It’s a life or death situation and you’re lost in the woods. Up ahead are some berries that look vaguely familiar. You eat a handful and three hours later you can’t stop vomiting. Foraging for survival sure was a bad move. We’ve all thought about what might happen if we ever get lost in the woods. A lot of us have a plan that involves shelter and water, but what about food? If your plan to stay full in the woods for days at a time involves foraging, you might want to think again. Here are 5 reasons why foraging for survival is just plain dumb.
1. You Could Eat the Wrong Thing
The obvious thing to worry about is incorrectly identifying a plant. It happens, even to experienced foragers. In fact, a lot of plants have toxic lookalikes. For instance, wild carrot looks an awful lot like poison hemlock, which can kill in small amounts. Unless you have a field guide handy, eating a plant just because you think it looks safe or tastes good is a huge risk.
2. You Could Be Allergic
Food allergies can be severe, just ask anyone who can’t eat nuts. The big danger is that you’ll be allergic to something that isn’t usually found in the grocery store. Not only will you not have any idea until the shock sets in, but people who aren’t aware that they have food allergies almost never carry the medicine they need to survive a severe allergy exposure.
3. You Might Be Eating Toxins
Plants can accumulate toxic heavy metals and other chemicals from the soil. Something harmless, like dandelion, when picked from the roadside can contain toxic levels of carcinogens. Unless you find yourself stranded in pristine woodland, you run the risk of eating something that could hurt you in the long run.
4. You Used Too Much Energy
It can be really hard to get enough calories when you don’t have a source of meat and fat — ask any pale, skinny vegan. In fact, one of the only ways to get enough calories from forage to survive on is to eat roots, which are among the most challenging part of the plant to identify. Unless you don’t have to stray from your campsite in order to find food, burning calories that you can’t replace is a real risk.
5. You Got A Parasite
Eating aquatic plants like cattails or anything else that lays submerged in iffy pond water carries the risk of a parasite or infection if it isn’t properly cooked. You could wind up with a case of giardia, salmonella, or e. coli. Putting yourself at risk by eating undercooked veggies from a dirty source is a sure way to end up losing all of your precious calories the hard way. Don’t Risk It, Pack In Some Food It’s just too easy to carry in enough calories to survive in an emergency to look for forage. Companies make freeze-dried food pouches that can keep you going for days if necessary. The next time you’re heading out to the woods for a few days, make sure you bring a little bit of extra food. The alternative, foraging for survival, is risky. Don’t do something stupid because you’re hungry and tired, carry in your calories and get out safe.