Ex-Navy SEAL Shares Tips For Staying Alive In The Wild

Navy SEALs know how to survive, plain and simple. They’re trained to formulate plans for keeping themselves alive at all costs. SEALs can escape almost any deadly situation thanks to their rigorous training.

But you don’t have to be a Navy SEAL to learn from them. In fact, one former SEAL published a book detailing everything you need to know about surviving against all odds. Check out the methods used by the world’s most elite military unit. These tips are really priceless!

Former Navy SEAL Clint Emerson didn’t rest on his laurels after retirement. Instead, he published a book teaching people how to save themselves from several dire situations…

Twitter / Mike Ritland

Clint’s guide is called 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Eluding Pursuers, Evading Capture, and Surviving Any Dangerous Situation. In it, he details tricks and tips for survival — one of them revealing how to save yourself from drowning.

“When an operative is captured in hostile territory, the odds of survival are low,” Clint writes. “This is why operatives practice escaping while wearing undefeatablerestraints on hands and feet, both in water and on land.”

Clint’s experience allowed him to reveal secrets average folks would never think of. According to Clint, a Navy SEAL can still save himself from drowning even if his hands and feet are bound.

“When it comes to self-preservation in water, the key to survival is breath control. With the lungs full of air, the human body is buoyant—so deep breaths and quick exhales are key,” Clint said.

It’s easier to stay afloat in salt water than fresh water. That’s because, in the ocean, the salty water helps the soldiers stay buoyant. But a true SEAL can survive even in fresh water.

“Restraints and body positioning may make breathing a challenge, but repositioning is always within… grasp,” Clint says. “To travel toward shore, ricocheting off the seabed or lake floor up to the surface for an inhale.”

Photo by Jim Sugar/Corbis via Getty Images

All Navy SEALs are taught to arch their backs when they find themselves in this situation. Such a posture can actually help them get to air faster even if they are restrained.

“In rough seas, this technique may not give [the SEAL] enough clearance to get his head out of the water,” Clint explains. “Instead, a full body rotation will allow him to take a deep breath and then continue traveling forward.”

To make the guide even more clear and user-friendly, Clint made sure to add diagrams and other visual aids to his book. He even used graphics to help illustrate how to properly survive a drowning attempt.

Clint’s book is packed with even more helpful suggestions. He outlines how to survive if you’re lost in the woods during a hike. Most people, he says, are immediately tempted to keep walking to find help. However, this isn’t the best solution…

You should stop wherever you are, build a makeshift shelter, and give yourself time to be found. Dehydration will set in faster and your chances of being located are lowered if you keep on moving.

Clint suggests when you go camping or out on a hike, you should pack your bag with provisions for every possible event. For example, it might not seem like you’ll need extra socks, but if you suddenly encounter water or bad weather, you’ll be grateful you have them.

Clint also advises you should always travel with the means to make fire. Carrying a lighter isn’t the only option for starting a blaze. There’s another hack for doing that…

Provided they’re safely protected from water and kept inside a plastic bag with a secure seal, matches work perfectly. Covering matchstick heads with wax is another way to waterproof them.

Never bring more than you can physically carry for long distances. Make a point to go on practice walks with your pack so you know the weight is manageable.

Water is a vital resource. If you find yourself without a drop, just remember water runs downhill—so head in that direction. That’s the best way to locate a clean water source!

It also never hurts to pack more food than you need. These items don’t have to weigh a ton, either. Items like beef jerky and cubes of peanut butter or caramel are great to have on hand.

One important warning Clint has for people who go camping is letting one person know where you’re going and when you plan to return. Doing this could save your life.

Finally, Clint say the best way to find help if you’re lost is to follow small creeks until they merge with larger rivers, which tend to lead to more developed areas, and more importantly, help.

Now while all these survival tips are great to know in case of an emergency, it is equally important to know what not to do. The easiest way to take a situation from bad to worse is making a simple mistake like these that could have been avoided.

Eat snow for water: Yeah, eating snow is better than downing a glass of pee or reindeer blood, but snow’s cold. Like, really cold. Eating enough of it to satiate a serious thirst can bring your core temperature down to dangerous levels. Just boil it first. But this isn’t the only survival myth to avoid in cold weather…

Always play dead when threatened by a bear: The opposite is true—you should back away! At least if it’s a brown or grizzly bear. They’re likely just trying to get you away from their kiddos. If a black bear, right, threatens you, well… fight for your life.

