For most people, getting lost in the woods without any tools or supplies to help them survive is something out of a nightmare. It freaks people out so much that Hollywood has gotten a handful of reality TV shows out of it — even if they’re a little bit scripted.
So — just in case you ever find yourself as a character on a real-life episode of Lost — how can you survive if you find yourself trapped in the woods with no supplies?
The Three Necessities
When it comes down to it, there are only three things you really need to survive in the wilderness: water, shelter and food. Warmth may qualify as a fourth item — but not if you’re lost in a hot climate. You can survive for a couple of weeks without food, but you can only survive for two to three days without water.
Let’s take a closer look at how you can find each of these three items that are so necessary for survival.
Your priority, assuming you’re not injured or unable to move, should be to find water. There are plenty of ways to do this, including the following:
- Look for Natural Water Sources: Lakes, rivers and streams are your friends — they provide a source of water in a pinch. Remember to take steps to purify the water. Even water that looks clean can harbor bacteria that could get you sick and make survival more difficult. Thankfully, it’s possible to purify water even if you have no tools available.
- Collect Dew: Early in the morning or late in the evening, you can use a cloth to collect enough dew to wring into your mouth.
- Dig: If you find a dry stream bed, there may still be water under the surface. By digging down, you may be able to find some — though you’ll still need to purify it.
Once you’ve secured your water source, your next step is to find shelter.
The shelter you find or make will depend on where you’re stranded. Caves are a great option, as long as other animals do not already occupy them.
If you can’t find a cave, a fallen tree can provide proper shelter if it’s stable. Find a fallen tree you can take shelter beneath and use branches, palm fronds or large leaves to create a makeshift shelter. It won’t be perfectly weatherproof, but it will be enough to keep you out of the elements and help you stay warm at night.
Food can be tricky, especially if you’re out in the woods in the winter. In general, you’ve got three options:
- Animals: If you’re wilderness savvy, you could try to make some snares for small game like rabbits or squirrels. Ideally, these snares would be made of wire. If you don’t have any wires handy you can use just about anything — your shoelaces, strong vines or the headphones in your pocket. Fishing is also an excellent way to get food if you’re stuck out in the wild.
- Insects: In a pinch, you can also eat most bugs. It sounds gross — and it might taste gross, too, if you’re eating them raw — but it can keep you alive if you can’t manage to secure any other food sources. Just remember what Simba said in The Lion King: “Slimy, yet satisfying!”
- Plants: Unless you’re absolutely sure the plant you’re thinking about eating is edible, don’t eat it. It could get you sick and make it harder for you to survive.
No one wants to think about getting stranded in the woods, but if it happens, it’s better to be prepared. If this is something you’re terrified of, keep a multi-tool or pocket knife on you at all times. Even if you don’t use it for anything other than opening letters, it could mean the difference between life and death — or at least help you survive until help arrives.