40+ Survival Myths That Bear Grylls Would Laugh At

By Ishita P

In many cases, rumors gain the false status of fact, especially if they are circulated on a large scale. Soon people start believing things they’ve heard without verifying if the information makes sense logically or scientifically. In some cases, these rumors are harmless and have the same effect as wishing on a shooting star—no harm, no foul. But in many instances, the existence of these myths has the potential to endanger a lot of lives.

Especially in the context of survival myths, it is necessary to ensure that extensive research is done to debunk myths and spread awareness about the dangers of following them. So, here we have busted some common survival myths that can help you avoid serious injury or even death.

Drinking your urine is dehydrating

One of the grossest survival tips you’ll come across is that drinking your own pee is a good way to prevent dehydration. However, the real kicker is that this tip is just a myth that will probably leave you worse off than before.

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Firstly, if you get dehydrated, it is unlikely that you will pee a lot since your body will lack adequate water content. Secondly, pee contains dissolved salts and toxic waste products from your body. Think about it: why would you reintroduce something into your system that your body needs to expel?

Lightning can strike anywhere

The saying “lightning never strikes the same place twice” is just a myth. If it was true, lightning rods wouldn’t be of any use. The sole purpose of a lightning rod is to attract lightning bolts and transfer the energy into the ground and away from the house.

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The fact is that lightning can strike any place any number of times. Staying in a location already struck by lightning once will not protect you from the next strike. Therefore, do not rely on this myth to ensure your safety from lightning storms.

Epi-pens are not substitutes for professional care

An epi-pen is a life-saving tool that can protect people with serious allergies from anaphylactic shock. However, contrary to what most people think, it is not usually a permanent solution. Visiting the hospital is mandatory after experiencing anaphylactic shock, even if you’ve used your epi-pen and your symptoms seem manageable.

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The epi-pen simply relieves the life-threatening symptoms quickly. Although that stabilizes the situation for the moment, in some cases, the symptoms can flare up again in a matter of hours or days. Hence, qualified doctors have a better chance of treating your condition and ensuring your good health.

Don’t neglect your food intake

The idea that you can survive without food for a month or two is only partially true. While water is more important, food provides us the necessary energy to carry out mental and physical activities. Hence, starvation for two or more weeks can render you incapable of making any rational decisions.

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So, while water should be your priority, do not forget the importance and necessity of food. Although you won’t die immediately from the lack of nourishment, all you will do is prolong your death. Thus, don’t wait for two weeks to pass to begin searching for a food source.

Learn first aid and put together your DIY kit

The readymade first-aid kits available on the market are meant to treat minor injuries that do not have the potential to turn fatal. While you can keep those kits in your car, in the event of a significant accident, they may not be of much help.

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So, to have a fully functioning first-aid kit that can treat life-threatening injuries, you must first learn how to conduct first-aid and assemble the necessary materials into your DIY box. Even if you buy a commercial kit, use your first-aid knowledge to determine the missing contents and add them in.

Dark roads require headlights

Headlights are essential not only to see the path ahead of you in the dark but also for other drivers on the road to be aware of your vehicle’s presence. Therefore, the myth of turning off your headlights if you’re going slowly to avoid other drivers steering into you is ridiculous and dangerous.

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No driver will swerve towards headlights if they are in their right mind. And if they’re not, turning off your headlights won’t help you anyway. So, keeping your headlights on while you’re driving down a dark road can save your life and the lives of other drivers.

A call or text trumps a voicemail message anytime

One commonly-shared survival tip is that if you can’t get through to anyone to call for help, you should change your voicemail so that anyone who calls you hears the SOS. While this may seem like good advice, the fact is that changing a voicemail also requires a cell signal.

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If you have the cell signal to change your voicemail, you can simply call anyone for help. Also, if sent repeatedly, an emergency text message is easier to receive. Therefore, if you get lost, your first action should be to try to connect to the emergency number or a friend via call or text.

Don’t camp out near a water body

Since dying of thirst is a real possibility if you’re stranded without water, most people will go looking for a source of water. This has led certain people to spread the idea that setting up camp near a body of water is ideal. However, following this advice will not work in your favor.

