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Old 02-11-2009, 01:32 AM   #1
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Default Some Good survival articals Ect .......

Taken from (www.survival.com) . This is Hoodswoods/the woodsmasters online book, its not finished yet, but still there is alot of excellent infomation contained within.

Survival - It’s all in your mind
Book intro,
SURVIVAL: The living or continuing longer than another person or thing.

SURVIVAL: The living or continuing longer than another person or thing.
Survival is the subject for this electronic book. For whatever reason you have chosen to examine these pages, there is one thing certain. The conditions you may be faced with in a survival challenge areuncertain. I have no way of knowing exactly what information you will be needing to succeed. I do know, however, that there are many ways to solve a problem. There may well be a best way, but there are also other satisfactory answers resulting in the same product: your personal survival.

I do not presume to provide you with the skills to run naked into the woods, look directly to the eyes of nature, and say, "I'm going to beat you!" It can't be done. Rather the intention is to help you to find answers that will teach you hownot to challenge nature. These writings will help you to learn to survive with the least amount of pain and the greatest possibility of a future.

Nor is the book limited to woodsy wilderness survival issues. You will discover that it contains some of the concepts and attitudes you may need to survive the pressures of the urban environment, an environment many times more dangerous to you than the woods are ever likely to be.

Through the years, I have had the opportunity to experience many different kinds of survival challenges. Some of them were real threats to my life and some of them were self-imposed and very personal tests of my skills. I have also had the good fortune, over the years, to have been able to lead over 5000 students into the wilderness to teach them survival skills. Through this association with people I've seen a kind of pattern. The pattern starts with a frowning insecurity, a sort of "What am I doing here?" look the on the first day and ends with a smile and an obvious sense of personal power and security, by the last day.

There exists in most of us a lingering distrust of the vagaries of nature, almost a fear of the wilderness environment. A fear? Yep. Most of us have spent the majority of our lives in a synthetic environment. An environment almost totally controlled by humanity. Our shelters are made by a community of builders, our foods are not produced by the consumer, nor are the clothes... most of what we own or use is produced by another. To me it seems odd that even with this great dependence on the production of others, we feel fairly secure.

Clearly we know and moderately trust the environment we occupy. As individuals, we feel confident. However, when we take those same fairly confident, mostly competent persons into the woods for the first time, what do we see? Fear: a stricken look creeps across their faces. "What was that noise... was it a bear?... Rattlesnakes, is it safe to sleep on the ground? Do you think that it will rain? Does this thing bite? Is it poisonous?" Questions couched in a vessel of fear.

Lets stop here for just a moment. Why are so many of us nervous in the wilderness? Certainly more and more individuals are partaking in the joys of nature. Yet even these persons seem to need the security of an overloaded backpack. The stove, the pots and pans, a sort of house on your back, an insulation provided by the artifacts of the synthetic environment. Can't we just cast aside these affectations and plunge wholly into the wilderness as primitive persons once did? Nope, it isn't practical. Those artifacts serve to not only isolate us from the pressures of survival living, but also to shelter the environment from us. Imagine for a moment the effect of tens of thousands of persons munching, hacking, and trapping their way through the wilderness. What a horrible thought.

So you travel into the land of blue skies, you eyeball the fleecy white clouds wondering at their journey across the heavens. You stop for a moment, breathless, sweat snaking down your cheeks the air coming hot and raspy in your throat. You stoop, cup in hand, to a crystal brook rimmed with green grasses, ferns and all manner of plant life. You see the shadowy form of a small fish dart under the bank as you fill your cup with a clear, cold and somehow almost sacramental fluid. The water is... well... better somehow than the water in the city, It is more invigorating. It is also full of cow shit. Ah yes, the simple pleasures.

What has all of this to do with survival? Just this. Imagine you are out there, wherever there happens to be. What if you lost your equipment in a river crossing? Or maybe one of those new type banditos-of-the-woods steals your unattended backpacking gear? Or you get lost? Or...? The possibilities are almost endless, and limited mostly by your imagination. (If you want to explore these dark possibilities, do it at night, just before you leave for the woods. It's so much more fun.) The point is, you are there, possibly lost, possibly without water, food or whatever. What do you do? This book will help you decide. It cannot, however, give you all of the survival skills. Nothing but years of experience can do that.

Just a Thought
In the million or so years since humans began to make tools, we've come up with an incredible array of survival techniques. Many of them are good, and some are rotten. But a million years of survival skills is hard to imagine. Try this idea on for size...

Draw a line ten feet long and say that it represents a million years. The line is what authorities believe is the time span our species has been developing its survival skills. Now halve it to five hundred thousand years, halve it again, and so on. Here is what you get for your one million years of human endeavor.

If 10 Feet equals one million years, then:


Feet =

Feet =

inches =

inches =

inches =

inches =

inch =

inch =
244 years

Thus, we can see that on a time line ten feet long equal to one million years, the period from the signing of the Declaration of Independence until today is represented by about the thickness of two pages of a paper book. Think about it. The synthetic environment we know began about 200 years ago. Survival started for humanity at the beginning of the time line and continues on today. There is a lot to know and a lot more to forget. No one of us will ever know it all and what is more important, it isn't necessary. I know how to survive most situations, and I will. So can you. This book is intended to give you a little more of the "will" to live. When all is done and said, our definition of "Survival" will remain the same except we will have added another part to the definition: Survival is the last laugh.

(As long as there is an interest in what I am writing, I will continue to add new material to these pages until you have as complete a document as I can present to you in this wonderful electronic communications medium. I hope that you will take the time to send me a note with your comments. Without your comments it will be like tossing words into a vacuum, and I will be lonely.)
Chapter 1 - The Beginning

Before we jump into this survival thing, it seems wise to make a few suggestions about rescue. As basic as the following suggestions may seem, they could make the remainder of this book unnecessary. The goal of a trained survivalist is simple:

Always try to avoid placing yourself in a survival situation.

If you think you can't avoid a survival situation because "Things like that seem to happen to me," then the next best thing would be to ensure that you are rescued with all possible speed.

To Help Assure Your Rescue
1) Tell someone reliable where you are going. Give them a note explaining what route you plan to take and what equipment you are carrying. Before you leave. If you fail to return on time, and your vehicle is still where it is supposed to be (leave the vehicle description, License number, etc. with your friend), the authorities may search for you. Your friend should be given the information needed to report your absence should you fail to return. It should include the phone numbers of the authorities in the area you plan to travel to. With this information the ponderous wheels of bureaucracy might begin to turn a little sooner.

Keep in mind that the authorities have had many unnecessary experiences with foolish and thoughtless packers. It is up to you to survive until they arrive.

2) Tell your friend when to expect you back.

3) Call that person when you return.

4) If you are delayed, try to send word to that person or to the authorities.

5) While on your journey, avoid changing your plans without leaving or sending word about the plan changes.

6) Never go alone (Unless you are prepared to suffer the consequences). Always travel with a companion.

7) Never leave a message on the outside of your automobile if it is parked at the trail road head. Thieves may make use of the information in your note and strip your machine to it's bones. If you leave a note, leave it inside the vehicle where it can be found by the authorities should they open it.

8) As you travel into the woods, stop and look back frequently. This will familiarize you with the terrain behind you and it will be easier for you to recognize the proper path when you return. This rule applies when you are driving into the woods as well. Forested dirt roads have a way of becoming very familiar after awhile, even if you haven't seen them before.

Learn to recognize your own tracks, foot and vehicle, as a clue to your previous travels. Learn to use a walking stick to mark your trail. Marks left by a walking stick are very distinctive.

9) Read the rest of this book so you will know what to do if you have an emergency survival situation.

You didn't follow The Rule
"You didn't follow The Rule," I thought. I sat there on a rock, staring in morbid fascination as I watched the ants feast on the maggots in his eye sockets. Suddenly the wind shifted in my direction, so I moved to a position farther away and out of the odor.

I was in the mountains of northern Turkey with a small group of Turkish Askari practicing survival and pathfinding skills. It was early spring and the snows had just begun to melt from the canyons in this part of Anatolia. Earlier in the day we had found the remnants of a hunters camp, but no hunter. We found some tattered clothes, a torn leather knapsack, a small case of 8 mm cartridges, a canvas shelter, cooking pots and other gear. When we found the camp, we knew that there had been an accident. When we found the hunter, we learned the rest of the story.

He had walked away from his camp months earlier. His journey had taken him farther from camp than he expected to go. It must have been getting late when he turned back towards his camp. A storm was moving in. He struggled against the weather, using every bit of his energy. Finally, spent, he lay down behind this boulder. The storm took him. The Rule he didn't follow? Perhaps he didn't even know the Rule of Three's.

The Rule of Threes
The Rule of Threes is an uncomplicated way to remember the basic priorities of the human organism, and it is a good starting point for an exploration of survival priorities. The Rule of Three's looks like this:

A person can live for:
Three minutes without air.
Three hours without shelter.
Three days without water.
Three weeks without food.
Three months without love.

Let's take a quick look at these priorities and try to understand the them a bit better.

If you can't breathe, make it so you can. If you can't make it so, die. End of story.

I frequently ask new survival students the question, "If you were lost in a blizzard without your gear what would you do?" The answer I hear most (and which confounds me), sounds something like this. "Build a fire and search for wild food." I can see it now: lost in a howling blizzard, the wind whipping the trees to rubble, frost forming on even the memories of warmth, while our hopeful survivor tunnels through snowdrifts in search of "wild edibles." I wonder if my Turkish friend was thinking of food when he laid down beside that boulder. Without proper shelter, he probably died within three hours.

It seems obvious our survivor must react immediately to the threat posed by the cold blowing storm. Only hours of life remain if the basic shelter needs are not met. Miserable and hungry, cold and scared, but alive if the shelter is properly constructed.

The wind dies, the snow moves from its horizontal path to one more nearly vertical and then stops altogether. The trees shiver as great blobs of storm-driven snow loosen and fall to earth. A patch of blue as the clouds part. Then the first muted mutterings of the forest are heard as signs of life begin to return. The hunched form of the rule-following survivor shoves aside parts of the hastily erected debris-shelter and he sets forth in quest of the next priority. Water.

Like the sailor lost at sea with "water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink," our survivor first gobbles a handful of snow to help fill the rapidly developing vacancy in the hungry center. Oops. That won't do, either. It takes energy to turn snow into water. Snow may be only about 20% -30% water by volume yet it takes lots of energy to convert the cold snow into warm water. Where is the energy going to come from? No food to eat, and none in the stomach. There will be no power from the fat battery for some time. (It takes many hours to start receiving energy from our fat reserves. We need to stay alive until those reserves are available to us.) Our friend is still powered by the energy stored in the bones and blood. Water will be necessary to assist the energy extraction processes the body uses when converting fat into energy. Lack of water, the third priority, can stop us from utilizing even our own reserves. With dehydration we discover another interesting relationship between water and our chances for survival.

For each five percent our body dehydrates (by weight - i.e. a 100 pound body weight reduced to 95 pounds by dehydration), we lose approximately 25% of our ability to do work. Some authorities claim an even a greater loss of power.

Remember, this is in addition to the loss of ability to do work caused by insufficient energy. The ratio of work energy lost versus the percentage of dehydration remains relatively constant until the victim is literally unable to continue to function. The percentages look something like this.

Percentage of Dehydration and Ability to do Work:
% of dehydration = % of work possible

0% = 100%

5% = 75%

10% = 50%

15% = 25%

20% = 0%
(possible death)

Water is the third priority whether you find yourself at the ocean or in a snow storm. I ought to mention at this point that woodsmen and hunters sometimes find themselves uncomfortable and a little under the weather a day or two after the beginning of a trip. Often this is the result of dehydration. Though they are drinking much more water than they normally do, they still do not consume enough to compensate for the increased effort they are putting into their days. Drink lots of water, with a little salt in the food to stave off those agonizing midnight muscle cramps. Just a happy thought here. Drink or die.

How do we know if we are drinking enough water? One way to tell is to measure the water we expel. Every 24 hours a properly hydrated human can be expected to release about a quart of water as urine. That's it. Measure your urinary output. "Whoa there Lone Ranger! Pee in a cup!???" Not quite, but close. Here's the trick. Most of us have a (delicate pause here) delivery rate for our urine. Some folks chip porcelain, others drizzle, but the rate remains constant.

Drizzle or drill into a cup while you count. When the delivery stops, check the quantity. You should be able to calculate the number of counts needed for you to get your delivery totals up to spec. There I said it. If you ever hear someone counting in the bathroom, chances are they know me. Recently, in fact, a fellow wanderer, Rob Chatburn (Director, Respiratory Care University Hospitals of Cleveland) sent me this little jewel...

"Ron... the data are from a 150 lb, male caucasion of average build. Also, since the regression equation in my case had a y-intercept of -1 oz, I would simply ignore it and estimate that 1 quart was about 32oz/0.5 = 64 seconds worth of pee."

"I found it hard to believe that flow would remain constant, given various bladder volumes (and hence driving pressures). So I did a short experiment. I collected 4 urine samples and performed a regression on the count for each. Unbelievably, the urine output in ounces was a perfect linear function of the count. This means that your statement was correct, at least for this experiment, and the flow remained constant despite changes in volume. Amazing! For your entertainment, I have attached a JPG file of the regression plot."

"I've been doing scientific research for almost 20 years, and rarely have I seen biological data with so little variability (in this case, none!). It may be just a coincidence, but amazing none the less. Now that I have thought about it awhile, it seems reasonable that urine flow would be constant. The pressure in the bladder must be mainly a result of the weight of the abdominal contents, not the volume of urine stretching the bladder wall. Thus, as the bladder empties, the pressure remains constant. Because the resistance of the urethra remains fairly constant, flow remains constant due to the relation: flow = pressure/resistance."

Nuff' said!

Food. Those four letters draw pictures in more imaginations than most four letter combinations. How important is it? If you don't eat your habitual meals, how do you feel? Not too energetic, eh? A little impatient, a bit short tempered with a funny thrumming in the old gut? The important thing to remember is that the sensation you feel in the pit of the old grub grinder is not a sign that the body is low on power. It is only telling you that your belly tank is running on empty. It isn't telling you that for every extra pound of fat on your body (Thank you, Big Mac!) you have nearly 4000 Calories of energy available. 4000 Calories can do a lot of work. Is that energy available to do work now? Well...

There's the catch, it isn't. In fact the reserve fat calories probably won't be ready to give themselves up for 18 to 24 hours from the time of your last meal. In a way, that's a comforting thought. You really only have to survive for 18-24 hours on an empty stomach, and then you'll find things are getting a little easier, energy wise.

Hunger can cause enough discomfort during survival emergencies that you might make some decisions that will hasten your movement into the next incarnation. Baby bush-munchers sometimes forget the Rule of Threes when the low food light goes on. A suggestion... To get used to the feeling of an empty stomach, fast (don't eat) for 24 hours once a month. At the very least do a 24 hour fast every three months. Once you've completed a 24 hour fast, go for 48! Yeah, Team!

If you fast, drink water. Lots of water. It helps... in lots of ways. Remember your count! 1... 2... 3...

The Body Battery

As you know, when you eat food, a number of events occur. Mysterious processes begin, chemicals are released, muscles convulse, and energy is somehow extracted from whatever it was you chose to shove down your throat. Later, energy removed, the material re-emerges to become part of a different energy process. The important part to us? The energy is extracted and made available so you can use it to do work or simply to store for work to be done at a later time.

