It is vital to keep your feet healthy at all times when outdoors. Survival, bushcraft, and outdoor activities require healthy feet. The U. S. Army gives important instruction to soldiers on the proper care of feet. The U. S. Army field manual, FM 21-18 Foot Marches, offers excellent advice on taking care of your feet. There are three basic principles to remember to keep your feet healthy at all times.

1. Properly Fitting Footwear

Your footwear must fit properly if you wish to keep your feet healthy. It goes without saying that poorly fitting footwear is a menace to healthy feet. Footwear that is too tight or too loose will deteriorate foot health very quickly. Outdoorsmen with the most significant experience are prone to blisters, corns, stress fractures, and hammer toes from wrong footwear in the field. Many extreme athletes become sidelined very quickly by significant foot injuries due to wrong shoes or boots. There are some simple tips to remember about getting the correct footwear for your feet.

Proper Size and Breaking In

Before purchasing footwear, get your feet measured by a professional while wearing your outdoor socks. It will ensure purchasing boots or shoes that are the proper size. Commercial footwear that is available for outdoors is heavily cushioned and lined with Gore-Tex membranes. Thus, outdoor boots or shoes feel snug when you first put them on. However, after wearing those expensive boots or shoes in the field, they lose their snug fit. Your foot will begin to slide inside causing blisters and sore toes. Break in any footwear before wearing it in the field. You might have to purchase footwear ½ size smaller or larger than your standard size to achieve properly fitting footwear after breaking them in.

The Right Footwear from Reputable Manufacturers

Additionally, purchase the right boot or shoe that is suited to your purposes. For example, a pair of running shoes may not be suitable for an extended trek into the wilderness to hunt game. If you are going on a survival adventure in the wilderness for an extended period of time, purchase footwear designed to be outdoors for long periods of time. Furthermore, it is crucial to buy footwear from reputable manufacturers. Many companies are selling military-type footwear that is both low quality and dangerous to wear in the field. Berry Compliant (USA made) military footwear is available directly from the manufacturers like Altama, Belleville, or Danner. Some other great companies to buy footwear are Salomon, Merrill, Lowa, and La Sportiva. Therefore, spend a little more money and get the right footwear. Your feet will thank you for it.

2. Dry Feet and Dry Socks

A second principle about foot health in the wilderness is to keep your feet clean and dry and to also keep your socks clean, dry and changed regularly. Feet will get wet inside footwear from perspiration. Waterproof boots will accentuate the sweating of feet if you are hiking through the outdoors for long periods of time. Remember that having wet feet is a fact of life in the wilderness. Thus, it is critical to dry your feet regularly along with changing your socks. It is recommended that you carry at least two extra pairs of socks in your backpack at all times. One pair you will wear. The second will stay dry in your pack. Your last ones should be cleaned and drying out. Wet socks can hang on the outside of your backpack while trekking if the weather is allowing it. Otherwise, they might have to dry next to your fire in your bivouac site.

Furthermore, the best socks to wear in the wilderness are merino wool or military wool blend boot socks. Socks made of wool give two critical benefits: quick drying and the promotion of foot respiration. Wool fibers will pull the moisture away from your feet. Moreover, it will help keep your feet warm even if your feet are wet inside your boots. These two qualities of wool allow your feet to breathe inside your footwear. This promotes the circulation of blood to your toes. Thus, keeping your feet and socks dry will help your feet stay healthy in the field.

3. Foot Hygiene

The final principle about caring for your feet in the wilderness is to conduct foot hygiene often. Dirty and unattended feet will fester problems that may hinder your movement in the wilderness or bugging out in an emergency. It is dangerous enough just trekking through the bush while tracking down that big buck. If you add a foot injury into the equation, then life becomes complicated very quickly. Furthermore, if there arises a foot ailment or infection caused by lack of foot cleanliness, then a disaster and medevac situation ensues. Therefore, it is needless to say that those clean feet are critical to a successful experience in the wilderness. You can keep your feet clean by remembering to take care of them when resting during a movement. Here is a simple checklist to help you keep your feet fresh while at rest during movement in the outdoors:

  1. Pull off your footwear and socks. 
  2. Elevate your feet for 10-20 minutes to help reduce swelling from trekking.
  3. Wiggle and spread your toes to let the air blow through them while they are elevated.
  4. Inspect your feet after you have rested them.
  5. Clean your feet with a wet wipe
  6. Apply antifungal foot powder on your feet (top, bottom, and between toes) before putting on your socks and footwear
  7. Put a clean, dry pair of socks on after powdering your feet.

These simple steps for conducting foot hygiene will go a long way to keep your feet healthy while outdoors or bugging out during an emergency.

Conclusion

Your feet are your best friend, or they can be your worst enemy in a critical moment of survival. You do not want your mortality to rise or fall on the condition of your feet. If you take care of your feet in the wilderness, you will enhance your chances of survival in a critical situation. Remember these three simple principles of foot care, and you will have a more enjoyable experience outdoors.

First Aid Kits come in various levels of sophistication. As such, emergency medicine is always a central topic of concern for those prepping for emergencies or surviving in the outdoors. People who spend much time in the field will instruct that carrying a first aid kit is an essential item. Emergency preparedness literature also advises keeping a first aid kit in your home and car. However, before considering first aid items to carry, what are some general considerations concerning an individual first aid kit?

