How to survive in the jungle? Lessons learned from training and experience.

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The jungle is a complex and challenging environment that can be difficult to navigate, especially for those who are not prepared. The thick vegetation, high humidity, and extreme temperatures can make it tough.

Additionally, the jungle is home to a wide range of wildlife, some of which can be dangerous to humans. It’s essential to learn survival skills and prepare adequately before entering the jungle to increase your chances of survival.

Learning skills before entering the jungle is crucial for your safety and well-being. These skills can help you find water and food, build shelter, navigate through the jungle, and deal with the dangers posed by wildlife.

I was lucky enough to go to Panama to the Jungle Operations Training Course when I was in the Army. Special Forces taught all of the tactics, basic survival course, wildlife awareness and a point man course to identify booby traps. This dates me, but it closed in 1999.

I remember thinking, it’s a tough day even with support from the United States and all the training. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to survive in the jungle with no support and no training.

By taking the time to learn these skills, you’ll be better prepared to face the challenges of the jungle and increase your chances of survival.

Food and Water

Importance of clean water for survival-

Did you know that you can only survive for 3-6 days without water? In the jungle, not all water collection points are safe, and you may be forced to improvise water collection methods.

Another major threat in the jungle is the contaminated water sources. Many water sources in the jungle may be contaminated with bacteria and parasites that can make you sick. Drinking untreated water sources can lead to vomiting and diarrhea. You must stay hydrated.

Drinking from a running water source is a great option. And treating it is the absolute best option. Obviously, you won’t have cases of bottled water on you. You’ll be lucky to have a bottle of water.

Drinking water is essential for survival, and finding clean water in the jungle can be a challenge. It’s essential to know how to find and purify water to avoid dehydration and waterborne illnesses. .

Techniques for finding and purifying water in the jungle-

There are several techniques for finding and purifying water in the jungle, including:

  • Solar water machine

You can make distilled drinking water by using a solar water machine that you can make with a plastic sheet, water bottle, a small stone and leaves.

  • Collecting rainwater:

The jungle receives high amounts of rainfall, making it a good source of water. Collect rainwater using a container or a tarp.

  • Finding streams and rivers:

Look for streams and rivers in the jungle but be aware that they may be contaminated. If you have a means to start a fire and a metal container, you can boil water. If you can’t build a fire, use a water filter or purification tablets to make it safe to drink.

  • Rock formations:

Clean and fresh water can also be collected in rock formations however avoid stagnant pools that has remained on the rock for a long.

  • Using plants:

Luckily the jungle has plants like bamboo that can store water in their stalks and large-leafed plants that collect rainfall water. You can access water from the bamboo stalks to allow the collection of water from its compartments. Other plants, such as the vines of the water vine, can be used to extract water.

Identifying and harvesting edible plants and insects in the jungle-

Food gathering in the jungle can also be a challenge. However, there are many edible plants and insects that you can find and eat. It’s important to identify the plants and insects that are safe to eat and those that are poisonous.

Here are a few tips for identifying and harvesting edible plants and insects in the jungle:

  • Research: Before entering the jungle, research the plants and insects that are safe to eat.
  • Look for fruits and nuts: Fruits and nuts from trees are often safe to eat.
  • Avoid brightly colored plants and insects: Bright colors in the jungle often indicate that a plant or insect is poisonous.
  • Cook your food: Cooking can kill bacteria and parasites that may be present in the plants or insects.

No fruits and vegetables? Time to hit the animal trails.

If there are no fruits or edible plants in the jungle, your next course of action should be to ty and trap animals. The very basic strategies for trapping animals include digging a hole in the ground big enough to trap the kind of animals that you want.

You then have to cover the hole with twigs and leaves as a disguise for animals passing over it to fall into the hole in the ground.

Another tried and true technique is setting up snares on an animal trail. It’s a simple way of setting up a lasso over a small trail. You have to know what animals you’re hunting so the placement can be around the height of their head.

source: wikimedia

The best location for any of these traps is on known animal trails. It’s energy consuming and can take a long-time hunting animals. Time is never on your side when just trying to survive.

