A man in the wilderness

There are many survival tips which many of you have probably heard of over the years that you may remember in a wilderness situation and try to apply. However, some of these tips are very wrong, and could cause you more harm than good.

We understand not everyone is going to be like Hugh Glass, equipped with their trusty air rifle and a badass attitude, so we have taken a look at some of these myths below and what you should do instead!


Myth: Cactus fluid can save you from dying of thirst.

Fact: If you are experienced enough to spot the one kind of barrel cactus that you can filter water from safely, you might be alright. If you cannot spot it and end up drinking any old cactus fluid, it will make you sick. This can cause you to vomit, which will leave you even more dehydrated than when you started!


Myth: You can eat ice or snow for hydration.

Fact: This seems to make sense seeing as nice and snow are made from water, but doing this will waste energy and lower your body temperature.

Rather than eating it ‘neat’, you should melt it, boil it and let it cool down to a reasonable temperature before drinking it.


Myth: Always play dead if attacked by a bear.

Fact: Speaking of Hugh Glass… If you stumble across a bear when in the wilderness (obviously not in the UK!) the general advice is to back away quietly. If it is around your campsite, you should make yourself big and should loudly at it, which should scare it off.

But in the case of an actual attack, your reaction will depend on the bear and on the type of attack. If it’s a black bear, never play dead – you should always fight back.

In the majority of cases, a brown or grizzly bear will only attack to defend itself or its cubs. In these cases, it will warn you off with noises and pretend to charge you. You should back away slowly, and if the bear makes contact, play dead lying on your stomach with your hands over your neck.

In the extremely rare case of a predatory attack, which comes without warning or if the bear seems to be stalking you, experts advise you fight for your life.

Or in Tech Dan’s case, you haul yourself back inside and wonder why on earth everyone goes running to see the black bear you’ve almost walked in to whilst it was having a snuffle around the BBQ!


Myth: If an animal eats something, it is safe for you to eat.

Fact: Squirrels and birds can eat certain mushrooms and berries that could kill a person. If in doubt, don’t eat!


Myth: If it’s very cold, you should move to higher ground.

Fact:  The idea behind is that, since heat rises and cold settles in lower areas such as valleys, you should move to higher ground where it could be warmer. Whilst technically true, this doesn’t account for the wind chill you would experience from higher areas.

Plus, any heat from a fire you may have built (if you manage to build one in the wind) will get carried away much faster the higher up you are. If it’s cold, stay low.


Myth: If a shark attacks you, punch it square in the nose.

Fact: It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to you, but punching the nose of a moving shark in water is actually pretty difficult…!

In the rare case where a shark comes in for a bit, you should try and put a solid object between you and the predator. If that doesn’t work, expert advice is to claw at its gills and eyes.


Myth: You can suck the venom out of a snakebite.

Fact: If the bite delivers venom, it will immediately enter the bloodstream of the victim. Putting your mouth on the bite will deliver extra bacteria into the wound and you will probably end up with venom in your mouth and throat.

If someone is bitten, keep their heart rate low and hold the affected area below heart level whilst heading to a hospital.


Myth: Having a roof over your head means you are properly sheltered.

Fact: There is no one right form of shelter – it will depend on surrounding conditions. In high heat, you will need shade, whereas you will need to stay warm in cooler climates. The latter means you will need to protect yourself from the wind whilst also building up a layer to insulate you from the cold ground at night.

Just because you have a roof, it doesn’t mean you are fully protected from all elements. It is more important to be off the cold ground without a roof than have a roof and sleep directly on the floor.


Myth: You need to immediately find a food supply if you are lost in the wilderness.

Fact: You can survive for up to six weeks without food, so there are more important things you should focus on first! The exact time you can last for may vary depending on starting point and other health issues, but shelter and water are much more important.


Myth: If you are caught in a rip current, always swim parallel to shore.

Fact: Swimming directly parallel to shore works best if the current is going directly out to sea. Many rip currents come in at an angle, so the general idea should be to stay alongside the shore but swim perpendicular to the current as much as you can – “at an angle away from the current and towards the shore,” state the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.


Myth: Rub someone’s skin or put them in a hot bath to warm them up if they are freezing.

Fact: Rubbing skin suffering from frostbite can damage it even further, and hot water can be shocking and damaging to something who is dealing with frostbite or hypothermia.

They need to be warmed up slowly, ideally with blankets and some warm water bottles under their armpits.


Myth: Moss grows on the north side of a tree.

Fact: Depending on environmental conditions, moss can grow on all sides of a tree! Don’t rely on this wives’ tale for navigation, it’ll probably send you the wrong way.