Surviving 72 Hours in the Forest Alone (CHALLENGE & EXPERIMENT)
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Surviving 72 Hours in the Forest Alone (CHALLENGE & EXPERIMENT)


You’ve seen him take on the hottest pepper
in the world- or at least the hottest we could conveniently get shipped in the mail. You’ve seen him survive three days homeless
on the streets of Los Angeles. You’ve seen him live for twenty four hours
trapped in a bathtub and give a poor delivery driver trust issues. Now we’re turning over our fourth-from-the-bottom
most important writer to you, the fans, and leaving him to your mercies. Today we’re putting him in a survival challenge
situation that comes straight from the viewers: 72 hours alone in the forest. Ok before I get into my experiences with this
challenge I just want to be up front and state that this might be my last challenge episode. The infographics show pays me well for the
sometimes-dangerous situations I get myself into, but after this challenge I have had
to step back and really think about if I want to continue with these challenges. As you’ll find out, I ran into some serious
trouble out there and things could have gone bad multiple times, and I think I just need
to re-evaluate things going forward. Unfortunately I lost my journal during one
of these incidents, so I’ll have to work from memory on re-telling my wilderness survival
experience. When I first got the challenge I was kind
of excited, truth be told one of the reasons I do these challenges is because I like pushing
my limits. I hate sitting at home being comfortable all
the time, which might sound weird but I guess I’ve accepted that that’s just who I am. It definitely drives the girlfriend crazy
who would prefer I live a perfectly safe, normal life. Three days and nights alone in the forest,
and not just the backyard woods, we’re talking real forest. For this challenge I actually went up to NorCal,
because SoCal isn’t so well known for forests. Plus we’re entering fall which means that
the few mountain forests that there are here are going to get very, very cold and possibly
even snowed on- which would very quickly make this challenge extremely dangerous. For a solo challenge with no support, I’m
not willing to risk it. I went up north enough to hit the rainforests
of the pacific northwest- the show’s lawyers have warned that we shouldn’t give out any
specific locations so that nobody is crazy enough to try to go up there and repeat our
experiment. This is also a perfect opportunity to state
the obvious- don’t do this. Seriously, don’t. I know it sounds easy to do some silly challenge,
but the fact is that wilderness survival is pretty serious business. I have training courtesy of the US military
on how to survive in various wilderness environments, and years of experience putting that knowledge
to the real-world test in very stressful situations. You may think you’re ready from watching a
bunch of youtube prepper videos, but believe me you’re not. This isn’t some weird flex, it would honestly
devastate me to find out a fan decided to go out there and try this for real and got
themselves hurt or worse. If you’re interested in survival, take some
local classes or join the boy scouts. Get out there into the woods in a supervised
environment and build the fundamentals. Matter of fact, I recommend it to everyone-
you never know when some basic survival skills will come in handy. Now, back to the challenge. So for this challenge I will have only a survival
knife, which by the way is not a fancy leatherman or anything like that. It is literally a folding knife and that’s
about it, though it is pretty wicked sharp. It has a reinforced grip and the bottom of
the grip is blunted so that you can use it to smash things but that’s about all the utility
you’re getting out of it. I’ll also have the clothes I wear, which will
be underwear, thermal underwear, hiking pants, t-shirt, sweat-shirt, and poncho. Sadly, I can only take the socks I get to
wear- do not underestimate the necessity of fresh socks in a survival situation, the moment
your feet go bad your odds of survival plummet dramatically. That’s about it- except for four packets of
energy gel, a map of the local area, and a compass. The energy gel is for emergencies only, and
the map and compass so that I can navigate my way back to my pick-up at the end of three
days. I am going to only briefly peruse the map
so I’m oriented before heading in, but I will be scouting out the wilderness myself to find
sources of water and food. No cheating by pinpointing the location of
lakes, rivers, or anything like that beforehand. I originally wanted to take a crew member
with me to document things as I thought it might be fun for you guys to see more than
just animation, but sadly hiring out professional crew is pretty expensive, and then there’s
union concerns over the nature of this challenge as well as insurance which adds up to a pretty
