Interesting passage from "War & Peace" by Leo Tolstoy.
Written in the 1860's, some people consider this the greatest novel of all time. At one point, Tolstoy describes an earth hut used by Russian soldiers for winter encampment in 1807:
"This earth hut was constructed according to a plan much in vogue at that time: a trench three-and-a-half feet wide, a little less than five deep, and about eight long was dug. At one end steps were constructed, and this formed the entry, the 'grand staircase'; the trench itself constituted the abode, in which those who were fortunate, as for instance, the squadron commander, had a board set on posts on the side opposite the entrance; this served as a table. On each side along the trench the earth was hollowed away to half its depth, making a bed and divan. The roof was so constructed that in the middle it was possible to stand erect under it, and one could sit up on the beds by leaning over toward the table . . . . When it was very cold, coals from the soldiers' fires were brought on a bent piece of sheet iron and set on the steps . . . . This made it so warm that the officers . . . could sit there in their shirt sleeves."
Key points from the book "Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival":
I recommend this book without reservation. Besides teaching technique, it helps you cultivate a proper attitude and demeanor in assessing and dealing with a survival situation. The paperback sells for around $12.95 (U.S.) Here's some of the information most appropriate to what we can anticipate post-shift:
The most important survival tool is the mind and the attitude it takes.
When you are productively involved, there's no time to dwell on how miserable you are.
You can survive for a month or more without eating. Your priority is shelter from the elements.
You can make a good warm shelter in most any region using only the materials around you, without tools.
Comfort is not your primary objective. Warmth and dryness is.
Most people build their shelters larger than is necessary.
With the debris around you, you can build a shelter that's practically impervious to water and can protect you from temperatures found in the Russian Arctic. It's called a debris hut.
The best thatching materials are long grasses and reeds. A carefully made thatched hut can withstand winds of 75 miles per hour, and maybe more.
A mixture of mud and fibrous material such as grasses will make a surprisingly strong, water-resistant cement.
A relatively simple structure such as a Rock Hogan can practically be warmed by candlelight.
A bed lined with cedar shavings will help keep insects to a minimum. In addition, shake it out every few days.
Don't go more than 24 hours without water.
A device known as a 'solar still' does a great job of purifying polluted water.
Don't eat snow or ice. It depletes too much energy from your body. Melt it first.
By eating food without consuming water, you deplete your body's fluid supply all the faster.
Use heat reflectors to enhance the effects of your fires.
With a bow drill, you can start a fire without matches, even under rainy conditions. Even children can do it.
Get a book and learn your plants. There is no shortcut to easy identification.
Roots are a poor source of nutrients in the summer.
Add a few insects or a small bird to pine-needle tea and you've got a nutritious stew. You'll get more vitamin C than from a fresh-squeezed orange.
A useful reference book is "A Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants" by Lee Peterson.
For extra nutrition, throw maggots, earthworms and slugs into a boiling stew and forget they're even there.
If you spot a nest, don't take all the eggs. The mother will lay some more.
Animal urine can be used as a bait to entice other animals of the same species into a trap.
Most animals will not go near bait that has been tainted with human scent.
For catching fish, spears are easy to make.
You can construct a short-term bow & arrow in about an hour.
When skinning an animal, avoid contaminating the edible parts with urine, feces, or caustic substances, so don't puncture any organs.
You can add the blood to soups or stews. It's high in iron and other essential nutrients.
Internal organs can be twisted and pulled into strong cordage.
Save the sinew (white connective tissue). It's the strongest natural fiber known to man and it makes superb cordage.
Crush the bones and throw them in your stew. Calcium rich, they also make fine tools.
All greens, roots, and meats can be cooked in a pit with very little loss of nutrients.
Tools: It is a joy to discover how little we really need and how abundantly it is provided.
Cordage is indispensible, the materials are plentiful in nature, and it's not all that difficult to make. For instance, you can get it from trees, fibrous plants, and along the spines of animals.
The most important tool of all is the sharp blade. You can make one by smashing one rock against another until you have a usable edge. Save the grains and dust to help make a hard-setting cement.
If you make tools from green wood, harden them in a fire first.
Natural cordage found in plants can be woven into blankets, baskets, and clothing.
The sap from conifers such as fir and pine makes excellent glue when boiled and thickened.
Avoid overheating. Accumulated moisture under your clothing will only cool and sap your energy later on.
If you're exposed to severe wind and rain, hypothermia can creep up even under mild temperatures, and a person severely affected usually doesn't have the presence of mind to do anything about it.
When travelling on unfamiliar terrain, most people veer to the right or left, depending on their handedness.
Wet and green wood will produce the most smoke. (Not recommended if you don't want other people to know where you are.)
Almost all sprained ankles and broken bones could be avoided if people first looked where they walked.
The most essential outdoor items are a pocketknife, waterproof matches, a candle, cordage, a compass, fish line, and items to make a solar still.
Key points from "Tom Brownís Field Guide to Living with the EarthĒ:
Consider this one an extension to his Field Guide to Wilderness Survival.
When it comes to survival, adaptation is the name of the game.
Indian tribes always camped in a circle.
Circular structures are easier to build, more solid, and more economical. They require fewer materials. They shed water more evenly and quickly. They can take higher winds.
Grass thatching is flammable.
Unless your shelter is covered with canvas or plastic, thereís hardly any way to avoid leaks.
Be sure to provide for adequate air circulation. You can make four draft holes spaced evenly around your circular or oval shelter. Plug them up in cooler weather. When using the fire, unplug the hole thatís facing the prevailing wind.
If you use a well, keep it covered to help prevent contamination.
The best water containers are made out of clay.
If you make a dam or levee, open it up periodically to let the silt wash downstream.
We strengthen ourselves through repeated failure.
Cordage made from rawhide can last for years.
A fire inside a roomy shelter is easier to maintain than one exposed to the elements.
The ďstar fireĒ conserves energy the best. It's made by arranging pieces of wood like the spokes of a wheel, with the ends nearly touching in the middle over a small bed of coals.
The Indians habitually kept their eyes out for useful tools, such as stones.
Fear is a great teacher.
As long as you feel separate from the landscape, you wonít blend with it.
The author says heís never without a primitive throwing stick for capturing small game.
Traps are most effective if theyíre set some distance apart. Once a trigger is tripped, all the animals in that area go on alert.
The first three days in a full-survival situation are very intense.
Summer and fall are spent preparing and stocking for the winter. Donít slack off. If you do, youíll have a miserable winter. Repair you shelters, concentrating on insulation. Gather firewood. Smoke meats. Gather cordage.
Winter is the time to gather roots.
In winter, hunt only when conditions are ideal -- neither too wet nor too cold.
The most important part of long-term survival is planning far enough ahead so youíll be ready for the next season.
Key points from "The SAS Survival HandbookĒ by John Wiseman:
The ĎSASí refers to the Special Air Service, an elite unit of the British Army. Wiseman served with this unit for 26 years, including a stint as an instructor. In other words, he knows his shit.
Physical fitness is essential.
A knife is your most important tool. One knife the author recommends is the parang.
Water sources will be a major factor in planning any route.
Your backpack MUST have a comfortable hip belt. This takes pressure off your shoulders and back.
It takes a healthy person quite a long time to die of starvation.
Ration your sweat, not your water. In other words, donít overexert yourself.
Never waste animal blood. It contains essential minerals and may become our only source of salt.
Calmness and confidence in yourself will inspire the confidence and cooperation of others.
When leaving camp, lay out markers so you can find your way back.
The residue of salt from distilled sea water can be used for preserving meat and fish.
Seaweeds can be dried and stored for months.
Salt water will rot boots and clothing.
Fish from slow-moving waters are more likely to be infested with parasites.
Keep calm and relax. Anxiety uses up calories.
A snake is a steak. But be sure itís dead before you handle it. Some snakes can feign death convincingly.
Pound for pound, insects provide more food value than vegetables.
VERY IMPORTANT: Worms and smaller insects can be mashed into a paste and then either cooked or dried to a powder. Use this to thicken soups or for storage -- it will keep for some time. (I believe weíve just found a partial solution to our food preservation problems.)
You can catch aquatic insects with a fine-mesh screen or perhaps a t-shirt tied to sticks. Kick up some mud and run the screen through the water.
Freshwater algae: Dry it and use it as a thickener. Make sure itís green. The blue-green is poisonous. You may want to soak algae overnight.
Itís easier to trap small prey than to hunt them. Youíll have several empty traps for every success. Wisemanís book is worth the price for the trapping section alone. No other book has described their workings so clearly to me -- including books devoted to trapping.
Make sure everyone knows where your traps are so no one gets hurt. This reminds me of something else: Be on the lookout for traps that other groups may have set out -- especially deadly spear-traps.
By reading this section youíll realize you donít need snare wire, but it sure would make trapping easier.
Applying a sticky substance to branches is an ancient way of capturing small birds. Remember that some large birds can be quite ferocious when defending themselves.
Donít butcher your game in camp. Youíll attract insects and predators.
Liver requires little cooking and contains all essential vitamins and minerals.
All bones should be boiled for soup.
In a survival situation, traditional fishing methods are not the most effective.
A long net is effective but will soon empty a stretch of water.
The skin of freshwater fish is edible, so leave it on if food is in short supply.
At low temperatures you need more food.
In our shelters, weíll retain more heat if the stove/fire is centrally located.
Damp wood is sometimes advantageous, producing smoke to ward off insects.
A wood shed is essential in wet weather.
