facts about surviving in the wilderness

Facts About Surviving in the Wilderness: A Survivalist’s Guide

Whether you’re an avid outdoors enthusiast, a casual hiker, or even a curious couch potato, a basic understanding of wilderness survival skills can be both practical and fascinating. Knowing some key facts about surviving in the wilderness can really come in handy. Could you really build a shelter out of branches? How hard is it to start a fire, anyway? And seriously, are insects really a viable extra food source?

Let’s be honest – there’s a certain thrill in knowing you could survive if the occasion called for it. And who knows, maybe one day, it will.

Interesting Facts About Surviving in the Wilderness

You’ve got your basic survival skills down, and you’re feeling pretty confident about your ability to handle a stint in the great outdoors. But the wilderness is full of surprises, and there’s always more to learn. Here are some of the lesser-known, eyebrow-raising facts about surviving in the wilderness.

Mind Over Matter: The Survival Mindset

Let’s face it, being lost or stranded in the wilderness isn’t your everyday, walk-in-the-park situation. Your first reaction might be panic, and that’s completely normal. But here’s the deal: the human brain, that squishy lump between your ears, is the most powerful tool you have for survival.

Remain Calm: The Eye of the Storm

The wilderness might be chaotic, but you don’t have to be. When everything around you is going pear-shaped, it’s important to stay calm. Take a moment to breathe deeply, assess your situation, and make a plan. Focus on what you can control and let go of what you can’t. It’s like being the eye of the storm – calm and collected, even in the midst of chaos.

Remember Your Resources

It’s important to remember that you’re probably better equipped for survival than you think. Our ancestors survived with far less than what we carry in our pockets today. Your resourcefulness and ingenuity can go a long way in a survival situation.

Resources You Have Their Uses
Knowledge Use your understanding of basic survival skills to navigate your situation
Tools Use what you have, even if it’s as simple as a shoelace or a water bottle
Environment Use the resources nature provides, like rocks for tools or plants for food

Pro Tip: Keep a list. Whenever a worry or fear begins to dominate your thoughts, write it down in as much detail as you can. Many people find that just articulating their cares provides some relief(1).

water in SHTF situations

Water, Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink

Now, let’s talk about one of the most vital components of survival – water. You may think that the need for food would be your primary concern in a survival situation, but here’s the surprise: it’s water that you’re going to need most urgently. Humans can survive a surprisingly long time without food (though I wouldn’t recommend trying it just for the experience), but water? That’s a whole different story.

The Importance of Water

Our bodies are over 60% water, and this isn’t just for show. Water plays a vital role in most bodily functions, from digestion to temperature regulation(2). In a wilderness survival scenario, you’re going to be exerting yourself, which means you’re going to be losing more water than usual. This makes staying hydrated key to maintaining your strength and health.

Finding a Clean Water Source

Finding a clean water source should be a top priority. Streams, springs, and morning dew are all potential sources of water in the wilderness. If you’re near the coast, you can even collect rainwater. But remember, not all water is created equal – clear does not necessarily mean clean, you need to purify water before drinking. This can involve a variety of methods like boiling (the tried and true method), using a water filter (if you packed one, good on you!), or even iodine tablets (a lightweight option for the prepared adventurer).

Unusual Ways to Find Drinking Water

Finding water in a survival situation can often require a bit of creative thinking. Here are some unusual, yet effective ways to find water:

  1. Solar Still: A solar still uses the sun’s heat to evaporate and then condense water. You’ll need a plastic sheet, a container, and a sunny spot for this one.
  2. Transpiration Bags: Fill a plastic bag with leafy green plants, tie it off, and wait. The plants will release moisture, which will condense inside the bag, creating drinkable water.
  3. Dew Collection: Early in the morning, use a cloth or sponge to soak up dew from the grass or leaves, then squeeze it into a container.
  4. Digging a Seep Well: If you’re near a dry riverbed or a low spot, dig a hole a few feet deep and wait. Often, water will start to seep into the hole from the surrounding ground.
  5. Bird and Bee Tracking: Birds often fly towards water at dawn and dusk, while bees typically build their hives within 3-4 miles of a water source.
  6. Collecting Rainwater: This might seem obvious, but in a survival situation, any container or surface (like a tarp or poncho) can become a tool for catching life-giving rainwater.
  7. Maple Trees: In early spring, maple trees can be tapped for their sap, which is a good source of hydration and even provides some nutrients.
  8. Palms: Certain types of palms, like the Buri and Coconut palm, can provide a liquid that can help hydrate you.
  9. Plant Roots: Many plant roots store water. Dig up the root, cut it into pieces, and smash it to release the water content.

