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Is your emergency survival planning on PACE? The spring outdoor season is upon us. The springtime is a great time to spend outdoors. The plans for your next outdoor experience are almost complete. Many survival experts agree that building redundancy in your gear and planning is essential to ensuring getting through an emergency. A simple method for building those layers is one that is from the military. The process for preparing and organizing your activities and gear is the PACE technique.

Assessing Your PACE

PACE is an acronym for Primary (P), Alternate (A), Contingency (C), and Emergency (E). These are layers of redundancy to ensure essential capabilities are available at all times under any circumstances. The PACE technique applies to the different methods of survival: primitive, bushcraft, military, or blended. However, several questions must be answered before applying this method. First, you need to answer the five W’s of your outdoor activity: who, what, where, when, why, along with how.

Assess Experience and Knowledge

Next, you need to assess your level of experience and knowledge: beginner, intermediate, or expert. Additionally, you should also evaluate the level of experience of others. This should be done especially if you are accompanying or leading a group. You should know yourself and those in your group. Furthermore, each member of the group needs to be aware of the level of experience of the other members of the group. Also, you and each member of your group should know what everyone else is carrying for gear. Thus, it is wise to share each other’s packing list.

Assess Critical Capabilities

Third, assess your critical capabilities supporting the activity: first aid, navigation, communication, security? The definition of critical capabilities are those assets that you or your group possess that if lost would jeopardize the survival of yourself or others. Consequently, that means having a good understanding of yourself and your gear and those of the others in your group. If you are in a group, one technique would be to share each other’s packing lists.

Assess Local Terrain and Weather

Fourth, you need to determine the type of terrain and local weather characteristics. It is crucial to survival planning to know where you are going, what time of the year you are going, and what are the patterns of weather where you are going. Others have found themselves in emergency survival situations due to unexpected weather events, such as flash floods. Consequently, they were underprepared for the scenario. Thus, take the time to really understand the historical, current, and projected weather of the location for your outdoor activity. For example, many people have reported their surprise at how cold the desert can get at night in the spring.

Assess Emergency Assistance Availability

Finally, you should understand the availability and access to emergency assistance near the planned activity site. One of the quickest ways to resolve an emergency survival situation is having a basic knowledge of the support available at your location and how to access it. There was a recent story of a teenage boy who ran almost six miles to a park ranger station to get help for his injured father. The young man could not do that if he did not know how to get to that ranger station. The key to survival planning is gaining situational awareness to better PACE yourself.

PACE Your Critical Capabilities

 

1. P: Primary

For the purposes of this article, the capability that will model the PACE method is communication. However, the PACE method applies to any asset or ability that you assess as critical to the success of your outdoor adventures, such as making a fire, rendering first aid, building a shelter, food procurement, or water processing. Therefore, for this hypothetical outdoor scenario, forms of communication are a critical capability that cannot be lost or activities will cease or lives will be jeopardized.

An example of a primary means of communication is a smartphone. Smartphones are becoming more sophisticated every year. They come with a variety of domestic and foreign plans, as well as applications. Many smartphones can function as satellite communication devices in an emergency where there is no commercial wireless coverage. The implied tasks for keeping a smartphone running in the outdoors is to maintain wireless coverage and to charge the battery. Thus, an essential capability for smartphone use in the field is the ability to keep charging the battery with a solar powered charger.

2. A: Alternate

An alternate form of communication in the field is a hand-held radio (HHR). A hand-held radio is also known as a walkie-talkie. HHR devices come in many forms. These radios can transmit and receive voice communication over a limited distance. However, for communicating with an HHR over an extended range, the ability to relay signals through a repeating tower come into play. As with the smartphone, keeping the battery charged on an HHR in the field is also essential.

3. C: Contingency

The definition of contingency is a provision for an unforeseen event or circumstance. Thus, for survival planning a contingency communication asset may be a Garmin® inReach Mini or a SPOT™ Gen 3 device. These devices are for sending out emergency text messages through a satellite service with geo-location information to help first responders find you. These items are almost a last resort communication device if the smartphone or HHR radio goes down or is lost during an emergency survival situation.

