Knowing how to handle yourself in the wild helps fix problems and keeps us safe. When we face hard times outside, it’s important to think and find the best answers. This keeps us safe, especially when things go wrong.
Surviving in the wild means being able to live and stay healthy until help comes or the problem ends. A big part of this is keeping a happy and hopeful mind, something you can’t put in a bag or pocket.
Even on regular trips outside, you can learn some cool skills. Like making a fire without any matches, making a place to sleep without a tent, calling for help, and helping hurt people.
Getting a Wilderness Survival badge is a great first step to learning all of this. But remember, there’s always more to know and learn.
Wilderness Survival Merit Badge Requirements
|1. Do the following:|
(a) Explain to your counselor the hazards you are most likely to encounter while participating in wilderness survival activities, and what you should do to anticipate, help prevent, mitigate, or lessen these hazards.
(b) Show that you know first aid for and how to prevent injuries or illnesses likely to occur in backcountry settings, including hypothermia, heat reactions, frostbite, dehydration, blisters, insect stings, tick bites, and snakebites.
|2. From memory list the seven priorities for survival in a backcountry or wilderness location. Explain the importance of each one with your counselor.|
|3. Describe ways to avoid panic and maintain a high level of morale when lost, and explain why this is important.|
|4. Describe the steps you would take to survive in the following exposure conditions:|
(a) Cold and snowy
(c) Hot and dry
(e) At or on the water
|5. Put together a personal survival kit and be able to explain how each item in it could be useful.|
|6. Using three different methods (other than matches), build and light three fires.|
|7. Do the following:|
(a) Show five different ways to attract attention when lost.
(b) Demonstrate how to use a signal mirror.
(c) Describe from memory five ground-to- air signals and tell what they mean.
|8. Improvise a natural shelter. For the purpose of this demonstration, use techniques that have little negative impact on the environment. Spend a night in your shelter.|
|9. Explain how to protect yourself from insects, reptiles, bears, and other animals of the local region.|
|10. Demonstrate three ways to treat water found in the outdoors to prepare it for drinking.|
|11. Show that you know the proper clothing to wear while in the outdoors during extremely hot and cold weather and during wet conditions.|
|12. Explain why it usually is not wise to eat edible wild plants or wildlife in a wilderness survival situation.|
1. (a) Dangers in the Wilderness and Safety Tips
When you’re out in nature, there are some dangers you might face. Here’s a simple guide to understand and handle these dangers:
|Danger||How to Anticipate and Prevent||What to Do If It Happens|
|Cold/Hot Weather (Hypothermia)||Dress right for the weather. Wear layers for cold and light clothes for hot.||If cold, warm up slowly and stay dry. If hot, rest in the shade and drink water.|
|Running Out of Water (Dehydration)||Always carry water and drink it regularly. Use clean water sources.||If thirsty, rest in the shade, drink water, and have salts.|
|Getting Hurt||Wear sturdy shoes. Be careful when walking. Use tools the right way.||Have a small first aid kit and know basic first aid.|
|Not Eating Enough||Bring easy-to-carry and healthy food. Eat regularly.||Look for safe foods in nature and have a plan for more food.|
|Stomach Problems||Eat and drink only clean stuff.||Drink more water and rest if your stomach hurts.|
|Insects||Wear long sleeves, pants, and a hat. Use bug spray if you have it.||Stay near smoke from a fire or move to breezy areas. Mud on skin can also help keep bugs away.|
|Snakes||Use a stick to check areas before you step. Be careful where you put your hands.||Treat all snake bites as if they are from a venomous snake and get help.|
|Predatory Animals||Know what animals live in the area. Make noise while hiking to avoid surprising them.||If you see one, make yourself look big, make noise, and slowly move away. Don’t run or play dead.|
|Feeling Sick from High Places||Adjust to high places slowly. Drink lots of water. Don’t drink alcohol.||Go to a lower place if feeling really sick.|
|Fires||Know the rules for making fires. Keep fires safe and watched.||Have water or dirt ready to put out the fire. Know how to get out fast if a big fire starts.|
|Bad Weather||Know the weather before going out. Have a safe place to stay.||Find a safe place in bad weather. Stay away from open areas in lightning storms.|
|Feeling Too Tired||Rest well before going out. Don’t push yourself too hard.||Rest and set up a place to sleep if feeling too tired.|
|Getting Lost||Always have a map and compass. Tell someone where you’re going.||Stay where you are if you’re lost and signal for help using bright clothing or a whistle.|
Always be careful and think before doing anything. Knowing what might happen and how to handle it makes everything safer.
