slowly to avoid drawing attention.

Use natural materials like leaves, branches, and mud to cover yourself. This can help break up your outline. Always be aware of your surroundings and adapt your camouflage to fit changes in the environment.

19. Use Animal Behavior for Clues

mice scurrying along the ground in a forest
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Animal behavior can offer valuable insights. Animals often sense danger before humans do. For example, if you notice birds suddenly taking flight or small animals scurrying for cover, it might signal a predator or natural disaster.

Observe where animals find food and water. Following animal tracks can lead you to essential resources. Pay attention to where birds and insects gather, as these spots often indicate water sources nearby.

Watching animal paths can also help you avoid danger. Large predators like bears often use the same trails as their prey. By being alert to these signs, you can stay safe and find resources more effectively.

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