Donít waste energy chopping logs. Smash them over rocks.
When boiling food, drink all the liquid. Steaming may be preferable, and you can build a makeshift steamer.
Most of the common diseases in a survival situation are water-borne.
If you stay too long in one place you build up the chance of disease, even if your hygiene is strict.
If your group decides to travel, stay in some sort of formation so you can account for one another.
Even the strongest of swimmers should use a flotation device when crossing a river.
If insects get in your clothes, wash them and smoke them.
Water can be stored to last through dry months. Store it in the dark.
Burn and/or bury the corpses of dead animals (and people, too).
When animals donít get enough water, even normally tame ones may attack you.
In a forest fire, do not run wildly. Plan a route.
Beware of injury from panic-stricken animals in flood waters.
Good goggles can help protect your eyes from volcanic ash. Cover your mouth and nose with a damp cloth. Keep your clothes and body washed. Flush your eyes with clean water.
Radiation: Wash your whole body. The best protection is a deep trench with a roof covered by a meter or more of earth. Stay there for at least 48 hours. When you emerge, discard and bury your clothing. All wounds must stay covered. Unless itís from a protected source, donít drink water for those 48 hours after detonation. Decontaminate your utensils in boiled water.
Except for your underwear, donít waste water washing clothes. For washing yourself, use just a damp cloth. You can also wash with wet sand.
Donít throw away water after using it. Allow the sediment to settle then filter and boil it again.
Key points from "The Survival Handbook" by Peter Darman:
Knowledge means nothing unless you have the will to survive.
One of the greatest threats to survival is the desire for comfort. The sudden disappearance of everyday conveniences is a great shock to the system.
Pain will seem worse if we do nothing but lie down and think about it.
Donít move at night unless absolutely necessary.
Donít compromise when it comes to clothing.
When taken care of, good boots can last up to ten years.
Your most important piece of clothing may be a good jacket.
Donít give in to the temptation to remove clothing in warm climates. Youíll lose too much water from sweat.
Hemlock and water hemlock are two of the most poisonous plants.
Donít spend more energy catching food than you get from it.
The body uses its own minerals and vitamins to digest rabbit meat, so you may be better off without it.
Insects: Be careful when searching for them. Their hiding places may also contain snakes, scorpions and spiders. Donít eat insects that have fed on dung. Cook ants for at least six minutes. Boil all insects caught in water.
Fishing: Save eyes and entrails for the next dayís fishing. Donít eat shellfish that isnít covered by water at high tide.
Before preparing an animal, check the lymph glands in the cheek. If theyíre large and discolored, the animal is ill.
If you build a fire at the front of a cave the smoke will choke you.
You can make shoe soles from rubber tires.
If you have a shoulder blade from a dead animal, you can cut it in half and fashion some teeth for a saw. Other small bones can be sharpened, a hole punctured through with a hot piece of wire, and now you have a needle.
You can make knives from spare metal thatís sharpened and then driven into wood.
Speed is often the key to successful survival medicine.
A warm rock wrapped in cloth and applied to a wound can aid in healing.
The main danger of disease will come from lice, mosquitoes, flies, fleas, ticks, as well as the stings of bees and wasps. Check your body daily to make sure there are no insects attached to you.
When treating an injury, calm down and try to think.
When leaving camp, set out markers to show which way youíve traveled. (Unless of course you donít want people to know where youíve gone.)
On a river or stream, underwater rocks can tear your raft to pieces within seconds.
When treating trench foot, donít rub or massage the feet.
If you fall into cold water, move as quickly and violently as you can to get out.
Treatment for snow blindness includes blindfolding yourself and waiting for the soreness to disappear.
Squirrels can be savage when defending themselves.
You can keep dead fish on land for a couple days by keeping them in a moist, shady spot.
Donít sleep on bare ground.
If you lay a tool down in the snow youíll probably lose it.
Rotten damp wood will guarantee plenty of insect-repelling smoke.
Snakes: Use a stick to turn over stones, not your hands, unless you enjoy snakebites. Check your bedding, clothing and packs before using them to make sure they contain no snakes. A wounded snake is ferocious, so make sure you kill it.
Seaweed is a rich source of minerals, but it can act as a violent laxative if your stomach isnít accustomed to it. If you find plankton, start eating it in small quantities. Also, it requires a lot of fluid to digest it.
Key points from "The Outdoor Survival Handbook" by Raymond Mears:
In the U.K. the title might be ďThe Complete Outdoor Handbook.Ē Highly recommended.
Our most powerful tool is the ability to reason.
Nature is your ally, but it can also be a harsh and unsentimental force.
Be sure you can swim.
Surviving outdoors is not about gear and gizmos.
Your knife is your most important tool.
Your trousers will take a battering.
Gather resources in a sustainable way so you donít deplete them.
Adversity will sharpen your skills.
There is no substitute for observation.
Natural shelters can give you a better nightís sleep than the most sophisticated tent, and they are stronger.
It usually takes people several years to learn the best uses of fire.
Fill your pockets with good tinder whenever you find it.
Even when the fuel is used up, disposable lighters will still produce sparks for quite some time.
Cordage: Gathering and preparing the fibers takes longer than actually making the cordage itself.
Pine resin is waterproof, making it useful for caulking.
Eat only those things you have positively identified as edible.
When gathering roots, try to gather after the plant has gone to seed.
Snakes are more afraid of us than we are of them.
On warmer days, keep your mouth closed to avoid exhaling more moisture than is necessary.
Wash your food in purified water.
Stay clean, and brush your teeth and hair every day.
A sauna (sweat lodge) is relatively easy to make and will help keep you clean, especially if nearby water is rendered non-swimmable due to contamination.
Constantly practice being more alert. In time, it will become natural to you.
Choose a binoculars with good low-light performance.
Many of the hunting techniques used in centuries past are now outlawed. Why? Because theyíre so deadly and efficient.
After gutting a fish, leave it sit for 6 to 12 hours to allow the nerve endings to die.
By far, the best method for cooking greens is steaming.
You can make flour from bark, seeds, roots, and plants.
You can build an effective lean-to without any lashing.
In cold weather, you can dig up roots for access to their carbohydrates.
Hereís an illustration of an effective group shelter taken from the book.
Hang your clothes to dry. Thatís better than body-drying them in your sleeping bag at night.
If your urine is dark yellow, that suggests dehydration. When youíre bundled up, itís easy to misjudge how dehydrated youíre becoming.
A carried fire helps keep you warm as you go about your tasks.
To get water, you can unfreeze frozen puddles with hot rocks.
Cordage is harder to find in winter.
Never eat shellfish raw.
Key points from the book "How to Stay Alive in the Woods" by Bradford Angier:
Angier apparently considers himself somewhat of a litterateur with a flair for words, and this can get annoying. But despite this, he makes a variety of good points:
In parts of Mexico, the most nutritious flour is made from the eggs of small insects found in marshes.
Four tablespoons of animal blood provide as much nutrition as ten eggs.
The skin of an animal is as nourishing as raw meat.
Bone marrow of animals is high in calories, but donít overcook it. The more you heat food, the more nutritional value you lose.
You cannot live on meat alone.
Unless youíre very familiar with them, the risks of eating mushrooms far outweigh the potential gains.
Rose hips are high in vitamin C, which averts and remedies scurvy.
Sea cucumbers are edible.
Fish bones, bent nails, and bent safety pins will help you catch fish. So can a button.
Small streams can be diverted so as to strand fish in pools. Or you can pry an opening in a beaver dam and try to divert the fish where you want. Or you can kick up some mud, temporarily blinding some fish, and catch them by hand.
To catch some birds, take a decomposed fish and hide a stick or bone inside. Hang the fish from a cord tied to a tree branch or pole.
Assume all water is impure until proven otherwise. No purification by chemical means is as dependable as boiling. Donít assume that ice is pure, either.
Ocean-ice more than a year old is nearly salt-free.
By keeping quiet, we reduce our need for water intake.
Itís a common mistake to dress too warmly in cold weather.
Shake off the frost before you warm and dry your clothing at night.
To accommodate quality socks, hiking footwear should be larger than ordinary shoes.
Squeeze your socks dry. Donít wring them. Buy whites or grays, not colors that can run.
Mosquitoes prefer wet clothing to dry, and theyíre most attracted to blue.
Many individuals lost in the woods have been found well-clothed, except for their bare feet torn through to the bone in some cases.
The #1 mistake people make with outdoor clothing is trying to dry it too rapidly. This is especially true with footwear. Especially if it contains leather, dry your footwear as slowly as possible, with as little heat as possible.
If and when socks give out, you may have to bed your feet in dry grass or moss.
Short, square rafts have too much of a tendency to spin in water.
The colder it becomes, the farther it is possible to see and hear (and be seen and heard, I might add).
Once you realize you canít afford to have an accident, you increase your odds of success. Always weigh the possible loss against the possible gain.
Knots: The quickly tied and untied bowline, which has raised and lowered tens of thousands of individuals to safety, provides a loop that will neither tighten nor slip.
Traveling on ice can never be considered safe. Assume it can give way at any moment.
If you come face-to-face with a large animal, talk to it in a calm voice. This often settles them down.
In the wilderness, insects are more dangerous than wild animals. Mud makes an OK insect repellent, you can stick cotton in your ears, and try to stay in breezy areas.
If you fall into icy water, try rolling around in the snow once you get out. This will blot out some of the moisture in your clothing before it can reach your body.
