Be Prepared for the Unpredictable Wilderness: Essential Survival Tips

The unpredictability of the wilderness is just one reason we love heading off grid, however, it’s also the very reason it can get us into trouble. Anytime you venture into the wild, there’s always a chance something won’t go as planned. We’re not trying to scare you, we’re just reinforcing the importance, as part of your adventure planning process, to familiarize yourself with basic skills that could help save your life. 

We’ve put together a list of tips to help you get familiar with skills you’ll need for whatever comes your way.  We encourage you to practice these skills ahead of your trip to not only give you peace of mind but to be ready if and when you need to use them.

Before You Hit the Road

Plan Ahead

As you plan your overlanding expedition, think about every possible scenario you could come across.  What type of terrain will you be traveling over?  What types of animals live in the areas you’re traveling to? Are there any hazards you should plan for? 

Thinking about these types of questions will not only help you pack appropriately, it can help you anticipate and prepare for situations you may encounter along the way.

While you may not always know exactly where the road less traveled will take you, it’s critical to let someone know the general area you’re headed to and how long you plan to be gone. Many GPS trail map apps such as GaiaGPS, allow you to download, email or print your route so it can be easily shared with others.  Plus, if you are able to, you can send a link sharing your location to get help fast. If there is an emergency, you’ll be glad someone knows where to start looking for you.


While you’re in the backcountry, whether alone or with a group, it’s always good to have a way to communicate if help is needed. Something as simple as two-way radios can be helpful in situations where you are less than a couple miles away from others since they are limited by range.

CB radio systems are a popular way to keep in touch with access to various radio frequencies.  Satellite phones, which rely on satellites rather than cell phone towers, are also an option and can be used anywhere in the world.  Whatever the option, be sure you have a way of communicating if needed.

Know Your Gear

Owning the best gear such as a handheld GPS system or rope retention pulley is great but it’s a problem if you don’t know how to use it.  Make sure you know exactly what gear you’re packing and take time to learn how to use it properly.  It’s also a good opportunity to check everything over to make sure things are in good working order.  You can also take a look at our recent post, “Packing for Your First Overlanding Expedition” for ideas on what essentials to pack.

overland trailers in desert

Survival Pack

If you’re planning on hitting off grid hiking trails during your overlanding expedition, be sure your backpack includes the right equipment. No one ever thinks an innocent hike will turn into a fight for survival, but you should pack like it could be. 

Here is our list of top essential items to have in your pack:

  • Water/water purification tablets
  • Protein bars and snacks
  • Multi-tool and knife with sharpener
  • Compass
  • Fire-starting kit: cotton balls, lighter or waterproof matches, petroleum jelly
  • LED Flashlight
  • Safety whistle
  • Small fishing kit
  • Rope, Sharpie pen
  • Mylar survival blanket
  • Extra clothing, socks, jacket
  • First aid kit, sunscreen
  • Large plastic tarp (rolled up)

As you’ll see a bit later, it’s so important to have the right items in your pack.  It could be the difference between life and death. Although it may seem dramatic or a lot to bring along on a hike, you’re in the middle of nowhere so preparedness is key.

off road trailer in mud

Essential Survival Skills

Don’t Panic

As soon as you feel you’ve lost your way, sit down right away and try to stay calm.  Panicking will only make the situation worse.  Think about any landmarks you may have passed or if you were going uphill or down.  Listen for any familiar sounds like running water. Staying positive and focused will help you retrace your steps back to a familiar area or come up with a plan much faster.

Make a Shelter

If it’s getting dark or you need to protect yourself from the elements, build a shelter.  Off Grid Trailers are all metal and built tough to provide excellent protection against the elements and wild animals.  Be sure to secure the galley any food that may be outside the trailer before getting inside.  Once inside, be sure to secure the door tightly since many animals including bears and alligators can and will climb things to get to what they want.


If you find yourself away from base camp, you can use the plastic tarp and rope in your pack to create a makeshift tent or covering. If you don’t have a tarp or large plastic sheet, sitting against the base of a large tree will offer some protection. Make sure the area you’re building your shelter has plenty of material around to make a fire.


Build a Fire

Building a fire provides warmth, light, and visibility.  Find materials around you to build your fire with such as dead tree bark, twigs, and tree branches.  Use the fire-starting kit in your backpack to light the fire. How to Build a Fire in the Wilderness


Locating Water

While you may have a water bottle in your pack, it will only last for so long.  Finding a water source is critical so you don’t become dehydrated. Humans can go weeks without food but only last about three days without water.  As thirsty as you may be, don’t drink right from the river or stream since it could make you sick. Instead fill your water bottle and either use a water purification tablet/pen or hold the bottle over the fire bringing it to a boil for at least a minute to kill any harmful bacteria.

Finding Food

Try to make the food in your pack last as long as possible. After it runs out, you’ll need to find something to eat or you’ll start to feel fatigued, weak, and even depressed.  Using worms or insects as bait, use your fishing kit to catch fish.  You can also look for edible berries, leaves, and nuts but if you’re not sure if something is safe to eat, don’t.  If you have equipment with you, you can also trap or hunt game, prepare it, and cook it over your fire.  Protein rich foods will fill you up and provide much needed energy.

Getting Help

If your cell phone is not working or don’t have a signal, there are other things to try and signal you need help.

  • Use a whistle and blow three short blasts, also the universal signal for distress.
  • Position a mirror into the sun to create a flash of light vehicles or people may see.
  • Attach a flare to a long stick or shoot a flare gun to attract attention.
  • Build a signal fire.
  • Leave a trail of flags with torn clothing as a message for people to find you.


Again, we encourage you to practice these techniques often to sharpen your skill set. Hopefully you won’t need to use any of these survival tactics while overlanding but at least you’ll have the peace of mind to truly enjoy being in the wilderness in all of its unpredictable splendor.

For more information on Off Grid Trailers or to build your own trailer, contact us today!

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