TEN TIPS – Wilderness Survival

Be prepared to come back alive and well

[by Susan Sommer]

The best way to survive a brief and unexpected interval in the wilderness is to be prepared before you leave. We share ten tips for backcountry travel.


  1. Alaska’s weather changes constantly. Wear non-cotton layers and always take rain gear. Even hats and gloves are often a summertime staple in locals’ backpacks.
  2. Never leave the trailhead without food and water, even if you plan only a short hike. You never know when you might decide to see what’s over the next rise and before you know it, you’re several miles out.
  3. Always bring bug dope. Always.
  4. Pack matches or a lighter. An accidental spill from a kayak or a slip of the foot into the river could chill you quickly. A small crackling fire might be your only hope of fending off hypothermia.
  5. Make plenty of noise in bear country, which is pretty much all of Alaska (See video below).
  6. Study a map before you go, or better yet, take one with you. Refer to it as you travel so you know where you are and what landmarks to look for should you become disoriented or lost.
  7. If you do need to “shelter in place” until help arrives, don’t panic. Build a crude shelter from spruce boughs, hunker behind a natural wind break, and keep your core warm.
  8. Keep your wits. Don’t wander from your planned route. (See #10).
  9. Alaska has plenty of edible flora, if not all palatable. There are poisonous mushrooms and poisonous berries, but blue-colored berries are safe. A good pocket guide can be invaluable to keep in your pack.
  10. Leave a plan with someone you know and trust to call on authorities if you don’t return at the appointed time.