Contrary to folk wisdom, donít ever apply snow to a frozen ear. Also, itís better to hunker down in very cold weather, contrary to a belief that you should keep moving.
If caught in a snowslide or avalanche, try a swimming motion to stay near the surface. In particular, the backstroke is recommended.
Just like baseball and football players do, you can charcoal your eyes to reduce glare. (We might not have this problem for a while!)
If you find yourself sinking into a swamp or bog, try to increase the amount of your body surface thatís in contact with the mire.
Experienced woodsmen often measure distances in terms of time rather than miles, and thatís a good reason to carry a watch.
Says the British Columbia Game Commission: ďOur future will be as bright in the same measure as we prepare for it.Ē
Key points from "The Complete Book of Outdoor Survival" by J. Wayne Fears:
This book gets chatty and is not particularly outstanding, but some of the illustrations are valuable.
If you can find a battery from a motorized vehicle, you can get sparks by attaching steel wool to each pole. Or you can create a spark by attaching a wire to each pole and scraping the ends together.
You can also start a fire by attaching steel wool to the ends of household batteries, preferably two or more batteries at a time.
Many survival students mistakenly make their shelter too large. A survival shelter is better off small and cramped. As time goes on we can enlarge.
If you can latch onto one, a parachute is water-repellant and durable and can make a good lean-to or teepee-type shelter.
Survival stores sell what are known as space blankets. Wrapped up, they're about the size of a pack of cigarettes. They can reflect 90% of the heat thrown against them.
Thereís a lot more to hunting and trapping than just reading about it. Even with experience, itís hard work to assure yourself a steady supply of food. It may be easier to concentrate on reptiles, crustaceans, fish, and insects.
For a person in a survival crisis, the best source of edible wild food is probably fish. Ponds, lakes and streams support more animal life in a smaller area than land does, and itís often easier to acquire.
Itís generally easier to catch a few small fish than one or two larger ones. As a rule, fish bite bait from their native water, so look in the water near shore for minnows, insects, and worms. When you catch a fish, inspect its stomach to see what itís been eating and then try to match this food. Use intestines, eyes, and other scrap parts of the fish for bait. In many waters, a small strip of red flannel on a hook is all thatís needed to catch a fish.
If you need to improvise a fishline, you can use twisted bark, cloth fibers, and tendons from animals.
Here's an illustration of a fishing trotline, as well as a couple other trapping devices. This way you can catch fish while you're engaged in other tasks. In swift water, you may need to weight the main line.
Pound for pound, insects probably have as much protein as anything you could catch to eat. One method of catching edible insects is to place a vessel of water underneath a light source. The insects will be attracted to the light and blunder into the water, where they may be captured. Insects are better as a protein mixed in soups and stews. Grubs, the white larvae of certain insects, are rich in protein. If you eat snails, cook them well because they may contain parasites.
Frogs and salamanders are good sources of food, but avoid toads.
Night is the best time to try catching roosting birds. A cruel but perhaps necessary way to catch seashore birds is to tie a fish on a hooked line as bait and tie it to a stake. The bird will do the rest. Inland birds can be caught with a similar method -- stringing a line between two trees with several 3-foot sections of line tied to it, each with a hook on the end. Bait the hook with seeds or food scraps. You can also trap birds in a gill net used for fishing. At night, set the net vertical to the ground in some natural flyway, such as an opening along dense foliage. During the day, anchor one end of the net to the ground and attach the other end to a tree limb so you can release it from a distance. Bait the area under the net, wait for the birds to gather, and then pull down the net.
I believe it's important to get a couple good survival books with illustrations of various snares and traps for hunting and fishing.
Highlights from "Wilderness Survival" by Gregory Davenport
Davenport was a survival instructor in the U.S. Air Force.
Matches and lighters run out, but a metal match will last 'forever' (so he says).
If clothes are dirty they lose their insulating ability. Also, when clothes absorb too much sweat they lose their insulating quality, so avoid too much physical exertion.
Wool retains most of its insulating quality even when wet.
One-third to one-half of all body heat loss occurs through the head and hands.
If you get snow on your clothes, shake it off. If you brush it off, you work moisture into the fibers.
With your clothing, repair any rips and tears as soon as they occur.
Gaiters protect legs from insects and getting scratched by low underbrush.
Fluff your sleeping bag every day to create dead air spaces. Air-dry it frequently.
Build your shelter so it faces the best early-morning sun exposure.
If youíre located near the sea post-shift, you can count on driftwood and boards floating ashore.
Bury the head of any poisonous snakes you capture.
This book reinforces the need to have certain community members familiar with knots & lashes as well as methods of trapping animals.
Highlights from "The Complete Walker", by Colin Fletcher
This and the few books that follow are also capsulized on the Troubled Times site, but I wrote the stuff originally, so it appears here too.
Your opinions on equipment and technique must never fossilize into dogma.
Don't put wet boots close to a fire. The soles may curl up and the leather may lose some of its life.
Dirty socks can cause abrasions faster.
Walking sticks are good for checking bushes for snakes.
Of course, avoid drinking still water, and be cautious about springs that have no insect life.
Flint sticks are easy to carry.
The hottest fire comes from small sticks.
Once you get a fire going, dry up some tinder for future fires. It's going to be a wet world.
Newspaper is a good insulator.
The neck creates a weak point in almost any clothing system, hence the usefulness of scarves.
If you're on the move, binoculars can save you hours of wasted effort. They help you choose the best route.
Despite the magnetic chaos, a compass may still be useful. Get one that's shielded from interference, and get one that's not liquid-filled.
A mirror may come in useful for signaling. So may a whistle, if someone in your party gets lost.
In trout country, the best rod is a switch cut from a riverbank.
A thermometer can help you avoid surfaces that are too hot or water that is too cold.
Adhesive medical tape is good for repairs.
Nylon cord, of course, is an essential. How else can you get water out of a well?
Rubber bands are God-sends.
Burning your feces will discourage flies.
Most caves are not safe during lightning, unless very deep and high roofed.
Highlights from "The Survival Handbook" by Bill Merrill:
Building a fire near a rock slab will magnify the amount of heat generated -- a good idea for cold days.
If you use the flint & steel method for starting a fire, the tinder must be very dry.
Testing food: Test a small amount of food first. Don't swallow. Chew it, then spit it out. See if there's any effect on your mouth or tongue. If not, eat a small portion and see if you get a reaction. If not, eat a bigger portion. It's probably safe if no illness occurs in 6 to 8 hours. If you start to get sick, drink lots of water, then stick your finger down your throat and vomit.
You can eat cambium (the inner bark of trees).
The best time to hunt is very early in the morning, or toward dusk. Be downwind from the animal so it can't smell you.
Roasted grasshoppers and lizards aren't bad to eat. For grasshoppers, roast first then break off the wings and legs. For lizards, remove the head.
An ax is crucial. In cold weather, warm the blade first so it doesn't chip. Knots in wood can chip an ax, so avoid those knots.
In lightning, get into heavy timber but away from single tall trees.
Don't get wet in cold weather -- not even from perspiration. Slow down if necessary.
Anyone who walks away from a plane crash is probably in a state of shock, so treat for this first.
Seaweeds as food: Many seaweeds are edible, but don't eat too much at one time. Large amounts of seaweed are violently purgative and can cause general weakness, but none are actually poisonous. Eat it in small portions or use it as flavoring in other foods. All seaweeds are rich in iodine, minerals, and vitamins. They will also prevent scurvy. Some have too much lime carbonate or are too bony and rough to eat. The coarse, dark green seaweed with large air bladders is called rockweed. It has no food value, but in and underneath it you will usually find small crabs, shrimp and shellfish. It is excellent for temorarily wrapping shellfish. When collecting seaweed for food, do not take plants stranded on the beach; choose only plants attached to rocks or those floating free in the water.
Don't eat shellfish that has died. It must be cooked alive.
Emergency footwear for cold weather: Around your dry sock, stuff dry grass or other natural materials. Then wrap other material such as a small tarp over this and tie it around your ankles.
In frigid temperatures the biggest dangers aren't the cold, wind, and snow. They are panic and exhaustion.
Avalanches have occurred on slopes of only 20% grades.
In freezing temperatures, you must avoid getting wet at all costs, even from perspiration.
Highlights from "The Good Earth Almanac Survival Handbook" by Mark Gregory:
Finding water: Watch where birds and animals go.
Don't put wet rocks in a fire -- they can easily explode.
A good fire can be built without matches, even in the pouring rain. You can produce sparks by striking a rock against steel.
Caves are often snake dens.
If the ground is too cold for sleeping, burn a fire for a few hours, then move it and sleep on the heated ground.
Animal activity tends to stop just before a storm begins.
Wet clothing causes excessive body heat loss.
Don't travel in blizzards.
If you're lost, get to high ground and survey the area.
Key points from "The Complete Wilderness Training Book" by Hugh McManners:
The illustrations are simply superb, and the book frequently discusses long-term survival needs, unlike most others. Get this book.
Understanding basic principles is far more important than learning techniques by rote, particularly since most techniques require modification every time you use them.
Be as physically fit as possible.
Survival demands mental toughness and clear thinking. You have to evaluate your own abilities and those of your party, and this may lead to difficult decisions.
The biggest threat to survival is fear.
Always work within the limitations of your tools as well as within your own capabilities.
If you can remember only one knot, make it the square knot.
Keep your ropes clean.
Run a guide rope around your camp so you donít get lost at night.
You can keep smoldering embers alive for several days in a tin can. You can carry this with you when you travel.