4. E: Emergency

An emergency communications capability is an asset that is for when all of the previous devices malfunction, get broken, lose power, or become lost. An example of an emergency communication capability might be a signal fire, signal flares, signal mirror, air horn, or a signal panel (VS-17). Therefore, an emergency signal capability could be any method that you can employ to communicate to others your location or whereabouts.

Some Final Thoughts

The PACE method is a valuable method to help you think through maintaining essential capabilities while outdoors. There is no right or wrong solution to determining your critical capabilities. Each outdoor activity is different. Therefore, the needs will be different. For example, a day-long fishing trip to a nearby location will be different than a hunting trip to Alaska. The same is true for preparing for emergency disasters. The survival needs for my area and family will be different than for those living in the upper Midwest. Thus, the PACE method helps you to think through the preparedness process and to resource your needs.

The three shelter categories are: hasty, semi-permanent, and permanent. Shelter is one of the core essentials of survival. Thus, it makes sense to have a working knowledge of the categories of shelter. A person can die from environmental exposure in as little as three hours without shelter. Of course, this rule is dependent on environmental and health factors. Furthermore, it is helpful to remember that there are many types of shelters within each category. Therefore, it is beyond the scope of this article to discuss all of the styles of shelter construction.

Shelter Category # 1: Hasty or Temporary Shelters

The most common type of wilderness or emergency shelter is known as the hasty shelter or temporary shelter. This shelter category has a quick construction. They also give temporary relief from environmental conditions. Debris shelters, wickiups, lean-tos, or one-person tents are examples of this shelter category. The best hasty shelters make good use of available natural resources. Sometimes, they combine both natural and manufactured materials such as leaves, branches, trash bags, and trekking poles. In the military, hasty shelters are nick-named, hootches, and feature the use of the military-issue rain poncho.

Advantages

The main advantage of this shelter category is the relative ease of construction. They can be constructed within a few minutes to a couple of hours depending on what you are trying to build. Hasty shelters that are made well are effective in keeping precipitation off of you and your gear. They also deflect wind from off of your body.

Another advantage of hasty shelters is they are efficient in helping maintain the core temperature of your body. Great shelters, regardless of natural or man-made, will help you stay warm or cool as well as keep you dry. However, the critical point here is knowing how to build a hasty shelter correctly out of natural materials.

Disadvantages

There are some disadvantages with this shelter category. One problem with hasty shelters is that they have limitations in their ability to protect you from exposure to environmental factors. Wind, rain, heat, and cold can still get to you through a hasty shelter, although not as much as if you were exposed. Moreover, hasty shelters require some skill and experience in building them correctly in various environments. For example, one famous survival television personality failed miserably to make an igloo shelter in the artic with limited knowledge and no experience in building them. Building shelters from natural materials can be problematic for those with little experience. In a survival situation, the inability to put up an adequate shelter with natural resources under adverse conditions could be disastrous.

Factors Influencing Use

There are some underlying factors to consider when deciding upon the kind of hasty shelter to construct. These factors are time, terrain, and available natural resources. For example, military personnel trained in sophisticated survival, escape, and evasion techniques, are moving most of the time. Therefore, they will not construct very elaborate shelters in the field. They will build a shelter to get them through the night and move on the next day. By contrast, someone on a multiday hike may decide to put up a Snugpak® Ionosphere™ tent in which to spend the night, rather than build a debris hut.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that some terrain does not provide enough natural resources to build an adequate shelter for this shelter category. Therefore, it is good to carry a reliable manufactured single-person tent into the field as a backup if possible. Marmot, Kelty, MSR, and Nemo are companies that offer pack-friendly tents.

Shelter Category # 2: Semi-Permanent Shelters

The next shelter category is semi-permanent. As the name implies, these shelters are more permanent than hasty shelters. The classic example of semi-permanent shelters would be the native-American Tee-pee. Other examples in this shelter category are the Bedouin family tent, or a large military tent, like the U.S. Army DRASH tents. The Tentipi Safir 5 Light Tent is another example of a semi-permanent shelter. However, bamboo, sod homes, or grass hut dwellings could be included in the semi-permanent shelter category. Additionally, log cabins can be semi-permanent or permanent depending on their construction. Therefore, a semi-permanent shelter is one that has no permanent anchor to the ground by attachment to a foundation.

