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Outdoor Survival Techniques

Basic Wilderness Survival Tips

When venturing out into the great wide open, it’s a good idea to know some basic wilderness survival tips and plan for any circumstance. It’s a fairly simple task, but each year, experienced hikers, campers and novices alike get lost and sometimes killed out in the elements simply because they are not properly prepared. Check out these survival techniques to keep you alive in the wilderness.

1.    Always inform people where you are going. This is the first and MOST IMPORTANT step. Before you head out on your trek, let friends and family know the location you are headed and how long you plan to be out there.

2.    Prepare a wilderness survival kit to bring with you. Survival gear is easy to come by (usually available online and at most stores that carry camping gear) and is compact enough to fit in a small pack you can carry with you.

Your survival kit should include:

  • Flask of water
  • Water purification tablets
  • Multi-purpose knife
  • Pencil and paper (leaving notes; paper can be used for fire starting)
  • Lighter (with fuel!)
  • Compass
  • Plastic tarp
  • Flint
  • Whistle
  • Flashlight (and extra batteries)
  • Fishing line and hooks
  • Survival blanket
  • Cooking vessel
  • Plastic bags (can be used to purify water)
  • Instant food / protein bars
  • Mirror (for fire starting – just in case lighter doesn’t work)
  • Rope
  • Any medication you’re on
  • Flares
  • Pocket stove
  • Small first aid kit

3.    DON’T PANIC! If you find yourself disoriented and lost in the wilderness, try to conquer your fear. Panicking and letting your morale dip are two of the most certain ways you can do yourself in. People come out of these scenarios usually do so because of a positive attitude and a blatant will to survive. Take care of any injuries you have immediately with your first aid kit.

4.    Remember – S.W.F.F. – Shelter, Water, Fire, Food. These are your 4 basic steps in taking care of yourself while you’re stranded.

  • Find an area to build yourself a shelter. Exposure to the elements is not something that is going to help your cause. Generally, a lean-to type of shelter (built with small logs) or a tent structure – using your tarp – are the best kinds of shelters for a novice, and are quick to build.
  • After your shelter is built, search the area for a source of water. Follow animal tracks (animals – especially birds – usually congregate around water. Use your senses – listen for streams or running water. Water usually collects at the base of cliffs, or in shallow crevices. There are sources of water everywhere, just be patient and use common sense. Remember that you must boil your water or use water purification tablets. Unpurified water can contain parasites and bacteria that may put you in a life or death situation. Diarrhea is a common side effect and will cause rapid dehydration (and it’s just not a lot of fun either!) While you are searching for your water source, gather dry kindling, mosses and grasses for your fire.
  • After you locater your water, be sure to get started on that fire! Fire could be your only source of light and heat during the night and you will need it to boil your water to purify it. Find some larger logs to have for use after your fire gets started. There is no use in getting a fire started and having nothing to burn. Use the lighter, flint or mirror (obviously try the other two options first) from your survival gear, to light the kindling, grasses and mosses. Arrange your materials in a teepee shape – the small branches and sticks in a cone shape with the mosses and grasses on the bottom, in the middle.
  • The average human can survive for 2-3 weeks without food – it’s not pleasant, but it can be done with proper hydration. Food should never be your first concern, but should always be on your mind. There are a lot of ways to find food in the wilderness – you just have to make sure you know what is edible and what isn’t. Read up on edible plants, insects, berries and mushrooms or carry a pocket guide with you. Fish and bird eggs are a great source of protein; unless you have trapped animals before, it is a waste of energy to try and do so.

5.    Signals and navigation are two rescue methods that can be used as a final push to get if you are lost in the wilderness, navigating your way out can be done using solar and lunar navigation (the sun and the moon both rise in the East and set in the West) however, staying in the same spot is highly advisable for those who do not know how to use compasses and navigation methods properly. Use your flares in the dark (they are best seen at night) and your mirror during the day. If you can find an open spot, an S.O.S. sign or a signal fire close to your shelter should do the trick.

Remember, whether you’re trying to learn more about becoming a survivalist, hiker or camper, these basic wilderness survival tips are going to make you self reliant and help you survive a situation that can be highly dangerous and extremely intense. Being prepared is the key.

Be Prepared. Be a Survivalist.

Are you a Survivalist?

A survivalist is: “a person who advocates or practices SURVIVALISM especially: one who has prepared to survive in the anarchy of an anticipated breakdown of society” (as defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica)

Whew! That’s a mouthful, and a little freaky; that’s the kind of definition that brings to mind mountain men or militia-types living in camo tents and readying themselves for an influx of illegal immigrants. In reality, anyone can be a survivalist, or prepper; you just have to have basic survival skills and a love of life.