Considerations

The Level of Medical Expertise

The first thing that should influence what you put in your first aid kit is your level of medical expertise. Have you received certified training in first aid or emergency care? Are you a person with general knowledge of medical care from personal experience? First aid kits that are available at a local store are for use by the general public. By contrast, some of the more sophisticated emergency first aid kits are for those with more specialized medical training. For example, if a person does not know how to take a manual blood pressure reading, then to have an analog blood pressure cuff and stethoscope in a kit is probably not wise. Not only is a person’s level of medical expertise an influence concerning the type of first aid kit to carry, but also what is the intended use for the first aid kit.

The Purpose of the First Aid Kit

The next thing that should influence what you put in your first aid kit is your intended purpose for your kit. The purpose of a first aid kit determines what kind of items are in the kit. For example, the two most common types of first aid kits are the general first aid and trauma aid. One will have a tourniquet in it while the other will not. A general first aid kit in the home or car will be different from one that is in your EDC bag. Therefore, it is essential to define the first-aid that you expect to render before deciding what to put in your kit. Thus, as one considers carrying a first aid kit, what are the top 5 essential items that should be in any first aid or trauma kit beyond adhesive bandages, such as band-aids?

Essential Items

1. Quick Clot Bandage

Quick Clot is a blood clotting hemostatic gauze that helps stop bleeding from severe wounds and cuts. Z-Medica, LLC is the company that produces the Quick Clot line of hemostatic bandages used by outdoorsman, emergency medical personnel, and the U.S Department of Defense (DoD) agencies. Quick Clot bandages have Kaolin. Kaolin promotes the clotting of human blood when applied to traumatic wounds. Hemostatic dressings are not practical for general use as a substitute for band-aids or other cloth bandages. The Quick Clot bandage to carry in an individual first-aid kit is the Advance Clotting Sponge by Adventure Medical Kits.

2. Antibiotic Ointment

Antibiotic ointment is a valuable item to carry in a first aid kit. This topical treatment comes in various sizes. The most practical size for an individual first aid kit is the single-use packet containing Bacitracin Zinc (400 units Bacitracin), Neomycin Sulfate (5mg)., and Polymyxin-B Sulfate (5000 units). An individual first aid kit should have 3-4 single-use antibiotic ointment packets at a minimum. A triple antibiotic ointment is only to treat minor cuts and scrapes on the skin to prevent bacterial infections within the wound. Please do not use it on other kinds of infections that require stronger antibiotic treatments such as viral infections of the internal organs. Larger first aid kits for a home or car should have a tube of antibiotic ointment as part of their contents.

3. Benadryl

Benadryl is an over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamine. Its purpose is to treat allergies, hay fever, and the common cold. In limited amounts, it can be used in an emergency to treat life-threatening allergic reactions until emergency medical personnel can treat the allergic reaction with more potent medications. Benadryl is the most commonly used OTC medication to treat minor environmental allergic reactions.

4. Bandage Scissors or Medical Shears

Bandage scissors or medical shears are a critical tool to carry in an individual first aid kit. Both items will allow for the cutting of clothing and gauze bandages while rendering first aid. The smaller instrument will fit better in smaller general use individual first aid kit. Medical shears should be in trauma kits, and larger individual first aid kits carried in a Bug-Out Bag or a vehicle emergency kit.

5. Disposable Medical Gloves

Medical gloves also are an essential addition to any personal first aid kit. Some of the smaller first aid kits do not have a pair of disposable medical gloves in them. If you build your own individual first aid kit, then an excellent item to include is one pair of disposable medical gloves. The most common kind of disposable medical gloves are the nitrile gloves. Nitrile is a synthetic rubber. These are the preferred type of medical glove because some people are allergic to latex. Therefore, even if you are not allergic to latex, the person to whom you may render first aid might be allergic to latex. Consequently, it is wise to not take chances with someone’s life by using latex and inducing anaphylactic shock by accident. Thus, only put disposable medical gloves made of nitrile in your first aid kit.

Recommended Individual First Aid Kits (IFAK)

1. Adventure Medical Kits Adventure First Aid, 1.0
2. Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight / Watertight .7 Medical Kit

Everyone seems to agree that a good survival knife is an essential item for the outdoorsman, bushcrafters, or preppers. There are many good resources to access to learn about survival knives. However, the key words of versatility and practicality should influence your thinking about knives. Additionally, do you view a knife as a weapon or tool or both? Furthermore, there are at least two major things to consider before you decide on what kind of knife to purchase or carry: the purpose of the knife and the characteristics of the knife.

The Purpose Of The Knife

The defining question for determining the type of fixed-blade knife to carry is the type of use for that knife. What is the purpose or reason for carrying a knife? The term survival knife is a definition for a purpose or an application of the knife. That means that the intent of the knife is personal survival. In other words, it will be the one knife that you will rely on to save your life. However, there are many general categories of survival: combat/tactical, wilderness, urban, water/sea, jungle, mountain, desert, medical, emergency, etc. Thus, there are knives specifically tailored for each of these survival categories. Therefore, a person needs to define what kind of use they want to get out of a fixed-blade knife. Yet, there are some basic characteristics that define a good survival knife.

