Common Survival Myths

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Written by Jennifer Moran, The Prepared Bee

When good weather starts in a few weeks, it’ll be a great time to go out and do outdoor activities. There are a lot of threats that can endanger you in the wild so you want to make sure you are knowledgeable in case trouble comes along.

Thanks to some television shows that portray such survival tactics there may be some misinformation about survival.  Here are a few MYTHS about survival you may have heard:


1. Space Blankets Are Not Useful

Mylar-coated emergency blankets look so thin you doubt it could keep you warm at night. It might not be comfortable as it is useless in insulating you. But actually, with the right conditions, it can keep you warm all night. Its aluminum coating is very thin yet works as a thermal-reflective. Or simply, it can reflect infrared energy or simply heat. When you are getting cold due to exposure or shock, it means your own heat has been lost and not been replaced.

Using a space blanket will keep your warm while the moisture in your clothes keep you cool because it is locked in as well. These sheets are lightweight and cheap.

2. Make a Fire inside a Cave, Thanks to Our Cavemen Ancestors

You may have seen movies where cavemen built fires inside caves. This is actually dangerous because heat can cause the rock to expand, making them brittle and potentially collapse. This is called a cave-in. A build up of carbon monoxide gas can also accumulate in an enclosed space. Well, cavemen didn’t know better but now you do.

3. A Fire is Enough to Keep You Warm

Large-log fires keep you warm in the cold but that doesn’t mean you can skip building a shelter. Rain or strong wind can put out your fire. A shelter provides comfort and protection. Take time to build a shelter – you’ll be a lot more comfortable.


1. Rub Two Sticks Together to Make a Fire

This is a classic myth about making a fire. Yes, friction creates fire but using two sticks and rubbing them together just won’t create fire. Friction-fire techniques needs practice, patience and luck. It is not as easy as what is portrayed on TV.

 2. Use Your Thumbnail to Test Wood

You may have heard that making a dent in a piece of wood with your thumbnail is the best way to test if the wood is suitable for starting a friction fire. This myth just won’t seem to go away, but it doesn’t hold up. Denser woods may work just fine for friction fires but softer woods don’t work at all. But if it were to work, it is just a mere coincidence. Again, it is takes patience and practice.

3. Hardwood Is Best For Friction Fires

When you talk about hardwood, the readily available type is oak. Yes, hardwood is good for making fire but not for friction fire much less with an oak wood. Oak’s ignition temperature and density are not useful in friction-fire drills or boards. Instead, use non-resinous and soft-woods like willow, basswood, cedar and cotton wood.

4. Wet matches Could Still Work

The chemicals in match heads are sensitive to moisture. So if you try to use a wet match, it just won’t spark. Typical safety matches have a striking surface on the package that is made from a gritty material such as powdered glass mixed with phosphorus. The material of the match’s head is made of grit, sulfur and oxidizer.

When you strike a match, the friction of the glass powder creates heat. The heat can convert the phosphorus into white phosphorus that eventually creates fire. If match heads are exposed to moisture the chemical composition changes. You might need to choose a waterproof match especially when you will get likely get wet or find a waterproof container.


1. Your Pee Can Be An Alternative to Keep You Hydrated

There are some stories where some men drink their own urine. Urine has a lot of chemical waste products that are unnecessary and toxic. The urine of a dehydrated person contains a higher concentration of waste products. You will become more dehydrated with urine.

Pee can be handy in other ways: Use it to dampen clothing for evaporative cooling in hot climates. But it’s not safe or smart to drink it.

 2. Drink Raw Blood to Rehydrate

Blood is 83% water, sure it has water that we need. Some of the traditional cattle cultures of Africa still consume cattle blood with milk, but this is done for protein and minerals rather than hydration. But raw blood may contain unidentified pathogens. Drinking animal blood may have helped some survivors stay alive but it is still so risky when you don’t know what the animal has been preying on and what pathogens it may be carrying.

 3. Suck On A Stone For Hydration

This is an old survival trick practiced across the globe but if you try it, you are just salivating and losing more than you gain. Worse, you could even suck on the stone too hard and inhale it, which could cause you to choke.

 4. Eat Snow As Water

This is a bad move. In any volume of snow the air-to-water ratio is about 9:1. This means you’d need to eat about 10 quarts of snow to yield one quart of water in your belly. There are four classes of snowflakes and many shapes these classes can assume. But they all contain more cold air than frozen water. Forget about brain freeze—this is core freeze. If it is cold enough for snow to be present, then it is cold enough for hypothermia. Always melt snow before drinking.


1. Rub Frostbitten Skin

You will regret you did. Frostbite happens when ice crystals form in your skin and other tissues. Rubbing the injury will damage more tissues as the ice crystals lacerate new cells. Rather, let the victim take painkillers as you slowly rewarm the tissue—frostbite hurts!