Some of the energy we store is converted to fat (a part of the invasion of the inanimate muscle many of us see developing just under our skin). Another part is stored in another way. Remember, as you eat you start to feel a little surge of energy? This preliminary surge is the immediate benefit of eating. Later, when you push the plate away, release some foul gas, and drift off, you know you will be able to move about for hours on the food just consumed. If you go without eating for hours or days, the contents of your stomach have been broken up into so many components, you continue to move and work. Where is that energy coming from?

You already know that it will be some time before the fat power rolls around. The belly battery is empty, yet still we move. There must be another way to store power in the body. Aha! You got it. There is. Energy is stored in the blood, in the bones, and in the organs. Wherever there is a bit of tissue, we have the ability to store power in the form of a large branched polymer of glucose called glycogen. Each individual cell has the capacity to store at least a little of this material. Most of us store a surprising amount of power in our bodies. This is the power that keeps us going when we find ourselves benighted in the wilderness. This is the stuff that puts pop in the poop. This is the stuff we can replenish from the fat if we are given the time to get the process into operation. The time... There's that word again. All we ever need is time. Again, for a person in a survival situation without food, it will be 18 to 24 hours before some fat power jumps to the rescue. The power stored in the blood must keep us alive for that 18 to 24 hours, then we stand a much better chance of working our way out of the situation.

It's important to understand that most people caught in a survival situation will be rescued or find their way out if they survive the first 24-48 hours of the emergency. The body reserves must be carefully guarded until the cavalry of fat can come charging to the rescue. We must do what is necessary to satisfy the first survival priorities of air, shelter, and water until we get a handle on the fat reserves. After that there are many simple and wondrous things that can be done to assure continued survival for prolonged periods.

The Other Priority, Love
We've talked about all of the most important priorities with the exception of the mind crippler. Love.

I suppose one might say that there are many kinds of love. Spiritual, emotional, physical and mixes and matches of those. For the survivor, the word is tied to the word hope. It has been noted that many excellent survivors who find themselves trying to make it on the land, alone, can do so with a great degree of success for a couple of months. Then about three months down the line comes a sort of crisis. They feel the loneliness, the homesickness, the tension, and sometimes give up hope. When this happens there is a definite, if invisible, threat to survival. Those who manage to rally, to drag themselves through the barrier, will feel a new energy and a renewed purpose.

Sometimes the personal crisis never occurs, the individual may become a hermit and live life as a part of the natural order. Sometimes the crisis is immediate and as deadly as any of the other crisis waiting to suck the energy from the hopeless victim. This is the time when faith and love of the self becomes most important. Concepts like self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-sufficiency help to fill the void of loneliness. Hang in there.

Working Out the Priorities
The struggle to set priorities can be simplified if we try to define the problem first. We must ask ourselves some questions. What forces of nature are acting against us? What forces are waiting to be summoned? What artifacts do we have available immediately? By asking these types of questions and giving answers, even unsatisfactory answers like "I don't know," we've taken a big step toward survival. We are thinking, and it all starts with The Rule.

The Turkish hunter didn't follow The Rule, so I took his rifle and his knife. An Askari took his skull. "An ashtray," he told me.

Chapter 2 - Something New... Innovation

[The First Step
The first step in a survival situation, the very first step, is to use the most powerful survival tool available to us. The mind. When we stop and think, if even for a moment, we have begun to program ourselves for success. By giving in to mindless activity, we hasten the end. Luck may intervene, but it's chancy. If you stop to think, panic, fear, and all of those counter productive irrational states can be held at bay. If you dig into your mind, grit your teeth, and shout, "I'm gonna make it!" you will.

Some people have suggested various methods for achieving emotional peace and intellectual and spiritual clarity. Meditation, prayer, exercise, primal screams, and even... well... taking a dump. It has been my experience that fear mitigates focus and enhances the need to... dump.

No bathroom? That's OK.The act, right out there in the midst of all that stress, will seem oddly humorous. Humor will assist your attempts to relax the icy fingers of fear that are sure to grip your spirit. You may find prayer and/or meditation a bit easier to utilize while you perform your enlightening. The main point should be clear. The very first act you should undertake is to think. Use the Rule of Threes to assist you with your priorities and to help direct your thoughts. When you begin to focus your mind muscles on your predicament your chances for success skyrocket.

Some Thoughts for Thought
While you are thinking about the situation, you may actually be threatened by inactivity. In so many words, if you discover that one of the Rules of Three is already affecting your thoughts, you'd better be doing your heavy thinking a little later. I'm certain that you can imagine some conditions when it would be foolish to sit on a log, chin in hand, just thinking... a cold wet wind blowing... you get the idea.

When you do think, what sort of ideas should you toy with? I'm certain you'll have many thoughts that will serve no good survival purpose, i.e. The date you will be missing that night... who might come to your funeral after they discover your body... the strange and malevolent animals lurking in the dark. You will be full of useless and possibly undermining memories, thoughts, and ideas. Try to stop yourself when you feel them coming and refocus your thoughts on the problems at hand.

Of course, all of this assumes that you are alone. Companionship is no guarantee that the same thoughts and feelings will avoid you. Indeed, it is possible that you will need to deal with the fears of a companion(s), as well as your own. Individual idiosyncrasies, being what they are, offer no tried-and-true formula for response to a threat other than this: the the person with the most survival knowledge and skills often becomes the leader. Good luck!

A Few Suggestions
There you sit, benighted. Take the time to get a good look at yourself. Examine closely the clothing that you are wearing. The clothing can serve as a focus for your thoughts. For instance, if the temperatures are high, you might be better off loosening some of the garments in order to use them as insulation from the hot atmosphere or sun. If the air temperatures are low, there are steps you can take to increase the insulating value of your clothes. There will be more about this later.

Do you have a belt? If so you might be able to use it as part of a tool. Can you start a fire? People have been found dead of exposure in forests full of dry tinder and fuel with matches in their pockets! Examine the contents of your pockets. Loosen your boots if they feel tight, tighten them if they feel too loose. House keeping chores of that sort will give your productive subconscience a chance to do it's job.

Is signaling practical? Some years ago, so the story goes, a hiker in Southern California got lost in the dry foothills near Los Angeles. Not wanting to waste any time he decided to build a small signal fire. His body was later found in the center of a brush fire caused by his signal fire. Think!

The walk to survival begins with these steps:
Think a little.


Think a lot.



Sleep? Of course! You don't feel well if you don't sleep under normal conditions. You need to rest even more during a survival emergency. Provided, of course, that your last "act" will allow you the time. Make the time.

Innovation, A New Idea
Just a few words about an idea. Not my idea, your idea. It tickles me when I see the expression of pleasure on the face of students of mine after they have made something, to do something, from something, that does something else. Is that clear? What I'm trying to say is that one of the most useful and rewarding skills a survivalist can learn is the ability to make things from other things. Take a belt for instance; it can be sliced (with some effort and a little jig to hold the leather) into long thin strips. These can, in turn, be double twisted (more about that later) into rope. Once the rope is available, all manner of permutations are possible. You can make a sling to take small game, a cord for a fire bow to make fire, a bow string, etc. And if things are really hopeless, you can hang yourself!

Other parts of the belt may be useful. The buckle may work to remove tops from soda or beer bottles. The sharpened buckle post may work as an awl for drilling leather. It may even be possible to break the buckle into parts for fishing gear. The buckle can be used as a trigger mechanism for traps and crossbows, or... See what I mean? Take a good look at what you are wearing and start practicing innovation.

What uses can you put your shoe laces to? List them and try. Next time you load your backpack, take a close look at the items you plan to carry into the wilderness. How can each item be used in a different manner so that perhaps some other item can be left behind? The weight you save can be carried in another more interesting form, or maybe you can just cut your pack weight. A lighter pack may allow you to lift your head to see the wilderness through eyes unclouded with fatigue.

Take a close look at the pack itself. You can empty the pack bag and use it to cover some portion of your body should the need ever arise. Sleep in your pack? Sure, why not? Mice do it.

Look at the frame of the pack, a heavy rock can crush the tubing flat. My God! Why would you do a thing like that? It's sacrilege! Consider this: if conventions and conservatism stop your innovations, you may seriously hinder your chances at a long full life.

Back to that frame tubing. I know a fellow who lost his pack into a mountain torrent. The pack was washed downstream through rapids and finally over a rather evil waterfall. It was seriously modified by it's encounter with the rocks at the bottom. The contents of the pack and the pack bag were scattered and lost, but somehow the battered frame, still attached to the sleeping bag, floated to shore. Hours later, my friend retrieved the now modified frame and soggy sleeping bag. He decided that his journey into the woods was over. Three days from the road head, no matches, night coming, and his food feeding fish at the bottom of the torrent. He had a problem. What to-do?

First step, think. He did. He took the frame, which by that time looked like metallic spaghetti, and smashed a part of it flat. He worried that part free, converted his shoe laces into a short rope, cut a few pieces of the appropriate kinds of wood, punched a dimple into the aluminum with a rock, and presto! A fire bow set. He used the aluminum as a bearing surface for the fire drill, the shoe laces as a cord for the bow, made fire, and started his survival odyssey. Because of his innovations and his skills, he managed to turn a possible disaster into a fine adventure. A story, incidentally, he loves to tell again and again and again... I sometimes wish that he had a second story to tell, just for variety.

It is clear that there may have been other things he could've done and perhaps come away with a little more story. The significant part remains, he survived. And he did it through innovation and imagination. Now maybe if he had taken the aluminum of his pack, combined it with the nylon from his sleeping bag, made a hang glider, and... Innovation has it's practical limit. Remember, too, that there are always those could of's and should of's. They are easy to imagine after the fact.

Incidentally, could of's and should of's are fine. They demonstrate the exercise of the innovative process. Usually they represent alternative answers to a problem. As I have said before, you are trying to develop a solution to your situation. If you survive, you succeeded. Anything else is only a matter of degree, of class, or of comfort.

Remember, too, a rule called Occam's Razor. Basically Occam's Razor states, "The simplest effective solution is the best solution." Effective and simple... keywords for innovation.

Later, when we begin to explore survival kits, you'll see some of the many ways things can be modified. There will be few hard-and-fast rules. The contents suggested for survival kits can be changed to suit your personal needs. The kits will give you a handle on survival that can help carry you through your situation. Funny thing though, after we've decided just what items are useful in your survival kit, we'll see how similar items can be made, and functions performed, by materials found in nature.

Incidentally, if the suggestion of an alternate use for some item didn't occur to you, relax. Many ideas are so obvious that they are difficult to recognize at first. Anything that has already been done resides in the vast unconscious. By opening yourself to innovation, these concepts will leak into you and you will have an idea. Survival originality is self-enhancing. Once you try innovation, you'll probably start using it.

Occasionally, I hear someone mumble phrases like, "I can't do things like that." or, "I can't do that kind of thinking." "Can't" is bad news, and a bad word. "Can't" must be dropped from your vocabulary. "Can't" implies external control. Self-control and choices are what a competent survivalist is looking for. "Didn't" or "won't" seem to be a closer description of the kind of concept you need to exercise when you begin to feel powerless. While these words are still negative they carry with them the germ of control we need. "I can't do that kind of thinking" becomes "I won't do that kind of thinking." Then you can ask yourself, "Why not?" Why not indeed!

Everyone can innovate, but many don't. You have to start trying. Start by opening bottles with something other than a bottle opener. Try eating with something other than a knife, spoon, and fork. Try chopsticks, sucking, slurping, and picking with your fingers. Try walking on your knees to change your horizon or to pretend that your leg is broken. Make an effort to modify the use of things you normally use. Innovate, modify, originate.

Practicing Innovation
I've been pushing the idea of innovation. Maybe you've already been innovating. Perhaps you can make strange and wondrous things out of dirt, rocks, and bat's eyes. Good for you. Then again, at least for the moment, maybe you can't. You may not know how to get started.

The starting point, or a starting point, might be to decide what items you need to assist your survival. One way to start that process is to think about the most elementary actions you will be required to perform. Once you have chosen some basic actions, you can look about you for ways to do these things. Look at the following six jobs and try to think of a way to do these things with the items you have with you right now.

Six things that need doing:






Let's try the first one, cutting, and play with it for just a moment. Let's also assume that you don't have a knife with you.

Suppose you have a metal belt buckle. You should be able to grind it flat along one side to give you a knife edge. The grinding can be done with a smooth stream stone. You may also be able to take the stone itself and hit it with another stone to create a sharp flake suitable for cutting. Is there a piece of trash nearby, perhaps a tin can? The lid is quite sharp. (I'm certain that you have personal experience with that fact!) If it can cut your finger, it can skin a small animal or cut apart edible plants. Do your boots have an accessible and removable steel shank like the one found in Vietnam jungle boots? To find out, peel back the inner lining on the bottom of the boot (Don't do this to expensive boots!). On a jungle boot the shank is visible as a dark plate of steel about 1 inch by four inches and easily removable with the fingers.

If you go into the wilderness frequently, you've probably noticed the carcasses of dead animals. Mostly these gross manifestations of once living things are to be avoided. For the survivalist, however, the bones are a treasure throve of smelly delight. They can be removed, scored, split with a stone, and ground to sharp edges for knives and arrowheads. Things like the hooves and skin can be converted to glue through repetitive boiling. Rotten, leathery skin can be treated to make a sort of stinky but serviceable leather, good for tools, shoes, and cordage. Even if your situation is short term, knowing that you know how to do these things will contribute to your self-confidence and sense of well being.

By now, you've got the idea. Work with the words I listed first. Make a catalogue of the possible uses for items that might be able to do the jobs listed and don't hesitate to get a little far fetched. In a real survival situation you'll likely avoid doing involved tasks, but the practice will help you to find easier ways to do simple jobs. After you are familiar with the strategy, try figuring out a few jobs you know need doing and follow the same patterns with them. If you can think of a job, it is usually possible to do it... eventually.

Remember, too, that though some of your tasks can be done using the more or less conventional primitive technology, they may be impossible for you until you have the necessary skills. That rock I mentioned earlier, for instance. The primitive peoples were able to make excellent stone tools from rocks found here and there. They also had as many hours doing it as you have had reading or watching TV. They could recognize the best types and textures of stones suitable for cutting chores. They knew how to hit the material just right. They were able to manufacture the length, thickness and shape they needed. Of course, you should still try making stone cutting tools. You will learn what they learned. In the meantime, you can cut a material with stone by smashing it into its component molecules until it can be pulled apart. This act is called crushing. You can crush hard, as in sundering, or you can crush softly to crack nuts. Think.

Sex and Survival
There's that word again. Only this really isn't about sex. It's about the sexes. Somehow -- very incorrectly -- the word got out that survival experiences are too rugged for most women. I know that some women readers will bristle with incipient indignation. Don't. I will attempt to explain.

Survival skills are not limited to the male. It seems obvious that it took two sexes to make the species work. There remains the image of some hairy brute, club in hand, heading out into the primordial jungle to do battle with some loathsome creature. Meanwhile, his woman sits home grinding flour in a stone bowl held firmly by grimy thighs. Let's stop right there. Who is keeping the family alive? It should be clear that it takes both of them, with a careful and appropriate distribution of labor, to stay alive.

The man may see himself as the hunter. So be it. Who gathers the firewood and the edible plants? Who makes pots and starts fires? Who makes shelters and sets small traps? Who brings water back to camp and cleans skins? The answer is as simple as the system. They both do. About the only truly exclusive jobs are related to procreation. Women make babies, men make it possible for them to do so.

