How To Survive If Lost In Wilderness

If you suddenly found yourself stranded in the wilderness, would you know how to survive, and what to do to make it more likely searchers could find you?

On The Early Show Wednesday, national correspondent Tracy Smith got some advice about it from outdoor survival expert Tom Brown Jr., who founded The Tracker School of Waretown, N.J.

They were in nearby Brookville, N.J., in a Boy Scout camp in the Pine Barons.

What are the basics you should have in your car at all times?

In winter, people should carry extra clothing and blankets. People can get snowed in in New Jersey. Too often, people use their car as an overcoat and just run out with a light jacket on. Next thing you know, the car can break down on the way to the store and people are on the way to getting hypothermia.

In addition to extra clothing, what should people have?

Flash lights, a snow shovel, flares. Also, you should buy a couple bottles of water; even if they freeze, you bring them in the car with you and they will thaw.

What about food?

Power bars and canned food, especially if you are going on a long trip; it's not as important if you are just driving around town.

What regular car items can be transformed and used in a survival situation?

I had a student who got caught in a snowstorm in Minnesota. She ripped her car-seat up, took the stuffing of the seats, put it under her clothing, and walked up to get help on the same road where another man in the same situation had frozen to death.

What happens if you leave your car to get help? What should you know?

In general, don't leave your car. It is the most visible thing for rescuers. You should also try to stamp out SOS in the snow, using branches to contrast against the snow. Winter survival is a severe test. If you do leave your car, you have to know exactly where you are going as well as how to build shelters and make fire.

How could you stay warm at night?

Use debris to create dead space to stay warm. Break down pine bows and stuff your clothing with them. Make a big "sleeping bag" out of debris for insulation to stay warm.

What shouldn't you do if you leave your car?

Many people bite off more than they can chew. What can be a 1- or 2-mile walk on a sunny day can get you hopelessly lost when it's snowing. Make sure you have enough layers, even if you have to rip up the carpet in the car.

How can you get the attention of the authorities?

Light a fire, have it ready to be lit. Don't wait till the last minute, so it torches right up. Write out SOS in the snow using items with contrasting colors, such as dark branches.
  • Brian Dakss

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