Next to first aid, lighting fire is the most vital survival skill.
Wet wood will kill all but the hottest of fires.
When traveling, the second-in-command should walk at the rear of the party.
Water is the basis of all human settlement and social organization.
If a member of your party becomes ill from drinking bad water, segregate him and his nurse.
Hunting animals for meat may not be worth the effort.
The number of poisonous plants is much less than the number of edible ones.
Scrub roots first, but avoid peeling the mineral-rich skins. However, itís difficult to distinguish poisonous roots from edible ones.
Learn a few edible roots and disregard the rest.
Unless you can be certain of correctly identifying a plant, donít eat it.
Do not eat too much of any fruit.
Cooking will not make poisonous mushrooms safe to eat.
Insect grubs contain more protein than vegetables.
Itís easier to gather insects than fish, and it expends less energy. They provide the best nutrition if eaten raw.
Shellfish must never be eaten raw.
Donít eat dead fish unless youíve killed it yourself.
The secret of successful baiting is to tempt fish with their own diet.
When ice fishing, cut a hole, donít smash one. That could weaken the ice.
In a survival situation, fishing nets and traps are more convenient than hooks and lines. They can be left out for hours or even overnight, letting you do other things.
Gut a fish as soon as possible after catching it, then either cook or preserve it.
Experienced backpackers tend to mix together all food sources into one big stew. This conserves fuel and water.
For making pottery, you can find clay in steep stream banks.
When boiling food, drink the water too in order to obtain maximum nutritional value.
In a long-term survival situation, you are always preserving and storing food for the future.
In hot, moist conditions, even small cuts can get infected.
Making your own maps helps ensure that your campsite, water and food locations can be found again.
Assume all bodies of water contain spots that arenít safe and can drown you.
A strong pocketknife is second only in importance to your teeth.
Keep snails and slugs alive for 24 hours on a diet of green leaves, before boiling them.
Insects may be ground between two stones and added to stews.
Soak worms in salty water for 24 hours, then squeeze out their guts before adding them to stews or drying them.
Fishing depends less upon good equipment than upon knowledge of the prey.
If you run away from wild animals, you can trigger their instinctive chase response.
Valuable points from "The L.L. Bean Hiking and Backpacking Handbook" by Keith McCafferty:
- Gore-Tex and other breathable fabrics repel rain while permitting water vapor from perspiration to escape. All drawbacks aside, Gore-Tex and raingear made from other microporous fabrics are really the only way to go if you spend time in country where rain is the rule rather than the exception.
- Regarding parachute cord, also known as 550 cord (it is 550-pound test): The smallest strands can be unraveled to provide a strong sewing thread or fishing line; the medium-size threads can be used as a bow string or snare for catching small game. However, it is not an adequate substitute for climbing rope. It also makes an excellent shoelace. It is sold by the foot, and 30 feet weighs about a pound. Get yourself about a hundred feet at least.
- If a companion freezes from fear while traversing a ledge or otherwise-treacherous terrain, tell them to look only at their boots, not into the space beyond, and talk them across in a calm voice.
- Crossing streams: Avoid crossing at right angles to the current, where the water pressure is greatest. Hold hands with a partner, or if in a group, form a train, holding each othersí shoulders. Keep the weaker members in the middle. Use walking staffs for better balance. Shuffle your feet during river crossings. If you step down heavily, itís easy to drive an unseen stick or sharp rock into your foot. Donít wade barefoot. If you have nothing else, try the rubber overshoes that businessmen wear. They weigh next to nothing. Donít be buckled to your pack, either. Loosen it up so if you slip, you can loosen it quickly and swim to safety.
- The simplest, lightest, and most versatile shelter is a tarp, but you donít want one made out of vinyl. They arenít as warm as tents, and they do not offer reliable protection in prolonged downpours. Also, they must be properly rigged to withstand even moderate rains in windy conditions.
- Lightweight gaiters will help keep your socks and boots dry. Consider buying Gore-Tex socks if hiking in extremely rainy conditions. If your boots get wet, plastic grocery bags can help keep your feet dry.
- Clothesline may come in handy to drape wet clothing inside shelters.
- Bears: If you can see them closely without binoculars, you are probably too close for safety. Stick to major trails and talk loudly when passing through dense cover. If you encounter one, resist the urge to run. Stand as a group and talk softly to the bear. Back away slowly. Avoid direct eye contact, which the bear can interpret as aggressive behavior. If it pursues, drop an object to distract it. If it charges, curl down into the ground in a fetal position and cover your head for protection. Most bears, grizzlies in this case, are content to bat you around until they feel the danger is gone. However, a bear that attacks human beings in their tents at night will not be content to stop after a few paw swipes. Fight back with anything you can. If possible, pitch your tent near a climbable tree.
- In winter, youíll have to eat more. Air out damp clothing more often. Keep boots in your sleeping bag at night to keep them pliable. If you must cross a slope covered with snow, trail 30 feet of brightly colored cord behind you. That way people might be able to find you if you get buried by an avalanche.
- Also in winter, donít make the mistake of closing off all ventilation to your shelter. Condensation from your breath and body heat can coat the surroundings with frost.
Valuable points from ďHiking and BackpackingĒ by Eric Seaborg & Ellen Dudley:
- Like other books on the outdoors, this one recommends a three-layer system of clothing. That way you have two pockets of trapped air for insulation.
- A Gore-Tex rainsuit can be expensive.
- An old mountain expression says ďIf your feet are wet, put a hat on.Ē
- Youíll need a 50-foot (15 meter) length of rope to hang your food properly in bear country.
- A Chinese proverb says, ďTo forget your (other) troubles, wear tight shoes.Ē So break your shoes in well and make sure theyíre not too tight.
- To keep individuals from getting lost or separated from a group, always have the first person along the trail wait at any junction or turn. Wait until the others catch up before continuing on or turning in a new direction.
- To protect against animal intruders at night, especially bears, donít cook, eat, or store food in your shelter. Donít leave dirty food containers around, and especially not in your shelter. And donít get too close to seemingly harmless animals. They can spread diseases such as rabies.
- Snakes: Donít put your feet and hands where you canít see. Avoid stumbling around at night without lighting -- thatís when snakes are active. For snakebites, the authors recommend carrying a suction device known as the Extractor. They also recommend a tweezers for pulling out ticks.
- Poison oak and ivy: The leaves are usually shiny, and remember the expression: ďLeaves of three, let it be.Ē
- Lightning storms: Seek shelter in a low point -- a depression in the ground, for instance. Crouch, rather than lie, to minimize contact with the ground. Get some material under you for insulation. Get away from isolated trees and metallic objects. You are more susceptible to lightning when youíre above the timberline.
- The authors state that the warmest shape for a sleeping bag is that of an Egyptian mummy.
- Donít wander far by yourself.
From "The Campcraft Book" by Catherine Hammett:
First written for girl scouts in 1950, this little book contains some excellent pointers.
A heat reflector around a fire also makes a good protector from wind.
Trench fire: You can make two parallel rows of rocks say eight feet long. The rows would be about two feet from each other. Between the rows youíd dig a trench for air passage. Over the length of the rocks you place your wood, thus creating a long stove for cooking larger meals.
You may want a separate fire for burning garbage. If youíre burning paper, roll it up into balls first so little pieces donít go flying off, which would be a fire hazard.
Have pails of water or sand nearby in case a fire gets out of control.
Planking: This is the art of cooking on a flat board that faces the fire. The cooking is enhanced if thereís a heat reflector on the opposite side of the fire from the plank. This method is good for cooking meat and fish.
Cooking paddles: You can fashion these from wood, and theyíre more effective than spoons when stirring stews. They look like tiny oars.
Cook with the wind at your back.
A ďvagabondĒ stove is made from a cylindrical metal container. Turn it upside down and cook on the flat surface. Cut a notch at ground level of the container so you can insert your firebuilding materials. A vagabond stove is said to conserve fuel.
The author stresses the importance of ropework, including knots and lashings. Weíll also need to learn splicing.
There is an old saying that a good craftsman is known by his tools and how he takes care of them. We need to cultivate an air of respect for our tools such as knives and axes.
Donít rub your knives in dirt or sand. This can chip them. Keep them oiled, of course.
Push a knife with your whole hand, not your thumb.
When using an axe, cut sticks at angles, not straight down. Youíre better off not working with axes alone, in case you hurt yourself.
From "Camping Crafts" by Bernard Mason:
Mason writes an excellent chapter on wigwam construction. The dome framework needs a quantity of long slender poles about 10 to 16 feet long. These are lashed together with the best material we can find. The covering is made of bark stripped from trees, and a smoke vent is placed in the roof. Holes are cut in the bark to allow lashing to the framework. A simple fireplace is built in the middle of the floor. The ground is cleared of ashes every day and sprinkled with water. In time this causes the floor to become firmly packed and as solid and smooth as if made of concrete.
Wigwams are considered more permanent dwelling places, teepees more temporary.
The finest shingles in the world are the sheets of thick, waterproof and decay-proof birch bark -- they will outlive the logs of the building theyíre placed on.
You can also use bark to cover temporary lean-tos.
On some trees the rough outer bark should be removed, leaving the fibrous inner bark. You can soak it for a few days and pull the inner bark loose. But if youíre in a rush, you can chip and scrape away the outer bark with an ax.
On your shelters, narrow cracks can be caulked with damp moss. Clay makes a very good caulking, one that will stand up for years if well done. (If Iím correct, we may be able to find clay at deeper soil levels.) The clay should be mixed with water to the consistency of putty and forced into cracks.
