5 wilderness survival ideas each man ought to know, based on MeatEater star Steven Rinella


Spend enough time outdoors and you are guaranteed to find yourself in a difficult situation. It could be a situation that threatens to derail your plans or it could be one that derails your life. Believe me, I’ve been through many, from hypothermia to grizzly charges.

At the risk of alienating doomsday preppers dreaming of the zombie apocalypse, the greatest survival challenge is getting the person staring at you in the mirror. Most of the time, it’s the stupid mistakes that get us into trouble. So I wrote a book that records them so that you don’t do the same.

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Leave your wedding ring at home

If you wear your metal wedding band with devotion while hunting and fishing, you may risk a hillbilly emergency and an amputated finger. If your ring gets caught on a rock, fence, device, or broken branch while jumping, traveling, or stumbling, it can result in a finger torn out, also known as “falling out of love.” In layman’s terms, an avulsion causes all of the skin and part of the flesh to be quickly and violently peeled off your finger.

It’s hard to question the intelligence of someone who risks a finger on their metal ring. Instead, consider a silicone ring which you can get a pack of 4 for a whopping $ 23. As a side effect, silicone rings won’t rattle on your gun or bow when you’re trying to hide. If you don’t take our advice, at least don’t be particularly foolish about wearing a ring made from tungsten carbide. These cannot be cut off by medical equipment; Instead, they have to be broken off with large pliers. Imagine going through this while your ring finger is painfully swollen from a broken bone.

Never drink your own urine

Popular survival stories often focus on the shocking and extreme measures people take to ward off death, and drinking urine to avoid thirst is a popular entry into the genre. Reality TV star Bear Grylls has repeatedly filmed herself drinking piss. While it’s an understandable response to extreme thirst, tapping your own tap is a bad idea. Urine is 95 percent water and 5 percent sodium, chloride, potassium, urea and other waste products.

While this sounds like a promising ratio, keep in mind that seawater is 96.5 percent water and 3.5 percent sodium and chloride. Just like drinking sea water, drinking urine will only further dehydrate you. And when you consume urine, you are also ingesting all of the unwanted things that your kidneys just filtered out of your body. Repeat this a few times and your urine will be so concentrated with dangerous toxins that it can cause kidney failure. That means death. The bottom line is that a person can go without water for about three days and drinking urine doesn’t add to that length of time.

Moss on trees doesn’t mean anything to you

One of the oldest proverbs in survival history is that moss always grows on the north side of trees and that its orientation can be used as a navigation aid. The truth is, moss doesn’t care about compass directions. Moss growth on a log, rock, or even an old log house depends on two things: moisture and shade. If you regularly find moss in one direction on trees where all sides have similar conditions, it is likely because that area is out of the sun most of the time around noon. In the northern hemisphere, the north side of the trees tends to be more shady, but moss can grow wherever conditions are favorable.

If the base of a tree has a creek on one side and dry soil on the other, moss is more likely to thrive on the creek side. If there is a sodden overhanging branch that drips to the trunk, moss is more likely to grow there. Definitely pay attention to where moss grows more often when hiking in the forest. It will help you get a better understanding of this landscape. But don’t count on it as a reliable navigation tool. The sun and stars – or better yet, your compass – are much more reliable.

The deadliest outdoor animal is not what you think it is

Here is some data to keep your boots shaking: Mosquitoes kill nearly three quarters of a million people worldwide each year, compared to an average of five fatal attacks by grizzly bears each year. They are by far the most dangerous creature in the world. The majority of the deaths they cause are directly related to various forms of the tropical disease malaria. The best protection against mosquitos is to cover all of your exposed skin with layers of clothing that will prevent mosquitoes from biting.

A thin nylon rain jacket, for example, offers much better protection than a light cotton hoodie, which a mosquito can easily poke holes in with its long, piercing stilettos. If you know you will be spending time in a place where the mosquitos are thick, bring light, loose fitting gloves and a mesh head net that covers your head, face, and neck. In really dire situations, a mesh mosquito jacket and pants can be a lifesaver. You should also use some form of mosquito repellent.

If you don’t know exactly what it is, don’t eat it

The good news is that when you venture out in the wild, you are almost certain to come across a ton of excellent foods in the form of nuts, fruits, roots, mushrooms, or leafy greens. But there is a catch: you need to be able to recognize these as foods when you see them. You won’t have the time to learn this in an emergency. So study plants beforehand and follow four basic foraging rules to be sure: Never guess. If you don’t know, don’t eat it.

There are no shortcuts – you either tell which plant it is or you don’t eat it. Plant poisoning is rarely the result of false identity: most occurs when people eat random plants without trying to identify them. Once you’ve identified a particular food, don’t overeat it. You might be tempted when lost, scared, and hungry but be rational. Wild onions are edible, but if you eat a pound of raw onions you will get sick. You should be more careful about overeating sour fruits than sweet ones. Let your gut tell you when to stop. Just because it’s the right plant or mushroom doesn’t make it food. You also need the right part. Apple pies are not made from apple twigs and seeds. Hard leaves or stems, rotten mushrooms, or unripe fruit will not make a living.


Adapted from “The MeatEater Guide to Wilderness Skills and Survival” (Random House), published December 1, 2020.

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