1. (b) Backcountry First Aid and Prevention
|Issue||First Aid Steps||Prevention Methods|
|Hypothermia||Warm the person slowly with blankets and dry clothes. Share body heat if necessary.||Dress warmly in layers. Keep dry.|
|Heat Reactions||Move to shade. Loosen clothing. Sip water. Apply cool cloths.||Drink water regularly. Wear light clothes. Rest in shade.|
|Frostbite||Gently warm the affected skin with hands or warm water. Do not use direct heat.||Dress appropriately in cold weather. Cover all skin areas.|
|Dehydration||Drink water in small sips. Rest.||Drink water regularly. Always carry enough water.|
|Blisters||Clean and cover with bandage. Do not pop.||Wear well-fitting shoes. Protect against friction with pads.|
|Insect Stings||Remove stinger by scraping, not pinching. Apply cold pack if swollen.||Wear protective clothing. Use insect repellent.|
|Tick Bites||Use tweezers to remove tick gently. Clean area.||Wear long clothing. Check body regularly. Use repellent.|
|Snakebites||Remain calm. Keep bitten area still and low. Seek medical help immediately.||Be cautious where you step. Avoid poking or agitating snakes.|
Also Read: First Aid Merit Badge
2. Wilderness Survival Priorities
Being stranded in the wilderness is challenging, and to overcome such situations, understanding the core survival priorities is essential. These priorities will be your roadmap to staying alive and being rescued. Let’s break these down in a table format for clarity:
|Positive Mental Attitude||Keep calm and think rationally.||Use STOP: Stop, Think, Observe, Plan. Avoid panicking and running aimlessly.|
|First Aid||Address immediate injuries to prevent complications.||Treat open wounds, stop excessive bleeding, stabilize broken bones.|
|Shelter||Protect yourself from harsh elements.||Find or build a structure that shields from wind, rain, and temperature extremes.|
|Fire||Warmth, protection, and a means to signal.||Create controlled fires. Use signal fires (3 in a line or triangle) for distress signals.|
|Signaling||Attract attention for rescue.||Use mirrors, flags, whistles, and high-smoke fires. Three whistle blows signify distress.|
|Water||Stay hydrated to maintain physical and mental health.||Locate clean water sources. Purify any questionable water before drinking.|
|Food||Keep up energy and morale.||Conserve food supplies wisely, but don’t overly ration to the point of extreme weakness. Seek out safe, natural food sources if necessary.|
3. Staying Calm in the Wilderness
Imagine being lost in the forest with darkness quickly setting in, the temperature dropping, and your trail nowhere in sight. The panic might seem unavoidable, but it’s essential to hold onto your wits.
According to the seven survival priorities mentioned earlier, maintaining a positive attitude is crucial. Panicking, or worse, declaring doom, is counterproductive. So, how do you stay calm in such dire circumstances?
Strategies to Overcome Panic and Boost Morale
|Stop, Think, Observe, Plan (STOP)||– Calms you down immediately.|
– Allows rational thinking.
– Helps assess surroundings and risks.
– Prioritizes actions.
|Rely on Training and Knowledge||Trusting your training can enhance your confidence in dealing with the situation.|
|Stay Hopeful||Focusing on positive outcomes and thinking of loved ones can keep you motivated.|
|Avoid Negative Thoughts||Breaking challenges into smaller tasks makes them manageable, preventing overwhelming feelings.|
|Mental Distractions||Distractions like singing or recalling memories can divert your mind from fear and anxiety.|
|Stay Hydrated and Nourished||Proper hydration and nutrition help maintain cognitive functions and prevent irrational decisions.|
|Use Tools and Equipment||Utilizing available resources can provide comfort and increase your chances of survival.|
The Importance of Staying Calm
Your survival chances in the wilderness are significantly influenced by your state of mind. If, for instance, one person in your group panics, it doesn’t just elevate their risk but affects the group’s overall morale and safety. Here’s why staying calm and positive is crucial:
- Improved Decision-making: A calm mindset allows you to evaluate situations logically, leading to better decisions.
