How to survive in the wild with nothing

make fire without matches
Written by team

The wilderness is a dangerous place where it is easy to get lost. Let’s say you’re stuck in the woods with nothing but casual city clothes. In this consideration, the question arises: How to survive with nothing?

make fire without matches

The answer is not surprising: simply having the knowledge and skills gives you a decent chance of survival. You can live long enough if you are good with your environment and have the skills to use the domain to your advantage. But there are things you should understand right now.

Surviving without special equipment makes everything more complicated. You can do this if you take care of your basic needs immediately. But here’s the catch – your needs should be prioritized based on the type of hostile environment you’re facing. Here is the gist of it.

How to survive in the wild based on the environment

If you work hard, you have a good chance of surviving, provided that you choose the right strategy for staying in the environment where you find yourself. Our approach will be based on how the environment affects us and our needs:

  • Warmth – You need to keep your body warm.
  • Water – Find a source of clean water.
  • Safety – avoid wild animals and predators.
  • Food – You need food to keep your energy levels up.

Each territory is different and will affect your needs in so many ways. One short trip across the sun-scorched desert will leave you completely dehydrated, and you could die from heatstroke if you don’t find a more relaxed place in the shade.

On the other hand, in a temperate forest, temperatures drop drastically at night, so you’d better find shelter or risk freezing to death.

How about dense green mangroves? You don’t have to bother about hypothermia or dehydration, but dangerous predators lurk in an ambush that will gladly bite you. In such an issue, it is better to make a weapon and pay attention to every slight rustle.

Basic knowledge of the environment is your greatest asset, even when you are entirely alone and defenseless. Knowledge is your biggest ally. And people survived in the wild with nothing for most of our history, but they lived in harmony with the environment.

temperate forests

Making shelter is your priority. The most significant danger is hypothermia, whether you stay still or on the move. At night, even in summer, temperatures can drop dramatically. And if it drops below five ºС, you will have no more than 3 hours to find a source of heat.

Once you have shelter, make sure you drink enough water. Many forests have edible nuts and berries, so eating them shouldn’t be a big deal.


Deserts are very unfriendly to life! Hot, scorching deserts like the Death Valley or Sahara in the US will dry you out and roast you in minutes unless you find some shade and water source. Water is almost impossible to find, so you have little chance of surviving.

If you stay in the Sun, you will suffer from heat stroke. But if you hide in the shadows, you can survive. Of course, the next most significant danger is dehydration and low temperatures. Even if deserts are red-hot during the day, nighttime temperatures can drop below zero. So, you will need to find shelter to keep warm and find water. Both can be challenging in such an area without trees or rivers.


In such terrain, it is almost impossible to move in a straight line with its intersecting rivers, lakes, and trees. Finding clean water is very difficult. You will need to stay safe, especially in the darkness. So, make some spontaneous weapons like a spear. Use the leaves to collect fresh rainwater, which is best for drinking. The cover is essential: it saves you from wild animals and insects (they are more possible to attack you in the open). And you have a safe location to sleep and shelter from the rain.

How do you survive with nothing in the forest?

First, forests are much more hospitable to humans than deserts, swamps, and mountains. The temperature fluctuates in a smaller range between day and night.

Although forests tend to cool down considerably at night, they are full of resources such as wood and leaves, so you can make a little shelter to hide for the night. There are not many dangerous predators here.

Most forests abound in nutritious food and game. For the most part, streams and rivers have a lot of clean drinking water, which enriches the forest landscape.

Practical steps for survival with nothing

  1. First, stop panicking and look around the area. What time of day is it now? Are there any notable geographic features that can tell where you are? Should you stay and wait or should you find another place?
  2. If it is getting dark, you must find a warm shelter for the night. The same will happen if it rains. Find as many branches as possible and build a shelter under a fallen tree, in a hole or in a cave, on the ground. Find leaves to cover the cover, at least partially.
  3. Optional: Build a small fire. If you do not have a fire source, follow the recommendations in the article “How to light a fire without matches. Your campfire will need it. Do not grab only the leaves. They quickly burn out. Wood is optimal because it burns longer and gives more heat.
  4. The next day: Look for water. There must be streams, especially around the mountain. Use the leaves to collect rainwater. Gravity affects water, so the lower you go, the more likely you are to find water.
  5. Worry about food later. You can fast for a day without losing too much energy due to a lack of food. People can go a month without food, so don’t put it above heat and water.

Finding cover and keeping your body warm is the key to surviving in the forest. Of course, you can live there forever, so what’s the backup plan? Is anyone looking for you? Does anyone know where to look? Do you move or wait and report your whereabouts?

How long can you live alone without anything at all?

Indefinitely, if you have the skills and knowledge and are willing to make survival a priority every day, forests provide a decent habitat, and many tribes live and thrive to this day in these wild places. Of course, if you are alone, your chances of success decrease dramatically, even in the most hospitable regions. Most city dwellers die within 24-48 hours of getting lost in the forest. Hypothermia is the leading cause of death. An ordinary city dweller has no idea what to do in the first place in a natural environment. Not to mention how to survive in the wild without anything.

Hot and cold deserts are the most unfriendly. Death is expected within hours due to heatstroke and severe hypothermia.

Mountainous areas are also dangerous. You won’t last a few days if you find shelter. An experienced survivalist who knows what he is doing can live for many years in such conditions. Such people always carry weapons, a bow, and a spear, to repel dangerous predators’ attacks.

How do you survive without shelter?

At low temperatures, a person can live no more than 3 hours. At night and when the temperatures begin to drop, you will lose more and more body heat.

Maintaining body temperature should be your priority in a survival environment. Since this post is about surviving in the wild with nothing, it’s safe to assume you won’t have a thick duvet to wrap yourself in! The shelter is the second most important thing, even if it’s poorly done.

If you cannot keep warm, your body temperature will drop, and you will develop fatal symptoms leading to cardiac arrest. The human body must maintain a temperature within 5 degrees of normal.

Shelter protects from the scorching Sun and scalding frost. It protects you from influences such as hypothermia, insect bites, predators, and bad weather.

How long can you live without food, water, and warmth?

Without heat, you will barely last 3 hours until your body stops functioning. You pass out and die of cardiac arrest, eventually suffocating. That’s what hypothermia is: the quick, painless way.

On the other hand, if you wander through the desert at noon, when the temperature is very high, it will be no less pleasant. If you don’t find shade, your body will overheat and start to cool down. This means dehydration. But even this will not lower your core temperature, and you will faint due to hyperthermia, lose consciousness and die in the desert.

Without water, your body can live much longer, up to three days. But if you don’t find something to drink, your body will become dehydrated, and the debilitating effect of dehydration will start to tire you out. Eventually, you will be too weak to move and look for water.

Your body’s rate of dehydration depends on environmental conditions. Hot, dry areas increase the rate at which you lose fluids. You will experience the devastating effects of dehydration much sooner in a hot desert than in a dense, cool, humid forest.

Food should be your most minor concern. You can go for a whole month without food. According to some studies from the 1950s, you can even reduce the effect of calorie restriction if you eat at certain times. When you don’t have much food at your disposal, don’t eat during the day. Instead, cut your food intake for a few hours. Your body will burn fat instead of craving food.


While it’s possible to survive in the wild with nothing, I strongly recommend that you prepare. And practically, with tools, food, and water. But especially mentally, knowing about the environment you will encounter will make your survival much more accessible.

So before you pack your bags, research and understand what you need to do in every possible scenario. Preparation beats improvisation!

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