If you are stranded or lost in the jungle, the only thing that matters is getting out alive. Like any emergency, surviving depends on where you are, your gear, and most importantly, your knowledge.
Survival is not just about knowing how to find food and water but knowing how to remain calm and think logically in a crisis so that you can take the steps needed to get out alive.
How to avoid getting lost?
You don’t have to have been in a plane crash to find yourself lost in the middle of a jungle. You could be out on a hike one moment, and the next, you find yourself hopelessly lost.
It can be easy to become disoriented when everything looks the same. The next thing you know you could easily find yourself wandering in circles.
If you find yourself lost in the jungle, there are some things you can keep in mind to improve your chances of surviving.
Stop what you are doing. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Slow down Stay calm.
Think about the situation. This means to assess what is going on (i.e. what you have on you? any gear? knife, water, food, rope etc..)
Observe what is immediately around you. Am I next to a cliff, is there a trail nearby, what’s the weather looking like? Taking notice of things around you will better orient yourself so that you can decide what to do next.
Plan out what your next move is. Now that you know where you are and what you with you and can think clearly, you can begin to plan what your next best move is.
How to avoid getting lost in the first place?
This may seem a bit simplistic; however, you can save yourself a lot of trouble by not getting lost in the first place. There are many instances where circumstances are just plain out of your control. So getting lost is not 100% unavoidable.
A few things you can do to avoid getting lost is:
- Try to retrace your steps and look for any landmarks that can help you orient yourself.
- If you have a cellphone, use it as a signal for help; if you are in an area where there is reception
- If you have a whistle, now is a good time to use it, especially before wandering too far or before night comes.
Once you have assessed your situation, taken stock of the gear you have, the condition of your body-mind, you can now start to think of either
(a) trying to get out of where you are or
(b) stay put until help arrives.
Staying in one place is only beneficial if people know you’re missing and are coming to look for you and would expect to find you wherever you went and got lost.
Otherwise, if no one knows where you are, and there is a small chance of a search party coming out, your best bet is to try and hike out.
If you have a map, that makes it easy, as that can guide you to any major roads or trails. If you’re not sure where to go, try and find a body of water.
Civilization tends to be built around bodies of water, as we all need fresh water to survive. So if you find a river or stream, it will likely lead to a town or will take you straight to the ocean. With that said, not all oceans have people nearb, however it is easier to orient yourself when you have an ocean in sight.
If that is not possible, try and find a high vantage point so you can see what your surroundings look like. That way, you may be able to see any established landmarks or anything that would allow you to move in a singular direction rather than in circles.
How to find water?
No, there is no use of sugar-coating it. Without water, you will not last long. According to the rule of 3 – you can last 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water (and 3 minutes without oxygen).
If you are in a hot and humid environment and perspiring, in the sun, or moving around a lot trying to find food, you might not have three days.
Luckily jungle areas mostly lie in tropical environments along the equator that tend to get a lot of rainfall. Although heavy rains haslve thier own dangers, they can also provide life-giving water.
If you are unable to find a natural water source, you can try a few different things:
1. The first step is to find a source of freshwater. This can be done by looking for a river, lake, or stream. Look for a change in the topography; if you have a map, that makes things easier, as it should mark out fresh bodies of water. If not, look for ravines, gullies, and low points where rain would naturally gather.
2. The second easiest is rainwater – If you find yourself in the rainy season (which changes depending on your location); you can collect water overnight by setting out containers or any device you can think of (if you are carrying a tarp, plastic or any funnel) to collect rainfall. If not, even a shirt can be used to soak up water, and later wrung out into your mouth.
3. Create a seep by digging a hole in the ground near a tree or near any area where there is overgrowth and damp conditions. Dig a foot or two deep and try and find small stones to hold the sides of the wall. Water will gravitate toward the bottom after some time; for this to work, the area will be the critical.
4. You can get water from plants, roots, and some flowers. Though knowledge of what you are eating and digging up will be needed. (It might be wise to have some local knowledge of the flora and fauna where you are hiking so that you know what is good to eat and what plants store water.)
