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Adventure Rider’s Guide to Survival Skills

 Useful survival tips for Adventure Riders exploring remote wilderness areas.

Published on 06.21.2017

Customizing Your Survival Kit

Your survival skills and knowledge are a lot more valuable than an actual survival kit. But should we as adventure riders all have one, just in case and what should be in it?

‘This comes to the topic of knowing my physical, mental and emotional capabilities. With this, I think of the necessities my body needs in order to survive. Terrain and ecosystem will also dictate some of the items in my survival kit. But in short, most of the time I will carry with me: a good wilderness knife, a space blanket, a few garbage bags, a 550 Para cord, modern ways to start fire, a container to carry water, water disinfection method and binoculars.

Keep in mind the typical “survival situation” happens to those who are out for a “day” ride or “day” hike. These folks think they will be back before dinner and usually bring very minimal supplies if any. When the unexpected happens and all they have on them is a dead cell phone, water bottle and power bar, the deck is already stacked against them’, – warns Matt.

Basic Survival Skills Advice for Adventure Riders


What will get you first in the outdoors either fast or slow is, exposure to the environment, either being too hot (hyperthermia) or too cold (hypothermia). Bring layers of clothing and stay hydrated!


Make sure your bike of choice is in good working order and you have some knowledge and means to fix it.


Pack emergency gear for the environment you are in and know how to use it. Including multiple ways to signal for rescue and several ways to make fire.


Part of your preparation before you even leave is creating a game plan in writing, some of which will include: your route, bail out points, contact times, number of people in your party, when you’re returning, what you’re riding, medical needs of people, etc. Make sure it’s clear and concise. Stick to your plan, this way if you miss a pre-arranged contact time the people you left the game plan with can communicate clearly with SAR to find you.


Research the country you’re traveling in and have all the appropriate paperwork and know their emergency systems and how to activate SAR if needed.


Do not take unnecessary risk, calm down, stay hydrated, rest, and keep a positive attitude!

Real-Life Scenarios


All of this sounds good in theory. What about some real-life situations, where survival skills and knowledge can come in handy?… Let’s say I’m riding a desolate track in Mongolia, there aren’t any people, villages or towns for miles and miles around and my GPS fails. How do I find my way?

To be honest, unless you are familiar with the route and have been on it first hand, I would be real tempted to turn around and backtrack to the last populated area to fix the navigation problem. First of all, hopefully on the track you just rode you weren’t zoning out and you remember the route, terrain, water holes, structures, homes, camps, villages, gas, anything that could help you. I am also a believer in maps, just normal paper maps to look at if my GPS does fail. Plan for technology failure and take back-up navigation!

Before I’d turn around, I would climb the nearest high point and pull out my binoculars to glass the area looking for a goal in my desired direction. If there is a clear path to the village or farm or house I see off in the distance I would push forward and fix the problem.

Adventure Motorcycle Survival Skills
Sometimes going back the way you came is the safest option if you encounter a GPS failure. Also, never forget to bring along a paper map as a back up.

What about this: exploring the Andes on a rarely used dirt track, my bike fails and I can’t fix it. My water supplies are nearly gone. Do I stay with the bike and hope to get found, or do I go out and seek help?

This is the “big” question and to be honest, stressful! What do you do? This is where the context of the entire situation dictates the content, or next steps of what you’re going to do. First off, I would take an inventory of the resources I have available to me. I would tend to ration my items into segments. I would set aside a certain amount to stay by my bike for a time hoping for help to ride by. Once I have gone through “stay at bike” amount, I would shift focuses on finding help by leaving the bike behind. Any time you have to leave the scene of incident it would be very wise to leave some kind of note, message with your game plan and direction of travel and needs. Hopefully, nice people will find your note and spend the time to help you. I would be scratching arrows of travel in the ground, tying neon-flagging tape to bushes, trees, rocks, etc. Think “breadcrumb” trail for others to follow. I would then gather my necessities and walk to the nearest spot for help with the remaining supplies.

