Swamp Survival Guide: Proven Tips and Tricks To Stay Alive

Swamp Survival Guide: Proven Tips and Tricks To Stay Alive

What to Do if a Venomous Swamp Spider or Snake Bites you?

Getting bitten or stung in the wilderness is much more likely than becoming prey for a giant carnivore (statistically). To give you even better news, only 1 out of 500 snake bites are fatal, which means you stand a healthy chance to survive the bite.

These simple steps are approved by notable survivalist experts, and they will increase your chances even further. I know these by heart at this point:

1. Calm down and relax! Anxiety increases heart rate, which only helps distribute the toxins into your system. Stress hormones won’t improve your condition either, so as difficult as it seems, make a conscious decision to relax.

Breathe deeply, at a constant pace. Think about what the first thing you will be doing when you get back to civilization. Positive mental imagery only!

2. Do not try to suck out the poison out of the wound! This strategy may seem intuitive, but it makes things worse because by applying suction to the wound, you only increase the blood flow and help toxin distribution.

3. Sit down! Rushing out of the woods promotes your heart rate and spreads the poison. The best option on the table is to call someone for help and give them your location.

Even if the venom isn’t deadly, it will drastically weaken and slow you down. If you are bitten and alone in the swampy wilderness, without antivenom, or a powerful cell-phone or walkie talkie, then make a shelter for the night, and pray to God! You shouldn’t be in a helpless situation like that if you are a seasoned survivalist. But naïve beginners underestimate the dangers of the swamp.

How to Build a Shelter in the Swamp?

Swampy environments are more human-friendly because of the lower risk of exposure. But a night out there in the open is no fun experience, so a decent shelter is still necessary. Cold is your enemy when the sun goes down!

Our swamp survival guide provides the best tips and tricks to quickly build a safe shelter for the night:

1. Search for a high-ground location, surrounded by tree. Low-land areas have more water, which means mosquitos, bugs, muds – all the nasty things that would give you nightmares. A long day’s walk calls for a good night sleep, so make it easy on yourself.

Find an elevated location, away from lakes and ponds. Ideally, it should be surrounded by trees.

2. Search for 6-8 wooden poles. These are long, straight branches that will functions as support rods for the shelter.

3. Make a skeletal wooden frame, using the poles. Tie one rod horizontally between two trees, tie it nicely. Then lean the other poles (at a 45-degree angle) against the horizontal one.

Use vines to weave the framework. Find long vines that can hold a knot!

Another option, for a more enclosed shelter, is to find more poles and create three triangular frames (kind of like an X, with a narrower top). These should be parallelly aligned. Use the longest poles as a rooftop support beam, by placing it on the top of the three X-frames. Let it rest naturally and tie it firmly!

Lean the remaining poles against the rooftop beam. Congrats, you have a skeleton for a new shelter!

4. Find small branches and large leaves for the shelter walls. Place the foliage on the diagonal leaning poles. These will function as protective walls against the elements: rain, wind, and cold.

5. Gather dry leaves to fill the floor of the shelter. Bring as much dead foliage as you want, because this will be your new bed. Dry foliage is a decent insulator, it will preserve your body heat. Place it on the shelter floor, so that you don’t sleep directly on the cold, moist soil.

You can even use the foliage to cover your backside, like a nice, warm blanket!

That’s it! Everything you need to make a shelter is at your disposal, in the swamp: logs, branches, vines, leaves. And now, since you possess the knowledge, feel free to practice your new skill.

What Are the Biggest Dangers in the Swamp?

Average European and US marshlands are quite tame, compared to the rest of the world’s swamps and forests. However, you will be facing hordes of mosquitos, flies, wasps, spiders, snakes, and even alligators.

Compare that to the Indian mangrove forests, were man-eating tigers stalk your every move, waiting to pounce at the right moment. Or the thick Amazonian delta, where jaguars and venomous snakes pose an even greater threat. I would rather take my chances in the calmer and friendlier swamps of the US.

