Be Prepared, Not Scared

What would you do if you found yourself stranded in your car on a desolate highway or lost in the wilderness? Things can and often do go wrong, and you need to be prepared with a plan to fall back on. Having a survival plan may greatly increase your odds of coming home. In fact, the first few hours are the most critical time and often determine the outcome. 

Being prepared and not scared is more than just a catchy phrase; these are words to live by. Many people who are lost or stranded often panic, making their situation even more dangerous. Sadly, too many rescue missions turn into retrieval missions simply because the victim was not prepared for the unexpected. But there is no need to die in the wilderness or stranded along an untraveled road. Instead, use the acronym STOP as an easy reminder of what to do to increase your odds of getting out alive.

Sit Down

Whether you are hiking and realize you are lost or are stuck in a snowdrift in your car, sit down and gather your thoughts. Remaining calm in a stressful situation can improve your odds of survival.


The first few hours are often the most dangerous, as people tend to panic. Adrenaline kicks in and your heart begins to race. Sitting down and forcing yourself to relax and focus could save your life. Sit down and ask yourself some important questions: Where have I already been? Do any of these landmarks look familiar? What is my first priority? Should I make a shelter or should I start a fire? What do I need to do to survive?

A GPS unit or compass should be part of your survival kit. If you choose to use a battery-operated unit, check the batteries before leaving the house and pack a few extra just in case.

(Photo by Lisa Metheny)

Open Your Survival Kit

Hopefully, you have a personal survival kit somewhere on your person or packed in your car. If you do, it is time to open it and take stock of what materials you have at hand and how to best use them until you can be found. If you do not have a survival kit, it is extremely critical for you to remain calm, but prioritize your immediate needs and gather what you can from the material available around you.

Survival kits can be organized easily if you remember these three words: personal, geographical and seasonal. Preparing a kit for specific situations will increase your odds of survival. Are you diabetic or do you have special health issues? If so, your personal pack should include the necessary items. Geography changes what is necessary in your survival pack. You will need different items if you are planning a drive to the Grand Canyon compared to hiking in the backcountry. A winter survival pack should include a wool hat and gloves, while a summer pack should include a light hat and sunscreen. Many of the basics of the kits are the same, but be prepared for the different conditions of each season.

A small pocketknife and magnesium stick (available at any camping store) can be lifesavers in a survival situation.

(Photo by Lisa Metheny)


What is your plan now that you have realized that you will spend time alone until help arrives? Regardless of where you are located, building a fire and securing shelter are key to your survival.

The necessary skills and supplies you need to survive a night in the wilderness or a few days trapped in your car during a blizzard should be considered long before you find yourself in a dangerous situation. If you hope to survive the unexpected, start planning well in advance of your road trip or hiking vacation. 

Share your survival tips and experiences in our comment section below.

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