A wigwam/teepee-type fire is not a good option for cooking.
The crisscross fire is. No arrangement of wood will burn so effectively, for none admits so much air to every stick and from all directions. And no other fire will burn down to a uniformly spread bed of coals in so short a time. In short, a crisscross fire consists of wood stacked atop each other in alternating rows. In rain or strong wind itís better to get the kindling going and a little wigwam fire well ablaze before the sticks are stacked crisscross.
Trench stove: After digging a small trench, you line the three sides with flat stone. One side is left open for inserting wood and coals. Cover the top with flat metal. This will be your cooking surface. On the side opposite the opening, allow space for venting.
Heat reflectors: If you build a fire outside your shelter for warmth at night, many survival books recommend the addition of a heat reflector placed in back of the fire. However, the author makes a good point regarding these reflectors. He says that to increase their effectiveness, you can coat the back wall of the reflector with mud. We may also want to caulk any openings in the reflector with moss -- thatís if the reflector is made of logs stacked atop each other.
Heating a tent: Some books recommend burying heated stones. The author here says you can lay the hot stone on the floor and cover it with a cooking pot.
Birch bark torches: Rolled birch bark can provide candle-type lighting for short periods of time.
In lightning: Stay away from iron fences, and avoid extra tall trees. Sooner or later every extra-tall tree gets zapped.
Three basic principles of chopping with an ax:
- Split wood burns better than unsplit wood
- Fire needs air. If the wood is laid too compactly, it struggles and gasps for air.
- Draft makes the fire burn, but be sure to prevent counterdrafts.
- Flames rise upward, so make the fire tall and slender. Let the flames run up the sticks. A low fire is a listless one.
- A fast-burning fire is soon spent.
- Flames are for boiling and baking; coals for broiling and frying.
- Keep your fires small
- Have all the wood ready before the fire is touched off.
- Build fires on solid earth. Forest floors can be flammable often to a depth of two feet.
- Smothering a fire with earth is often dangerous. It can re-ignite at a later time.
The biggest mistake is to make the notch too narrow. The notch should be as wide as the log itself.
When chopping small poles, lay them over a log. If you chop into the earth, youíll take the edge off the ax.
When cutting branches off downed trees, cut from the underside, never into the crotch.
The author recommends a Bushmanís saw for taking down smaller trees.
- Chop a log by standing on top of it and driving wedges into the sides. Donít stand to one side and chop down onto the top. The log may be too heavy to roll over and complete the wedge from the other side.
- Cut at approximately 45 degree angles for maximum effectiveness.
- Good chopping means gentle chopping. Let the weight of the ax do the work, not the force of your blows.
From "Backcountry Camping" by Bill Riviere:
A hatchet is the least efficient and most dangerous of all chopping tools used in the woods. You canít use a two-hand grip, you stand too close to what youíre chopping, and thereís not enough weight to provide adequate bite into the wood. The author, a former fire ranger, says heís never known an experienced backpacker to carry one.
For sharpening, loggers carry a round pocket stone, about three inches in diameter. Itís coarse-grained on one side, fine on the other. To keep them wet, loggers spit on them.
The author says heís never seen a professional pick up an ax unless he really needed to use it.
Fell a tree in the direction of its lean, and make sure no other nearby trees will stop its fall. Clear out brush and low-hanging limbs. Even a twig can deflect an ax. Examine the tree for broken limbs. Striking the tree with an ax can bring these limbs down on your head, and theyíre not called widow makers for nothing.
Personally, Iím wary of using an ax for taking down trees (thatís if we have any to take down in the first place). A false swing can take off your foot. Also, trees can kick back at the speed of lightning, and you wonít live to tell anyone.
The undercut is the notch that directs the fall of the tree and is made just above the swell of the stump. The back cut is made on the opposite side, about two inches higher, in line with the undercut so you leave a small section of wood between them to serve as a bridge. As the falling cut deepens, listen for the crackling of wood fibers. The trunk will start to lean, so step to a side, not backwards, and donít run. If the tree hangs up in another (a ďleanerĒ) thereís really no safe easy way to dislodge it, so donít do it in the first place.
Give a skilled woodsman a choice of which to enter the woods. Heíll pick the ax over a gun, compass, or knife.
Keep your ax sheathed or driven into a log when not in use.
The best choice for a camp saw is either a 30Ē bow saw or the shortened crosscut.
Knives: The bigger the knife, the less the owner knows about using one. Manual dexterity and a sharp edge are what count. Use a hand stone to sharpen them.
The need for ditching around tents has been greatly exaggerated. Pitching a tent in any sort of gully or depression is folly. Youíll get washed out.
When you come upon a beaver dam, fish the pond behind it. Fish might be trapped in there with nothing to do but get fat.
Statistically, getting bitten by a snake is less likely than getting struck by lightning.
From "The Complete Book of Practical Camping" by John Jobson:
Knives: The simpler the better. Go for simple quality over the multiple-use varieties such as Swiss army knives. The author recommends what he calls the stockmanís knife.
Sheath knives (the ones that donít retract) are excellent, but you donít need a blade much over 5 inches. Novices go for long blades. For the sheath (the leather covering), make sure thereís a metal guard riveted on the bottom so the knife doesnít pierce through. The top of the blade should be serrated to provide a grip for your thumb.
Many good pocket knives are ruined by the failure to periodically oil the joints.
When walking, don't hang a knife in front of your body. What if you fall?
Amateurs fail to realize that in the woods youíre constantly touching up and sharpening your knifes. A pro works with a cutting edge. Razor sharp.
From "America's Camping Book" by Paul Cardwell:
A great tool to have in camp is the geologistís pick. Itís perfect for digging holes, especially in rocky soil.
Fire: The main mistake of novices is to use wood thatís too large, or else adding it too soon. Large pieces either block the oxygen or absorb too much heat from the smaller pieces. In either case, the fire goes out.
A single dead branch with a diameter of an inch will furnish all the wood you need for a meal.
The log-cabin fire is the biggest and hottest of all, though generally too hot for cooking. It wastes wood. Its best feature is that itís a quick way to get a good bed of coals, especially for a fairly large group.
Soap: Ash from fires has long been a source of alkali for making soap. If you mix it from fat left over from cooking, you have a relatively harmless and efficient cleaner.
Up to 40% sea water can be mixed with fresh water and drunk without harm.
Ropes should be free of abrasions. A rope should always be coiled up and inside a pack for protection. The ends should be whipped to prevent unlaying.
Cave water is no more to be trusted than water outdoors.
Cave rivers often have sudden waterfalls or places where the surface runs right into a cliff. If water levels are rising, you may not get out.
From "Living Like Indians" by Allan MacFarlan:
Sometimes an insect may lodge itself in your ear. One possible way to coax it out is to shine a light in the ear, or perhaps place a flame nearby.
During lightning, quickly dispose of any metallic gear you may be carrying.
Donít break branches or wood over your knee. Itís too easy to injure yourself. When snapping wood in two, keep it away from your face.
When using an ax, never cut through a knot in wood. Chop around it.
Donít use a cold ax on a cold day without warming it first.
Keep an eye on what youíre chopping, not on the ax.
If you suspend food with a rope over the branch of a tree, some smaller animals may still be able to get at it. One way to prevent this is to fashion a cone around the trunk of the tree. The cone can be made of plastic, pointing upwards, to help prevent the animals from climbing the tree in the first place.
Evaporation cooler: Hereís one way to keep perishable foods cool in warmer weather. Place the food in a container, and place the container upon rocks in a stream. Cover the container with a tarp or blanket. If the ends of the covering extend into the water, it will suck up cool moisture from the stream. Secure the whole apparatus with rocks so it doesnít float away.
Pit coolers: They work a little like a root cellar. Dig a hole 2 feet square and 3 feet deep into the ground. Shore up the sides of the pit with thin boards or stakes. Fill up the hole halfway with gravel from a stream bed or with small rocks you find elsewhere. A couple times a day, pour cool water onto the stones. Also atop the stones, place the food in containers. Cover the pit with heavy, wet material, and you'll have an enclosure thatís up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside air temperature.
A group leader must concentrate on removing the fear of the unknown from his group. The fear is very real, and it can have devastating effects.
The surest way to increase someoneís fear of darkness is to abandon them, even for a few minutes. This is as unwise as trying to teach a nervous non-swimmer how to swim by throwing him into deep water.
When wading streams and rivers, use a pole to probe for holes and rocks on the river floor. As an added precaution, tie yourself to a rope held by one or more people on shore. To get supplies across without getting them wet, Indians would often build makeshift rafts out of materials found nearby.
You can fashion a makeshift anchor with a bucket full of rocks.
To see an object better at night, unfocus your eyes a little and look to the sides of the object. This also helps develop the rods in your eyes that are related to night vision. You can also try forming "mini-binoculars" with your fingers. This controls the area of vision and helps you to focus more clearly. If your eyesight gets blurry after prolonged nighttime peering, close them for a while.
We can hear more distinctly with our mouths partially open.
One way to attract insects at night is to hang a white, illuminated sheet.
A "brush shelter" for fish: Construct what appears to be a miniature thatched roof, say about 4 feet by 4 feet. Guided by wire or rope, you can lower this into a lake. After a while youíll enjoy much better fishing. Snails and grubs will eventually attach to the brush shelter, and this will begin to attract other fish.
