The jungle seems like a fun place to visit and maybe even a great place to stay for a little while, but for most people, when they think of staying in the jungle they still mean a civilized place where there is at least a shelter and food. But there are still cases of people getting lost in the jungle and having to find their own way around.
Would you want to be lost in the jungle with no knowledge of how to survive? We’re guessing probably not. So we’re going to talk about some of the important things you need to do to keep yourself safe.
You will need shelter to keep you safe if you’re going to be stuck for any length of time. But you don’t want to spend a lot of your time and effort trying to create a shelter that you don’t actually want to stay in for a long period of time. You actually want to be able to keep moving. So, you want a shelter that’s going to be simple to create but is still going to protect you from the elements and, for the most part, from animals as well.
The best thing you can do is create a lean-to. These are so named because they lean up to something else. This structure will lean up against a tree. All you have to do is get one long stick, long enough that you could sleep under it (because you will) and lean it up against a tree.
Then take some smaller branches and lean them against the large one. Cover the entire thing with leaves if you can because this will keep you warmer and it’s going to keep more of the animals out. You’ll be a lot safer while you sleep (which should be at night).
It’s actually not as difficult to get water as you might think. Of course, you need to make sure that the water is safe for drinking so make sure that if you’re questionable you boil it before drinking. But to gather water you can use rainfall, drops off of vegetation and plants or you can create your own by creating a solar water still.
A still just requires you to dig a small hole and place a container in the middle. Put damp leaves (just morning dew is sufficient) around the container and put a sheet over the top. Anchor it down with some leaves and put a little rock in the middle of the sheet to push it down slightly right over your container. Condensation will accumulate on the bottom of the sheet and be directed toward the container you placed in the middle.
The second most important thing to do is find some food. There is a lot of food available in a jungle, you just have to know what you’re looking for. Of course there are a lot of plants available in a jungle and many are safe to eat. However, if you’re going to be harvesting plants you’ll really want to have a survival guide of some type with you, since not all jungle plants are safe (and since you didn’t plan on getting lost in the jungle you probably won’t have a guide there to help you.
If you want to eat anything you should be sticking with plants you know. Look for any fruits you’ve eaten before, palms or bamboo. Each of these are safe to eat and they should be relatively easy to locate in the jungle. If you can’t find any of these don’t try any of the other fruits or plants around you. You never know what could be poisonous. Instead, focus on trapping animals.
Now you may think that you should get out there and hunt for food rather than trying to trap it. Unless you’re a big time hunter and you’re really good at getting something fast, you’re probably not going to get much this way. Your best bet is to trap your food instead. You let them do all the work that way so you can save your energy.
Setting a trap doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, simple traps are the ones that work the best. Just use some type of fruit as your bait and dig a hole. Make sure to cover it with something and put your bait in the center. When an animal comes up to get the food they will fall into the hole you’ve created. You have to make sure it’s large enough to trap whatever falls in or they could just run off on you. Be careful not to make it too deep however, you want to get whatever it is back out again.
For other food options, see our article on how to search for edible insects for food.
You want to find your way back to civilization and back to someone that can help you. This is going to require a decent sense of direction. Unfortunately, being stuck in a jungle (or really anywhere that everything looks the same) can cause you to become disoriented. You may find yourself traveling in circles, which means it’s going to take you a lot longer to find your way back (if you’re able to do it at all). What you want to do is find a point of reference that you can use as you continue to walk.
If you’re able to find a stream or river you’re in luck because these will generally lead you to some type of civilization. After all, most settlements were originally built near waterways because settlers needed a source of water and a way to get supplies. Following the water will likely lead you to some type of civilization and, in the meantime, it keeps you adequately hydrated so you won’t end up sick. Getting sick while lost by yourself in the jungle can be extremely dangerous after all.
If you can’t find a source of water like this keep an eye on the ground. Look for signs of wildlife and try to find where most of them are going. Animals will seek out a source of water and that means they will wear a thicker trail going to their water source.
Since they have better natural instincts that us as humans, they will be able to locate the water. Don’t backtrack from where you have been going, but if you’re able to find a well-worn path heading in the same direction as you are you may be able to find a source of water. Also, if the animals are drinking from it, you can be relatively certain that it’s safe to drink.
The best thing you can do is keep moving during the day and rest at night. You’re going to be more alert during the day and you’ll actually be able to see the things that are in your way. You’ll have enough trouble getting around trees, plants, predators and other dangers when it’s light outside and you can actually see them. Once they stop being visible it becomes even more difficult to get around and you could end up seriously hurt. If you’re hurt it’s extremely difficult to get the care you need and get out of the jungle.
Watch for predators
Predators in the jungle are all around you and they come in all different forms. There are animals all over which could be a danger, even if you don’t think that they are. Your best bet is to try and blend in as much as possible. You may have heard that making loud noises will scare away animals. This is true in some instances, however, if you manage to get close to something and you make a lot of noise you could provoke it to attack. This is extremely dangerous.
