- The top three ways people die in the wilderness are by falling, drowning, and heart attack. Having a survival plan could save your life.
- Whether in the woods, in the mountains, or on a deserted island, there are a few essential steps survivalists say to follow.
- Avoiding injury, getting clean water, and finding a way back to civilisation are all paramount to survival.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: The wilderness is an unforgiving place. There are so many different ways to die out there. We’ve covered a lot of survival tactics and situations. Like, a lot, a lot. But unless you know you’re gonna be attacked by a bear, you might have missed that one video about what to do when you’re attacked by a bear. That’s why this video may save your life.
OK, you’re stranded in the wilderness. Congratulations! What do you do first? Whether in the woods, in the mountains, or on a deserted island, here are a few essential steps survivalists say to follow.
First, signal for rescue. The sooner you return to civilisation, the better. Your best chance of escape is to be rescued, so use your resources to signal any ships or planes that might pass by.
But if rescue doesn’t come, the next step is to avoid injury. Your feet are some of your most important and vulnerable tools for survival. Boots will protect you from cutting your feet as you explore the area for the next step to survival.
Find fresh water. While a human can survive for 40 days without food, we can’t live more than eight to 10 days without water. If you have to choose between dehydration and unfiltered water, take your chances with the water. But if you can, fresh water is gonna be your best bet. Sources of fresh water include caves, rain, and making your own from salt water.
If you’re by the ocean, you can convert salt water to fresh. Fill a can with salt water and then put a second container over the can. This will collect the fresh water that evaporates out of the can. You need at least 1 litre of water per day to survive.
Look for signs of life if you can’t find a water source. Vegetation, birds, and insects can all mean nearby water sources. Roots, vegetables, and cacti can all contain water, and mashing them with a rock will release some liquid. Water flows downhill, so be sure to check low-terrain canyons and mountain bases that could be home to a water source. Morning dew can be collected with a cloth and then wrung out into your mouth. But just make sure you collect it before sunrise or it could evaporate before you get to it.
If you’re lucky enough to catch a rainfall, use cups or any possible containers to catch it. If possible, build a water-catching tarp. This will allow even more water to be collected.
So hopefully this never happens to you, but let’s say you found yourself in an extreme situation: You’re out of food, you’re out of water, and the only liquid nearby is your own. The Army has a field manual, which has a do-not-drink list for just such an occasion. That list includes fish juices, blood, alcohol, seawater and, yes, urine. Drinking urine is basically like drinking seawater. It’s gonna dehydrate you, which is the exact opposite of what you want. To make matters worse, if you keep drinking it, the severe dehydration can trigger abnormally low blood pressure. Low blood pressure means less blood flow to vital organs like your heart, lungs, and kidney, which can be damaged or fail as a result. That is not good.
Adding to your trouble is urea. Urea is basically waste. It’s not supposed to be in your body. That’s why your kidneys filter it out of your blood and into your urine, which ordinarily then just leaves your body. But if you then drink the urine, your kidneys have to work twice as hard to filter out that extra urea, and that could lead to kidney failure. Seems like drinking urine might be your kidneys’ worst nightmare. Just stick with fresh water if you can get it.
You should also know how to build a fire. You need a dry patch of ground about 4 feet wide. Build a ring of rocks or dig down a few inches. This will keep the fire insulated. Then use paper, dry grass, or pine needles as tinder. Pile loosely in the centre and top with kindling. If that kindling’s wet, you’re gonna need a lot more tinder. If you’re lucky enough to have a lighter or matches, ignite the tinder and gently blow on the fire. If you don’t have a lighter or matches, you need to use friction to create an ember. You can also create sparks with a flint and steel. If you need to, you could always use a lens to harness the sun’s light. As the kindling catches, gradually add more. Once you have a nice, healthy flame going, begin to add the firewood. Arrange the pieces in a tepee shape. This fire will burn hot and quickly, so be sure to keep it fed.
As you explore the area, you might be trying to find your way back to civilisation. You may remember hearing how moss only grows on the north side of trees. Great, right? Unfortunately, that’s a myth. Moss grows wherever conditions are moist and cool. This is often the north side of trees since they are less likely to receive direct sunlight, but in the woods, trees can be shaded from any direction, so it’s not safe to go by this rule.
There are some unseen dangers that could definitely slow you down. You should also know how to deal with these. Chances are you won’t encounter quicksand that often, but just in case you do, here’s how to escape quicksand. First of all, don’t panic. It’s impossible to drown in quicksand because humans actually float in it. What makes it so dangerous is its viscosity. Once disturbed, quicksand becomes much more viscous, trapping whatever it envelops. Don’t ask your friend to pull you out; they will only be able to dislodge your top half, and that’s no good. Here’s how you get out of it. Wiggle your legs to create a pocket for water to trickle down. This will loosen the sand around your legs. Feel free to lose your shoes if you have to. Next, lay back. The more you distribute your weight across the surface, the harder it will be to sink. Now work on your backstroke. Use your arms to propel yourself backward. The quicksand will actually keep you afloat, and you’ll be able to pull your legs free. Once you reach solid ground, roll away from the quicksand, and then you’ll be clear of that sticky situation.
Mother Nature isn’t the only danger out here. Wildlife is also a threat if you don’t know how to react appropriately. Like snakes. Most snakes will avoid you, but if you happen to get bitten by venomous snakes, you can always suck the venom out, right? Nope, that is another myth. A venomous bite delivers the venom straight to your bloodstream. In fact, trying to suck it out could transfer the venom to your mouth. It could also further infect the wound. Instead, hold the bitten limb below or close to heart level. This may prevent the venom from reaching your heart.
If you’re in some parts of the world, you have a good chance of running across some bears.
Coyote Peterson: Do not take out your phone and think, “Ooh, there’s a bear, I’m gonna get a photograph of it.” You see a bear, that bear hasn’t seen you, the best thing to do is slowly backstep yourself out of the situation. If you do encounter a bear and that bear does see you, more times than not, the bear is actually more afraid of you than you should be of it, and it will take off on its own. If you are attacked, do not try to outrun a bear. I know a lot of people out there who say, “I could outrun a bear.” You can’t outrun a bear. However if it makes a threat towards you, make yourself look big. Scream, act crazy, do whatever you can.
Tim MacWelch: In the event of an attack by a black bear, the most important thing you can do is fight for your life. A grizzly bear, however, is much larger, much more powerful, and way out of our league for a hand-to-hand fight. With a grizzly bear, your best chance of survival is to curl up in a ball, play dead, and cry for your mama.
Peterson: Protect your head and your neck and just hold on, because it’s probably gonna be a very painful ride. But oftentimes, that bear will end up leaving and going on. Give yourself a few minutes, endure through the pain, and once you know that the animal has moved off into the underbrush, that’s when you quietly get yourself up and you go seek medical attention as quick as possible.
Narrator: Probably the most important lesson to survive in an unfamiliar area is to become familiar with it. Study the terrain, environment, and wildlife of any new area before you enter it. Let people know where you will be and how long you’ll be out there. And bring the necessary gear for that trip and every emergency situation that you can think of. Using these tips, hopefully you’ll never need to drink your own pee in the first place.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2019.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.