The Characteristics Of A Survival Knife

1. Full-Tang

The first characteristic in a survival knife is that must be full tang. The term, full tang, means the knife blade and handle tang are formed from a singular piece of steel. The tang is the part of the knife upon which the handle scales are attached. The knife tang should extend to the bottom of the handle and not taper into the handle as in a rat tail design. Some knives marketed as survival knives have a hollow handle molded, bolted, or welded to the blade. Unfortunately, this welding point makes the knife vulnerable to cracking and breaking at the joint where the blade and handle meet. However, in recent years, there has been some significant improvements on the hollow-handle knives and some people are starting to recommend them as a useful knife. What about blade thickness?

2. Blade Thickness: 3/16-1/4 inch

The second characteristic of a good survival knife involves blade thickness. A good survival knife needs a blade thickness between 3/16 of an inch to 1/4 of an inch. This provides a solid and durable blade that will last if you take care of it. The blade thickness is important if using the knife for prying things apart. Other sources will have additional considerations. However, I found that if you find a knife that meets these first two specifications then the other recommended characteristics for a good survival knife will fall into place. Furthermore, blade length is another consideration.

3. Blade Length: 4.5-6 inches

A third characteristic of a good and reliable survival knife is blade length. There are some experts that recommend that a survival or bushcrafting knife should have a blade length of no less than five inches. However, the exception to this rule are the Morakniv® brand knives. Many of the experts in the field of wilderness survival and bushcraft recommend the Morakniv® knives. Yet, a blade length of five or more inches meets the versatility considerations for a survival knife: construct improvised weapons and traps, as well as, process food. One thing to keep in mind about blade length is not to have a knife blade that is too long. A knife blade beyond six or seven inches is probably going to be too cumbersome to wield when building traps or skinning a squirrel. Not only are tang, blade length and thickness important for a survival knife, but also the blade materials are equally important.

4. Blade Materials: D2 or 1095 High Carbon Steel

A fourth characteristic for a quality survival knife is the steel used in making the knife. There is almost universal agreement that high carbon tool steel is the optimum material for a knife blade. D2 and 1095 steels are the most favorable tool steels for the blade construction of a survival knife. These blade steels are the best for those are spending a lot of time in the field such as hunters or bushcrafters. They are easy to sharpen and hold an edge well.
However, a good blade steel to consider is stainless steel if there is only an occasional excursion to the outdoors. This means that it is easy to keep corrosion and rust from building up on the blade or handle. For example, many of the top game processing knives feature a stainless steel blade. So, a stainless steel outdoor knife may be a consideration for only a weekend outing on the campgrounds, cabin, or the favorite fishing hole. Moreover, the type of blade spine is also important to consider.

5. Blade Spine: 90° Spine

The fifth characteristic of a good survival knife is a blade spine that is ground to a 90° edge. This kind of edge is useful in the field. It allows a person to use the spine of the knife to scrape bark from a tree for tinder and strike a ferro rod when making a fire. It is also good for striking flint or chert rock against it to make a spark for starting fires.

6. Blade Grind: Scandinavian or Flat

A sixth characteristic of an excellent survival is the blade grind. There are two common blade grinds that one will find on a quality survival knife: a Scandinavian grind and a flat grind. The Scandinavian grid is the most popular grind of the two. The main reason that these two grinds are popular on survival knives is that they are the easiest type of blades to sharpen in the wilderness. Other blade grinds sometimes require special tools or expertise to sharpen. Thus, most of the high quality, and, expensive bushcraft or survival knives will feature these blade grinds. Moreover, there are some other things to consider when deciding about a knife to carry as a survival knife.

Other Considerations

Jimping

Some things to think about when deciding on a good survival knife are the type of additional features some knives have on them. For example, some survival knives have notches on the spine of the blade near the handle called jimping. This feature allows additional friction when using the thumb for wood carving or cutting tasks. Is jimping something that you want on your knife?

Scale Material

Another feature to ponder on survival knives are the kind of scale material on the handles. The four most common handle scale materials on survival knives are: bone, wood, rubber, or micarta. Wood, rubber, and bone are understandable scale features. However, micarta is a material that is often used on survival knives. Micarta is a composite material of polymers and linen cloth fibers. Thus, micarta has a wood-like quality to the touch.

Type of Edge: Fine or Serrated?

Finally, some commentary on serrated edges. There is much ado regarding a knife blade with a serrated edge and one without. The decision about this feature is a matter of preference. It is also being able to answer the earlier question, “What is the purpose of your knife”? If you want to cut down on weight in your backpack by carrying only one knife, then a knife with a serrated edge may be a viable option. The serrated edge provides some versatility with the ability to saw small diameter limbs or materials such as plastic. However, if you are going to carry a good multi-tool, you do not really need a knife with a serrated edge. Thus, a good survival knife is an essential piece of gear. Therefore, choose your survival knife wisely.

Recommended Survival Knives:

1. Morakniv Bushcraft
2. Morakniv Garberg
3. The Sigma 3 Survivor “Ultimate Bushcraft Blade”
4. Tops BOB Fieldcraft
5. Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion

Here is a quick camelbak survival hack that I think you will like, and it’s something that I’ve used to cross many waterways of all different types. I first figured this tactic out when swimming across rivers while fishing. I’d see a good fishing spot and want to get across to get to the best spots but also wanted to be safe. So I came up with this method to help me, since it’s an item I always seem to carry on me.

The Camelbak is a water bladder I’ve been using ever since being issued my first one back in the army in the early 2000’s. When I first entered the army they were still using plastic canteens, but when we deployed right after 9/11, they improved gear for combat greatly. We were taught to hydrate as much as we could in the military to prevent ourselves from becoming a heat casualty. Which is a real threat with the kind of intense outdoor activities the army does on a daily basis. You had to drink water, or you wouldn’t make it through the day.