Of course, there are certain jobs that seem to be easier for the male to do. Whatever programming is responsible for this is most probably there as the result of structural differences. As a rule, men can lift greater weights. They have an inclination to do the heavy manual labor type chores. Women generally enjoy allowing them the option to do this sort of heavy, sweaty work. It is true, too, that I've seen many women happily assume the heavy chores and as happily discard them once they have help with the work. Countless times I've seen guys performing mildly incredible feats. Lifting trees, crushing boulders, and biting bears on the bottom. It fascinates me because so many of these Herculean feats are unnecessary. The lifted tree can stay and become a seat. The boulders might metamorphose into fireplaces and the bears are best left alone. Women and men are instinctive survival companions as soon as they know that they can do it together. A lot of guys and gals already know this.

One day, during a three day survival experience with some University students, I came upon a male student breaking wood into arm sized pieces. Sweat stood out on his back as he labored to produce his load. Finally, he looked up in triumph, gathered his wood, and led me uphill to his camp. He and another fellow were sharing the camp with two women and both of the guys had decided to gather wood. When we arrived, he tossed down his burden, sat on a rock, and tried to catch his breath. I looked around and saw no one else. He seemed disappointed that neither of the ladies was present to witness his feat. Just then I heard a crash up the hill from the camp. We both looked up just in time to see half of a dead tree slowly thump its way down the hill toward camp. It stopped ten feet from us. As I looked at half a thousand pounds of broken wood. I heard the euphonious tones of the male slave's camp mate. She had gone up the hill to kick down the wood. She never broke a sweat. Think!

One other thought related to this sex thing. Women, as a rule, can survive lower temperatures than men. The difference is probably related to the physiology required for child bearing. According to studies, the woman's body will begin to react to reduced temperatures sooner than a man's. This reaction begins as a constriction of the blood vessels in the surface of the body and is perceived by the woman as cold. The constriction reduces heat loss and in this manner saves the energy to be released to the body core later. The energy saving reaction is a defense presumed to assist the survival of the, as yet unborn, fetus. It is not necessary for the woman to be pregnant to achieve this heat loss protection. It is a part of the physiological programming.

Of course, there are many variables such as conditioning, fat accretions, energy reserves, etc. that can effect this presumed advantage. There is also a minor drawback. When blood flow to the skin is reduced to stop heat loss, the skin cools. Next, the brain receives signals from the cooling skin telling it that things are cold. The brain makes this information available to the conscious mind and the woman feels cold even though a man in the same conditions might not even sense the temperature drop. She will continue to feel cold while males around her remain warm and feel warm to her. Later, when their warmth is gone and they are dead, she will still feel cold.

Most often, survival emergencies can be met with skill and technique long before the final, fatal calorie is withdrawn from the body. In the mean time, the ladies tend to feel colder than the guys.

A Sum Thing
Looking back on what we've discussed, you can see that, from my point of view, the most important thing you need to do in a survival situation is to think about what you are doing. You need some things to think about so that the thoughts will be more than just the idle chatter of your memories. You have to start considering the idea of survival not as something you study, but as something you do. If you do that, you become a survivalist and a survivor. If you ever become a participant in a survival emergency, you will probably notice a comforting and, at the same time, disconcerting phenomenon. The intensity of your participation in the emergency will increase to give you the concentration and strength to do whatever is necessary. After the first night or two, you might even enjoy it.

Last edited by petercookie; 02-11-2009 at 01:33 AM.
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Old 02-11-2009, 01:35 AM   #2
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Survival: The Last Laugh
Chapter 3 - The Woods Master

He's sitting in his office, suit coat on a hanger, tie loose, talking on the phone.

"I'll be back in about five days. I'll fax you a list of where I think I'll be going and some of the alternate routes. If I change my plans before I leave, I'll call you. The numbers for the Forest Service will be on the fax... Thanks, buddy... No, I'm going alone this time. I need some time to think... Sure, I'll leave the keys to my car in the magnet locker. You know where I hide it. OK, OK I'll be fine. Give my love to the wife and kids... OK. Bye..."

He's driving along a lonely mountain road, stops, gets out, and looks back down the road. He takes in the view, then climbs back in and drives on.

The most important part of survival training is learning how not to need it. You can't just wait for an emergency and then hope that your survival "instinct" will bring you through. There's no such thing as an uneducated instinct. Instincts are made of correct choices based on knowledge of potential threats. The Boy Scouts had it right when they chose Be Prepared as a motto.

Some people think that preparing for an emergency is a gloomy process motivated by fear and insecurity. Nothing could be further from the truth. Preparation is an enlightening process filled with discovery and freedom. Preparation is when you know the mechanics of nature, when you see the grand architecture of the skies and the land, and it is when you learn to respect this architecture. Learning wilderness survival skills is much like learning the meaning of stop lights in the city. The skills tell you when to stop and when to go, when you should turn and when you should continue on your way.

Off in the distance the man can see the glint of a car windshield almost hidden in the trees. He turns away from the reflection and continues walking down a wooded trail. He stops, bends down, and picks up an old, rusty soup can. He puts it into his shoulder bag. A little further down the trail he spots a piece of glass on the trail. It's a nice view here. He picks up the glass, walks to a small bolder by the side of the trail, sits down and begins to make a glass knife. He pulls a piece of leather and an old horn from his shoulder bag and begins to press off pieces of glass. After a few minutes a crude but recognizable cutting instrument is in his hands.

In ancient times, humans would search for natural materials from which to make their implements. Today many discarded bits of human flotsam litter the wilderness. These bits can make fine tools for the woodsman. Using them achieves two purposes. They provide tools and artifacts, and using them helps to clean the wilderness. Glass can be used instead of flint and obsidian for cutting and for hunting tools. Tin cans and old canvas can easily replace clay pots and boiling skins.

Finished with the glass, he puts it in his kit and he moves on.

The sun is starting to get lower in the sky. He lifts his hand to the edge of the sun, and counts the number of hand spans to the western horizon, where the sun will set.

Ancient folks knew that they could estimate how much time was left in their day by simply counting how many hand spans it is to the spot where the sun will set. Conveniently, the hand, extended at arms length, will bisect about 15 degrees of arc. Because there are 24 of these 15 degree segments in a circle, that means that the sun will move approximately 1 hour for every hand span. Hell, in the wilderness, that's about as good as it gets, or as good as you need it to get. Put yourself on a timetable here and you may as well be back in the city. Still there are times when it's nice to have some idea of the passage of time.

As he walks he punches his walking stick into the ground occasionally. Periodically he stops to look back. A bush catches his eye. He walks over to it, gathers some and suddenly with a quick motion, snatches a lizard from a rock. The lizard wriggles in his hand, he strokes it's belly and it stops struggling and lies still. He brings it to his mouth, opens his lips just a bit to blow on the lizard, and then releases it back to the wilderness.

Lots of folks come up here to get lost, at least it seems that way. They get caught up in the joy of nature and forget that eventually they need to go home. When they turn around to go back, they don't recognize the landscape, get panicky, and then they really become lost. One of the keys to not "getting lost" is to learn what is behind you by looking back occasionally. It's also a good idea to use a walking stick. The marks it makes in the trail are easily recognizable. If you can't follow your own tracks, you should at least be able to follow your stick marks. Even light rains will leave behind the small pits left by a stick. (Other benefits of walking sticks include the fact that they change you from a relatively unstable biped to a much more stable tri-ped. They distribute the effort of walking to other parts of your body, and they can be used for digging, investigating snaky places, pushing brush out of the way, and a myriad of other things. Learn to use a walking stick. We'll discuss the selection of a good walking stick later.)

Lizards are pretty good food. They taste like chicken. Actually everything tastes like chicken when you're hungry. The problem is that most lizards are small and it takes a lot of them to make a difference in your survival chances. Usually it takes more energy to catch them than they are worth. If you decide that lizards are worth the effort, the best time to catch them is in the early morning when the night chill makes them slow and the sun hasn't had a chance to warm them. I just like to feel their bellies and wonder what they think of the giant carnivore that's holding them. (They're probably pretty dim in the wondering department.)

He finds himself in a canyon at an open sandy area near a stream. There's a nice tree nearby and some rocks. He walks to the sandy spot, drives his walking stick into the ground, and checks to be certain that it is secure. He bends down in the sand. His finger traces the shadow in the sand. At it's tip he places a smaller stick, point down, into the sand, then moves away. By the rock he finds a piece of wire. He removes his knife from it's case on his belt and, using the knife, makes two small holes near the top of the can, on opposite sides. He threads the wire through the holes and using a small stick as a tool, wraps the wire around itself to form a hook. The can will now hang from a stick. At this point he gets up and walks over to the stick. The shadow has moved and he marks the new location of the shadow tip with another small stick. There is a distance between the two points marked by the sticks. He connects these points with a third, longer straight stick. He draws a line perpendicular to this longer stick, in the sand. At the tip of the drawn line, farthest from the base of the walking stick, he writes a big "N" This is north.He really doesn't care. It is important to stay oriented. On other occasions he has used the shadow cast by the tip of a tree, and that of a telephone pole, to identify directions using this technique.

There are a number of methods one can use to tell directions from the sun. Things like moss on a tree, the bending of the top of a tree, etc. are inconsistent and inaccurate. Sure there may be places where these techniques seem to be accurate most of the time, but don't count on them. There are better and more reliable ways... the sun compass for one. Even the sun compass has it's drawbacks, far north and far south on this planet, the technique can force circling. There are other ways to tell directions up and down there...

He looks back up at the sun and decides that he has just enough time to find a shelter site. He looks longingly at the place he just used for his shadow tip direction finding technique. If he were backpacking this would be a good site, water close at hand, wood and rocks nearby. He knows, however, that capable backpackers, deprived of their equipment, have died because they selected the same sorts of camping sites they did when they had all of their equipment for protection. Backpacking is gear oriented; the gear protects you from the wilderness and from your mistakes. Survival is knowledge oriented; knowledge protects you from mistakes.

He begins to climb the side of the canyon. When he is higher than the canyon floor by the height of the highest tree in the canyon, he goes a little higher and starts to search for a spot to make his shelter.

Cold air goes down, warm air rises. This basic information forms the basis of a number of survival oriented decisions. At night, cold air settles into a valley. In a canyon, it settles to the bottom and then moves down, following the drainage. The movement of air is called wind. If you were in the bottom of a canyon you would be in the coldest air as well as in a wind caused by the movement of that cold air. You would feel a wind chill.

Canyons are subject to an effect called the diurnal wind. That means that the wind moves down the canyon at night and up the canyon during the day. Count on it. How much colder is the bottom of a canyon? It varies, but we commonly measure an 8F to 10F degree difference between the bottom of a canyon and a point 50 to 75 feet up the side of a canyon. Diurnal winds commonly move at about 4 mph giving about 5F to 7F of wind chill. This works out to a 13F to 17F degree difference between a camp site in the bottom of a canyon and a shelter site up the side of a canyon!

As he searches for an adequate shelter site he notices that the sun is hitting some rocks nearby. At the rocks he realizes that this part of the canyon is facing South. Good. The rocks are as large as small cars and there is a pine tree struggling up through them. Captured between two large rocks, beneath the tree, is a flat space covered by a thick layer of pine needles. This is home for tonight.

He sits on one of the rocks to enjoy the view and feel the heat of the last rays of the setting sun. He knows that it will be cold tonight, but probably above freezing. At the bottom of the canyon it will freeze tonight.

If you want to stay warm in the northern hemisphere, pick a site on a south facing slope. The sun will have heated the ground and the rocks. The earth will give up this heat during the night creating a micro climate. You have probably noticed micro climates before. You may have been riding a motorcycle or bicycle at night and noticed that the air is suddenly warmer or cooler than moments before. The next time this happens, look at the ground over which you are traveling. If it got suddenly warmer you are probably traveling over asphalt. The darker surface traps the daytime heat and releases it at night. If it is cooler, it may be concrete you are over. Concrete won't hold as much heat and therefore cannot give it up at night.

Solar radiation also effects the character of the land it hits. Sunlight dries out the topsoil faster and tends to influence the growth of different types of vegetation on the south facing slope. Less moisture also leads to less complete control of erosion and therefore south facing slopes tend to have more exposed rocks and less grass. Trees tend to produce thick blankets of insulation to protect their roots. All of these effects are good for the survivalist.

He moves back from the rock to the thick mat of needles covering the ground below the tree. Carefully he removes the sticks and pine cones that might make his sleep less comfortable. Moving as little as possible of the material, he flattens the sleeping area and creates a depression about 1 1/2 inches deep where his shoulders and hips will go. Then he lays down on his bed. It is comfortable... gotta test the bed. It is comfortable and warm, too...

Heat passes from the body by five heat loss mechanisms:

Conduction, Convection, Radiation, Respiration and Perspiration (or wetness).

First, a Law: Heat passes from the warmer body to the colder body.

You are the warmer body. If you want to stop heat loss to the ground, conduction, use insulation below you. Pine needles are good insulation. They are found under pine trees.

If the wind is blowing (or you are moving through the air), convection will occur. Move out of the wind. Rocks and trees help block the wind. Moving up the side of a canyon out of the wind also helps.

Radiation is heat loss to space. Cover your head and neck. A hat and a scarf help a lot. A roof over you head also helps a lot. The spread of a tree over you offers protection, too.

If your feet are cold, cover your head. The brain automatically cuts off blood flow to the extremities when you lose heat. Reduce the heat loss and the surplus heat will be returned to the extremities. Your socks are more valuable on your head and neck than they are on your feet. Just be certain to keep your shoes on and have them laced very loosely.

Respiration: breathe in cold air, breathe out warm air. You are losing heat each time you breathe. Don't do unnecessary exercise, because it will increase heat loss along with your increased respiration rate. If you need to do exercises to warm up, do isometrics in place. They are much more efficient in creating heat and they have a minimal effect on your respiration.

Perspiration... Don't sweat. Don't work so hard that you will wet yourself with perspiration. Try to stay dry. Water increases heat loss by a tremendous amount (but not as much as the 640 times claimed in some manuals).

If you take steps to control these five heat loss mechanisms you have a good chance at survival. Under ideal circumstances, you can do a lot to control the mechanisms. If conditions are rotten sometimes there is very little you can do.

When you make your bed, try for comfort as well as efficiency. A few minutes making the bed just right may pay off in hours of much needed and beneficial sleep.

He dozes and as he does he sees himself selecting his shelter... Part way up from the valley floor, on a south facing slope, in a micro climate formed by large rocks, beneath a pine tree and on top of a layer of insulating pine needles.

Protected from the winds and holding in his heat, he is happy and warm. Sometimes survival is so simple.
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Old 02-11-2009, 01:36 AM   #3
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Chapter 4 - Exposure: The Cold Facts

Well, it looks like it's time to drag up a comfortable seat and settle down to some important but kinda boring technical survival facts. Up until now we've been concerned with those interesting weaknesses of the human body and some of the devious skills needed to assist you in a generalized survival situation. Now we get specific. After all, who wants to find themselves stuck on some cold and remote mountain far from assistance equipped with nothing but a vivid imagination and a slowly freezing body? I doubt that you are interested in having that sort of terminal adventure.

Since we now know that shelter is our second priority, right after air, it is particularly important that we know what the consequences will be if we fail to build a shelter when we need it.

Almost every week, during the colder months, an article will appear in a paper reporting some unlucky camper or hiker who died of something called "exposure". That word "exposure" gets an awful lot of play these days. "Hiker dies on Snerd Mt." "Man and wife found dead in storm." "Two climbers missing and presumed dead." read the articles. Hidden in the text .…..Exposure. Sometimes the papers use even more lurid prose to describe the situation, "Man freezes to death". When I was a kid I used to have visions of my body hardening slowly in the cold, usually from the feet up. I could see myself dragging my half frozen body across jagged rocks and blocks of ice. Eventually a frozen foot would break off at the ankle, or the knee would chip like a hunk of ice dropped on concrete... Gaaaaaaa! I resolved never to freeze to death. I want to die in my sleep, warm, a long time from now.

