Have you ever had to survive in the wilderness?

I love watching Bear Gryllsand other shows where they survive in wilderness situations. I dont know how I would survive myself.

I’d like to ask, have you ever in your life been forced to survive in the wild? Maybe got lost on a trip or something? Car stranded on the side of the road?

Have you known anyone?

How well do you think you would do in such a situation?

One time in my teens we were tracking a wounded animal and got lost and had to hike till we found a house and could call home. I knew we were close to help but with swollen creeks dangerous to cross it was difficult.

Yes, but it was deliberate, not the result of a zeppelin crash or anything like that. I did a weekend-long primitive skills workshop where all we were allowed to have was a water bottle, a bandana, and a knife. April in PA can be miserable, so nobody was really surprised when we had to deal with snow on top of everything else. Overall, a useful experience but not what I would call fun.

Numerous times, but it was always planned with a known time in, and a time out. Mostly weekend trips but a few for 6-7 days. This from the age of 12-13 and up with two buddies. We were up on the mountains in the woods all the time growing up.

I ended that part of my life at about the age of 25, but one of those buddies still carries on with bushwhacking for fun and mountain rescue calls.

On an unexpected basis, never. However I have always felt if something unexpected like that happened to me I would have the skills to work my way out.

South side of Chicago – wild enough for me.

As the other posters, I’ve done this only voluntarily. Still, spending several nights in the late autumn woods with nothing but Stone Age equipment and clothing, gathering all food etc. gives one a pretty good picture of a real-life survival situation, absent acute injuries. It can get cozy, periodically.

A friend and I decided to walk up Helvellyn (in the English Lake District.) It’s the third highest peak in England (950 metres / 3,115 feet), but is not difficult - just steep in places. it took us about 5 hours for the round trip.

It is chilly, the path is not smooth and it frequently rains in England. So my friend and I:

  • put on stout walking boots
  • wore layers of warm, waterproof clothing
  • carried food, drink and a whistle in our rucksacks
  • notified people when we were due back.

We had a great time and saw some terrific views. :cool:

On our way down, we met a couple of folks. Neither had warm clothing and the lady was wearing shoes quite close to stilettoes. :smack:
I don’t know how far they got - and I was literally too dumbfounded to say anything to them.

On 2 seperate occassions I got lost on hunting trips and spent the night out. One time I had a warm jacket and the first time I had only a light shirt. Temps were in the high 30’s I am guessing and I still froze my ass off. I doubt I would have survived more than a few days. Barren desert, foothills.

Survival camping trip as a Boy Scout. As others have noted, this was obviously planned. But we still had to forage for food and make fire out of limited resources. It was quite awhile ago, and I think we might not have eaten anything other than dandelion leaves, though. :slight_smile:

Lots and lots of survival training over my 6 years as an Air Cadet. A big part of the training was how to deal with the mental situation, so I’d like to think I’d do alright.

Still don’t have any feeling in my big toes due to many winter exercises in Northern Alberta. Probably the most miserable I’ve ever been in my life. I remember sleeping in fits and dreaming of food often.

It’s where I learned the mantra “not dead, can’t quit.” I have one crystal clear memory of hauling a large firewood log up a river valley in thigh deep snow at night, and being inspired by the other cadet with me who was working like animal. We needed that log for the night’s fire. There is a lot you can do if you stop caring about how you feel. Of course the down side can be frostbite and hypothermia.

Considering that the number of people who are stranded and isolated for a significant length of time is tiny, I don’t think we’ll luck out and find one on the SDMB.

I had heard FIDO*, but maybe that is specific to Army Rangers.

Fuck-it. Drive On!

Yuck, glad you made it out OK.

Good lesson to dress for the conditions and always carry a fire making kit wags finger like a concerned parent :smiley:

Sort of. Not full-on survival mode - but close.

What happened was this:

My father is an avid outdoorsman, has been all his life (in fact, he literally grew up in a log cabin built by my grandfather in the Canadian north - my grandfather was a forest entomologist who lived for large periods of time in the woods).

When I was a kid, I used to go on lengthy canoe trips all the time with my dad, sometimes with others, sometimes just us two (as I got older and able to pull my weight).

My dad moved from charting round-trips, to a “fly in, canoe out” model - where he would hire a floatplane to fly us, our gear, and the canoe into a remote lake in Northern Quebec, and we would then canoe back to the road. He would plan these trips using topographic maps. Some of these places were very remote (indeed that was the point), and impossible to get to any other way - they were hard wilderness, that maybe somebody came through every couple of years, if that; some places probably didn’t see a person every decade.

Well, one time we flew in, with all our gear … and only when the plane had left did we realize my dad had forgotten one of the packs. It was the pack that contained most of our food! This wasn’t good.

However, we did have all our fishing gear. Fish in those remote lakes were reliably plentiful. So we were not going to starve - at least, not quickly; you can’t starve to death on a three week trip eating mostly fish, but you can get damned tired of fish.

I remember one day helping my dad to scrape out the last of the peanut butter with a playing card, about halfway: that’s when it sunk in that we had, literally, nothing left that we had brought with us.

The bad part was that the route he had planned turned out to be a lot more difficult than expected. Some of the rivers he had picked out on the topo map were not really navigable. Pushing the canoe through a swamp, up to my knees in mud and leeches, and surrounded by a nimbus of mosquitoes - with nothing to look forward to eat but more fish - the romance of the wilderness had somewhat lessened. :wink:

There was probably other food to be gotten, we had the occasional handfuls of rasberries, but not if you wanted to keep travelling. Gathering takes time.

Fascinating! Glad you made it out safely.

How did you prepare the fish? Fried on a rock, cooked over coals, or did you have cooking gear?

