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Wilderness Safety and the TRUTH About Wilderness Survival: Wild Edibles (Calories)

Much has been touted, unjustifiably so, about the skill of gathering wild food, not hunting, trapping, or fishing, etc., I’m talking wild edibles. I’ve even had a protracted [email] debate when it comes to value of wild edibles with Samuel Thayer, author of a couple of good and interesting books on a limited number of wild edibles, particularly when it comes to wilderness survival.

First, Mr. Thayer is NOT a true wilderness survivalist, he’s a bushcrafter with a specialty in wild edibles. HUGE difference! (what’s more, he doesn’t even realize he’s not a true wilderness survivalist!!). Setting aside the fact that sleep is far more important than food, AND that the VAST majority of survival situations conclude in 10 to 24 hours (most of the rest concluding within 72 hours), there are five important considerations when it comes to assessing whether it is even worth attempting to gather wild food:

THE FIVE WILD FOOD CONSIDERATIONS:

1- Availability

2- Accessibility

3- Abundance

4- Caloric value

5- Nutritional variety

AVAILABILITY: The wild edible/s in question MUST be in season to even be available in the first place. Otherwise, what’s the point of even thinking about it?

ACCESSIBILITY: Even if it’s in season, can you even GET to it? If you can’t efficiently and safely GET the food, you will burn far fewer calories sleeping!

ABUNDANCE: Even if it’s in season and you can get it efficiently and safely, is it PLENTIFUL enough?

CALORIC VALUE: Even if it’s in season and you can get it efficiently and safely, and it is plentiful, are there enough CALORIES in those plants to make a difference?

NUTRITIONAL VARIETY: On a slightly less important note, and in a more extended situation, is there enough nutritional variety to make sure you not only avoid malnutrition, but avoid vitamin/mineral overload.

THE CASE OF CHRISTOPHER McCANDLESS

In January, 1993, Outside Magazine published an article written by John Krakauer about a guy who turned his back on what appeared to be a bright future after college, for a homeless existence under the name, “Alexander Supertramp.” His body was found in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness, weighing just 67 pounds. He died of starvation about a week before hikers happened upon his remains. Krakauer later wrote a book on the story called "Into The Wild" and later helped write the screenplay for the movie (NOTE: Thayer seems to have a personal axe to grind against Krakauer!).

The story behind the theory of his starvation is he confused the wild sweet pea with the wild potato. While they can't yet prove definitively and precisely how he died, wild potato seeds are toxic, and the wild sweet pea is safe to eat… but only IF you are well fed and NOT in a survival condition! (which McCandless was!!) But it WILL kill you if you are in true survival mode. So in the end, BOTH plants would have killed him!!!

When you are actually in REAL “survival mode,” (in a REAL survival ordeal), you are more susceptible to toxins. When a substance in toxic enough, it’s considered “poisonous”! Being in a weakened state, as in survival, can make you that susceptible.

BASIC CALORIE EXPENSE

When it comes to calories, you need to familiarize yourself with intake and expense: How many calories are in what foods and the AMOUNT of those foods. And, how many calories are expended by what types of activities. Coincidentally, I happened to work for a law firm that was responsible for that nutritional calorie/content chart you see on food boxes, cans, packages, etc.

The BASIC (simplified) rule of thumb is; for puttering around camp, doing minor camp chores, etc., it takes about 1,000 calories per day. For doing more meaningful chores around camp, hiking around the area and cutting a reasonable amount of wood, etc., it takes about 2,000 calories per day. And for strenuous hiking, cutting and hauling serious firewood, etc. it takes abut 3,000 calories per day (of course there are variables, but again, this is just a rule of thumb to give you a basic idea).

More precisely, in calculating the calorie expense rate for an individual in a given activity, and to give you a better idea, you have to consider the size/weight of the person and the duration of the activity. In the below examples, these are for activities that run about 30 minutes. After each activity, I've listed the calories expended by a 125-pound person, a 155-pound person, and a 185-pound person:

 

ACTIVITY

125 POUNDS

(calories spent)

155 POUNDS

(calories spent)

185 POUNDS

(calories spent)

Heavy lifting (general)

90

112

133

Heavy lifting (vigorous)

180

223

266

Calisthenics (moderate)

135

167

200

Calisthenics (vigorous)

240

298

355

Walking (3.5 mph, 17 min/mi)

120

149

178

Walking (4 mph, 15 min/mi)

135

167

200

Walking (4.5 mph, 13 min/mi)

150

186

222

Hiking (cross-country)

180

223

266

Skiing (cross-country)

240

298

355

Snow Shoeing

240

298

355

Kayaking

150

186

222

Whitewater rafting/kayaking

150

186

222

Swimming (general)

180

223

266

Rock climbing/rappelling

240

298

355

Rock climbing/ascending

330

409

488

Hatha Yoga (stretching)

120

149

178

Tai Chi

120

149

178

Cooking

75

93

111

Sleeping

19

23

28

 

Obviously, this just scratches the surface of this subject, but I'll revisit it soon.

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Re: Wilderness Safety and the TRUTH About Wilderness Survival: Wild Edibles (Calories)

I think you forgot the most important consideration for wild food? It must not be poisonous. I remember years ago in my area some people from SE Asia collected some mushrooms that they thought were a delicious variety they were familiar with in their home country. The appearance was deadly, those were death cap mushrooms and everyone who ate them either died or had a liver transplant.

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Re: Wilderness Safety and the TRUTH About Wilderness Survival: Wild Edibles (Calories)

LOL! DUH!! The first rule of wild food is, "If you don't know what it is, or how it died, DON'T eat it!" No, I didn't forget, I just thought it was obvious.

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