What’s Your Survival IQ? Take This Quiz!

Are you a wilderness warrior, or like most of us, could you get lost in your back yard after dark? 

Ron Nosek, Trustee Emeritus of The Conservation Foundation and co-founder of Nature Education Programs, Ltd. has put together this quiz to tell you how you would fare in a real wilderness situation.  If you don’t do so well, don’t worry – Ron will be at the McDonald Farm Fall Festival on Sunday, September 13th, 11am to 4pm at our McDonald Farm headquarters in Naperville to teach various aspects of outdoor preparedness and survival. 

Good luck!  Answers are at the end if you get stumped or want to see how you did. 

1.      You are going for a 3-hour hike in a wilderness area of northern Wisconsin.  It is mid-October and you’re starting out after lunch.  You estimate the temperature at around 72 degrees.  The skies are blue with big puffy clouds.  There is a light breeze out of the west.  Which of the following clothing selections would be the best choice to wear and/or carry?

A.     A nice cotton T-shirt and your Blackhawks Stanley Cup sweatshirt.

B.     A polyester T-shirt, a nylon long-sleeve shirt, and a hooded nylon windbreaker.

C.     A long-sleeve cotton T-shirt, a synthetic long-sleeve shirt, and a warm cotton hoodie.


2.      If you had to choose just one item to have in a survival situation, what would it be?

A.     Watch

B.     Bic lighter

C.     Smartphone


3.      You are in a serious survival situation.  In what time frame do you need what?  Match the following: 

A.     3 minutes                  1. Food

B.     3 hours                      2. Water

C.     3 days                       3. Air

D.     3 weeks                    4. Shelter


4.      What is the longest distance within which a successful rescue was accomplished by means of a signal mirror?

A.     3 miles

B.     7 miles

C.     10 miles


5.      You and a friend are hiking a trail in Glacier National Park.  You come around a curve and see a grizzly bear 100 yards ahead walking casually toward you with its head down.  What should you do?

A.     Yell and throw things to scare the bear away.

B.     Turn and run.

C.     Remain calm; start talking in a low, non-threatening voice to let the bear know that you are there; and begin to slowly back away.


6.      True or False?  In the winter my down-filled coat makes me nice and warm.


7.      Hypothermia (dangerously cold internal temperature of the body) occurs most often between the temperatures of:

A.       5o-20o Farenheit

B.     20o-35o Farenheit

C.     35o-50o Farenheit

The following three questions apply to getting lost.  The answers are of equal importance to both your physical and mental well-being.


8.      You are on a canoe trip in the Boundary Waters.  You have told someone your route, your destination, and the day you will finish your trip.  Even with a map you become lost.  What should you do?

A.                     A.  Stay put and wait for help to arrive.
           B. Look at the map for the eighth time, convince yourself of the best route home, and continue on.

                   C.  Find a small island, set it on fire, and hope that the smoke will bring help.


9.      Now that you’re hopelessly lost in the Boundary Waters, assuming you’ve told someone your route, your destination, and the day you will finish your trip, statistically how long will it be before you are rescued?

A.     1-3 days

B.     4-5 days

C.     7-10 days


10.   Now the critical question:  How do you know when you are lost?  (The answer to this question also applies to all American males driving on family vacations!)


ANSWERS: [Any answer marked MTBL:”Hint”—More To Be Learned:(key word or phrase)—comes with an invitation to visit the Medicine Hawk Wilderness Skills display at The Conservation Foundation Fall Festival.  Just mention the hint and we’ll fill you in.]

1.      B. would be your best choice.  October weather can be very “iffy”, and 72 degrees with blue skies can quickly become 52 degrees with a cold drizzle or rain.  In those conditions “cotton is rotten and should be forgotten”.  A cotton hoodie or sweatshirt will soak up water from the outside; a cotton T-shirt will get wet with perspiration from the inside.  Both will make you cold and uncomfortable.  Choose synthetics or wool; these materials wick moisture away from the body.  [MTBL:”Scarecrow”]


2.      B. should be your choice.  Electronics in general—phones, GPS, and other devices—are unreliable.  Reception can be bad.   Batteries die.  Things break.  A good Bic lighter is pretty darn reliable and a nice fire can do wonders—physically and mentally—in a survival situation.  [MTBL:”Flint & Steel”]


3.      A. 3 minutes        3. Air

B.  3 hours           4. Shelter

C.  3 days             2. Water

D.  3 weeks         1. Food


4.      C. 10 miles.  A simple signal mirror can save your life.


5.      C. Remaining calm, though difficult to fathom, is the right thing to do.  A. Yelling or throwing things might work, but it could also provoke a confrontation—which you DO NOT WANT.  B. running is the worst possible choice; when you run you become prey!  [MTBL:”Grizzly vs Black Bear Strategy”]


6.      False.  Sorry, we couldn’t resist.  This is a trick question.  Your down coat does not make you warm.  It does however keep you warm.  Your body creates the warmth and the dead air space in the coat keeps the heat in.  [MTBL:”Scarecrow”]


7.      C. 35o-50o Farenheit.  At those temperatures people tend to underdress and/or choose inappropriate clothing [See answer 1 above] and/or over-exert so that they sweat, get wet, and then chill down to the point of serious bodily temperature decline.  [MTBL:”Umbles”]


8.      A. is the right call   Stay put.  The Boy Scouts teach you to “hug a tree”.  B. is a very bad choice as we humans are prone to a practice called “bending the map”.  [MTBL:”Map-bending”]  C. might be a last ditch effort, but certainly isn’t recommended in the short run.  (See answer 9 below.)


9.      A.  If you have made a plan for your travels, if you’ve given someone your plan, and if you stick to your plan [MTBL:”Breadcrumbs”], you can expect to be found within 72 hours of the time you go missing. 


10.   How do you know when you are lost?  We at Medicine Hawk Wilderness Skills have debated that question for a long, long time.  But we finally came up with an answer that was satisfactory to our entire staff.  If you ask yourself the question, “Am I lost?”–the answer is always “YES!”  So it is time to stop and wait for help.


If you have questions about these answers or any other survival issues, please stop by the Medicine Hawk Wilderness Skills display at The Conservation Foundation’s McDonald Farm Fall Festival and we’ll be happy to share with you what we know.


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