Trekking or nature trekking generally tends to refer to long trips that hikers take through remote wilderness areas. It is to be distinguished from a weekend hiking trip or family camp out due to its intensity and duration. Trekkers are often far from civilization for extended periods. It is on just this sort of trip that survival skills, rather than merely the quality of camping gear or a few hastily learned outdoor tips, come to the fore. By virtue of the fact that a trekker is distant from all the comforts and solutions that civilization offers – everything from motels to supermarkets to hospitals – any mishap can take on amplified significance.
Let’s take a few examples – hypothetic hiking or trekking misadventures -to illustrate the point:
Let’s say a group of hikers is on a 1 week hike across a prominent and high mountain range. While ascending some steep rocks one of the trekkers falls and breaks his leg. The nearest town is a good two or three day hike away, and it doesn’t even have a hospital. Worse yet, the man with the broken leg is the hike leader and has the most familiarity with the region. What should the group do? If they have no knowledge of how to proceed the leg could become infected or the bone could begin to set wrong if left to itself.
Part of having survival skills is knowing just what to do in such a situation. If the members of the group (or even just one of them) have good survival skills, they will be able to take the appropriate steps to treat the broken leg. For instance they may either be able to make a splint using a first aid kit or from found objects such as sticks. They may be able to fashion bandages from other natural items if they do not carry any. They will know the best steps to take to stabilize the leg’s condition long enough to get the individual back to safety.
Here’s another hypothetical example – Let’s say this is the same group of trekkers hiking across the mountains. The member of the trek group carrying the compass drops it while climbing some high rocks it and it breaks. It would be best if the whole group carried compasses, but if not, they would be in something of a jam. In order to navigate from the map, they would need to know where the cardinal compass directions were. Now, granted, most people realize that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, but these give only approximate directions. Let’s assume here that the group needs to stick to a fairly exact orientation in order to find various trails and landmarks.
If the hikers know nothing about using the stars and sun to pinpoint direction accurately, they could end up wandering for a far longer time than planned, running out of food and water, and so on. They may become confused by landmarks they don’t expect and have to backtrack for extended periods, with only a general sense of direction to tell them where they may be according to their map.
The threat of death here is quite real – if unable to hunt and fish, find water, and eventually find their way back out of the wilderness, they could succumb to thirst, starvation, or overexposure.
A trekker with survival skills would be doubly prepared in this situation. Knowing how to pinpoint direction using day and nighttime sky reference sources, they could be assured that they were on the right path and may not even end up behind schedule. If however they did become lost, they would possess hunting, water finding, and shelter building skills that would allow them to survive for long periods, possibly even indefinitely.
So how do you learn wilderness survival skills? One of the best ways is to take a Wilderness survival course at a wilderness school. There are a wide variety of schools that offer instruction in outdoor/wilderness survival. These courses can be found by searching online or by reading books or outdoors magazines that list them. They may offer special concentrations such as courses for mountain climbers, long distance hikers, and mountain climbers. The hands on nature of survival skills makes a class situation ideal for learning them.
You can also read books concerning survival and learn the skills on your own. It’s best to practice the practical aspects in a literal way, not simply read the book. In a survival situation you will need not just knowledge but familiarity. Taking such a book with you on the trek is not a bad idea, but again, having to look something up when the need arises means that you don’t have a basic familiarity with the topic, and you want to get to at least a reasonable level of hands on practical know how. Having the book along could still be far better than nothing however, so it is recommended, but experiential knowledge and practice is best.
In summary, survival skills are something that no trekker should be without. Find a way to get to the best level of survival knowledge and skill before going on a trek and you will be ensuring that your outdoors adventure will be protected from time consuming, difficult, and possibly even fatal mishaps.