whopping figure. Basically, until The Infographics is a tv
show, I would count this possibility out. You know what to do fans, start writing to
the big tv studios. I got dropped off at five in the morning on
my first day by friends I have from my time in the military who live in the local area. We mapped out a general area which I would
try to stay inside by using some easily identifiable boundaries such as a set of cliffs and a river,
and then picked three different rendezvous locations for pick-up. This way if I got injured there would always
be a pick-up location nearby that I could get to no matter where within the area I wandered. Also it would give any search and rescue party
places to start their efforts at. Planning is extremely important for wilderness
survival. When you’re in a survival situation you have
to immediately prioritize and then work on your needs in order of priority. My first need was to find water, as I could
easily survive the three days with no food but would get into trouble really fast if
I couldn’t find drinkable water. I’m near the coast but hopefully everyone
watching knows that drinking seawater is an absolute no-go. One big benefit though is that early in the
morning mist blows in off the sea and saturates trees and bushes with water droplets. My problem was that I had no container to
store water in, so I decided to take a risk and take off my poncho to turn that into a
makeshift water bag. When you’re in the wilderness, staying dry
is very important because being wet can very quickly lead to hypothermia even if the outside
temperature is not that cold. Water is really good at leeching heat from
your body into the environment, so it’s important to stay dry as much as you can. However being wet is also a really good way
for bacterial and fungal infections to take hold, and can absolutely devastate your feet. Once more, if your feet go bad your odds of
survival fall dramatically. Go image search trench foot and you’ll see
why it’s important to stay dry- just make sure you do it on an empty stomach. I gathered the corners of my poncho to turn
it into a makeshift bag, and then I took my t-shirt off while putting back on my sweatshirt,
and used the t-shirt to wick up moisture off tall grasses and tree leaves. Then it was as simple as ringing out the water
into my poncho bag and pretty soon I had a decent amount of water stored up. Enough that I felt safe looking for a more
permanent solution. With water temporarily taken care of, I started
looking for a place I could set up long-term. If you can find a cave, that’s the most ideal
place to take shelter, though you have to worry about animals who are thinking the same
thing- and this typically means mountain lions and bears here in the US. I was too far from the mountains in the distance
to risk trying to find a cave, so I decided I could pretty easily build a lean-to shelter
from all the fallen tree branches and dead leaves. Location though is important, so I surveyed
my environment to figure out where to build my shelter. I was very near the coast, probably only two
or three miles from the beach, and the terrain sloped slowly upwards to the distant mountains
to my east. There was another stretch of mountains north
of me, which told me that I was in a very broad valley, and that’s very good news- because
if I followed parallel to the coast line the odds of finding a small stream or full-blown
river were really good- all that mountain snow has to run off somewhere, and it would
either pool into lakes between the sea and the mountain cul-de-sac I was in, or it would
run as streams. I hiked for a few hours as the sun started
to rise and evaporate all of the mist. If you’re relying on condensation from mist
for water, you want to collect it very early in the morning because as soon as the sun
rises it’s going to start evaporating. Shortly before noon I hit a small creek winding
its way through the middle of the woods, exactly as I had predicted, so I decided to set up
shop near it. You might be tempted to build your shelter
right there next to the water, but that can be a bad idea for several reasons. First of all, heavy rain or other events further
upstream could cause the water level to suddenly rise, which could wash away your shelter. Second, animals like water too, including
predators. It’s important to note though that even herbivores
can be very dangerous, and yes, deer can and have killed people before. I decided I’d build my lean-to about twenty
minutes from the water, and got ridiculously lucky when I found a large overturned tree
that had collapsed onto another tree. With the two trees acting as wall and roof,
I simply got to work sawing off large branches and laying them over both trees. Then I covered the leafy branches with dead
leaves and bunches of grass, covered that in turn with a layer of dirt, and once more
