Test your skills to see if you could survive alone in the wilderness!

Dyann Joyce

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Many people turn to the great outdoors for adventure and to explore, but it can get dangerous sometimes. Whether you've lost your direction, been injured or become separated from your group, it's important to know how to survive. If you think you have the knowledge, or just want to see if you could make it in the outdoors alone, this is the quiz for you!

Do you know which way to go when you come across a river? Do you know how to react if you encounter a wild animal, such as a bear? If you find yourself coming up to a cliff, do you know what you should do? A large part of surviving in the wilderness is knowing how to deal with both the terrain and creatures you may be faced with.

Do you know how long you can live without food or water? Do you know how to deal with the challenges that certain climates may bring? Do you know how to start a fire, especially when night falls? Knowing a bit about yourself and your limits is also a great strength to have when faced with being stranded alone.

If you think you've got the skills to make it through in the wilderness, this one is for you. Take this quiz to see if you could emerge as a survivor!

Before leaving for a day hike or a weekend camping trip, what is the most imiportant thing you can do to ensure your safety?

Always be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return. If you do not return, someone will know where to start looking for you.

If you are lost and hear a low-flying airplane or helicopter, what is the best way to signal them?

Flash the pilot with a shiny object, like a knife blade or whatever you have on hand. A mirror is the best thing, but you probably won’t have one with you.

What simple steel item, used since ancient times, will make your survival situation a little easier?

While all of the items listed will make survival easier, a knife is the sharpest choice. You can use the knife to make a bow drill for a fire, to dig, to pry things, or even to stake something down.

What should you do if you are lost in the woods and you encounter a bear?

Your chances of being attacked by a bear are about the same as being struck by lightning, but it can happen. Avoid cute bear cubs at all costs, because mama bears will attack. If you should stumble upon a bear, just stay calm, speak in an even tone, and raise your arms to make yourself look larger. Back away, slowly, until you are well away from it. A hungry bear may try to circle and surprise you so stay wary. Never climb a tree to get away.

If lost in the wild, you may become extremely hungry and tempted to try unknown vegetation (like mushrooms and berries). Why is this NOT a good idea?

While all of these responses could be true, the correct answer is the first one. If you misidentify a mushroom, it could easily kill you. Take the Amanita phalloides commonly called the death cap mushroom - A few bites of its yellowish green cap can easily kill an adult. There are many poisonous berries as well, like pokeberries. If you plan to spend a lot of time in the woods, a book on indigenous edibles is strongly advised.

If you are lost in the woods, what can you build in about 15-20 minutes to get some sleep without being exposed to the night air?

Well, if you expect to be there for a long time a cabin might be a good idea, but good luck building one quickly. For one night, a simple lean-to can be made from poles, branches and leaves, and it will help to protect you from the wind.

Could you really eat bugs and worms if you are lost and starving?

Yes, you can eat grubs and worms and other bugs. Some may not be safe to eat, though, especially in an exotic location. Just like edible plants, you should study what is edible in the area you are hiking or camping. But generally, grubs, grasshoppers and worms are safe to eat, while brightly-colored critters are often poisonous.

What is a good item to carry, that takes up virtually no room at all, that is very handy to have if it rains while you are hiking or camping?

Well, a full-size raincoat is pretty big and bulky, so if you go hiking or camping (or hunting or fishing) and want to carry as little weight as possible, bring a 30-40 gallon garbage bag. To make a raincoat from it, simply cut a slit about 8 inches long across the center of the bottom seam for your head. Then cut slits on the sides for your arms. If you want to keep your head dry, another small plastic bag works for that. They may look silly, but they work great.

If you are hiking new territory and come to the top of a sheer cliff, what is the best way to get to the bottom?

If you are hiking in new territory (or for whatever reason you are there), if you come to the top of a sheer cliff, unless you are an experienced climber AND have the right gear, go around it. You will have to start walking whichever way feels like it is going downhill. It may seem like a quicker way to just go down the cliff, but even a drop of only 8 or 10 feet can break a leg, which can be fatal if you are lost in the wild. A drop of 20 feet or more can be instantly (or worse, lingeringly) fatal.

