Channel your inner survivalist!

David Love By David Love

GetOutside Champion David Love challenges the notion that 'survival' is only for the most extreme explorers, as he takes wild camping-newbie Leslie out for her first adventure.

Lesie walking across bolders in the forest

One of the biggest misconceptions about ‘survival’ is that skills like shelter building, making fires and catching and eating the first thing you come across, are reserved for intrepid adventurers.

That’s why I ventured out for with fellow #GetOutside Champion Bel Dixon and her wild camping-newbie friend Leslie for a night out on Dartmoor and an introduction to the survival mindset!

Channel your inner survivalist!

Leslie and David with a beetle

You don’t have to travel half-way around the world to test your survival skills, as OS GetOutside Champion and adventurer David Love proved when he took wild camping newbie, Lesley and fellow Champion Bel Dixon on a wilderness sleepover in Dartmoor.

From pitching tents and filtering water to eating bugs and tackling the tricky issue of going to the loo outdoors, join David, Lesley and Bel for GetOutside, the Survival edition.


The right mindset

Okay. I admit that most of us aren’t likely to find ourselves in a real-life survival situation that often. However, that doesn’t mean adopting a survival mindset can’t be useful. Far from it. If you have the will, determination and resourcefulness to sleep under the stars and fend for yourself for 24 hours, there are a huge number of transferable benefits to everyday life. These include being able to deal with stress and chaos better, whether at home or at work; being more effective at problem solving; reducing levels of anxiety and finding your inner calm; and, above all, being able to maintain a sense of humour when the going gets tough.

Leslie by her tent
The group

At the more practical end of the spectrum, adopting a survival mindset can literally keep you alive if you ever did happen to find yourself in a tricky situation in today’s uncertain world. Whether you’re planning your next overseas trip, concerned about increasing threats closer to home or would simply like to be better prepared in the event of an accident or emergency, here are some simple steps to developing a survival instinct.

STEP 1 - Go wild camping

Great Britain has some fantastic National Parks and open spaces to go wild camping. Some National Parks actually welcome wild camping, as long as you act responsibly and leave no trace of your visit. Dartmoor has a map of areas where you can camp on common land, and the Brecon Beacons provide a list of farms that welcome campers. In the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & the Trossachs, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code gives everyone the right to wild camp so long as you follow the guidelines.

If you’ve never wild camped before, here’s an excellent guide for beginners at and the Ordnance Survey #GetOutside pages are jam-packed with great wild camping ideas from people just like you and me.

STEP 2 - Use the survival priorities

There are 4 simple survival priorities that aim to keep you alive in any survival situation! I often use these to help me prepare and pack for most of my adventures, whether it’s a big expedition overseas or a night out on Dartmoor. They also help me work out what order I need to do thing in once I’ve arrived at my wild camp location.

Finding a camping spot
Camping on Dartmoor

Priority 1 – Shelter

First off, you’ll need to get your tent or shelter up.

This is because being exposed to the elements for too long, even just 3 hours in particularly in harsh weather conditions, quickly leads to a downward spiral in your ability to perform the other priorities of survival and increases the risk of succumbing to the effects of hypo or hyperthermia.

Remember to select a shelter spot fairly close to a fresh water source if you can, on a comfortable and safe area that’s ideally well protected from prevailing weather.

Priority 2 – Water

Our bodies will not survive much longer that 3 days without access to water. Unfortunately, finding a safe and suitable water source can prove problematic.

There are numerous ways of collecting, filtering and sterilising water, including straining water from a stream before boiling it for approximately 4 minutes, collecting the morning dew from the grass using a t-shirt and wringing it out or finding cup-shaped plants that store water.

One of the most convenient solutions is using a filtration bottle such as this one from Water-to-Go. I now take one of these with me on all my adventures, meaning I can collect water from any non-salt water source and drink it on the go, safe in the knowledge it has filtered out 99.9% of all water-borne nasties!

Priority 3 – Food

While it might seem unimaginable, our bodies can actually go for up to 3 weeks without food, as long as we still have access to water.

However, food provides us with the energy required to carry out all other tasks. In the best-case scenario, you’ve planned ahead and brought a cooking system along with you, as well as an adequate amount of food. But in a survival situation you may not be so fortunate.

Luckily nature provides us a few things to snack on, ranging from plants and berries to living things. However, hunting and catching animals to eat is hard work and consumes a lot of energy.

Simply roll over the nearest big rock or log to find a host of energy rich critters! There aren’t many bugs in the UK that you can’t eat! I can’t vouch to them all tasting that great though!

Bel eating Firepot food

Priority 4 – Rescue

From the outset of a survival situation, you must have ‘rescue’ at the forefront of your mind, whether that’s within the first few hours, after several days or even weeks. Attracting attention to yourself is key. From using bright coloured clothing as a signalling aid to creating billowing smoke by placing green foliage on an open fire, eventually you’ll need to be rescued. One common mistake people often make when lost is continuing on in the vein hope of finding help. The chances are you’re just going to get more lost. The best bet is to stop and take heed of the situation. Hence the reason ‘shelter’ is the first priority of survival; so you can protect yourself while you formulate a plan.

STEP 3 – Have fun!

Leslie and Bel climbing over bolders

Ultimately, being in the outdoors can be an empowering and exhilarating experience. By using some of the tips mentioned above, this can be made all the more fun while practicing some skills in the process that will benefit you in more ways than one.

Listen to the Podcast below on how Bel Dixon and her friend Leslie got on when I took them both out for a wild night out in Dartmoor! Did someone say bugs?!


The podcast was recorded and edited by GetOutside Champion, Bel Dixon.

David Love By David Love


David Love is an adventurer, mountaineer and expedition leader.

Find out more about David here.