What do you eat in a survival situation? Wilderness survival

Heather Campbell
 min read

What do you eat in a survival situation? From nibbling while hiking, to macro and micronutrients, to food from plant and animal origin.

What do you eat in a survival situation? Wilderness survivalHumans can survive several days without eating.

But the problem we are dealing with is survival in the wild, far from any supply or rescue point.

For more general camping tips, read our other posts:

Without food and in a survival situation, it is absolutely essential to find food to preserve one’s strength.

Strength will diminish quicker due to stress.

Survival effort, scarcity of resources and temperature, especially sub-zero, will greatly impact energy levels.

What do you eat in a survival situation? Introduction

Finding food is combined with the need to travel. This is an important combination that we felt should be tackled.

The quantities of food that we will discuss will sometimes be tiny, like a few berries.

As small as it may be, we must not discard it: we eat anything edible we find on the way.

What is swallowed is not to be transported or preserved. We pick and store anything edible to use in substantial meals when we have time to cook.

Eating satiates the body, but also the mind. We need to know how to combine these for survival.

What do you eat in a survival situation? Why do we need to eat?

Foods provide nutrients :


Have you ever felt a sudden state of tiredness and loss of strength while hiking?

This is a sign that your body has burned through all the fast sugars.

It needs some time before it starts to draw on the stock of slow sugars. The length of time depends on the individual.

Cereal bars, energy bars or dried fruit replenishes the energy consumed during the effort.

However, don’t skip a meal because you’ve spoiled your appetite.

A traditional hiking meal will provide essential nutrients not found in snacks and cookies.

Food on a hike

The food needed for a day hike is not the same as what you take for a 7-day trek.

Digestion is meant to give the body all it needs in terms of proteins, sugars and lipids (fats).

It also helps with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sulfur, iodine.

Fiber facilitates digestion and is important. During exercise, all these nutrient stores are consumed quicker than when you are at rest.

We need to compensate for these losses with regular and proper intake.

Don’t compensate by eating more but rather by eating better.

Age, gender, body size, and eating habits, determine the quantity and quality of food we need.

This becomes apparent when hiking. This is why it is difficult to give sound advice on nutritional or culinary tips.

Take with you what you like and what makes you feel good and full.

It takes some experience to determine your own needs. It has become common to take dehydrated industrial products in mylar bags.

They’re a great choice because they’re light, take up little space and are quickly prepared.

This kind of food is often very salty and very expensive.

Have you ever thought about dehydrating your own food? Your own fruit? Why not make your own homemade cereal bars?

What do you eat in a survival situation? The 2 types of nutrients

There are two main families of nutrients:

  • Macro nutrients are eaten in large quantities

These include carbohydrates (starches & sugars such as fructose), lipids (un/saturated fatty acids and trans fatty acids), proteins.

  • Micro nutrients are absorbed in small quantities:

These include minerals (iron, iodine, zinc) and vitamins (A, B, C).

In a survival situation, these will determine quantities and amounts to eat during the day.

There are two different natural resources available: plants and animals.

Foods of plant origin

Plant resources are generally rich in sugars, vitamins, trace elements, liquids and minerals.

Plants naturally ensure that fruits, berries and seeds have sufficient energy reserves of sugars to germinate and grow.

We have to know which ones to eat without risk of poisoning or allergic reactions.

Unknown plants may cause serious allergic reactions. Some contain deadly levels of poison such as mushrooms, mosses and lichens,

If fruit and vegetation is abundant, make sure that you eat what you are absolutely sure is edible..

One rarely walks around with a botanical dictionary in a pocket and even less in a survival situation!

A good rule to remember is: if in doubt, don’t eat… It is better to be hungry than sick.

Food of animal origin

Animal food is rich in proteins, fat, sugars, etc.

It offers a feeling of being full, but more importantly it provides the necessary survival resources.

Most animals flee from humans and you won’t catch them by running after them!

Catching animals hasn’t changed in thousands of years: it’s always been weapons and traps.

Remember that animals have incredibly acute senses.

Hearing, smell, sight and reflexes are what keeps animals alive.

In the case of reptiles and snakes, they’re susceptible to thermal reactions, too.

Any trap you set must take all this into consideration.

Animals also have a downfall: curiosity, greed and hunger amongst others.

What do you eat in a survival situation? Conclusion

As dire as the situation may be, it is important to keep a level head.

Make sure that you know what vegetation grows in the places you’re visiting.

You could even make a list of what is safe and what isn’t. In case of doubt, don’t risk it!

About Heather Campbell

As a nutritionist, my field of specialization is science-based nutritional advice but more importantly, it is my goal to share capturing and inspiring stories, examples and solutions which can help plus-size individuals overcome their specific difficulties. Read More