The fact of the matter is that "freezing to death" or exposure may not be all that uncomfortable a way to go. I'm not recommending that you crawl into a freezer to do away with yourself, if you' re suicidal. As an accidental death it beats being eaten by wild dogs or smothered by slimy things. Besides that, there's a nice scientific name for the process which makes you dead. The name is Hypothermia and Hypothermia is the number one killer of outdoor folk.

Something we ought to get clear before we get into the more clinical aspects of hypothermia, A person does not normally 'freeze to death". I suppose it is possible if you leaped into a vat of liquid hydrogen, but in nature it takes longer to die of the cold. You freeze after you are dead, a distinction that is unimportant to the victim. Another point is that "exposure" can refer to death by heat or cold, and you don't have to die to say that you suffered from exposure, or for that matter, from hypothermia. However If you want the headlines to say that you "froze to death" you have to go all the way.

What is "hypothermia"? First some of the things it isn't. It isn't a fear of needles. It isn't "feeling cold". It isn't that feeling you get when you play in the snow and your fingers are getting stiff. That kind of cold is much more superficial and can be easily controlled by the body when you stop your exposure. In fact it isn't even necessary for the temperatures to be at or below freezing for hypothermia to take place. There have been many instances of hypothermic death that took place in temperatures over 50 degrees f. What is necessary in order for Hypothermia to occur is that the body be unable to maintain it's operating temperature in the face of whatever heat loss process is in operation. Hypothermia is heat loss at the body core, and it results from exposure to cold with the addition of other heat loss mechanisms.

Typically we can say that four elements are present in each case of hypothermia, and without most of those four elements it almost never happens.

The four elements
The four elements leading to hypothermia are: Cold, Wind,Wetness and most important, a likely victim. It should be obvious that many of us have been exposed to cold ,wind and wetness without ever having experienced Hypothermia. Naturally this is because we were prepared for the conditions we were exposed to which leads us to another representation of hypothermia as "The killer of the unprepared".

One of the important goals of this chapter will be to give you the information you need to remove yourself from the ranks of the "unprepared". This will be easier if you understand more about the clinical aspects of hypothermia as well as the simple and effective methods we can use to survive the sometimes hostile forces of cold.

In order to be prepared we need to examine the four elements leading to hypothermia a bit more closely.

The second law of thermodynamics states in effect: "Heat must pass from the warmer body to the colder body." This simply means that when you expose yourself to the cold, you lose heat. The heat you are losing is probably heat that was generated by your body. Your body has a maximum limit to the amount of heat that it can produce, when the limit is reached, it can produce heat no faster. If heat is taken away faster than it is produced, the body will begin to cool.

You are already familiar with some of the effects of cold on the human body. For instance you know that as the body begins to lose heat faster than it is producing the heat it reacts by trying to reduce the rate of heat loss. This reduction in heat loss is brought about by a restricting the circulation in the surface of the skin. When this happens you begin to feel the cold. Later, with continued heat loss, the body will show other symptoms. Blood flow to the extremities will be reduced, giving you a sort of numbness and a reduction in coordination, strength and control, "I'm so cold my fingers are stiff." is an example of that closing down of blood to the muscles in the fingers. Continued exposure closes down more systems, the blood temperature throughout the body is reduced and the brain is affected. It is remarkable how sensitive the brain is to these temperature drops. A reduction of 20 Degrees f. at the brain will kill you while a drop of over 50 degrees (from normal) in the hands and feet will cause discomfort but no permanent damage.

Wind increases the cooling effect of cold or wetness. This occurs when the moving air encounters the thin layer of warm air clinging to your body. The moving air strips away the warm insulating layer and the body tries to generate another layer of warm air. As this new layer is removed the body transfers more heat to warm more air etc. This effect is known as this wind chill effect. Wind chill accounts for a very high percentage of deaths due to hypothermia. It is easy to overlook this factor and to wander unprepared for wind chill into what appears to be cold weather.

I mentioned that persons have died of hypothermia in temperatures around 50 degrees F. Part of the reason can be wind chill, take for instance an air temperature of 50 degrees, add the mind chilling effect of a 40 MPH wind and we have an effective temperature of 26 degrees. Many snow skiers have felt this effect when they find that although the temperature outside is low, in the sun it feels comfortable to the skin. Come the clouds, and a fast downhill run and the cold wind will put frost on the soul.

Another point I want to make is that for the wind to assist the cooling it is only necessary for the air to be moving relative to the warm body. The same wind chill effect applies when the body is moving rapidly through the air. A motorcyclist for instance, moving at 40 MPH on a windless day will experience the same chilling effect as a stationary person in a 40 MPH wind. Imagine if you will, what would happen to a motorcyclist who is driving along, cold because of the wind chill, and finds stiff fingers operating clutch and brake controls. Motorcyclists are frequent victims of hypothermia. They do not progress through the stages of hypothermia to actual death while astride their bikes, rather they simply lose some of their awareness, the control of their machines and die of something else. like compression during a collision.

If a person is adequately protected from the cooling effect of wind, there is a very much reduced chance of hypothermia. This person is Prepared for wind.

Wetness increases heat loss through evaporation. Think about the body for a moment. You already know what happens when you get very hot. You perspire. Your body doesn't do that simply because it likes to discharge water and increase your odor. Sweating is an adaptive process that enhances cooling. You know how good it feels to stand in front of a fan, or in the wind, on hot days, Cool right? Water increases the cooling effect of wind and vice versa, This water can come from any source, It may be the result of rain, immersion, perspiration, or from any other source. When the body is wet it loses heat much more rapidly.

Much more rapidly is something of an understatement. Studies suggest that water may conduct heat up to 240 times faster than dry air. No wonder the Eskimos aren't into swimming. It has been proven that survival times for an unprotected human in 35 degree water is listed in minutes. Heat is ripped from the body so rapidly that it loses its strength, coordination and the victim drowns.

A point I'd like to make here includes a survival tip I read in an antique survival manual. The manual was sold to early settlers for the journey across the continent. One suggestion found in the manual suggests that should you ever find yourself stormbound in an unprotected place, near an unfrozen lake, with the air temperature at or below freezing, you should climb into the obviously warmer lake and wait out the storm! The author reasoned that since the lake was unfrozen it should protect the body from the storm. I'd imagine that some folks tried it and discovered that it didn't work. No one complained because they didn't survive the technique. Stay dry, stay out of unfrozen lakes on cold days.

If you've got a waterproof covering of some sort and you use it to stay dry during a storm, then you are prepared for wetness. A suggestion in this vein. It is often inconvenient to carry a poncho or a tube tent when you take a short day hike Be prepared anyway. The lightest serviceable covering I know of is the large, heavy duty. trash bag.

To use it simply cut a 9" slit in the bottom, pull it over your body until your head sticks through the slit, and stay dry. It will protect you from wind and wetness.

The likely victim
The likely victim is the unprepared victim, If you know some of the factors that will contribute to your heat loss you can be better prepared. if you take some realistic steps you can remove yourself from the category altogether. simple preparations such as the one I mentioned with the trash bag will improve your chances for survival. Think about it, How much does that trash bag cost? How heavy and awkward is it? It actually fits into your back pocket with only a small bulge.

Of course there are many other things you can carry as well as the trash bag to help you to survive. Most of these things will be small and cheap. But they help you to prepare, AND they help you to develop your survival mentality.

Time for a short digression. Remember the business of innovation? Consider that trash bag for a moment. What uses can it be put to? We already know that it will act as an effective rain shield. It can stop the wind and hold trash. Now consider these uses; if it is dark in color it can be used to melt snow on sunny but cold days. It will carry food plants for dinner. It can be used to carry pine needles and leaves back to camp for use as insulation in your bed. It can be used as a cozy hat or to carry water back to camp. It will just about perfectly fit over a loaded backpack to protects the contents from rain. Try thinking of some other uses for the bag. You may want to carry two of them with you whenever you go out.

Trash bags and wind aside, there is another part to being the likely victim. Panic and hysteria, Previously when we discussed this condition we decided that it can be partially controlled by orderly thought and directed action. Many persons who find themselves in a survival situation don't know the tricks you do. They will react mindlessly and try to travel vast distances with limited energy resources. This activity not only depletes their reserves, it often brings on other parts of the hypothermia problem. Their thoughtless actions result in sweat, exposure to the wind, and depletes their ability to ward off even minor environmental temperature changes. They are what can be called the "emotionally unprepared victims". The problem is neatly described by an old saying. "In panic, a person can run for minutes, crawl for hours, and then lie down from exhaustion for eternity..."

The likely victim then can include someone who is faced with the heat loss mechanisms of cold, wind and wetness to a minor degree. But with an emotional instability capable of magnifying the effects of simple heat loss much as both wind and wetness magnify the effects of the cold. All of this is part of the reason for developing your Positive Mental Attitude (PMA). Understanding the problem is half of the solution, doing something about it is the other half.

The Symptoms of Hypothermia
Once you know that hypothermia exists, and what conditions are likely to precede the problem, it becomes necessary to know how to recognize the symptoms. That old saw "Forewarned is Forearmed." fits nicely here since merely recognizing the symptoms can put you on the alert and set into motion the actions necessary to save a life. It is also important to realize that recognizing the symptoms of Hypothermia in yourself is sometimes difficult for reasons soon to be explained.

Experiments performed by various public and private institutions have tended to yield similar results. In most of these experiments Human beings were put through exposure to low temperatures while their blood pressure, temperature, reaction times, strength and motor skills were monitored. The tests have shown dramatic losses in the thinking abilities of the subjects while simple motor activities became nearly impossible. Total incapacitation almost always occurred before loss of consciousness.

During the course of the experiments certain facts became clear. Among those was an agreement on specific temperature ranges and symptoms, indicating the stages of hypothermia. In other words, researchers discovered that when the body cools to a certain point a specific symptom develops, Continued lowering of the temperature brings on the next set of symptoms. These symptoms are common to most subjects experiencing the same body core temperature. They also discovered that people have different abilities to resist the onset of hypothermia. Where one individual might drop into hypothermia at 50 degrees ambient, another in similar shape and condition, might not become hypothermic until the temperature dropped to 40 degrees.

I realize this fact is not especially shocking as we all know that people react differently to the same conditions. The reason I point it out is to indicate that the following information, while it has internal and symptomatic consistency, does not necessarily develop in each person at the same external temperature.

A "Normal" healthy human, in good condition with adequate energy reserves can maintain the body core temperature at it's "normal" 98. 6 F, while nude in 50F. air. The air of course is still and the body dry. At this point the body is pumping out heat as fast as it can and the core temperature is stable. Since the body heater is full on, for each degree the environmental temperature drops, the body core temperature will drop a corresponding degree.

Figure 1: Symptoms of Hypothermia

Stage of Hypothermia
Air Temp
Body Core Temp.

47-50 F
96-99 F
Uncontrollable shivering

Violent shivering in waves. Poor coordination and stumbling

Shivering ceases. Muscles are stiff or rigid. Impaired thinking and judgment

Rigidity continues, slowed pulse rate and respiration. Stupor, Immobility

Below 32
Unconsciousness, most reflexes cease, heart beat erratic, possible death

Below 32
Below 78
Cardiac Fibrillation. Edema & hemorrhage in the lungs. White foamy discharge from the lungs. Death

While looking this over it is wise to keep in mind the fact that the temperatures given for the "Air temp." are approximate. Conditioning, fat accretions etc. all play a part in setting the final symptomatic display. Even the final temperature prior to death has been exceeded in both directions. Persons have survived lower internal temperatures and have died with higher ones. The symptoms however are very commonly associated with the stages as shown.

A few points need to be made here. You will notice that as an individual develops hypothermia the first symptoms of "uncontrollable shivering" occur. This is not that gentle "Brrrrr I'm cold" shiver. This is a good strong full body shiver of the tooth shattering variety. The victim feels cold inside. This shivering stage is the attempt by the body to generate heat with muscular activity of the involuntary variety. When the temperature continues to drop, the mechanisms in control of the shivering reduce their activity and the body reduces the flow of blood to most large muscle groups not necessary for survival. With a reduction in shivering comes the beginning of the end for reasoned action by the victim Also keep in mind the appearance of the victim to an observer. First the victim is shivering hard, then there is less shivering. This gives the impression that the victim is warming. After all, there is less shivering. As you read the symptoms again keep this fact in mind. You may not be able to tell immediately if the victim is warming or cooling.

When the shivering ceases during the third stage hypothermia, death is at the doorstep. A lone hypothermic has little chance of survival unless fortune provides some external source of heat as well as a reduction in heat loss. The wind stops, the sun drives the clouds apart, a bush bursts into flame while a cup of hot cocoa appears on the ground. Lotsa luck.

Once the victim drops into fourth stage hypothermia it's all over but the dying. Even if a rescue is affected there is a chance that death will still occur. Any first aid measures that take place after the victim becomes a hypothermic in the fourth stage, must be of an extreme sort administered in a specific manner. Simply covering the victim may delay death by a few minutes. Still there remains the chance of survival if certain steps are taken immediately by the rescuer. Even then much of the ability of the victim to survive is dependent upon the condition and the will of that victim. Injuries and illness lessen the likelihood of survival. Inappropriate or inadequate treatment may hasten death.

The 1-2-3 of Hypothermia first aid
The treatment for hypothermia is a 1 - 2 - 3 matter and needn't be done in sequence for it to be effective. There may also be complications. First the basic steps.

1. Stop further heat loss: Remove the victim from the cold, cover and/or dry.

2. Add heat: Warm victim with full body contact or some external or internal source of heat.

3. Add fuel: Feed the victim. Hot sweet liquids are good. Cold fat or protein is not effective.

Unfortunately, taking these steps is often difficult and sometimes nearly impossible since Hypothermia frequently occurs in an emergency when there are few essential resources. If the victim has progressed into the later stages of hypothermia, simple exposure to heat and protection from the cold may have little effect. Obviously there are ways to successfully rescue a hypothermic but most of these depend on exotic techniques utilizing equipment rarely found in backpacks. The key to successful treatment of hypothermia will be to correct the problem in it's earliest stages. That calls for early recognition and treatment.

Another factor to be considered is that often the hypothermic does not recognize the symptoms and will sometimes resist treatment until it is almost too late. To gain the cooperation of the victim remember that the administration of hypothermia first aid does not have to be a dramatic gesture. One reason for this is the fact that the steps can be taken as conditions allow.

They can be simply a friendly act done as a favor, like loaning a jacket or stopping for shelter because "I'm getting too cold". Try to avoid the dramatic flair sometimes associated with life saving first aid. There is more to this so lets take a closer look at the steps, the combinations of steps and the cautions.

1) Stop further heat loss
Clearly heat loss is the root cause of Hypothermia. If you stop further heat loss and if the overall condition of the victim is good, there is a strong possibility that the problem will disappear. It is wise to remember the conditions that led to the problem, cold wind and wetness. if the victim is only cold, covering up may do, but remember that cold alone is rarely the cause of the problem. As you know, wetness and wind will probably also be present. Get the victim to some sort of effective shelter. A tent, cabin, lean to, plastic sheet, rock shelter etc. will help. Remove the wet clothing, dry the victim and cover up.

Under some conditions total nudity is warmer than wet clothing. This is particularly true in dry windless cold. Wet cotton clothing is probably the worst thing to wear as cotton holds the water next to the skin, wicking moisture through it's structure, and increases your heat loss by as much as 90%. If the wet clothing is made of wool the clothing can be wrung out and put back on. Wool tends to retain warmth even when it is wet. Some new synthetic fabrics have the same qualities. Cover the victim's head! If the body cannot re-warm itself the victim may die. For this reason the remaining steps should be taken in all cases.

