20 Common Survival Myths

You’ve probably heard the myth about Twinkies having preservative properties that make them last for decades. No one knows for sure where this legend began, but it probably has to do with the fact that even old Twinkies seem fresh and spongy. In reality, Twinkies have a shelf life of about one month.

Another reason myths like this abound is because of Hollywood. Many survival myths either begin with or are perpetuated by unrealistic movies. They make for great entertainment, but they also give people bad ideas. Here are some other common survival myths.

1. If a Bear Approaches You, Just Play Dead – This might work if it’s a mother grizzly defending her cubs. But if it’s any other kind of bear (especially black bears), it might attack you anyway. Your best bet is to make yourself seem large and intimidating. Open your jacket, spread out your arms, and start shouting. Hopefully the bear will be spooked and run away. Note: Avoid eye contact or the bear might consider it a challenge.

2. If a Shark Attacks You, Punch It In The Nose – Everyone has heard this myth, but has anyone ever actually done it? Not to my knowledge. First, you’d need a very fast and accurate punch to actually hit a shark’s nose. And even if you do, your hand will be hurt more than its nose. You’re better off attacking its eyes and gills with your fingers. If you hurt the shark, it may give up and swim away.

3. If You’re Bitten By a Snake, Suck Out The Venom – The last thing you need after a snake bite is to spread the venom faster by getting some of it in your mouth. Besides, you wouldn’t be able to suck fast enough to stop the venom from spreading. The best thing you can do is call 911, clean the wound, keep it below heart level, and sit still until someone arrives with anti-venom.

4. If You’re Impaled By a Knife Or Other Object, Pull It Out – This is another survival myth that comes from Hollywood. You see heroes doing this in movies, but it’s a bad idea. Pulling out the object will only make you bleed faster. It’s better to dress the wounded area to keep the object stable until a professional can properly remove it.

5. Use a Tourniquet If You’re Bleeding – Tourniquets are actually very dangerous as they can damage blood vessels, kill tissue and possibly make amputation necessary. A tourniquet should only be used as a last resort for someone who would otherwise quickly bleed to death.

6. If There’s An Earthquake, Stand In a Doorway – This used to be true several decades ago, but in most modern buildings the door frame is set in place after the main structure is complete, making it one of the weakest spots. Instead, get under a desk or a table.

7. After Fleeing The City, You Can Just Live Off The Land – Those who watch shows like Man vs. Wild like to think they could survive in the wilderness indefinitely so long as they’re near a source of fresh water. Although it might be possible, most people have no idea how difficult it would be. You would have to hunt from sunup to sundown and sometimes into the night just to find enough food so you’d have the energy to do it again the next day. The majority of humans would slowly starve to death. Only a good-sized group of experienced farmers and hunters would make it.

8. Plants Are a Good Source Of Food In a Survival Situation – If you want to live, you’re better off avoiding plants altogether. Though there are many edible plants out there, you don’t want to take a chance on eating plants unless you’re already very familiar with wild edibles or know the Universal Edibility Test. You’re safer sticking to mammals, freshwater fish, birds, and six-legged insects. There are many deadly plants, and the ones that are safe to eat don’t provide many calories or nutrients, anyway.

9. If You’re Lost In The Woods, Look For Moss On Trees As It Only Grows On The North Side – I remember seeing this on a TV show when I was a kid. It’s not true. Although moss does grow better on the north side of trees, it can grow on any side if the tree is shaded or near water. Following this myth could send you in the wrong direction and get you even more lost.

10. You Should Stock Up On Matches – Sure, I have some strike-anywhere matches on hand, but I have a helluva lot of Bic lighters and other fire starters. I’m not sure why so many people emphasize matches. For the amount of space taken and number of fires you can make, lighters are far smaller and cheaper compared to matches. If you’re worried about the lighters getting wet, buy a magnesium fire starter.

11. If It’s Very Cold, Move To Higher Ground – The idea here is that since heat rises and cold settles in valleys and lower areas, you should move to higher ground where it might be several degrees warmer. While that is technically true, it doesn’t account for the wind chill you get from higher areas. Plus, heat from a fire will get carried away faster the higher you are. If it’s cold, stay low.

12. Drinking Alcohol Helps Keep You Warm – This is one of the most common myths. It came about because alcohol expands blood vessels and the extra blood near your skin makes it feel warmer. The problem is that heat will radiate away from your body faster and you’ll end up colder than you were before you took a drink.