Advantages

One Advantage of semi-permanent shelters is they offer better protection from the elements of the weather. They also give better protection against the large predatory animals, such as bears, wolves, or cougars. Another advantage of semi-permanent shelters is that they are transportable if necessary. The mobility of semi-permanent shelters is not as easy as a single-person tent. Nevertheless, they are mobile. The sustainment of the Native-American tribes came by following the vast buffalo herds. Consequently, their family shelters had to move with them.

Disadvantages

A significant disadvantage of this shelter category is that they are susceptible to destruction by high winds. High winds can topple these kinds of shelter because of not having a permanent anchor to the ground. Another disadvantage is that they require more effort to move than a hasty shelter. In the middle east, the Bedouin tribes have to move large carpets and blankets that are their tent covers. Breaking down an enclave of semi-permanent shelters and moving them takes much energy to accomplish.

Factors Influencing Use

A few factors to consider about building a semi-permanent shelter. First, what is the purpose of the shelter? If you are continually trekking over terrain, constructing a semi-permanent shelter is not the best use of time or resources. However, if you are looking to stake a claim and set up a homestead, then a semi-permanent shelter is wise. Another factor to consider is location. Is there enough area and natural resources to build a semi-permanent shelter? If the place cannot sustain you with adequate food, water, and arable soil, then your semi-permanent shelter may have to be moved.

Shelter Category # 3: Permanent Shelters

Permanent shelters are the final category of consideration. A person building a permanent shelter signals an intent to stay in one place for a long time. Permanent shelters can sit on a foundation of rock, brick, or concrete. The dwelling is anchored to the foundation in such a manner that the building does not move, even in high winds. Permanent shelters take a considerable amount of time to construct, especially with the use of masonry.

Furthermore, it takes a higher level of skill and knowledge to build a permanent shelter. An example of a permanent shelter would be a suburban family residential home. However, caves could be a kind of permanent housing, even though a person does not build a cave, he only occupies it.

Advantages

A significant advantage of a permanent shelter is that it is considerably more resistant to environmental factors, such as wind, rain, or cold. Permanent shelters also give better protection against predators. Another advantage of permanent shelters is that they offer a one-building solution to shelter a family. Additionally, they provide some social, emotional, and psychological stability to people due to the permanence that they bring.

Disadvantages

One disadvantage of a permanent shelter is that it is in immobile in all practicality. Permanent shelters require a tremendous amount of time and resources to construct. Typically, survival reasons cause people to abandon their permanent shelters. The Anasazi peoples of the southwest United States abandoned their permanent shelters (see pic). Moreover, the recent flooding from hurricanes and the wildfires in California give a stark reality to leaving permanent shelters for the sake of safety or survival.

Factors Influencing Use

A consideration of some important factors should influence decisions about building a permanent shelter. The first factor is deciding if living in a particular location is going to be permanent. Arable land, water, game, and other natural resources will dictate if an area is going to sustain a long-term settlement. Another factor is your personal experience and knowledge in building a permanent shelter. You may need to solicit help with making such a shelter. Is there assistance available?

Final Thoughts

Shelter is one of the core essentials of survival. Every human being needs shelter to enable long-term survival. Our human experience integrates the three categories of shelters to survive in this world. Thus, it is essential to know these categories to help make decisions about what kind of shelter to construct. An outdoor emergency in the wilderness will not facilitate a semi-permanent or permanent shelter. A person’s main task under those circumstances is to make it out alive. Thus, becoming adept at constructing hasty shelters from natural resources is one of those crucial tasks to master before going for a long trek outdoors.

You can assess a survival situation in 3 easy steps. This assessment is based on the military understanding of estimating a situation. The definition of the phrase, estimate of the situation, is, “A process of reasoning by which a commander considers all the circumstances affecting the military situation and arrives at a decision as to a course of action to be taken to accomplish the mission.” (Joint Publication 3-0). Thus, a working definition of assessing a survival situation is a process of reasoning by which a person considers all the circumstances affecting survival and arrives at a decision and course of action that will enable survival through emergency or life-threatening conditions.