2) Add Heat
Adding heat can occur in any way the second law of thermodynamics will allow (Heat must pass from the warmer body to the colder body). The only restrictions placed on re-warming involve the rate of reheating the body. Immersion of the body in molten lava is one of the many techniques considered a no-no. Oddly enough some of the methods commonly used for re-warming are equally dangerous. These well meaning techniques include exposing the victim to intense local heat in the form of a blazing fire.

When an intense form of heat, such as a fire, directs its energy upon one bare area of the body, unfortunate consequences can arise. To understand these consequences we must first remember what happens to the body as the heat loss begins. One of the responses to cold was a general constriction of the blood vessels in the skin and extremities. This blood may reach temperatures as low as 40 degrees and is slowly circulated as a form of insulation for the body core. If a strong source of heat, not just warmth, begins to raise the skin temperature to an uncomfortable level, the brain reacts by causing the heat to be drawn away into the skin through the circulatory system to the core. If the heat is intense and local, say an area the size of your chest, very little actual warmth will have been transferred to the blood. The slightly heated but fatally cold blood travels directly to the body core bringing with it a massive slug of almost ice cold blood. The delicate internal temperature balance is destroyed, the temperature drops below 78 degrees and the victim dies. Ooops...

Therefore, when adding heat to the hypothermic, avoid intense local heating. A gradual raising of the temperature is preferred. Often this can be accomplished without a heating fire. If a heating fire is available, feel free to use it but be certain that the victim is heated as evenly as possible through some intervening layers of fabric.

Ideally the external source of heat should be at or only slightly warmer than the normal body temperature and should be transferred to the entire body. A warm bath is acceptable if it happens to be available and if the "after drop" in core temperature is watched closely. "After drop" is the drop in core temperature we discussed as related to a sudden increase in skin temperature resulting from sudden exposure to high temperatures.

Another way to accomplish whole body warming while in the field is to strip the victim to the skin and put the person into a pre-warmed sleeping bag. If conditions allow, two other persons of normal temperature should also strip and crawl into the bag with the victim. Heat gained through conduction and imagination will be rapid. If a sleeping bag is not available, use blankets or mink. Even one extra naked body in the bag will speed recovery. One caveat to keep in mind, the rescuer should not endanger him or her self by the rewarming process. Body contact rewarming is best used when there are other fully functioning individuals in the party.

To further raise the temperature and increase the speed of the rewarming process it is also wise to induce the victim to drink warm liquids. This will tend to raise the temperature at the core. These drinks should be sweet (no diet sweeteners please) if at all possible. The victim will need energy in order to feed the rewarming process. More on these drinks later.

If there is no possibility for the dual nude system in the bag, or if the victim is alone and trying to gain warmth in the bag. Try hot water in a canteen, warming stones etc. to build heat. Keep in mind the fact that just as clothing insulates us from cold, it also slows down our absorption of heat from external sources. The victim will warm faster while nude in a warm environment than clothed in that same environment.

Once the victim has regained complete awareness, continue the hot liquids. It takes time to recover from hypothermia, full recovery may take hours or even days. Hypothermia can easily reoccur while the victim is weak. If the hypothermic is unconscious, death is close at hand. Only the most drastic steps are likely to be successful. Even so you should attempt to revive the victim using the resources at hand. Many times the effort has paid off.

3) Add Fuel
Adding fuel is really very simple. You are providing the body with a generous store of power with which to reheat. The power should come in some easily assimilated form. Warm sweet liquids are a favorite because the effect is almost immediate and most hypothermics will accept them. Sweet foods like candies are next. Many sugars are releasing their energy to the body within 15 minutes of consumption.

While feeding you should consider the types of foods the victim can easily use since some items containing protein and fat require considerable time and effort for digestion. Stay away from them unless significant amounts of heat and carbohydrates are immediately available. Hot soup with noodles is acceptable, Hot cocoa, hot dextrose or hot coffee or tea with plenty of sugar is acceptable. Beef jerky or a cube of butter is almost useless in the short term. Any form of alcohol is always unacceptable.

The Unconscious victim
Since the unconscious victim is usually unable to swallow, it is unwise to try to force liquids, you may violate the first of the rule of threes "Three minutes without air" by drowning the person in noodle soup. Still, to revive that cold but alive body, heat must be brought into the core. How to do that? One way, a method used by some search and rescue teams is to offer heat absorption through the lungs. Presumably the living victim will continue to breathe. If the air that person is breathing is prewarmed and highly oxygenated a good deal of blood can be quickly heated and recovery can begin. The teams carry heated air respirators.

These devices utilize a flameless low temperature chemical process to heat air carried in a small bottle. The device is seldom carried by normal backpackers but there is a field expedient. It may not be as efficient but it can work. Try mouth-to-mouth resuscitation with the unconscious victim. Your warm air, body contact as well as a warm protected environment might be enough to successfully reverse the problem. Another possibility utilizes one or two of those chemical "HeatPacks". Wrap them in a thin layer of dry fabric and place them on the Carotid arteries on the sides of the neck just below the chin. These can heat the blood and air providing heat calories directly to the core.

Other methods of adding heat to the body core exist and work with varying degrees of efficiency. Some of these techniques may seem a bit distasteful but the act of bringing someone back from the doors of death is a tasty challenge. The methods include such things as warm enemas and warm liquids pumped directly into the stomach. Gaaaa! Both of these techniques have been field expedients over the centuries and may be worth attempting as a last ditch effort. Both were said to have been used by Hannibal when he crossed the Alps. With the unconscious victim either method will help raise the temperature.

A few words about each method seems to be in order. If you choose to try to administer heat to your victim by utilizing an enema, you have made a tough decision. Many obvious preparations are necessary with regards to sanitation etc. and I hope for your sake the process is successful and that the victim is good natured.

Pumping a warm liquid into the stomach is reasonably simple. Obtain a short piece of small diameter tubing, a size that will allow air passage while it is in place. Slide the tube down the throat into the stomach. Blow or suck on the tube to be certain the tube is in the stomach and not in one of the lungs. Blowing will cause a bubbling sound in the stomach, sucking on the tube will lead to predictable results. It is also possible to press on the stomach while watching the tube, Fluid indicates the proper position in the stomach or an impossibly filled lung. Air issuing from the tube indicates a lung.

After installing the tube and checking it's location you may force hot sweet liquids directly into the stomach. While installing the liquid it is wise to check the breathing frequently to certify that the lungs are neither being filled or prevented from operating. injection of the liquid can be done by mouth. Do not pump more than one quart into the stomach and be very careful as the victim may vomit and subsequently inhale the fluid. When the victim regains consciousness continue to offer warm drink. At this point you may notice that the symptoms of hypothermia are beginning to reoccur in reverse order. Sometimes the person will simply "come out of it." with no reversal of symptoms.

Treating an unconscious victim is a difficult problem to deal with. I suggest that you never allow the problem to develop to that point by treating it early.

Disclaimer: I do not recommend the use of the stomach tube or enema system. They are included here only to offer some historical and theoretical techniques. These methods should only be attempted by trained medical personnel.

A last shot
We've all heard how a "shot" of booze can "warm the spirit". I suppose this is true in a very literal way. Alcohol to a hypothermic warms the spirit for it's journey to the next incarnation. You know how much warmer you feel when you drink alcoholic beverages while you're cold. As you probably already know, that heat is only a momentary sensation brought to you at the expense of the heat energy being stored in the core of the body.

This effect is caused by a process called "dilation" which is the opening of blood vessels in the skin and extremities and is brought about by alcohol. The heat thus released results in the sensation of warmth without any actual additional heat being generated. Don't drink for warmth. Many hypothermia deaths are alcohol or drug related.

Abstinence is wise with regards to any of the so called "recreational drugs". The combination of cold, lowered resistance to drug effects, and other unknown complications may reduce your ability to cope with the cold.

Prevention of hypothermia
Prevention of hypothermia is a relatively simple matter. Be prepared for the worst possible conditions you are likely to encounter. A simple theory but sometimes ignored as too inconvenient. For this reason the preparations that you make should be simple, effective, and convenient.

A major part of the preparations you have already made. You have become familiar with the problems related to cold exposure. You know how to recognize hypothermia should it affect yourself or one of your party. You know what to do to treat it. In fact, by knowing what to do in the treatment you have really picked up the basics of prevention. Here are some more ideas that may be of assistance to you as you avoid the chilling grip of Hypothermia.

You will be better able to protect yourself from the cold if you have a good basic grasp of the heat loss and gain mechanisms for the body. Most of these we've already discussed but lets put them in a slightly different form so we can deal with them effectively.

Heat sources
Heat comes to the body from two basic sources. Internal sources of heat such as the heat produced by your metabolism and by muscular activity, and external sources such as fire, sunlight and thermonuclear bombs.

Internal sources of heat depend upon the energy you have stored in your body battery. If you have a fully charged biological "battery" you can generate heat for many hours. As the power in this reserve is depleted or as the temperature and associated events, robs you of essential energy, your body begins to react in a specified manner to generate more heat. The most common method of generating heat is an involuntary contraction of the muscles. The contraction is called "shivering" and is associated with hypothermia when it becomes intense enough. Shivering produces heat through an increased metabolic rate and through friction within the muscles themselves. It also requires a great deal of energy to perform. It is not normally wise to sit quietly in the cold waiting for your body to convulse and generate heat. A simpler method would be to take advantage of voluntary muscular contractions.

Voluntary muscular contractions are often called exercise. If you begin to get cold, don't wait for your body to become so chilled that it shivers. Instead do exercises to produce heat. In a survival situation this may mean that you have to "keep moving" throughout the night in order to survive. This movement must be carefully done so that you do not become totally exhausted and slump into a mindless pile half way through the night.

Voluntary muscular activity can include movement of the legs, of the chest muscles and the arms. Slow and deliberate walking in a sheltered place may make the difference between life and death. Another way, almost as efficient in its heat production, and much easier to control, is the simple muscular contractions called "isometrics". In this exercise the survivalist simply forces one set of muscles to resist the movement of another opposing set i,e. One hand grips the other, one arm forces itself down while the other arm forces it's way up. Another technique is to place palm against palm and push the hands together as if you are trying to crush a walnut held between the hands. A few moments of this type of action will develop heat energy without a significant rise in the actual metabolic rate. Isometrics are unlikely to force perspiration or raise the respiration rate. Isometrics can also be performed in tight spaces if room is at a premium.

Another advantage of isometrics over jumping jacks, running in place, push ups and disco dancing, is the reduction of "Air Pumping". Air pumping takes place during active exercise. Air pumping is when the air that is warm and close to the skin, is pumped out into the cold by the alternate ballooning and collapsing of the insulating garment. That pumped out heat may be essential to your survival and efforts must be made to retain it. Slow exercise, done constantly and consistently as needed will help. If you find that you cannot stay still for some reason and you must move about to stay warm, by all means do so. First take some precautions.

If the pumping of warm air is taking place, that means there is some sort of insulation leak. These leaks most often appear in places like the collar of the shirt, or coat, and down through the pant cuffs. The simple prevention is to tighten all the areas that will allow heat loss to occur. The pant cuffs can be tied loosely around the ankles, or simply stuffed into the tops of the sox. Sleeves can be buttoned and tied loosely with cord. The collar should be fully extended over the neck.

The head and neck area is the most frequently overlooked heat loss area of the body. It is also one of the easiest areas to protect. You may have heard the old dictum "If your feet are cold, cover your head" this is a highly accurate analysis of the response of the body to cold.

You already know that as the body gets cold, circulation to the extremities is reduced and you feel cold. The feet are often the first extremities to feel this cut off. If the head is uncovered a great deal of heat energy is being radiated into space and that energy must be made up in some manner. Reduction of heat loss in other less important areas is the physiological response. If the feet feel cold and the head is uncovered, cover the head. The extra energy will now be sent back to the feet, warming them. Many backpackers refuse to wear a hat until they feel miserable. They depend upon their thick down jackets for protection. Forget it, people have dropped into hypothermia while wrapped in down jackets because their heads were bare.

Remember, the head and neck can radiate as much as 60% of the body's heat production. This is a direct loss and can be easily reversed. If you find you have no hat, make one. If you happen to be wearing two pairs of sox but have no hat, remove one pair of sox, replace your boots and tie them lightly so as not to restrict blood flow to the skin (Loose boots also offer more insulation in the form of trapped air than do tight boots). Take the two sox and try to pull one over your head. If it doesn't fit, cut both socks and stitch the two halves together to make a hat. Stuff the hat with extra insulation. The thread and needle? Remember innovation.

Since we are dealing with internal sources of heat and the conservation of that heat it is useful to remember a few other points. Almost any dry material can be used as insulation. This is to say that you can use dry leaves, cattail tips, pieces of fabric, feathers and fur between the layers of your clothing to reduce heat loss. If you are wearing a long sleeve shirt and long pants, the pants can be sealed as has already been mentioned. Then a fill of dry leaves or other material suitable for insulation, can be poured down the pants. This will be uncomfortable and temporary but the additional insulation may make the difference between seeing only the night and seeing the morning too. Fill the shirt with the same material. Almost anything can be used to increase the insulating value of clothing as long as it is dry.

If you have no gloves and your hands are cold, your head gets first dibs on the sox. You need to survive, not have comfortable hands. One way to protect your hands is obvious, put them into your pockets. You can also pull your arms up into the shirt so that the arms and hands are close to the body. By removing your arms from the cold environment you have acted to reduce heat loss through radiation.

Don't overlook anything you have with you as possible insulation. If you happen to be carrying a small pack but are without storm gear, the contents of the pack should be inspected for possible use as insulation. In addition the pack itself can be used as a short shelter. You can slide your feet into the pack and protect the lower portion of the body. It may also be useful as a seat to raise you off the ground. This too will reduce heat loss through conduction.

Stop...Did you notice? there are more ways to lose heat than just the three we already mentioned, cold, wind and wetness. Remember, there are five active heat loss mechanisms working to deprive the body of it's energy.

The five heat loss mechanisms, revisited
I cannot stress the importance of this issue too much. Remember, the five ways the body can give up energy are heat loss through conduction, convection, radiation, respiration and perspiration. Now that the considerations for body temperature maintenance are more refined. Lets take a quick look at the big five.

Heat loss through conduction is the result of contact between your warmer body and some colder object or body. A good example is conduction heat loss to the ground. Countless times I've seen people spend significant amounts of time constructing a wind tight, rain protected shelter with no ground insulation. They always seem to survive the night but mostly they feel like hell in the morning and complain of stiff cramped muscles. The blood flow to those cold muscles was cut down by the reactions to cold that you already know. When blood flow as restored in the warmer morning hours, stiffness and aches are common. In extreme cases, conduction loss can kill.

Convection heat loss is the wind chill effect we've spent so much time with. The cooling effect of the wind upon the body is a serious survival factor.

Radiation heat loss is a little more difficult to spot but once you become aware of it and look for the problem, it is very apparent. To really understand radiation heat loss you should try an experiment. Some cold clear night step outside with your head uncovered. Stand still until you feel slightly cool. Then walk to a nearby overhead protection. This can be a tree, a shed roof or any other non heated overhead barrier. Within minutes you will feel either warmer or a slowing of your heat loss.

In the open your body heat is radiated into space. As soon as something comes between you and space this heat loss is reduced. This is the reason that cloudy nights with freezing temperatures, feel warmer than clear nights with the same indicated temperature. The clouds reduce heat loss through radiation. A hat will reduce radiation heat loss.

