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4 dangerous survival myths to avoid

  • Oct 3, 2014

When you head out on long backpacking trips through rugged terrain, long mountain bike tours or multi-day hunting trips, it's important to be prepared. But even if you plan everything perfectly ahead of time, there's always a chance you'll get stuck out in the wilderness. This is when your survival knowledge becomes critical. However, some of the best known survival tips are actually myths.

If you're in a dangerous situation and you mistake one of these common myths for fact, you could find yourself in more trouble. Make sure you don't follow any of these prominent survival myths. 

Myth #1: You can get water from a cactus 
All outdoorsmen know water is one of the most important aspects for survival. In the desert, this precious commodity can be hard to come by, which leads many to cacti because they retain this rare liquid. However, pulling our your multitool and slicing into a cactus won't give you the hydration you need. 

"In movies, you see a cowboy lop off the top of a barrel cactus—a big, beach ball-shaped cactus—dip his ladle in and get a drink of water," survival expert Tony Nester told The Active Times. "That's not water, though. It's a noxious fluid that's very high in alkalis."

You're more likely to vomit and make your kidneys work harder by ingesting cactus juice, Nester explained. This will further your dehydration and exhaustion - only making matters worse. 

Myth #2: Lost? Moss can help you find the way home 
Whether you've heard this myth in the boy scouts or pop culture, 21st Century Goods reminded outdoorsman that this moss doesn't really just grow on the north side of a tree or rock. In fact, moss really grows wherever it has the right conditions, regardless of orientation.

You're better off using the sun as a directional marker or you watch compass to make sure you're able to find your way back if you get lost. 

Myth #3: Tricks for drinking water 
Because water is so important to survival, a variety of myths have cropped up about how to stay hydrated. However, following many of these can make your situation much worse and contribute to dehydration quicker. Survival Cache dispelled a few of the most notable water myths

  • Running water isn't necessarily drinkable. The survival advice website admits running water is better than stagnant water, but it still may have microbes and other dangerous components. 
  • Snow and salt water are no good. Eating snow or drinking just a little salt water are not only bad ways to hydrate, but they expedite the dehydration process. The salt in seawater makes you dehydrate quicker than not drinking anything, while snow uses up your energy to melt it and may contain bacteria. 
  • Urine isn't always safe. Although urine may have some water in it, it's a short term solution. The more urine is re-drunk the more it becomes waste. Don't drink urine past the first or second time it passes through the body, and dark urine is always a bad idea. 
  • Water doesn't need to boil for long. Boiling water is a good way to kill off most dangerous substances, but you don't have to wait 10 or 20 minutes. Once it's boiling you can drink it. 

Myth #4: Higher ground makes better shelter 
Survival supply store M40 pointed to the idea that high ground makes better shelter logical, but wrong. Although higher ground offers protection from water while cold ground and air would be lower, higher ground actually leaves you more exposed. Higher ground often has more wind, making staying warm and lighting fires more difficult. The retail store recommended using a fire to counteract the few degrees difference that elevation can make while avoiding the wind altogether. 

You never know when you may end up having to spend the night in the wilderness so be prepared and make sure to avoid the survival myths listed above and have a watch compass on you. A watch compass is one of the most essential tools to have if you love the outdoors. The PRG280-1 is a perfect example, with a compass, barometer, altimeter and a backlight all built in you'll have all the necessary tools to take on the wilderness! Grab yours today!

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