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Wilderness Survival Myths

We have all seen the movies where a guy or gal is stuck in the wilderness and has to fight to survive.  Usually, there are one or two scenes in these types of movies that promote a survival trick which is completely false and was thrown in the film for dramatic effect, such as getting water from a cactus.

Not only are these depictions of survival skills false, but they likewise serve to promote incorrect survival techniques that could get a person in a real survival situation into even more trouble if they rely on their silver screen knowledge of how to survive in the wild. Take for example the water from a cactus myth that has been perpetuated in a number of western sagas; the reality is that cacti do not hold water but rather a gooey gel like substance that will induce vomiting and diarrhea, thus promoting, not curing dehydration.

Similar survival myths have evolved over the years and the following is a list of the most common survival mistakes that people can make that they have based off of false portrayals of successful survival:

  • Alcohol will prevent hypothermia.  Alcohol makes a person feel warmer by rushing blood to the surface of the skin, but this will actually cause the vital inner organs of the body to drop in temperature faster, not slower.
  • Eating Plants is the best source of food for a survival situation.  This myth is especially dangerous as most plants can be toxic to humans.  People should stick to fish, fur-covered mammals, and six legged insects for their survival meals.
  • A person can orient themselves using the moss on a tree.  There is no quicker way to get lost then by using moss growth as a compass.  The myth is that moss will only grow on the north side of a tree, but the truth is it will grow on any side or direction of a tree, rock or other surface conducive to its needs.  Forget the moss and use the Sun.  The sun will rise in the east and set in the west every day.