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To escape the trappings of everyday life and unwind, people do different things- play golf, go for a jog, or even go on vacation. But for some people, that isn’t enough. Some people prefer to learn how to live in the woods. Living in the woods will provide you with an immense amount of freedom, but you need to be prepared. Otherwise, it won’t be a pleasant experience. Whether you’re planning on living there indefinitely, or only a few weeks, we’ll give you a few tips on how to get started.
Why Learn How to Live in the Woods?
There’s no greater feeling than living off the land. Making the wilderness your home will allow you to reconnect with Mother Nature in a way you never thought possible. But if you go in unprepared, it can be dangerous. You’ll need to understand the potential risks, as well as plan for how you’re going to acquire food, water, and other essential resources. Think about it:
- No loud noises.
- No traffic.
- No boss yelling at you.
- No long lines at the grocery store.
This lifestyle isn’t for everyone. However, for the people who want to give it a try, it can be very rewarding. Also, there’s no rule saying that you have to learn how to live in the woods for a certain amount of time. You can stay for as long as you like– 3 days, 3 months, or even 3 years. Let’s take a look at how to properly plan for living in the woods.
Tip #1: Choose the Right Location
To live off the land, you want an area that’s far from civilization. This will give you that “adventurous” feeling you’re searching for. Upon finding a location, determine how far it takes to get there, and what route you’ll need to take. Also, see if the land is private or government owned land. In some cases, you might not be allowed to stay on that piece of land.In some parts of the United States it’s illegal to live in the woods. Make sure that you do plenty of research to avoid getting in trouble with the law.
Upon finding a location, make sure that you acquire all the proper documentation and/or permits for setting up camp there. For example, if you’re hunting or fishing, you’ll need additional licenses. When learning how to live in the woods, the last thing you want is to get in trouble.
Tip #2: Decide How Long You’ll Stay There
For some people, living in the woods is only temporary- they’ll stay for only a short period of time before returning back to society. Others, however, prefer to stay there indefinitely. In either case, determine how long you’re going to stay there. Learning how to live in the woods for a year is a lot different than learning how to do it for a few days.
The time of year should also play a role in your decision. If you’re going very far North, it might not be wise to go into the wilderness during the winter (you’d be better off waiting for the summer). You don’t want to be like Christopher McCandless who ventured into the Alaskan wilderness during the winter without being fully prepared. He ended up dying, and a movie was made based on his experiences. Check out this video from the Smithsonian Channel at YouTube, which talks about what happened:
Tip #3: Know the Potential Risks
Living in the woods isn’t going to be a walk in the park. Potential dangers are everywhere, and you’ll need to be aware of them. Remember, nobody is coming to your rescue. With no hospitals, police stations, or grocery stores, you’ll be all alone. For this reason, it helps to be as prepared as possible. So, what are some of the potential risks you’ll need to prepare for? The major ones include:
Risk #1: Predators
When learning how to live in the woods, predators will be a big concern. Depending on where you set up camp, there might be bears, mountain lions, or wolves. A great way to stay protected will be to bring pepper spray specifically designed for predators. (NOTE: There is a difference between pepper spray designed for humans and that which is better for bears. This SABRE ADVANCED Compact Pepper Spray is the highest rated one to use against humans, and This SABRE Frontiersman Bear Spray is one that would be better for bear.)
You should also have a good survival knife or machetewith you since these can also be used as a weapon. Snakes will also be a huge concern (a single bite from a poisonous snake will likely mean death).
Risk #2: Toxic Plants
A great way to get food in the wild is to forage for wild edible plants. But there are some risks associated with this. Specifically, it’s possible that you eat the wrong plant and become sick. A common example is the Rosary Pea. It looks like something you could eat when living in the woods, but in reality, it’s very toxic. It contains a toxin called “abrin” which is more deadly than ricin. Make sure that you read up on the common toxic plants that are out there. Otherwise, don’t go foraging!
Risk #3: Dirty Water
Cholera is a bacterial disease that you can get from drinking dirty water. If left untreated, it can lead to death. In the wilderness, there are a few ways to get clean drinking water. For example, you can boil dirty water to make it drinkable, or you can use a survival straw (like the LifeStraw Personal Water Filter or the LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle that includes the LifeStraw filter). Under no circumstance should you drink stagnant pond or lake water, because you’ll more than likely get sick. Figure out how you’re going to get clean water beforehand.
Risk #4: Weather
No matter where you go in the world, there’s always the possibility of bad weather. This includes heavy winds, rain, flooding, and much more. When learning how to live in the woods, see what the weather is going to be like before setting up camp. If you see that it’s going to be too dangerous, then it’s probably best to wait for a better time. Bad weather can kill, so don’t needlessly put yourself in a situation like this.
