Hug-a-Tree and Survive is an RCMP search and rescue initiative that helps lost children survive in the woods. This proactive, preventative program originated in San Diego, CA, after a nine-year-old boy became lost and tragically died in the wilderness.

Hug-a-TreeHug-a-Tree and Survive teaches children invaluable outdoor survival lessons, including:

  • Always tell an adult where you are going.
  • Always carry an orange garbage bag and whistle on picnics, hikes and camping trips.
  • Once you know you’re lost, “hug a tree” and stay put.
  • Make a face hole in your garbage bag and put it on over your head to keep warm and dry.
  • Help searchers find you by blowing your whistle and by answering their calls.

Search and Rescue volunteers from each province and territory deliver this critical safety information program to B.C. students aged 5-9. Students aged 8-13 will receive a snowboard and skiing etiquette course, and avalanche awareness. The members of Mission Search and Rescue would love the opportunity to present hug a tree to your school or organization (mission area). To learn more, please contact MSAR at

Ground Search & Rescue (GSAR): This is required by all MIT’s (members in training) to take. It is presented through the Justice Institute of British Columbia, and qualified members instruct the course.

MIT-1The course covers several areas.

This is a short list;

  • Survival
  • Search Types
  • Maps & Compass
  • Communication
  • Helicopter Safety
  • Communication
  • Rope Management
  • Basic Tracking

All MIT’s are required to do overnight survival training, and pass a series of exams based on the GSAR Manual. The course takes approximately four months to complete. Once an MIT has passed the course, he/she will become a member of the team. MIT’s will also go out on practices with the members as well. This will give the members a chance to get a feel for the MIT’s in how they act, how they get along with the members, and their team work skills.


There are several courses members can take while with search & rescue. This is a short list of courses that are open to members. These courses include the following:

Urban Search & Rescue: Following a major disaster, your community or workplace may be on their own for 72 hours or more. This program combines hands-on learning and classroom instruction to prepare community members or employees to conduct basic urban search and rescue (USAR) activities in a safe and effective manner as part of a neighbourhood or workplace team.

Ground Search Team Leader: This course will provide trained GSAR volunteers with the knowledge and practical team leader skills necessary to safely and effectively plan, organize, lead, supervise and execute a ground search and rescue team assignment.

Avalanche Response: The Avalanche Response Team provides participants with the skills necessary to safely respond to avalanche incidents as part of an inter-agency team in potentially unstable terrains.

Rope Rescue: The course introduces the participants to organized rope rescue standards, the rescue cycle, the

forces involved, gear, communications and rope inspection practices. There is three days of formal instruction; 20 hours of unit training; three days of evaluation. This course prepares the member for slope and high angle top down rope rescue techniques.

SAR Management: The course presents the organization of SAR in BC and the role of the SAR manager within this structure. Pre-plans, stages of a response, ICS roles, documentation, interviewing, investigation, team callout and lost person behaviour are introduced. SAR management principles, search theory and probability as well as working with the media and risk assessment are covered.

Track Aware:  Three days instruction in the art of identifying sign of human presence and following that sign with the ultimate goal of finding the missing person.

Swift water Rescue Training: Three days of instruction in self and subject rescue techniques, in moving water environments classified as low to high risk.





You should always be prepared when you are heading into the outdoors, you never know what could happen or what you are going to come across. It is so important to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Do you know what to do if you’re lost? Do you know how to survive out in the bush while you wait for rescue? Do you know how to use your survival equipment? Well, we have compiled a list of ten pieces of equipment you should have on you at all times when you’re in the back country. This list could save your life.

01 – Matches, a lighter, fire-starter and candle Use wood matches only, not paper matches. Keep them in a water tight container or plastic bag. There is a difference of opinion about what is more important, fire or shelter. It really depends on the situation you find yourself in. If it’s clear out, you would probably want to build a fire first, if it’s pouring out, you should probably build a shelter first, and if it’s in the middle of winter, fire can mean the difference between life and death.
As you know, it gets very dark in the woods at night, and a fire will give you a big psychological boost. In an instant you can go from being terrified to being calm and relaxed just by getting a fire going. During the day, smoke can be seen from far away, and during the night, rescuers may be able to see the flames from the fire. It will keep you warm, and you can cook food and boil water.