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If the body of water floods, your entire camp will be submerged. Moreover, water sources tend to draw animals at all times of the day. Therefore, there are higher chances of being attacked and possibly mauled to death by a thirsty predator who decides you’d make a convenient snack.

Food, water, and shelter are essential for survival

When you’re lost in the wild, food, water and shelter are the three primary things you should look for. However, people often assume they should prioritize the former two over the latter. Although food and water are important, finding shelter should be the top priority.

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A shelter will protect you from the harsh conditions of nature, such as cold, heat, and rain. Also, it reduces the risk of succumbing to hypothermia or heatstroke. In addition, it will protect you from the dangers of wild animals and poisonous reptiles.

Ration as per the situation

Rationing is a skill that comes in handy when you’re stranded. Although you can ration most things, you should not attempt to ration water. Dehydration can cause extreme weakness and may cause you to pass out. Therefore, ensure you hydrate yourself adequately with the water you have left.

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The best course of action is to use the water optimally so that you’re in the proper state of body and mind to search for a new source of water. Becoming dehydrated only because you want to save your water supply will cause more harm than good.

Better safe than sorry

Many people leave behind essential camping gear to reduce their luggage weight because they think they won’t need it for a short hike. However, this is a dangerous mistake. Disasters can strike anywhere and at any time, and it is always best to be prepared.

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Carrying extra safety gear might be tiresome, but it can save your life if something goes wrong. Unfortunately, there are situations in which help doesn’t arrive on time. In such a case, you will have to depend on yourself, your survival skills, and your safety gear to stay alive.

Don’t change locations if you’ve called for help

Although it seems like a good idea to wander for help if you’re stranded due to a broken-down vehicle, you should stay put. If helpful strangers or rescue workers pass by your abandoned vehicle, you may miss the chance of rescue.

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The best bet, therefore, is to stay in your car and wait for the rescuers to arrive. Staying at a fixed location will enhance your visibility and eliminate the need to recheck areas of wilderness, enabling them to reach you quickly and lend you the help you need.

Clear does not equal clean

Appearances can be deceptive, and the same is true with water. Since water is a clear liquid, people often have a misconception that dirty water will look murky, opaque, or have some color, while transparent water will appear clean and safe to drink. This is absolutely untrue.

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Never judge the purity of water at face value. To maintain cleanliness and enhance the quality of water, boil and distill it properly. Consume water only if you’re sure it has been boiled or after you’ve purified it with iodine.

Water isn’t a trampoline

Many people think that water bodies can make for a good landing spot. However, this assumption can probably get you killed. This is because falling into a water body from a certain height renders the same impact as falling on concrete.

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If you’re lucky, you might end up with only a few broken bones; however, the worst-case scenario would be death. While those daredevil videos circulating online may make it seem thrilling to dive into a natural spring, there can be disastrous and irreversible consequences.

Don’t drink snow

Since snow is just frozen water, many people think it would be a good option for hydration in a pinch. However, this depends on the environment. If you’re in a frigid place where snow is abundantly available, eating it may lead you to develop hypothermia.

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If you’re already cold, eating snow will further lower your body temperature and can pose severe life threats. If you want to survive in a cold environment, shake off the idea of drinking snow. Instead, have some lukewarm water, fruits, vegetables, and beverages to maintain your body’s hydration.

Booze does not provide warmth

Supposedly, drinking booze will keep you warm and fight off hypothermia. Well, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A stiff drink does not keep you warm; it merely makes you feel warm. It stops you from shivering, which, in turn, gives you the illusion of warmth.

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According to science, the process of shivering is what keeps your body warm. The fake warm feeling results from blood flow to the skin and away from vital organs like your heart and brain. Your body heat will dissipate faster when your blood is closer to the surface of your skin.

Carry navigation gear on your hiking trips

Hikers and travelers usually mark their paths to prevent becoming lost in the wilderness. However, you can still get lost on these paths if you go astray. Even a few wrong steps can lead you to lose your way and become stranded.

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To prevent getting lost during your trip, you can either 1) follow the marked paths diligently without wandering around or 2) carry navigating equipment like a map or a compass to help you track your physical location in the wilderness.