another layer of leafy branches and grass. Thankfully there were plenty of bushes around
and by the end of it I had a pretty decent little lean-to built. Even better, I found a bunch of grubs in the
dead wood, and as long as you avoid the nasty little pincers some of them have, they make
for a great snack. Grubs may be gross, but they’re jam-packed
with protein and fat. Generally, the grosser an insect looks to
you, the better it is to eat. The only bugs you should avoid are any with
a hard shell such as roaches or grasshoppers, you should eat those only if you’ve roasted
them in a fire because of parasites. You can still get parasites from plenty of
other things, but you always want to mitigate your odds of danger as much as possible. Survival is risky business, plain and simple. I decided that the next thing I needed was
tools, and the very first thing I needed was something for self-defense. This being fall, the odds of running into
a bear were lower than normal, but because most bears would be looking for a place to
hibernate by now, this leaves only the bears who didn’t pack on as many pounds and were
desperately trying to add weight. These bears are far more dangerous than they
normally would be- and this fact would come into play very soon. I decided I’d use the knife to make a spear,
and hunted around for a long, decently thick branch I could use. It took a bit of time but I managed to find
a nice hardwood branch with good length on it, but instead of sharpening the tip into
a point, I decided that the branch was stiff enough to simply split the top of it in a
cross-shape. In an emergency, I could jam the open knife
into the tip deep enough to stay firmly secure and I would have myself a pretty efficient
and deadly spear- far deadlier than a sharpened stick. It would probably only last a few jabs into
a big animal, but that should be more than enough to drive it back. Next I set about working on a way to contain
and transport water. Notice again that I’m more worried about water
than food, I really can’t stress enough how important water is. This being a pacific northwest rain forest,
I knew I couldn’t rely on the poncho forever as I would eventually need it to stay dry
myself. I tried finding discarded tree bark hoping
I could fashion a few pieces of bark into a rough bowl shape, but I actually got even
luckier than that- I found a white plastic bag. Normally I hate people who litter, but in
this case it ended up being exactly what I needed. Though you still shouldn’t litter. Water is good, but water safety is also very
important, so next I worked on a way to help make the water from the creek safe to drink. I found tree bark which I could rip off, and
I managed to get a large, curved piece which I could bend just slightly into a very shallow
bowl shape. It wouldn’t hold much water, and I’d be reduced
to basically taking sips at a time, but it was the best I could do. I’d need fire to make the water safe though,
and this proved far more difficult than anything before. It actually took me until just a few hours
before nightfall to get a fire going. Starting a fire with no tools has always been
one of my weak areas, and it didn’t help that most of the wood I could find was pretty humid
thanks to how wet the pacific northwest tends to be. Without tools the best way to start a fire
is to gather some kindling, dry pine needles work like a charm, and a piece of large, soft
wood. You can typically find soft wood in the large
branches of living trees, or just split a very young tree in half. The wood from dead trees is hard, and no good
for this- but it is good for the second thing you need, a stick of very hard wood. Basically, you create a channel down the middle
of the soft wood and put your kindling at the bottom of it. Then with your hard wood stick, you rub it
up and down the channel over and over again. Repeatedly. For hours. Until you finally cause enough friction to
actually light the kindling. Now I’ve seen people do this in just fifteen
minutes, but it took me hours to get it going. Like I said, not my strong suit in the survival
game. Eventually though I had a small fire just
outside my lean-to, and I gathered up some large flat rocks so that I could eventually
cook on them. For now though I had spent my entire day setting
up shelter, building tools, and finding water, so there wouldn’t be much food to eat. Instead I heated up one of the large flat
rocks in the middle of the fire, and then pulled it out with sticks. I immediately placed my make-shift bowl on
the hot rock and filled it with as much water as I could manage- which wasn’t very much,
tree bark makes for terrible bowls. Boiling water was going to be out of the question
without metal tools, but if you can heat water up enough it can destroy harmful bacteria. It is an imperfect solution, but like I said
before, survival comes with risks and your job is to simply mitigate, not negate, those
