Sitting on the couch watching another episode of Naked and Afraid, or Man vs Wild, and it's easy to judge. Seeing their mistakes in the comfort of your home, while giving a running commentary of everything they're doing wrong. But I want to clear up a few things here, especially to my readers who are planning to bug out into the wild when the SHTF.
Survival is tough. Even for an experienced woodsman, it only takes a handful of mistakes for a situation to turn from bad to deadly. The trick is to understand the fundamentals, and of course, get out and practice as much as you can. Make sure you're not making any of these mistakes the next time you're in the woods.
Don't let yourself get wet
Now I understand this isn't always possible, from a freak downpour to taking a tumble and ending up waist deep in that stream you simply had to cross. The trick is to not only have the right protective gear to keep your core dry, but you've got a plan should you get wet anyway. In my bug out kit I've got a spare change of underwear (always a good idea), so in an absolute worst-case scenario I can throw up a quick tarp shelter, start a fire, and sit around in dry briefs while the rest of my clothes dry out. Getting wet, especially in cold weather, can be a death sentence if you're not prepared.
Don't drink the water
It can be particularly tempting to take a cup straight out of the stream, but that's a major survival risk. Your eye cannot see the microscopic parasites and bacteria that could be lurking in the water, and once you drink it you'll be in big trouble. Vomiting and diarrhea will kill any of your plans, unless you're wanting to suffer for 24-48 hours in place. Always, always, boil your water before you drink it, and at the very least use a water filter. This will mean that you have both a canteen capable of boiling water, and a fire source, which comes down to smart packing before you head off into the wild.
Don't forget a fire-starting kit
Helping you cook your food, purify water, warm you up and even signal for help or keep predators at bay during the night, being able to start a fire in any conditions is critical. I'd go so far as saying it's one of the most important elements you need to master if you're planning to survive in the wild. Because the conditions will make a difference. Starting a fire on a dry autumn afternoon is far easier than battling a wet and windy winter's day. Pack a fire-starting kit with enough dry kindling to get even damp tinder to burn, and don't be afraid to get out in your yard while it's raining and practice. Your first time starting a fire in the rain shouldn't be when you're stranded and your life depends on it.
Don't get lost in the bush
It used to be that whenever we ventured out we'd have a compass and a map, but far too many people rely on their smartphone these days. Trouble is, without a battery, if you're stranded for more than a day or two your precious phone isn't going to do you any good. Learn the basics of navigation, how to read a compass or take a bearing from the sun, and ensure you're able to orient yourself no matter how far in the woods you go. A lot of this comes with practice, so make it a habit to get out of the comfort of your living room and go for a hike every now and then. These skills are important to learn.
Don't eat the berries
Or anything that you're unsure of to be honest. If you're not completely confident that what you're planning on putting in your mouth is edible, don't eat it. The risks are just far too high, and if you do happen to poison yourself in the middle of nowhere, it's a situation that will turn deadly fast, as you may not make it back out to safety. I've been practicing my ability to recognize the common plants in my area, and actually took a course last summer with a guide who could demonstrate first-hand what was actually safe to eat. It was far easier than trying to match up pictures in a book, and I definitely remember more of it after being shown (than reading it myself).
Don't forget the weather
We touched on this earlier in the point about staying dry, but it's critical to consider the weather you'll be facing when you're outdoors. It can be easy to forget just how cold it gets on the mountain when you're sitting in a nice, centrally heated bedroom. You need to pack the right gear for the conditions you face. Warm and insulated winter gear is perfect for the cold, while shade and adequate water becomes vital during summer. Pack for the conditions you'll be facing, so you're always prepared. I tend to be a little overkill in what I bring in my kit, but I'd rather take my jacket off when the day warms up, instead of shivering at night because I didn't bring it at all.
Survival in the woods isn't for the faint-hearted, and there's much more to it than what you're used to seeing on television. I just want you to realize this before you find yourself stranded, unprepared in a situation that can quickly become life-or-death. Ultimately, the key is to be prepared, and to learn from these mistakes. I don't want you to make any of them the next time you're in the woods. I want you to be a survivor.