Canteens just weren’t practical all the time and couldn’t carry nearly as much water. Not to mention they were much noisier when running than a camelbak. You could carry much more water in a stealthier and more convenient manner. So it was no brainer that we would use these over the old plastic army issue canteens.

STEPS TO TURNING BLADDER INTO PFD:

  1. Empty water from bladder. Close cap tightly
  2. Blow as much air in the bladder as you can via the drinking tube.
  3. Throw it in the water and check how well it holds your buoyancy.
  4. Look for bubbles coming from cap and make sure it’s tight.
  5. Get to swimming!

survival hack

This Camelbak survival hack has got me across some pretty big bodies of water and is extremely efficient floatation device. The larger the bladder, the more capacity it has for keeping you or equipment afloat. The average bladder is 2.5-3.0 liters in capacity and that is plenty to keep a large man afloat. The larger dromedary bags that some people carry are even better, though they don’t strap on you back like a camelbak.

The backpack style versions will allow you to attach them to your back, stomach, or even wear them like a diaper for upright floating. There are many options for wearing these depending on the type of swim stroke you are doing.primitive skillsThis survival hack has got me across numerous bodies of water, including the pictured lake above. Its a legit technique to use and works almost as well as a life vest. Some other improvised techniques include tying your pant legs off into knots, filling the legs with air and using that as a floatation device. Though I don’t think it is a great method, it might be all you have. If you’re down to having to use that tactic, its probably because you ended up in the water abruptly. Basically anything that can contain air and not leak will work.

Why would you need this Survival Hack?

  • Crossing large bodies of water with safety. A float will allow even the best swimmers the safety to take a break and catch their breath.
  • Crossing quicker moving rivers to get to other side.
  • Setting limb lines in deeper water or checking fish traps.
  • Retrieving a jug line.
  • When exiting an area, you may not have a choice to go around a waterway. Sometimes you have to cross it and get wet. That is why it’s always best to put your gear in compressible dry bags.
  • Let your kids use it as floaty in case they don’t have a PFD.

List of Best Hydration Bladders & Dry Bags

 

survival hack

Author: Rob Allen (Founder, SIGMA 3 Survival)

 

 

Today you’re going to be introduced to a twined fish trap method I’ve used to survive for years in the wilderness. Hello, I’m Joshua Hamlin, lead primitive skills instructor at SIGMA 3. During my two years living in the wilderness completely primitive and isolated from the world, I used this method extensively for a big majority of my meat.

Primitive skills is such a beautiful thing because of the freedom it gives you to travel at your own will with no money. In todays society we are forced into working jobs we hate, just to pay bills we don’t want. So that we can fit in with society. And this basket fish trap is what kept me from going hungry for years. And it cost me nothing to make and only a few hours to construct. Make sure to watch the video below and read the blog for the real details of how to use the trap in the field.

Tools Used:

-Good Bushcraft Blade (check out this link for suggestions)

-Silky Saw (silky ultra accel or pocket boy are most recommended bushcraft saws)

Note: This can be done with flint-knapped stone blades, but so much faster and efficient with modern cutting tools.

TO GET HANDS ON TRAINING OF THIS TECHNIQUE, CHECK OUT OUR ADVANCED SURVIVAL STANDARD COURSE.

9 Step Process to Building a Twined Fish Trap

Step 1 (Collect Materials)- Collect river cane (approx. 60 sticks) and very flexible vines. In this case we used kudzu vine, which is an invasive species in our area. You can use a variety of materials for this trap. Anything straight will work for the trap ribs, and anything flexible will work for twining. The vine or roots need be very flexible and not prone to breaking when twisting or bending on itself.

Step 2 (Find soft soil, begin template)- Find a soft soil to jam the sticks into circular sized opening desired. Put the river cane into the ground at the spacing desired. The tighter the spacing, the smaller the fish you can catch.

Step 3 (Tie top together)- Tie the top of fish trap together by wrapping vines around it or by using cordage.

Step 4 (Begin the twining process)- Make a bight or bend in the vine at the desired height just down from the top of the trap. This will vary depending on the size of the trap you plan to construct. Twist over and under making one twist in between each piece of river cane. You want to make the twist tight so that it pulls the river cane spokes together so they are a uniform distance apart all the way around. Skipping this important detail will leave larger gaps for fish to escape, further down the trap where spacing is more difficult to control. (Note: Remember that tree roots will typically work also, as they tend to have greater flexibility. Spruce, cedar, fir, and other conifer trees are usually a great source for flexible roots.)

Step 5 (Twine it down every 6″)- Do the twining method of twisting the vines about every 6-12” down the trap. This will depend on how far the spacing is between the spokes. The tighter you need the gaps to be, the more often you need to twine. For smaller fish plan on doing it every 6 inches.

Step 6 (Finish the bottom of cone, extra twines)- Once you get to the bottom, do several layers of twining to lock the opening of the trap together so that is super secure. Once all the twining is done, you can pull the trap from the soft soil and cut the end spokes to a uniform length.

Step 7 (Make form for funnel cone)- Now its time to make the cone entrance or funnel portion of the trap. This is done in similar manner to the rest of the trap. Figure out the exact size of the opening where the fish will swim through, then jam sticks into the ground matching that opening size. Make sure those spokes are sharpened to a good point. Those points will be one of the reasons the fish can’t escape back out the funnel.