What if riding Central Asia, I have an accident and can’t ride the bike anymore. It’s at least two hundred miles since the last village; I don’t know if there are people ahead of me. What’s my best course of action?

If the accident has left you injured without the ability to move, well, you have limited options: stay with the bike and figure out ways to signal for rescue.

Adventure Motorcycle Survival Skills
One of the biggest dangers of traveling solo is the potential risk of a serious injury that limits your movement and prevents you from riding to safety.

If it’s a mechanical failure, you will have more options, and again this is a situation where the context of the event will dictate the content of what you do next. Also, I would again divide and ration my supplies for the “stay at bike” scenario while waiting for someone to come by and the “walking” scenario ration. It’s worth mentioning that while is seems easy to just pick up and leave and walk to the nearest village, in this case two hundred miles, there are many things to consider.

Season, ie monsoon, dry, fall, winter, spring, summer?
Temperatures in the day/night?
How much daylight do you have?
What phase is the moon in?
Density of foliage?
Is there a clear trail/route?
Do you know where you’re going?

These are a few basic questions to ask yourself before you expend all the effort and energy to move toward rescue. An example would be if it’s monsoon season the afternoon brings thunderstorms with serious heat and humidity, I would be walking early in the morning, taking a break during the day and resuming my evacuation in the evening into the night if I have light of the moon. Conserve your energy and be smart in your evacuation procedure!

What if my bike has a catastrophic failure in the middle of nowhere, what else should I take off of it?

Keep in mind that those of us who are out for multiple days are usually very well supplied with all the things we need to stay comfortable. Our journey was just interrupted with this failure. You should not need much off your bike that you don’t already have. I would then take items from my bike to create greater success for me, such as gas for fire, mirror for signaling, wires for binding, etc.

Survival Skills scavenging your bike
An immobilized bike can become one of your greatest resources in a survival situation if you decide to cannibalize it for items.

If you are out for a day ride, unprepared with no supplies think about taking items from your bike that will help you stay alive. The rule of 3’s is a good general guideline to remember for the human body to stay alive and functioning. You can only go 3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 30 days without food. Look at your bike and what can you use for each of these priorities.

Photos by Stephen Gregory and Matt Brummett

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

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Author: Egle Gerulaityte

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4 thoughts on “Adventure Rider’s Guide to Survival Skills

  1. I take the ability to remain calm and collected. We all make mistakes. They key is to overcome these mistakes as quickly as possible. The journey doesn’t end with a few mistakes. On the contrary, mistakes are part of the adventure 😉

  2. Great tips. Earlier this year, I was doing solo riding in a very remote area and got completely stuck in mud on a hillside. Staying calm was key as I only had a few hours of daylight left and it was unlikely anyone was coming down the trails and there was ZERO cell coverage. Removing most of my gear and and luggage and taking about 2 hours to leverage and drag my bike out was key. I scavenged the local area for wood and rocks to help “unsuction” my Tiger 800xc from the mud. It was a good learning experience, but taught me to trust my gut and not try to “power through” — i.e., I overestimated my skill and the ability of my tires to shed mud — and err on the side of caution especially riding solo.

    • Sounds familiar. Did something similar in Utah a couple years ago. Solo riding in the mountains, and thought I spotted a large standing black bear not far away while I took a water break. So much for the break! I was taking a short cut over an 11,000′ + peak (Henry Mountains). Just short of the summit took an outside run on a rocky steep incline corner (still a forest road) and lost it, piling the 700lb adv bike on a protruding boulder. Removed the bags, wasn’t sure I could get it back and righted so I initiated my SPOT beacon, knowing it make take a while to kickstart Search and Rescue. I righted the bike, got it started and thought I had turned off the SPOT…. but didn’t. Calls from Utah Search and recovery freaked out my friends and family for a few hours till I drove 25 miles back to civilization. Lesson learned. Best to not ride solo in the middle of nowhere, and oh yeah, really turn off the emrgency beacon if not needed. Good to know the original version works!


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