What is the most important survival tool in the jungle?

By: Charles W. Bryant
Jungle Scene
The jungle is a calm and peaceful setting. And it will kill you dead if you aren't careful.
Dean Turner/istock

That adventure vacation in the Amazon rainforest isn't working out so well. Things were going great until poachers ravaged your camp, stole everything of value, beat you and left you for dead. Now you're alone with nothing but the clothes on your back. If only the marauders had left something behind to help you survive, like a machete or a first-aid kit or your bag of freeze-dried meals. If only you had one solid survival tool.

There are quite a few tools that would help you to survive this kind of scenario. A machete, for example, could help you hack through the dense underbrush and lead you to civilization. Stars are a good way to find your bearings, but under the canopy of the rainforest, you're lucky to find a clearing large enough to see anything stellar. So maybe a compass and a map would be your most valuable tools.


Could a gun be what you need most? After all, you're pretty much dead meat if you wander up on a mother jaguar feeding her young. And, you could use the weapon to hunt. Or perhaps a good survival knife is the ticket. You'd be able to hack down underbrush, protect yourself against danger, hunt wild boar and cut branches to build a shelter. Most survival knives also come with a nice little stash of goods stored in their hollow handles -- fishing hooks and line or some safety matches to start a signal fire. Some of them even come with a compass.

What about a mosquito net or some heavy-duty insect repellent? After all, mosquitoes in the jungle can give you malaria, yellow fever, West Nile virus and Dengue fever. Not to mention the fact that they're a total nuisance and will make your life miserable. Then again, you'll be mighty hungry, so a bag full of freeze-dried dinners could help you to survive for a while and give you the energy to hike to rescue.

While all of these things are pretty handy in the jungle, none of them are the absolute best tools if you're trying to survive for an extended period of time. So, what's the most valuable? Click ahead to find out.


The No. 1 Jungle Survival Tool

Jungle pool
A good water filter will allow you to drink from standing water like this without fear of getting sick.
Ray Roper/istock

So the machete lost out, along with the compass, gun, food, mosquito netting and even the reliable and versatile survival knife. All of those tools are handy and useful, but none of them make a bit of difference if you don't have fresh drinking water. Water is the No. 1 thing you need to survive any environment on Earth -- you simply can't live without it. For this reason, the number one tool you can have to survive in the jungle is a high-quality water filter.

Camping water filters are compact and easy to use -- all you do is drop the suction tube into the water and pump the lever to draw the water into a bottle. Most models use a ceramic filter to get rid of particles as small as 0.2 microns. A micron is tiny -- 0.000039 inches, to be exact. So 0.2 microns means your pump will rid the water of bacteria and harmful parasites.


Humans can go for as long as 60 days or more without food as long as they stay properly hydrated. You can't live without water for more than a few days. In hot conditions with no water, dehydration can set in within an hour. Since you're in the hot and humid jungle you also need to worry about heat stroke. Drinking water will cool you down and lower your core temperature. Knowing the signs and symptoms of dehydration can help you prevent a more serious condition. The stages are:

Mild dehydration:

  • Lack of saliva
  • Decreased frequency of urine
  • Decreased output of urine
  • Deep color and strong odor in urine

Moderate dehydration:

  • Even less urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry and sunken eyes
  • Rapid heartbeat

Severe dehydration:

  • No urine
  • Lethargy and irritability
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

At this point, your body will go into shock. Your skin will turn a blue-grey color and be cold to the touch because of a drop in blood pressure. Shock is followed by coma and organ failure, and you know what that means -- certain death, the opposite of survival.

The human body contains about 11 gallons (42 liters) of water. In the jungle, the hot and humid conditions can cause you to lose about 25 percent of that water per day. The water leaves your body as sweat, urine and even in the air you breathe. If you're busy hunting, fishing, gathering wood and building a shelter, you can lose even more fluids than that. This means you need to drink at least two gallons of water per day to function at your physical peak.

Some people might argue that the machete is the most important jungle survival tool, and if you're an experienced outdoorsman or survivalist, this may be the case. Trained survivalists know what kind of water to drink, where to find it and tricks to help purify it. But if you're not a survival expert, making a wrong move with water can cost you your life. You also might spend most of your time looking for water and neglect finding food and shelter. And there's no guarantee you can start a fire without a lighter or match in the wet jungle to help you purify any water that you find. If you have a water filter, you know for sure that you can stay properly hydrated at all times, and this is the first step toward ensuring your survival.

If you're still thirsting for more, filter some water from that cesspool and visit the links on the following page for more survival articles.



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More Great Links

  • "Diseases." jungleformula.com, 2008. http://www.jungleformula.co.uk/diseases/index.html
  • "Jungle survival overview." survivalx.com, 2008.http://survivalx.com/regional-survival/jungle-survival-dangers.html
  • Anisman-Reiner, Victoria. "Half Your Weight in Water." suite101.com, November 16, 2006. http://naturalmedicine.suite101.com/blog.cfm/half_your_weight_in_water
  • Health A to Z. "Starvation." healthatoz.com, 2008. http://www.healthatoz.com/healthatoz/Atoz/common/standard/transform.jsp?requestURI=/healthatoz/Atoz/ency/starvation.jsp
  • Koerner, Brendan I. "How Long Can You Go Without Food?" slate.com, June 10, 2004.http://www.slate.com/id/2102228/
  • Packer, Randall K. "How long can the average person survive without water?" sciam.com, December 9, 2002.http://www.sciam.com/biology/article/id/how-long-can-the-average