Survival Foods In the Wilderness

Steven Gillman

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It is good to know what survival foods are out there. Although such knowledge can save the lives of lost backpackers and hikers, it isn't likely. Most survival situations are short-term, and the primary concerns are shelter and water. Knowing how to readily obtain food too, however, is a great psychological comfort, and can help maintain a sense of calm and a clear mind. These can be important to survival.

There are several basic categories of survival foods in the wilderness. Which ones you'll want to use depends on where you are and what tools you have. Here are the foods most likely available. (Note: With the exception of the berries, you should reserve most of these foods for true emergencies. )

Wild Berries

This is the easiest survival foods to obtain. If it is the right time of year, you can often find several different edible berries to choose from. If it looks and tastes like a blueberry, strawberry or raspberry, it is. Others you may want to learn to identify include wild currants, service berries (also known as june berries), bearberries, wintergreen berries, bunchberries, wild cherries, thimbleberries, blackberries, cranberries, and rose hips (the fruit of wild roses).

Fish And Other Foods From Water

All freshwater fish in North America are safe to eat. Sometimes you can catch fish with your bare hands. Try waiting where they swim by, and quickly pinning them to the bottom with your hand. (I have caught 30 or 40 small fish in an hour or two in this way. ) You can sometimes chase fish into shallow water and trap them as well. If you can fashion line and a hook from items you have, use worms or grasshoppers for bait.

Often it is easier to obtain other survival foods from lakes and streams. Shell fish, like mollusks or clams can often just be picked up (boil or cook them over a fire). Crayfish can be found crawling around on the bottom of lakes and streams, as well as hiding under rocks and logs in the water. The only part with any usable quantity of meat is the tail, but they are delicious.

Insects And Other Bugs

Not all insects are safe to eat. To be safe, stick with grasshoppers and wood grubs. The former can be caught by hand in many grassy areas. The latter are found by breaking open rotten logs. Cook both of these before eating. Remove legs and wings from grasshoppers.


It is difficult to capture or kill most birds without a gun. Survival weapons like a bola can be used, but unless you have previously practiced using them, it is unlikely you'll have much success. There are some that nest on the ground, though, such as ptarmigan or grouse, which can possibly be taken with a well-aimed rock. Since they often return to the same place, you may get more than one chance. Eggs from ground-nesting birds are also a good survival food (cook them).

Larger Animals

Without weapons it is very difficult to kill most mammals. Even with spears and other survival weapons it isn't likely that you'll have much luck, unless you have previously practiced using these. Don't waste time trying until all your other needs (shelter, water, signal fire) are met. There is one animal you can kill with a rock or large stick, however: the porcupine. Be careful of the sharp quills, cutting and cleaning them from the underside. These animals are slow (and tasty), making them one of the better survival foods.

Copyright Steve Gillman. To get the ebook "Ultralight Backpacking Secrets (And Wilderness Survival Tips)" for FREE, as well as photos, gear recommendations, and a new wilderness survival section, visit: The Ultralight Backpacking Site:


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