7 Wilderness Myths and Survival Tips That Could Save Your Life

You can never be too prepared for an emergency wilderness situation. Unless you’ve had some sort of training (and not the kind you gleaned from TV “experts”), the results could cost you your life or a limb. We’re taking a look at a few survival techniques to help you sort out fact from fiction.


    1. Myth: If a Bear Attacks You, Play Dead

      Playing possum when a bear comes around may or may not work. This myth is old advice that goes back as far as the 1800s. It depends on the type of bear and the circumstances of your encounter. Being prepared in the woods by having bear or pepper spray on you will be your best bet. If you are attacked there are several things you can do.

      With black bears, standing tall and making lots of noise can often call their bluff and run them off. With grizzlies, be aware of your surroundings, steering clear of thick brush and berry bushes. If you are approached by one, slowly slink back, bear spray in hand, and assume a small, non-threatening position. This means you may need to crouch down or lie prostrate on the ground. Spray if it charges, and for heaven’s sake, don’t try to take a selfie! If you happen upon one that doesn’t notice you, quietly back away until you are out of range.

    2. Myth: You Can Suck the Venom from a Snake Bite

      We’ve seen this done in movies and TV shows, thinking, “I’ve gotta remember that just in case.” Nope. Sucking the venom can actually raise the risk of infection and spreading harmful bacteria. You will see some advice that says to try to identify the snake, but in most cases you will either be too freaked out or in a hurry to get to the hospital.

      Instead, keep calm and wash the wound with warm water and soap. You can also use rubbing alcohol. Keep the wound below heart level to slow the spread of venom. Make sure to remove any tight clothing to avoid swelling and get to a hospital.

    3. Myth: When Building a Shelter the Roof is Priority

      Actually, the condition of the ground is more inclined to impact your health and safety. If it’s raining or snowing, equal attention should be paid to both parts of the shelter. If the ground is cold or wet, you can get ill or even die. Insulate the floor of your shelter with bark, branches, leaves, debris, or whatever you can find to form a barrier between it and your body.

      If you have a fire built within your shelter, then do not use flammable material like leaves, etc. Instead use your sleeping bag, a tarp, or something else for you to lie down.

    4. Myth: Drink Pee or Snow to Stave off Dehydration

      Unless your pee is filtered clean, you’re just cycling salt and waste back through your body and kidneys. For a body in great condition, drinking urine may be safe and doable, but depending on the conditions your body may be too hot to process it. If you are somewhere like a desert, use your pee as cooling agent by wetting your shirt or bandana with it to cool down the body. Tying the damp bandana around your head will help keep you cool.

      Snow can be a source of water in a pinch, but you need to melt it into water first before ingesting. Eating snow will only cause your body temperature to drop and make it have to work harder to warm it back up.

    5. Myth: Remove a Lodged Object From Your Body ASAP

      This is another popular one in the movies where the hero plucks an arrow from his shoulder. Do not remove impaled objects from your body! Removing the object can cause you to bleed out as it is actually acting as a plug for the wound.

      Instead, clean the around the site, keep it as stable as possible, and seek immediate medical attention.

    6. Myth: You Can Eat What the Animals Eat

      Do you know which plants or fungus are safe to eat in the wild? If not, then eating insects and animals is safer. Frogs, six-legged bugs, and squirrels can help you stay alive. Sorry, vegetarians – if you’re in a rut, eating dandelion is safe but will not provide enough calories or fat to keep you sustained for long. Knowing which plants are edible or poisonous can make a difference but finding water is actually more important.

    7. Myth: Punch a Shark in the Nose if Attacked

      This might work for Mike Tyson but for the rest of us, not so much. With any large animal – including humans – going for the eyes is a survival tactic. So, in the presence of attacking sharks, hooking into the gills or eyes is most likely to make them back off.