The Biggest Survival Myths Exposed

There is a lot of information out there on the best way to prep for an upcoming natural disaster or governmental breakdown. Many tidbits and so-called “facts” are spread via Internet articles, TV shows, or even conversations with like-minded friends. Sadly, there is a growing amount of tips that are, quite frankly, dangerously misleading.

In a survival scenario, any misstep can cause hunger, pain, strife, and ultimately death. To combat this, below is a list of common tips being taught and passed around that are blatantly incorrect. Each of these false facts will also come with a proper, correct rule to keep in mind when preparing yourself and loved ones for the hard times to come.


Myth: Hunting for Food is just as important as Shelter, Fire, and Water.

When planning a camp always make sure to consider four things. First, is there shelter and will it survive Mother Nature? Without this, illness and exhaustion can take over.

Second, is there an easy way to create and extinguish a fire? Obviously, a fire is important to keep party members warm, to cook food and to sterilize stream water. It also can signal a position to help someone who is lost or communicate with a friendly group when made extra smoky.

Third, is there a water source near the survival site? Stored water can get the job done for a bit, but there is a reason most major cities were built near rivers, lakes, or other water sources. Dehydration causes extreme health issues much faster than starvation.

If there is ample water at your campsite, the human body can survive for multiple weeks by sustaining itself with its own stored fat. That being said, the fourth part of a functioning camp is storing non-perishable food and rationing it appropriately. Children and other family members may not be able to deal with extreme hunger in the way a trained survivalist can.

What is unwise, though, is to expect hunting to add to your food reserve. It has become common for the movie and TV industry to show preppers hunting with bows and arrows or small rifles to catch rabbit, squirrel, or other small varmints. This is just to add action scenes to draw audiences in.

The reality is much different. It is important to limit movement in a survival situation. Remaining stationary will make it easier for rescuers to find you and the effort you expend hunting will cause you to lose calories and valuable nutrients to gain only a small amount of food for the group.

Reality: Hunting is Not Reliable

When you break it down, success in hunting relies in many things outside the prepper’s control. First, the bow or rifle must function properly. Second, there must be an ample amount of game. In a survival situation, this will be problematic because the amount of natural predators will greatly increase when mass groups of people migrate to wooded areas.

Third, the kill must occur near the campsite for it to feed the others. If a kill happens too far from camp, not only will valuable time and energy be wasted, but also the prey will likely spoil on the return journey.

Building a large food stockpile, however, has none of these variables and none of the inherent dangers in stalking wild prey. The goal is to survive. Increasing the risk of harm does not add to the odds of success.


Myth: Starting a Fire With Two Sticks is Reasonable.

The weather and climate around the campsite are not reliable. It could be extremely wet, muggy, or raining on the day of disaster.

Because of this, it is smart for any prepper to have 2 or 3 ways of starting a fire that are entirely under your control. The more a camp site is left up to chance, the more chances it has to fail. It may be romantic to start your fire with two sticks but unless you have practiced and perfected the bow drill method, it’s better left for your family camping trip.

Reality: Have Multiple Ways to Start a Fire

A prepper should always have at least three ways to start a fire with them at all times. These are a spark-rod, storm proof matches, and a lighter. When you’re trapped or the sun begins to set, handy technology is the best bet. Fire is one of the most important aspects of a camp (as discussed above) and cannot be left to chance.

Even well trained veterans can have difficult making a fire with just two sticks if the conditions aren’t quite right.


Myth: Shows Like “Man vs. Wild” and “Survivor” Give Good Advice

This one may seem silly and completely obvious, but it’s surprising how often these television shows get brought up when discussing survival scenarios. Make no mistake about it, these shows are meant to entertain- not educate. So feel free to watch them, but don’t expect to bring Bear Grylls moves out into the field.

The realities of survival are not entertaining business. It is cold nights. It is hard conditions and a lot less action and drama then on TV.

Reality: Reality TV is Just Entertainment

The fact is reality shows are heavily scripted. They consistently have the three-act structure you find in other shows like the many Law and Orders and Star Treks. The appearance of real hardship just allows the audience to put themselves in the survivalist’s shoes, which makes it more entertaining than other programming.

Would a camera crew really just watch and record passively while a person was in a truly dangerous survival scenario?


Myth: The Best Way to Deal with a Snake Bite Is to Suck Out The Venom

This one applies to survival scenario, but it is also useful information in any normal wilderness outing.

Recent medical findings have made it clear that putting a suction device around a recent snake bite actually causes more damage than if the wound was left alone. Do not, under any circumstance, cut the wound and start sucking. That may work in Indiana Jones, but it will harm the victim in real life.

If a snake bites someone, immediately get the victim to a hospital. In an impossible to predict survival scenario where the luxury of healthcare is not available, clean and wrap the wound.

Reality: Speed Cleaning is The Only Solution

Get the victim to a hospital as fast as possible in a normal scenario. The more time you let the wound sit, the more tissue will get damaged. Drive as soon as possible.

In an extreme survival scenario, clean the bite with water and whatever first aid equipment is available. Statistics show that 0.00007% of all snakebites become lethal and in 30% of bites, no poison is transferred at all.

