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SURVIVAL - Staying alive in the wilderness

 

Most people that find themselves in a survive or die situation, never expected to be there.    Knowledge of even the most basic survival skills can make the difference between coming home alive or perishing.  Dont be the guy that froze to death because he couldnt start a fire, or the guy that wandered around in the wilderness in circles until he gave up and died.  Environments that test peoples ability to survive vary greatly, from Hot to Cold, Urban to Wilderness, Dry to Wet, but there are some basic principles that you can use to guide yourself by.  This is not intended to be an all inclusive instruction on surviving anything, just a simple outline that we hope will be easy to remember, should you find yourself staring a survival situation in the face.   

Prepare For Emergency with these 30 tips from Homeland Security

 

If you remember nothing else, remember this sentence....
CAN   SURVIVE   WHEN   FREAKING   EXPECTED TO

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C - Stay Calm, dont panic.  You wont be able to make sound decisions if you're crying like a little girl.

S - Shelter - This is your mission, forget food and water for now, the environment is your first enemy.

W - Water - Once you have created survivable environment, you have 2-3 days to get water.

F - Fire - Keeps you warm, purifies water, scares potential predators, useful for signal to rescuers.

E - Eat - Last but not least, find Food.   You can go for weeks without it, but you'll probably be delerious !


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STAY CALM                

Remember, you are the one that is going to save your own ass, you are no good to yourself if you allow fear and panic to dominate your thinking.     Sit down and gather your thoughts, if possible stay at the place where you first realized you were in trouble until your thoughts are clear and you have a plan.   Once you know you have your needs prioritized correctly, and you have a plan to follow, you have already increased your chances of surviving.

SECURE SHELTER

Shelter should be your top priority in any survival situation.    A shelter will protect you from the elements, keep you from getting hypothermia in cold climates, and keep you sheltered from the sun in hot climates.     It will allow you to get restful sleep to keep your brain functioning sharply.    A good shelter will be a morale booster.    

To make a simple shelter:
   Select an appropriate location:
       
Dont shelter in dry streambeds that might flood if it rains.
        Inspect the area for snakeholes, wasp nests, or any other sort of animal den.
        Stay close to where you first got into trouble.
        Select an area where you might be visible to rescuers, or be able to see / signal rescuers.
        Try not to make your shelter in a low area, colder heavier air will collect there at night 
        If possible make your shelter near a source of firewood.

Build your shelter:
Remember, you're not building a house, anything bigger than what you can comfortably fit in is too big.   You will be relying on your shelter to retain heat from your body and campfire, so keep it small, but comfortable.   A simple shelter can be constructed using a lattice of branches propped up at an angle against the wind. Large leaves, such as ferns or fir branches, can then be added to create cover for rain and hail. Branches propped against a fallen tree make a simple and effective shelter, but animals such as ants and snakes may nest under the tree so use caution.

Exceptions to seeking shelter first would be:
  
A) you are in an area where the climate is such that a shelter is not needed.
    B) You are in physical danger and MUST move.
     C) You have a wound which requires immediate treatment.  

  survival shelter

 

WATER       

Humans can live for several weeks without food, but only about three days without water. A typical person will lose 2-3 liters of water per day in ordinary conditions, but more in very hot or dry weather. A lack of water causes dehydration, resulting in lethargy, headaches, dizziness, confusion, and eventually death. Even mild dehydration impairs concentration, which is dangerous in a survival situation where clear thinking is essential. Dark yellow or brown urine indicates dehydration. Because of these risks, a safe supply of drinking water must be located as soon as a shelter is built (or even before, depending on conditions).

Once you have secured a source of water, whether it is a stream or river, or by making a condensation trap or other means, you must purify it before you drink it.   It will do you no good to drink 3 ounces of contaminated water, and then lose 10 times that over the next 12 hours becuase you have diarrhea all of a sudden.    Contaminated water contains viruses and pathogens that can make your already bad day get a whole lot worse.   It is possible to get Typhoid, Cholera, and Salmonella from drinking contaminated water.    A small brook or stream may look very clean, but if there is a carcass of a dead animal upstream, the water may actually be contaminated. 

