How Long Would You Survive?

Did you ever want to run away from home? Did you pack a bag? If you had to go off-grid, how long would you survive on what you packed?

Perhaps you were six-years-old, packed your toys, and really didn’t plan to survive off-grid—you planned to walk to grandma’s house. Or you might have been thirteen and tired of sharing with your older brother or sister, so you packed a little more aware of what you needed to survive. But how long would you survive on what you packed? 

My protagonist and his siblings in Fellowship must run for their lives. They escape to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with little more than what’s on their back. They use evasion and survival skills but the mountains aren’t very forgiving. Will they survive?

Today’s internet and reality TV may make you think you know how to survive in that kind of a situation, but do you really?

Image of a man on the rocky shore of a river running through a valley between pine covered mountains. How long would you survive?

Survival Quiz

Here’s a quick quiz to test your knowledge. No cheating. Answer to the best of your ability without looking up the answer or reading ahead.

  1. How long can a healthy adult live without water?
  2. List four different ways to find water.
  3. Name three symptoms of dehydration.
  4. What is the one thing you must do to all found water before you drink it?
  5. How long can you live without food?
  6. What the best source of protein when you’re stranded in the woods?
  7. List four ways to be sure you stay warm when stranded in the woods.
  8. When preparing to sleep in the woods, what’s the first thing you should do?
  9. What should you pack in a first aid kit?
  10. List two ways to determine which direction is north.

Bonus Question: What five tools would be priority survival items to take with you?

Image of traveller carrying a bag--is he or she ready? How long would you survive on what you packed?

The Answers


Excess heat, excess exertion, and excess salt intake can alter a person’s need for water. Generally, a healthy adult can survive for three days without water. But symptoms of dehydration will set in and create dangerous situations.

How to Find Water

The first is to listen for running water. Hopefully, there’s a creek nearby. If there isn’t, no worries. 

First thing in the morning, collect dew draw a shirt through wet foliage then wring out your shirt into your mouth or a container. 

If you’re at a lower elevation you can dig for water. If you’re in the mountains remember water travels downhill. Travel parallel to the mountain, you should come across a stream or creek. 

Follow ants up a tree. They usually have a source of water in one of the nooks and crannies. 

Make a solar still. You can find directions here.

Symptoms of Dehydration

  • Thirst. Sometimes we confuse thirst for hunger. 
  • Dry mouth.
  • Dry, cool skin to very dry skin.
  • Not urinating much to not urinating at all.
  • Dark yellow pee.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle cramps.
  • Fatigue to sleepiness, confusion, or irritability.
  • Dizziness.
  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Sunken eyes.
  • Fainting.

What You Must Do to Found Water

Rain or creek water may look pure, but it’s not. Always purify found water before you drink it. You can learn ways to purify water here.

How Long Without Food

A healthy adult can survive three weeks without food. Your body goes into starvation mode 24-36 hours after your last meal. To help you survive, your body slows your metabolism and the functioning of the rest of your body. You’re fatigued and tire easily. You start losing your hair. Sleep issues, irritability, and feeling cold all the time are also symptoms of starvation. 

The Best Source of Protein

Insects. Mealworms and crickets and grasshoppers are the best. Many others are edible, too. Remove the head, wings, and legs and eat the rest. 

Insects with bright colors or strong odors could be dangerous. 

Wild game is difficult to catch, especially if you’ve never done it before. 

Fish are a good source of protein if you’re near water. But 100 grams of mealworms actually have more protein than 100 grams of salmon.

Stay Warm

Besides appropriate clothing, shelter is the number one thing you’ll need to stay warm. A lean-to of deadfall packed with mud and leaves to stop the wind and deflect rain is a priority.

Build a campfire is the second way to stay warm. But if you don’t have matches there are other ways to build a fire.  

Wear a warm hat. You packed that, didn’t you?

If you have a survival bug-out bag, you’ll have an emergency blanket. 

A waist-high pile of leaves and pine needles will keep you warm.

Stuff your clothes with pine needles and leaves to keep your body heat in.

Prepare to Sleep

Don’t sleep on the ground. At 52 degrees, it will reduce your body temperature. Prepare a mound of pine needles and leaves, or make a platform from deadfall to sleep on.

Your Basic First Aid Kit 

  • A first aid manual.
  • Medical adhesive tape.
  • Insect bite treatment.
  • Butterfly bandaids or adhesive wound closure strips.
  • Blister treatment.
  • Ibuprofen or other pain reliever.
  • Gauze pads.
  • Antiseptic wipes.
  • Antibacterial ointment.
  • Antihistamine.
  • Nonstick sterile pads.
  • Assorted adhesive bandages.
  • Tweezers.

Determining Which Way is North

Number one is to use a compass. You didn’t pack it?

Know how to identify the north star.

Moss grows on the shady side of the tree, which is the north side (in the northern hemisphere). Find a tree in the sun, see which side the moss grows on.

BONUS Priority Survival Tools

  • Steel and flint or a striker. Not just a lighter in case it fails or runs out of butane.
  • A survival knife.
  • A whistle (for summoning help)
  • Compass.
  • Cord.
  • A signal mirror.
  • A bow saw.
  • Water carrying device.
  • Water purification system.

How Did You Do?

Did you have answers I don’t have listed?

I know the answers but I have no practice at most of those skills.  How long would I survive? Not long… How long would you survive?


  1. Looks like I’d do pretty good. I don’t have a lot of hands on, but I’ve studied a lot and married an eagle scout. I’ve also raised two of them.

    I have an odd fascination for living off the grid, especially given that I’m a geek. I’ve also developed basic skills in hand work, crafting, and even hunting. I’d likely poison myself on a bug early on or fall off a cliff… But there’s a chance I could make it.

    I’ve tended to collect not only survival equipment, but also devices like a spinning wheel that would provide for long term needs. Weird hobbies.

    1. Fascinating, Deleyna. Having so many scouts in the family would be extremely useful. And a spinning wheel would be invaluable(of course, I’d have to learn how to do a lot of things before I could use it). I think there’s a good chance you’d make it.

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