Using the same principle, you can also form a rock shelter in streams, ponds and lakes. A boatload or two of the rocks, formed like a miniature dam, will start attracting fish within a day or two.
You can also make above-ground rock and brush shelters to attract animals.
Squirrels will not open a nut thatís bad inside.
No striped snake in America is poisonous.
A rattlesnake tries to conserve its poison for killing food, and thatís why it usually won't attack a person unless startled or provoked. Oftentimes rattlers will not give a warning before striking.
Women and boys of Indian tribes would dig ditches for trapping geese and swans. They were dug about 3 feet wide and 3-1/2 feet deep. The entrances were baited with wild grain. Once in the ditches, the birds could not spread their wings for flight nor jump out of the ditches when pounced upon by trappers who lay hidden nearby.
Never build a fire near a standing or fallen tree, nor on mossy ground.
In the early stages of building a fire, oxygen is more important than additional sticks. Add fuel sparingly, above the flames. Split wood burns faster and better than uncut, small logs. Fires fed by amateur woodsmen generally go out shortly after theyíve been lit because heavy sticks were added too soon.
Wood that is wet from lying on the ground or has rotted is of little use for a good fire.
You can cook on flat stones, supported by four legs made of rocks. With a double-decker structure of this type, you can cook on the lower rock and the heat will be more concentrated. On those stones that provided the best cooking, some Indian tribes would keep them greased and polished to extend their usable lifetimes.
Northwestern Indians made rich, nourishing soups by boiling various sorts of fish.
One way to find water is to find a marsh, swamp or small pool, and they need not appear clean on the surface. About six or seven steps away, dig a hole about 15 inches in diameter and about 3 feet deep. Water should start filling the hole. Bail it out a couple times. When it fills again, it should be clear, but boil it anyway. To remove the flat taste from boiling, aerate the water by pouring it several times from one container to another, catching as much air as you can each time.
Kitchen rack: for hanging utensils, you can take four stakes, attached near the top like a teepee. Hang crossbeams at two or three levels, lashed on with wire or rope.
From "The Art & Science of Taking to the Woods" by C.B. Colby & Bradford Angier.
If you live in N.E. PA, this one's available at the Carbondale library, though you can request it through any other branch, as I did.
If wild animals pose a problem by intruding the settlement, one way to discourage their presence is by constructing artificial walls made of paintersí drop cloths or other similar material. Hang these between trees. Animals sometimes hesitate to enter manmade enclosures for fear of being trapped.
A band or two of brightly-colored material tied around the handle of an ax will help you find it more easily at night.
The latrine should not be uphill from any source of water.
Mark any clotheslines or guy rope with white cloth so people donít run into them at night.
A bunch of tall grasses bent double will make a swab suitable for cleaning cookware.
How to get by without clothespins: Twist two ropes together, several times per foot. Once this double rope is hung, you slip the ends of the clothing between the ropes.
If you settle too close to a brook or stream, you can be inundated by flash flooding.
The authors once met a logging crew in the Adirondack Mountains whose ax handles were all painted with a bright orange stripe for greater visibility. However, keep the paint away from the spot where your hands grasp the wood.
Donít put your hands anywhere you canít see entirely -- this includes the inside of logs. Probe with a stick first.
In snowy conditions, you can form a pair of ďeyeglassesĒ made from bark. They look almost like a Zorro mask. Cut narrow slits to see through, and you can help prevent snowblindness.
Cleaning fish and game in camp and failing to clean up afterwards can bring flies by the thousands.
Personal sanitation can prevent chafing, blisters, and infections through small cuts and scrapes.
Keep dry shoes inside your shelter. Change into these when you come in from the outside.
If you camp on ground high above water, breezes will help keep mosquitoes away.
Ticks: Often-repeated advice is to pull them out with a tweezers or to coax them out with a heat source. Also, if you can apply some oil or grease over them, theyíll start to suffocate and will pull themselves out.
On warm days, bathing the wrists, ankles, neck and face with cool water will help keep your body temperature down. The veins are closer to the surface in these areas. Some people who work in hot regions wear wet kerchiefs around their necks for this reason.
For warmest sleeping, the authors suggest a heavy sleeping bag and no clothes at all, because of the matter of perspiration.
Sharpening axes: Donít produce whatís known as a feather edge -- an edge so thin that it will crumble or bend when it strikes wood.
Try to avoid splitting stumps, since your ax can get stuck inside. Instead, chop off pieces of wood from the side of the stump.
Try to keep snow off roofing to reduce the load.
During really cold weather, snow banked against the sides of a structure will help keep it warm, just as it did old log cabins in days past. If possible, lay a covering of protective natural material against the structure first. This will introduce a layer of insulation by trapping dead air.
Avoid ice formation on your roof as well. This can build up a heavy load in a hurry.
Keep away from any animal, no matter how small, that appears injured, sick, confused, or overly tame.
You can tie string around your encampment, about ankle high, and hang cans or whatever else will make noise when disturbed. This will provide a small line of defense against some unwanted intruders, whether animal or human.
From "Cold-Weather Camping" by Ray Stebbins:
A taut tent, suspension being the same, is more stable than a loose one. Tautness also reduces wind flap.
Domed tents: Their wind-shedding qualities make them quite stable, but they can often flex violently in high winds. They use less material to cover the same amount of space, so they are lighter than standard tents. They are also warmer because there is less heat loss from their smaller surface areas.
A good ventilation system is necessary even in winter. Even in winter, the average person will void a pint of body moisture during the night by perspiring and breathing. This can form unwanted ice crystals on the walls.
If you own a sheath knife you may want to throw it away. Theyíre awkward to carry, always banging on you or your frame, always in the way. Nothing marks the greenhorn more surely than one of those 6 inch monsters dangling from his belt.
The author never carries an ax or hatchet, saying in all his years outdoors in every type of weather, heís never had use for either. He says thereís nothing they can do for him that a saw canít do better and more safely with less weight.
Snowshoes: The Alaskan Trail style is recommended. Stay away from shorter, wider types such as the Bearpaw. Plastic snowshoes can be unreliable. The traditional wood and rawhide shoe is still a good choice. For bindings, the author recommends a neoprene-nylon combination, not leather, which can shrink and freeze. After using snowshoes, leave them out so any snow or ice wonít melt and soak the webbing.
Old mountaineers have a slogan: ďTravel in snow, in wind donít go.Ē
Itís easier to stay warm in severe cold than remain cool in very hot weather.
In cold weather, itís necessary to eat more frequently to stay warm, because the body increases its metabolic rate. To operate as an effective heating device, your bodyís circulation must not be impaired in any way. The best way to keep your feet warm is to keep the rest of your body well covered. To stay warm in the coldest weather, we must control the rate at which body heat dissipates, and that means layering of clothing.
No matter how well youíve treated leather boots with silicone or grease, leather boots wonít stay dry for more than a day in slushy snow. Go for paks or rubber boots to keep your feet dry. Cold, wet feet are an invitation to frostbite.
In cold weather, hikers are often unaware theyíre losing body fluid, so you must drink often. Dehydration impairs the heat-producing capabilities of the body.
Breaking through ice to obtain water is more efficient than melting snow. If necessary, you can eat snow, but never ice. Just melt the snow in your mouth first.
Fighting fatigue: Always match your pace to your breathing, never your breathing to your pace. Set your own rhythm of deep breathing and maintain it regardless of pace or terrain. Donít try to match your pace with someone elseís. Let everyone set their own pace, but donít lose track of each other.
When traveling through deep snow, rotate the lead position. Breaking trail can wear a man down quickly. Take a break every hour, whether you're tired or not. Always stop for the day before you begin to feel tired. Going too fast and too far just to reach some pre-planned objective is asking for trouble.
When pitching camp (hopefully near a water source), remember that ice produces water more quickly than snow. Even if a tree has no snow on its limbs, donít pitch a tent on that spot. A freak storm can come up and load the tree with snow, which can endanger the tent and its occupants. Stay away from dead trees that can get blown down by winds.
The cooking fire of the experienced woodsman is small; itís not the useless bonfire of the beginning camper. Its fuel is short sticks no thicker than your thumb. And itís never bigger than the pot or pots it has to heat.
Thereís a trick to melting snow. First, place a snowball in the bottom of the container. Melt it so that an inch or so of water sits in the pot. If you scoop up a whole mess of snow and try to melt it all at once, the wicking action of the snow on top will absorb the water, and the bottom of the container will stay dry.
Sleeping in the clothes youíve worn all day is not a good idea. Itís better to sleep naked or else with a spare pair of long underwear.
When walking in snow country, assume that any cut or ravine has a stream running through it that you canít see.
After you thaw out a part of your body where you suspect minor frostbite, donít rub it whatsoever. However, the risk of frostbite will remain minor as long as you get your rest, eat well, stay warm and dry, and drink plenty of fluids.
The Armyís ďRule of 30Ē: A 30-mile-per-hour wind at -30°F will freeze exposed flesh in 30 seconds.
In wind, donít travel. Hunker down.
If any member of your group begins to shiver uncontrollably, stop and set up a shelter at once, for you must get the victim out of the wind immediately. Strip off all his wet clothing and get some warm clothing on him. Get him hot food and drink. Build fires on both sides of the shelter, and if necessary, use the warm bodies of others to warm to victim. In serious cases, this can take 6 to 8 hours of care.
Prevention of hypothermia includes taking extra care to stay dry on windy days. Also, donít let anyone ever stray from the rest of the group. People out on their own are more susceptible to freezing.
