Survival and preparedness reality shows are both good and bad at the same time. Mostly bad. On the one hand, they bring awareness to important topics such as being ready for disasters but, on the other, they propagate a lot of myths to satisfy and delight some of their less informed readers.
Myth: The most important thing in a survival situation is finding food and water.
Well, it depends. The rule of threes states that shelter is the most important thing, however I’m more of the approach of “what’s going to kill you first”. Like if you have a wound that could get infected, then access to clean water and medical supplies is your top priority.
In situations where there’s a chance your core body temperature will be affected, then yes shelter should be your first priority.
Shelter is more than just unpacking your tent. You also have to find the right place to camp to avoid floods, wild animals and people. You have to build it in such a way so that it protects you from the elements and keep you warm and dry throughout the night.
Hypothermia will kill you a lot faster than lack of food. Your body will last for days on end, even weeks, without anything to eat, but if you’re wet and are unable to get yourself dry and stay warm…
Myth: Starting a Fire is Easy
The bow drill method, using dryer lint as tinder, using a ferro rod… there’re many ways to start a fire. Many of them are depicted in YouTube videos that make everything seem really easy. But is it?
If you’re in a damp environment, if the wood isn’t dry enough or simply isn’t the right one, you could end up wasting your time and energy.
One can also argue that starting a fire is not hard. Anyone can start a fire with a lighter in seconds, and most preppers have at least 2-3 in their survival bags, not to mention blast-matches and even steel wool and a 9V battery. But if your primary methods don’t work for some reason, you could be in serious trouble.
Myth: Eating snow will keep you hydrated.
In reality, your body will have to spend a great deal of energy to warm that snow before it can utilize it. Much better to melt the snow into water and then drink it. You should also filter it with a bandana and even purify it if you have the means. Rain water and water resulting from melting snow is typically safe to drink but the cleaner, the better.
Myth: Water from cactus is safe to drink.
Water from cacti is very acidic and could cause you to get sick, especially if you drink it on an empty stomach. This doesn’t mean you’ll die but it won’t make the survival situation any more pleasant for you or for your kidneys.
Myth: avoid contact with other people once the big one hits.
While you don’t want people knowing you’re prepared, isolation is also not a good solution. The trick is to know who to trust, in what circumstances and for how long. While it’s true that you shouldn’t contact other people unless you have to, when you do have to, you have to be very careful what you say. Lifetime friends could turn into your biggest nightmare if they have desperate families they need to feed.
Myth: bugging in and out are definitive.
Bugging in and out aren’t one time choices. When something bad happens, circumstances can change daily or even hourly, forcing you to change your plans.
For example, you can bug out to your BOL and then be forced to bug out again, have you thought about that? If you aren’t able to flee before everyone else, you don’t want to get stuck in traffic along with everyone else. You can try bugging in until it gets dark outside before you attempt to leave unseen.
Myth: Making camp near a water source in the wilderness is the way to go.
When bugging out, many people are going to do the obvious: they’ll all camp near a body of water. Don’t’ risk your camp site being discovered by looters and camp at least half a mile from any body of water. There are plenty of ways to get water to your campsite without running into other people.
Myth: following a disaster scenario, most people will die within the first three weeks.
Look, I get the flow of thinking but I seriously doubt things are going to be this drastic. No doubt that people will die in the aftermath of a disaster but 90% of them? To me, this is a far-fetched scenario for several reasons.
First off, in case of a natural disaster, there will be other countries out there that would come to the rescue. One must look at the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia to see how people, organizations and Governments across the Globe rushed in to help. Was the intervention perfect? No, of course not. Did people continue to die as help continued to come? They did.
But what kind of disaster would cause 90% of people to die? An EMP that would cause the transportation system to fail, leaving people in cities hungry and killing each other? Over 15% of the US population lives in the country side, then you’ve got folks in the burbs with gardens, people in cities who have relatives and friends in small towns. Add to that the humanitarian help from other countries (that won’t be exposed to the EMP blast) and the number of survivors is going to be higher.
Again, I’m not saying an EMP won’t wreak havoc, I just think that the number of disasters that can wipe off 90% of Americans aren’t that many.
Myth: You need to boil water for X minutes to kill pathogens.
According to the Wilderness Medical Society quoted by a number of survival blogs and articles (including Princeton’s website), all pathogens will be killed by the time the water comes to a rolling boil, even at high altitudes.
Myth: Alcohol warms up your body.
Quite the opposite. Alcohol will get you to feel warmer by sending more blood to your skin. However, this blood has to come from someplace else, which means your internal organs will receive less blood, thus, your body temperature will drop.
Myth: Drinking your own pee is a good idea.
Don’t do it unless you’re an astronaut with access to NASA’s Water Recovery System or if you really, really need to. Just like salt water, urine will dehydrate your body even more.
Myth: Making shelter is all about the roof.
Not really – there’s a lot more to it. You need protection from ALL the things that can harm your body one way or another: damp soil, wind, critters. Plus, your shelter needs to keep as much of the heat in as possible to keep you warm.
In other words, for survival purposes, a bivvy bag, for instance, may make for a better shelter than hanging a tarp over a few branches. You should also consider how to insulate it, using aluminum foil, leaves, moss etc.
Myth: You can suck the venom out of a snake bite.
Not a good idea, even if you’re Rambo. You either nave a snake bit kit plus the knowledge to use it or, even better, seek medical attention immediately. Never suck the venom out as you’ll not only further damage the wound but poison yourself.
The big takeaway from this article is that the more you read and know, the better prepared you’ll be. Knowledge trumps tools and gear every single time.