Outdoor Survival: Myth-Buster

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!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Zakary

    Loved this post, and there are so many more survival myths that need busting!

  • cal3301

    As far as sharks go. Their eyes aren’t that good and most with bump an object, before it bites. They rely on their sense of smell more so and a wrap to their sensitive nose in passing with often help them leave. Having been there, I’ll whack the nose.
    Snow can be melted, urine is more of an antiseptic, than a use for drinking. Cacti are bitter but they are moisture and you cannot drink it, but chew it. Many contain a fruit that is not. When in thirst, suck on a small pebble. Your body will produce saliva.
    I could go on, but you all seem to blow things off too easily.

  • Meat Eater

    Chunks of cacti in the bottom of a solar still produce water

  • cal3301

    I was responding to what was written in the article where they stated that you can’t get water and any that you got would be bitter and make you sick. I’ve eaten cacti before. It really isn’t that bad.
    You can pull water out of the air with a sheet of plastic and a stone in the middle, placed in the sun. Condensation forms and will run into whatever you use to collect it.

  • Libya21


  • NakedToad

    If you are in a situation where medical help is not available for days or weeks or not all, what is your recommendation for treating a poisonous snake bite?

  • Mike Charles

    Hey Cal3301. Why not continue to write about the other things, I know that I would like to hear from you. I don’t know who you mean, when you say, “they always blow things off to easily”. I’m eager to hear everything you have to say!

  • cal3301

    I was referring to those like the one that wrote the article. Half the time they have never been in that situation, but are always ready to tell you what you should do.

  • cal3301

    Your chances for survival in that situation are very slim. If you know you are going into an area like that, you should at least carry a snake bite kit and know what types of snakes you’ll be coming into contact with.
    In case of a bite always keep the area below the heart. Try to remain calm. Do not apply a tourniquet. NEVER cut into the bite or try to suck out the poison by mouth.(use some other form of suction as in the kits) If with people, have them carry the bitten person out to limit their movements. Different snakes have venom that affects different bodily systems.

  • NakedToad

    I asked the question somewhat rhetorically. In military survival training they told us that if you are more than a few hours from medical help try to get as much of the poison out within the first 2 minutes as you possible can. If you wait any longer than just a few seconds to start extracting the poison you will be too late. It will have already started spreading. Your decision needs to be made instantaneously. Situational awareness is the key here. Know where you are and what you are up against. Run through various scenarios in your head so that if they come up you can take immediate action rather than sit and ruminate over the matter.

  • cal3301

    I received my training from my father who was over 30 years in the USMC. He used to take us on full pack hikes when we were young. I kind of thought it was a rhetorical question, but had to answer it anyways. That’s why I stated your chances were slim. I know you want to remove as much as you can of the poison as soon as possible, but you don’t want to suck it out by mouth or cut it to further spread the poison. That is why you limit movement and keep the affected area below the heart. That is also why when you go into those types of areas, a snake bite kit that has a good suction device, should be packed.

  • NakedToad

    I don’t go anywhere with out a snake bite kit. I like take snake chaps along too.

  • cal3301

    Yeah, I like those. Especially when there are a lot of rocks or brush. I trout fish and we have a problem with copperheads in certain areas.

  • Paul Smith

    As does your urine.

  • GrizzMann

    What about Mohammad’s magic elixir? Camel urine. Does it really cleanse the body and soul?