The soul of the jungle is altogether as wild and unreasonable as it is beautiful.
The untouched beauty that is the jungle environment has lured countless throngs of adventure seekers and travelers to its depths kind myths to a flame only to find themselves consumed by its heat. Jungle survival is a unique scenario and one that can prove deadly for those who come uninformed and unprepared to face it’s challenges. The dangers in this climate are manifold ranging from poisonous plants, reptiles, insects and snakes to predators and illness. Truly there are no shortages of ways to meet your maker in this beautiful landscape, but if you take the time to become familiar with its ways and unlock it’s bounty there is plenty that will help you survive this dynamic and inherently dangerous environment.
In this guide we’ll cover the essentials to jungle survival and give you some tips that could save your life if you are ever faced with the challenge of surviving the jungle.
Dangers of the jungle
Before we can understand how to unlock this climates’ bounty we must first know what exactly we are up against in a jungle survival scenario.
When we discuss the dangers of jungle survival the biggest threat that comes to mind isn’t obtaining resources necessary for survival, but illness. Be it weather related like trench foot, pneumonia and hypothermia or mosquito borne such as malaria, west nile, dengue fever and yellow fever it’s easy to find yourself ill in a jungle survival scenario. When it comes to remaining healthy in a jungle survival situation the best defense against illness is vigilance.
Be aware of your surroundings and the condition of your gear. Are you keeping your socks and boots dry? How about the rest of your gear? It’s important to keep your gear from becoming waterlogged, footwear in particular. You want to dry them at least nightly and allow your feet to dry and breathe to avoid trench foot brought about by prolonged wetness. What season you find yourself forced to survive in and how heavy the rainfall is in your region will also have a huge impact on the likelihood of mosquito borne illness.
The mosquitos swarms tend to be thicker in the rainy season which makes the need for repellant greater in the jungle. It’s very important to keep repellant when moving through the jungle, especially in the spring and summer months.
In addition to illness there are a number of poisonous and volatile creatures to be wary of in the jungle landscape.
Brown recluse spiders, fire ants, piranhas, poison dart frog, wild boars and scorpions are a fraction of the types of dangerous creatures that inhabit jungle climates. Keep in mind that when it comes to jungle wildlife the species vary from region to region, often dramatically, so a quick overview of the wildlife in your region should be part of your travel preparations. When attempting survival in the jungle be wary of your surroundings. Look, listen, and take note. Inattention to detail can be catastrophic. Take note of animal trails and tracks.
Avoid game trails as predators will frequent these areas in search of food.
Besides the obvious animal threats that we just mentioned there are a number of much smaller threats that you won’t see coming. The adult female scrub tick is a perfect example.
Though too small to observe from a distance this tick exudes a toxin when it feeds that can fatally paralyze the human body. Insect repellent helps deter these creatures and insecticide or alcohol can be employed to remove them.
Leeches are another common danger that comes in a small package. This parasite attaches to exposed skin breaking the skin and sucking blood from their host. Their saliva contains painkillers that causes them to go undetected. Some individuals have a severe allergic reaction to the proteins in their saliva so be wary and check yourself often when moving through the jungle. Common ways to remove the leech are the use of salt, fire, or alcohol.
There are also a number of poisonous and unpleasant plant species that inhabit the thick forest landscape. In fact, even the sap that many trees excrete can cause severe skin irritation.
This being said there are some species that are worse than others. For example, the stinging tree. This plant is usually found along trails and in clearings, especially those with red soils. This plant gets its name from the heart shaped leaves that poses very fine poisonous hairs that penetrate the skin causing severe irritation. These hairs are particularly troublesome as washing alone is unlikely to dislodge them. In fact the most effective way to remove them is to shave, wax or remove with a extremely diluted form of acid.
More common plants that you want to be wary of in the jungle landscape are poison ivy and poison sumac. These are prevalent in many jungle regions across the world. These plants are just a few examples of the dangerous plant life that are lurking in the jungle depths.
It’s important to be aware of such plants in the region in which you travel and take precautions such as minimizing exposed skin when possible and being careful of which plant species you handle.
Locating a water source is one of the easier tasks in jungle survival.
With the heavy rainfall associated with the region there are a number of creeks, rivers and streams that crisscross the area. But be wary of these water sources. While some are in fact clean this is not the rule, especially with stagnant and slow moving water sources. If possible stick to swift moving water sources upriver which cuts down own contaminates.
You can get water from other sources, but purify that water. Get in the habit of purifying your water sources either by boiling or chemical purification methods. There are hazards to drinking purified water, most notably contacting parasites or developing a water borne illness like dysentery which has symptoms such as stomach pain, vomiting, nausea and diarrhea. All issues that will greatly hinder your chances of survival.
When looking for food in the jungle there are a number of sources to consider. There are wild edibles in the form of jungle fruits like wild banana and passion fruit. What wild edibles you are likely to encounter depends on your region, but there are no shortages of wild edibles in the jungle. The animals can often be as diverse as the plants of the jungle. In both cases if you are unfamiliar with the region stick to trapping and harvesting those that you recognize.
When it comes to obtaining shelter in the jungle landscape you want to be aware of a few key points.
First, consider your surroundings. Are you in the thick of the jungle or a clearing? You want to maintain a certain level of viability 360 degrees of your location. The thicker the tree cover tbd less likely you are to notice threats. Are you working with a natural formation? If you choose something like a cave be wary of the depth and height. Ideally you want one closer to a deep crevice than a cave as the deeper and taller it is the more likely you are to have company.
If you are constructing a shelter be sure to elevate yourself from the jungle floor. This will give you some relief from the microcosm of insects that inhabit the jungle floor.
There are a number of tools that can prove themselves invaluable in a jungle survival scenario. However, the fact of the matter is that you can’t bring them all with you when you venture out. Also, depending on the region some may prove unnecessary in some regions and helpful in others. So what we’ve put together here is a bare bones survival kit.
The essentials that you must add to your survival kit. However, you should supplement and tweak your kit to fit your intended destination.
- Study knife – You want a good fixed blade or if you choose to use a folding blade ensure that the locking mechanism is strong to prevent the blade from folding back on you during use.
- Machete – Ensure the blade is sharp and carry this blade in a sheath.
- Flint – You will use this tool in tandem with your knife as your primary fire starter.
- Waterproof matches/lighter – Keep these as your secondary fire starter for use if you lose or have trouble with your primary.
- Poncho – This can act as wet weather gear, a blanket a roof to your shelter and a number of other functions so invest in a durable one.
- Water source – This can be a canteen, bottle or water bladder.
- Aid kit – A first aid kit is essential to any survival pack. Injuries will occur, but it’s leaving them untreated that can prove fatal in a survival scenario.
- Purification chemicals or device – Whether it’s iodine, chlorine dioxide tablets or some other purification device or substance you need some type of way to purify your water if you can’t boil it.
- Food rations – These should be non-perishable food items kept in a waterproof bag or container.
- Compass and map/ navigation device – Whatever you choose for navigation ensure that it’s durable and easy to store.
- Repellant – Pack multiple bottles of strong chemical repellent because you are likely going to be using a lot of it in the jungle.
- Alcohol – Has multiple uses, but mostly is for removal of parasites without wasting the antiseptic in your aid kit.
Jungle survival is a uniquely challenging survival scenario for anyone, regardless of who you are. Nature is unpredictable and even the well prepared fall victim sometimes. But, the preparations that you make and knowledge that you gave can give you a unique advantage and dramatically increase your chances of survival.