Tip #4: Learn to Hunt and Fish
When living in the woods, you can’t drive to the grocery store when you’re hungry. The only way to get food will be to A) Bring some with you beforehand or B) Hunt wild game and/or fish. Meat contains a lot of protein, so it’s an excellent way to get energy when living in the wilderness. Here are some good articles to help you get started:
- 17 Bow Hunting Tips for Beginners
- How to Make a Fish Trap Using a Water Bottle
- 10 Edible Plants for Survival
- 11 Edible Bugs for Survival
Learning how to get your own food is a great step towards self-sustainability. But it’s not going to be easy. You should read these articles and practice the tips in them. That way, you’ll be fully prepared when the time comes. To become confident in your survival skills, you have to practice.
Tip #5: Pack a First Aid Kit
When learning how to live in the woods, you MUST have a first aid kit with you. You can’t predict if and when you’ll become sick or injured. For this reason, you need a first aid kit with basic supplies for sanitizing cuts, stitching wounds, and more. Here are some things to have in your first aid kit:
- Band-Aids and Gauze Wrap
- Aspirin and Ointments
- Prescription Medication
- Slings and Splints
- Space Blankets
- Suture Kit
- Non-Latex Gloves
Recently I wrote an article, How to Stitch a Wound – The Basics. I recommend that you check it out. It will show you the fundamentals of stitching an open wound. Don’t be cheap when buying a first aid kit. When living in the woods, you want a first aid kit that can help you with any first aid situation. The more prepared you are, the better.
Tip #6: Read Survival Books
Never underestimate the power of knowledge. In 2015, a 10-year-old boy survived alone in the wilderness using the skills his dad taught him. If he hadn’t learned the basics of living in the woods, he probably would have died. This just goes to show the importance of reading survival books. Read at least three survival books before going into the wild. Take notes and learn as much as possible. Also, be sure to practice what you read. It’s pointless to just read if you’re not going to take action. Know that there are many different survival books out there (some good, and some bad). Make sure they’re well-reviewed and written by reputable authors!
Tip #7: Learn How to Build a Smokeless Fire
We’ve all heard the saying, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. Well, this isn’t always true. Believe it or not, it’s possible to build a smokeless fire. Why would you want to build a smokeless fire when learning how to live in the woods? This is a “stealth” fire that will prevent other people from knowing your location. When you’re living in the woods, you won’t want other people knowing where you are- cops (who might harass you even though you’re doing nothing wrong), hunters, campers, etc. Here’s a video that will show you how to do it:
Remote Locations in the United States – Potential Places to Setup Camp
Now that you’ve learned some tips for surviving in the wilderness, let’s look at some of the most remote locations in the United States. Not all of us have the luxury of living in a rural area. This list will give you an idea about where you could potentially go if you wanted to learn how to live in the woods:
Hinsdale County, Colorado
Hinsdale County is located in southwest Colorado and is one most “road-less” place in the United States. If you’re looking to get off the grid, this is a great place to do it. The reason for the lack of roads is all the mountainous terrain. When learning how to live in the woods, this is one of the more remote places to make it happen. It’s not for the faint of heart though!
Yes, the entire state is worthy of making this list. That’s because a lot of Wyoming is extremely remote. Despite being to 10th largest state in the United States, it only has about 550,000 residents. That equates to just 5.4 residents per square mile. For this reason, it’s an excellent place to “get away”. The backcountry in Wyoming can get pretty thick, so make sure that you’re ready or it could be potentially dangerous.
When learning how to live in the woods, give Northern Maine a try. How remote is this are? Put it this way: in an area known as the “North Woods”, there’s about 3.5 million acres of almost-empty land. It’s a popular area for outdoorsman, as well as for logging companies. As you can see from the picture, it’s a beautiful area. I recommend that you read up on Northern Maine so that you can get a better idea as to what you should expect.
Finally, consider Southwest Oregon as a potential spot for living in the woods. There are tens of thousands of desolate acres of land. Southeast Oregon has often been referred to as “Oregon’s Outback” and the “Great Sandy Desert”. It’s popular among bikers, hunters, and campers who have discovered the isolated beauty of what this area has to offer. Despite its popularity, you’re not likely to run into a single person.
Always Learn and Grow
As you venture into the wilderness, consider it a learning experience. Most people become so comfortable with life that they forget to have fun. Above all, stay safe and enjoy the process. If you don’t ever challenge yourself, you’ll have no idea of knowing what you’re capable of. Just make sure that you keep the tips above in mind. Otherwise, the situation could end up very bad.
How to Live in the Woods – Bottom Line
Learning how to live in the woods will provide you with an immense amount of freedom. With no traffic, no boss yelling at you, and no technology, you’ll be able to connect with Mother Nature better than ever before. There are a lot of good books and workshops out there for survival. I recommend that you invest in these resources so that you can be more prepared for your new adventure.
NOTE: This article originally appeared here on May 21, 2016, by David. Excellent information!