Woodland Survival – At Home in the Wild

Woodland Survival – At Home in the Wild

A few years ago I put myself in the position of living off the land for three days, living in a house which I had made out of sticks, and having to boil water to make it safe to drink.  My bed was a mattress of birch twigs and my diet for those three days were wild foods I gathered as I went walkabout.
It was an interesting experience.  My mind first questioned why there was not much food, and my body had to cope physically without my usual eating habits for an average day (which at the time consisted of anything from Marmite on toast, having a banana whenever I felt like it, a full roast for lunch and processed foods for snacking).
But I accepted the "new" foods I had at the time and appreciated their delicate tastes. I gave time to every single daily task I carried out, and was learning to survive without having water on tap, a fridge full of food, a mobile phone and watching the news on TV.
I learnt a lot about myself - my strengths and my weaknesses.  Surviving for just three days in the wild.   It doesn’t sound very long - three days. But when you are burning calories carrying out all the tasks - firewood collecting, re-thatching your shelter, digging up roots intended to be your main meal for the day and collecting your water from a stream in just a billy can (my daily routine) - you soon come to realise what is important in your life and what really matters.  To survive.
I wrote a diary and it was interesting how my train of thought changed, even my writing took became more like how I had written as a six year old.  Getting lightheaded, I fell into a bed of nettles and, on one occasion, accidentally knocked over my pot of rabbit stew!
But things started to change. I began to notice more, and my senses became in tune with the wild. I was actually tracking for survival now. I found some broken cobnuts, eaten by a squirrel, that led me to a hazel tree.  The next day by chance I came across a crab apple tree.  Believe me I will never forget that moment - I thought I had struck gold!  To make them palatable, I cut them in half and cooked them on sticks pointed towards the campfire until they were roasted golden. I can taste them now – delicious!
Woodland survival … I was at home in the wild.

Annette Stickler teaches bushcraft skills.  Visit her website www.campfireskills.co.uk for details of her courses.


In 2006 I walked from Amsterdam to Frankfurt in Germany. I set up camp in the woods a couple of kilometres from the city centre and lived there for the best part of nine months.

The most important thing you can take with you is a positive outlook and to establish a routine, no matter how dull. You cannot think about all the comforts you are missing, instead, learn to appreciate the small bonuses and lucky breaks that do come your way. Eat when you find food, drink when you find something drinkable. Don’t assume something better will turn up later. It might not.

If possible, try to find woodland that isn’t too far from civilisation. You might be surprised at the wilds you can find on the outskirts of even large cities such as Frankfurt. You might wish to escape people and society as a whole but they can serve your needs. Pitch camp a couple of kilometres outside town. You should be free of unwelcome attention but near enough to go where there is a greater chance of food, drink and tobacco. Unless you are intending to escape the world entirely, make use of public libraries. They provide warmth and reading material that keeps you in touch with what’s happening in the world.

One tip, try to keep yourself reasonably clean. Use rivers or public toilets, either are enough to give yourself a ‘wash and brush up’. This is a courtesy to others and makes you feel slightly less self-conscious. Many people who have never lived rough comment on how cold it must be. From my experience, cold isn’t a major problem. Getting wet is. Once your clothing is soaked it’s a hell of a job to get them dry. In summer you can use the sun to dry your gear but in winter this is rarely practicable. Try to find a homeless drop in centre, they can often help with laundry. If that isn’t an option, choose one item at a time..your shirt for example, and use the hand driers in the public loos. If you take the time to get to know the town/city you are living near, you’ll probably find a building with vents that blow out hot air. These can warm you in winter and help dry clothes. Remember, hypothermia doesn’t kill because temperatures drop suddenly.

Most people die because they are undernourished, their immune system is low and their core (inside) temperature has been dropping gradually over a length of time. Some people say you should find company, my experience is that this is a bad idea.. Yes, there are some wonderfully kind people out there in the same situation. Sadly, some aren’t so nice and can bring you a world of misery. It’s no use escaping humanity and finding yourself stuck with someone you can’t stand! the sight of! We all have our own moral code/standards and these may not be the same as your new ‘friend’. The danger of accepting help from anyone in your situation is that you can find yourself saddled with an obligation, one that might force you to do things you know are wrong or risky. My advice is, as far as possible, go it alone.

There’s too much to cover here, one quick word about fires. Yes, they can be incredibly comforting and good for your morale, plus a can of soup warmed over a campfire tastes like a banquet after a week or two of cold offerings BUT, fires attract attention. Even a passing car may spot smoke and report it to the authorities. If you have found a good spot, you really don’t want to get moved on. Anyway, living rough can be demanding but it CAN be rewarding too. I have been prone to depression all my life but can honestly say that in 9 months living rough in Germany I wasn’t depressed once. Life gets much simpler..Food, staying dry/warm and safe…these can take up a surprising amount of time. It’s also a good idea to know something of the area you are going to be living in in advance. Yes, the summers may be great but the winters could be brutal…so make plans accordingly. Living rough is a mental challenge as much as a physical one.

