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?

Help Me Help Prevent Sexual Assault

It’s my birthday! It is appropriate that today I share information about the two organizations that are most important to me. One is a national organization that works on a large scale. The other is a local organization that gave me a stage upon which I could speak my truth at a time when that truth was raw and difficult. These organizations provide much-needed services to survivors of sexual assault. Will you help me help prevent sexual assault?

Every 98 seconds,

another person experiences sexual assault.

Survivors of sexual assault are of all genders, races, religious affiliations, nationalities, and ages. Sexual violence includes child sexual abuse, rape, intimate partner sexual violence, and other crimes.

Every 8 minutes a child is sexually assaulted in the U.S.

93 percent know their abuser.


These statistics are from RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). It is the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the U.S. According to their website They have helped more than 2.7 million people since 1994. Think about that. They have helped more than 112,000 people per year for 24 years!

RAINN operates a phone line and an online chat 24/7 for anyone who needs help because of sexual violence. The organization partners with 1000 local sexual assault service providers. They carry out programs to prevent sexual violence, help survivors, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. 95 cents of every dollar given goes directly to their programs and services. See this page to know how your donation helps. 

They offer many ways to give. Please visit their donation page here.

RAINN wasn’t around when I struggled to deal with my nightmares and panic attacks. I don’t care whether you call what I experienced repressed memories, false memories, or dissociative amnesia. (Read a balanced discussion of how memories of trauma can work. ). I don’t worry anymore about the details of who did what. I know something did happen when I was very young. That something was sexual, traumatic, and life-changing.


My struggle sent me to therapists and they connected me with a local organization, MOCSA  (Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault). At the time I used MOCSA briefly and then ignored them. But, being able to sit on the MOCSA supported stage and tell my story made a huge impact on me. It was the beginning of me getting my life back together.

If you’re a survivor of sexual assault I want you to know that recovery is possible. Strength afterward is possible. Alone it’s nearly impossible. With the help of services from organizations like MOCSA or RAINN, it’s hard and sometimes feels downright impossible. You can do it. It doesn’t mean that you’ll be “normal” whatever that is, but you can get to the other side. The other side is where you can enjoy the beauty, the peace, and the joy in your life. It’s there, waiting for you.

The RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline is free, confidential, and available 24/7.

Call 800-656-4673

I want to repay MOCSA by paying forward for someone else. Won’t you help me help prevent sexual assault? Your donation will also help a survivor recover. You can donate here or on Facebook. If you’d rather not donate to my local organization, feel free to donate to RAINN. Either way, your donation helps prevent or helps someone recover from sexual assault. Anyone who comments here with a copy or screen shot of their receipt for their donation (black out the amount–it’s not how much you give–it’s that you gave something) between now and December 31, 2018 will receive a free copy of the ebook version of My Soul to Keep in appreciation of your time and support.