Alone and without help, can you survive in a German forest permanently?
Find out if it is possible to survive alone and without help in the German forest permanently. What should you know and is it even possible?
From Martin Gebhardt. Check out his “About me” page.
👉 The key facts for the guide
- Surviving in a German forest is a challenge due to the climatic conditions, the variety of animals and the limited water sources.
- Emergency equipment such as a good outdoor knife, an axe, or a saw, a tent, sleeping bag, insulation mat, metal bottle, fire starter and cookware are essential for wilderness survival.
- Survival skills such as fire making, navigation, building a shelter, water filtration and finding food are crucial for surviving in the forest.
- Without hunting and adequate protein intake, long-term survival in the wilderness is difficult.
- Living in a German forest is regulated by strict laws on wild camping and overnight stays in the open.
- To live undetected in the forest, it is important not to leave any traces, to look for a suitable forest and not to reveal your location to anyone.
Wilderness has always fascinated humans. It's not just about the beauty of nature, but also about the challenge of surviving in it.
But what about surviving in a German forest?
Is it even possible?
In this blog post, we want to tackle this question and find out what challenges await us.
The Challenges of a German Forest
A German forest offers numerous challenges for anyone who wants to survive in it.
The climatic conditions are one major factor: winters can be very cold and summers can bring heat waves.
The seasons also play a role – while nuts and mushrooms can be gathered in the fall, there is hardly any food available in the winter.
In addition to these natural conditions, there are other factors to consider: Many animals live in a German forest, some of which can be dangerous – such as ticks, deer flies, wolves, or wild boars.
Water sources are often scarce and must be found.
All of these factors make surviving in the wilds of Germany a real challenge.
In addition to the challenges mentioned above, there are other factors that can make survival in a German forest more difficult. These include:
In Germany, strong rainfalls or even storms can occur quickly in autumn, which can make outdoor stays dangerous. If you don't have a stable shelter, it can be tricky.
Crowds and Civilization
German forests are often heavily frequented by hikers, cyclists, and other individuals who have already harvested potential resources such as berries, etc.. Additionally, the chance is high that your campsite will be discovered and reported.
It is important to comply with legal requirements (e.g. nature reserves) as well as hunting rules to avoid penalties or fines.
However, those who ignore these things will eventually receive a visit from the police. Foresters and hunters also always have a watchful eye on what's happening in their forests.
Read here: Is bushcraft legal? [Fire, camping, camps, hunting, fishing]
Emergency Equipment for Outdoor Activities
If you decide to live permanently in the forest, it is essential to have the right equipment and preparations.
In the wilderness, you have to take care of your own survival, and a well thought-out emergency kit can be life-saving.
There are many dangers in nature such as extreme weather conditions or injuries from accidents. For this reason, you should always ensure that your equipment is up to date and contains all the necessary items.
Below you will find out more about the different items that are important for such an undertaking and why they are so crucial.
A good outdoor knife is indispensable and can be used in a variety of ways. For example, for working with wood or gutting a fish. Make sure the knife is sharp and has a sturdy blade.
Our forests are not that dense, but a machete can be a very useful tool in the woods. So consider if you find this tool useful and pack it accordingly.
Axe or Saw
If you plan to build a shelter, an axe or saw is helpful for felling trees and branches. Again, the tools should be sturdy and sharp and fit securely in your hand.
A tent provides protection from rain, wind, and insects. If you are traveling in the woods for an extended period, you should bring a lightweight but sturdy tent.
Especially if you have no experience building shelters, a tent is essential. Once you are exposed to rain and wet for two days, your trip is over sooner than you think.
Sleeping Bag & Sleeping Pad
To stay warm at night, you need a suitable sleeping bag and a matching sleeping pad. There are special models for use in extreme conditions - however these are often expensive.
In summer, it may not be a big problem, but in winter, it becomes essential for survival. A warming mat that keeps you off the cold ground is crucial. A sleeping bag that can handle temperatures of -10 to -20°C is also a must.
A metal bottle can always be refilled, which is particularly important during adventures without flowing water. At the same time, it keeps drinks cold or warm.
But there is another advantage to the metal bottle: You can boil water in it.