Step 8 (Basket wrap the cone)- Instead of using the twining method for the funnel, like we did the rest of the trap. This time we will use more of a basket making style of weaving. For this you will need a good amount of flexible vines or roots. Jam an odd amount of spokes into the ground, the number of spokes will be determined by how wide you want the opening. But it must always be an odd amount of spokes so that each rotation of wraps around the spokes is different with each pass. Then begin weaving vines over and under all the way around. When you reach the end of a vine, just poke it into the lower wraps to end it. Keep working your way up the funnel with vines until you reach the desired diameter to fit the cone opening for the trap. When you get to the top, cut some longer pieces of vine and jam them into the weave to hold the vines down and keep them from popping out.

Step 9 (Put funnel into trap opening)- Once done, pull it from the ground and test it in the opening of the trap to make sure it fits. You’ll use a sharpened stick to hold the funnel in so that it can quickly be removed later and you can pull the funnel and remove the fish easily.

Things to know about twined fish traps:

  • There is more light inside the fish trap, which is better for game fish and other desirable eating fish. Closed off basket style fish traps are dark and foreboding for many fish. But each method has a desired use. Determine which is best for you. Sport fish can see other game fish inside it from the outside and will be attracted to it. The disadvantage to the twined fish trap method is that it won’t hold crawdads like the basket method will.
  • If straight materials are available, this trap is quicker to build and much lighter in weight than basket method.
  • Very good when cane, bamboo, or other more tropical materials are available.
  • If you are in a colder climate, willow and roots will probably be your only option to reproduce this trap.

Setting the Fish Trap

Now it’s time to set it in the water. There are numerous ways to use this fish trap to catch fish. You can block off a stream and place it in the middle and physically drive fish towards your trap. Or you can place it in a high fish population area and leave it baited. Either method is effective but most streams and rivers will require the baited method. As blocking off a stream or forcing fish towards your trap is not always feasible. Wherever you place it, make sure it is feasible to check regularly and make sure it won’t be washed away in high water or after rains. Stick it in areas the fish also use as sanctuary from the current or larger predator fish.

When to check it?

Like most all fish2 traps, early in the morning and right before sunset is typically best. You might even check it at night before the sun comes up because sunlight can make it easier for the fish to navigate out of the trap.

What baits should I use?

Fish guts, heads, tails, etc are a great choice. They will attract crawdads and small fish, and those will attract the more edible game fish. If  you don’t have any fish parts to use then maybe you can catch some crayfish, minnows, frogs, or other small game. Smash them up and place them inside for the fish to feast on. You want to essentially make your trap a chum source. A perpetual place of feeding for smaller fish, that will attract the larger fish to come check it out. Numerous things will work, just be inventive and see what your area has to offer.

How long before it starts working?

Sometimes its immediate and other times it make take days or weeks for fish to pay attention to it. New traps have a smell to them and fish are sometimes weary of them. SO be mindful that if it isn’t working immediately, give it time. You may also need to adjust your bait choices or placement of the trap several times before it begins working. But these types of traps have been used by primitive cultures all over the world for millennia. The concept works in most areas and will most likely work for you with some adjustment.

Is one fish trap enough?

Absolutely not! The most important thing to remember about primitive trapping of any type, is that it’s a numbers game. The more traps you build, the higher your odds of being successful in catching a sustainable amount of food to get you through. If you plan on doing long term wilderness living, then you will need lots and lots of fish to sustain you through the dry times.

Fishing won’t always be good and just like hunting it can be seasonal. So you need to catch as many as you can and then put those excess fish up for later. Using methods such as cold smoking or normal smoking methods. You can also sun dry fish if you live in a hot dry environment, but smoking is always preferable. Because the smoking process coats the meat with oils that will protect it from future moisture, as well as ward off bacteria wanting to grow on the meat.

Conclusion:

There is no one fish trap that will work for everything, but this is probably the most effective long term wilderness living technique I could show you. I used it myself for years all over the country to survive and you can too. It takes a lot of practice to get these techniques down and while this demonstration is good enough to show you the way. Its not nearly as efficient as coming and learning from me in a class. Blogs and videos will never be as good as learning from a teacher in the field.

If you have an interest in training with us, then please check out our schedule and see if one of the dates works for you. Please contact us at 4175228172 if you have any questions about this technique or anything else we teach. Thanks for your continued support of SIGMA 3 and the best way you can say thanks for this free info is by sharing this blog on social media with your friends.

For other articles on survival trapping visit: To Kill or Not to Kill?

bushcraft instructorWritten by Joshua Hamlin

Lead Primitive Skills Instructor, SIGMA 3 Survival School

survival instructor

Someone recently asked me what my top 10 survival essentials were and it caused me to think. You see, I talk a lot about the top 5 survival essentials. Here at Sigma 3 we teach our classes based on the top 5 essentials. Everything after that is not so essential for life. However there are some things to add to the list, not because they are essential to life, but because they are essential to quality of life. So I wracked my brain to come up with 10 for this list. People like lists with nice round numbers. Well I couldn’t come up with ten, but here a broad overview of my top 7 essentials to help you survive and thrive.