Don’t remove the cause of a puncture wound

Puncture wounds have the potential to become deadly. Although our first instinct would be to pull out the object that has punctured us, doing so would be a bad idea. It is actually that very object that keeps us from death. How?

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Well, if the puncture wound has severed a major vein or artery, you are likely to bleed out quickly. However, the sharp object lodged inside the wound acts as a plug that blocks the blood flow. Hence, keeping the object inserted until you get proper medical assistance can save your life.

Alligators aren’t good runners

For some reason, there is a myth that when you’re trying to escape an alligator chasing you, the best bet is to run away in a zig-zag pattern. This will serve no purpose other than to tire you out and make you slower.

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Alligators are slower runners than humans, so if you need to escape one, run as fast as you can in a straight line. The gator won’t give chase for long. However, never opt for climbing, as alligators have been known to climb trees and fences pretty well.

An inflatable raft does not equal a parachute

You’re absolutely wrong if you think an inflatable raft will make for a good makeshift parachute while escaping from a crashing plane. Inflatable rafts are not even close to a parachute in terms of functionality and will not help you land safely.

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The only reason Indiana Jones survived the fall in the movie was that it was a movie. In real life, a fall like that can kill you or seriously injure you. Opt for an actual parachute instead of an inflatable life raft to save your skin.

Always wear thick layers in the desert

Shorts are considered staple clothing for the summer. While this may work for everyday life, wearing fewer clothes in the desert could be a potential death sentence. Heavy clothing will protect you from the sun’s blistering heat and keep you from dehydrating.

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Moreover, the temperatures in the desert drop rapidly at night once the sun is down, which puts those who are unprepared at an increased risk of hypothermia. If you wear thin clothing, you will be unable to keep yourself warm and maintain a healthy average body temperature.

Make your own bed above ground level

While looking for shelter, especially when you’re lost or stranded in cold or rainy weather conditions, find a place to sleep above the ground. Although it is not necessary for the spot to be on an elevated surface, ensure there is at least a small gap between you and the ground.

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Apart from the discomfort that you would experience while sleeping on the hard ground, direct contact with the bare earth will extract your body heat faster than the air temperature, leaving you vulnerable to the onset of hypothermia. That could be the difference between life and death.

You cannot eat the same food as an animal does

If you get lost in the woods, many people advise consuming the same food as wild animals to prevent starving. However, this advice is not at all scientifically accurate and is extremely dangerous. Animals and humans are different, and the food that these creatures eat will not always be safe or edible for humans.

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At the very least, following this advice will give you an upset stomach or food poisoning, with the worst-case scenario being death. While carnivores hunt for raw meat, herbivores look for various fruits, veggies, and plants that can be poisonous or indigestible to humans.

Birds won’t lead you anywhere

Most animals, including birds, have an excellent sense of direction. They know where to find different food, water, and shelter sources. This has led to a common belief that following birds will lead you to a water source. This is inaccurate.

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Birds aren’t constantly searching for water. Instead, they can fly anywhere to get food, find shelter, or procure materials to build their nests. Following a bird is more likely to get you lost than to help you find a water source.

Swim away from a sinking ship

Large sinking ships can be equally dangerous for swimmers and non-swimmers alike. While passengers who are unable to swim need a lifeboat to abandon the ship and save their lives, strong swimmers can survive by simply swimming away from the wreckage.

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Usually, huge sinking ships drag survivors down to a watery doom at the bottom of the ocean. In addition, the enormous mass can tumble onto people, drowning them. Whether you can swim or not, staying far away from a wrecking ship is the best way to prevent being buried with its remains.

Always carry a physical map on your voyage

Another important myth that needs to be debunked is using a physical map. Most people today are dependent on technology and prefer having a GPS-enabled online map on their smartphones as opposed to the traditional physical one. However, this practice can end badly.

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First, although technology is valuable nowadays, most apps rely on the presence of a strong cell signal, which is hard to find when you’re on an adventure. Second, moisture can damage phones, or the phone could run out of battery, preventing you from accessing the virtual map. Thus, a physical map is more beneficial.

Warm water fights frostbite

Frostbite is way more dangerous than it sounds. In severe cases, victims may even permanently lose their limbs. The typical advice you might hear for reversing frostbite is to warm up the affected part by rubbing or washing it with hot water.