The best thing you can do is move quietly and as quickly as possible. You don’t want to seem like a threat to anything. That means, if you do see something, back away slowly and be prepared for anything. If the animal attacks you’ll need to be able to defend yourself or get away (usually not easy to do). If you move slowly and it can tell you are leaving it alone however, the animal may simply allow you to leave. That’s going to be your best bet. Never assume that you can take on an animal in the jungle.
Something to keep in mind however, in the jungle there are more predators than you might think. You don’t just have to watch out for large animals when you’re going through the jungle. You have to watch out for small insects as well. In a jungle or even in the woods there are a number of insects and small animals that are just as dangerous (if not more so) than the larger ones. The important thing is to keep an eye out for them and be prepared in case you see one.
Insects are very easy to miss and even the smallest of insects can be extremely poisonous. You want to watch out for these because if you end up with diseases like Malaria or Yellow Fever you could be in big trouble. Mosquitos and spiders can spread these and other diseases. Before you eat anything and before you put on any clothes or shoes you need to make sure that these bugs are not on them. If you step on one accidentally you could end up stung or bit and you don’t want that to happen.
If you’re out somewhere that you aren’t familiar with it’s important to have a way to protect yourself. If you carry a pocketknife or other type of blade you’ll be able to fashion yourself a spear out of a branch or piece of bamboo. For reviews of the best survival knife, do read our article on this topic. If you don’t carry either of these you can use a rock to help you fashion your spear. A small knife won’t do you a lot of good against a large animal, a spear on the other hand could give you a fighting change (that’s not to say you should provoke or attack any type of wild animal, large or otherwise).
Keep your spear with you at all times and make sure that you have it at the ready in case anything happens. You want to be prepared at a moment’s notice because that may be all you get if an animal decides to attack you. Keeping aware of your surroundings and listening for any suspicious noises will also keep you safer because you’ll be able to react faster. The animals around you are listening for those things (that’s how they hear you) and you need to be doing the same. Listen for changes in the noises around you as well. A change could signal danger.
Taking care of problems
So as you’re being very careful walking and checking for wild animals or anything else in your path, what happens if you get hurt? Well getting hurt in the jungle can be dangerous because it can slow your reflexes or even make it difficult for you to move at all. You want to make sure that you’re doing everything you can to avoid this by watching for danger in your path (whether it’s sticks and rocks or snakes and wild animals). If you do get hurt however, it’s important to take care of it quickly.
Snake bites, for example, could be poisonous. Really any bite should be considered potentially poisonous. The best option, since you’re away from medicine and doctors, is to suck the poison out. You have to make sure you’re acting quickly when this happens but make sure that you don’t swallow any of the poison either. You have to suck it out of the wound and spit it out right away. Make sure you also gargle with some water and spit that out as well. You never know what type of poisons you could end up with if you aren’t careful.
If you get a cut then it’s important to wrap it and wash it as quickly as possible. If you aren’t near any water you can wipe off dirt or debris and quickly wrap the cut. Make sure to wash it as soon as you can because you want to get any other dirt out of it. If it starts to heal it could end up infected or worse. Make sure you keep cleaning your cuts and wrap them with clean cloths as much as possible. If you have an extra shirt that you can tear this will be the best option.
Now, if you don’t have extra clothes that you can tear and use to cover wounds you’ll want to use leaves. Stick to palm leaves as these are going to protect your cut and won’t cause irritation. You must change out leaves frequently and make sure to keep rinsing off the cut as it could easily become infected if you aren’t careful. You may feel as though you’re being overly cautious but you can never be too sure if you’re lost on your own. You don’t want to risk infection so being overly cautious is far better than the alternative.
Start a fire
Having a fire is also going to be important for boiling your water, boiling rags for disinfecting wounds and keeping you warm. Even in the hottest jungle it can get cold at night and fire will keep you warm and it will keep away most animals. Of course, it’s not always easy to start a fire in the jungle.
Bamboo is not good for burning and should not be used in your fire. Instead, look for dried wood. This could be difficult but if you can’t find any scattered on the ground search for holes in trees and cut away pieces from this area. It will be dry and you can build a fire with it. Damp wood will burn once your fire has been started.
Make sure to keep your fire small as well. Too large of a fire could result in losing control and you do not want to set fire to the jungle. Keep the fire small enough that you can easily control it and have water nearby (if at all possible) to put out the fire quickly if necessary. You can also use dry dirt or sand to smother the fire.
All in all, there are a number of things you need to keep in mind in case you’re ever lost in a jungle. Make sure you keep your wits about you because you never know what could happen. By keeping yourself aware of everything around you there is a much better chance of a positive outcome.
So be aware and be ready for anything that could come your way. You never know when it could be something very important or even if something could turn out to be a bigger deal than you believed it to be. Hopefully you’ll never end up lost in a jungle, but you should always be prepared in case you are.
For additional information and guidelines on how to survive in the wilderness, see our important article on this topic.