9 false survival myths and other things that can get you dead!
A while back, I wrote an article on my friend Graywolf’s site about false knowledge. I noted some “TV survival shows” and commented that doing some of what they prescribed was foolish.
I am pleased that these shows are making people more aware that their own safety and security is ultimately up to them. But what they show is Hollywood fiction.
So in an effort to steer folks away from the “Action packed, drama filled, scripted” TV survival shows, I thought I would list some common “Survival myths”. These myths are not true. But for whatever reason they continue to be passed on as fact. These are in no particular order.
I’ll hunt for my food during a long term, grid down event
No matter what your skills as a hunter are, those skills are USELESS if there is nothing to left hunt. In a true SHTF long term event, the animals available to hunt will be exhausted relatively quickly.
Using the deer population in the US for example, deer numbered around 32 million or so in 2014. With over 300 million people in the US alone, and the highest rate of gun ownership in the world, you can connect the dots and see the potential ramifications when you have that many hungry people with 267 million or so guns.
A large number of people do not know how to hunt let alone field dress an animal. But that would not stop them from trying. Hunger is a POWERFUL motivator.
Yes, suddenly the number of hunters in the US would EXPLODE. And the rules and regulations in place to help ensure that the animal population remains intact would be right out the window.
Unfortunately, it won’t be just the deer. The entire animal population would be sent into free fall. Small game, birds, fish, etc will be wiped out as the shrinking human population become more desperate for dwindling resources.
And once wild animals are gone, “Whiskers, Mittens, and Fido” are up next. If it moves, chances are someone will be hunting it. And with it the sustainability of animals as food would most likely cease to be.
Moss always grows on the north side of trees.
This is not true. Moss grows where there is shade and moisture. While the northern side of trees might receive more shade, moss is not exclusive to the north side of trees. So it would be foolish to rely solely on this as a way of finding north.
You can get water from a cactus
No. The majority of cactus in the US actually have toxins in them which could do you more harm than good. And you will exert A LOT of energy and moisture from your body trying to get to it. In some cases, the cactuses will cause you to get ill and have diarrhea. Not something you want when you are trying to hydrate yourself.
I see a lot of sites claiming that the fishhook barrel cactus has drinkable water. But the moisture in this cactus contains oxalic acid, which can causes cramps and vomiting. This of course will dehydrate you further.
If you are in the desert and need water, here are some tips to help you along the way:
- Don’t look during the day. Try to stay in the shade and conserve what you can. Look at night or early in the morning before the heat of the day
- Look for north facing canyons. Canyons facing north (in the northern hemisphere) are less likely to be exposed to the sun. So the chances of finding water there are greater.
- Look for wildlife. Animals, bugs, and vegetation need water and tend to congregate in areas where there is water nearby. As for plants, things like cottonwoods, willows, sycamores, hackberry and cattails are likely to be near groundwater.
- Dry riverbeds and streams may sometimes have water below the surface. Try digging some to see if there is moisture underneath.
Boiling water makes it pure to drink
Boiling water (212 degrees F) for one minute will kill almost all pathogens. But boiling water does NOT remove contaminants like lead. Nor does it remove muck like dirt or sand. Instead, you need a filter for that. Here is a great link showing you how you can build your own improvised filter. After filtering, then boil your water.
Also remember that boiling will NOT remove salt. And hopefully you already know that you should NEVER drink salt water.
It’s important to find food sources in a survival setting
I’m not saying you don’t need food, but you can go weeks without food. In survival settings, almost no one dies from starvation. They instead die from a lack of water, exposure to the elements, or from their injuries.
How long a person can survive without food depends upon several factors, such as age, weight, genetics, health issues, and how well you stay hydrated. Mahatma Gandhi, at the age of 74, went 21 days without any food.
When you find yourself in a survival situation, there are a lot of other priorities that MUST take precedence over finding food. Like getting out of the possible danger zone, keeping your core body temperature at 98 degrees, and finding clean drinking water.