If you are lost in the woods in the winter and you come to a body of ice-covered water that you can cross to shave hours off of your travel time, should you cross it or not?

You could try to walk across the ice by testing the thickness first, if you don’t care whether you live or die. The answer is no - stay off of the unknown ice!

If you are lost and hungry, what is an easy source of protein, even if you don’t really want to get grubby finding it?

Yep, as gross as it sounds, grub worms are an easy source of protein that you can eat raw or cooked over a fire. When cooked, they become chewy and crunchy and sort of taste like almonds. You can find them in rotting wood.

Along with food and water, what is the most vital thing you need for survival?

While a fire could be vital if it’s freezing cold outside, protection from the elements is the next most important thing to find in a survival situation. So the answer is shelter.

If you're lost in the wilderness and you come to a creek or river, which way should you go to get out?

If you have no other clues that might lead you to civilization, you should follow the waterway downstream. Creeks lead to rivers and rivers lead to bigger rivers or to a lake or the ocean. There will be towns and cities along the way, if you don’t run across someone’s home on a creek first. In most cases, following a flowing waterway downstream will eventually lead to civilization.

If you are lost in the wilderness, what is the first rule of survival?

Assuming you told someone where you were going, you should stay where you are. Rescuers will be coming. if you start walking, you might get so far from your expected position that the rescuers will never find you. If you have cell phone reception, then send a text or make a call. Alerting someone to your predicament will get the ball rolling and the authorities can estimate your approximate location from the tower ping.

If you are lost in the wild and you come across a beehive, should you try to get some honey?

Unless you know for sure you aren’t allergic to bee stings, you should avoid beehives at all costs. If you have never been stung by a bee, do NOT risk it - you could go into anaphylactic shock and die. On the other hand, even if you know you are not allergic and are willing to risk potentially hundreds of bee stings for some honey, you could still die from that many stings. The reality is, if you don’t have the proper gear, leave the beehives alone.

If you are in a survival situation and have no matches or lighter, how will you make a fire?

If you want to be prepared for any emergency, you should carry a lighter or book of matches. If you don't have those things, however, you can start a fire with a bow drill. It is fairly easy to make the bow drill, but starting a fire takes some practice. You can learn how to do it online. By the way, the cliche method of rubbing two sticks together to start a fire is actually very difficult.

How can you cook your food, once you have caught it?

Never eat wild game raw - always fully cook it. If you have a skillet, then of course, use it, but we are assuming you don’t. A soda can might work for making soup, but it’s pretty thin. Go with spit roasting, by suspending the animal over the fire on a green branch thick enough not to break from the weight of the meat.

What is your greatest danger if you're lost in a frozen winter landscape?

While frostbite is a danger and can be quite painful, you will live. Hypothermia is the killer. If your body’s core temperature gets too low, you will die. Building a snowman might be fun, but don’t do it if you are lost in the wild. Also, don’t eat the yellow snow, because it does NOT taste like lemon ice.

If you are lost and starving, can you eat a rattlesnake?

Yes, you can eat rattlesnake meat. Just be very careful when you remove the head. If you make contact with the fangs you can still be injected with venom, even after the snake is dead. Cut it off several inches down the body, then bury it to keep it away from you, animals or other people.

To avoid carrying a heavy and bulky tent, what lighter item could you bring on your next hiking or camping trip to make a shelter?

While some sleeping bags are designed to be like a small individual tent, they are bulky to carry. In fair weather, if you just bring a sheet of plastic (like a painter’s plastic tarp), this can easily be made into a tent or lean-to shelter.

If you are lost in the wild and literally dying of thirst, should you drink standing water from a creek or lake?

Never drink standing water, ever. The only exceptions would be if you have an appropriate water filter like a personal hydration straw. A sock won’t filter the microbes and bacteria and you can, at the minimum, become very ill.

What is a handy source of condensed protein to take hiking or camping?

While nuts do provide protein, beef jerky has more per ounce and stores easily in your pack. Not to mention, it’s jerky. C’mon, I’d rather have jerky than some nuts any day. You can enjoy it as your primary source of protein or you can save it as an emergency food source, just in case you take a wrong turn in new territory.

