Wilderness Survival Tips (based on the Supertramp journey)

10 July, 2014

Human beings have always sought inspiration in wild places. It’s what enabled us to expand out of Africa and conquer new lands in the first place; it’s what led to us developing diverse cultures, and it has become the path of many poets. Being alone provides a chance to think; surviving alone enables us to test our strength against the elements. It reminds us that we are natural creatures, not mere cogs in the machine of civilization.

Places of pilgrimage

Chris McCandless, better known as Alexander Supertramp, was 24 when he died in 1992. His legend has already lived half as long as he did and looks certain to endure. Every year, dozens of self-styled pilgrims follow in his footsteps, seeking, as he did, to connect with the raw stuff of life. One has died in the process; others have come close.

Throughout his travels, Supertramp sought out the wildest, most remote places. Following in his footsteps is about more than just a trip to Alaska. Pilgrims often choose to rent cars and journey, as he did, through the deserts of Arizona and California, up into the Black Hills of South Dakota. They take boats out onto the Colorado River and explore the remoter regions of the coast of Mexico.

In Alaska, the 142 bus where Supertramp spent his final days is frequently visited by his followers. This means it’s not the easiest place to be alone, so to an extent it’s necessary to choose between the actuality and the spirit of what he did. There are other places in the region where it’s easier to be properly alone with the wilderness.

Wilderness survival tips

Anybody who plans to venture into the wilderness and survive should remember that a high proportion of primitive humans depending on their natural skills simply died. Going equipped doesn’t oblige one to use that equipment until there’s no other choice.

Basic wilderness survival means doing the following:

  • Taking a map and a compass and learning which areas are seasonally impassable.
  • Taking warm clothing (our ancestors in colder places only made it thanks to furs).
  • Taking back-up food supplies. Chocolate and Kendal mint cake are great for packing a lot of calories into a small amount of space.
  • If hunting, making sure to get enough fatty food as well as lean meat. Fish and seals can supply this.
  • If gathering, take a reference book, checking everything carefully, eating as varied a collection of plants as possible and supplementing with birds’ eggs.
  • Always carrying a good knife.
  • Learning to set traps rather than depending on speed or stealth to catch prey.
  • Carrying a radio and flares so help can be summoned in an emergency.

Zhiqiang & Tingyi

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