You can drink your urine in a survival setting
Ugh! No. Here is an exert I wrote on this very topic on my friend Graywolf’s site.
“Urine is about 90-95 percent water, but the remaining 5-10 percent is not very good for you—that’s why your body is getting rid of it. It carries excess electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium.
Urine also carries small traces of excess toxins in the form of acids from your kidney, but you’d need to drink a lot for that to do damage.
Some electrolytes are good as they enable some of our cells to conduct electricity. But too much sodium draws water out of your cells, dehydrating you. (And too much potassium leads to a heart attack.)
So with urine, you are putting sodium back into your system. This can only dehydrate you further. Basically, it is comparable to drinking ocean water. According to the NOAA website,
Human kidneys can only make urine that is less salty than salt water. Therefore, to get rid of all the excess salt taken in by drinking seawater, you have to urinate more water than you drank. Eventually, you die of dehydration even as you become thirstier.
Drinking urine for survival is even more harmful, since dehydration makes urine less diluted, and all those electrolytes and acids appear in greater concentration. So while Bear Grylls might drink his urine for a TV show, in a true survival situation, you are only compounding your problem.”
Sure, if you are well hydrated, drinking your urine once won’t do any real harm. The problem is that by the time you desperate enough to start considering drinking your urine, you are most likely well dehydrated. So drinking urine is only going to compound your problems like I mentioned above. Instead you would be better off peeing onto your shirt or a bandana and using that to help keep you cool.
Eat snow for hydration
Snow is mostly air, without a lot of water in it; almost 10 parts air to 1 part water. This means you’d need to eat about ten quarts of snow to yield one quart of water. And that much snow is going to drop your core body temperature. This is of course NO BUENO as it could lead to hypothermia.
Also keep in mind that snow does not kill bacteria or pathogens that might be in it. Instead, boil the snow. This melts the snow and kills the bacteria and pathogens. And who doesn’t like to drink something warm when you are very cold? 🙂
In a pinch, alcohol will warm you up
Nope. Not true. In a survival setting, alcohol is the absolute LAST thing you want to have, and for multiple reasons.
First, alcohol obviously will impair your judgment. Clearly you want a sound mind when in the midst of an emergency.
Next, alcohol will dehydrate you. This is part of the reason you get a hangover. Alcohol is a diuretic. This is why you have to go piss all the time when you are out drinking beer with your friends. And when you pee a lot, you are losing water. So clearly this is a problem if remaining hydrated is a concern.
And finally, alcohol will actually decreases your internal body temperature. Normally, in cold weather you blood vessels should constrict to slow the flow of blood to the skin and other extremities. This is designed to keep your internal organs warm, and the reason your hands, feet, and ears are usually the first to get cold.
Instead, alcohol is a vasodilator. This means that it causes your blood vessels to move close to the skin. This make you “feel warm”. But in reality, the blood close to the skin will drop in temperature. So alcohol does the exact opposite of what your body does it when gets cold. Hence you should skip the Heinekens if you need to be warm and hydrated.
Survival is about the gear you have and the skills you know.
Umm…NO! Survival is really about NOT putting yourself into survival situations to begin with. Sure…sometimes things happen that are out of your control. But more times than not, people find themselves in survival situations because they made a bad decision, and then compounded the problem with more bad decisions. And that usually starts with pride! Or beer.
It was because of pride that you did not want to admit you were turned around and unsure of where you were at. Or it was pride that made you decide you did not want to ask for directions? Now you are lost!
Was it a lack of judgement from the alcohol that made you think the overcast sky wasn’t that bad? And now you find yourself in a severe thunderstorm away from home?
In reality, when it comes to survival, the best way to survive most disaster scenarios is to not be there to begin with! Being able to avoid dangerous situations is the BEST survival skill there is! (And that starts with situational awareness.)
Stay safe out there!
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