We have all been guilty of being backseat adventurers when watching programs such as Naked and Afraid, Man vs. Wild or Alone, just to name a few. We kick back, crack open a cold one and proceed to judge the ever-loving shit out of every competitor. And in those moments, we become “experts” on everything the contestants are doing wrong. That said, if push ever were to come to shove and the proverbial shit hit the fan, would our baseline knowledge really translate into our survival in the types of situations seen on these television shows?
Based solely on the content of such “survival” shows and the information they provide. Here are five things I have “learned” from these programs that give me confidence in my ability to survive.
Assume that through whatever unfortunate series of events you have found yourself stranded in the wilderness. You have just come to, and nothing around you looks familiar. There is no one near you, and nothing that looks like civilization is in sight for what seems like miles. That’s all right, though, because you have seen survival shows, and you have this situation handled!
Conveniently, there just so happens to be a bottle of water sitting beneath a pile of leaves to your right. (The type of TV show mentioned above typically claims that this is due to all the pollution in the world; therefore, trash—often of the very useful variety—is everywhere.) Sweet! You saw that dude in a ponytail on TV make fire with one of these once. What did he say to do again? Make a bed of kindling, and—oh, yeah!—use the convex edge of the water bottle as a magnifying glass.
Simply hold the bottle close to the kindling and in a few seconds, you will have a roaring fire. Thank goodness for pollution! (Disclaimer: Unlike the experience of the cavemen, aliens will not assist you with the creation of your fire, and frankly, the discarded water bottle may not be much actual help either.)
In all seriousness, you should never drink still water. Not only is that shit gross, but you will experience immense pain and violent bowel movements.
Now that you have a roaring fire (I swear to God, if you let that thing go out!), it will serve as your primary way to obtain potable water (aside from the more logical but less-televised methods of using clothing as a filter, collecting dew from plants or taking a five-minute stroll to find a running stream). Based on your extensive experience as a TV-survival-show watcher, there usually will be a rusty bowl or cup lying around in these situations. But if you happen to find yourself without such wilderness luxuries, you can use the super-simple and always convenient “stone-boiling” technique.
All you need for this is a stump or a hollowed-out piece of correctly sized wood, which will hold the water you are going to purify. Next, place several bigger stones into the fire and let them sit for several minutes to get them extremely hot. Once you believe that they are at a high-enough temperature—keep in mind that you are trying to flash boil your water—use pieces of wood to transfer the stones to your makeshift container. This will allow you to bring the water to a boil when you don’t have a suitable container to put directly into the fire. Could obtaining safe drinking water possibly be any easier than this?
Think less Marriott and more Red Roof Inn. You’re looking to create something that will, at the very least, protect you from the elements and provide some physical protection along the way. A simple A-frame structure is the easiest and least energy-wasting shelter to make. You need to bind four large branches together (typically to a larger tree or branch) to create your frame. The easiest visualization I can give you is that of a typical camping tent, only one that is made of sticks and leaves. You can use living branches (green in color) to bind the large branches together, since green sticks are more pliable.
Once your frame is assembled, the next step involves fashioning a roof. Find larger, lush branches with their leaves still intact, which will, in theory, be sufficient to repel water should it rain. Working from the bottom up, lay the brush along your frame until you have complete coverage over your shelter. Hopefully, this will work for you since there will be no OB truck with the heater running to crawl into after the cameras have stopped rolling and the temps drop below zero. Just sayin’ …
Sure, you can spend your banishment Cast Away-style eating grubs and coconuts until you’re found … or you can take the fight to the wilderness! No one has the time to try to figure out how to make a snare trap on the fly. Furthermore the gratification of doing so probably isn’t all it’s cracked up to be in the movies, anyway.
Therefore, it is time to make a bow and some arrows. First, procure a long piece of wood, which will act as the bow itself. This should be dry and dead, but not so dead that it cracks when bent (for obvious reasons). The length of this piece of wood should approximately match your height. Ideal wood types for making a bow include the more flexible species of trees, including mulberry or juniper, which none of us would likely be able to pick out of a lineup, so just do your best and move on.
The handhold area should measure approximately 6 inches in the middle of the bow, and once you have determined this placement, proceed to shape the bow along the natural curve of the branch. If you’re reading Skillset, there is a 100% chance you’ll have a knife with you, to aid in your survival.
Once you have what looks close to a typical bow, cut notches to hold your bow string. If you happen to have fishing line or something of the sort in your EDC (we all know that one person), that is great. If not, pray to whomever that you have halfway-decent shoe laces since these will be your bow string. Tie a loop with a strong knot at both ends, and then slip the string over the lower limb followed by the upper limb. To ensure you have a functional bow, make sure the string is slightly shorter than what the length of your bow is in an unflexed position.
It is now arrow time. Your sticks for your arrows should be roughly half the length of your bow and be made from a similar dead, dry wood. Obviously, you want them to be as straight as possible, but if you’re having trouble locating such sticks, you can always use the heat of your hot coals to shape slightly bent ones to your liking. Next, with the knife you already have because you are always prepared, sharpen the points of your arrows. Finally, carve small notches in the backs of each arrow to catch and hold the bow string in place. Now, it is time to Revenant this shit. Go forth and bring back your game. Stalking and hunting animals may not be as easy or quick as it seems on TV, but you got this!
One thing for certain that I have learned from watching TV survival shows is that you will always be within a 5-mile radius of either a major highway or some village that will lead to your eventual return to civilization. That’s pretty much how this television genre works, so keep an ear out for the sounds of tractor trailers or large gatherings of people. Oh, wait! I forgot that those have been banned because of the pandemic. Duh!
Well, let’s hope someone knew your last whereabouts because if not, your likelihood of survival has been drastically reduced. Even if you never do return to society, this isn’t the worst possible scenario—especially given the condition of “civilization” today! Maybe you will even hit the jackpot and find a nice person who you can start a new life with. You can have children and lead a much simpler existence without all of the day-to-day bullshit. This is really probably the best you can hope for today, anyway.