What type of fish were you guys catching?

Our cooking gear was our usual: a collection of ancient fire-blackened frypans and pots, stored when not in use in cloth bags that nested (to keep the soot off your other stuff). They must date back to the 1940s. My dad used them when he was a kid!

Way we cooked was always the same: we made what my dad called a “trapper’s fireplace” out of nearby rocks (this is the Canadian shield country, so handy rocks were everywhere). This is a type of fireplace that has shelves of rock on two sides, wide at the bottom but narrower at the top, so you can balance your frypan or pot over the fire. The fire is small, just for cooking.

One tip my dad taught me for making a fire when it has been raining a long time and dry stuff is hard to find: Use the wood from old pine stumps, impregnated with resin. Fires no matter how wet.

The fish were mainly of two species: pike and walleye (or pickerel). Walleye is the best for frying (though pike isn’t bad IMO, some don’t like it). With pike, when we had the ingredients, we would mostly boil up into a kind of stew - that way the bones could be picked out easily. In some lakes you can get smallmouth bass (though these lakes are really on the edge of their range), and if you have the patience for trolling deep, you can get lake-trout in others. But mostly it is pike and walleye.

In these remote lakes, the pike can grow to enormous size because they aren’t fished out - it actually makes one a bit nervous about swimming in there. We caught one on that trip that we had trouble landing from the canoe. My dad had to beach the canoe, wade into the water, and drag it out by the tail. I still have somewhere a couple of its teeth - it had fangs an inch long. Dunno how much it weighed, but it was big. My foot would have fit within its mouth no problem.

Friend and me got lost in the woods for 6 hours. It’s true what they say about getting a hold of panic when it kicks in. We calmed ourselves down, and eventually found our way out.

On a solo canoe trip I got caught in a wind storm which ended up with me capsized in the middle of a large lake. Made it back to shore. Staved off hypothermia but it added an extra night to my trip so I can dry up which worried my GF at the time when she didn’t get that call that I was on my way home the day I was suppose to be back.

Not really survival but unnerving. I had a pack of coyotes follow me from site to site in Algonquin park two years ago. The first night I heard them yipping far off in the woods around dusk I found entertaining, the second and third night not so much. Never saw them, just heard them.

Along the same…

In Frontenac Park three years ago I saw huge wolf tracks, half the size of my size 10 boot. Easily 200lb predators.

Yeah, they talk about wolves not being dangerous but I wouldnt want to be out in the woods with a broken leg around them.

And that is the rub of wilderness survival. It is not all that challenging to survive in most climates short of arctic tundra or above the alpine treeline. If you know where to look for it, food is plentiful, and sources of ‘fresh’ water can be found. However, foraging for food takes a lot of time, and if you are having to forage for food, you likely want to expend minimal effort. (Building shelter against inclement conditions also takes time and effort, and making fire can be trivial or challenging, depending on the weather and local resources.) If you are trying to support more than a small group, foraging will require covering a fairly large amount of ground unless you happen to be in a particularly resource rich area.

One thing to note is that while many would-be survival experts tend to load up on guns and ammunition for hunting, the amount of effort spent in hunting small game is disproportionate to the return, especially since much small game is so poor in essential fats; the same can be true for fishing depending on local resources. Much more yield (and less noise) is provided by building deadfall traps for small game and fish traps for fish, but the best yield per effort, especially if you are on the move, is to look for grubs, insects, and eggs, which provide the highest protein and fat yields. Berries and fruit are great when you find them but they offer little in the way of sustenance other than carbohydrates, and most people have enough subcutaneous fat to survive without a large source of carbohydrates via gluconeogeneis for at least a couple of weeks provided that they get enough rest between exertions. (Actually resting and conserving energy is one of the hardest parts about wilderness survival because it is so absolutely boring, but managing exertion is one of the most crucial skills in wilderness survival.) Large game seems appealing to the novice but is difficult to trap or kill without access to large caliber weapons, and dressing game and preserving game meat can be challenging and time consuming even if you have a suitable knife or other utensils.

To the o.p.: I have been in wilderness survival situations on several occasions, quasi-involuntarily, and while it is good to have confidence in your abilities to be able to walk a couple hundred miles out of the wilderness, it is never much fun. I don’t know much about Bear Grylls other than he appears to lend his name to a lot of substandard supposed survival gear and the couple of segments of scenes from one of his many shows that I’ve seen demonstrate about the same level of realism in survival skills as MacGyver does for physics and chemistry.

Coyotes and wolves are not a real danger to people (especially a group of people), nor are most other large predators provided that you are alert and not doing something spec. The real dangers are the creatures often too small to be seen; the parasite-carrying insects, disease-harboring rodents, and waterborne viruses, microorganisms, and metazoa. You are far more likely to die from a case of giardiasis or dysentery than you are to be attacked by a large predator.

The best thing to do in most involuntary survival situations, provided you have any expectation that someone may be looking for you or come along, is to stay put and make yourself as visible as possible, again conserving energy and resources. This is especially true in snowfall or mountains, where you may not be able to maintain a straight-line path of travel or see when you are close to civilization.


I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods with an Army logistical tail behind me which tests some skills but not others. I’ve also spent a couple nights at a time intentionally in wilderness situations alone for fun. I started with sufficient food and water at those times for the entire period but had the capability to extend quite a bit in case of emergency. Making shelter and fire are all tested skills. I had the capacity to resupply water. Foraging for food would present my biggest challenge since most of the stuff I learned along the years hasn’t been tested.

Not just Rangers.

Second that.

Looks fun on tv but not fun at all once in survival mode.

It saddens me that Gerber, once a top tier cutlery company, now sells Bear Grylls crap and “zombie” crap.