1. Analyze Your Current Circumstances

The critical step to gaining an accurate assessment of your situation is to analyze your current circumstances. This means that you need to get a proper evaluation of yourself, your environment, your resources, and your equipment. Your ability to accurately grasp these critical areas will set the conditions for the other steps of gaining situational awareness. So let’s look at these areas briefly.

Assessing Yourself

Health

The most critical subtask within this step is to analyze yourself. In an emergency survival situation, your age, health or level of physical fitness is vital to making it through the adversity. If you are injured and immobile, you will not go very far. You must assess, at that point, what is the level of injury or immobility? Then, you must determine if you have the means or capability to remedy the injury or the immobility. Thus, those who have an accurate understanding of themselves and their abilities will make decisions within those limitations.

Physical Fitness

As well, if your physical fitness is weak, you may find yourself reaching an obstacle of terrain that will stop your continued movement towards rescue. An excellent example of this kind of limitation is in the movie, The Grey. A survivor falls to their death while attempting to cross a ravine because they did not have the strength to hold on to a strap strung across the expanse. An ex-Army Ranger from Vietnam gave testimony that those who survived the jungle warfare of Vietnam were those who had the best physical fitness. He went on to say that those that were out of shape were the first to die in combat.

Abilities

Moreover, analyzing your health needs, experience, and skills also are critical factors in preparing for emergency situations. A simple adage in military leadership manuals is to know yourself and seek self-improvement. Employing this principle means assessing yourself at all times in light of survival or preparing for emergencies. It is as simple as asking what needs to be done, can I do it, and do I have the resources to do it?

Assess Your Environment and Its Resources

Next, assessing your environment is the second subtask. It is more than just determining what kind of environment you are in. It also has a good understanding of the types of dangers and resources within that environment. For example, if you are lost in a desert, do you understand the environmental threats and available natural resources? Accurately assessing your environment means fully answering the question, “where am I”? A suitable method for understanding your environment is the following checklist:

  • Type of environment?
  • Seasonal weather conditions?
  • Environmental threats?
  • Natural resources available?

 

Assess Your Available Resources

Third, assessing your available resources is the next subtask. This subtask is different than evaluating environmental resources. It is assessing the resources that you are carrying into the environment. In essence, it is evaluating what you have on your person or in your pack to address the essential areas of survival. Those critical areas being food, fire, water, shelter, first-aid, land navigation, communications, and security. You are assessing things such as how much water or food you have left in your backpack now that you are in an emergency situation.

Assess Your Equipment

A final subtask in this step is assessing your equipment. What equipment do you have and is it still functional? The functionality of your equipment determines how much you are going to have to rely on your survival skills and the natural resources of your environment. You must determine if your pack is ripped up or shoulder straps severed. You must evaluate the condition of your pack frame if it is external. Do you have adequate outerwear for the environment? Does your Garmin GPS or baseplate compass function? Is my fixed-blade knife dull or broken? Are the batteries dead in my headlamp? Did I forget to bring my multitool? These are the kinds of questions to answer when assessing your equipment. Therefore, after evaluating your current circumstances, it is time to make a tentative plan.

2. Make A Tentative Plan

It is essential to begin to make a tentative or rough plan after analyzing your circumstances. As the name implies, your survival plan is a rough idea based on the information you have from assessing your situation. The best way to plan is to do it as soon as possible in the survival situation. You are at your best health and fitness to make a plan at this point, if not injured or sick. Your mind is not yet clouded by hunger, lack of water, exhaustion, or exposure. Therefore, put down on paper a working idea of how you plan to effect self-recovery from your emergency situation.

Develop a Primary Plan

The first part of planning is to develop a primary plan. The primary an is the one that you are most likely going to conduct if everything goes well. The primary plan answers the five “W”s: who, what, where, when, why. It also covers “how” you are going to conduct your plan. Although you may not be able to answer every point, it is best to work through them anyway.