- Conservation of Energy: Panicking burns unnecessary energy, which is vital to conserve in survival situations.
- Increased Resilience: Maintaining high spirits helps tackle challenges, persist in adverse conditions, and heightens the probability of rescue.
4. Adapting to Different Conditions
When stranded in varying environments, it’s essential to have a game plan that suits each unique situation. Here’s a straightforward guide on how to adapt and survive in diverse conditions:
(a) Cold and Snowy Conditions
- Bundle Up: Wear as many clothes as you have, focusing especially on covering your head, hands, and feet.
- Shelter First: Find a place like behind a big rock or tree to hide from wind and snow. If safe, try building a snow shelter.
- Stay Dry: Wet clothes will make you cold faster. Change if they’re wet.
- Start a Fire: If you can and it’s safe, a fire will warm you up.
- Melted Snow = Drinking Water: Melt snow for water, but don’t eat it as it can make you colder.
(b) Wet Conditions
- Stay Dry: Use anything you can as a cover – from jackets to trash bags.
- Sleep Above Ground: Find an elevated spot to rest, avoiding puddles or streams.
- Change Clothes: If you have spare clothes, change into them if you get wet.
- Catch Rainwater: Collect rain using leaves or any containers for drinking.
(c) Hot and Dry Conditions
- Hide from the Sun: Rest in shaded spots during the hottest hours.
- Sip Water Slowly: Drink small amounts but often to stay hydrated.
- Dress Smart: Wear light clothes, covering your skin to avoid sunburn.
- Cover Your Head: Use a cloth or hat to protect your head from direct sunlight.
(d) Windy Conditions
- Block the Wind: Find places like ditches or behind rocks that shield from the wind.
- Hold onto Your Stuff: Wind might blow away anything not secured.
- Cover Your Eyes: Protect them from dust and debris using glasses or hand.
- Layer Up: Wearing multiple layers can guard against the chill of strong winds.
(e) At or on the Water
- Always Float: Use life jackets or any flotation devices if available.
- Stay With Your Boat: It’s a bigger target for rescuers than a person.
- Avoid Direct Sun: Use clothes or sheets to make shade.
- Collect Rainwater: For drinking, use containers or even your hands.
|Cold and Snowy||Bundle up, find shelter, stay dry, make a fire, melt snow for water.|
|Wet||Stay dry, sleep high, change clothes, catch rainwater.|
|Hot and Dry||Find shade, sip water, dress light, cover your head.|
|Windy||Find wind-shields, secure belongings, protect eyes, layer up.|
|On the Water||Use flotation devices, stay with the boat, avoid direct sun, collect rainwater.|
5. Personal Wilderness Survival Kit
Surviving in the wild demands more than just instinct; it requires preparation. One of the best ways to ensure safety in the wilderness is by having a personal survival kit.
This kit should contain items that cater to your basic needs and can help in emergency situations. Let’s break down a recommended kit:
|Multi-tool or Pocket Knife||Essential for tasks such as cutting, carving, food prep, and crafting.|
|Firestarter||For warmth, cooking, signaling, and purifying water.|
|Whistle||Signals your location louder than shouting, conserves energy.|
|Water Purification Tablets||Makes available water sources safe to drink.|
|Compact First Aid Kit||Addresses minor injuries, cuts, or burns.|
|LED Headlamp or Flashlight||Illumination at night, signaling, and navigation.|
|Space Blanket||Retains body heat, provides insulation, can be used for signaling.|
|High-Calorie Food (e.g., Trail Mix)||Offers a quick energy source.|
|Small Compass||Aids in navigation, prevents getting further lost.|
|Waterproof Container or Trash Bag||Keeps items dry, can be used to collect water.|
|Duct Tape||Numerous uses, from fixing equipment to medical emergencies.|
|Compact Rain Poncho||Protection from rain, can be used as a makeshift shelter.|
|Notebook and Pencil||Keeping notes, recording directions, or leaving messages.|
|Change of Clothes||Essential for harsh weather conditions.|
|Survival Reference Book||Provides tips and techniques for wilderness survival.|
When preparing your personal survival kit, remember to adjust based on the environment you’ll be in, the season, and any personal needs.
Also, always ensure your items are in good working condition before heading out. This kit can be the difference between a challenging adventure and a dire situation.
