10 Common Wilderness Survival Mistakes

Drinking Urine.

Urine contains dissolved solids (urea, uric acid, creatinine and ammonia), inorganic substances (sodium, chloride, calcium, potassium, phosphates and sulfates) and bacteria (often from the surrounding skin). Urea is a natural diuretic and water is required to dissolve and excrete it from the body. As dehydration increases so does the amount of urea that needs to be processed. In other words, drinking urine dehydrates you more quickly than drinking nothing at all.

Trying to snare a deer.

Imagine a 150- to 200-pound animal with its neck or leg stuck in a snare. Not only will you be causing it a lot of unnecessary pain, you’re left with a problem: How are you going to kill it? Unless you have a firearm, you’ll likely get hurt trying to put the animal down. In a survival setting, it is much safer and more efficient to focus on small game like rabbits, squirrels and rats.

Eating a raw bug.

Although bugs, like grasshoppers, can be a great food source, they are known to carry parasites and should be cooked before consumption. In addition to killing the parasites, cooking a bug usually makes it more palatable. Better to have a stew made from slugs, maggots, grubs or cockroaches than to eat them raw.

Eating food when you don’t have water.

You can live weeks without food and only days without water. Your body needs water to digest food, so eating when you don’t have water will only accelerate dehydration. In a long-term survival situation, of course, food will become necessary, so it is important to establish your camp near a location that provides both water and food.

Wearing a wet base layer.

The layer of clothing closest to your skin–which should usually be made out of a material like Polypropylene–should always be dry. Polypropylene wicks moisture away from the body, making it a great base layer. Wearing it when wet, however, is a mistake, as it will have a major impact on how quickly your body loses heat (you lose body heat 26 times faster when you are wet then when dry). For best use, keep the base layer dry. If it gets wet, change it or take it off, wring out the moisture, and put it back on.

Choosing fire over shelter.

Building a fire takes time and even if you get one going, you’ll be up all night adding fuel to the flames. Fire is the third line of personal protection (it comes after clothing and shelter) and shouldn’t be considered until a shelter that protects you from wind and moisture has been established. It is okay, however, to use a small fire to warm you during the shelter-building process.

Traveling when you don’t know where you are.

If you don’t know where you are, how will you know where to go? Travel should only be considered if your location doesn’t meet your needs, rescue doesn’t appear imminent and you have the navigational skills to get from one point to another (know where you are and where you are going).

Drinking alcohol to stay warm.

Although a sip of whiskey may make you feel warmer, it actually promotes hypothermia. Alcohol causes blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow to the surface of the skin and allows the outside cold to pilfer heat from the body core (brain and vital organs). Instead of alcohol, drink water and wear appropriate clothing!

Believing the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, relative to your position.

The sun’s path changes daily, reaching its northern and summer extremes on June 21 (summer solstice) and December 21 (winter solstice). The sun passes directly over the equator during the equinoxes (March 21 and September 23). Unless you are on the same latitude as the sun’s path, it will not rise or fall directly east or west of your location. In fact, it can be off by a large percentage, making navigation by sun next to impossible.

Taking your hat of when you are hot.

You lose 50 to 75 percent of your body heat through your head. Heat is calories and calories provide the body with the energy needed for daily tasks. It is better to slow down or remove a middle layer of clothing (between your coat and T-shirt) than to work up a sweat and waste precious calories.

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