Develop an Alternate Plan

Developing an alternate survival plan is crucial. Soldiers call this your “When Everything Goes To Hell” plan. There are no guarantees in life. It is especially true in the outdoors. You cannot account for every possibility or circumstance. Therefore, having an alternate plan to complement the primary one is prudent. A good example of making an alternate survival plan is in the movie BAT-21, based on the book BAT-21 by William C. Anderson. Furthermore, your alternate plan also should answer the five “W”s as well as how you will conduct it.

Assess Your Plans

After making a primary and alternate plan, it is essential to assess the viability of your plans. It is helpful to do this step because you may find that you need to make adjustments. The information that you have and can glean from continually assessing your situation bears influence on your planning. For example, you plan to walk at night to avoid the heat of the summer days. However, you modify your plan because of the weather changes. Instead of walking at night, now, your movements will be during the day, at least temporarily. Thus, it is important to continually assess your plans and make adjustments as new information or circumstances arise.

3. Conduct Your Plan

Finally, the third step in estimating your situation is conducting your survival plan. An essential aspect of conducting your survival plan is to be flexible. Your plan is a guide not a lock-step answer to your emergency scenario. The longer that you are in the emergency survival situation, you will make more adjustments to your plan as you go. Observing the survival stories of others reveals that critical decisions have to be made at some point. For example, you may have to start a brush fire to attract the attention of search and rescue teams.

Some Final Thoughts

Situational awareness is an essential aspect of emergency survival in any environment. The three steps are easy to remember: analyze your circumstances, make a plan, conduct your plan. It is helpful to train your mind to think through the subtasks as a kind of checklist. People in an emergency survival situation are under a significant amount of mental and emotional stress, even if they do not panic. It becomes difficult to devote a lot of time to thinking analytically and solve problems in a survival situation. It is recommended that you begin to think through these steps as a practice as a matter of habit before your next outdoor adventure. The more these steps become second nature to you, the less you have to intentionally think through them step-by-step when in a high-stress emergency situation.

Three popular survival approaches for the outdoors are commonly discussed in the literature of wilderness and outdoor survival. Outdoor sports are gaining in popularity. For example, in 2017, over 44 million people went hiking and backpacking. It represents an increase of over 12 million participants from 2009. The Outdoor Industry Association’s annual report for 2017 shows that spending on outdoor recreation is $887 billion per year. This means that interest in outdoor emergency survival is also increasing. Therefore, it is essential to know that there are several common approaches to wilderness survival.

1. Military/Tactical Approach

The most popular approach to survival is the military or tactical framework. The popularity of dystopian and apocalyptic-themed television programs drives much of this interest. The military or tactical approach to survival finds its genesis in the Cold War. At that time, people feared a nuclear weapons exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union. The nuclear winter scenario is implied in the famous novel and movie The Road. Thus, learning to use military tactics and equipment are the keys to preparing to survive such a comprehensive event.

Those who focus on military or tactical approaches to survival sometimes fail to understand the limitations of military survival. Military survival is designed by the militaries of the world to ensure a soldier survives in combat. The U.S. Army survival manual, FM 21-76, and the SAS Survival Handbook are core pieces of literature in this approach.

A Weakness of The Military Approach

The weakness of military or tactical survival approaches is they have a limited effectiveness of 3-10 days. Military survival assumes several conditions will exist. There will be a resupply of the unit. A soldier can return to friendly forces if they become separated in some manner during combat. The servicemember will be able to be rescued if they follow protocols. The intent of military survival training is not surviving the apocalypse and to reboot human society. It is to help the soldier live in a combat field environment, which includes urban areas. Moreover, those with more specialized skills receive more intense survival training.

2. Bushcraft/Woodsmanship Approach

The next survival approach is bushcraft or woodsmanship. It is enjoying popularity in the last several years. Bushcraft survival centers on living in a general field environment. The main difference between this approach and the military-tactical approach are the tools and techniques. Additionally, the bushcraft approach is not concerned with surviving a prolonged engagement with opposing military forces.