1.   Shelter

I talk about shelter building a lot. That’s because it is a survival essential. In some cases it is the most important survival essential. Like in the north in winter, for instance. Your soft human body can only regulate its heat few hours in the subzero conditions of a northern winter so you need a shelter immediately. The same is true in the scorching desert. You only have a couple hours until the sun zaps all the moisture from your body.  A shelter lets you control the atmosphere around you. It traps warm air in frigid conditions or blocks the harsh sun in arid ones. It also keeps our rain and pests. It’s important and that is why its number 1 on this list.

  1. Water

We need water. It lubricates all of our moving parts and it transports vital minerals and nutrients around our bodies. Without it we die in 3 to 5 days. All other living things need water too. Some of them live in water and some of them can really harm us. They are usually too small to see but they could be in there. So, we have to get them out. Also, water is a solvent, meaning things can dissolve into it. Some of these things, like lead or mercury, are very harmful to us. We have to get them out too. A good way to do that is with a water filter. Whether we make our own or we buy one a water filter is essential. I carry a Sawyer and it works great. You can pick one up here at our store pretty cheap.

  1. Fire

In this modern age we have heated homes with stove tops and ovens but in the wilderness our heat source is almost always fire. Fire does more than just warm us up. It also cooks our food and kills pathogens in our water. It can even be used as a tool but more on tools later. Any outdoorsman that is worth their salt can create fire in any weather, anywhere, at any time. Any instructor, who tells you different, be wary of. There are a million and one instructors in this business and 999,999 of them aint worth a shit.

There are also tons of different fire starting methods, but, in my opinion, the bowdrill is the most universal. It works in the desert as well as in the tropics. It’s pretty simple to use but it does take practice to master it. So make a kit and practice it until you are a master. Then you will be in the top 1% and more importantly you will be able to stay alive while others die.

  1. Food

If you have watched any of the survival TV shows out there nowadays you know that a human can live a long time without food. But is that really living? I prefer to say that a human dies very slowly when not eating food. If you are burning more calories than you are taking into your body then you are either dying or dieting. Food is our fuel and if we don’t have it our body eats itself for fuel. So food is an essential.

We are constantly surrounded by food when we in the wilderness. The problem is can we recognize it and/or catch it. When it comes to plants it’s about knowing what you can and can’t eat. Plants can give us important vitamins and minerals so they are worth knowing. Some plants even contain high amounts of protein but it is rare. So learn them.

As a general rule we get our protein and fat from animals. That means we have to catch them, somehow, so we can eat them. For this we use traps. We can use traps to catch bugs, fish, birds, even bears. Once you know some of the basic mechanics for trap triggers you can create traps that fit your specific needs for your specific situation. So knowing how to set traps is an essential skill.

  1. Tools

We humans are a pretty weak species. We have dull teeth and nails. We are not very strong or fast. We are not covered with protective scales or shells or hair yet our species has managed to dominate the entire natural world. That’s because our large frontal lobes give us the ability to reason and problem solve. We don’t have sharp teeth but we can sharpen sticks bones and rocks. We can then attach them to a shaft that gives us reach. We can even reason how to propel these sharp points by adding bending sticks and cordage. The bow and arrow is just one example out of millions of tools we can use. A sharpened stone flake is a tool by itself and it can be used to make other tools for whatever specific need arises. Personally I think the most important tool we can own is a knife. Yes we can make them ourselves but for quality sake it’s a good idea to invest in a good one.  You can find my top picks here. A good knife can be used to make a million other tools.

 

  1. Medical

Knowing how to heal from damage is a skill that everyone should know. It’s a skill often overlooked because it isn’t generally needed, but when it is needed it is REALLY needed. If you have ever been trapped in the wild with a severe injury you know exactly what I mean.

Knowing what plants can heal specific ailments can make your life better or even save it. Knocking out a cold before it gets bad or getting rid of a bad headache is important but stopping an asthma attack before it kills you is even more important. Learn your medicinal plants.

But don’t rely solely on native plants. Carry a good first aid kit. You will have a hard time finding anything sterile in the wild. Sterile wraps and gauze pads are super useful and they may save your life. You can get a professional first aid kit here.

first aid

  1. Navigation

Navigation is a skill most people don’t think about. Basically navigation is just being able to get from one place to another without getting lost. You can use a map and a compass or landmarks and blazes. Native Americans used rivers and creeks and road maps. Imagine you are traveling along setting some traps. The sun is going down so you head back to your camp and gear. When you start walking back, nothing looks familiar. You are lost. This happens way too often and way too often its ends in death. Don’t let this be you. Learn to find way around.

Navigation

So that’s my list of top 7 survival essentials. If you master these subjects you will be a wilderness ninja. All it takes is guidance and practice. If you want some guidance I would love to train with you. Check out our classes and join us as we master the wilderness.

 

 

 

With all the growing interest in the survival industry there are dozens of different fire starters on the market. Everything from fancy ferro rods, fire pistons, blast matches, and even electronic igniters.   However; without a proper understanding of how to select and prepare natural tinders these fancy gadgets become nothing more than expensive sparklers.

Don’t get me wrong, survival gear is vital, and could very well save your life.  The problem is we develop a false sense of security when we purchase these items without putting in the adequate dirt time to hone the skills necessary to operate them.  For example anyone can take a ferro rod and light a cotton ball on fire, but what if they were told to go out into the forest and try to use a ferro rod in the rain with only natural materials?

Knowing what natural tinder to use, and having the ability to go out collect and harvest it is vital to being able to survive in harsh conditions.  Below is a list of my favorite natural materials to use for fire starting.