Survivalism is “an attitude, policy, or practice based on the primacy of survival as a value” (www.eb.com)

For thousands of years, people had been living as survivalists. Only in the last century or two have we as a society started becoming so reliant on others for our well-being. The world really saw that come to light in the 1920s during the Great Depression and the 1960s during the Cold War. Only then did “survivalism” become a scary, realistic vision with thoughts of atomic bombs and the wail of sirens piercing the air.

Survivalism isn’t a “movement” or antiquated notion. It is something we all do everyday. It’s just not as apparent in the suburbs, or the polluted downtown area of whatever city you hail from. And here is where we can distinguish that there are varying degrees of survivalism.

Sure, there are “mountain men” and hate groups living in the wilderness – there are wacky people everywhere that give a bad reputation to people who just want to be prepared for whatever happens. And rightfully so; the environment is giving up on us and people are becoming  a little disconnected these days. Why not say “just in case” every once in a while and learn a new skill. It simply comes down to taking responsibility for your own survival.

There are certain trademarks of what would be termed a true survivalist:
•    A love of life and the earth
•    Basic knowledge of gardening sustainable goods
•    Basic wilderness survival
•    Basic knowledge of self defense
•    Basic first aid knowledge

To really be prepared, you should start with these five basics and work your way up from there. You don’t necessarily need to believe that the world is coming to an end, or know Navy Seal survival techniques; you just have to admit to yourself that your car is capable of breaking down and leaving you stranded with no rescue in sight. Or, you do live in an area with extreme weather patterns. Or, you simply don’t want to rely on the grocery store to provide you with basic sustenance that seems to cost more and more every day. Becoming a true survivalist is all about realizing (not obsessing) that anything is possible and that the old adage “it’s better to be safe than sorry” may be a valuable cliché after all.

Although some people do take being a survivalist to a whole new level of ‘wack-a-doo’ we believe that everyone can be sufficiently prepared for any situation, from simple inconveniences to outright disasters.

Check out our Survival Gear pages for more information on being prepared for anything.

Cooking Techniques for Survival Food

Cooking Your Survival Food

So you need to crack into your survival food stockpile; for some people, this is not an appealing thought. When someone brings up the words ‘survivalism’ and ‘cooking’ in the same sentence, for many the image that springs to mind is of a group of people eating out of cold cans by candlelight.  I’ve always chuckled a little at the thought of survivalists living completely off of MRE’s and cans of tuna and peas.

The reality is, there are many different methods of cooking survival foods, both canned and fresh. It is easy to forget that our ancestors managed to make hearty, healthy meals without electricity or half of the advantages that a well-prepared survivalist will have in an emergency.  Let’s take a look at some of the options that are available to would-be survival gourmets.

Of course, the simplest method to use for cooking is an open flame.  Cooking over the campfire is a tradition that goes back a lot farther than
the Boy Scouts – the early settlers and Native Americans both roasted meat and vegetables over a burning pit of wood.  There are quite a few ways to harness the heat of a cooking fire. The most basic is to suspend the meat you are cooking over the flame with a stake or a spit.  A more controlled option is to use a metal skillet, which will give you better control over the amount of heat you are exposing your food too, and will also allow to boil and cook vegetables. If you have access to a steel drum, you can use it to create a makeshift oven.  By cutting a ‘door’ in the side of the drum, as well as air holes at the bottom and a few more at the top, you can cook on the top of the stove and benefit from the warmth that radiates from the sides.

Fires are not always practical, but if you live in a sunny climate, you have another option for cooking without electricity or gas.  Using a simple box oven, you can harness the power of the sun to cook even a large amount of food.  Solar ovens can be built out of survival supplies as simple as cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, an oven bag or piece of glass and glue.  The way the oven works is by concentrating the heat of the sun so as to focus it on the food you are attempting to cook with.  The greenhouse effect helps to trap the heat inside the boxes under the glass or plastic, and the double layer of box walls helps insulate the oven.  Using a basic solar oven you can cook at temperatures of around 300 degrees Fahrenheit, which is more than enough to cook almost anything thoroughly over a period of 5 hours or so.  There are many different plans for solar oven designs available on the internet, and they are inexpensive to experiment with until you find the one that works best for you.

Whether you choose to use fire or the sun to cook your food, make sure to first verify that your preferred method is practical given the climate you expect to find yourself in. It is almost impossible to cook with a fire in the rain unless you have a steel covering to protect the flames – so if you find yourself in a wet environment, fire might not be the best answer. Likewise, if it is winter, or if you are in an area with constant heavy cloud cover, a solar oven is probably not the best piece of survival equipment.  Be ready to adapt to the situations that present themselves to you and be willing to consider more than one cooking option.

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