6. Making Fire Without Matches
In any survival situation, the ability to make a fire can be a lifeline. Not only does fire provide warmth and a way to cook food, but it can also serve as a signal for rescuers. But what happens if you don’t have matches? Here’s a guide on how to light a fire using three alternative methods.
1. Flint and Steel (Ferro Rods) Method
- Flint and Steel (often called a “Ferro rod”)
- Striker or the backside of a knife
- Place your tinder in a secure spot.
- Hold the ferro rod close to the tinder.
- Swiftly scrape the rod with the striker. This will produce sparks.
- Once the tinder catches a spark and starts to smolder, blow gently to help it ignite.
- Slowly add small sticks or other kindling to nurture your flame.
2. Bow Drill Technique
- A bent stick (bow)
- A straight stick (spindle/drill)
- String or cord
- A flat piece of wood (fireboard)
- Craft a bow using the bent stick and string.
- Carve a small hole in the fireboard.
- Place one end of the spindle into the hole on the fireboard.
- Use the bow to spin the spindle rapidly by moving it back and forth.
- The friction between the spindle and fireboard will produce heat. After a while, you’ll see smoke, which means an ember is forming.
- Transfer the ember to your tinder and gently blow until a flame appears.
3. Magnifying Glass Technique
- A magnifying glass or a clear plastic bottle filled with water
- Tinder, preferably dark and dry materials
- Position yourself in a spot with direct sunlight.
- Hold the magnifying glass above the tinder, focusing the sun’s rays to a pinpoint on the tinder.
- Keep steady until the intense heat causes the tinder to smolder.
- Once it begins to smoke, blow gently to produce a flame.
7. Effective Signaling Techniques in Wilderness Survival
Being lost in the wilderness can be daunting. Signaling for help increases your chances of being found. Let’s delve into how to attract attention and communicate your situation.
(a) Five Different Ways to Attract Attention When Lost:
|1. Whistle Blows||Three sharp whistle blows in quick succession. Pausing between sets can signal distress.|
|2. Flashlight or Torch||Repeatedly flash SOS in Morse code (3 short flashes, 3 long flashes, 3 short flashes).|
|3. Fire||Three fires in a straight line or triangle is a universal distress signal. Use green leaves for more smoke.|
|4. Sound||Bang on rocks, pots, or trees in sets of three to make noise.|
|5. Ground Markings||Create big symbols on the ground using rocks or logs, such as SOS, which can be seen from the air.|
(b) How to Use a Signal Mirror:
- Catch the Sun: Hold the mirror in your hand and angle it towards the sun until it reflects sunlight.
- V-Shaped Method: Using two fingers, form a V and aim the reflection onto a nearby surface (like your hand).
- Aim the Reflection: Look through the V to your target (like a distant plane) and adjust the angle of the mirror so that the bright spot of light is on the target.
- Move the Spot: Flicker the bright spot back and forth across the target to attract attention.
(c) Five Ground-to-Air Signals and Their Meanings:
|X||Need medical help.|
|Y||Yes, affirmative, or understood.|
|N||No, negative, or not understood.|
|Arrow||Indicates direction to proceed. Can show rescuers where you’ve gone if you need to move.|
Also Read: Eagle Required Merit Badges
8. Building and Using a Low-Impact Natural Shelter
When lost or camping in the wild, having shelter can make a huge difference in terms of safety and comfort. Let’s learn how to create an environment-friendly shelter using nature’s resources and then experience a night in it.
Steps to Improvise a Natural Shelter:
- Choose the Right Location:
- Safety: Stay away from places like cliff edges, dry riverbeds, or the base of loose rocks.
- Environment Impact: Opt for areas where you won’t need to destroy or alter too much of the natural surroundings.
- Exposure: Find a spot protected from wind and potential rain, like the leeward side of a hill or under a group of trees.
- Gather Materials:
- For Base: Dry leaves, moss, or grass.
- For Roof/Overhead: Large leaves, branches with foliage, or bark.
- Tools: Use rocks for digging or breaking branches, and your hands to assemble.
- Build the Shelter:
- Simple Lean-To: Place a strong branch between two trees. Lean other branches on it at an angle. Cover these branches with large leaves or grass, layering like shingles.
- Debris Hut: Create a frame by leaning branches together in an ‘A’ shape. Cover it with leaves, moss, or grass. Make sure the entrance is opposite the prevailing wind.