Remember, any water gathered using these methods should still be purified if possible before drinking to ensure it’s safe from pathogens and pollutants.

facts about surviving in the wilderness

Finding Shelter: From Lean-to’s to Luxurious Pine Needle Beds

When the sun begins to dip below the horizon and the temperature starts to drop, having a shelter can mean the difference between catching some well-deserved shut-eye and shivering through a hypothermia-induced nightmare. Plus, having a shelter doesn’t just protect you from the elements, it can also provide a significant psychological boost, giving you a sense of security and a place to call ‘home’ – however temporary it may be.

Types of Shelter

When it comes to shelter in the wilderness, the sky’s the limit – or, rather, your resources and creativity are. Here’s a list of possible shelter types you might consider:

Shelter Type Materials Needed Pros Cons
Lean-to Long branch, smaller branches, leaves/needles Simple to build, one side open to heat a fire Only protects from elements on three sides
A-frame Two long branches, cross branch, smaller branches, leaves/needles More enclosed than a lean-to, good protection from elements Takes longer to build than a lean-to
Snow Cave Snow Excellent insulation, protection from wind Only possible in snow conditions, risk of collapse

Remember, the type of shelter you decide to build will depend largely on the materials available to you and the environmental conditions you’re facing.

The Luxurious Pine Needle Bed

Pro Tip: Pine needles make a surprisingly comfortable and insulating bedding material. They can help to keep you maintain body temperature by creating a layer of insulation between your body and the cold ground. Plus, let’s not forget – they smell pretty nice too!

Unusual Ways to Shelter from the Elements

Survival often requires creativity, especially when it comes to finding or constructing a shelter. Here are some unusual, yet effective, methods:

  1. Natural Caves: While you must exercise caution for resident wildlife or unstable rocks, natural caves can provide ready-made shelter from wind, rain, and cold.
  2. Fallen Logs: A large fallen log can provide the framework for a quick shelter. Dig out a trench alongside it, pile leaves or other insulating material inside, and use the log as a makeshift windbreak.
  3. Snow Quinzhee: If you find yourself in a snowy environment, you can build a quinzhee by piling snow into a mound, allowing it to sinter (harden), and then hollowing it out.
  4. Animal Burrows: While not the first choice (or even the fifth), in extreme survival scenarios, deserted animal burrows could be used as temporary shelter. Be absolutely sure it’s deserted first!
  5. Hammocks: If you’re in a jungle environment and have strong, flexible materials at hand, you could build a hammock to keep yourself off the wet ground and away from ground-dwelling creatures.
  6. Vegetation Hut: In a dense forest, sometimes the best shelter is simply to burrow into a thick patch of vegetation. The existing plants provide cover from the elements and insulation from the cold.
  7. Sand Dunes: In a desert environment, the leeward side of a sand dune can provide shelter from wind and extreme temperatures.

Remember, in any survival situation, the goal is to protect yourself from the elements and any potential dangers as quickly and efficiently as possible. Safety should always be your priority when constructing or seeking out a shelter.

how to find food and water in the wilderness

Edible or Not Edible? That is the Question

As your stomach growls like a disgruntled bear and your energy levels start to plummet, the reality hits you: You need to find food, and fast. But here’s the catch – not everything in Mother Nature’s pantry is good for you. Some plants may look inviting, but could actually cause serious harm if consumed(3). In this section, we’re diving into the critical, often perplexing world of wilderness dining. From wild berries to creepy crawlies, we’re addressing the all-important question: “Edible or not edible?” So, grab your metaphorical dinner plate, and let’s get started.

The Wild Food Hunt: Friend or Foe?

Before we delve into the do’s and don’ts of wilderness dining, it’s crucial to understand the risk associated with wild foods. Eating the wrong thing can lead to anything from a mild stomach upset to severe poisoning. Therefore, it’s essential to learn some universal rules of foraging:

  1. Avoid Unknown Plants: You may have found what looks like edible plants, but if you’re not 100% sure a plant is safe to eat, don’t eat it. Simple as that.
  2. Watch the Wildlife: Often, but not always, animals can give clues about what plants or fruits might be safe to eat.
  3. Test Before Tasting: If you think a plant might be safe, rub a small amount on your skin, then your lips, and wait to see if there’s a reaction. If there isn’t, try a tiny amount. Wait again, then consume gradually if there are no ill effects.

Decoding Nature’s Edible Offerings

When it comes to foraging in the wild, there are a few key items that are generally safe and can provide you with much-needed nutrients. Here’s a brief rundown:

Food Type Description Notes
Berries There are many edible wild berries. Familiarize yourself with the safe ones in your region. Avoid white and yellow berries as many are toxic.
Nuts & Seeds Many trees, like oak and pine, provide edible nuts and seeds. Avoid if you have nut allergies!
Insects Most insects are high in protein and edible. Cook if possible to kill parasites.
Fish Freshwater fish can be an excellent food source. Ensure it’s properly cooked to avoid parasites.
Wild Greens Many leafy greens like dandelions and plantains are edible. Again, only if you can positively identify them.

Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. It’s worth taking the time to study and learn about the flora and fauna of the area you’ll be in before you set off on your wilderness adventure. The knowledge could well be a lifesaver!

Unusual Ways to Find Food in a Survival Situation

Here are some unusual, yet potentially lifesaving ways to find food in a survival situation:

  1. Rock Boiling: Don’t have a pot? No problem. You can boil water with hot stones in a hole lined with animal hide or even a large leaf to cook food or make it safer to eat.
  2. Primitive Traps: Learning to build primitive traps, such as a spring snare or a figure-four deadfall trap, can catch small game while you attend to other survival tasks.
  3. Insects: While they might not be the most appetizing food source, insects like crickets, grasshoppers, and mealworms can provide valuable protein.
  4. Seaweed: If you’re near the coast, many types of seaweed are edible and full of nutrients. Be sure to wash off any salt before consuming.
  5. Pine Trees: The inner bark, or cambium, of a pine tree is actually edible and can provide carbohydrates.
  6. Bird’s Nests: While we wouldn’t recommend making a habit of this, in a survival situation, bird’s eggs can provide a valuable source of protein and fat.
  7. Roadkill: While this may not seem appetizing, in a survival situation, freshly-killed animals found on a roadside can be a food source. Just be sure to cook it thoroughly to kill any potential pathogens.
  8. Fishing with Pantyhose: You can stretch pantyhose or any similar material across a stream to catch small fish.
  9. Gleaning: Following a harvest, there’s often leftover produce in the fields that you can gather.

Remember, no matter how you get your food in a survival situation, safety should be your top priority. Always ensure any wild plants or animals are safe to eat and that your food is properly cooked to avoid food-borne illnesses.

land nav

Navigating the Wilderness: Or How Not to Walk in Circles

Unless you’re a migratory bird, your innate sense of direction may not be up to scratch. Practice using a compass and map, and learn how to navigate by the stars. It’s not only practical but also quite poetic, don’t you think?

Unusual Ways to Navigate in the Wilderness

When your GPS fails and your compass is nowhere to be found, these unusual, yet effective navigation methods might just save your hide:

  1. Moss on Trees: It’s often said that moss grows on the north side of trees. While this isn’t universally true, moss does typically grow in shadier, damper conditions. Depending on your location, this could help you find your bearings.
  2. The Shadow Tip Method: Using a stick and the sun, you can figure out the cardinal directions. Place a stick upright in the ground, and mark where the shadow ends. Wait for about 15 minutes, then mark where the shadow has moved to. The first mark is west, the second is east, and from there, you can determine north and south.
  3. Analog Watch Sun Compass: If you have an analog watch, you can use it to find north. In the Northern Hemisphere, point the hour hand at the sun. Bisect the angle between the hour hand and the 12 o’clock marker to get the north-south line. Remember, this only works with standard time, not daylight saving time.
  4. Stars: In the Northern Hemisphere, the North Star can be a reliable navigation point. In the Southern Hemisphere, the Southern Cross constellation can also help guide you.
  5. Ant Trails: In the wild, ants often build their nests on the eastern side of trees to get the morning heat from the sun. Observing these small creatures can provide you with a sense of direction.
  6. Moon: If the moon rises before the sun has set, the illuminated side will be in the west. If the moon rises after midnight, the illuminated side is to the east.
  7. Wind Patterns: If you’re familiar with the prevailing wind direction in your area, you can use this to help navigate.

Remember, these methods are not always 100% accurate and should be used in combination for best results. Always strive to have reliable navigation tools on hand for any wilderness excursion.

facts about surviving in the wilderness

First Aid in the Wilderness: For When You Can’t Just ‘Walk It Off’

From dealing with minor cuts and scrapes to more serious injuries, a basic knowledge of first aid is essential for any wilderness adventurer. And yes, that includes knowing what to do if you encounter a bear (Hint: don’t try to outrun it, trust me on this one).