The bushcraft approach sometimes goes by the name of frontiersman or mountain man approach. The primary skills of this approach are hunting, blacksmithing, trapping, and fishing using the tools and techniques of the nineteenth-century frontiersman. Fieldcraft for bushcrafters focuses on surviving and being self-sustaining for extended periods in the outdoors, much like the trappers or mountain men of the 1800s. The use of various cutting tools, tanning hides, preserving meats, hunting with black powder rifles, trapping various animals, and building temporary shelters or camps are a focus of the bushcraft approach. Consequently, this approach helps people to survive and sustain themselves with a basic set of tools and handcraft techniques such as wood carving.

The Weakness With Bushcraft

One weakness with this approach is that it assumes a continuing availability or accessibility to raw materials, fish and game, or edible and medicinal plants. A worst case scenario of a nuclear winter will contaminate or kill hundreds of square miles of water, plants, fish, and game. It also may result in large areas becoming inaccessible to raw materials, such as iron, copper, shale, or coal due to radiation contamination. Those depending upon this approach to survive should consider an alternate survival method if those natural resources suddenly become unavailable.

The Strength of Bushcraft

One strength with the bushcraft approach is that outdoorsman, especially hunters, gain added skills to help them on long, multi-day treks into the backcountry. Bushcraft skills enable those backpacking or hunting in austere environments to survive or sustain themselves in the event their equipment fails while in the field. Outdoorsman, who become skilled at improvised tools, traps, first aid, and shelters, enhance their chances of survival in an emergency situation.

3. Primitive/Minimalist Approach

The third survival approach that also is enjoying some contemporary popularity is the primitive or minimalist approach. Primitive survival focuses on learning the survival and sustainment techniques of the Native-Americans or other primitive peoples around the world. Primitive methods feature flint knapping, hand drill or bow drill fire making, simple trapping, handcrafted weapons and tools, gathering and processing edible and medicinal plants, and building primitive shelters, such as wickiups. Woodcraft techniques also are part of learning primitive approaches to survival.

The Weakness Of Primitive Skills

A weakness with the primitive approach to survival and preparedness is that it takes considerable time and dedication to master these skills for them to be useful in a survival situation. Furthermore, those who suffer from impaired mobility may have limitations on the primitive skills that they learn. However, if one takes the time to master some basic primitive skills, they will be able to exercise more adaptability and flexibility in an emergency situation.

The Strength Of Primitive Skills

One strength of this approach is similar to the bushcraft approach. It allows for flexibility and adaptability in the field. If one loses their knife, they can make one through flint knapping. One can make cordage from surrounding vegetation when necessary. Simple but effective weapons from natural materials can be made should the need arise. One lesson from the Vietnam War is that booby traps made utilizing primitive techniques can be just as effective as sophisticated land mines. Thus, the primitive skills approach to survival in the field is a viable means of ensuring one makes it through an emergency.

Some Final Thoughts

There are several ways to approach survival in the outdoors. These approaches have strengths and weaknesses. Some require more time than others to master if they are to be of use in an emergency situation. It would seem, though, that a hybrid approach (multiple techniques) will ensure the greatest amount of flexibility and adaptability in the outdoors. By contrast, the method that one prefers will be one that enhances one’s field strengths rather than weaknesses. It is important to consider that strengthening your weakness while maintaining your survival strengths enhances the possibility of survival in the outdoors. You will have a higher number of skills to employ with a hybrid approach rather than focusing on a single method. Thus, choose your approach wisely, continue learning and improving, and enjoy your next outdoor adventure.

There are four optional tinder sources that can help with making a fire in an emergency situation. The ability to make a fire is an essential part of survival in the outdoors or in an emergency situation. The experts usually discuss making a fire with the use of natural materials. Demonstrations of primitive fire making occupy the discussions in the survival and outdoor literature. One of the essentials of making a fire is the use of combustible materials to start a fire. Let us take a look at some optional tinder sources to consider for your fire-making kit.

