• Weird History

12 Survival Myths That Are Completely Wrong

List RulesVote up the debunked survival myths that surprise you the most.

From camping encounters with wildlife to getting lost in the desert, nature presents challenges that can go horribly wrong. Weather, ominous interactions, and technology gone awry can be equally dangerous. Because threats to human survival seem to be around nearly every corner, numerous myths have developed over time about how to make it out alive from such situations.

Some survival techniques might seem helpful at first glance, but are actually anything but. Many are common misconceptions about what to do in life-threatening situations that, in the end, may make things worse. Others are straight out of television and movies, or seem intuitive but are really, really bad ideas.

Take a look at the survival myths here and vote up the ones that you're most surprised - but glad - to find out aren't actually true.

  • 1
    1940 VOTES

    MYTH: Drink Cactus Water If You're Stuck In A Desert

    When lost and dehydrated in the desert, one option is to cut open a cactus and drink water from it, right? Wrong. 

    Drinking water from a cactus is not only dangerous, but also can exacerbate dehydration. Cactus water contains acids and toxic alkaloids, chemicals that are deadly to humans when consumed. The chemicals come from the cactus flesh itself and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and, in the long term, kidney problems

    The spiny outsides of cacti are especially perilous, too, but cactus fruit like that of the prickly pear is safe - if you can find it. The cactus water you find on store shelves is actually made out of these fruits, not from the water stored in the plants. 

    Does the truth surprise you?
  • 2
    1635 VOTES

    MYTH: You Should Ration Your Water

    You're lost in the desert, a forest, or any remote area with a limited amount of potable water at your disposal. While drinking that water slowly to make it last seems like a good idea, rationing water isn't your main concern.

    Rather, rationing water loss is.

    Water should be consumed when needed to avoid dehydration. It's important to find shade and limit exertion in order to prevent perspiration, which releases water from the body. Cutting food consumption is important, too, because water is needed for digestion.

    Another misconception is that, in lieu of water, you can drink your urine. Urine is actually the waste your body is removing; it won't rehydrate you, and it will make your body work that much harder to refilter out the nastiness it got rid of in the first place. 

    One thing you can do with your urine, however, is to pour it on your clothes and cool yourself off to prevent water loss from sweating. 

    Does the truth surprise you?
  • 3
    1150 VOTES

    MYTH: Punch A Shark In The Nose To Get Away

    Punching a shark in the nose isnt't effective because, as zoologist R. Aiden Martin pointed out, "if you miss the snout its mouth is unfortunately very close by." Instead, aim for its eyes and gills, which are more sensitive areas on the shark's head.

    In 2020, for example, surfer Nick Minogue from New Zealand did just that after a shark chomped on his surfboard. Minogue recalled: 

    I actually shouted at it "f*ck off!" and went to punch it in the eye and missed... Then I pulled my fist back and shouted "f*ck off!" again and got it right smack bang in the eye.

    The shark relented and soon swam away. Ryan Johnson shared a better option with the BBC in 2017:

    [Use] something hard - be it a camera, a stick, a rock. In a situation where you don't have that, going for the face and the gills and trying to keep your hands out of its mouth is always the best thing.

    Johnson also noted that running away "can entice a shark" and "standing your ground" is the best option. 

    Does the truth surprise you?
  • 4
    1038 VOTES

    MYTH: Alligators Won't Catch You If You Zigzag As You Run Away

    There's a misconception that, should you come across an alligator, running away from it in a zigzag pattern will help you escape. Alligator expert Frank Mazzotti told the Los Angeles Times in 2012: 

    The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and that’s the fastest... Run away in a straight line. Everything you hear about running in a zigzag line is untrue.

    Although alligators move quickly on land and in water, achieving speeds as high as 9 and 10 mph, respectively, on the whole, alligators generally don't go after someone unless they're provoked. 

    Does the truth surprise you?