Flowing water rather than stagnant water is what you are looking for. It is safer, as it will have fewer contaminants in it. Bacteria and other living organisms tend to gather in stagnant water.
With that said, any water that is not rainwater or from a glacier mountain stream is possibly filled with bacteria (especially in the humid environments) so do not just go slurping down any water you can find. You need to have a water filter.
Different ways to filter water
Its always recommended to purify your water before drinking it. This can be done in a number of ways:
If you managed to bring some gear with you, then
- using a water filter
- emergency straw
- iodine tablets
- chlorine drops
If you find yourself without any way to disinfect your water, then you can
- boil the water
- use hot rocks and place them in the water you have collected
- make a seep next to a riverbed
- make a still
For more tips on how to find water go here.
How to find food?
Remember that in a survival situation, eating is not a priority. You can go without food for many days; however, the problem is that you will start having less energy which will make it much more difficult to try and find water and shelter.
If you’re out in the jungle long enough, you will need to find some way in order to keep your energy levels up. As the days go by, your ability to rescue yourself will be much harder.
Thankfully, the jungle is full of things you can eat, but you need to know what it is you are eating before you start throwing things in your mouth.
There are a few different ways that you can find food.
Make a trap – This can be anything from a deadfall trap to a simple snare. If you have the time and patience, you can make several different types of traps and set them around your sleeping area. The goal is to have the trap do the work for you so you can preserve your energy that it takes trying to hunt something down with a knife or a makeshift spear.
Insects – Although not everyone’s cup of tea, insects can actually be quite nutritious and are easy to catch. Look under logs and rocks for grubs and larvae. You can also set up a light at night to attract moths which you can then catch.
Plants – There are many plants in the jungle that are edible if you know how to prepare them correctly. Some even have high water content so they can help hydrate you as well. Do your research beforehand on what plants are in the area you are going out in.
Fish – If there is a river or stream nearby, then fishing can be a good option for food. You can use bait, build a weir, or simply use your hands, or make a spear. That said catching fish can be tricky. Patience is key.
Mammals, birds reptiles – If you’re lucky enough to come across any of these you will find yourself a good source of protein. The difficulty will just be on trying to catch them. If you have a bow and arrow or gun that will make things easier, though chances are you won’t.
Fruits, Veg, Nuts and Roots
This is probably the easiest way to find food as there are many fruits and nuts that are safe to eat in the jungle. Not only that, but they are also a good source of energy and vitamins.
Before you head out into an area, it is a good idea to study up on which kinds of plants are safe to eat or bring a local book along that will help you identify the local fauna.
There are many toxic plants out there that you don’t even want to touch, much less put in your mouth. Learn about which berries, flowers, roots, and other plants are safe to eat. It could be a lifesaver.
If you’re packing food for a trip It’s always a good idea to bring more food than you think you would need, as you never know what type of situation you may find yourself in.
How to build a shelter?
The reason that most people die in the jungle is not because of predators, drowning, or poisoning. It is actually being exposed to the elements which is the most dangerous part of being in the jungle.
If you find yourself lost cold, wet, and weakened from a day of panic, getting some form of protection from the elements is important, not just for your body, but shelter (and especially fire) creates a huge psychological boost.
If you have a tarp or other waterproof material, you can use it to create a shelter. If you have a tent or hammock, then consider yourself lucky.
Perhaps one of the easiest shelters is a lean-to as you can make one from just about anything. The idea is just to form a layer of protection from the elements such as the wind, rain, sun and cold.
Look for a tree with large leaves or branches that can provide protection. Any caves, big boulders, rocky outcrops or half-fallen logs, will also help,
Luckily the jungle has no shortage of supplies that you can use to help make a shelter. Simply lean some branches against a tree or rock to make a triangular-shaped shelter. Push the branches into the ground to keep them secure and cover them with large leaves or moss.
A shelter will not only protect you from changes in temperature but will also help to ward off predators and give you a sense of safety so that you can actually get through the night and be fresh enough to meet the coming day and all the challenges in store.
When you’re on your own you need to ration your resources. You’ll need to be vigilant of taking stock of your food, water, and anything else that you might have with you.
Look for ways to conserve them so that they can last. Gobbling up a 12-pack of stickers bars in a day might not be a good idea.
