You have just woken up to find yourself on the ground in the wild. Before getting up from your supine position you realize that, in addition to not being in your own warm comfortable bed, you have awoken in the underbrush beneath the canopy of what maybe a forest. Fortunately the temperature is mild but on the cool side. Low on the horizon the sun peeks through the trees and bushes.
You have no recollection of how you ended up in a forest. Or how long you have been removed from your normal life. There is a possibility that you are suffering from short term amnesia. Obvious questions come to mind: "How did I get here?" "Where am I?" "What day is it?" "Who put me here or did I put myself here?" "Am I in danger?" "When was the last time I had something to eat or drink?" Some of these questions you will figure out and others will forever remain a mystery. The last day you remember was Saturday. Nothing happened that was out of the ordinary for a weekend. You did some chores. Met up with some friends. Overall had a good day. In the evening [at home] nothing exciting was on TV so you visited some of your favorite websites and then by accident ended up browsing through the projects at the Instructables website [always a fun way to spend a half hour]. Then you brushed your teeth and went to bed. Those are your last memories before waking up mysteriously in this unknown land.
You are dressed in jeans, a flannel shirt you don't recognize, a t-shirt, socks, hiking boots that you don't own, and undergarments [which you hope are your own]. As you get up you see a backpack nearby. The most logical thing to do is to look in the rucksack. In it you discover:
A lightweight shell jacket
Lens fire starter
First aid kit [bandages, aspirin, trauma dressing, ect.]
A pretty thin set of supplies to survive in the wild. If I was packing for spending time in the woods I would also include:
Iodine or chlorine tablets
Step 1: Evaluate Your Physical Condition
Since you don't know what events occurred that ultimately brought you to this unknown location it is important to make sure you have not been injured. You run your hand over your body in order to ascertain if you have any injuries. In theory some injuries will be noted by the pain you feel when you touch the area of the injury. Stretching and exaggerated movements may also reveal injuries. Of course you are not a doctor [neither am I] so some injuries could go undetected or under diagnosed.
Along your arms you discover some bruising. Both knees are scraped and you have a cut along your jaw line. Thankfully nothing seems broken. You don't think that these minor injuries will kill you.
Step 2: Get Your Bearings
Unfortunately whoever packed for you didn't include a compass and map with a notation saying, "You are here." So you will have to figure things out the best that you can. Your initial thoughts are about the dew that covers the foliage, the backpack and you. This indicates that it is morning. Since the sun is low on the horizon that direction is east. That is, it is east as long as you are still on Earth. But let's not worry about alien abductions, worm holes, or multidimensional universes just yet.
But without a map knowing which direction east is does not help very much. On one hand you could stay put and wait for someone to come find you. This is highly recommended if you had been with a group and some how were separated from them. At some point they will notice that you are missing and come looking for you. A whistle or signal mirror would also be handy in that situation. But your guess is you were not with a friendly group who is looking for you. So you decide that locating running water might provide a reasonable way to find help. Following a river downstream may lead to a lake or ocean where you could find someone to help you [look at all the cities on or near water] and an added benefit is water would be close at hand. Although finding a river or stream might be tricky. The good news is now you have the start of a plan.
Step 3: Acquiring Water
The human body needs a minimum of two quarts of water per day. If you are without water for six hours you may start showing signs of dehydration. That is why acquiring water is so important. But acquiring it is only the first step. Before you drink it you must purify it. Since you don't have iodine or chlorine tablets you will need to boil it for at least ten minutes. Good thing you found the lens fire starter in the backpack.
Some thoughts about locating water:
Bird flight paths in the morning or evening can point you in the right direction.
Rivers can be heard in the quiet woods from great distances.
Water always flows downhill, so low-lying areas and valleys are good spots to look.
If you are unable to locate a river or lake soon you may have to resort to building a solar still to collect water. In case you need to build a solar still I'll explain how to build one.
1. Dig a hole
2. Place the canteen in the center of the hole
3. Ideally you would cover the hole with a sheet of plastic. But because you don't have one cutting up the coat might work in its place.
4. Secure the covering [in your case the coat shell] by placing stones or dirt on top of the covering on the edge of the hole
5. Place a small stone in the middle of the covering so the condensation will trickle to that point and drip into the canteen.
6. After several hours remove the covering and there should be water in the canteen
If there is any possible way to avoid cutting up the coat I would take it.
You pickup the backpack and put it on your back and begin walking west. West seems like a reasonable choice given that you have no other information to go on. After hiking for a couple of hours the weather turns from sunny to cloudy and then to a light rain. You stop and pull the canteen from the backpack and locate a spot where a small flow of rain water is dripping from a leaf. Then you place the canteen so the rain water will fill it. In order to try to keep dry you grab the jacket from the backpack and put it on. After checking the canteen and finding it full, you cap it and begin walking west again.
Step 4: You're Going to Get Hungry at Some Point
WARNING: Avoiding accidental poisoning is an important component to wilderness survival. Eat only plants YOU can positively identify and YOU know are safe to eat.