Especially if your activity leads you off the beaten path, it is always recommended to be prepared by having necessary survival utensils at hand.
A firestarter allows you to quickly start a fire even in bad weather. But always take another way to start a fire with you.
Here is a video on how to quickly and easily use it:
Read my guide on "The Best Firestarter + Buying Guide (What to Look for?)" to learn more.
Without the proper containers for collecting food and the appropriate cooking utensils, you are stranded in the wilderness. Remember that you have to boil water – and do so every day.
And you might also want to cook soup or other plant-based food. For this, you need suitable cooking containers that are fire-resistant and durable.
Cordage and Rope
Maybe you already know how to make your own rope, then of course you can make your own cordage. But keep in mind that this takes a lot of time and you have to find the right materials first. So pack enough cordage and rope to build your camp weatherproof.
Survival Skills for Staying in the Wilderness
To make your way through the forest despite all these difficulties, you need certain survival skills.
This includes, among other things, making a fire without tools such as a lighter or matches as well as navigating terrain with a map and compass.
Building a shelter is also essential for sleeping outdoors.
If you want to stay in the German forest for a longer period of time, you need to know where and how to get drinking water. There are different methods:
- You can find flowing bodies of water such as streams or rivers
- Large containers can collect rainwater
- You can dig a well
But beware, clean water is the first commandment to survive in the wilderness. If you can't ensure a secure water supply, you won't last more than three days in the forest.
Finding, collecting, filtering and making water drinkable – the ultimate water guide – Finding water is one of the most important survival skills. In this article, you will learn everything about the precious resource of water: how to find, collect, and filter it.
Find Plant-Based Food
There are many edible plants in Germany, but finding them can be difficult – especially if you haven't studied it before.
Especially in winter, when everything is covered in snow and you can't find any fruits, you will quickly reach your limits.
Or do you want to sustain yourself only on rose hips or chickweed? You should always bring and accumulate supplies for the tough and cold season.
So practice sufficiently beforehand and for that, I recommend my two guides "Edible Plants: This emergency food can be found in the forest (list + pictures)" and also "Winter Food Search: Over 41 edible plants, nuts, roots and more for emergency food in cold weather". You will learn a lot about plants there!
Adequate shelter protects against wind, rain and animals.
Tents offer good protection against bad weather. If you don't have access to such equipment, it is advisable to construct improvised huts from natural materials such as branches and twigs.
In my guide on shelter, you will find all the necessary information. Before you set out, build such shelters 30 times and sleep in them for many many nights. This way you gain the necessary experience.
Starting a fire
A fire helps to stay warm and cook food. Important: Not everyone is allowed to start such a fire! There are also certain rules, especially regarding nature reserves - so please inform yourself in advance. Therefore, read "Is a fire in the forest allowed?".
If you're not interested in the rules, then you should acquire all possible skills to light a fire. Find out what they are here: "Making fire without a lighter or matches (18 ways)".
Furthermore, a fire can always give you away. It's easily visible, it smells, and sometimes, fires just can't be extinguished – you leave traces behind.
Keep this in mind when you're out and about.
First aid in the woods
When you live alone in the woods, it's especially important that you're able to treat injuries and illnesses by yourself. The skill of "first aid" can make the difference between life and death.
There are many situations that can arise – from small cuts to serious bone fractures or even heart attacks.
It's therefore essential that you master the basic first aid measures. This includes, for example, applying a pressure bandage or how to disinfect a wound properly. You should also know what to do if you become unconscious.
Aside from these measures, there are also healing herbs in nature that can help with various ailments. They are often very effective and can provide great support for minor injuries. Examples of these healing herbs include chamomile for inflammation or St. John's Wort for muscle tension.
As a resident of the forest, you should engage intensively with herbalism and learn which plants are edible and which are not, as well as their medical benefits - because this knowledge could be crucial in an emergency!
With these effective healing herbs, you can plant your own home pharmacy - There are many healing herbs that can be grown in your garden. Learn in this guide which ones they are and how they can help you stay healthy.
In Germany, hunting is only allowed with a valid hunting license and there are also certain regulations regarding the types of animals that can be hunted as well as when and where this is allowed. There are strict regulations for the protection of wildlife and their habitats.