A deadfall trap is another simple option to gather food. It basically uses weight to kill the unsuspecting animal. When the animal triggers the trap, dead weight falls on it.

image from wikimedia

Proper trap preparation is more efficient than hunting, especially when you lack the right hunting skills. You can only trap small mammals for food, for instance pigs and rabbits which you can kill and skin using your knife.

If you lack a knife you can improvise by finding a sharp stone to use for skinning and cutting the meat.

Another great source of food in the jungle is from the rivers and streams for those that can fish. To fish effectively, one needs to improvise on the fishing tools that they use. You first have to find a long bamboo stalk and build a pronged fishing spear.

Find a rock in the middle of the stream to stand on as you spear about knee-deep water to kill and collect fish. You have to spear the fish to pin it on the river surface before removing it for preparation.

By knowing how to find and purify water, identify edible plants and insects, and hunt and trap animals, you’ll be better equipped to find food and water in the jungle and increase your chances of survival.

Building Shelter

Importance of shelter in the jungle-

In the jungle, shelter is crucial for protection from the elements, such as rain and extreme temperatures, and for safety from wildlife. Building a shelter can also help you conserve energy by reducing the need to regulate your body temperature.

Tips for finding a suitable location to build a shelter-

When choosing a location for your shelter, look for a spot that is dry and free from potential hazards, such as falling branches. You should also consider proximity to water and food sources.

Types of shelters that can be built in the jungle-

There are several types of shelters that can be built, including:

  • Lean-to shelter:

This is a simple shelter that can be built with just a few broken branches and leaves. It provides protection from the rain and wind.

Lean to shelters
  • A-frame shelter:

This type of shelter is sturdier than a lean-to shelter and can be built with more branches and leaves.

Framed shelter
  • Tree shelter:

Building a shelter in a tree can provide added protection from wildlife. A tree shelter can be built by creating a platform between two trees and using branches and palm leaves for cover.

  • Plow point shelter:

If you have a poncho, you can build a plow point shelter.

Any of these shelters can be covered with large leaves, smaller branches or even a rain jacket to keep the rain out of the entire structure.

Navigation In A Jungle Survival Scenario

Importance of knowing how to navigate in the jungle-

Navigation in the jungle can be challenging due to the thick vegetation and lack of clear landmarks. Knowing how to navigate can help you avoid getting lost and increase your chances of finding food, water, and shelter.

Tips for using the sun, stars, and natural landmarks for navigation-

The sun, stars, and natural landmarks can be used for navigation in the jungle but can be difficult with the dense canopy. For example, the direction of the sun can help you determine east and west.

The North Star can be used to find north. Natural landmarks such as mountains, rivers, and valleys can also be used to help you navigate.

How to use a compass and map to navigate in the jungle-

Carrying a compass and map can be helpful for navigation in the jungle. Before entering the jungle, make sure you know how to use a compass and read a map. Knowing the area where you’ll be operating, or flight path can be helpful in identifying your panic azimuth.

Dealing with Wild Animals

Importance of understanding the dangers posed by wildlife in the jungle-

The jungle is home to a wide range of wildlife, including animals that can be dangerous to humans. Understanding the dangers posed by wildlife can help you avoid dangerous encounters and increase your chances of survival.

Tips for avoiding dangerous animals-

To avoid dangerous animals, make noise while walking to alert animals to your presence. Avoid walking at night when many animals are active. Be aware of your surroundings and be on the lookout for signs of animal activity, such as animal trails or droppings.

Snakes are plentiful in the rain forests. You have to take extreme caution moving through vegetation. You’ll have to avoid snake bites at all costs.

Fur de lance viper in Panama jungle

How to defend yourself if you encounter a dangerous animal-

If you encounter a dangerous animal, remain calm and do not run. Slowly back away while keeping the animal in sight. If the animal charges, use a stick or sharp rock to defend yourself. If attacked, aim for the eyes, nose, or throat of the animal.

Three overlooked dangers to watch out for

There are several threats that you are exposed to while in the jungle which you ought to be alert of. Besides wildlife, plants can tear you up. Obviously, plants are different from one location to another.