13. You Can Eat Snow Or Ice For Hydration – This seems to make sense since snow and ice is just cold water. But doing this will lower your body temperature and waste energy. Before eating ice or snow, melt it, boil it, then let it cool down to a moderate temperature before drinking it.

14. If You’re In The Desert, You Can Get Water From a Cactus – This is a very common survival myth. I don’t know where it came from, but it’s wrong. The inside of a cactus is thick and tough, and you’ll probably only get a few drops of water from it. Plus, the water will be bitter and could make you sick. In the desert, you should walk downhill until you find a wash, then follow the wash downstream until you find some low areas where water may have gathered. Don’t forget to purify it.

15. People In The City Will Die If The SHTF – Not necessarily. Many people imagine that if the shit hits the fan, city dwellers will starve to death or kill each other. Granted, people in the city are in more danger from war and terrorism. But preppers in the city who band together to defend their area will be able to make it until order is restored. Whereas people in the country will be in more danger from criminals looking for easy, isolated targets. Country folk will also be the last to get supplies when the trucks start moving again.

16. Guns Are The Most Important Thing – Although guns are great to have, they won’t help you if you’re thirsty or have a medical emergency. They will protect you from criminals, but you’re more likely to die of disease or accidents than criminals. So wait until you’ve stocked up on some food, water and medical supplies before you buy a gun.

17. After The SHTF, It Will Be Every Man For himself – When disasters like hurricane Katrina happen, the media likes to focus on the looters and rioters; it gets better ratings. Hollywood makes a similar offense when it portrays survivalists as lone nuts who live in the country and shoot anyone who approaches their homestead. In reality, crooks and kooks represent a very small portion of the population. Most humans are naturally gregarious beings that rely on one another. Most people will work together to survive.

18. Cockroaches Are The Only Thing That Would Survive a Nuclear War – While it’s true that cockroaches can handle thousands of times more radiation than humans, there are many other insects that will survive better than cockroaches. Mythbusters did an episode about this. You can watch the conclusion of their study here.

19. Nuclear War Would Kill Everyone On The Planet – Certainly more than 99% of the population could die, but there would still be survivors here and there. Many scientists now believe that a nuclear winter would not be as bad or last as long as once imagined. People who are prepared for a nuclear holocaust would be the ones to repopulate the Earth.

20. It’s Better To Be Dead Than Live In a Post-Apocalyptic World – I sometimes wonder if people who say this are just making excuses for not prepping. Life after a nuclear war would be horrible, and suicide might seem like an easy way out. But ultimately there is nothing more important than the survival of our species, and think how amazing it would be to help start a new society.

There you have it. If there are any other common survival myths I forgot about, leave a comment and let me know.


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  • Phil

    “Most plants will make you sick or possibly kill you.”asdasd
    Same thing for lots of animals. There are a good bunch of insects (all insexts are six-legged btw.) that can easily be just as deadly as poisonous plants, if not worse. And while most mammals or birds are not per se poisonous, you’d have to watch out for parasites. So cook all meat thoroughly. No rare steak in the wild.

  • http://megatacticalandsurvival.webs.com/ Omega Tactical and Survival

    LOL I can personally vouch that twinkies don’t last forever. During the big twinkie disappearance my mother had a box in her preps that were a year old. So we were excited to have one of the never again to be seen twinkies and they were like stale tire rubber when we tried to choke one down LOL.

  • http://megatacticalandsurvival.webs.com/ Omega Tactical and Survival

    Very good article all of those are definitely bogus!

  • D.L.

    That is a shame. :) I wonder if there may be a way to keep them Over a time. Like maybe vacuum packed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tom.bosworth.716 Tom Bosworth

    I haven’t punched a shark, but I have kicked one. It worked like magic. I was snorkeling, on the surface, floating vertically when I saw the shark…maybe 6 feet long or so… circling me on the surface. It went under and came at me, I pulled my feet up and the shark swam right under me. As it did, I brought my heels down as hard as i could right on top of the tip of its nose. That shark left so fast I hardly saw it move.

  • Dan Kidder

    Good stuff except for #5. Every war is a chance for us to learn more and more about treating trauma. Medical personnel on the battlefield have discovered that a tourniquet, when properly applied to severe bleeding is not always a last resort and does not always mean losing a limb. The keys are how far away critical care is.

  • john

    People forget how many resources are available in an urban environment. Keep that in mind when your running to the wilderness to die.