Cedar Bark

Cedar bark is amazing due to it’s ability to be lit when damp.  It is extremely fibrous, and because of it’s resinous nature it produces a hot flame aiding in lighting damp kindling.  Simply scrape the outer bark from the tree, and create a softball size birds nest tinder bundle.  Cedar/Juniper trees grow in abundance across the nation, and can be found in several different climates and elevations.  It truly is the go to for fire starting.

Fatwood

Fatwood is bushcraft gold when it comes to fire starting, and is the king of wet fire.  It burns super hot and last a long time.  Fatwood is a resinous enriched dense pine wood that can be found in the roots and base of limbs.  It can be a challenge to harvest, but once you do you wont regret it.  I prefer to gather fatwood from the base of limbs of dead standing pine trees.  Once this material is processed down to a 4-6″ pile of fine scrappings it will light very easily with a spark.  Another option is to make a feather stick from a section of the fatwood.

Birch Bark

Birch bark is an amazing fire starter.  It is rich in resins and comes off the tree like sheets of paper.  I have used paper (white) birch and river birch.  Both work extremely well.  I find the river birch tree most often in areas that collect water – river beds, valley bottoms, marshes, and other moist areas. Peel off the bark in sheets, and scrape it to reveal tiny fibers that will light with ease.

Cattail Fluff

Cattail would be considered a flash tinder.  It takes a spark easier than any of the previously mentioned tinders, but it burns extremely fast.  Cattail is best mixed with cedar bark, pine needles or grass.  You will find this amazing plant in still standing water such as swamps, ponds, or lakes. Process out the cattail heads by crushing or wringing it which will expose all the tiny fibers.  Hit is with a spark and watch it go up in flame.

Tinder Fungus

Polypore mushrooms make excellent tinder fungus.  Look for dried mushrooms that look like shells, fans, horse hooves, or shelves.  On the underside of the mushroom it should not have any gills.  It should look like tiny pores, similar to pores in the skin.  I have found these mushrooms on dead and alive trees, but they are usually found on trees with a dense overhead canopy.  The tinder fungus is not the best for lighting, however; it is one of the best materials for transferring a coal or extending a fire.

Additional Natural Tinders

Pine Needles, leaves, and grasses are also descent options for tinder.   The pine needles and leaves can be a challenge because they do not make a good bundle, but they are better used to extend a fire once you have flame. Grasses often times contain moisture, and can be challenging to light, but they work good when mixed with other fibers.  Old Man’s Beard (Usnea) is another type of tinder that people sometimes use.  For me it has extraordinary medicinal uses.  I would rather save this amazing lichen, and find something else.

To learn more about natural tinders and different fire starting methods register for one of our UPCOMING SURVIVAL STANDARD COURSES.

I hope you found this Natural Tinder blog to be educational and informative.  Be sure to watch the companion video below, and show your support by liking, sharing, and subscribing.   Thanks Justin “Sage” Williams

Maximize Rescue – Signaling / Navigation

Rescue is the goal of every survival situation. Once you meet your primary needs, focus on rescue.
You’re only a survivor when you have been rescued. This means that you must be able to either get yourself out of the predicament you are in (self-rescue) or be rescued from that situation by others (assisted rescue).

Preparation is key-informing people of your intentions and timeframes will at least have someone wondering why you are not back yet. Be sure to leave an ISOPREP Report behind with someone you trust.  (See Principle #1)

THE BIG ? Do I stay, or do I go? This is a major decision. Do you remain where you are or move to a location that offers a better chance of survival, rescue, or both. In general it is always best to stay where you are. It’s all too easy to make a rash decision and attempt to walk out of a situation only to put yourself in even greater danger.

Signaling While waiting for rescue maximize your odds by signaling. The key to signaling is contrast and movement.
Universal Distress Signal: SOS
Universal Distress Number: 3

Primary Signalling Methods:

  • Sound: Create 3 loud blows with a whistle, or by banging metal objects together.
  • Reflection: Reflect rays of the sun off of a mirror or shiny surface such as foil, a CD, or the bottom of a can to attract attention.
  • Light: Using a flashlight or other light source turn on and off 3 times, and then wait 10-15 seconds to repeat.
  • Fire: Create a large signal fire by adding green vegetation to your fire. For best results, create 3 fire platforms that can be easily and quickly lit.
  • Flagging: Using a t-shirt, bandanna, or other material create a flag to wave at potential rescuers.

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    Ground-to-air:
    To make ground-to-air marker, use anything that contrasts with the ground. Make sure it is big and visible. Common markers: SOS or HELP  Emergency Ground to Air Code:

      • V: Needs Assistance
      • X: Needs Emergency Assistance
      • ->: Direction of Travel

    Navigation

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    With proper planning you should have taken a compass and a map with you on your adventure, and you should have the ability to properly read a map and use a compass. Often time’s people find themselves lost, and unable to determine direction, because they failed to be prepared.

    Determine General Direction (Northern Hemisphere) If you can see the sun, you can use an analog watch as a protractor to determine an approximate direction. Ensure it is set to the correct local time. If you don’t have a watch but time, simply draw a watch.
    Point the hour hand towards the sun, and bisect the angle between the hour hand and 12 o’clock. That is your North South Line.

Dead Reckoning When navigating across land, you’re less likely to get lost if you take direct bearing from one feature to another. This will prevent you from going in circles.
When obstacles are in your way simply box around them, or use your pace beads to pace out around the object.