 

The most common way to purify water in a survival situation is to Boil it.    This means finding some sort of  container to hold water so it can be placed on a fire.   If you are at a higher elevation, boil the water for several minutes, due to the boiling point of water dropping.     Water can also be purified with chemical packs, portable pump filters, or solar distillation.    Solar distillation is acheived by placing water in a transparent plastic bottle, oxygenating by shaking, and then placing in direct sunlight for 6 hours.   The combination of higher water temperature and solar radiation kills the microbes in the water.

 

FIRE  

Select the location for your fire carefully.   You will need a dry spot protected from the wind, and near a source of fuel.   It should be located an appropriate distance from your shelter as to provide heat, but not potentially catch your shelter on fire.    If you can build a fire against a fallen tree, or large rock, it may help reflect heat.  

Unless you are on a planned hiking / camping / trip, you will probably not have the luxury of one of the commonly available firstarter tools, so you will have to do it the old fashioned way !

Select the materials you will need, this means finding suitable tinder, kindling and firewood.  You will be building your fire in 3 stages, 1) ignition of the tinder.   2) Using tinder to ignite kindling.   3) using kindling to ignite fuel.    Make sure you have all 3 BEFORE you attempt to light your fire.   Your jubilation at igniting a tinderball will be short lived when you realize you have no kindling to keep it lighting.  Plan to do this one time, and get it right the first time.  

Tinder is small completely dry, easily combustable material.  The image above shows a bundle of cedar shavings, which can be taken from the bark of a cedar tree, and make excellet tinder.   Other sources for tinder are drygrass, dried seed pods from weeds and plants, dry pine needles, certain lichens and mosses, and even threads from your clothes.   

 


Fire starting basics

Kindling consists of small dry twigs and sticks, acorns, dead bushes and scrub and bacically anything else that will quickly ignite from the short-lived flames of your tinder.    As with tinder, kindling should be 100% dry, dont use damp sticks, or green twigs.   when you have a kindling fire burning, gradually increase the size of the sticks you are burning until you have a decent bed of coals established.    Dont put anything on the fire that is larger than 2 inches in diameter unti lyou have a good bed of coals.    

Fuel is in most cases, wood.   It may be limbs and logs from the forest floor, or scrap wood from a structure etc...   Dont underestimate the amount of fuel you need.  If it is daylight, take full advantage and build yourself a pile of wood of various sizes close to your Fire.   You dont want to be wandering around in the wilderness looking for firewood in the middle of the night when the elements are at thier worst, predators are about, and the darkness increases the chances of an injury caused by a fall.   Find dead limbs and branches and break them into 2 foot lengths.  Limbs from hardwood trees such as oak, hickory, maple and birch will generally burn better than most evergreens, provide more heat, and produce less smoke, although I have found cedar to be an exception to that rule.  

If you are going out into the wilderness as part of a planned outing, or just going camping, it pays to be prepared.   Some useful links related to fire starting and preparation are listed below:

EAT                                 

Now that you are calm and sheltered, have water, and a nice fire keeping you warm, you can shift your attention to that rumbling noise in your gut.   Obviously some areas will have more abundant sources of food, and others will be challenging to find anything at all.   If you happen to have any food with you, save it until you have exhausted all measures to locate something edible in your surrounding environment.   Grass seeds are a good place to start, all grass seeds are edible, and dont require a lot of energy for the body to digest, the roots are also edible.   Some wild berries, such as blackberries, are edible, but berries are best avoided if possible, particularly red and white berries.   

If you are near the ocean, you may be able to find mussels, clams, limpets or oysters in rocky areas.    Snakes, lizards, snails, birds, and frogs are also edible when cleaned and cooked, and are easier quarry than other small animals such as rabbits, racoons and squirrels.   If you dont have a can or pot to cook them, just place them directly on the coals of the fire after the flames die down.   Look for trails made by animals, these are good places to set traps, or to follow in search of water.  

You would'nt normally look at bugs and think about eating them, but insects are pound for pound better sources of protein than most meats.   It might take a day or so before you can talk yourself into it, but eventually you'll be ready to chow down on some termite and grasshopper finger food.    Caterpillars, spiders (non-poisonus) and flies can be eaten, as well as ants, and moths. 

Finally, when you have eaten, get yourself a weapon of some kind.   Fashion a stick into a club that you can use in the unlikely but possible event that something comes looking to eat you.    A small downed tree with some of the root attached can be cut to length and the roots sharpened to make you a formidable adversary, plus you'll just feel a little more secure, and a little less vulnerable knowing you can at least whack something should the need arise. 


Survival Food

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