Survival Quiz

By Matt Seek | artwork by Mark Raithel | September 1, 2017
From Xplor: September/October 2017

They say adventure is what happens when things go wrong. Take our quiz to find out if you know what to do when adventure strikes.

1. You went for a winter walk and got lost. The sun is dropping quickly. Panic sets in as you realize you’ll be spending the night outside. What do you do first?

  • Find shelter.
  • Find water.
  • Find food.

2. You’ve been caught in a spring thunderstorm. You’re wet and cold. A fire would warm you up, but you have only one match. What can’t you use to start a fire?

  • The needle free lower limbs of a cedar tree.
  • Dead wood on the ground.
  • Potato chips.

3. You’re biking the Katy Trail in July. It’s 100 degrees out and so humid it feels like you’re pedaling through a cloud. You’ve been drinking gallons of water, but you still feel weak and groggy. What should you do?

  • Eat a handful of salty peanuts or potato chips.
  • Drink more. You can never drink too much when it’s hot.
  • Stop pedaling and cool off in a shady spot.

4. While paddling the Current River, you swamped your canoe, and all of your water got swept away. It’s blazing hot, and you’re really thirsty. What’s your best option?

  • Find a spring. The cool, clear water bubbling up from the ground is safe to drink.
  • Find a cool place to hang out. Wait for other floaters to paddle by and ask them for water.
  • You’re surrounded by sweet, crystal-clear water. Drink up!

5. It’s Day Two of a five-day backpacking trip on the Ozark Trail, and you and your buddy have stumbled off the path and become lost. What should you do?

  • Stop walking, stay where you are, and wait for someone to find you.
  • Retrace your steps to try and find the trail.
  • Build a huge signal fire to guide rescuers to your location.

6. You’re lost in the woods. You know that if you go north, you’ll eventually reach the highway. Only problem? You dropped your compass somewhere. What can you do?

  • Look for moss. It always grows on the north side of trees.
  • Wait until dark. Use the Big Dipper to locate the North Star.
  • Follow a river upstream. Nearly all streams in Missouri flow south.

7. You’re lost in the Ozarks, and you haven’t eaten in three days. Your stomach has begun to growl like a cranky badger. What’s your best option?

  • Find mushrooms. Animals nibble on them. You figure if they’re safe for an animal to eat, they’re safe for you to eat.
  • Find some plump, white berries. Birds feast on them. Pluck off a couple and pop them in your pie hole.
  • Drink some water to keep your belly full and tough it out. Try not to think about cheeseburgers. Or pizza. Or…

8. You round a corner in the trail and see a mama bear with her cubs. They’re busy gobbling blackberries, so they haven’t seen you — yet. What should you do?

  • Wave your arms and yell. Black bears are scared of humans and will run away when they see you.
  • Toss them the PB and J you made for lunch. While they’re distracted by the treat, run quickly past them.
  • Back slowly away and walk back the way you came.

9. A copperhead sank its fangs into your hiking buddy’s ankle. You get her away from the snake and calm her down. Now what?

  • Tie some cord tightly around her calf to keep the venom from reaching her heart.
  • Use your pocketknife to slice open the fang marks then suck out the venom.
  • Help her lie down, keep her calm, and use your cellphone to call 911.

10. You’re camping with your friends in a meadow atop Taum Sauk Mountain. A thunderstorm is bearing down, and lightning sizzles nearby. You should:

  • Sit on top of your sleeping pad. The foam will insulate you from a lightning strike.
  • Grab your rain gear, leave camp, and move quickly downhill to a low spot away from tall, isolated trees.
  • Take shelter under the gnarly lone oak at your campsite. You can tell by the scar on its trunk that it has been struck by lightning before, and lightning never strikes the same spot twice.

11. Your pocketknife slipped while you were slicing summer sausage. Now blood is dripping from your thumb. Which is not a good way to treat your boo-boo?

  • Apply pressure to the cut. Once the bleeding slows, put on a bandage.
  • Tie cord tightly around your thumb above the cut to stop the bleeding.
  • Use super glue to stick the skin back together.

12. Which is not a good reason to use your cellphone to call for help?

  • You fell off a bluff and woke up at the base dizzy and nauseated.
  • Your 3-year-old brother wandered away from camp. No one can find him, and it’s getting dark and starting to drizzle.
  • You sliced your finger while hiking. You’re going to need stitches, and it’s 20 minutes back to the parking lot.


  • A In extreme cold, you can survive for only three hours without shelter, but three days without water, and three weeks without food.
  • B After rain, downed wood is too wet to light. Lower cedar branches are usually kept dry by dense branches above. Oily potato chips burn well but quickly.
  • A When you sweat, you lose salts — which your brain and muscles need — as well as water. As long as your pee is clear and frequent, you’re drinking enough.
  • B Only in a life-or-death situation should you drink untreated water. The Current River is a busy stream. Someone will be by soon to give you a drink.
  • B You have food and water. You have a buddy. Try to find the trail. If you’re still lost after Day Three, stay put and signal for help.
  • B Moss doesn’t always grow on the north side of trees, and streams in Missouri flow in every direction. The North Star always points north.
  • C Just because you’re hungry doesn’t mean you’re going to die. But eating the wrong mushroom can kill you, and white berries are always a no-no.
  • C It’s true that black bears are scared of people, but mother bears have been known to defend their cubs.
  • C Experts no longer recommend sucking out venom, and you should never use a tourniquet for a snake bite (see Answer 11).
  • B During a lightning storm, always take shelter in a low-lying area away from tall, isolated objects. Lightning can strike the same spot twice.
  • B Unless you’re bleeding so badly you might die, never tie a cord (called a tourniquet) above the wound. If it’s left on too long, you could lose your finger.
  • C You should always call for help after getting knocked out. And small children can’t warm themselves well enough to survive cold, wet weather.

How many did you get right?

1–3: Do. Not. Leave. Your. Room.
4–6: Better brush up on your first-aid and survival skills.
7–9: You aren’t Bear Grylls, but you know how to handle yourself.
10–12: Call the Discovery Channel. You’re ready for your own reality show.

Also In This Issue

This Issue's Staff

Bonnie Chasteen
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White