Nick Haines

14 September, 2021

Sustain the awesome work !! Lovin’ it!

survival rate

2 May, 2019

Beautifully inspired…x


25 September, 2018

Hi my name is Craig Carmichael I’m 22 and for a while I have been feeling the call, I’ve some basic survival skills and I’d love to try living in the wild for a week or two and see if it’s right for me, I’d really appreciate a response my email is [email protected] I’m a hard working person and I’ll put the time and effort in, I really really hope someone contacts me about this, I don’t care about age or sex I don’t see it as living wild it’s what feels natural and I’d love to give it a go, I promise I won’t waste your time, I’m willing and keen to learn, please respond I’m fed up with this excuse we call modern life, it isn’t a proper life just a puppet of government, I want to be a real man I want to really earn my food and shelter, hope to hear from anyone soon…… P.s no random serial killers, not intrested in becoming a victim

Craig Carmichael

22 April, 2016

Hello guys, so i want as well go to the wild, i’ve been thinking all the time for that, but for first time i can not live anymore in this society, everything what move the public wants to now, the life its not like was before years, so i’m thinking go to Iceland to live there more time posible, just i don’t want to go alone. So, I’m looking somebody to go with me, write me if you interested – [email protected] i’m prepared, i know price of tickets everything, i know how to survive in the wild, and i’m in UK, so if somebody thinks the same write me :)


6 June, 2015

I did this it was very trying but I did it I had a bit of warm clothing, tinder, a pen knife and a fire starter. It was fun :-) (I am from Oakham)
:-) :-) :-)


8 August, 2013

Scott: “I think its kinda of funny that you people think three days is survival. Try taking 4 weeks of military survival leaving with only a knife and your clothes.”

Aren’t you nice! Well done on being ‘better’ than everyone else. Although, what armed forces training did you do that had a four-week survival element?

Someone’s telling porkies I think!

Kudos Annette and thanks for sharing!


13 November, 2012

A very interesting three days I should imagine. As some of the comments show, it would be much more difficult to survive for longer periods! especialy in smaller areas; But as with all things, it is better to start small and work up. I have to say that I would very much like to have a piece of land which I could call my own, even if only to be able to practice on.


20 August, 2012

I think its kinda of funny that you people think three days is survival. Try taking 4 weeks of military survival leaving with only a knife and your clothes.


6 February, 2012

Being in the very fortunate position of having access to 15 acres of mixed woodland that I am allowed to wild camp in and permission to forage on the surrounding 1000 acres I make myself escape from normallity for 3/4 days every season and camp out and catch and forage for all my nutritional requirements.

I limit myself to as few items of clothing and equipment as possible, winter is normally 16 items and summer 12.

It is always challenging but extremely rewarding.

rutland poacher

16 September, 2011

Hey Annette, thanks for writing this inspiring article! I intend to ‘go for it’ at the end of this week, because to be perfectly honest I can no longer stand to live in this so-called *society*. I want out & would be on my way right now if it weren’t for the fact that where I wish to go is 350 miles away & I can’t afford the transport today.

I’ve spent months researching (primarily wild foods/catching & prepping game) & I’m under no illusion that it will be easy, I know it will be anything but! That’s why I won’t be jumping in feet first with just the clothes on my back, I will do it gradually by taking modern equipment & rations.

The biggest problems I foresee are 1/fresh drinkable water 2/Shotgun wielding farmer Jones shouting “gerroff moi land!!”

I’d happily disappear into the most remote & inaccessible place in the UK right now, trouble is someone owns that too!


2 January, 2011

its good to see so many people interested in survival
i have spent all my life going into woodland near mine i love the wilds so much its my home and would suggest to the people worried about laws and hygene if its onlyt for a weekend no need to really bother and as long as they are public woods its all legal to camp i hope every one has adventures camping and creates memories that will stay with them forever i know i have
Scott “Lone Wolf”


11 October, 2010

me and me freinds are planing to do something like that but for longer i realy need advice on how to keep clean hygiene thank you


28 September, 2010

Living off of the land is a wonderful experience for anyone to have done. But I must stress not everyone can, it takes some knowledge of bushcraft and about what plants are edible and what are dangerous. It took me 5 years to get to know what i can and can’t eat. At this time of year, there are some lovely plants and fungi to eat and I would say get out and have a most wonderful experience.


22 May, 2010

A few close friends and I have been wanting to do some thing to this nature during the up coming summer in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee. We are trying to gather as much information as we can so that we can survive as long as we can with minimal supplies. This has brought some inspiration to my upcoming journy.


11 February, 2009

Annette, Respect! that was a very brave thing to do.
Do you have your own woodland, borrowed woodland or do you just go for it?
How would you suggest a law abididng citizen without a woodland could go about having an experience like this?


24 November, 2008

Wow that was a very big achievement and i salute you! I however don’t salute people like Andy who unobviously brag about their 11 acres of woodland, no one cares really?
Anyway weel done!!


26 May, 2008

I think you are very brave. I assume you did this at the end of the summer/ early autumn. Well done for trying it. I have often wondered what it would be like if society broke down and I had to retreat to my wood of 11 acres, I assume I would similar to you – snaring rabbits/monkjack deer, and collecting nuts and fruit. I am not very good at fungi!
Best wishes


6 February, 2008

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