Unusual Basic First Aid Methods in the Wilderness

Getting injured can be a serious issue, especially if you’re far from professional medical help. Sometimes, you might need to get a little inventive. Here are some unusual, yet potentially lifesaving methods when your missing supplies from your first aid kit:

  1. Honey for Wound Healing: If you happen to have honey, it’s a great natural antibiotic that can help heal wounds and prevent infection.
  2. Spider Webs for Bandages: This might sound straight out of a superhero comic, but spider webs are strong and were historically used as bandages. They can help clot blood and contain antibacterial properties.
  3. Charcoal for Poisoning or Stomach Upsets: Activated charcoal can be useful for absorbing toxins in case of ingestion. While it’s not quite the same, in a desperate situation, you could use charcoal from your fire, crushed into a powder, and mixed with water.
  4. Duct Tape for Blisters or Cuts: If you’re all out of band-aids, duct tape can provide a protective covering for a blister or a cut. You can also use duct tape with a splint to support broken bones.
  5. Sanitary Pads or Tampons for Bleeding: They’re made to be super absorbent, so in a pinch, they can be used to stem heavy bleeding.
  6. Willow Bark as a Pain Reliever: Willow bark contains salicin, a chemical similar to aspirin. Chewing on it can help relieve pain and reduce fever.
  7. Sugar for Wound Healing: Sugar can be used to treat wounds and prevent infection due to its dehydrating properties that inhibit bacterial growth.

Remember, these methods should only be used as a last resort and when conventional first aid supplies are not available. Also, while they might help in the short term, nothing replaces professional medical treatment.

How to Bear It: Wildlife Encounters

Wildlife encounters can be awe-inspiring, but it’s important to remember that you’re in their home. Treat them with respect and maintain a safe distance. If a bear does get too close, remember to speak in a low, calm voice, and whatever you do, don’t play dead. That’s the kind of rookie mistake that can lead to some serious problems.

Unusual Ways to Deal With Curious Wild Animals

While seeing animals in the wild can be exhilarating, it’s also very important to respect their space and ensure both your safety and theirs. Here are some unconventional, yet effective strategies for dealing with curious wild animals:

  1. Singing or Talking: Making noise, such as singing or talking in a loud voice, can alert animals to your presence and give them the chance to avoid you. Don’t worry about hitting the right notes, though – the animals aren’t Simon Cowell!
  2. Walking Poles as Deterrents: If you’re carrying walking poles, they can be extended and waved around to make yourself appear larger and more intimidating to predatory animals.
  3. Blowing a Whistle: The sound of a whistle can scare off some animals and is also useful for signaling for help in case of an emergency.
  4. Use of Capsaicin Spray or Bear Spray: This is a last-resort deterrent, mainly for bears, but could potentially work on other animals too.
  5. Yoga Postures: Well, not exactly a downward dog or tree pose, but raising your arms and standing tall can make you appear larger and potentially deter smaller predators.
  6. Flashlight or Fire: Bright light can often frighten animals away. At night, a flashlight or fire can be useful in keeping curious animals at a distance.
  7. Maintain Eye Contact: For some predators, maintaining eye contact can show them you’re not afraid (though avoid this with bears and cougars as they can see it as a threat).

Remember, the best way to deal with wild animals is to avoid an encounter in the first place. Make plenty of noise as you move through the wilderness, especially in areas with dense vegetation or around blind corners. Properly store your food supply and maintain a clean camp to avoid attracting animals.


Whether you’re just planning your first overnight hike or preparing for the apocalypse, remember that surviving in the wilderness is about knowledge, preparation, and most importantly, a positive attitude. So pack your survival kit, double-check your water purification methods, and maybe study up on which bugs taste best when roasted over an open fire. Here’s a hint: it’s not the ones with more legs than you can count.

Stay safe out there, fellow adventurers. The wilderness awaits!


What is the most important thing in wilderness survival?

The most important thing in wilderness survival is maintaining a positive and proactive mindset. This mental resilience allows you to think clearly, make smart decisions, and keep up the hope and determination essential for survival.

What a human being must do to survive in the wilderness?

To survive in the wilderness, a human being must find a way to meet their basic survival needs: shelter, water, food, and warmth. This involves building or finding a shelter, sourcing clean drinking water, foraging or hunting for food, and maintaining body heat, often by making fire.

What not to do in the wilderness?

In the wilderness, one should not panic or make impulsive decisions, as this can lead to errors in judgment and potentially hazardous situations. It’s also crucial not to eat or drink anything without being absolutely certain it’s safe, as there are numerous poisonous plants and contaminated water sources that could lead to serious health issues.


1. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Staying Calm in Turbulent Times.” Harvard Health, 27 Apr. 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/staying-calm-in-turbulent-times.

2. Sissons, Claire. “What Percentage of the Human Body Is Water?” Www.medicalnewstoday.com, 27 May 2020, www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/what-percentage-of-the-human-body-is-water.

3. Segelken, Roger. “Same Flower Chemicals Tell Some Insects “This Bud’s for You,” but Deter Others with Toxic Warning, Cornell Scientists Discover.” Cornell Chronicle, 14 Nov. 2001, news.cornell.edu/stories/2001/11/flower-chemicals-invite-some-warn-others.