Using these simple rescue techniques could greatly increase your odds of rescue and survival.  Be sure to watch the corresponding video below for further instructor, and as always be sure to share and subscribe.

There is nothing more refreshing than having a clean glass of drinking water.

“We tend to take water for granted until we don’t have any – at which point it becomes the most important thing in the world.”

 


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What is Dehydration? 
There are several stages of dehydration, but the primary thing you need to understand is that when the body begins to lose water it will begin to function irregularly and in severe cases vital organs begin to shut down.  The effects of water loss could include: thirst, dark colored urine, dry mouth/lips/eyes, dizziness/light-headedness, headache, lethargy, and in severe cases irregular pulse, trouble breathing, unconsciousness, and even death.  Lack of water can prevents the body from being able to regulate your core body temperature, and could result in heat exhaust or heat stroke.

Rationing/Conserving Water and Delaying Dehydration – There is a lot of debate on rationing your water, or conserving it, and I am no expert, but I am convinced your body will utilize the water as needed.  Rationing your water can be beneficial if it gives you a psychological advantage by continually moistening your lips, mouth, and throat.  Just be careful not to be so conservative that you are found dead from dehydration with a canteen of water.


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Water Sources 
– Choosing a choice water source can be difficult, but it is important to find the cleanest, clearest, flowing water you can find.  Water Sources could consist of  springs, streams, rivers, wells, lakes, ponds, seepage, rain cavities, vegetation, vines, and trees.

 

5 Primary Water Hazards

  1. Bacteria/Pathogens: Cholera, Echoli, Salmonella
  2. Protozoa/Amoebas: Crypto, Giardia
  3. Virus: Hepatitis A & E
  4. Parasite: Hook Worms, Tapeworms
  5. Chemicals/Metals/Additives – Fluoride, oils/fuels, phosphate, lead, mercury, arsenic

 

5 Primary Water Treatment Methods

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    Boil – Over a Fire, Rock Boil

  2. Filter – Commercial Filters, Tripod Filter, Bottle Filter
  3. Chemical – Tablets, Iodine, Bleach, Natural Teas Volatile Oils (Mint)(Pine Needles
  4. Solar/UV – Pasteurization, Transpiration, Solar Still
  5. Distill

Last Resort

If you have absolutely no means of treating or boiling water, you should try to:

  • Find the clearest flowing water and collect it from the surface.
  • Fill canteen with mouth facing away from current.
  • Avoid water sources with animal tracks, scat, or carcass.
  • Filter Debris out with a bandanna, or sock as a last resort.
  • Remember, it’s better to drink foul water than not to drink at all, and die.

Show your support, like, share, subscribe, and be sure to check out the corresponding YouTube Video: 6 Principles of Survival – Minimize Dehydration.    Thanks – Justin “Sage” Williams

 

 

“The psychological effects of being able to start a fire should not be underestimated; neither should the effects of not being able to start one.”

In any survival situation maintaining your core body temperature is critical.  It could be the difference between life and death. Beyond Shelter (See part 1 CBT Shelter Blog post) fire is crucial.  It has the ability to form a micro climate to protect you from the elements, treat water, cook food, sterilize for first aid, and provide comfort and security.  It cannot be underestimated.

I could write several blog post on the fundamentals of fire alone, but I will stick to just a few key principles.

Four Stages of Fire: By most standards there are 4 stages of a fire. These stages are incipient, growth, fully developed, and decay.

  • Incipient/Ignition – This first stage begins with the Fire Triangle

The Fire Triangle: Too often we think of fire as an object, and fail to understand the reaction that takes place.  Fire is an event.  When the elements of Fuel, Oxygen, and Heat are combined they create combustion which results in FIRE!

  • Growth –  This is where the combustibles and oxygen are used as fuel for the fire. Usually consist of isolated flames.   There are numerous factors affecting the growth stage.       Factors that affect fire development
    1. Fuel type
    2. Availability of air supply
    3. Availability and proximity of additional fuel
    4. Ventilation and changes in ventilation
    5. Ambient conditions (e.g. wind, temperature, humidity, etc.)
  • Fully Developed – When all combustible materials have been ignited, a fire is considered fully developed.  This is the hottest phase of a fire and the point where it produces the most heat.
  • Decay – Usually the longest stage of a fire, the decay stage is characterized a significant decrease in one or more of the elements found in the triangle of fire, putting an end to the fire.

Now that you have a simple overview of the stages of fire, let us look at several different methods for starting a fire.

5 Primary Fire Methods/Ignitions

Friction – Ferro Rod / Bow Drill / Hand Drill / Fire Saw / Fire Plow

Solar – Magnifying Lens (position, angle, and sturdiness is key) (char-cloth, fungus, ball)

Percussion – Flint and Steel

Electrical – Battery & Steel Wool

Chemical – Potassium Permanganate & Glycerin

Be sure to lay down a proper fire platform (ground barrier), and a well prepped tinder bundle before starting a fire.  We have several videos on many of these fire methods.  Having an adequate amount kindling will also greatly impact the effectiveness of your fire.

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Extinguish 

Always properly extinguish your fires.  Fire Control Theory – fire is controlled and extinguished by limiting or interrupting one or more of the essential elements in the fire triangle.  Before you leave make ash soup.  If you cant place your hands in the coals/ash without burning yourself then you have not properly extinguished your fire.

 

Be sure to check out the corresponding YouTube Video, and be sure to show your support – Like, Share, Subscribe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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