One thing to remember about collecting wood; when you think you have enough wood for the night, collect three times that amount, because you will need it. Wood can burn quickly, and the last thing you want to have happen to you, is to run out of wood. You can get badly injured looking for wood during the night, so always make sure you have more then enough wood for the fire.

02 – Whistle MSAR recommends using the Fox 40 whistles. They have no moving parts, and will work whether it’s cold or wet, (make sure you plug your ears when you blow the whistle).

03 – LED flashlight The LED’s’ are very bright and make it easy to see in the dark. MSAR recommends using the yellow or white lamps. DO NOT use red. Red is very dark, and is very difficult for searches to see you. Consider purchasing a head lamp, as this will free up both your hands to work on improving your shelter or fire.

04 – First Aid Kit Some things you should consider putting in your first aid kit would be; prescription medicine, pain relievers, butterfly sutures, second skin (for blisters), bandages, antiseptic ointment, anti-diarrheal tablets, antihistamines, water purification tablets or a water purifying straw, and splints.

05 – Water & Food You should pack some energy bars. Peanuts are an excellent source of protein and fat, and are very compact. Remember, fat is important. You should also carry with you some powdered energy drinks which are high in sodium to help replenish electrolytes.

06 – Extra Clothing Insure that you have breathable clothing on hand. In winter weather, you need to be careful not exert yourself too much. If you start sweating you have the potential of becoming hypothermic when you start cooling down. Layers are important, it is better to be able to remove clothing if you’re getting too hot, then to have nothing to put on when you get cold. A hat is also beneficial to have on hand in the summer time, as it will help keep the sun off you, and reduce heat stroke.

07 – Multi-tool Make sure that the multi-tool you buy is durable. Quality counts when choosing the correct one. Make sure that it has a saw blade on it.

08 – Large Orange Bag You should carry two large orange bags. The orange bag is large enough that you can use it as a raincoat. Just make a hole for your head and arms, and you have a makeshift raincoat. The orange bags are also bright and will make you more visible to searchers. You could also use the orange bag for waterproofing your shelter. Cut it in half, and it will help keep a very large portion of your shelter dry.

09 – Navigation Equipment A map is essential, and knowing how to properly use one could help you get out of your predicament. Also purchase a quality compass to use in correlation with your map. GPS have come a long way, and are incredibly helpful in navigation. You should not rely on a GPS because you could run out of batteries, or it could just malfunction. Many people have gone into the bush and have gotten themselves lost because they just brought a GPS with them. It ran out of batteries, they couldn’t get enough satellites, or it just malfunctioned. GPS is a wonderful tool, but knowing how to use a map and compass will always get you out.

10 – Duct Tape Believe it or not, duct tape is a valuable tool in the outdoors. It can repair your equipment, it can be used to help bandage your injuries, but please, make sure you don’t apply the duct tape directly to your wound, (ouch), use it in conjunction with your bandages you have in your first-aid kit. You don’t need to take a whole roll, simply put some around a bottle you are bringing with you.

Here is a list of other things you should consider taking with you; toilet paper, SPOT Satellite system, flares, hand mirror (most good compasses have mirrors on them), rope, fishing line, hooks & lures, solar blanket, metal cup, belt knife, bug spray & folding saw.

There is one more thing that could ultimately decide whether or not you will thrive or dive, and it is ‘the will to live.’ Many able people have gone out into the bush got lost and ended up dying, even with plenty of food and water. Then there have been people who have survived harsh elements with little or no supplies. People can choose to make it through, or they can choose to give up and die. If you are ever lost and find yourself in a panic, sit down, breathe deeply and calm down. Assess your situation, take stock of what you have, and make a plan. Think of your family, your wife or children and remind yourself that you want to see them again, than take steps to ensure that you will survive.

Probably one of the best things you can do for yourself is hunker down, and start making preparations. Collect wood, start a shelter, look for sources of food or water, and then the hardest thing you will have to do… wait. You family knows you’re missing, they will call the RCMP, and we will come find you. In the meantime, keep yourself busy, improve your shelter, and collect more wood, because boredom is a killer. Remember, the choice to survive is yours, do you want to be walked out, or carried out in a bag?