- Insulate the Ground:
- Lay down a thick layer of dry leaves, moss, or grass to provide insulation from the cold ground. This will keep you warmer and more comfortable.
- Test Your Shelter:
- Check for any gaps in the overhead cover that might let in rain.
- Ensure it’s stable and won’t collapse under wind or additional weight.
Spend a Night:
After building your shelter, prepare for a night’s rest. Here’s what you can do:
- Gather Extra Insulation: If you anticipate cold temperatures, gather extra leaves or foliage to cover yourself.
- Stay Warm: Do some light exercise before entering your shelter to warm up. It’ll help in keeping you warm through the night.
- Safety: Ensure you know where the exit is and can easily get out if necessary.
- Rest and Observe: Listen to nature’s sounds. It’s a unique experience to sleep in a shelter you’ve crafted by hand.
When it’s time to leave, dismantle the shelter and scatter the natural materials back. The aim is to leave no trace, preserving the environment’s beauty and health.
|Location||Choose a safe spot with minimal environmental impact.|
|Materials||Use what nature provides – leaves, moss, branches.|
|Building Techniques||Opt for simple structures like a lean-to or debris hut.|
|Overnight Stay||Gather insulation, stay warm, and be aware of your surroundings.|
|Post-Use||Dismantle the shelter and return the area to its natural state.|
In summary, creating a natural shelter requires resourcefulness and respect for nature. It’s a skill that can be life-saving and, when done responsibly, has little to no negative impact on the environment. Remember to always practice “Leave No Trace” principles when in the wilderness.
9. Wildlife Safety and Protection in the Outdoors
In the great outdoors, we share our space with various creatures. While most animals prefer to keep their distance from humans, it’s essential to know how to safeguard ourselves and ensure peaceful coexistence.
Protection from Common Threats:
- Clothing: Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants. Tuck your pants into your socks.
- Repellents: Apply insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing.
- Stay Clear: Avoid areas known for high insect activity, like stagnant water or rotting plants.
- Be Alert: Watch where you step, especially when near rocks or tall grass.
- Campsite: Keep your camping area clean and free from food scraps.
- Avoidance: Never try to handle or provoke a reptile.
- Store Food Properly: Use bear-proof containers. Hang food, toiletries, and trash at least 10 feet off the ground if containers aren’t available.
- Cook Smartly: Cook and eat at least 100 yards away from your sleeping area.
- Be Noisy: Make noise when moving around to avoid surprising a bear.
- Other Animals:
- Respect: Always observe animals from a distance.
- Night Safety: Use a flashlight at night.
- Safe Sleep: Sleep at least 200 yards from cooking and food storage sites.
Preventative Measures and Quick Tips:
- Research: Before heading out, learn about the local wildlife and any precautions specific to the area.
- Camp Placement: Always set up camp away from animal trails or feeding areas.
- Cleanliness: Keep the campsite clean. Store food and trash properly.
- Avoid Attractants: Avoid using scented lotions or perfumes.
- Stay Calm: If you encounter an animal, stay calm, and slowly back away. Avoid direct eye contact and make yourself look bigger by raising your arms.
Summary of Safety Tips:
|Insects||Wear appropriate clothing, use repellents, avoid insect-heavy areas.|
|Reptiles||Be cautious where you step, keep camp clean, never provoke.|
|Bears||Store food properly, cook away from sleeping site, make noise.|
|Others||Observe from a distance, use flashlights at night, know about local wildlife.|
Understanding and respecting local wildlife are vital for a safe outdoor experience. While nature offers us beauty and serenity, it’s up to us to ensure our safety and the well-being of the creatures we encounter. Remember, the best encounters with wildlife are those that happen from a safe distance.
10. Making Outdoor Water Safe to Drink
When you’re outdoors, it’s vital to ensure that the water you’re drinking is clean and free from harmful pathogens. Water in nature can contain bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause illnesses. Here are three methods to treat water to make it safe for drinking:
- Collect clear water, avoiding murky or stagnant sources.
- Pour it into a container suitable for boiling, like a metal pot.
- Bring the water to a rolling boil.
- Keep it boiling for at least 1 minute. If you’re at higher altitudes (above 5,000 feet), boil it for at least 3 minutes.