risks. With a decent little camp set up, I returned
to the creek as the sun started to set, hoping I could score some water critters for dinner. I didn’t want to be away from camp when night
fell so I wouldn’t accidentally get lost, so I didn’t spend much time looking. Sadly the only thing I managed to score was
some edible lichens, which wouldn’t do much to curve my hunger after not eating all day. That’s alright though, because I had water
to drink and that was far more important. Dealing with hunger is easy as long as you’re
hydrated. That night I planned my strategy out for day
two. I had dried my clothing over the fire, and
dried my feet off by holding them close to the fire. Water was nearby and plentiful, and I figured
with only three days out here I could risk getting sick by drinking without treating
the water, because trying to sterilize sips of water at a time just wasn’t going to work
out long-term. I knew I was only a few miles from the coast,
so I planned on following the creek to the beach to find mussels and other edibles- the
coast can be a bonanza of stuff to eat if you don’t mind the gross taste. All in all, my situation was looking pretty
good- I even managed to keep embers going in a small pit inside my lean-to when it started
to rain outside. Then, things took a turn for the weird, and
the very dangerous. I don’t know at what time of night it was,
but I woke up to the sound of, I don’t know. It almost sounded like human screaming, but
more high pitched. The sounds were coming from a few miles away,
and I have to admit- it had me really spooked. I’m pretty familiar with the sounds of the
American wilderness, and this was no screeching owl or bellowing elk or wounded animal of
any kind. The sounds changed between short, high-pitched
screams, and then long, very deep howls. Sometimes they would come from one direction,
and there would be a reply from a completely different direction. I’ve never been around wolves in the wild,
so it might have been a wolf pack for all I know, only I’m pretty sure there are no
known wild wolves in the pacific northwest. The howls and screams came pretty intermittently,
maybe once or twice every ten minutes or so, but it lasted for a long while. I wasn’t going to risk going to sleep with
an unknown animal out there so close by- maybe it was one or two weird, or wounded elk, they
can actually bellow pretty loud. I’ve just never heard them scream in this
style before. Either way, wounded animals are dangerous. It was lucky that I stayed awake, because
at some point- again, hard to tell time without a watch- after the howls and screams settled
down, I heard heavy breathing, grunting, and shuffling in the woods very nearby. I already had my knife wedged into my makeshift
spear shaft, and I honestly felt my blood go ice cold, because I was pretty sure I knew
exactly what was lumbering my way. These were sounds I recognized. A black bear lumbered through the trees, just
a few dozen feet away. I held perfectly still hoping it wouldn’t
decide to investigate my makeshift camp, but it probably spotted my lean-to and though
the same thing I was thinking when I built it: dry shelter in the rain. Sure enough, it started slowly sniffing and
plodding towards me. I had no fire going, just some smoldering
embers in a dirt pit, so trying to scare it away with fire was out of the question. Anybody who’s served in the military is probably
familiar with the OUDA cycle. It stands for Observe, Understand, Decide,
and Act, and it is typically referred to in terms of how to psychologically defeat an
opponent by interrupting their OUDA cycle. Knock one of those steps out of the cycle
and you can cause an enemy to mentally freeze up. It is also however a handy mnemonic device
for dangerous emergency situations, and everyone from pilots to special forces operators typically
train themselves to kickstart their own OUDA cycle in an emergency. The first thing I did was carefully observe
the bear. It was definitely not full-grown, and was
a fair bit on the lean side of things. This meant two things: an inexperienced juvenile
that had not done a very good job of fattening up for winter. On one hand, it could make the bear desperate
for food, and humans make good eating. On the other hand, it was likely weak, and
if it had been so outcompeted for food then it was likely a bit of a pushover. I also tapped into what I know about predatory
animals. They prefer to ambush prey or launch hunts
on their terms- predators are notoriously shy animals and can have very low confidence
when confronted. This is because if a hunt goes awry, they
can suffer an injury, and this could impact their ability to hunt and possibly lead to
starvation. This is why you never run away from a predatory
animal, it’s usually better to simply back away confidently. Running triggers the hunt instinct, because
