The 8 Biggest Dangers In the Wilderness – Surviving in the Wild

Many people think that the biggest threat in the wilderness comes from bears, wolves, and other big wild animals.

While these animals can be dangerous, they aren’t the real threats you’d have to worry about in a wilderness survival situation.

Here is what you should really be worried about if you ever have to survive outdoors.


You can only survive about 3 days without water. And before you reach 3 days, you are already going to be dehydrated, and all of your bodily and cognitive functions will suffer. It is dehydration that takes most people who die while lost in the wilderness.

Dangers of dehydration:

  • Losing up to 5% of body fluids causes thirst, weakness, nausea, and irritability. Judgment may be impaired at just 2% loss of fluids.
  • Losing up to 10% of body fluids causes headaches, dizziness, and people may be unable to walk and speak clearly. Vision may begin to blur.
  • Loss of up to 15% of body fluids causes severe vision and hearing impairment and makes urination painful. Signs of delirium may occur.
  • Loss of more than 15% of body fluids usually causes death.

As Outdoor Life magazine points out, many people believe in some stupid myths about what to do when dehydrated and in the wilderness. For example, many people think that they should drink their urine if dehydrated – but this is generally a bad idea.

Likewise, eating snow is a bad idea (you should MELT it first, or else you will freeze your body).

Before you go into the wilderness, please learn these smart ways of finding water.


The body can go about 3 weeks without food, but it isn’t the lack of food that will necessarily kill you. It is what hunger will make you do.

If you are starving, you will probably do something reckless, like eating unidentified mushrooms. You could end up eating something very poisonous, which then creates symptoms like diarrhea, which indirectly kills you.

Read about identifying turkey tail mushrooms.

If you are in a wilderness survival situation, do not eat unknown plants without first performing the Universal Edibility Test. Or, better yet, eat bugs for survival. Most are safe to eat and highly nutritious!


Believe it or not, but diarrhea is one of the biggest killers in wilderness survival situations. Consider that diarrhea is the 2nd leading cause of death in children under 5 worldwide, and diarrhea killed 1.26 million people in 2013.

Diarrhea leads to dehydration (which is not something you want in a wilderness survival situation). It causes nutritional deficiencies. And it limits your ability to move.

Read about natural diarrhea remedies.

People often get diarrhea because they drank unpurified water (learn how to purify water without a camping filter here). Even if the water looks clean, it might contain a parasite like Giardia.

Diarrhea can also occur when people eat toxic plants. So, again, don’t eat anything you don’t know and don’t drink unpurified water.

Extreme Cold

It doesn’t have to be snowing or below zero for the cold to kill you. Hypothermia is a condition in which the body’s core temperature drops below 95 degrees F.

Even with mild hypothermia, shivering can be so intense that the person cannot move and function.

Severe hypothermia will cause symptoms like a decrease in blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate. The person becomes incoherent. Organs shut down, and death occurs.

Please learn how to make an emergency shelter before you go into the wilderness. Even a basic shelter could save you from dying from the cold.

There are also some tricks for staying warm at night, like covering yourself with dirt to keep warm and building a fire (which is why you always need a firestarter in your wilderness survival kit).


Got a small cut or burn while in the great outdoors?

This usually isn’t a problem, but it can quickly turn into a nasty infection in a wilderness survival situation.

While the infection might not kill you, it can severely tax your energy reserves and limit your mobility – which in turn could lead to your death.

If you don’t already know, NOW is the time to learn first aid!

Rockfalls, Avalanches, and Landslides

There is little you can do to avoid rockfalls and other terrain disasters. But do follow smart camping practices – like not putting your tent next to a sheer cliff that a boulder could tumble off of at any moment.

Don’t put your tent where there are boulders from rockfalls!


Large animals like bears and wolves are dangerous in the wild, but they have mostly learned that people should be avoided. Consider that there has only been ONE deadly wolf attack in America since 2000 – and that occurred in Alaska.

In the 2000s, there were 12 fatal bear incidences in America (3 of which were in Alaska).

By comparison, consider an estimated 5-8 thousand bites from venomous snakes each year, and they cause 5 deaths each year. (Source: Backpacker)

Depending on where you are in the wilderness, I’d be more scared of the small animals than the big beasts. Some of the most dangerous animals in North America include:

  • Rattlesnakes
  • Coral snakes
  • Copperhead snakes
  • Cottonmouth snakes
  • Scorpions
  • Black widow spider
  • Brown recluse spider
  • Bees (because of allergic reactions, they kill about 40 people each year!)

That doesn’t mean you should dismiss the real risk of encountering a bear or other large animal in the wilderness. Be smart and do things like keep food out of your tent, hang food in a bear bag, and learn what to do if you encounter a wild animal.


And, finally, the biggest threat to wilderness survival is pure stupidity. I am always amazed at how many people do downright dumb things – like go for a “walk” in the wilderness without basic gear like a map (seriously, you can’t rely on GPS!), water, and matches.

Man might be at the top of the food chain and has achieved some pretty amazing things, like inventing the internet. But, remember, in the wilderness, we are nothing more than another animal. Abide by the rules of nature because your humanity isn’t going to save you from being killed!

What are you most afraid of in the wilderness? Let us know in the comments.

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