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Trying any of these methods on a frostbitten limb would worsen the condition. It is already damaged because of the cold, and rubbing it or pouring hot water on it to generate warmth only causes further injury. The best thing to do is submerge the affected area in lukewarm water.

Don’t harness your waist

Tying a harness around you will be sure to break your fall, but it may injure your internal organs or result in broken bones or a broken back. Your waist area has many pressure points and hot spots that are vulnerable to injury.

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The best way to use a safety harness is to tie it around your hips and legs, which ensures the flexible movement of your body. It won’t exert damaging effects on you, and it will save you from a fall without hurting you too badly.

Don’t drink water from a cactus

Traveling in the desert all day long puts you at an increased risk of dehydration. In such cases, many people suggest using the water stored in the fleshy parts of cactuses to quench your thirst. You should definitely avoid this advice.

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When cacti store water, they also release certain substances into it. These components can be toxic acids or alkaloids that cause vomiting and diarrhea in humans, increasing the rate of dehydration. Cactus water will leave you worse off than you had been before.

Don’t open windows in tornadoes

Tornadoes are dangerous and can cause a lot of damage to both life and property. Spreading factually incorrect information about how to remain safe during a cyclone is likely to increase the destruction. For example, one myth dictates that you should keep your windows open during a tornado to equalize the wind pressure.

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Following this advice can lead to massive fatalities. Opening a window or door during a hurricane will create a wind tunnel inside, which, in turn, will blow off your roof and endanger the people, animals, and material possessions in the house.

Don’t use moss as your compass

Some people think moss growth can help you navigate without a map or compass because it mostly proliferates on the north side of a tree. However, this is simply a myth, and abiding by it will undoubtedly lead you farther off course.

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Moss thrives wherever it finds suitable conditions for its effective growth. It can grow in any direction and cannot be used as a substitute for a compass. Always carry proper tracking gear, and do not rely on plants to navigate your trek.

Don’t suck snake venom out of a bite

Popular culture has led many people to believe that the best way to treat a snakebite is to suck out the venom or apply a tourniquet. Both practices, however, can actually worsen the victim’s condition. Snake bite treatments usually involve using antivenom, so the victim should go to the hospital as soon as possible.

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However, if you get bitten in the wilderness, sit down immediately to prevent injuring yourself from passing out and falling to the ground. Remove any ornaments like rings or anklets from the affected part and record your symptoms. It will help doctors determine the correct antivenom when you finally do get medical help.

Beware of herbivores

Another dangerous myth is that predatory animals in the wild are more dangerous than herbivores. The former sees you as a delicious food source; however, they can be scared off if you make them believe it’s too risky to attack you.

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On the other hand, herbivores will see you as a predatory threat and rush toward you if they think you want to hurt them or if you trespass in their vicinity. And when an herbivore chooses to fight instead of fleeing, they can inflict severe damage and even kill you.

Stay under a desk during an earthquake

There is a ton of incorrect information floating around the internet about how to survive an earthquake. One such piece of advice is to stand in a doorway. Of all possible places, this is apparently the safest during a tremor.

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In reality, if you reside on the fault line, a doorway can quickly crumble due to the high intensity of the earthquake. You should find a more robust shelter that will not break apart to prevent yourself from being crushed.

You need not try to look cool to survive

Cinema is one of the greatest influencing forces in the world when it comes to survival skills. While certain scriptwriters take time to do their research before writing survival scenes, most don’t. That’s because movies, in general, are made for entertainment purposes. The characters are made to do many unrealistic things for entertainment value.

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In real life, though, the survival tips that work most effectively are thinking smart and prioritizing your safety. For instance, taking a jump might look cool, but it can also prove fatal if you are injured in the process without help nearby. Think twice before making a risky decision in a survival situation.

Don’t pee on a jellyfish sting

One of the most ridiculous tips you might come across while dealing with a jellyfish sting is to pee on it, but doing so will only aggravate the situation. Urine contains ammonia, urea, salts, and other bodily toxins. These components stimulate the affected cells to release more venom, causing intense pain or even an infection.

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Using water instead of pee is the right way to treat a jellyfish sting on a primary level. It will clean the wound to get rid of any residue. Once done, you can wrap the stung area with a cloth soaked in warm water to soothe it until you receive proper medical help.