Lean-tos make great shelters: They’re simple to build, just a series of branches leaned across a supporting beam-like branch. But they won’t keep you warm, dry, or safe from animals—like black bears—which is a survival shelter strikeout.

A big fire beats a shelter: Need to warm up? Bigger is not always better when it comes to survival. Focus on shelter first, even if it means you sleep beside a tiny fire. Put all your energy into a roaring flame and a rainstorm or heavy wind can leave you with nothing in a second.

Build a fire in a cave for warmth: A fire in a secluded cave—the perfect hovel, no? Almost romantic, even! Well, heat—like that from a fire—makes rocks expand. Expanding rocks break. Breaking rocks crush and trap people. Keep the fire outside.

Wet matches work when dried: Soaked by the rain? Took a dunk in a raging river? Hopefully, you didn’t have matches in your pocket. Moisture changes the chemical balance in match heads, making them impossible to light. Invest in a waterproof container.

Eat anything animals eat: When you do go searching for food, it’s common sense to think what’s good for the birds and squirrels is good for us, too, right? Not always. Birds and squirrels can eat berries, nuts, mushrooms, and more that human bodies find toxic.


Eating raw meat and seafood is safe: Ever have bad sushi? Sure, just bite into a raw fish, you rugged survivor, you. Expose yourself to pathogens and bacterium that wouldn’t leave you fit to survive the toilet. Be safe. Cook your meat.

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Find food immediately: Put that dead bug down and leave that rotting animal corpse where you found it—you can survive about six weeks without food. Yeah, it might be uncomfortable, but prioritize water, shelter, and safe-to-consume food before getting desperate.

Follow flying birds to find water: This works if the birds are actually flying towards the water, but since you, presumably, can’t read a bird’s mind, it’s impossible to know whether the flock’s flying toward an open field, South America, or a caravan of friendly monkeys.

Drink cactus fluid for hydration: There’s one—count ’em, one—type of cactus survivors can safely extract and drink water from without getting sick and vomiting. If you can’t pick out that particular barrel cactus, search for other water sources first.

Drink urine to stay hydrated: No one tell pee-drinking legend Bear Grylls, below, but if you’re dehydrated to the point that urine is an appetizing source of fluid, your pee is mostly made up of bodily waste—not recycled water—and therefore, carries no re-hydration value.

Drink raw blood to survive: Thirsty folks are better served not slurping down a few mouthfuls of animal blood, either. Consuming blood exposes you to diseases and illnesses you’d probably rather not deal with when stranded in the wilderness.

Suck on a stone for hydration: Dry mouth? Some survival myths suggest sucking on stones to work up saliva, but in doing so, you’d only be drawing much-needed moisture from other parts of your body. Is that worth sucking on dirty stones?

Moss grows on the north side of trees: Moss likes shade because without sunlight pestering it, it can better retain its moisture. That means north isn’t always the most conducive to growth. The angle of the sun at your given location, climate, and shade caused by environmental features can dictate moss growth.

Cut and suck a snakebite: Movies show it all the time. Someone suffers a snakebite, and a heroic buddy sucks the poison out. But it’s a farce. All this does is put spit into the open wound and spread venom into your mouth. Try putting pressure on the snakebite instead, then find a doctor.

Drinking liquor warms you up: Nothing perks the sense like a shot of booze in the cold, but because alcohol dilates surface blood vessels, it makes your blood more susceptible to the cold. And, you know, you need that stuff for your vital organs. Try coffee.

Rub frostbitten skin: Don’t do it. Frostbite forms when sharp ice crystals infiltrate your skin and tissue, so rubbing frostbite warm is the equivalent to rubbing sharp icicles into a suffering person’s soft tissues. You’ve got to slowly re-heat a frostbitten limb.

Hot tubs cure hypothermia: Rubbing frostbite won’t cut it, and neither will a hot tub. A dunk in hot water will spike low body temperatures, which can cause a heart attack. Instead, give the victim small doses of warmth by putting hot water bottles on their body.

Space blankets are useless: Mylar-coated emergency blankets look like something from a low-budget sci-fi film, but they do indeed reflect infrared energy, and therefore, heat. Wrap yourself in one of these to keep your body heat packed in tight.

Punch an attacking shark in the nose: Just think about how hard it would be getting a solid punch on the schnoz of an oncoming shark. How fast must you be? How accurate? Instead, put a solid object between you and the beast or claw at its eyes and gills.