Under difficult conditions, even the most experienced outdoorsmen suffer moments of bad judgment before they regain their composure.
If youíre facing an emergency such as being lost, the first thing to do is stop, gain your composure, and think. Itís impossible to think productively while youíre moving through the woods, trying to get your bearings.
Ice fishing: Use a heavier line. A lighter line can break from rubbing against the lower reaches of the ice.
Even in severe cold, the temperature inside a snow cave or burrow will stay around 32° F. In the still air, itís quite comfortable -- warmer than a tent. But if you allow the temperature to remain above freezing too long, the roof will start to drip.
As for snares, very few people can handle them effectively. Even experienced trappers would have difficulty if their traps were replaced by a piece of parachute cord or a chunk of picture frame wire.
Wire saw (the kind you can stick in your pocket): This will easily saw through a 6-inch log. However, use it slow and easy, since overheating will wear it out quickly.
Every survival kit should contain a space rescue blanket made of Mylar foil. It reflects body heat and provides warmth and insulation from the snow. The authorís survival kit also includes 50 feet of heavy nylon cord.
From "The Outdoorsman's Emergency Manual" by Anthony Acerrano:
When fishing in the ocean, remember that water that's excessively dark from sediment is dangerous. To a shark, your movements may mark you as food.
Ice on rivers and streams: Currents can form weak spots anywhere. Ice in mid-stream is generally thinner than on the banks. Rocks, logs, and other obstructions are generally surrounded by weak ice. Snow-covered ice is weaker than bare ice. If you hear the ice cracking, get spread-eagle to distribute your weight, and then crawl.
An effective bird snare can be made from a group of forked poles thrust into the ground to form an octagon. (Eight poles.) Cross-poles are set across the forks and lashed on. Snares are attached to the top poles and bait is set in the center of the trap.
In fast water, fish often hide behind boulders to escape the current. Avoid casting a shadow on the water.
Aquatic insects: Upturn underwater rocks, especially in shallow, fast-moving water. In deeper water, a cloth tied to two poles makes a useful net for collecting insects. Place the net downstream and on the bottom while kicking over rocks and disturbing the streambed. Incidentally, aquatic insects also make excellent baits for emergency fishing.
When youíre thirsty, drink. Donít try to ration your water supply, for you cannot ration water to your body any more than you can ration gasoline to a car.
Perhaps one of the finest backwoods adhesives is pine pitch. It grows in white, yellow or amber globs on the trunks of many conifers, and it can be melted down and spread like glue. Pitch makes an air-and-watertight sealer and it can also be used for gluing two light items together.
To add pliability to the glue, add animal fat: one part animal fat to three parts of the resin.
You can also make an adhesive by boiling the heads and tails of fish into a thick gel, though the smell is strong.
You can make thread from animal sinew. Soak it first in water until it becomes pliable, and keep it moist while making your stitches. When it dries it will shrink and add extra strength and tightness to each stitch.
Emergency footgear: Wrap cloth around your feet, then cover this with bark, animal skins, or cardboard. Lash it closed with any materials you can find.
Snowshoes: You can make these from flat boards or tree slabs. Youíll have easier walking if you cut out a hole for your boot toe. Bore holes in this makeshift snowshoe so you can bind on your footwear with whatever materials you can find. Or you can make a more traditional snowshoe by bending branches in the traditional () shape, to which you lash on some cross-branches. A snowshoe is more effective if you lash some cloth or pine boughs to the bottom.
A forked section of a sturdy branch can make a workable backpack.
Log rafts are not easy to control, especially in faster-moving water. For a paddle, find a long piece of wood. On one end you wrap a dozen or so smaller sticks.
The classic wilderness water holder is the birch-bark holder or cup. To make the birch more pliable, warm it gently over fire.
From "Animal Traps & Trapping" by James Bateman:
From the earliest times, the primary material for making snares has been animal sinews. When softened with grease, they make admirable draw-cords.
Traps should never be handled by bare hands. Most animals wonít go near the human scent. Use gloves, a clean cloth or a clump of grass to pick up and move traps.
From "Trapping" (1947) by Harold McCracken and Harry Van Cleve:
The oldest trapping method is the pit-fall. The dead-fall and snare came later.
American Indians attached their snares to spring poles or small trees bent down and held by trigger devices. These jerked the animal into the air, away from other animals who might destroy it before the trapper arrived.
Eskimos would stick a sharp whale bone in frozen fat. When the bear or wolf would eat this, the skewer would be released in the animalís stomach, causing ultimate death. Eskimos would also plant a sharp knife or similar object in the ground and pour warm fat over it. The fat would freeze over. When wolves came to lick it, their tongues would start to bleed. The smell of blood infuriated the wolf pack and drove them to kill one another.
As most all trapping books mention, success depends upon knowledge of the prey. From early childhood, most American Indians paid attention to observing and studying the wild animals around them. Their every habit and peculiarity was well known. This was the real secret of trapping success.
Trapping is more a matter of keen observation and ingenuity on the part of the trapper than following out any specific instructions.
Trapping under cold conditions is more difficult and takes more ingenuity. Traps freeze, they become covered with snow, and your foot tracks tell more to the animals than their tracks tell you.
When trapping in streams, build small dams to maintain a constant water level. (This tip may also come in handy for drinking-water purposes.)
A shoulder-length rubber glove is a must for setting traps down in water, thatís if you want to stay comparatively warm and dry. In winter, it helps to have an ice chisel, a hatchet, and a hammer and nails in addition to your wire.
This book devotes as much of its material, perhaps more, to the habits of animals as it does to actual trapping methods.
If you have a beard and the weather is frosty, your breath may cause the beard and your head covering to freeze together. Donít pull them apart, because you may pull some outer skin from your face. Warm up first in front of a fire.
In icy temperatures, beware of drowsiness. Itís a sign you may be freezing to death. The snow will look soft and inviting, so beware. Keep moving. Build a fire. Run a little bit. But donít sit down -- the next thing youíll do is lie down, and thatís the end.
Ants in your food container: Fasten short legs to your food box and set the legs in a saucer or other holder filled with water. Ants do not like to swim.
Porcupine quills: Twist them out, donít pull them out. If you pull one, small barbs may open just like little harpoon heads.
From "Trapping & Tracking" by George Clawson:
Knowledge of the animal is the difference between success and failure.
By using various types of scents and bait, the trapper provides a deception and lets the animalís natural habits get it into trouble.
If you use scents as a lure, use them sparingly. Make the animal hunt, for then it loses some of its suspicions. Animals go for scents of their own kind. To catch a beaver, for instance, use scent glands (castors) taken from another trapped beaver.
Modern snares are made from strands of flexible wire, and a self-locking device keeps the noose tight. Swivels are usually added to keep the wire from kinking and twisting off. The simple noose is still the favorite trap for many trappers in North America.
Deadfall traps: Theyíre a little trickier, and it takes time to set up and whittle a trigger. The author doubts that even one out of 500 trappers in the U.S. know how to make one.
The easiest animals for any trapper to catch are those that live in or near water. This is because the water dwellers are more restricted. Also, a trap placed a few inches under water and covered with leaves or mud is easier to conceal than a trap set on dry land.
Study an animalís habits until you learn to think like them.
In cold climates, beavers build dome-shaped houses made of logs, moss or mud. Once these houses are snow covered and frozen, they are almost as strong as reinforced concrete. People canít tear into them without using a saw or ax.
For catching beaver, you can drive a long stake that stands upright near one of the underwater entrances to the beaversí dam. Attach snare-wire nooses to the stake. As with all kinds of trapping and snaring, catching beavers is easier said than done.
If possible, wear rubber gloves when skinning animals. If you find an animal that has open sores or ulcers, wash your hands in warm, soapy water.
In swamps and marshy areas in the winter, ice less than four inches thick is dangerous. And when it gets thicker than eight inches, it takes too much chopping to make your efforts worthwhile.
Some water-type creatures must be drowned by the trapping mechanism so they donít chew their way out of it.
Here's an illustration of two unique traps. The third illustration, the one on the bottom, shows a spring-type mechanism to keep captured animals away from other predators.
From "Worm Composting" by Joshua Nelson:
Worm composting works faster than traditional composting.
Worm hunting is not an easy job.
Worms prefer a moist but not wet environment. If they become too wet for too long, they drown. Thatís why they appear on the surface of the ground during a rainstorm.
Worms are extremely sensitive to vibration -- itís one of their survival mechanisms.
To call worms up out of their burrows, slap a solid piece of wood on the ground. They should come up within three minutes.
ďGruntingĒ for worms: Take a seasoned piece of wood, about four feet long. It should be in the shape of a wedge, about two inches wide at the top and Ĺ inch wide at the bottom. Pound this wedge three feet into the ground. To create vibrations down the wedge and into the ground, rub a piece of tapered steel across the wood, just like youíre playing a violin. Some people make their ďgrunting bowsĒ out of wood. These bows have lots of raised notches that vibrate when gently rubbed across the surface of the wedge.
Worms are not picky eaters, although they reject fatty and oily materials.
From "The Worm Book" by Loren Nancarrow and Janet Hogan Taylor:
Another way to ďcallĒ up worms is to drive two metal rods into the ground, about two feet apart. To each rod, hook up jumper cables connected to a car battery. Worms are said to just jump out of the ground.
Here are three tips regarding fishing. The first tip illustrates "grunting" for worms.