Don’t eat random vegetation

While it is common knowledge that you shouldn’t eat unknown plants, fruits, and vegetables in the wild, some people wrongly believe that foods that look familiar are fair game. Even if you think the foliage looks familiar, there is a high chance it can be poisonous.

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Many plants in the world look identical, even though one is edible and the other is toxic. Moreover, many kinds of vegetation undergo a detoxification process before being sold because they are not safe to eat in their natural forms. It’s better not to try random similar-looking foods from the wild.

Don’t wear cotton and down during treks

While cotton may be the most comfortable fabric, contrary to popular belief, it is not survival-friendly. The same goes for down. These materials absorb and retain water, which can be deadly in a survival situation if the weather is too cold or hot.

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Sweat is easily retained by the fabric and dampens it, causing you to freeze once the temperature drops. Plus, the flimsy material does nothing much to protect you from the sun’s blazing heat. These fabrics will not at all ensure your survival but are more likely to impair it.

Run from a forest fire

Forest fires are disastrous and can raze large ecosystems in a matter of days, but even they have been the subject of several survival myths. One of the more popular among them is that you need to allow a forest fire to pass over you while seeking shelter in a cave or depression.

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This tactic is sure to lead you to suffocation. Even though you’ll be protected from the flames, the fire will suck up all the oxygen as it moves over you, and a large amount of thick smoke will suffocate you. You won’t be able to survive until the fire completely leaves the vicinity.

Sound waves do not cause avalanches

Avalanches are terrifying—great walls of white tumbling down and taking everything with them. They’re such a huge and terrifying phenomenon that people have been forming many old wives’ tales related to avalanches for ages. One such claim is that yelling out loud triggers avalanches.

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The truth is that sound waves do not generate adequate force to cause a snowslide. It’s kind of laughable to claim that one of the biggest spectacles of nature’s fury can be triggered by a single scream. However, people can trigger avalanches with their weight while walking or snowboarding in a shaky area.

Don’t jump in a falling elevator

Nothing can be worse than getting stuck in a falling elevator, but if you ever encounter the situation, following the general advice of jumping at the last second before the elevator reaches the bottom is not going to help you.

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Doing so will not only shatter your legs, but if you jump too high, you might hit your head, which can kill you instantly. Instead, the best thing to do is to lie down flat. The impact of the elevator will be distributed throughout your body, reducing its intensity.

Avoid overpasses during tornadoes

Tornadoes are not disasters you can trifle with. Don’t take the chance; verify the existing pieces of advice that can supposedly help you survive one. For instance, the belief that overpasses can provide you enhanced protection against tornadoes is a dangerous myth.

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Wind speed increases as you move up from ground level, and overpasses tend to promote the formation of wind tunnels because of their typically narrow structure. This effect will send the flying debris at high speeds toward you, making an overpass the last place you’d want to be.

Get out of a sinking car

One of the scariest situations you can be in is being trapped inside a car while it’s sinking underwater. Well, instead of waiting for the car to fill up with water, as many people suggest, you must exit the vehicle as quickly as possible.

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The phenomenon of pressure equalization this myth is based on takes time, and an average panicked person cannot hold their breath for that long. Your best bet is instead to escape through a door or window before the water pressure locks them tight.

Rubbing your hands will not provide warmth

This myth is so common that you’ve probably been guilty of following it even after thinking logically. Rubbing your hands together while blowing hot air onto them doesn’t keep them warm. Instead, it gives you a fake feeling of warmth.

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What it actually does is lower your body’s core temperature. So, a better alternative for a survival situation is to cross your arms, put them under your armpits, and keep them tightly pressed against the chest. It forms a closed loop that circulates blood throughout the body and keeps you warm.

Don’t hyperventilate before diving

Hyperventilating while diving is another myth that needs to be debunked because following this advice can prove to be fatal for divers. It decreases your urge to breathe, reducing the time you can stay conscious underwater without passing out, which is especially deadly if you’re diving alone.

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A safer method is to take a deep breath before diving. Indeed, it will make you spend less time underwater, but it will also ensure that you are conscious and alert enough to make it back to the surface after the dive.