A few more hours of walking in the rain and the feeling of hunger begins. To this point you haven't seen any animals except birds so you start watching for edible plants. Watching for oak trees and the acorns they produce is usually the easiest food that can be scavenged, at least in the northern hemisphere on Earth. Based on the birds you saw earlier you are on the right planet. Occasionally you are lucky enough to find a few acorns which you pocket for later. Along the way you are keeping yourself hydrated, sipping from the canteen and then refilling it.
The rain has finally stopped but you were able to top off your canteen before the dripping from the leaves ended. You estimate that you have been walking for around four hours and decide to take a break. The feeling of hunger urges you to make a meal of your acorn collection. To eat the acorns:
1. Pop the cap off
2. Grasp it with a the pliers in your multi-tool and giving enough of a squeeze to crack the shell, taking care not to smash the kernel
3. Peel off the shell
You discover that the acorns have a bitter taste, due to the tannin that is found in oak trees, but have a nutty flavor. Different species of oak have different tannin levels so leaching [soaking in water] of the acorn meat may be desirable for future acorn meals. But that will have to wait until a better source of water is found.
Step 5: Time for Bed
After your lunch of acorns you put away your jacket, grab your gear and begin walking west again. Trudging through the woods, taking small sips from the canteen and collecting more acorns has taken a toll on both your spirits and energy level. So you stop for a break. You sit in a small patch of sunlight hoping that the sun's rays will help dry out your clothing. As you sit there resting you realize that you can hear the sound of running water. Your best estimate of the direction of the stream is north-west. With your spirits renewed you head toward the sound of water.
In short order you discover the stream that you were trying to locate. You follow the stream downriver in the hopes that you will come across someone that can help you out of this strange situation. After following the stream for miles you notice that the sun is lower on the horizon so you pick a spot to make a camp for the night. You gather dead leaves and pine needles into a pile in the middle of a clearing near the stream. Next you scavenge dead branches that you place near the pile of leaves and needles. Next you drag your heel in a circle around the spot where you plan to build your fire. This creates a fire break that, while not perfect, is better than nothing.
With the lens from your pack you are able to use the suns rays to start the leaves and needles burning. You carefully add the dead branches to the burning pile and ultimately have a fine fire going. Once you are confident that it doesn't need your constant supervision you drink the remaining water in your canteen and refill it from the stream. You return to the fire and place the canteen close to it so the water inside will boil.
While you wait for the water to boil you look around the immediate area for long stick. Using the knife you whittle one end to a point making a spear. You walk back to the stream and look for fish near the bank. After walking up and down the bank several times and seeing no fish you decide to check on the canteen. The water is boiling so you use a pair of sticks like tongs and move the canteen away from the fire so it can cool down.
The temperature seems moderate but you don't know how cold it will get overnight. Creating a bed seems like a good idea. It will reduce the chill by getting you off the ground. You gather more leaves, needles, twigs and make a base on the ground near, but not to close, to the fire. Its not much of a bed but it is the best you can do with limited resources. As the sun gets closer to setting you make sure your "spear" is close at hand because the nocturnal animals in the area might not be as shy as the diurnal animals. You also find a tree close by that would be easy to climb in an emergency.
As night falls you stay awake for a little while watching the flames before putting on the jacket and going to sleep on your crude bed of leaves and needles. Luck is with you and no animals venture into your campsite while you slept. But of course you didn't have any food beyond acorns that would draw animals to you.
Step 6: Back to Civilization
In the morning you drink heartily from the canteen before refilling it and boiling it again. It is best to start off with water in you and the canteen. Since you don't need a forest fire chasing you along the river you kick dirt over the remnants of the fire to put it out. You make sure that you have all your gear and begin following the river downstream using your spear as a walking stick.
Some tips for getting rescued:
1. Follow the “CLASS” principle for ground to air signals.
C stands for contrast - Use a color that contrasts the surroundings.
L stands for location - Use a location in an open area that can be viewed from different directions.
A stands for angularity - Use straight lines and sharp corners to catch a rescuers eye.
S stands for size - The bigger the better.
S stands for shape - Make an eye catching shape.
2. Since you are on the move it’s a good idea to leave signals in clearings. Leave notes or arrows at each signal location indicating your direction of travel.
3. Signal with smoke by using green vegetation.
4. Three items [like camp fires] in a row indicate that you need help.
5. Using the letter X as a signal indicates that you need medical assistance.
After walking most of the day you see a bridge over the stream. You pick up the pace and quickly discover the road leading to the bridge. You follow the road knowing that it must take you to other people. Shortly you hear the sound of a truck coming toward you. As it approaches you flag it down. The older gentleman driving it stops and gets out. After a short conversation you realize that you are on the other side of the country from where you live. The old man offers to take you into town where you can make some phone calls so you can get home.
After being dropped off you walk down the main street of the small town. You enter the grocery store that has Western Union services and on the way to the courtesy counter you see a local newspaper. The date on the paper is September 19th, 2011. While that seems like no big deal to the other customers passing by, it is mind blowing to you. The last day you remember is June 8th, 2008.
You survived the wild and now must survive whatever brought you to this point in time.