Now let's tie in some ideas presented on the Troubled Times site:
We need to bring along books on first aid, home remedies (including herbal), and perhaps even a Boy Scout manual (the older the better?). If I recall correctly, these manuals are superb guides to tying various kinds of knots. Also, one Troubled Times contributor recommends picking up the Readerís Digest ďBig Back to Basics Book.Ē
First off we may have to accustom ourselves to a diet of insects & worms, followed in order by fish, animals, and then gardening. If we find ourselves near a coastal area, sea life should be thriving, per the Zetas.
Some items to save:
Meat cleaver and sharpening stone, ax, backpacks, nylon cord, protective wrappings for items during the actual shift, fishing kit, bandages and gauze pads (which may be reused if boiled), mat knifes, rain gear, woks, sheet-metal shears, wire, synthetic wool blankets, mittens, needles, thread, thimbles. Cotton clothing is out; we go with wool, nylon, polyesters and acrylics. We also need candles, needles, thread, wire, scissors, thermal underwear, mirror, sleeping bags, tents, lots of gloves and socks, pocket knives, ropes, shovels, flint & steel. A more complete list is posted here.
Boots should be a half to full-size bigger, not tight when wearing two pair of wool socks.
Most important tools:
The most important is an axe, followed by a machete and some all-purpose shovels. A well-sharpened, quality hunting knife is also essential. A bit of snare wire, some small waxed string and a long leather shoe lace and a strong rope are more useful than a gun. Prior to the shift, some essential items such as tools may be buried and flagged for later retrieval.
Preferably brass-wire; 60 to 90cm (2 to 3 feet) should do. Save this for snares for trapping animals, but the wire could solve other survival problems.
Fires / Cooking:
- A mistake many novices make is to cook food on too strong a fire. This burns it.
- To keep a fire burning all night, cover it up with a pile of ashes. In the morning, blow on it to start it up again.
- Firewood and tinder gathered from the ground is often too wet. Also, animal droppings make an effective fuel.
- Flint is a stone found in many parts of the world. If it is struck vigorously with a piece of steel, hot sparks fly off. These will ignite dry tinder.
- A saw-edged knife blade can produce more sparks than an ordinary blade and should be part of one's survival kit.
- Smoky fire can be avoided. Smoke is the result of incomplete combustion. With care, smoke can be virtually eliminated.
- For a better campfire, stand the wood end-up in the shape of a pyramid or cone. The center of this pyramid then receives the benefit of the flames, and as the core burns away the outside logs fall inward, feeding the heart of the fire. This type of fire offers good radiation. Even when wet, the wood still burns well.
- Remember not to use dead wood from the ground because it retains dampness. Look for dead wood from standing trees.
- If a good fire remains when you retire for the night, cover it with ashes from the side of the fireplace. This holds the fire all night, and when you uncover it the next day, you'll find a bed of red hot coals upon which to build a new fire. This is how heat and fire were maintained from day to day in colonial homes when such fires were a hard necessity.
- You should only use a campfire in deep woods and only at night.
- If it floats, it is still dry wood.
For a few dollars you can purchase a small magnesium block at the camping supply section of department stores. These little blocks have a built-in flint striker that's used to ignite the shaved magnesium from the block. You take your camp knife, shave off a little pile of magnesium, and then, holding the striker next to the pile, you scrape the knife edge along the striker. This produces bright, long-burning sparks. With practice, you can start a fire just as fast as you can with a match. Magnesium blocks offer an additional advantage: they work in the rain.
One of the reasons many get sick at camp is that they aren't careful about cleaning themselves as well as their food, pots and pans.
Weíll need a selection of different hooks, though hooks can be fashioned from materials we find outdoors. Weíll also take some split lead weights. Remember that a small hook will catch both small and large fish but a large hook will only catch big ones. Bring as much line as possible; it will also be useful for catching birds.
For extra body warmth at night, sleep with a hot water bottle.
Some say the oil in pine needles makes an excellent insect repellant.
Maggots can be used to clean wounds.
To reduce heat loss during sleep, wear a hat or balaclava.
Suggestions for riding out the shift itself:
- Be sure you are not in or very close to woods.
- Remove the hood from a discarded automobile. Dig a ditch at least four feet deep and wide enough to protect yourself and your vital gear. Cover the ditch with the auto hood. Secure the hood to the ground. Cover the hood with as much dirt and turf as possible, creating a small hill. It may be possible to ride out the pole shift inside such a trench.
- If possible, don't roam very far as long as there's a likelihood of firestorms during the hour of the shift.
- Make sure your survival site is not near levies, dams, or other structures that will rupture.
- The safest shelters will be those containing the least amount of structure, such as tents or straw huts. Natural windbreaks are available -- valleys, for instance.
- All items have to be tied down.
Soil can be refertilized from many sources including blood and bone meal, ashes, sawdust, ground rock, human wastes, or compost.
Organic sources of fertilizer include manure, a composting toilet, and urine. If wood is burned slowly, its minerals are not completely depleted. The ashes from this wood will contain many of the minerals we seek to supplement our soil. Human urine can also be used as fertilizer. Mix it with three parts water prior to applying it.
In addition, American Indians would sometimes deposit a dead fish in their soil, and some people still swear by this method of fertilization.
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of coming under attack by one or more vicious dogs, one way to stop the animal is to strike a crushing blow to its larynx. The animalís wind pipe will be crushed and it won't be able to breathe.
Distillation as well as recycling of water are two approaches likely to provide a steady supply.
To distill water, one can condense steam on a cold surface and collect the condensate. You could boil water and allow the steam to pass across the underside of a clean metal bowl full of icy water. The steam would condense as pure distilled water on the outside of the bowl. If you then placed a clean cup under the metal bowl, the distilled water would drip into that cup.
Before boiling water, strain it through a cloth to help eliminate contaminated materials.
No water can go to waste.
According to one Troubled Times contributor, there is scarcely any kind of insect a survivor cannot safely eat. Insects are mostly fat and are more strengthening than either fish or meat, and it does not take a large amount of insects to keep one fit. Bears are a testament to this.
The only insects that leave a bitter taste are ants. That's because they contain formic acid, but this taste reportedly disappears when ants are boiled.
Many species of insects are lower in fat, higher in protein, and have a better feed to meat ratio than beef, lamb, pork, or chicken.
Bees and wasps are OK eaten after a good boiling. The poison is basically a protein which disassembles at boiling temperatures. The stinger softens. Pounding them before boiling is effective. Bee and wasp larvae are delicious, so it is said.
In many countries, grasshoppers or locusts are considered a delicacy. It's best to remove the wings and legs and then toast the body on a stick. All locusts, crickets, termites, ants, larva etc. have double advantages: they are easy to catch and they are nourishing. They taste better fried or roasted and are a excellent sources of protein.
All insects must be cooked thoroughly to get rid of any parasites. To cook them, remove the head, wings and legs. You can steam or fry them.
A small light at night is all you need to attract many kinds of insects.
If the weather is too cold for flying insects, kick open some rotten logs or look under stones for grubs. They keep bears fat and healthy and will do the same for you.
Insects can be used as bait to capture birds or fish, and the best time to capture them is in the morning when they're still numbed by the cold of night.
In general it's best to crush insects and cook them in a stew to make them more palatable. Or you can boil them in a pot of water. The fat will rise to the top. Scoop it up and drink it.
From ďMan Eating Bugs: The Art and Science of Eating InsectsĒ by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio:
Always try to cook insects.
Never eat bugs you find dead.
Don't eat bugs that bite back.
If it smells really bad, don't eat it.
Avoid insects that carry disease, are poisonous, have fine hairs, bright colors, or eight or more legs.
Here's a small web site called Edible Insects.
Here's a site on Rearing Crickets, in addition to other insects. This may be one of our more urgent tasks post-shift.
They are best when boiled. Or you can dry them on hot rocks and grind them into a powder that will enrich soups and stews. Soak worms in salty water for 24 hours, then squeeze out their guts before adding them to stews or drying them.
Worms are an excellent protein source. Dig for them in damp humus soil or watch for them on the ground after a rain. After capturing them, drop them into clean water for a few minutes. The worms will naturally purge or wash themselves out, after which you can eat them raw.
One way to attract worms is with a stob (piece of wood), which you hammer into the ground. You then whack the top portion of the stob with a metallic object such as a tire iron, causing the wood to vibrate. This brings worms to the surface where they can be collected.
We may want to cultivate our own supply of earthworms, and here's a page that discusses the topic: Rearing Earthworms.
These white wood-burrowing larvae of beetles are usually found in rotten logs. Remove the head, thorax and legs before eating them. The eggs are edible but are dry and tasteless. Maggots are good to eat too.
Both aquatic and terrestrial snails are excellent sources of food when you can obtain them.
Lizards arenít the best food source. They are hard to catch and they don't have enough meat to justify the energy spent capturing them.
However, note that all reptiles are mostly made of flesh, making for a good food source. They are relatively easy to catch with a stick or stone. You must remove the head and the intestines before frying or boiling them.
Frogs and small snakes can be roasted on the end of a stick. Big snakes and eels taste better if boiled first before roasting them.
Turtles are tasty whether boiled or fried. Boil the turtle until its shell detaches, then cut the flesh that you can mix into a soup or stew.
In a survival situation, one way to extract nutrients is by locating a healthy patch of young grass growing in shade or partial shade. Chew some for several minutes so that the cell walls in the blades are crushed and the green juices are extracted and then swallowed. Spit out the pulp. Only very small quantities of the juice are needed to receive significant benefits, so you'll only need to chew a few mouthfuls each day.