There’s one simple response to the question we are asking today, and that is, “It aint easy.” We used to do it all the time, survive in the wild. When we were hunter/gatherers of course, for many thousands of years. Yet these days most of us would be pretty useless if dropped off in the jungles of South East Asia or if expected to survive alone in a huge forest. We might recall the movie “Into the Wild”, in which one young man attempts to leave the city and live in nature. He doesn’t last very long. Could celebrity survivalist Bear Grylls even survive, if the TV cameras, nurses, and other staff weren’t on hand to help? Well, today we’ll see how best we might cope alone out there, in this episode of the Infographics Show, How to Survive in The Wilderness?

Ok, let’s first look at the word wilderness, because it has many meanings. It could mean a wasteland, or even the open sea, but what we are really asking today is how to survive in what one dictionary calls, “A wild and uncultivated region, uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals.” This definition could include forests and deserts, but as most of us don’t live in deserts, today we will focus on forests. After all, it’s likely many of us have walked through forests and some of us may have even been lost in one of them.

The first thing is, did you tell anyone where you were going? If you didn’t, you might be one of the least smart people on the planet. You should always tell someone where you plan to go, especially if you go alone. Remember that guy from the movie “127 Hours”, the one that had to hack off his own arm with a dull blade? He didn’t tell anyone where he was going. We think you get the picture. But let’s say this trip of yours was a personal pilgrimage, something meaningful and private and so you didn’t tell anyone. You didn’t even take your phone because you wanted total detachment from the world. So, you are lost, and you are well aware that you are far, far away from any communities.

According to some experts, the first thing you should do is not panic. Panicking will lead to mistakes and you need to conserve your energy. So, you are calm, and you know that the first thing you need to find is a water source,  as our bodies are 60 percent water, and even the strongest among us can only go a week without it. For most people, it’s three or four days. One expert told Fox News, “You can go 100 hours without drinking at an average temperature outdoors. If it’s cooler, you can go a little longer. If you are exposed to direct sunlight, it’s less.” Obviously if you are walking and sweating, things get worse.

So, you look at your water situation. You have some water of course, but how long will it last you? This is actually called “survival hydration”, but it’s not an exact science. One survival site we found says you need to replace less than you lose, through sweating, breathing and urinating, and it came to the conclusion that the minimum to survive for a 154 pound person (74 kg) is about one liter (or a little over 4 cups) of water a day.

This is to stay tip-top at least. It’s important to note that the site says do not take little sips all day, wait 4 or 6 hours and have a big gulp so the body knows the drought is over. If you’ve got salt, dissolve some of that in your mouth first as it will act as an electrolyte. It’s also important that it’s a tiny bit of salt for each big gulp, about 1/16th of a teaspoon.  

Ok, so you know how best to ration your water. What next? Well, look around you? What kind of food do you have? You can go weeks without food; some people fast for 5-10 days and don’t keel over. But if you are on the move, you will want to ration your food. Obviously, you should eat anything that will perish soon, first.

Ideally a man needs at least 1,700 calories a day to have a good amount of energy, so look at your food and try to work out how many calories you have. You don’t want to eat all the calorific food on the first day. You’ll have to do some math, even if you’re hoping to get out of your predicament before your food runs out. If you don’t have much food, or even any food, if you happen to know what plants and berries to eat, then have some, but be careful, because picking the wrong thing could kill you or at least make you sick.

In the wild, some things are your best buddies, in terms of eating, and they are bugs, eggs, fruit, and edible leaves. The backpacker Yossi Ghinsberg who survived in the Amazon for several weeks ate tons of eggs, especially ant eggs. Yummy. As Bear Grylls says, this is not a time to be squeamish, eat all the insects and animals you can if you are hungry. You could set traps for bigger animals, but that’s not as easy as it looks. If you have a gun, of course that will help.

The simplest trap is a stick barely holding up some kind of hood you have fashioned. Put some food in there and hopefully when you wake up something got in and the hood fell on it. If you are next to water, you can also make a spear, which is easy enough if you have a knife, and try to spear some fish. You should cook them as they contain bacteria, viruses and parasites, but if that’s not possible and you are starving to death, try to eat only the meat on the fish. That said, you’d be better off looking for birds’ eggs.

So, you know how much food and water you have, and roughly how long you can last. What else do you have? Did you bring matches or a lighter? You better make sure you keep them dry. If you have anything you absolutely don’t need and it’s heavy, say you brought a framed picture of your dog, dump it.

But be careful what you throw away. For example, don’t dump any heavy books, because you could use the pages to get a fire going. If you have no matches or lighter, you can take two pieces of dry wood, one a sharpened stick and the other a larger piece of wood. Put wispy kindling next to where you will drill, using a rub motion with the stick, and you should get a spark. Make sure you have your book, or small pieces of dry wood nearby.

Now you are ready. If you remember seeing a water source, then head there, but don’t build a home there, as it could flood. It depends on the season of course, so if it’s scorching hot, build higher than the river by quite a bit, but also in the shade. You should be an easy walking distance to your water source, which will likely be either a stream, river, or lake. Springs and streams have the cleanest and safest water to drink.

You might even be in a muddy area, where you can dig a hole about one foot deep so that water collects in it. It’s not pleasant to drink, but you can strain it through a cloth. With rivers or lakes, you should use purification tablets if you have them, and if not, boil the water. Even solar power works to kill nasty things, so if you have time, you could leave your collected water out in the sun.

If you cannot do either of those things, it’s better to risk dirty water than dying. If you are not near a water source and it rains, collect the stuff, put out containers if you have some, or spread a piece of plastic between trees. Now you can build a shelter, which could be a simple lean-to, just a T-frame with branches and leaves laid over it. You might also consider not building on an ant’s nest. Getting bitten all over could be a nightmare.

So, what if you’ve built a shelter, have some water, but want to get on the move the next day? If you can find a trail that someone has already traversed, get on that. If you can’t, and you don’t have a compass, you might have to use the stars or the sun, or just follow the river if there is one. By the way, if you see no river, head downwards, as that’s where they are.

You must keep walking, stay near water if you can, and keep replenishing your food stock. When you light a fire, hopefully someone will see the smoke. Fires at night also keep you warm, scare away animals, and repel bugs. You can also use a fire to know how the weather is, or will be. If there is low pressure, the smoke will stir about or fall, meaning rain could be on the way. If it just rises-up, then that means high pressure, and you should have a clear day.

Now that you know how to survive, the rest is about getting out. As we said, make lots of smoke, and if you move on, look for trails, people on the river, or any signs humans have been near. Follow those signs, and if possible leave signs that you’ve been around. The fire should suffice.

So, if you were forced to survive in the wilderness, what measures would you take to keep yourself alive, that we haven’t already mentioned?  Let us know in the comments! Also, be sure to check out our other video called What Would Happen to Your Body If You Lived in the Bathtub?! Thanks for watching, and, as always, don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe. See you next time!


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