With so much moisture and greenery, a swamp is a hub of life, and there are dangerous animals that can string, bite, infect, and kill you. So, always do your research about the geographical area you plan on visiting. Learn how to avoid being ambushed by predators, and how to repel different kinds of pesty insects.

When the sun dips down, this becomes a mosquito paradise, so build a nicely sealed shelter on high ground, as far away from the water as possible. Now, let’s look at some environmental challenges.

Can you die of exposure in a swamp? In the wild, exposure is the most immediate danger, more threatening than any animal. But the average swamp temperatures don’t fluctuate much, and we already established that this is summertime (most likely season and scenario for visiting these environments).

Exposure won’t kill you necessarily, but it will weaken you. While it isn’t a major risk, you should still build an overnight shelter.

So, the risk of being a victim of the elements is much lower, compared to arid deserts, cool, temperate forests, and rocky, barren mountains. Even so, you don’t want to spend the night in the open, you need a protective shelter in the swamp.

Is hydration a cause for concern in a bayou? Hydration and nutrition pose the least amount of danger because, with so much greenery and moisture, these rich habitats are chock-full of things to eat. As for drinking water, you just need a way to purify.

It is surprisingly easy to find food and water because they are all around the area. Just don’t forget to boil them properly. In fact, the next paragraph will teach you an amazing and simple way to find, cook, and prepare a highly nutritious meal.

Can quicksand be dangerous? No. There is no quicksand in swamps, but there are quagmires. Many people use these interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Their composition and properties differ substantially.

You can get stuck in both, and you can escape with a patient, competent approach. When you struggle you sink faster, but a quagmire won’t swallow you whole. A quicksand sinkhole might, under specific conditions – but it is nothing like in the movies!

Quagmires are lowland watery areas, filled with mud, leaves, dead vegetation. As a result, they are dense enough to hinder and pin you in place! You can easily get stuck, and depending on how deep it is, your movement forwards will be significantly impaired. It won’t swallow you alive, that only happens in fiction. Follow this escape strategy:

Quicksand may be escaped by slow movement of the legs in order to increase the viscosity of the fluid, and rotation of the body so as to float in the supine position (lying horizontally with the face and torso facing up). (reference from Wikipedia)

The wiki page was about quicksand, but I am pretty sure I would use a similar strategy for getting out of a bog or quagmire.

The biggest danger when stuck in quagmire or quicksand is not sinking, but exposure, dehydration, and becoming a standing target for predators.

How Hard is it to Find Food in Swampy Areas?

Having so much water and animals around means you don’t have to worry about finding food (I would be worried about becoming food, in certain geographical swamps around the globe).

You can forage, fish, hunt; There are many options on the menu: fish, snakes, lizards, larvae, birds.

What is the best, most widespread source of swamp food? Duckweed is a survival superfood, and if you find it, you can cook and eat as much as you like to keep your energy levels. Duckweed is easy to spot, it’s the green algae-looking stuff that covers a water surface. It looks like a vivid green carpet of moss:

You cannot scoop it up and eat it raw directly from the water, because it isn’t nutritious in raw form, and it is crawling with dangerous bacteria that can make you sick with diarrhea and dehydration.

How to prepare a duckweed meal? This dish won’t compete for the best chef award, but for a hungry stomach, it is a welcome delight – it will provide you with the necessary calories. Here is what you need to do:

1. Scoop and filter. Put a gauze or a piece of cloth over a pot. Gather the duckweed by hand and place it on the cloth, allowing the dirty water to seep through. Now you have a decent amount of duckweed, ready for cooking.

When scooping the weed, use your finger and carefully pick only the nutritious green stuff, because there is a lot of debris to sift through. You don’t want that in your precious weed.

Pay close attention to the contents of what you gather in the palm, make sure there aren’t insects, water bugs, twigs, leaves, roots, or tree bark. Pure duckweed is what you are looking for (as pure as possible at least).

