How Long Can The Average Person Survive In The Wilderness?

How Long Can The Average Person Survive In The Wilderness

A well-trained survivalist or someone who has self-reliance skills can survive indefinitely in the wild…

But how long can the average person survive in the wilderness?

I survived 21 days in the jungles of Nicaragua on the hit Discovery Channel TV Show Naked and Afraid, and have a unique perspective on what it takes. Let me explain…

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How Long Can the Average Person Survive in the Wilderness?

The average person with little or no survival skills can survive in the wilderness for as little as a few hours, or as long as a few weeks. Wilderness survival is highly dependent on location, available resources, and most importantly: The will to survive.

I’m going to go ahead and let the cat out of the bag right now: The most important survival skills that one can possess is mental fortitude and the will to live.

Experts will say you need skills, tools, and resources, and yes…they are important.

But there are countless tales of survival of people with no training, no tools, and surviving in un-imaginable conditions (Um, how about eating raw leeches!? Yikes!).

The best survival stories are of people who simply refused to give up. They kept their will to live and found a way to survive.

When I survived in the jungles of Nicaragua for 21 days, despite practicing my survival skills for years, the most important tool I had was my mindset.

I refused to give up, despite setbacks, failures, or weaknesses. And it’s for that reason I believe I was able to survive.

Factors In Survival


Your location plays a HUGE role in your odds of survival, despite your skill level. Are you surviving in the rocky mountains during winter? Or the Gobi desert during summer?

Are you stuck on a raft in the middle of the pacific, or trapped in an abandoned building during a blackout?

Humans have that ability to endure and adapt quite a bit, it’s one of the reasons we are so successful as a species. But there are locations that are much better and suitable for survival than others.

Availability of Food, Water & Shelter

Human bodies are wired to draw their energy from food and water to maintain body temperature and make digestion easier.

The need for both food and water is therefore crucial for the normal functioning of the human body.

The rules of 3’s usually applies: It states that the average person can survive 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.

Have people survived longer? Yes absolutely.

Have people survived shorter? Yes, you bet.

That’s where mindset comes in.


Survival in the wilderness could mean you were unprepared, so you have only the clothes on your body, and no phone, maps, or any other relevant tools to survive.

Or it could mean you’re seeking a life of solitude and want to live in the wilderness on your own land.

In either case, when the person is not determined to survive, he/she has lost the battle.

Real survival is hard. It’s a constant mental and physical test on your wits. There will be failures and setbacks, that is why having a positive and resourceful mindset is so important.

Imagine yourself in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by sparse vegetation and steep mountains. What will you do? What’s your first move?

Will you look for a way to escape? Build a shelter or forage for food? Look for water or build a fire? These are the questions and mental wherewithal it takes to really survive.

So, Is It Possible to Survive in the Wilderness?

Yes, it is possible to survive in the wilderness. But the definition of survival and wilderness is subjective and broad. In any case, the human spirit and body is capable of adapting to a wide range of environments and we all possess the necessary tools to learn wilderness survival.

But- reality check: IT IS NOT EASY!

Survival in the wilderness depends on whether you had planned for a visit or excursion, or whether you got lost without prior planning.

In most cases, people who get lost in the wilderness without any survival skills die from dehydration and exposure. Although it is possible to survive in regions with the right survival skills, it can be difficult as well.

Therefore, if you intend to test your tolerance for tough situations, it might be best to visit such areas. However, there you are only sure of survival with prior mental and physical planning.

Mental planning is in the form of preparing out your mind to know you won’t be in your normal locations where everything you may need will be readily available.

Physical preparation on the other hand may involve everything in form of necessary tools fit for your survival.

Most Important Survival Items

Although you may not need all of these items for survival, having them is a benefit. No matter what experience you have, these items can help you survive.

Fire Starter

In your list of items, this is probably the least important, but you will need food to eat, a place to stay warm, and protection from the wild. Firestarters may only last for a short period, depending on how long you plan to stay.

You can use a ferro rod, lighter, matches, or even a flint and steel. But remember, those can all fail…

Therefore, it is best to master some fire-starting skills that will come in handy in case you run short of fire starters. According to Nature mentors, the bow drill is part of your best skills for starting a fire.

Survival Knife

Whether you will be hunting, building shelter, or catching fish, a knife is one of your key items for survival in the wilderness. But, not any knife is good enough to help you survive.

You need a strong, fixed blade knife that if possible doubles up as a multi-tool, but one that is also compact enough to fit in your survival kit. Many would argue a knife, hatchet or machete is among the most critical survival items.

Topographic Map & Compass

You will need a map with you if you are planning a trip into the wilderness. You are not likely to be very familiar with the area before you go. The maps and compass will prove very helpful if you lose your way around, in addition to the fact that you may need to explore other places of interest or self escape.

First Aid Kit

Most people believe this kit only contains band-aids and antibiotics, among other first aid supplies. 

However, it is important to consider the possibility that you may suffer an illness or an accident that may need more than the antibiotics.

So whenever you are planning for the wilderness, always make sure to include more survival necessities. They may include varieties of bandages for larger wounds, fracture care items, and medications.


Whether you are going for a single-night visit or more, a flashlight will help you navigate the dark. You will need to have a strong flashlight or at least more than one just in case one dies during an emergency.

LED headlamps are lightweight and usually last 20-40 hours on a small set of batteries.

Walter Purifier

It is a good idea to carry with you some water purifiers or filtration equipment, regardless of whether there may be enough water in your area.

Having a water filter or purifier is essential to sourcing water and cleansing it of micro-organisms and other harmful contaminants.

How Long Can The Average Person Survive In The Wilderness


It is always best to set up a reliable tent wherever you are camping, but in case you cannot right away, a tarpaulin (tarp) will guarantee you a safe night’s sleep. As a bonus, even with a tent, you can use the tarp as a ground cover, rainfly, or even as a “kitchen worktop”.

Rope or Paracord

50-100 feet of rope or paracord is a lifesaver in any backcountry or survival situation. It can be used in dozens of different ways, including building shelter, setting traps, fishing, and binding equipment.

Final Thoughts

So back to the original question…how long can the average person survive in the wilderness?

I think to answer this accurately you should ask yourself. How long do you think you can survive? What if you had no preparation, no tools, and no plan?

How long could you survive if you had the opportunity to prepare, and gather a few survival items?

Most likely, your answer will differ greatly.

There is a big difference between practicing survival skills in a controlled or planned environment, and a true life or death survival scenario.

Let’s not confuse the two- but remember the most important factor is: mindset.

Thanks for reading!