How to stay healthy in the wild
One of the most overlooked aspects of ‘bugging out’ isn’t the flavors of your MRE’s or your carefully packed bug-out-bag. It’s not the latest gear that I’m sure many of you have bought, or the lengths to which you’ve setup additional locations and caches of supplies to help your journey to safety. It’s your body, and unfortunately many of us are letting out health slip. Imagine you’ve got to bug out, right now. Except your car has been burnt out by hooligans, your bike stolen by a neighbor, and you’re looking at a 30 mile hike to your bug out location. Would you be comfortable walking over rough terrain, while carrying your bug-out-bag on your back? What if the hike isn’t just a handful of miles, but hundreds? Getting hurt or getting sick makes survival an almost impossible task, and in a crisis you have to rely on your most fundamental asset, your body, in order to carry you through. Today’s post comes from one of our most experienced wilderness guides, to help both the team at APE Survival and our readers understand how you can stay healthy in the wild.
Boots When you’re hiking your feet are the most important asset you have, and you must take care of them. Blisters are a given when walking a long distance, and you’ve probably got the supplies to treat these in your first aid kit, but if you slice your foot open you won’t be going anywhere for a week, and a case of frostbite may even do permanent damage to your toes. The key is simply having the right gear. Wool socks (I prefer Merino) help to take any dampness from your skin, and while extremely hot, they stay breathable once wet, and also help keep your feet warm. Second, ensure you’ve got a pair of well-fitting boots that you’ve already broken in, that are balanced, stable and comfortable to walk in over a long distance.
Sunglasses Without appropriate protection the sun can do lasting damage to your eyes, especially if you’re hiking through snow-covered terrain the light reflects off. But it doesn’t have to be snow. Overcast and cloudy days also produce glare, making you squint and tiring out your eyes. Have at least one pair that is rated with UV protective lenses, so you can keep your eyes safe.
Layers of clothing Keeping your body at the right temperature while you’re trekking through the wilderness is important to stay healthy, and the easiest way to do this is to layer your clothing. If you get too hot you’ll dehydrate quicker which can lead to heatstroke, while getting cold can lead to hypothermia that will put you out commission fast. Normally, I recommend three layers. The first is to help take moisture away from your skin, with wool undergarments. The second layer is one of insulation, like a down jacket, a wool sweater, or a fleece. The final is a weather-proof layer to complete the ‘shell,’ which stops any wind or water from penetrating the inner layers of clothing. When the sun comes out, you can simply take off each layer as you need.
Protection A good hat will keep the rain off, and don’t forget gloves to protect your hands. The climate you face will be the ultimate decider when selecting which to use. I like a boonie-style hat for sun protection, and a wool-lined waterproof cap for cold, wet weather. Choose the appropriate gear for your location, and if you’re bugging out through an area with dangerous animals (or people), packing a firearm can also keep you healthy (and alive).
Food Hiking all over the wilderness can burns three to four times the amount of calories you spend in a single day of normal life. Make sure you have a plan to cater to this, as without food your energy levels will rapidly drop, leaving you little ability to continue your trek to your bug out location. Opt for calorie-dense, protein packed foods that require minimal cooking/prep time, so you can replenish the energy you need, and get back to the hike.
Water Three days without water is generally the most you can survive without death, though this will be significantly less if you’re in a hot location or it’s the middle of summer. You need to ensure you have a water source available, whether its carried on your back or you’ve got methods of filtering and sanitizing any water you find on the trek. Never, ever drink water that you find before it has been purified, it may contain harmful bacteria which will put you in a massive amount of pain within just a few hours. Always, always boil or sanitize water you’ve sourced in the wild before you drink it.
Sanitation Ensure you’ve got your basic sanitation needs covered in your bug out bag, like toilet paper and wet wipes, soap, shampoo and so on. What many forget is to always wash your hands before you start preparing your meals, and pack a toothbrush and toothpaste so you can keep your teeth and gums healthy. If you’re staying in one place for an extended amount of time, bury or burn your garbage outside of your camp (and preferably downwind) to avoid attracting any scavengers, and the diseases they can bring. If you catch something or get ill, without help it could be the end for you.
Get started now Before the SHTF is the best time to get yourself in shape. You never want to be the laggard holding your group back, and while you don’t need to be sprinting off into the sunset, being able to walk a few miles without discomfort is going to help you immensely if you ever need to bug out. Focus on reducing the amount of sugars (soda) and unhealthy salts and fats (fast food) in your diet, and perform some moderate cardio exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week. It’s also a great time to start honing your survival skills, for instance learning how to shoot, understanding basic mechanical repairs on your car, and figuring out how to use all of the different gear you’ve bought for your bug out bag. Staying healthy once the SHTF is critical if you want to actually thrive (and not just survive), and your body plays a massive role in this. You will rely on your body more so than you ever thought possible if you ever do need to bug out, so do your best to take care of it, both now and when you’re in the wild.