Radiation heat loss was recognized by the body long ago and through some act of genetic engineering the head grew lots of hair (some are luckier in this respect than others). Hair grown to full length will cover the head and neck with a good insulating material that maintains its some value even when it is wet. If you have long hair and it can cover your neck, try to arrange it to give your neck maximum protection.

Even breathing fresh air in the cold can kill you. But then, not breathing will certainly kill you. Respiration heat loss occurs as we breathe in cold air, warm it to near body temperature in the nose. throat and lungs , and then exhale it. This loss is increased when we breathe rapidly or when we breathe thorough our mouths.

The heat loss can be reduced by maintaining a constant respiration rate. We can further protect ourselves by breathing through the nose and by covering the mouth and nose with fabric. If the face has been covered by some fabric, the incoming air will be slightly warmed when it meets the resistance to its passage as offered by the fabric. When the air is subsequently exhaled the warm air will heat the fabric and provide a certain amount of preheating for the next breath and so on. Care must be exercised to assure that you do not re-breathe the same air frequently. If your intake of fresh air is reduced beyond a certain level... well, you know... suffocation.

Perspiration is the method the body uses to cool itself. Wetness due to perspiration, immersion, condensation or as the result of any other action, cools the body rapidly. Perspiration is a common problem for individuals who suddenly find themselves in a survival situation.

As we have seen, panic often forces them to perform strenuous and energy wasting actions such as running. This type of action causes perspiration which then cools by evaporation as the activity diminishes. The best advice to follow is simply "Don't sweat it".

It is also important to realize once again how water loss through perspiration can effect survival potentials. You already realize how much of your ability to do work is destroyed through dehydration. This work can also be work done by the body while it is rewarming itself. Dehydration often accompanies hypothermia. The survival situation may make the adequate intake of fluids very difficult. Even the desire for water is reduced when some people encounter survival stress. Inadequate moisture in the body can increase the tendency for severe shock after a minor injury.

Perspiration wetness cools the body excessively in some conditions and deprives it of its ability to cope with stress. Drink often, try to avoid perspiration, and don't drool onto your clothes.

Heat loss versus heat gain
At first glance it may appear that there are many more ways to lose heat from the body than ways to gain heat. This is almost true, but not quite. What is true is that the heat loss mechanisms exist in nature and we needn't work very hard to experience them. Another fact remains, the heat loss mechanisms can be used as heat gain devices to assist the body in its battle with the cold.

Sit on something warm for heat gain through conduction, stand in warm air for gains through convection. Heat from a fire is mostly radiation, while breathing that hot air from the fire is heat gain through respiration (Possibly heat gain resulting from coughing activity too.) So how does one go about taking advantage of these possibilities?

When we discuss shelter all of these gains will be built into our shelter with various skillful manipulations of natural effects. At that point we will be discussing external heat sources. In the mean time heat loss can be reduced through insulation. The insulation will be devised to defeat the losses we know about and the body most likely will be able to survive on its own resources.

The resources
A few simple steps will serve to condense all of this material into survival success in cold conditions. A few preparations will give us the resources to take the steps.

1) Eat: Whenever you travel in the mountains, eat constantly. Not large heavy meals, just continuous munching on gorp ( A mix of candies, nuts, raisins, etc.) This will assure you of a full supply of energy should a problem arise. If food is available to you in a survival situation, eat before you go to sleep, you'll sleep warmer.

2) Sleep: If you have not entered hypothermia, feel cold, but have food and energy, sleep if you can. Should you drop into hypothermia in your sleep, you will wake with the first symptoms, the intense shivering. it'll feel like a giant fist shaking you awake. Most people will awaken if they feel too cold. Death during sleep in the cold is the result of falling to sleep after entering the later stages of hypothermia, or of having trees falling across the sleeping body. Sleep is necessary to rest the body and to help with the repairs that the mind and muscles need. Your decisions after rest are more likely to be accurate and you will have the strength to carry them out.

3)Drink: Much has been said about this. It is important for you to consume adequate amounts of water to maintain efficiency and strength. The water performs many jobs not the least of which if the removal of chemical poisons that accumulate in the system. If it can be arranged, drink warm liquids. Snow and ice can be consumed but this will add an additional burden to the heating problems faced by the body. Try to melt snow and ice in your trash bag. Avoid alcohol and avoid drugs.

4) Bivouac early: As soon as you recognize that you have become involved in a survival situation, start making camp. This may be one of the most important things you can do. In the light you can act efficiently to find a good secure shelter and prepare for the night. Do not attempt to push your stressed body across "one more mountain" in hope of finding help. Tomorrow, that can be done in the light. You will need a couple of hours of light to make a secure, warm and comfortable shelter. Do it.

5) Carry emergency gear: Much is yet to be said about this subject. When we discuss the survival kits you'll begin to realize how simple preparation can be. We already know that the addition of a large trash bag can spell the difference between life and death. Carry one. If you also have the means to make a fire and the knowledge to create a shelter you have a good chance. Your survival situation will have been a fine adventure with plenty of drama and a minimum in of disaster.

Summit up:
Now you know about the number one killer of the woodsy wanderer. "Hypothermia, the killer of the unprepared". It slides into our souls on icy feet, robs us of our minds, incapacitates our bodies and kills us while we sleep. We can stop it with foresight and even banish it with treatment correctly and quickly performed.

Exposure is a serious hazard in the wilderness but there are simple causes and simple cures. Shelter is the only true preventative and this implies preparation. Lets get prepared for cold weather with a little examination of the principles of cold weather shelter.

Next: Chapter 5 - Shelter... A cool hang out

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Old 02-11-2009, 12:23 PM   #4
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Karen Hood's Survival Journal
The Gaseous Winner: A log of gaseous happenings in the wilderness

Written by: Karen Hood

Summer '96. We finished running our private trips with students from across the land, filming the PBS Backcountry Show for Backpacker Magazine and, in a break from filming our own Woodsmaster video series, Ron and I decided to take some time out to visit the Sierra... survival style.

I'm Karen Hood, Ron's wife, co-owner of Hoods Woods, camera woman, co-producer of Hoods Woods Wilderness Video Productions, and instructor for Hoods Woods. Other than that, I'm embarrassed to say I don't have a job. My life has been wilderness survival for the last 7 years. I have loved every minute of it!

Throughout the years, our Hoods Woods philosophy has been that the most important survival tool anyone has is the "mental" survival kit. Imagination, ingenuity, and inventiveness are all achieved with the mind. The mind is the primary survival tool. I view our minimum equipment approach as a catalyst to invention. You can always make something out of what appears to be nothing at all. Given a chance everything you have can and will become something useful to your survival. That piece of junk in the path may look useless -- it isn't. As you begin to think in "survival mode," you'll notice you begin to use parts of your brain you never realized you had. You begin to view anything and everything as a possible tool for survival. It's not just survival we're achieving, it's skillful survival. And invention helps to make this possible.

We planned a week long trip. As always, I kept a rudimentary log of my experience and compiled it into this little essay so you could get a sense of what my journey was like. I hope you enjoy it! I sure did!

Our Adventure:
When we arrived at the roadhead, Ron and I prepared our survival kits which consisted of one metal match, one sheet of plastic, approx. 10 feet of snare wire, 6-7 feet of monofiliment fishing line, a Swiss Army knife with a saw blade, 40 feet of parachute cord, 4 large plastic garbage bags, one small cup for drinking water, iodine purification (blah!), a small shoulder bag to carry our kits in and the clothes that were on our back (one pair of pants, undershirt, long sleeve shirt, non-insulated parka jacket, hat, socks and boots.) We both left our watches behind and took no food.

Our journey would last a week. At the end of the week, we were to meet at my wilderness camp so we could walk through the mountains together to the truck.

Day one:
Ron and I departed from the car at first light, I went my way he went his. The day looked sunny and gorgeous! We took our dogs Kuma (Ron's dog) and Sushi (My dog), both are Japanese Akitas and some of the best friends Ron and I have. Both dogs carried their own packs which contained only dog food for the journey. Kuma joined Ron on his solo and Sushi joined me on mine.

Log Entry:
Well, I'm on my own now. The trail is rough in some areas. I use landmarks to help me navigate. Along the trail, I gather wild onions found in marshy ground next to a stream and some trash, a tangled piece of steel wire and an old coffee can.

We (Sushi and I) walked about 15 miles until we arrived at a canyon that looked like it had enough resources to get me through the next few days. It has water, shelter, rock overhangs, willow, wood for fire and plenty of pine trees. And of course I try to feel the "vibes" of this canyon. It feels very welcoming and peaceful. Some canyons don't feel this way. They feel hostile, like the spirits don't want you there. It's important to acknowledge the spirits before setting up camp. Weird things could and have happened when this is not done.

I take some time to rest and scope out the best place to set up camp. I think to myself "I wonder where the Indians would have set up camp?" I fill myself with iodine water as I think about my plan for the night. The smell of pine permeates the air. What a beautiful scent! I'm at about 9,000 feet elevation. Ron is about 7 miles away in his canyon. I wonder how he's doing.

I see a perfect rock formation for my firebed across the way from where I am resting. It is under a rock overhang and completely surrounded with rocks that will absorb the heat from my fire and radiate it back to me all night. And of course, there is a perfect space for Sushi to sleep right next to me. I could just envision a family of Indians sitting around chipping arrowheads and enjoying a nice fire right where I plan to set up my firebed. It makes the place seem familiar and comfortable.

I was right about the Indians when I arrived. I found chips of obsidian all around my camp. They were actually here at one time. I used my fist to determine how much sunlight I had left to set up shelter: about 3-4 hours (this technique is explained in Volume 2 of our Woodsmaster video series.) As I watched the air in the bottom of the canyon, I can tell it was going to be a cold night so I've decided to make a firebed to keep warm. I had better get busy!

I filled all four of my trash bags with dead pine needles, which will serve as padding for my bed, tinder for starting my fire and insulation for me throughout the night.

I used the old coffee can I found along the trail earlier in the day to dig a hole where my firebed pit will be. (As explained in Volume 2 of our Woodsmaster videos) I gathered what seemed like 100 lbs of small rocks to line the bottom of the pit. I guess I was just tired. It probably didn't weigh more than 20 lbs all together. Before starting the fire, I gathered enough wood to last for the night.

As the firebed pit fire started to die down to coals, I lost the sunlight and decided to set up a separate reflector fire across from where my pit was. I took some coals from the firepit and place them under some dead pine needle tinder to start the reflector fire so I can keep warm and have some light while I finished up the firebed and wrote in my journal. I covered the coals in the firepit with dirt, checked for stray coals. When I knew it was clear, I covered it with 1 foot of dead pine needles from one of the trash bags I had filled earlier for padding. I spread the needles out along the length of the pit and placed the plastic sheet from my kit over the pine needles as a barrier from steam that would be released from the warm ground throughout the night. The two trash bags filled with pine needles are my blankets for the night and the small shoulder bag I carried my kit in is my pillow.

It's really dark outside. There's no moon tonight. The stars are stunning. They seem to shake and shimmer as if reflecting the light from my fire. Somehow I find that comforting. The air is cold and there is a slight breeze as the wind completes it's usual nightly direction change. Thank God for the reflector fire that's keeping me warm until the firebed starts to radiate heat for me. I guess I'll just have to wait. I gaze into the mesmerizing fire as visions of past trips fill my head.

An observation:
Over the years I've heard students express their fears about the things that might happen to them when they're alone at night in the wilderness. It's especially difficult for some people who've never in their life slept outside alone. I've heard them say things like, "I swear I could hear people talking and whispering near my camp." "I looked out into the sky and thought I was going to see a UFO land right in my camp. I imagine little people with oval heads and giant eyes coming to use a cold metal anal probe on me." Ouch!! Even I have had an occasional vision, I imagined I could see something like Bigfoot's silhouette standing over by the river... staring at me, waiting for me to get up for a pee so he can walk up behind me as I'm in the oh-so-vulnerable squatting stance. Or worse yet, just stand there and laugh at me... I've imagined the Indian spirit who's sitting on the rock above my overhang that's waiting to scalp me as soon as I fall asleep because I'm sleeping in his canyon. I think Ron's stories put those pictures in my head.

I've heard it all. While these examples are a little extreme, when you really get down to it, the wilderness is a very safe and comfortable place if you know what you're doing. The wilderness is my home and just like my home it is safe and comfortable as long as I know what the hazards are and I watch out for them.

My firebed is radiating heat from the ground, just in time. Ahhh... warmth. I turned that old piece of wire I found along the trail into a handle for the coffee can so I can boil some onion water with the onions I'd collected. That is soooo tasty! Sushi ate her food while I feasted on onion water. I was so hungry from the walk and everything that even Sushi's food looked like a Prime Rib Dinner to me. Food wasn't a priority for me yet though, shelter was and did I have a shelter!! Time for sleep now. See you in the morning.

Day 2:
I woke up as the sun was just about to come over the mountain to greet me. I was warm all night. I woke up, I'd say around 4-4:30 a.m. and Sushi was growling at something. There was a very foul odor in the air and realized it was probably the onions I ate last night taking revenge on my intestines (and my nose.) Maybe that's what Sushi was growling at. I kept thinking, yeah Sushi, you growl at that odor and keep it away. Good girl!

When sunlight hit, I realized that the water I had set out the night before was frozen solid. When I got up out of bed, I could see my breath in the morning air. I'm thankful the firebed kept me so warm. It's amazing how the rocks and ground radiate enough heat to create such a warm microclimate all night.

The air is crisp. The sunlight on my face is warm. What a beautiful day!! I wish Ron was here to share it with me. I hope he's OK. I know he is, he's only been doing this for over 25 years now. He taught me everything I know. He's probably wondering how I'm doing.

First thing, I start a fire with my metal match, (taught in Volume 1 of the Woodsmaster) using dead pine needles from the filling of one of my trash bags as tinder, heat some water in my coffee can, drink up and wait for my morning urge to overwhelm me.

Well that urge hit me fast! I was off. As I was scouring the landscape for the perfect site to pinch some serious steam, I notice fresh mama bear tracks followed by baby bear tracks all around the canyon floor and down by the stream. (Uh Oh! That's what Sushi must have been growling at last night.) Finding the perfect Dump Palace isn't the easiest thing to do when you're in a small canyon. Everything is on a slope and if you want to have a view, you've got to walk all the way up on the ridge. By the time you get to the top you have to go so bad that the view doesn't even matter anymore.

Well I found the perfect place and while I enjoyed my morning deportation, I notice a huge, fat, healthy marmot sunning up on a rock right across from my camp. I watch him as he basks in the morning sunlight. As I look at this rodent, I can't help but visualize it as a 3 lb. slab of rat steak frying on a rock, sizzling in its own juices all the while releasing mouth-watering aromas. I can't believe I'm imagining eating this thing while I'm taking a dump. I have to get it!! I am sooooo hungry!! I can't believe how hungry I am... Today is a day for traps! But first... I must wipe, and oh those stones do hurt.

I decided to set up a snare wire trap, well actually a few snare traps. I made a noose out of snare wire from my kit and attached it to a strong stick about 2 inches in diameter and about 2 feet long. Before I placed the wire neck noose in front of the marmot's front door, I descented it by rubbing it with the inside of some moist, fresh willow bark. This usually removes all human odors from the wire and leaves a natural scent on it instead. The stick I have the wire attached to is long and strong enough to stick in the ground and strong enough to restrain the animal when it gets its head caught. The stick stops the animal from getting away while the noose is around its neck. This would be bad for the rodent and very bad for me. I made 4 others like this so I'd have a better chance of catching something.

