Survive the Night

It can be scary, but it is entirely possible to make it through a night (or two) in the woods. Especially if you brought with you the tips from What to Bring in the Woods. 

One of the first things you’ll want to do is establish a fire spot. Be sure to find a good area with no trees or branches located directly above the flames. Be sure to clear the area of dry leaves and grass so the fire can’t spread outside your desired pit. 

Next gather up some firewood. If you have your headlamp then you don’t need to collect a night’s worth before starting the fire. Otherwise you had better gather a little more than what you think you’ll need. Dry wood burns pretty fast. Don’t pick up wood directly off the forest floor, as half of it is likely to be rotten and damp. Instead find wood that has fallen and is leaning on other trees. Look for dry dead wood, and not pine. Pine will light fast, so you could use it in the beginning, but it emits lots of sparks that could become a problem later. 

Be careful to not hurt yourself (knees/eyes) while trying to break branches into smaller pieces. Since you probably don’t have a saw, use the crotch of a tree instead. Simply put a long stick between the trees with the end on the other side about the size you want, and then push or pull until the branch breaks. Then move the branch forward and repeat. You’d be surprised how big of branches you can break. For the truly unbreakable ones, you can slowly feed them into the fire, just be sure the fire doesn’t creep up the log and outside your pit.

Making a comfortable spot to sleep might not be as easy. You’ll just have to face it that your night won’t be the same as in your own bed. But it doesn’t have to be awful. I like to sleep next to the fire, and typically level the ground a few feet away to make a spot. You can lay foliage to offer some bedding. If using something flammable (like pine branches) to sleep on, just be sure you are FAR from the fire as pine lights very easily. The sap takes a flame real fast and it sparks. What is often helpful in starting a fire (sap) can become a nightmare when you don’t want the fire to spread. Obviously you’d never sleep under a can of gasoline next to the fire, so be sure to use common sense when using nature’s lighter fluid.  

If it looks like it might rain you can make a shelter by getting a little creative. I’ve made tee pees by staging long straight branches in a cone. you can then layer pine branches with fresh needles around the structure layering like shingles on a roof. Or, you could make a smaller area by putting a long stick between two trees about hip high, and then putting branches resting from the top and sticking the other end in the ground. Again, you can layer fresh pine branches across the structure to keep much of the rain off you. 

Nights can be long, but eventually it will end, the scary noises will go away, and the sun will rise.