you confirm to the predator that you are weaker than it and scared. I decided to take a huge gamble, and I ran
out of my lean-to straight at the bear shouting and yelling, thrusting with my spear. All things considered, I was basically trapped
inside the lean-to, and a bear can easily outrun you. It was a risk, but remember what I said about
wilderness survival being risky? The bear immediately reared up on its paws,
which was bad news bears- pun intended- because it meant that it might try to fight back. Luckily for me, yelling and stabbing at the
air in front of it like a wild man did the trick, and the bear lost its nerve and scampered
back. I’ve been in close calls before with wild
animals, but I have definitely never faced off a bear standing on its two hind legs. It is not something I care to ever repeat
again unless I’m packing a .45 on my hip at minimum. The bear lumbered off, but I knew it wasn’t
safe to stay where I was. Any minute the bear could change its mind,
so I packed up what few things I had and immediately took off into the pitch black, rainy woods. Normally you never want to move at night time,
as it’s really easy to lose your bearings. If you have to, use stars above you to pinpoint
a single direction of travel and to stay in a straight line. That way in daylight you can retrace your
steps and reorient yourself from more familiar ground. I walked for about fifteen minutes, and had
to wait out the rainy night under a thick pine. Luckily the rain abetted after a few hours,
but I didn’t get a lick of sleep that whole night. The next morning I made my way back to my
old camp and sure enough, the bear had returned and trashed the place. I made the right call. Luckily, days two and three were far less
eventful. I relocated my shelter to the other side of
the creek, and it didn’t rain for nights two and three. I changed my sleep schedule though to sleep
during the day and stay up at night in case of wandering bear again. Also I won’t lie, those weird howls and screams
had me on edge- specially after my encounter with the bear. On the coast I managed to find edible mussels
pretty easily, and I ate some raw- which I immediately regretted- and then roasted the
rest in their own shells. Mussels are great for energy, but you have
to be careful if you’re low on water because they can add a lot of salt water to your system. If you aren’t peeing regularly, the salt in
your body can add up dangerously. By the way, they taste like mermaid boogers
when you eat them raw. I also managed to find some edible flowering
plants. With flowering plants you want to pluck the
actual flower off, because the sap in the stem can be really bitter and unpleasant. The bud of the flower and the petals though
make for good eating in a pinch, and dandelions typically grow in most places. If you really don’t mind the bitterness, you
can eat the roots of most flowering plants, which are chock full of minerals and nutrients-
though be careful, never eat a flowering plant whose flower is umbrella shaped. Those are poisonous and may not kill you,
but will have your stomach twisted up in knots. Lichens and bugs made up most of the rest
of my meals, grubs were pretty plentiful in rotting logs. I couldn’t remember which mushrooms are edible
and which aren’t, so I stayed away from them- better not to risk them. Also mushrooms don’t actually pack a lot of
energy, so don’t waste time trying to look for them unless you have no other options. Same goes for trying to hunt. Wilderness survival is a numbers crunching
game, and your job is to waste as few calories as possible while gaining the most possible
from what you eat. Hunting can burn a lot of calories, so forget
trying to catch anything larger than a squirrel or a rabbit- and even then only go after them
if you can make some rough traps and snares, or happen to find a burrow or warden. I made it through my three days pretty alright,
though very much on the hungry side. My encounter with the bear though definitely
left me a bit shaken, that was a very serious situation which could have gone very badly. The girlfriend wasn’t happy to hear about
it, and we both talked for a long time about these challenges- they have definitely started
to ramp up in risk, and I guess I have to think about if I really want to keep taking
some of the risks I do. I love reading some of the feedback from you
guys, and I’m happy that they are entertaining and sometimes even enlightening, but I guess
this whole bear experience is just making me reconsider. I’m not saying that I’m never going to do
a challenge again, but I feel I just have to give it some thought. At the very least, I need a raise. Have you ever been stuck in a survival situation? What wilderness survival tips do you have
to share? Tell us in the comments! Now go watch “I Went Homeless For 72 Hours!” As always don’t forget to Like, Share, and
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