Onto other traps: I made two deadfall traps and let them sit for a couple hours while I cut a piece of willow to make a fishing pole. I have the fishing line, but no hook. I cut a piece of the wire that I found along the trail, and shave it down to a point by rubbing it on a rock. I heated it over the fire and bent it into the shape of a hook with a place to attach my fishing line.

Ron and the other instructors gave me the nickname "Fisher-King." They all claim I could catch a fish just by wanting it. Well, I don't know about that, but it seems like I always end up with something. We had one student call me "Mountain Bitch" because he was jealous that I caught a fish and he didn't. When Ron found out about his nickname for me, he gave him some natural tea that made him shit fire for 2 days.

The fish up here are all Golden Trout. They are beautiful, but they don't get very big. I've never been in this particular canyon before so I'll have to do some looking for that legendary "special" pool containing a mutated variety of riding trout. Back to reality.

Throughout my fishing experience with this variety of trout, I've noticed they like to bite on small, feather-like objects. After searching around, I found some feathers in the center of the willow cluster where I had cut my fishing pole. I will use them as part of a lure. It's easy to find feathers in the center of willow clusters like this because it's where birds like to hang out.

Well, I only have about 4 hours of sunlight left. As I plunk my line in the water hoping to God that I catch a fish, I start to meditate. As my mind clears, I can feel the sun warming my back, the warm wind caressing my face, the sounds of the stream talking to me, birds chirping and playing, the sound of the wind swishing through the pine trees, the smell of fresh pine needles... aaahhh... and just as I'm deep into relaxation and utter peace, I feel a warm wet tongue on my face. Eeeew! It's Sushi, and she smells like shit! Gross! I open my eyes and it's Sushi wagging her tail, licking her chops in utter enjoyment and wanting so desperately to lick me and love me but she's got shit all over her nose and in her teeth. I can't believe it, she's the one who got a dinner last night and she's got to go out and dine on fecal matter? God Sushi, have some respect for yourself!

Just then, I feel a tug on my line, Oh my God it's Moby Trout! I yank this beautiful whale out of the water as a cluster of rapidly firing synapses in my brain conjure up visions of eating a whole, 6 lb. fish roasted to perfection on a grill with garlic and onions and spices. Oh yes. I caught one! Thank you God!! Thank you for this 5 inch whale of a fish! I will cherish it forever... (well, at least for tonight.) No time to waste, it's time to prepare the feast. I've already ejected more material than this trout weighs so I literally can not wait to catch another one, so I have to prepare this prize. My responsibilities as a trapper overcome my synaptic urge to eat so I must check my traps to see if I caught any animals.

On my way over to check on marmot necklaces and deadfall traps, I see a huge lizard lounging vertically on a rock staring at me out of the corner of his eye. He wasn't moving. I think he thought I didn't see him. Right now anything is potential food for me. Holding my fishing pole in one hand and my fish in the other, I dropped my precious fishing pole and whacked him in the head with my hand. With one wicked slap, I got him! It's a tyrannosaurus! He was almost 2 feet long. Now I'm really excited. Fish and lizard for dinner tonight! Wow!!

On to check the traps. My snares were all empty and I'm almost relieved, but could tell that a couple had been tugged at. I leave them in place. Nearing my deadfall traps I immediately see that one has been tripped. Great!

I wonder what I caught! I lift up the rock to retrieve my prize and it's a... field mouse? Boy am I the big trapper. Suddenly a verse comes to mind: "I'm the big trapper who thought on the crapper, I'm going to catch me a Rat..." A sudden howl from my stomach and the verse disappears from my head. As we say, "If you kill it, you've got to eat it." Who cares, it's food isn't it? I'm so anxious to get back to camp to cook these tasty treats!

I gather some Yarrow for tea on my way back to complete my feast, start a fire and clean my fish and lizard. I skin and gut the field mouse. (Have you ever tried to cook a golf-ball sized animal before? It's not a pretty sight. The field mouse is golf-ball size before it's cooked. When it's cooked it's about the size of a quarter. Mmmm... Yum. What a mouthful.) Sushi's following me around the whole time. I feed her with her own food and skewer both the fish and the lizard and cook them over an open flame. Yum!!! Lizards tend to carry salmonella so they have to be cooked very well. The tail is the tastiest part. (Why is it that the tastiest part is closest to the butt?)

When I first caught the fish it looked and felt like Moby Trout. Now it looks like a mini the minnow. I think it was all just a food-deprived hallucination. I follow it with some Yarrow tea and a few Indian Yampa Roots I dug up by the stream earlier in the day. Wow, I feel good. Time to dig up my firebed and heat the ground again so I can have another good night's sleep.

Sweet Dreams!!

Days Later:
I had the strangest dreams last night. I had this dream that Sushi kept taking a dump right next to where I was sleeping. Then I dreamed that she was licking my face with big nasty worms squirming out from in between her teeth. Then a dream that she stole my rats and fish and lizards and ate them right in front of me. Does it ever stop?

Other than the dreams, I've slept good each night. I keep thinking about Ron and how much I missed him. I am really looking forward to seeing him today. I hope we'll have a little "rendezvous" before we walk up the mountain together.

I clean up my camp and make it look like no one has been here. I empty the pine needles from my trash bags back to where I found them, destroy my reflector fire site completely after making sure it was dead out. I retrieve the traps I'd set.

Now that I've got everything gathered and ready to go. I think I'll lay down on the rock above the stream and meditate while I wait for Ron. (I made sure Sushi wasn't around this time before I dropped off into utter relaxation.) It was about 1:00 and about 75 degrees outside. I laid there and soaked up the sun. What a feeling. I am at total peace. This experience has done a lot for me. I feel so content. I love the mountains.

Even though I really want to see Ron, I am kind of sad that this is all over. I feel I could stay out here for another week. As the days wear on, I seem to get used to the hunger and my senses seem to heighten. I feel more energy than I did on my first day out here and feel more creative and inventive than I have ever felt. I don't have all the luxuries I have at home or like I do when I backpack. I have to work for those luxuries now. I have to be self sufficient and use my brain if I want to survive. It's more satisfying this way. I feel really good.

What's that I hear? Growling -- Uh oh! God I hope it's not that mama bear going after Sushi!!! I pop up from my deep relaxation and hear growling, but it doesn't sound like Sushi. It sounds more intense. I run up the canyon as fast as I can where I think Sushi is and see Sushi and Kuma playing and wrestling with each other. I gasped for air as I try to convince myself that I'm not having a heart attack. They were chasing each other and rolling on the ground and play-fighting, giving each other big loves and licks. Oh yes, Ron must be just on the other side of the ridge! Yay!

Here he comes. He smiles at me and I'm so excited. Our family is back together again!! We hug and kiss and sit and share our stories with each other. He had a present for me. "Here it is, Karen... a gift for you from me and the spirits around here."

Ron went on to tell me that he had a very powerful dream. "I had a dream last night that lured me into the canyon next to where Kuma and I were staying. I was told to go there, that there would be something there for me. When I got up this morning, I thought about the dream and went walking, trying to find the place in my dream. Over the ridge … there it was. The sandy field I remembered from the dream. I followed the path not knowing what I was looking for and there … on the ground, unspoiled, in perfect condition, a beautiful spear point arrowhead. It was laying right on top of the sand as if it was placed there specially for me. I picked it up and thanked the spirits. It was truly a gift and now I'm giving that gift to you. It is our special spearpoint. A gift from the spirits we should never forget. A gift that is intended for us."

I was in awe. What a wonderful thing. What a special gift. It brought tears to my eyes. I thanked him and the spirits and told him that I wasn't even going to get into what dreams I had last night. (While the spirits were giving him a gift last night, they were playing games with my olfactory system.)

We rested for a while and enjoyed the surroundings one last time before heading up the mountain to our car.

We filled our stomachs with water and headed up the hill.

"Come on, Sushi and Kuma, we're going home." We won't be coming back to the mountains until next year when the snow has melted.

The mountains are my special place on earth. They truly cleanse my soul!

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Old 02-11-2009, 12:29 PM   #5
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Introducing Your Lady to the Woods
By Karen Hood
Photos by Ron Hood

Karen is being featured in her first volume of the new series Woodsmaster Home - Cave Cooking now available)

It's the first day of one of our private summer wilderness trips. We're taking a group of seven up for a High Sierra adventure they'll never forget. A 9-day survival excursion filled with hiking, trapping, skinning, bug eating and much more. I see some of the men looking at me out of the corner of their eyes. I know what they're thinking. "She can't be an instructor... she's married to Ron. I'll bet Ron takes care of her on these trips. Jeez, now I'm not going to be able to belch out loud. I didn't think women were into this - "survival," I mean. I'll bet she's not strong enough to do this anyway."

We head up the mountain. I tell one of the men his pack doesn't look like it's adjusted correctly. And he replies, "I've done this before. My pack fits fine." Sure enough, half way up the mountain, he's already developing compression blisters on his shoulders. During a break, as he sits down, he gives me a sheepish look. I smile gently and say, "Would you like me to check your pack?" He says, "Uh, Would you mind?" One of the lady campers looks at me with a knowing smile. I have the funny feeling he'll listen to me next time I have a suggestion.

It doesn't take the group long to learn that Ron and I share camp responsibilities equally. We work as a team to get things done quickly. It just depends on who has the time to do whatever needs to be done. At the first night's fire, folks are settling in to enjoy the warmth. I could tell that the group is still a little bit formal. Since I feel the urge, I rip out a huge belch... silence. I can almost hear their thoughts. "Did she just belch? I wish I could belch like that." It takes the group a few minutes to process what just happened. Ron fires off a couple of his own and slowly one by one the group members join the chorus. High elevation has this effect on people sometimes.

Let's talk about the word "Survival." The word carries sort of a Rambo-ish connotation. Sometimes I wonder if it is this connotation that has anything to do with female attitudes towards wilderness skills learning. We've found that only about 25% of our customers are female. When I talk to some women, they say it's the word "survival" that initially frightened them. Not many women would respond very positively to, "Kathy, on our vacation let's go Survive in the woods together for a week." This brings up a vision of her man dressed in a full-on commando outfit with green and black paint smeared all over his face, a huge sawback fixed-blade knife in one hand and legs poised for action. She thinks about the vision for a moment and says quietly, "No I don't think so. Can't we go to the Marriott?"

It is this vision which explains why I prefer to use the phrase Wilderness Skills Training rather than Survival Training. It sounds safer. Somehow commandos don't invade my vision when I think of "Wilderness Skills training."

What we need to focus on is the concept that we're here today because both genders have been able to survive equally and together. Survival training is not a "man" thing. Many women enjoy it too. I'd like to see more women enjoying it. I know from experience there's a lot of men who feel the same way I do or I wouldn't be writing this article. We've learned that survival has very little to do with gender or strength. It has everything to do with knowledge, experience, confidence and practice, practice, practice. Mastering survival techniques and learning new concepts can be an enjoyable life-long pursuit. You can never know too much, but you can know too little.

There's one thing that I've noticed in almost every group we've led into the mountains - at least one student who says that he'd love to share this experience with his special lady. He'll tell me quietly that he was so disappointed when his lady said she'd rather not come along. I always tell them to be patient, supportive, and get her up here so we can feed her a can of beans and teach her our worldly ways. This usually puts a smile on his face as he envisions his dainty little lady trying to hold in what must feel like the explosive compression from a diesel engine.

At this point I'd like to offer some concrete steps to get her involved. This has all been scientifically studied... Uh ha... even our own instructor's wives have been our guinea pigs. We know it works. For ease of application, I've broken these tips into categories. And ladies, feel free to let your man read this if you think he needs some help.


If she's never been out in the wilderness before, this should help get her there:

Before the first outing: Don't intimidate her with stories of your prowess... ever. Don't tell her about how you went off hunting for 6 hours to fetch dinner. What she'll think about is being left alone for that amount of time. DO talk about how beautiful the mountains are going to be and how fresh the air is going to smell. Take time to let her know what you two will be doing together on the trip. Let her know what she can expect with regards to activities you'll be doing so she can get excited about the day you'll be spending together. Give her a mini survival kit to carry with her. Our Woodsmaster Volume 3 - Survival Kits shows a great, small kit that would be perfect for this. Have her watch the tape and make the kit. Tell her that one of the many things you'll be doing when you go on your outing is to practice with the items in the survival kit. This will make her excited that she'll be learning something new and give her a good idea of what activities you'll be participating in. Let her know the proper clothes to wear what shoes to wear, etc. The more open with her you are about what to expect the better.

If it's her very first time out in the wilderness, keep the first outing to only a day hike on trails with not too much uphill and good weather conditions. You don't want to take her on a hike up "Incubus Mountain" and expect her to enjoy herself and want to come back for more. The next time you go out, she might even be up for an overnighter. If not, do another day hike.
When hiking, rest frequently. Don't "compete" with her to show her you're in better shape and more capable. Don't tell her to stop whining because she's tired or her feet hurt. Do let her know she's doing a great job and that she can stop to rest whenever she feels like it and vice-versa. If you come to a resting spot, take advantage of it by showing her some places that would be good shelter sites and why. Also show her not-so-good places to set up shelter and why. If you need help with this, we have Woodsmaster Volume 2 - Survival Shelters to help teach you how to distinguish between a bad and good shelter site.
Be sure you both have on appropriate clothes and a hat, comfortable shoes and carry plenty of water. You don't want her first hike to become a blistering, puss infected, dehydrated stupor that stays with her for days after you've finished the hike. If this happens, she'll never go out again. "Gee I wonder why she didn't have a great time.? Maybe it's that pustule on her foot." (Woodsmaster Volume 4 - Navigation and Wilderness Travel)
When you're out together, emphasize the beauty of nature, not just the hazards. Let her know that Yucca plant over there is a wonderful resource as soap or to make cordage. Don't warn her that there's going to be rattlesnakes or poisonous leaves everywhere she steps. She might think that everything might be poisonous and be scared to touch any plant she sees. It would help if you knew which plants were poisonous and where poisonous snakes are likely to hang out.


Overnight Hike:
Great, she's agreed to stay overnight. These tips should help you.

On your first overnight hike together, show her she's an important part of the trip by having her carry her own gear. Don't travel too far. 2-3 miles away from the car is plenty. She can enjoy the outdoors but still feel that if something were to go wrong, she could still get to safety. To add even more fun to the trip, do this in the company of another couple that you're both friends with.
Leave the cars early enough in the day so that you will still have sunlight and warmth to set up the camp properly and not feel rushed. Leaving early enough will also assure you that you won't have a rushed hike in. Take your time and enjoy the trek.
Teach her camp skills so you can share duties. Don't make her dependent on you for everything. If you do everything around camp yourself, it will make her feel ignorant and vulnerable. And I don't mean giving her the duty of just washing the pans. Give her important things to do. For example, show her the proper way to start the camp fire with a sparking tool (Woodsmaster Volume 1 - Spark-Based Firemaking) When she succeeds, she'll really feel good about herself and might even want to make that duty her very own special contribution to your outings. This will really make her feel like she's an important part of the whole camping experience... as she is.


Multi-night Outing:
Now that she's agreed to go out for a few nights you've probably done a good job so far. Keep it up.

