For most of us, our idea of jungle survival comes only from watching Bear Grylls tide through the Australian and African forests and/or playing Tomb Raider. Or worse, courtesy of websites and articles publishing bogus survival steps that could get you killed more than get out alive.
Let us end these misinformation right now as we tell you the most famous survival myths going around the web and why they are the last things you should do.
Ah, the mother of all survival tips. The Australian Outback is an unforgivable desert. You need to keep yourself hydrated. If Bear Grylls does it, you should too, right? Honestly, this advice is not only gross, it never helps either.
There is a reason your body expels this fluid: it contains minerals, chemicals, and bacteria that either has no function or harmful to your body. Ingesting them again will only give your body another laborious task of filtering and expelling them out on top of keeping you warm. If you really insist on making your piss useful, experts advise peeing on your bandana and wearing it for added cooling.
And speaking of hydration…
Finally! You found a body of water. But you are not dumb. You know you have to boil it to make it safe for drinking, right? Not really mate.
The thing is, this isn’t wrong, it’s not just complete. Given, boiling water kills bacteria and other harmful organisms, but it cannot lay hands on the chemicals (such as lead), small debris, and particulates. You need to filter them first either by pouring them through a clean fabric or clothing, or letting them sit for a while to let the particulates settle and scoop the top part to boil. You won’t be able to do much against the chemicals. The general rule is be wary of stagnant bodies of water, as they are the ones that easily get contaminated. Flowing streams and brooks are better options.
We are not done on water yet...
Cactuses are just like camels; only greener, thornier, and doesn't move around. They can store large amounts of water to survive the desert, like Mother Nature’s most challenging water coolers. So you just cut one off and pour the precious liquid to your mouth, like how the cowboys did it in John Wayne movies.
The thing is, water from cactus contains high level of alkaloids, and they are toxic and acidic. Ingesting them will cause nausea, stomachache, and diarrhea, which basically are the last things you need when surviving a barren land. This will cause further dehydration and damage to your kidneys.
The jungle isn’t your eight year-old’s playground. It is littered with pieces of wood, metal, or even rock that can get through your skin and muscle. And just like in any movie that stars Sly or Arnie, you just need to pull the piece that impaled you like a badass and you will be good.
Here’s the thing. Very few die from getting impaled alone (in this case, from severe organ damage). Your biggest worry here is blood loss. Pull that piece and you will gush more than you are supposed to (not to mention expose more flesh in the process). That object is blocking all the blood vessels and making you safe. Keep it there. Dress the wounded area to prevent infection due to external elements. Seek medical attention when available. Let the experts do the removal.
If you casually tune in to National Geographic, Discovery, or History Channel, you know that half of their shows are about people left in the wilderness or desert to survive (the other half are about the daily routines of managing a pawnshop). And you are thinking, since these are fact-based channels with great reputations, everything shown in these programs should be accurate.
Let us tell you about Richard Code, a Canadian who braved the snow-covered wilderness of Ontario, Canada to test his survival skills armed only with an ax, a few tools, and a stock knowledge of survival techniques from watching Survivorman (which is like Man v. Wild, but set in Canada). His body was found a week later.
The thing is, these shows tend to rely on drama, action, and a bit of exaggeration to sell, throwing accuracy in the process. Nobody will watch a guy resting under a tree for a span of an entire day, despite the fact that that is the right thing to do to conserve heat and energy. No, people want scorpion-eating, urine-drinking, and waterfall-diving scenarios because those bring quality excitement, but necessarily quality knowledge. So get over your delusions because you consumed all nine seasons of Dual Survival and stay away from danger.
It is just the Outback. You have your 4x4, bottles of water, and jackets when it turns cold. It is literally a walk in the park. It is not even a major adventure.
But the things is, it is the Outback, an expansive desolation comprising most of Australia. And if you know Australia, you that the weather can flip here like crazy. The same goes with the desert. The temperatures can range from 50°C (120F) on summer days and pin fall to below freezing to -10°C (15F) during winter nights.
And that is just the weather. You also have to deal with other elements Oz is famous for. It rains heavily. The car ran out of battery. One of you got bitten by a Sydney Funnel-web Spider (which ironically roams the Outback, too). Or got lost. The Outback is no human being’s territory. You need be prepared and ready there.
You know how it looks like. People lounging in a winter cabin while snow builds up outside. A Saint Bernard with a wooden keg containing whiskey hanging around his neck approaches and offer people sips of the liquor to make themselves warm and survive the winter.
This may sound homey and beautiful, but deadly. It does more damage than good during survival situations. You see, alcohol making your body warm is an illusion. It only increases skin temperature by making your blood vessels dilate, pushing all the blood to go towards your birthday suit.
With all your red juices on your skin, the core suffers, lowering the body temperature in the process, which is the last thing you want to happen. Also, alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it helps expel liquids out of your body (this explains your multiple trips to the rest room during night outs). And you don’t want to risk dehydration in the cold, mate
We have glorified, even romanticised, survival so much that some people think it is a challenge worth taking randomly. To say that going into survival mode in the wilderness is an adventure is like saying spiraling down a credit card debt is a milestone in life. It is far from the real thing.
Aside from circumstances born out of uncontrollable factors, survival is a result of a series of bad decisions that people pursue due to ego, curiosity, and pop culture influence (We could always Tom Hanks our way out of this island!”). And then, they usually discover that being isolated with no shelter or food or water is not that rad. More than exploits and cave diving, survival is about desperation, panic, uncertainty, and fear.
If you really want to prove your skills in survival, avoid throwing yourself in such desperate situations in the first place. That, experts believe, is the greatest skill here.