You often hear people say that if the SHTF that they will simply “live off the land”. I am here to tell you that it is harder than it looks, especially if you have more than just yourself to feed. I had the opportunity to test my skills on the TV show “Alone” on the History Channel (we were dropped off solo and self-documented our journey – – no camera crew). I’ve been asked a lot about what I ate when I was solo on Vancouver Island for 57 days fending for myself.

On the show, you mostly see me eating salmon. I caught 5 or 6 (can’t recall) during my time there, but I ate 25 other species as well. Here is my list of the 26 species I ate while on the island. The inter-tidal was indeed abundant and provided the most consistent source of food for me. Fish other than salmon I caught on my lines.

  1. Limpets
  2. Chum salmon
  3. Spiny dogfish
  4. Kelp bass
  5. Blennie eels
  6. Mossy chitons
  7. Red rock crabs
  8. Marine isopods (sea lice)
  9. Banana slugs
  10. Admiral boletes
  11. King boletes
  12. Chanterelles
  13. Spiny wood fern roots
  14. Silverweed roots
  15. Plantain
  16. Yarrow (mostly in tea, for medicine and under my arms)
  17. Spruce and hemlock needle tips (for Vitamin C in tea)
  18. Licorice fern roots
  19. Enteromorpha (green algae)
  20. Fucus (rockweed)
  21. Nereocystis (Bullwhip kelp)
  22. Macrocystis (Giant kelp)
  23. Salal berries
  24. Huckleberries
  25. Hemlock Tree cambium (not so tasty and careful on how much you eat)
  26. Salicornia (Sea Asparagus)

In addition, I used Usnea, Yarrow, Plantain and Western Red Cedar bark as medicine. Mussels and clams were off-limits due to red tide and the barnacles in my area were too small. Otherwise they’d have been in the pot as well.

How does this relate to prepping? Food procurement in the wild is hard, especially in the fall/winter. The best bang for your buck is passive food (gill nets, trot lines, traps) – things that work for you while you sleep. Foraging plants, mushrooms and animals that can’t run from you is also a calorie-efficient way to harvest food. If I’d had a gun out there and didn’t have to follow local hunting regulations I would have been able to secure more food. That said, prepping your land with a food and medicine garden, fruit trees and domestic animals is certainly the way to go. If there really is a need to only live off the land having these ways to do it, coupled with a lot of food storage, is your best bet.

I am thrilled that I got to test my survival skills in the wild. Not everyone gets the opportunity to live alone in the woods for 2 months and I feel lucky and blessed to have had that time to see what I was made of. What am I made of? Apparently 26 species of wild foods. Thanks for listening and remember to prepare!


by Dr. Nicole Apelian

Survival Foods and Prepping: Living off the Land is Harder Than it Looks
Dr. Nicole Apelian
About Dr, Nicole:

Dr. Nicole Apelian is a scientist, mother, educator, researcher, expeditionary leader, safari guide, herbalist and traditional skills instructor. A leader in the field of transformative nature education, Nicole is excited to share her knowledge and expertise of nature connection, indigenous knowledge, natural wellness and survival skills with the world.

Growing up in Massachusetts, Nicole connected with nature at an early age. Her stepfather was an enormous influence, offering constant support, teaching her to play guitar, and mentoring her through outdoor activities. Nicole’s first exposure to true wilderness living began while working as a field biologist in Botswana.

Following a job as a game warden with the US Peace Corps, she began tracking and researching lions in southern Africa. Nicole immediately fell in love with the African landscapes and the San Bushmen’s way of life, and later, while working with the San Bushmen, Nicole completed her doctorate, focused in Cultural Anthropology within the field of Sustainability Education. Years of visiting the San Bushmen and developing strong relationships within the tribe allowed Nicole to learn many of the primitive skills and ways she practices and teaches today.

Nicole was also a challenger on the second season of History Channel’s TV series “Alone”. She thrived in the wilderness totally solo for 57 days with little more than her knife and her wits! Learn about Nicole’s experience on the show here.

Nicole continues her work with the San Bushmen to help them find strategies to preserve their traditions and is currently cataloging indigenous plant uses with a community of Naro Bushmen who regard her as family. At her home in the Pacific Northwest, Nicole makes her own herbal medicines from local plants and enjoys time in nature with her two sons and wonderful community.

You can train with Dr. Nicole through her website. She teaches a number of “Survive and Thrive” outdoor classes. The most popular class is the Every Day Carry Preparedness Workshop. Learn what you should carry at all times for emergencies to provide water, shelter, fire, food, medical and signaling.

With Eco Tours International, you can travel with her to the Kalahari Tracking and Bird Language Expedition, a transformational journey with the Naro (NHARO) San Bushmen community in Botswana, Africa.

*Photos courtesy of the author

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