Cotton Balls or Cotton Pads

The most common type of optional tinder source are cotton balls. Cotton fiber is a natural material from cotton plants. The fibers are harvested and processed into cotton balls at a cotton mill. If you happen to be going by a cotton field you may see cotton-like balls on the plants. These white balls are called, bolls. Cotton bolls are combustible material. Cotton bolls are not as dense as the cotton balls in the local grocery store.

Moreover, a simple cotton ball will take a spark very easily. It has one disadvantage; the cotton fibers burn very quickly. Potentially, the cotton ball can burn out before a tinder bundle can catch on fire. There are a couple of ways to help the cotton ball hold or extend a flame once the fibers begin to ignite. One method to help the cotton ball hold a flame is to saturate it in candle wax. Another method is to saturate the cotton ball in petroleum jelly. Candle wax and petroleum jelly produce the same affect on the cotton fibers as a wick on a candle. They help the fibers burn more slowly while retaining the flame. Thus, after application of the wax and petroleum jelly to cotton, they act as fire or flame extenders when the cotton fibers catch fire. In turn, the cotton ball now is an optional tinder source.

Hand Sanitizer

A second tinder option for your fire making kit is a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer contains both rubbing and ethyl alcohol at a concentration between 65% and 95%. The kind of ethyl alcohol that is in hand sanitizers is flammable. As a result, the liquid or semi-jellied hand sanitizer will ignite with a heat source such as a match, butane lighter, or ferro rod. The semi-jellied compound that forms the hand sanitizer does not evaporate easily and will hold a flame longer that just the liquid alcohol by itself. However, when liquid hand sanitizer combines with other tinder sources, it functions as an accelerant to create fire. Not only is liquid hand sanitizer a good consideration as an optional tinder source, hand sanitizing wipes are also a excellent options for a tinder source.

The best hand sanitizing wipes are those individually wrapped by Purell™. Hand sanitizing wipes are different from an alcohol wipe that is in a first aid kit. They are also different from a Wet Wipe®. The hand sanitizing wipes have a concentration of ethyl alcohol of between 50 and 70 percent (PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes Alcohol Formula, Safety Data Sheet, 2016). This makes them an ideal item for a personal emergency survival kit or to keep in your wallet, purse, or backpack as a multi-use component of your EDC loadout.

 

Alcohol Prep Wipes

The third household item that makes a great tinder for fire making are the alcohol prep wipes in your household first aid kit. These wipes contain up to 60% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol infused into a small paper or cotton cloth square. It is important to know that there is another kind of wipe in a first aid kit that is an antiseptic wipe containing .13% benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient. Benzalkonium Chloride is an antimicrobial soapy substance which makes it useless for making emergency fires.

Furthermore, the major difference between using a wipe that contains hand sanitizer and one with rubbing alcohol is burn time. Rubbing alcohol evaporates very quickly and when it ignites it will burn off before the paper or cotton square starts to burn. Remember that experiment your high school chemistry teacher did by soaking a wash cloth in rubbing alcohol and lighting it on fire and the cloth did not burn? By contrast, the wipes containing hand sanitizer will burn more slowly and this quality makes them ideal for starting an emergency fire for survival.

 

Dryer Lint

A fourth household item that makes a wonderful optional tinder source for emergency fires is dryer lint. There are many blog articles and YouTube® videos discussing the various ways to employ dryer lint as a fire making item. Dryer lint has a similar quality to cotton balls. Loose fibers from the clothes that are being dried fall off of due to the rubbing and tumbling in the dryer. Those fibers collect on the lint catch. They, then, can be collected for later use to start an emergency fire. The major difference between dryer lint and cotton balls is that dryer lint sometimes has within it multiple types of fibers, such as cotton, wool, and polyester.

Final Thoughts

A major component of survival is being adept at improvisation. The homesteading community calls it “repurposing”. The list of optional sources of tinder are by no means exhaustive. There are many other kinds of materials that can function as tinder sources. The experts agree that being able to make a fire in an emergency is essential for wilderness survival. The same skill also is critical in an emergency in other locations such as a suburban or urban environment. Therefore, improvising tinder materials from household items is one way to think outside the box to prepare for an emergency.

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.

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.

 

 

 

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