2. Cook it in a pot. Congratulations! You have a satiating portion of delicious swamp weed. But you can’t eat it right away. Start a small fire, create a support system for the pot (a few bigger rocks to hold it straight), and secure the pot over the fire.

You need to cook the duckweed to sterilize the water, kill the dangerous bacteria, and break the cellulose (to make the weed edible).

Set the pot on the support, over the burning wood. Let it cook until it begins to boil, and then leave it for another 5 to 7 minutes. Boiling will kill the bacteria and break the cellulose into digestible carbs.

3. Let the food cool down. After another 10 minutes, you will have a decent bowl of soup. You can eat it or pack the dry mass for later.

The weed tastes a bit like spinach. It is very nutritious: small amounts of fat, a decent portion of carbohydrates, and a heavy load of protein. These three fulfill the body’s basic nutrition requirements, and they pack tons of calories.

A true swamp survival guide must include an exclusive meal plan, and that’s what you have now. Just learn how to start a fire (that’s on you, but this blog does include a heavy section on fire basics and instructions).

How Tough is it to Survive in a Swamp?

In most wild, hostile environments, water is your best friends. But in a swamp, it is your greatest obstacle.

Water is everywhere, and staying dry is the biggest challenge. Foraging for food may require traveling across a swampy area of interconnected small islands in a basin of shallow water.

Traveling between these patches of land requires impregnable overalls to keep your body dry. Exposure is the most common cause of death and disease in the wilderness, and staying wet quadruples your chances of exposure.

Being stuck in a place like that more than a night or two is not fun! Make sure you don’t wander too deep into the swamp. Traveling by foot takes excruciatingly long, and it saps your vitality and energy.

These short questions and answers will paint a clear picture of what swamp survival looks like. So, let’s grasp the basics of this harsh, hostile environment.

Is there drinking water? Despite being surrounded and submerged in water, drinking directly from the source will only make you sick. You really don’t want to get sick in a swamp, because it will drain your energy, and weaken you enough to slow down any feeble attempt to escape.

If you have mastered a few basic primitive survival skills, then you already know how to collect rainwater using leaves. Otherwise, pack the necessary survival gear: a container, a boiling pot, or a water purifier.

What to expect in terms of climate and temperature? Depending on the season and the geographical area where the swamp is located, the climate can be hot, temperate, or cold.

Most people go to swamp retreats during the summer, but off-season the air can cool significantly during the night (in a temperate climate). Best examples temperate swamps are the:

  • Great Lakes region (US).
  • Great Dismal Swamp (North Carolina/Virginia, US).
  • Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (New Jersey, US).
  • Ontario’s Minesing (Canada).
  • Briesetal bei Briese (Germany).
  • Šúr Swamp (Slovakia).
  • Pripyat Marshes (Belarus).
  • Danube Delta (Romania).
  • Finish wetlands.

How about tropical swamplands? In subtropical and tropical regions, the humidity makes the sweltering heat unbearable. Not to mention the fact that you will be constantly invaded by armies of mosquitos, flies, and swamp bugs.

What are the most dangerous predators? When we think of swamps, an image of a gaping mouth of a predatory crocodile pops into mind. Well, you shouldn’t worry about crocs, at least in the US and Europe! The US alligators aren’t that aggressive towards humans.

The Australian saltwater crocodile, on the other hand, is the most dangerous croc species, because they can see us as prey. South-East Asia, India, and South America have very large swampy forests with far more dangerous predators: Tigers, leopards, jaguars, and pythons. Not to mentions the multitude of venomous snakes, insects, and spiders.

I read a disturbing article: it seems that anacondas and pythons have made the Florida Everglades their new home. Apparently, irresponsible snake owners release their unwanted pets and they end up in the swamp reservation.

So, always bring self-defensive weapons when going in the wild! I cannot stress that enough. My favorites are machete and tomahawks.

Is it worth it? If you decide to go crazy and do something completely wild, then camping in the swamp would be option number one! You will be surprised at how difficult it can be to live in a hot, humid, vegetation-dense environment like a marsh or a swamp.