For someone without a hunting license, hunting in the wild can be dangerous - both for the hunter and for other people, as wild animals can be unpredictable. Therefore, one should always comply with the laws and not engage in illegal methods such as setting traps or unauthorized hunting.
Let's make one thing clear: It will be hard and without hunting extremely challenging
Surviving in the wilderness of Germany requires extensive knowledge of finding food, making fire, seeking shelter, and staying undetected (more on that later).
So if you don't have these skills or aren't sure if you can handle them, you should probably avoid this adventure!
And the fact is: Without hunting and proper protein intake, you won't be able to survive healthily in the long term.
Unless you grow beans, peas, soybeans, lentils, chickpeas, or lupins on a clearing in the forest or find nuts like hazelnuts, walnuts, peanuts, and cashews in large quantities, protein intake will be difficult.
And you need protein, especially if you work hard (otherwise, you'll be weak and tired).
Remember: Life in the woods is hard.
Collecting food, getting firewood, building shelter, preparing food, and more will already take up 12 out of the 16 hours you're awake each day.
Generally speaking, to successfully live in nature, you need a lot of experience and know-how! Above all, when it comes to hunting, you should know which animals can be shot, when it is allowed, and more.
And even if you know and are allowed to do so, then it's about the skills of killing the animal, gutting it, and utilizing it all. You have to learn all of that beforehand.
Alternative? Catching fish for a balanced diet?
A possible alternative to hunting for ensuring a balanced diet in the wild is fishing.
Fish can be a valuable source of protein and also provide important omega-3 fatty acids.
However, to catch fish legally in Germany, an angling permit is usually required. This can be obtained for certain bodies of water, but regulations may vary by state.
Catching fish has some advantages over hunting:
- The legal requirements for fishing are generally less strict than those for hunting.
- An angling permit is easier and cheaper to obtain than a hunting license (even as an online course).
- Fishing is less dangerous for anglers and other people, as it does not involve unpredictable wild animals or the use of firearms.
To successfully catch fish, you should also prepare well. This includes learning the different fishing techniques, such as fishing with a fishing rod, using a gill net, or fishing with a trap.
In my guide "5 fishing techniques for your survival toolkit", I will show you how to catch fish even without modern equipment.
You should also become familiar with the different fish species found in the bodies of water to know which fish are edible and which are not.
Also, the local closed seasons and minimum sizes for different fish species must be observed – provided, of course, that you follow all laws.
And in the end, you should know how to prepare fish – maybe directly on the grill or steamed trout in moss?
Can I simply live in the woods in Germany?
It is not recommended to live unnoticed in a German forest. In Germany, there are strict laws on wild camping and overnight stays in the open, particularly in nature reserves. Here you can find my guide on this topic with details.
However, anyone who tries to hide in the woods or live there illegally puts themselves in a dangerous situation.
It can quickly happen that one is discovered by other people (such as hunters or hikers) or that one needs help – such as for injuries or illnesses – and then no one is there to help.
In addition, you may be committing a criminal offense: Entering private property as well as setting up illegal accommodations can result in fines and prosecution.
Generally speaking, anyone who wants to live in the woods for a longer period of time should do so only through legal means – such as booking a campsite, a hut, or by obtaining permission from the forest owner.
How can I live undiscovered in the woods?
To stay undiscovered in the woods and live there, you should keep in mind:
- Avoiding traces: To avoid being discovered, you should not leave any traces – this includes not making a fire and not leaving any waste behind.
- Find a suitable forest: The larger the forest and the area, the lower the probability of being discovered.
- Don't tell anyone where you are: This may be a tough step, but the chance of someone blabbing is high.
Conclusion: Can you really survive in a German forest?
Live in the woods for a short time? Yes. Long-term? No!
Overall, it can be said that living completely autonomously from our civilization would be difficult.
For a short time, however, it could theoretically be possible to succeed as an autonomous "forest person" in Germany, as long as enough preparation has been made.
Generally speaking, living without contact with civilization requires excellent knowledge of nature craft and survival techniques, as well as sufficient supplies of food and equipment.
Furthermore, you need a legal and large area where you can live without getting into legal trouble.
If you are embarking on such an undertaking, educate yourself beforehand, prepare by practicing, participate in training, and learn from the best!
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