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Hiking is a popular pastime for nature lovers and adventure sports enthusiasts. You may enjoy casual walks along mountain streams or seek out rugged backcountry to test your climbing skills. Whatever your reason for hiking, safety should always be at the forefront of your mind. Here are the top eight survival skills that every hiker should know, regardless of experience level or hiking type.

How to Build a Fire
Even if you are venturing out for a short excursion, you may one day find yourself lost and alone in the wilderness overnight or longer. Fire becomes an essential tool for keeping warm, and the chances are that you didn’t bring a selection of wood or matches. The forest offers plenty of fuel and ways to ignite that fuel. You can start carrying flint and steel with you and gather wood from the forest floor, or you can learn how to make a fire with a hand drill.

Navigation
Finding your way out of the forest is just as important as finding your way to a popular location. Relying on your cell phone is not always practical, so you should know how to use a manual compass and map for navigation

If you don’t have a compass with you, the moon is a great alternative. The bright side of a crescent moon that rises before sunset faces west. If the crescent moon rises after midnight, the shining side faces east. You can also look for the North Star to help you find your way. There are other tricks that you can learn that can help you get your bearings such as continually walking downhill which will help you avoid going in circles or following a stream or creek to find your way back to civilization. 

Learn to Fish
If you are hiking or camping in an area with a river, the chances are good that you can find fish to cook and eat. You can make a rod from a stick and a piece of vine. Insects and even small pieces of fabric make great lures. If you are stuck for a few days, you can build a trap from sticks and large rocks. Set the trap facing upstream. If you’re lucky, you may find some fish inside for your breakfast or dinner.

Know Your Snakes
Being lost in the forest is hard enough, and you don’t want the situation to worsen because of a snake bite. Many snakes are harmless, but you should be familiar with the markings of poisonous snakes. Avoid any areas with brush, rocks, and other hiding places. Watch where you step, sit, and lie down for the night.

Article originally published on Medium