Pack the right gear
Having the right gear so that you are not in a tricky situation in the first place is always a good idea. Such as having a Ferro rod, proper knife, water filter, emergency tent or tarp, and flair gun will all help for those just in case scenarios.
How to make fire?
In the event that you find yourself lost in the jungle, having fire not only provides warmth and protection from animals but can also be used to signal for help.
If you have a lighter or matches, then starting a fire will be relatively easy. If not, then you’ll need to get creative.
One option is to use a magnifying glass to focus the sun’s rays onto some tinder. This method works best on sunny days and if you can find something really dry to use as kindling.
Another option is to create friction by rubbing two sticks together. This takes patience and skill, but if you can get it right then it’s a great way to start a fire without any tools.
Once you have a spark, it’s important to get the fire going as quickly as possible. Gather some small twigs and leaves and create a teepee-like structure around your spark.
Gradually add larger pieces of wood to the fire, until you have a decent sized blaze going. If it’s raining, make sure to put a tarp or other waterproof material over your fire to keep it from getting extinguished.
Other ways to start a fire
- Fire plough
- Bow and drill
- Flint & steel
How to signal for help if you are lost
If you are lost in the jungle, one of the best things you can do is to signal for help. There are a few different ways that you can do this.
1. One way is to build a signal fire. If you have a fire going, it will be easier for people to spot you from the air. Make sure that the smoke from your fire is visible by clearing an area around it and building it up high enough. Using green, or wet wood will create more smoke to alert planes.
2. Another way to signal for help is by using mirrors or other reflective objects. You can use these to reflect light in a specific direction, which will make it easier for people to see you.
3. You can also use your clothing or anything else that you have with you to spell out “SOS” or “HELP.”
4. If you have a whistle, you can use it to make noise to attract attention.
How to survive if you are injured in the jungle?
- Clean the wound with clean water and apply alcohol, peroxide or antibiotic ointment
- Apply pressure to the wound if it is bleeding heavily.
- Elevate the wound if possible. This will help to reduce swelling.
- Apply a bandage to the wound. You can use anything from a strip of cloth to a plastic bag. Keep the bandage clean and change frequently.
- Rest as much as possible and keep the wound clean and dry
How to deal with insects, including mosquitoes, leeches, and spiders
There are a few different things that you can do to keep insects away. One is to wear long clothing that covers your skin. This will help to keep mosquitoes and other bugs from getting at you.
Another is to use insect repellent. Be sure to reapply as needed, especially if you are sweating or swimming.
If you do get bitten, clean the wound, apply pressure, and watch for signs of infection.
Spiders can be found in many areas of the jungle. While most of them are not poisonous, there are some that can be dangerous. Best advice for them, as they often come out at night is to sleep above the ground.
This will also protect you from snakes and anything else crawling around on the forest floor, building a small platform, making a hammock or sleeping in a tree will help you get a better night sleep.
How to stay calm and think clearly in order to make the best decisions for your survival
If you find yourself in a survival situation, it is important to stay calm and think clearly in order to make the best decisions for your survival.
1. Take a few deep breaths and try to relax. This will help you to think more clearly.
2. Make a plan of what you need to do in order to survive. This will help you to focus on what is most important.
3. Stay positive and hopeful. This will give you the strength to continue fighting for your survival.
4. Draw on your past experiences and knowledge to help you in the present situation. This can be a valuable asset in a difficult situation.
5. Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
6. Be prepared to make tough decisions. In a survival situation, you may have to do things that you never thought you would have to do.
7. Focus on one task at a time. This will help to prevent overwhelm and confusion.
8. Survival is often comes done to a state of mind. That being said, check in with your body often to make sure there are no cuts, wounds, or infections, and that you aren’t dehydrated or exhausted. Kowing your physical and mental state will allow you to take appropriate action and will minimize your risk.
For more: How to Survive in Freezing Cold Water
While the jungle is not the easiest of places to survive in. There is always hope. With just the right knowledge and gear you will drastically increase your chances.
While knowledge and gear can help, keeping your composure is the single most effective thing you can do to ensure your survival.