Trees and vegetation-

In Panama, the black palm tore a lot of us up. It’s essentially a palm tree with long slender spikes that are super strong head on yet easily break off when brushed from the side. Any scratches, cuts and the like have the potential to cause infection. Bacteria is everywhere in the jungle.

Local bad actors-

Depending on where you are trying to survive, will depend on the local people. Not all people in the region will be good. There are rebel forces, drug cartels, tribes and traffickers that use the jungle trails as open highways. Be extremely careful when approaching groups. You’ll be better off to recon and observe them for a while before approaching.

Bad actors in the jungle

Slippery terrain-

Slippery rocks are yet another problem you will experience, especially when fishing or when you cross rivers. Before passing any river, ensure you determine the depth and only choose the areas with shallow water for your crossing to mitigate any possibility of drowning or slipping and injuring yourself.

Tips to avoid dangers in the jungle

Adapting to the limitless dangers of the jungle is not easy especially when you have never been exposed to this environment before. Here are some of the safety tips you will need when living in the jungle.

Use sticks for balancing when crossing rivers as they improve your stability and help you determine the depth of the river. Be careful where you step since the stones on the river can be very slippery and could cause injuries in case you fall.

Always have a weapon to protect yourself while in the jungle from predatory animals that you may encounter. Sharpened bamboo sticks are perfect weapons in the jungle and can protect you against dangerous cats in the forest like jaguars and other animals.

There are also smaller animals like snakes that you must watch out for and protect yourself against depending on the jungle you are in.

When planning for your jungle camping trip, have mosquito repellent to apply on your skin as it mitigates the attacks from mosquitoes which are one of your biggest threats in the jungle.

Wear long sleeved shirts and cover the head, neck, and any exposed skin to survive the intense mosquitos that will be in the jungle you are in.

If you have the room, we strongly recommend taking a mosquito net to avoid bites. I used them in both Panama and Haiti. I couldn’t have lived without it.

You do not want to be suffering from malaria, yellow fever, and dengue fever in the jungle far from health facilities.

What if you get lost in the jungle?

It is possible that amid your exploration, hunting, or fishing trip to get lost in the jungle. It could even be caused due to a plane crash or other survival situation.

You have to remain calm and composed if you are to find your way back to the camp. If rescue party is a possibility, find an open ground where you can lie down or leave a clue for help using sticks and stones to be seen from above.

You can also try and remember the landmarks on your way as you walked through the jungle to help you find your way back. One of the common landmarks to use includes hills, mountains, and streams.

To find a settlement, follow the streams or rivers that flow down the gradient of the forest. You can also retrace your footprints in the forest to give you a clue and direction on where you should return to.

You should also keep on walking in the same direction using landmarks like streams and rivers as your guide to avoid getting lost or easily retracing your steps back to where the camp is.

This prevents you from walking around in circles in the jungle a situation that could lead you deep into the heart of the jungle where rescue parties won’t find you.

If you’re absolutely lost, it may be best to sit tight in an open area until rescue arrives.


Final thoughts on how to survive in the jungle-

Surviving in the jungle can be a challenging and dangerous task, but by learning survival skills and taking the proper precautions, you can increase your chances of making it out safely. In this blog post, we discussed the importance of finding food and water, building shelter, navigation, and dealing with wildlife.

Before entering the jungle, it’s essential to practice and prepare. Take the time to learn survival skills, such as how to find food and water, build shelter, and navigate through the jungle. By practicing these skills, you’ll be better prepared to face the challenges of the jungle.

Survival skills are essential for anyone planning to enter the jungle. Knowing how to find food and water, build shelter, navigate, and deal with wildlife can mean the difference between life and death. By practicing and preparing, you’ll be able to face the challenges of the jungle with confidence and increase your chances of survival.

Remember, the jungle can be a dangerous place, so always prioritize safety and take the necessary precautions before entering. With the right preparation, skills, and mindset, you can successfully navigate and survive in the jungle.

If we’ve left something out or you’ve been there and done that, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave us a comment below.

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