The best way to deal with snakebite is to prevent them from happening. Don’t put your hands or feet in an area you haven’t inspected or cannot see. Also, it is important to note that a rattlesnake’s head can still bite a few hours after death because their nervous system is still active.


Myth: You Should Run from Bears

Bears are known as strong, powerful animals. Their speed, though, is underrated. If you try to run from one, it will mostly likely decide you are prey and pursue. Once it decides you are food, it will be much faster than any human- even pro athlete like LeBron James.

Reality: What You Should Do Depends on the Type of Bear

If you are walking through the woods and encounter a black bear, make yourself look big. Puff up your chest, extend your whole frame as much as possible. Then, this may sound strange, but shout and scream. The bear was afraid from the start and this display will make him run.

Grizzly Bears are more of a problem. First, never make eye contact. The animal will take it as a display of dominance. Now, if the bear is not approaching, slowly walk away. If it is slowly approaching you, stand your ground.

The best way to deal with a grizzly is pepper spray. Of course, only spray the bear as a last resort. Attacking a bear first is never a good decision. If it charges, though, let the spray loose, and it will be stunned.


Myth: When in the Desert, Find Water as Soon as Possible

It is possible to survive 48 hours in the desert with no water. The most important thing to keep in check in a desert environment is sweat. Keep water in the body. Immediate effort to find water can cause massive sweat and an early grave.

Reality: Keep Cool, Stay Alive

Find shade. There is a reason middle easterner’s wrap themselves to cover most of their bodies and cowboys only expose their face. Too much sun is extremely dangerous.

In a desert, find shade in the peak heat hours. Then, toward the end of the day or the morning go looking for a sustainable water source.

Myth: As a Last Resort in a Desert, Drink Your Pee

It makes sense to think your body will be able to clean the liquid and take the left over water. However, this only works if your body is in peak condition.

Reality: The Body Will Be Too Hot to Process the Liquid

When on the cusp of heat stroke, drinking your own urine will simply push you over the edge. The kidneys won’t be able to cool down. A good tip, though, is to pee on a bandana and then wear it. As the liquid in the bandana evaporates, the head will be cooled.


Myth: If You Boil Water, It Will Definitely Be Drinkable

Boiling will 100% kill all organisms and germs in the water. However, if harmful chemicals are present they won’t be eradicated. The same goes for muddy water. The water must be strained before drinking.

Reality: Pay Attention to Where Water Comes From

Make completely sure the water you drink doesn’t come from a contaminated stream. Of course, moving water will always be safer than still water. This is why knowing the area is always necessary.

A prepper familiar with the area will know where chemical plants are located and what water is dangerous. If the stream is not chemically tainted, simply boil the water and it will be completely safe.


Myth: Eat Snow to Rehydrate

It makes sense. Snow is just frozen water. If it’s eaten, you’ll get rehydrated. The problem, though, is similar to the common myth that says to drink urine in the desert (discussed above).

Reality: Eating Snow in Freezing Environment Causes More Damage

If you’re near hypothermia, eating snow will push you over the edge. If possible, melt the snow and drink the water. This should be a fairly simple process. In extreme situations, hold the snow to your clothes and drink the water that is created or use a bottle and cloth to melt the ice, which both stores and filters water.


Myth: The Most Important Part of a Shelter Is the Roof

The roof is important when it rains, no one will deny that. However, in every other weather conditions, a dry floor is much more necessary for survival. Plus, even in the rain, having no floor will cause the seepage and the surrounding wetlands to soak the sleep space anyway.

Reality: The Floor is The Most Important Part of a Shelter

The ground gets cold at night, which causes exhaustion and illness. A roof is a good bonus, but it doesn’t give support. The basic foundation of every shelter is the floor, and if a roof is built with no foundation it won’t be as sturdy as possible.


Myth: Drinking Alcohol Will Keep You Warm

This myth comes from the fact that alcohol expands blood vessels and can clearly numb the body. In fact, a body consuming adult beverages will, in fact, feel warmer. However, the sensation won’t match reality.

Reality: Drinking Alcohol Will Make You Colder

Although you won’t feel it, alcohol will actually make you colder because drinking spirits causes blood to rush to the surface of the skin. This creates a warming sensation, but the internal organs are losing warmth and blood flow.

This can lead to many dangerous outcomes. For one, in a survival situation, your senses are your best friend. They tell you what your body needs to keep fighting the next day. To dull them, will definitely hinder your chances of coming out alive.

Also, alcohol hurts the immune system, which will make it easier to get dangerously ill in cold environments.

Misinformation is dangerous, especially for a survivalist. Nothing can make you feel worse than buying into one of the above trends only to realize it was a lie- all too late. So please, stay informed. It’s a matter of life and death.

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One comment

  1. I recently read up on the snake bite thing. It’s not a 100% right answer but more of “it depends”. The critical bit is time until expected medical treatment. Your advice is right for expected medical treatment soon or in a few days but if medical treatment is not expected within a reasonable amount of time sucking the venom out with a snake bite kit early on can lesson the danger. You shouldn’t use your mouth though as the venom can cause you issues. I do carry one of the old suction kits just in case, but know that medical attention is a much better idea.

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