2. Drinking Alcohol Can Warm You Up

You may be familiar with the cartoon Saint Bernard dog with a cask of brandy around his neck reviving some avalanche victim. But liquor is the last drink you need in a cold-weather survival scenario. Of course you will feel a little warmer drinking it but alcohol actually dilates skin-surface blood vessels and capillaries, which will chill your core even faster. Instead, drink hot tea or cocoa.

 3. Cotton can be a good base layer

Definitely not true. If you rely on it as your primary base layer in cold weather, cotton is an awful base layer. It’s a great fabric to wear around the house, especially in hot, dry climates. But once cotton gets wet, it loses its insulating properties.

Before you even break a sweat, normal skin moisture will soak into the cotton fibers and start to cool your body through conduction. These fibers can hold up to 27 times their weight in water and then store that moisture up to eight times longer than synthetics or wool. It steals vital heat from your core.

 4. Don’t Feed a Hypothermia Victim

Normal shock treatment and hypothermia treatment are different—you don’t, for example, want to feed someone who may be going into shock because he can vomit and choke while unconscious. However, in mild to moderate hypothermia cases, high-calorie foods can be given in small, repeated doses to create metabolic heat in the victim and help him restore his own heat-generating ability.

5. Let A Hypothermia Victim Get Some Sleep

Hypothermia is serious and can lead to death. After the shivering, confusion, slurred speech, and clumsiness of hypothermia have manifested, an exposure victim also gets drowsy. Keep the victim awake as you warm him up.

6. A Hot Tub Cures Hypothermia

Rewarming is the main way to treat someone who experienced hypothermia whose core temperature has dipped far below 98.6 degrees. But dropping somebody in a hot tub or Jacuzzi will cause a burning pain and can even trigger a heart attack. Rather, place hot-water bottles in both armpits, or use body heat, skin-to-skin rewarming. Never use a high-heat source to treat a hypothermic person.


1.It Is Safe to Eat Raw Meat and Seafood

Raw animal flesh can contain pathogens that may attack the human body, resulting in an extended-onset condition that’s difficult to diagnose. We’ve all seen survival shows with a charismatic host scarfing down some poor live animal. This may be safe once in a while, but it’s hardly a technique to emulate. What about sushi, you say? Plenty of folks eat raw fish and don’t seem to get sick.

Some raw seafood that comes from saltwater is safe for human consumption, but it’s only because their pathogens aren’t very compatible with the human body. The worms in sushi and the bacteria in oysters aren’t usually the right species to take up residence in a human host. Play it safe: Kill it and cook it before you eat it.

2. You Can Eat What Animals Eat

Despite our shared biology, there’s still a massive difference between humans and other animals. Some animals might eat plants that happen to be edible to humans, but these same animals can also eat plants that are dangerous to us. Birds are the worst animals to emulate, as they gobble up a variety of berries, many of which could either nourish us or kill us.

Even mammals such as squirrels, which normally eat nuts that are safe for human consumption, will occasionally munch on mushrooms and nuts that are toxic to humans. Just because an animal ate it doesn’t mean that you can.

 9. Suck a Snakebite

The cut-and-suck technique of dealing with venomous snake bites went the way of the dodo, yet it still seems to hang around in popular culture. In reality, this trick will risk infection by creating a bigger wound with bacteria-laden human spit inside. This is particularly true if you were bitten by venomous snakes commonly recognized with their colors red, orange and yellow. Put on a pressure dressing and get to a doctor.


1. Moss Grows On the North Side of Trees

Despite the many cartoons and pop-culture references, moss doesn’t always grow on the north side of trees. Moss can also grow on the south side, because it’s sunnier and warmer there. Depending on the moss species and the local climate, moss will grow where conditions are most suitable.

2. You’ll Never Get Lost With A GPS

If you can afford one, you should always take a GPS unit with you into the back country. These high-tech navigational tools are easy to use, and more importantly, they always let you know where you are. But they aren’t a fail-safe against getting lost. If you misplace or break the unit, or your batteries die, you’d better have a map and compass (and the knowledge to use them) as a backup. It is also a good handy skill to understand and read cartography or map reading. Navigation isn’t just about knowing where you are; it’s about knowing which way to go as well.

 3. Follow Flying Birds To Find Water

Some aquatic birds rarely leave the water’s edge, others get as far for food. It’s been known that geese fly toward water at dusk, but this isn’t always the case. They could simply be flying toward a known clearing to spend the night. Since we have no way of knowing a bird’s plans for the evening, we can’t rely on it to lead us anywhere or you might get lost in a snake’s den.


 About the Author:

Jennifer Moran

 Jennifer Moran is the author and the social media manager at She has been working and passionate with writing for over four years. When she isn’t glued to a laptop screen, she spends time playing tennis, practicing yoga, and trying very hard not to sleep during meditation. You can reach her at jennifer (at) preparedbee (dot) com.



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