For all outdoor survival researchers out there, the internet, newspapers, and nature magazines are all a virtually unlimited supply of information, advice, and wilderness do’s and don’ts. If you are planning to learn some serious survival techniques before undertaking an expedition to the wild, you do not want to believe everything you read. The number of myths out there is astounding – as is the number of people who firmly believe in them. Let us go over some of the most commonly held beliefs that, if accepted as fact, might seriously impair your chances of survival in life threatening circumstances.
Ever heard how much water a cactus holds? Desert survival would be a piece of cake if the barrel cacti really were reservoirs of water as claimed by various web articles. Myth number one, a cactus really does not hold much water. The few drops you can squeeze out of it are likely to be bitter and acidic, and could even induce vomiting, diarrhea or cramps – causing further dehydration that can even be fatal. You should search for congregating birds or areas with vegetation if you want to find water in a desert instead of dismembering cacti!
Myth number two, when trapped outside in the dead of winter, you can eat snow or ice in order to live. Actually, eating snow will cause a dramatic reduction in your body temperature, increasing the chances of the already probable hypothermia. Secondly, it might actually make you sick if it is contaminated or polluted, in which case you are better off not eating at all.
Another common myth is that you should, if bitten by a snake, cut an X over the wound and suck out the venom. In reality, by doing this you would be removing only very minute, negligible amounts of venom, and in fact you could not only badly infect the wound, but could also take in some of the poison through your mouth. If you have cuts around your lips, this would lead to even more rapid spread of the venom. The right way to treat a snake bite is to wash the wound with soap and water and to keep it below the level of the heart. Do not apply a tourniquet to it and tightly bandage the parts two inches above and below the wound. Get medical help as soon as possible and keep still while you wait for help.
Some people claim that drinking your own urine can help you survive at sea. This would be a big mistake and may be your last one. Urine actually contains salt which would dehydrate you, and it may contain harmful materials which were supposed o be excreted from your body. Instead, drink rainwater, turtle blood, or the liquid around the spine and eyes of fish.
Finally, there is a ridiculous idea that should you ever come to grips with a shark in a sea survival situation, you can punch it on the nose. This is very, very likely to be your last mistake too, when you punch it on the nose, your hand would likely hit its teeth, which would be exactly like pushing hard against a set of blades. The teeth of a shark are razor sharp; your hand will bleed immediately, and you would become a shark feast within seconds as its companions are attracted by the smell of blood.
Therefore, the bottom line to this discussion is that do not go blindly following everything you have ever read about outdoor survival. Many of these are speculations by people who have never set a foot outdoors; hence they are more than likely to fail when applied in a real survival situation. Do not take your safety lightly; make sure you educate yourself carefully and using credible sources before you start planning any travels in the great outdoors!