Swim parallel to the shore if caught in a rip current: Most rip currents, top, work at an angle, so you can be swimming parallel to the shore while still getting ripped out to sea. Instead, swim along the shore, but towards it, too. But what about another perilous underwater scenario?

This worst-case scenario happened to Morgan Lake. While she was crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, she was temporarily stopped in traffic. In her rearview mirror, Morgan spotted an 18-wheel truck careening toward her.

Cameron Davidson

The tractor-trailer slammed into Morgan’s car, which smacked into the bridge’s safety barrier, bouncing it back into the truck’s path. And again, the truck hit the much smaller car.

daynewmah / reddit

Her car sailed into the air and landed on a concrete wall. For just a minute, the car balanced on the barrier, but gravity overtook it. Morgan and her mutilated vehicle plunged 27 feet into the water. Later, she’d say the fall felt like slow motion.

ABC7 News

Morgan’s car immediately started sliding below the water’s surface. For a moment she was consumed with a primal fear of death, but her equally primal sense of self-preservation came to the rescue.

Tech Drive

Quickly, Morgan unsnapped her seatbelt and pulled herself through her broken car window. She swam to the surface. And because she didn’t let the panic go to her head and followed her instincts, she survived. Not everyone gets out.


As Robert May, from Indiana State Police Underwater Search and Recovery Team, said to the New York Times, “If you get on your phone and call your parents, or your sister, or 911, you will die.” There are a few other don’ts.

The next thing you definitely shouldn’t do is attempt to open your car door. You’ll only start to sink faster. Also, resist the urge to close any open windows. Doing this will add unnecessary time during your escape.

The Herald Sun

During this kind of accident, the first minute is the most critical. You may be injured, dazed, in shock — it doesn’t matter. As long as you have the ability, the first thing you need to do is turn on the lights inside your car.

Swell Dandy / Youtube

With the lights on, any rescuers can spot you much more easily. Also, the water will get dark quickly, so this allows you to see, too. From there, you’ll need to remove your seatbelt. In case it’s stuck, you may want to keep a tool for cutting it off in your vehicle.


Depending on how deep your car is, you may be able to open the door and escape, but this isn’t likely because of the water pressure. To get out, you’ll need to open a window. Your car’s electric system will still function for a while underwater, so the mechanism should still work.

If it doesn’t (and you don’t have hand-crank windows), you can smash your way through. There are a few different options for this method. One is buying a glass-shattering tool. If you go with this one, make sure you always keep it in an easily accessible spot.

LispyJimmy, Youtube

If you don’t get the specialist tool, your headrest is a possible substitute. Another option is a good ol’ kick to the window. However you do it, make sure you’re going for a side window and not your windshield.

vPerformance / Youtube

Though there are many scenes in movies in which windshields are successfully broken, in real life, windshields are thicker than side windows. Any kind of tint can can make it more difficult to break through.

At this point, you should be able to get out of your window and swim to the surface. Avoid calling 9-1-1 in this situation, as rescue workers won’t be able to save you in time — you’re responsible for your own survival here. But what if you have passengers?

Wall Street Journal

If you happen to have children in your car, make sure to get them out first! In this scenario, unbuckle your seatbelt and then help them remove theirs. You’ll also need to keep them as calm as you’re able.

Vivienne Palmer / YouTube

Water will be rushing into the car and children will have a harder time fighting against the current, so get them out before you leave. If they are too young, you may have to carry them with you as you escape.

Dakota County Sheriff’s Office

If you ever find yourself in this scenario, the Search and Recovery Team advises getting out while the car is still floating. Throughout one member’s 20 years as a part of the group, he’s seen deaths occur in less than 10 feet of water.


No matter what type of water you fall in, you can still follow these steps to escape from your car. If you land in deeper water, for instance, the factor that will change the most is time — your car has the possibility to sink deeper, so you really want to get out fast.

If the water is deep, another issue is that your car might make it harder to swim to the surface. Your vehicle is heavier than you are, which makes it less buoyant. As it falls, it can drag you along with it. 

Obviously, you can’t predict this kind of thing. Though these are freak accidents, it’s still important to know how to appropriately react. In fact, you should prepare for just about every scenario — and know which survival tips are nonsense.

Photo by Tao Zhang/Getty Images

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