Psychology and Attitude Necessary to Survive a Swamp

Swamps and marches are dangerous, unpredictable places for newcomers and tourists. A seasoned survivalist knows not to underestimate the environment and let their ego off the hook. So, no amount of preparedness is too much!

I was listening to this TV show about wetlands survival strategies, and there was this certified Southern badass speaking his mind on living off-the-grid, in the deep Alabama woods. These were some of his daily rules for living and surviving in the open:

  1. Carry a gun and a machete! Learn how to shoot and fend off predators (if there are any in the geographical area where you are visiting).
  2. 2. Be aware of your weaknesses and limitations! As a weak human living in a hostile, wild environment, you are extremely vulnerable! Exposure, diseases, weak digestion & immune system – there are many obstacles stacked against you. Human beings are not designed to live in the wild.
  3. Stay strong. This means having the willingness to fight and the fortitude to move forward. The only way you stay alive in this environment is if you are willing to do whatever is necessary.

These aren’t rules per se, more like fundamental attitudes. I have seen many tough-minded city-dwelling people, not necessarily survivalists, and I admired them for the strength and willingness to fights back, and never give up. These men and women have grown up in hostile environments like very bad neighborhoods, abusive households.

But hard times create hard men, whether the hostility lies in the social, psychological contexts, or in the environmental surroundings. And everyone admires people with strong character, even their enemies.

That is the core reason why I feel drawn to outdoor survival: It is my desire to voluntarily put myself in harm’s way (in a controlled manner) – to transform and develop my character. That’s the reason I am writing this blog!

How to Stay Safe during a Swamp Walk

Going on a swamp walk offered me an amazing experience, with incredible sightseeing and a great connection to nature. It was a summertime vacation in the Danube river delta (Eastern Romania), which is a vast, tree-rich marshland.

At nighttime, swamps are dark, scary places, but there is nothing more beautiful and enriching that the lush, green walkabout through a swamp on a sunny summer afternoon.

Here is a list of basic rules you should follow, to ensure you have a safe and fulfilling experience on your wilderness trip:

1. Pack the basics. Depending on the topography of the swamp, you might need to cross shallow water, spend the night, or do some trailing. Consult a guide before you begin packing, just so that you’ll know what to expect.

Then you can prepare and avoid being caught off-guard. Crossing knee-deep ponds and bayous requires rubbery, impregnable overalls. If you need to spend a night, then a sleeping bag is a must-have, and you will be itching for mosquito repellents.

2. Follow the trail. Reservation parks have well-established tourist trails, which are safe to walk on. They are clearly visible and easy to follow. If you wander off the trail, be careful and watch your step – you could step on mossy stone, thick mud, in water or in quicksand even. Therefore, the next rule is important:

3. Use a walking cane for balance and probing. A long, sturdy branch will help you travel faster and safer. Because the terrain is uneven, walking with three feet rather than two prevents accidental slips and falls. Breaking a leg or spraining your ankle is dangerous in the wilderness.

If misfortune strikes you down, then somebody should stay behind and keep you safe while the forest rangers arrive, but it’s best avoided! Luckily for you, there is an easy solution: walking sticks.

A walking stick will help you when you go off track, deeper into the woods. The swampy terrain is well camouflaged under mud and foliage, and it is full of surprises. You need to make sure you are stepping on solid ground, and avoid covered puddles, watery holes, mud traps, and quicksand.

When crossing shallow water, a stick your best friend. Use your walking stick to probe the ground before stepping on it. Don’t trust the swamp, no matter how wonderfully beautiful it is!

4. Don’t mess around with funny-looking plants! Jungles and swamps are rich habitats where many endangered or dangerous plant species reside. Orchids, herbs, flowers, mushrooms…

Avoid touching these, especially if you don’t have a traveling guide! First of all, you don’t know which are poisonous. And you don’t want to disturb endangered wildlife. Photograph as much as you like and then move on!

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