Wilderness Survival Quiz


By: Nathan Chandler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Out in the wild, even the easiest trail hike can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation. How much do you know about wilderness survival skills?

What's the first step to take if someone is bleeding?

Apply pressure and raise the wound above heart level to slow the bleeding. Cleanliness is important, too, but your first priority is to make sure the bleeding is under control.


What's a great way to turn cotton balls into firestarters?

Slather cotton balls with petroleum jelly or lip balm, and you suddenly have very flammable firestarters. Use these to get your tinder burning and you can build a fire in a hurry.


What's the first thing you should do before you head off down a wilderness trail?

Take 10 seconds to notify a friend or relative of your location and estimated return time. This should be a standard practice for anyone who spends time outdoors.


If you find yourself in a survival situation, what's the very first action you should take?

Far too many people panic and make poor decisions that wind up snowballing into life-threatening problems. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply and evaluate your options.


If you're stuck in a wilderness survival situation, what's your No. 1 priority?

Without shelter, you're sunk. It provides protection from the elements, prevents your body from losing water and keeps you warm (or cool). Learning how to make a basic debris shelter is a vital outdoors skill.


Why is cotton a terrible material to wear into the wilderness?

When wet, cotton loses its ability to keep you warm. In cold weather, this characteristic can have deadly consequences. In the wilderness, "cotton is rotten."


If you spot a maple tree in the wild, you can simply cut a hole into the tree and drink the sap that emerges.

If you do see a maple tree, you're in luck -- you can drink the thin, watery sap inside the truck. Not only will it hydrate you, but it will provide some sugar energy, too.


If you are dying of thirst and only find mud, what gear can you use to obtain water?

Place some mud in a sock and squeeze it for all you're worth -- the few drops of water you create may save your life. If the water is safe to drink, that is.


Giardia is a result of which activity?

Giardia is a result of waterborne pathogens that can cause all sorts of intestinal problems, which can last for weeks or months. You need a water filter with pore sizes of 1 micron or smaller to filter out these creatures, or better yet, boil the water for 10 minutes.


In cold weather, what is the No. 1 killer of people who wander outdoors?

Exposure, or lack of shelter, leads to hypothermia, in which the body's core temperature drops to deadly levels. Dressing properly and knowing how to build shelter are essential to beating exposure.


Polaris is also called what?

Polaris is the North Star, which also happens to be at the tip of the Little Dipper's handle. Turn towards Polaris and you'll know that you're heading in a northerly direction.


If you're stranded with a disabled vehicle, what's your first course of action?

Don’t start wandering around, especially in a dense forest. The vehicle is much easier for search-and-rescue teams to spot from the air, and the vehicle itself provides you with some protection.


In a survival situation, "gigging" will help you do what?

Take a young sapling that's about one-quarter of an inch in diameter and split it four ways about 10 inches down, then jam a stick in the middle to keep the four sections separate. You've just made a four-pronged spear to catch food -- this is much, much easier than a single-tipped spear.


Boiling water is a 100% effective way to make wilderness water safe to drink from pathogens.

Boiling is a foolproof way to obtain safe water, at least when it comes to pathogens. Just be sure to boil the water for several minutes in order to kill all of the nasty germs that can make you sick.


If you collect dew as a water source, you should still purify it before you drink it.

Mother Nature already purified dew for your drinking pleasure. You can run around sopping up dew with a sock or handkerchief and then squeeze it into a bottle and then drink it, although you may regret the sock taste.


How can you turn raw acorns into an edible food source?

If you crush acorns and then soak them in water for a few days, you'll leech out the tannic acids that would otherwise make your stomach sick. You can expedite the process by putting the acorns in very hot water for a few hours, while changing the water several times.


How many fire-starting techniques should you take with you into the wild?

There are many ways to start fires, and you should equip yourself with as many as you can before setting off into the wild. Even with multiple tools, it can be challenging to start a fire in inclement conditions, so be sure to practice these skills in both wet and windy weather before you attempt to use them in the wild.


About how long can a human survive without being able to regulate body temperature?

Being exposed to the elements is a killer. In extreme heat or cold that affects your body temperature, you may only survive for about three hours. This is why shelter is so critical to survival.


Which part of a conifer tree is edible for humans?

The cambium (or inner bark) of a cone-bearing evergreen tree is edible for humans. This inner bark provides sugars and starches that can keep you alive.


What can you use to start a fire using a battery?

If you short-circuit a battery, you'll create a spark that you can use to start a fire. A metallic gum wrapper touched to the positive and negative ends can do the trick, but foil, wire or steel wool work too.


In order to completely kill waterborne pathogens, how long should you boil wilderness water?

Don’t skimp on the boiling -- make sure you boil the water for around 10 minutes before you use it for drinking purposes. And remember that although boiling kills waterborne pathogens, it won't remove chemical pollution or other contiminants that could affect your health.


How does a crescent moon help you find which direction you're facing?

Draw an imaginary line from one horn to the other and extend that line to Earth's horizon. There, you've just identified a southerly direction that you can use to navigate.


What plant is often called "the supermarket of the swamp"?

The cattail is one of the most common plants found in the wild, typically growing close to waterlogged areas. Many parts of the plant are edible and nutritious.


How much bleach do you need to purify 1 liter of water?

If you happen to have bleach on hand, it takes just two drops to make an entire liter of water safe for drinking. Don't overdo it, otherwise, you'll turn the combination into an undrinkable, nasty mess.


What's one way to use a plastic bag to obtain water from a plant?

Plants release water throughout the day -- you just have to capture it. Place the bag over the plant and tightly seal it. Hours later, you'll see droplets of water that you can drink.


As you are building a wilderness shelter, why should you keep widow makers in mind?

See those dead branches in the tree above you? Those are widow makers. If a strong breeze develops, those branches can fall and kill you at any moment -- so don't build your shelter anywhere near them.


If you're carrying extra gear during a survival situation, what should you do with it?

Even items that seem useless at the moment can become helpful tools in a survival situation. Don't start chucking gear or even garbage until you're sure it won't be good for some task in the coming hours or days.


Wild cattail plants are a good source of what?

Cattails are a good source of several vitamins and the roots are full of starch. Most of the plant is edible and taking a few minutes to learn how to prepare it gives you all sorts of options for emergency meals.


Why should you be wary of eating young cattail plants?

There are other plants that resemble young cattails, and some of them are toxic to human biology. Learn to differentiate these plants or risk eating something that could harm your body.


About how long can the human body survive without water?

In average conditions, you can survive about three days without water. If you're exerting yourself or if the weather is extreme, you probably won't last even that long.


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