- Let the water cool before drinking.
- Why it’s effective: Boiling kills most of the harmful microorganisms in the water, making it safe to drink.
2. Water Purification Tablets
- Collect clear water.
- Follow the instructions on the purification tablet packaging. Usually, you’ll drop a specific number of tablets into a container filled with water.
- Wait for the recommended time mentioned on the package, allowing the tablets to work.
- Stir or shake the container to mix well.
- Why it’s effective: The tablets release chemicals that kill bacteria and viruses in the water.
3. Water Filters
- Collect clear water.
- Connect the filter system. Many handheld pumps have an intake hose (placed in the water source) and an outlet hose (from which clean water emerges).
- Pump water through the filter into a clean container.
- Why it’s effective: Filters remove harmful bacteria, protozoa, and some even filter viruses. They physically block these pathogens.
|Boiling||1. Collect clear water. <br>2. Boil 1-3 minutes.||Kills most harmful microorganisms.|
|Water Purification Tablets||1. Collect clear water. <br>2. Add tablets and wait.||Kills bacteria and viruses.|
|Water Filters||1. Collect clear water. <br>2. Pump through the filter.||Removes bacteria, protozoa, and sometimes viruses.|
By understanding and applying these methods, you can ensure that you have access to clean and safe drinking water when you’re in the outdoors. Always make sure to treat water from natural sources before drinking.
11. Outdoor Clothing Guide
Clothes play a vital role when you’re outdoors. They shield you from the weather and help keep you safe. Depending on the conditions – be it blazing hot, freezing cold, or wet – the right outfit can make all the difference.
Hot Weather Clothing
When the sun blazes, you want clothes that keep you cool and protect you from the sun’s rays.
|T-shirt/short-sleeved shirt||Keeps you cool|
|Hiking shorts||Comfortable for movement|
|Underwear||Essential basic layer|
|Long-sleeved shirt||Protects from the sun|
|Lightweight long pants||Protects from sunburn and scratches|
|Brimmed hat||Shields face and neck from the sun|
|Bandannas||Multipurpose: wet for cooling, cover neck, etc.|
|Rain gear||For unexpected rain showers|
|Hiking shoes||Comfortable and protects feet|
Cold Weather Clothing
Cold weather demands layers to trap body heat.
|Long-sleeved shirt||Base layer|
|Fleece/wool pants||Warmth and comfort|
|Fleece/wool sweater||Traps heat|
|Polypropylene long underwear||Moisture-wicking base layer|
|Wool or synthetic socks||Warmth for feet|
|Warm parka or jacket||Outer layer for insulation|
|Wool hat||Keeps head warm|
|Wool/fleece mittens or gloves||Keeps hands warm|
|Wool scarf||Protects neck from cold|
|Rain gear||For snow or wet conditions|
|Insulated boots||Warmth and protection for feet|
Wet Weather Clothing
Rain or wet conditions require waterproofing.
|Waterproof jacket||Keeps upper body dry|
|Waterproof pants||Keeps legs dry|
|Rain hat/hood||Keeps head dry|
|Waterproof gloves/mittens||Keeps hands dry|
|Waterproof boots||Keeps feet dry|
12. Understanding the Risks of Consuming Wild Food
While being in the wilderness, you might think about eating wild plants or animals. However, there are some good reasons why this might not be the smartest choice.
Reasons to Avoid Eating Wild Plants:
|Identification||Many plants look alike. Some can be edible, while others can be poisonous. Mistakes can be dangerous.|
|Digestion||Your body might not be used to processing wild plants, leading to stomach upsets.|
|Nutrition||Some wild plants have low nutritional value, offering little energy.|
|Conservation||Picking plants might harm the environment or deprive animals of their food.|
Reasons to Avoid Eating Wildlife:
|Laws & Regulations||Hunting might be illegal without proper permits.|
|Effort vs Reward||Catching animals requires energy, and you might burn more calories than you gain.|
|Safety||Wild animals can harm you, or they might carry diseases.|
|Ethical Concerns||Killing animals, especially when not essential, raises moral questions for some.|
In most survival situations, the priority is to find rescue or find your way back to safety. While food is essential for energy, the risks involved in consuming wild plants or animals might outweigh the benefits.
Stick to what you know is safe, like food brought with you or specific plants you’re trained to identify.