If you are bitten by a snake in the wild, why should you splint the bitten area?

Splinting the bitten body part will reduce motion and slow the spread of the venom. If you're bitten, get out of striking range but try to take a picture or note the snake's identifying characteristics, to aid in treatment later. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

If you need to follow a waterway downstream, what is the best way to do it?

While making a log raft might sound like fun, if you hit rapids you will be in the water and will possibly die. You do not want to be in the water for any reason, so swimming and floating are out. Just walk along the bank - this is the safest way.

If you're hungry and see fish in a body of water, how can you get some without a fishing pole?

For thousands of years, people have used fish traps with great success. Check out some survival-oriented websites and videos, before you venture outdoors, to learn how to do this. It's always beneficial to learn new skills that will help keep you alive in an emergency. You don’t have to be lost in the woods for survival techniques to apply.

What are the three most important things you will need to survive in the wilderness, if no one knows where you are?

If you find yourself lost outside in the elements, whether in a dense forest or the vast, open desert, the first things you need to be concerned with are shelter, water and food. Every survival situation will have different specifics, but these three things are always important.

If you are stranded in an area with open space, like a beach or shoreline, what is the best thing you can do to alert searchers of your predicament and location?

Really all of the choices are valid. If you become lost and there is a beach or shoreline, stay there the first few days and have a bonfire ready to light, flags to wave, mirror to flash or something similar, to get a rescuer's attention. But eventually you will have to start trying to walk out. If you do and there is a beach or other open area, make a large sign with rocks or coconuts or trees, whatever you can gather. Spell out S.O.S. as big as possible, then add an arrow pointing in the direction you went when you left the area.

If you need to catch a small animal for food, which of these is the best option?

The best chance you have is to make a snare with your shoelaces to catch a rabbit or squirrel, etc. if you don’t know how to do this, you can learn by researching online. If you are a serious hiker or camper and you don’t know survival skills, you should take a class from a professional.

Should you really drink your own urine if you are lost and thirsty?

You should never drink urine, no matter how thirsty you are. Some people will tell you that you can, but they are wrong. Urine is a waste product that is about 95% water, but it’s that other 5% that you need be concerned about. Concentrate on finding a viable water source instead, and save the urine for dousing campfires and such.

What is the best thing you can do to minimize your risk of becoming lost when venturing into new territory?

While marking trees is a good way to find your way back when you venture into new territory, knowing where you are going can best be accomplished by mapping a trail and landmarks prior to leaving. This way you will know where you are going. Once you start hiking, you can tie marker flags on trees to mark the trail so you can find your way back.

In today’s electronic age, is your cell phone GPS better than an old-style magnetic compass?

Actually, it depends on whether or not you have reception. With reception, the cell phone will give you a satellite image of the area as well as GPS and a compass. But without reception, the cell phone is useless, whereas the magnetic compass will always work.

What is the best material for building a signal fire?

The best materials for making a signal fire are green wood and leaves. Pine branches with green needles intact are especially good for creating a lot of smoke, but you have to get a good fire going nice and hot first. To make dark smoke, add petroleum-based items, if possible, like tires or oily rags.

If you build a fire at night, how do you make sure you have completely put out the fire the following morning?

The best way to make sure the fire is out is to soak it with water or “some other liquid” and spread the ashes around until you are certain it is out. If you just cover the fire with dirt, embers can stay hot under the dirt and cause an uncontrolled fire later.

How many days can a person survive without water?

If you find yourself stranded, especially in a harsh environment, you need to find water and fast. Various factors can decrease or increase your survival time without water; these include heat, humidity and exertion. If you are exerting yourself in a hot, humid environment, you could die in just a few hours without water. On the other hand, if you expend no energy in a cool, damp environment, you might last a week or so.

Apart from water, we also need food to live. How long can a human go without food?

Amazingly, as long as you have water, you could possibly go for a couple of months without food. This is a rough estimate, of course, because there are many factors involved. Health, weight and age all factor into this. A muscular or heavy person could last longer than a skinny person. It is reported that Mahatma Gandhi fasted for 21 days without food and with little water when he was in his 70s.

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