She's getting tougher now. She knows that she's not going to be a stone's throw from the car. Safety is a little farther away and there's more perceived risk. Now you can let her help you plan the trip. And if she says she's nervous, keep up the praise and remind her how well she did before.
You might discuss taking a few minutes to be alone (away from each other) while you're in the mountains. This could give you an opportunity to enjoy the serenity of the wilderness with out idle chatter. Remind her that you won't be far away and that you'll be close enough that if she blows her whistle once, you'll hear her. It's good to set up a signal, such as a whistle pattern so that you'll be able to locate each other.
When the trip is over, make sure you talk about your experiences together. Find out what sort of things she liked or disliked about the whole thing. You can talk to her about what you liked and disliked as well. If she says that she likes a certain activity, say fishing, you will know that the next time you go out together, fishing will be on top of the list of things for her to do. The same goes for you. If there is something that you didn't particularly like to do, next time you can plan to not include it in your activities.
After the trip when you're cleaned, refreshed and well-rested, talk about how great the trip was and how you wish you were up there now. She'll probably agree with you, particularly if it was a nice trip.
Survival Style:
If you've made it this far, you'll have your hands full. You'd better get out your good hiking shoes 'cause you're going to need them. You've now got a new trail buddy. And if you need that survival training, practice the skills in the Woodsmaster video series.

We've heard from many customers, including couples and families with children, that they feel much more secure on their outings after viewing the Woodsmaster videos together. Because they're entertaining, it's easier to remember the techniques taught.

If you do want to get started at home, these videos are informative, humorous, and most of all affordable. Visit us at www.survival.com. To order, call Toll Free (888) 257-BUGS. Mention this article and ask about our monthly specials.

If you already have our Woodsmaster Videos which feature Ron Hood, consider purchasing Karen's first volume of Woodsmaster Home - Cave cooking. Karen shows you how to harvest naturally occurring yeast for bread making, how to cook muffins in the incredible Wilderness stone oven. Learn to collect and prepare grubs and wild berries for food, make delicious marmot stew, how to clean and cook fish as well as a bunch of other Woodsmaster tips and techniques.

Happy Trails!

How to Build a Survival Firebed
By Ron Hood

I Burned my Buns!

I burned my Buns!"

"Huh?" I mumbled intelligently as I tried to clear my sleep clouded mind.

"Yeah..." he said, "look here. I've got plastic melted on my pants and I burned my butt."

"You didn't use enough dirt," I said, as I noticed that it was darned cold out there. "Out there" was the air two feet from the rock overhang I was calling home.

I looked at my survival student with the most severe look I could muster under the conditions (wrapped in canvas and covered with a foot thick layer of pine needles) and asked him if he had followed the Tooferate rule. "Uhhh, I forgot it," he said. I groaned and said, "Learn it". He left, but I knew that he would learn the rule from a well rested student before the next night began. The rule is important when you want to use a fire bed.

What's the Tooferate rule? What's a firebed? Well...

The fire bed is a basic survival technique used by many cultures during periods of cold weather when adequate insulation isn't readily available. It remains one of the best ways to stay warm in the coldest weather. It is essentially nothing more than an area of ground that has been heated by a fire and then used as a bed. How you heat that area is the topic of this little bundle of words.

Building the Firebed
Probably the easiest way to make a fire bed is to build a long fire on a flat piece of ground, burn it as a cooking/ heating fire for a couple of hours and then just kick the coals into a nearby hole . While the coals are getting used to their new home, you take dirt from the surrounding area and cover the old fire site with about four inches of dirt. When the area is covered (and hopefully flat), you lay down a piece of canvas or a mat and plop down for a snooze on the soon-to-be-warm dirt pile.

While this method is expedient it has a certain lack of class. It is also difficult to control the intensity and duration of the heat being released into the pile of dirt you call a bed. Since you are laying on a pile of dirt, gravity and your inevitable night movements will tend to metamorphose your butt into a digging engine which will soon find itself adjacent to some very warm ground. Time to get up!

I prefer the following technique and have used it hundreds of times during field trips with my survival students.

Find a suitable site, one free of overhanging fuel, nearby flammable clutter, wet ground and major root systems. Dig a hole. Build a fire in the hole. Burn the fire for a certain amount of time. Cover the fire pit with the right amount of dirt. Cover the dirt with debris like pine needles, leaves etc. Cover the debris with canvas, plastic (tarp, trashbags etc.), leather or just your tired body and snooze. Turn over whenever the top gets too cold or the bottom gets too warm. Now the details.

The Tooferate rule
Actually the Tooferate rule is just numbers, Two - Four - Eight. They stand for the following essential bits of information.

The fire burns for TWO hours.

You put FOUR inches of dirt on top of the fire at the end of the burn period.

The original hole was EIGHT inches deep.

That's it folks.

"Whoa there Fella! How LONG is that hole? How WIDE is that hole?"

It doesn't really matter. You can treat the hole digging like wood chopping, it warms you when you dig it, it warms you when you burn in it and it warms you when you sleep on it. I don't like to get too warm digging, or gathering wood, it's a waste of precious physical energy. The bigger the hole, the more wood and energy you need to use. My beds tend to come out at about one foot wide, six feet long and eight inches deep. The fire will heat the earth out from the edge of the pit to a distance of about 18 inches from either side. That should accommodate even the most profound body or restless sleeper.

Once the hole is dug, line the inside with fist sized rocks. These stones aren't there so much for holding heat as they are for allowing air to get to the fire for a hotter burn. Don't tile the bottom. Place them about one inch apart. The tops of all of the rocks should be at about the same height inside the hole. CAUTION, DO NOT USE STREAM STONES! Avoid any rock that may explode when heated. Stones taken from a stream bed may be soaked with water. When the water heats up and becomes steam you could be laying on blasting stones. These can cause injury or scatter your fire to nearby flammable material. Rocks taken from the surface of the ground are probably OK even if the outside is wet.

Once the hole has been lined with stones, start your fire. Burn the fire hot and spread the coals out evenly across the bottom of the pit. It is important that the coals be spread as the fire burns or you will have HOT spots! The fire should burn long not high. You aren't trying to signal Mars so the flames should only be a foot or so high. Burn with flames for about an hour an a half then let the fire die down. Keep smashing the coals with a walking stick or fire prod to make certain that the pit is covered evenly. If the fire burns for more than two hours, no problem. There's no advantage but no problem either. After two hours or so has passed, cover the coals with dirt. You DO NOT need to remove the coals. Once the pit is covered there is almost no visible sign that you had a firebed.

If it's nighttime, I often build a small fire pit off to one side, a safe distance away, and start a fire to illuminate the area for the completion of the construction process.

Once the dirt is in place, stamp the ground down. This compresses the earth and helps you to find spots where there isn't enough dirt covering the coals. A little hint. To dimension your firebed, measure your hand span, tip of thumb to tip of little finger that is about the depth of the hole you dig. To check the depth of the dirt, measure the length of your index finger. I push my index finger into the dirt over the coals. If I start to get burned, the dirt is too thin and I add more dirt. After compressing the dirt and checking the depth, check the area for loose coals that may ignite the material you will be using as a cushion.

Now you wait. If heat comes out of the ground after 30 minutes... you need more dirt. If the heat starts out after about 1 hour... You'll be just about right. After the bed is ready, you can cover it with your cushion material. I prefer dead pine needles because they smell great as they soak up the moisture being kicked loose from the soil. Sometimes, if I've been out for a few weeks, I add sage leaves to the padding. This helps to cover the sublime odor my body exudes after long term survival living. Remember too, the ground may give up a lot of moisture. If the ground is wet you should cover the bed with a water proof material or let the moisture bake out. If you don't you may have a bad case of "Dish Pan Body".

The bed will release it's heat slowly over many hours. If you plan to camp in the same spot the next night you can just dig up the pit, refire the coals for an hour or so, cover up and snooze again. Without refiring, the bed MAY last two nights but don't count on a comfortable second night.

Just a thought. Sometimes I'll wrap meat (marmot, quail etc.) in leaves and canvas and bury it in the dirt at the foot of the bed. When I get up I have a hot cooked meal ready to go. If you try this trick remember to put the food at the FOOT of your bed, The odor may attract some toothy critter and it's much better to have it rooting around your feet than your head!

Fine Tuning the Bed
When you build your fire bed, try to build it in an area away from rocks that you may scar with the flames and smoke. Naturally you want to do as little damage as possible with your experimentation. If you need to build the bed for a real survival situation, things change.

In a survival situation, build the bed under an overhanging rock, the rock above your head will absorb heat as well as the ground below. This will result in your sleeping between two heat sources. It's a little like a low grade oven. I've used firebeds in minus 10F degree temperatures with only a piece of canvas as a cover. The sleeping area hovers around 75 feet!

A few pointers with regard to the firebed and overhead rocks. Check the overhead rock to be certain that it is not just a projection of stone, like a finger, that might break off onto you. The heat from the firebed can cause the rock to fracture and fall, a crushing end for an otherwise good survival story! Likewise, don't set your firebed under sedimentary rock like Sandstone with inclusions, like rocks. These may pop free and whack your skull! Large leaning boulders, overhangs and boulder piles usually offer the best choices.

Once the bed is constructed and the dirt compressed, you can add a barrier to the edges of the bed to keep your insulation from wandering away from you. I like to roll a log up to each side of the bed. Large stones will work as well. The barriers should make the sleeping area look a little like a stone or log "coffin". Fill the "coffin" with pine needles or leaves to make your bed. Wriggle down into the insulation and cover up with a piece of canvas or plastic... Snooze time!

If you are in a hurry or don't have any insulation available, winter desert survival comes to mind, just use your canvas or plastic and sleep on the ground. Before you do... lay on the bed the way you plan to sleep. Mark where the small of your back encounters the ground. Spread your hand wide and draw two parallel lines with your thumb and little finger, across the width of the bed where the small of your back will be. The lines will be roughly the same width as the small of your back. Dig small depressions (about ½ inch deep) above and below these lines for your butt and back. When you lay down those cups will hold you centered on the bed and the raised area in the center will offer support for the small of your back. They make sleeping on the ground tolerable if not comfortable.

The "Butt" Hole
Another technique for using warmed earth is sometimes called the butt hole because it requires that you dig a hole about the size of your butt. Construction of the butt hole follows this order.

Find a sheltered spot close to a tree or a large rock. The center of a "V" where large rocks come together is ideal. Trees are less ideal because they generally offer less protection from wind and may suffer damage as the result of your endeavor to stay warm.
Sit with your back against the rock , knees up almost to your chest. Mark the ground directly below your knees and between your legs.
Dig a hole the diameter of your butt and follow the Tooferate rule. At this point the hole is basically just a campfire. After the fire has burned down and been covered with earth, put down a layer of pine needles, some bark or small branches as a cushion/insulator seat. You can also use your pack, rope, or other gear for this purpose.
Sit against the rock, knees up, on the cushion. Drape your back, body and feet with a poncho, a hide, some canvas or a blanket to make a small tent that will channel the heat from the heated earth between your legs into your little shelter.
While this technique is not as comfortable as the firebed, it will keep you warm in low temperatures and can be used in hunting stands.

Good luck!


If you want to learn more about firebeds and a lot more about shelter construction, site selection and survival priorities in general, get a copy of the Hoods Woods Woodsmaster Volume 2 - Principles of Outdoor Survival Shelters video. The video instructions cover the firebed and lots of other interesting and useful skills including time telling with your fist, distance estimation with your thumb, height with a stick, trash for survival and other interesting skills. This high quality 80 minute DVD only costs $19.95 (see our videos selection)!
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Old 02-11-2009, 12:34 PM   #6
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Fish-poison....... use in the Americas


Pre-contact America was a vast land. Variations in climate, geography, and landscape produced a diverse collection of cultures. Many conceptions and misconceptions exist about native life at this time, and numerous aspects of this culture may forever remain mysteries. Since written records are rare, anthropologists’ studies are restricted mainly to oral histories and archeological evidence to piece together an understanding of the culture of America’s first peoples. We do know that early Americans had a rich abundance of natural resources at their disposal, and their health and welfare was heavily dependent on their ability to use those resources. Food, shelter, clothing, and tools were all commonly manufactured from simple raw materials, and constitute the main artifacts recovered by archeologists. From these artifacts, it is evident that extensive trade existed across the continent, although most groups were intimately dependent on their local resources. Consequently, many native groups were relatively transient, following large mammal herds and cycling through seasonal hunting and gathering regions as their local supplies diminished. Contrary to a long-held theory, new evidence suggests that American natives adopted a sedentary lifestyle before agriculture was developed (Schaffer, 1992). Small, fortified cities still depended on traditional methods of food acquisition, and even when corn and other plants became domesticated, hunting and gathering still constitued the main supply of food. In this environment, the ability to hunt and gather sufficient quantities of food, especially energy-rich animal proteins, was of paramount importance (Turner). Many efficient methods of food gathering were developed: these people were accomplished trappers, hunters, fishers, and harvesters. Tools required for acquiring food were manufactured from the raw materials at hand. Early explorers wrote admiringly of native cordage, which was superior to their own: fishing nets made from indigenous plant fibers were strong enough to capture, hold, and haul-in large sturgeon (Spencer & Jennings, 1965).

Making nets from natural cordage is a single example of how these people created sophisticated tools from the available raw materials, but it is an important one. Nets were an ideal way to capture fish which were a common source of food and an important source of animal protein, especially in regions where the Blue Camas Lily (Camassia quamash, an important source of vegetable protein) was not common (Turner). Netting was one of the main tools used for collecting fish, and took many forms: seines, gill nets, basket nets, and other designs were used variously by many different native cultures. Weir traps, basket traps, and scooping baskets were an alternative (Figure 1), albeit sometimes requiring a greater energy input since traps and baskets were normally only effective for fish drives (chasing fish towards the traps where they could be caught).

Figure 1. Drawing of First Nations fence weir with tripods, coastal British Columbia.

© Hillary Stewart, Indian Fishing: Early Methods on the Northwest Coast, p.104

However, both methods were preferred over those practiced on an individual scale, which included fishing with hook and line (angling), spearing, and shooting with bow and arrow (Spencer and Jennings et al, 1965). Nets and traps could collect large quantities of fish but required moderate preparation, maintenance, and repair. Spearing, angling, and arrowing were less efficient, but these methods required less preparation, and indeed could be performed opportunistically.

One specialized form of fishing which had advantages over many other forms (under proper conditions) was the use of poisons, a practice still in use today. In northwest Guyana for example, up to 16% of the village fishers still prefer to fish with poisons despite the superiority of modern netting materials (Van Andel, 2000).

Use of poisons

The use of poisons for hunting, fishing, and warfare widespread across America, and the best known example may be the use of Curare poison (Chondodendrum tomentosum) in blowguns (Jett, 1991). Fish-poisons (also known as piscicides or ichthyotoxins) were very commonly use throughout American history (Van Andel, 2000; Béarez, 1997) and are particularly interesting because they are used for an area effect rather than against an individual target. A multitude of plant species are known to possess chemicals toxic to fish, and evidence suggests that certain plant species have different effects depending on which variety of fish are targeted (Van Andel, 2000). A general rule is that fish-poisons are only effective on relatively small fish. Two main molecular groups of fish poisons in plants, the rotenones and the saponins, as well as a third group of plants which liberate cyanide in the water, account for nearly all varieties of fish poisons (Béarez, 1997) although plants with sufficient levels of ichthyocthereol, triterpene and other ichthyotoxins are also used. The rotenones and saponins are used in small enough doses that they are harmful to fish, but not to humans who eat them. Fish killed with triterpenes need to be cleaned and gutted immediately to avoid human consumption of this toxin (Van Andel 2000).

While all three categories of fish-poisons are found in a diversity of plants, and although their effect on different species varies, they are each used in a similar manner. The active ingredient is released by mashing the appropriate plant parts, which are then introduced to the water environment (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Fishers in Guyana pound the roots of Lonchocarpus, releasing the ichthyotoxins into a stream.

(Van Andel, 2000)

Poisoning was generally done in stagnant pools or slow-flowing streams and rivers, but has also been used by Californian Indians in saltwater environments for octopus and low-tide shellfish fishing (Heizer, 1953), as well as for catching fish trapped in inter-tidal pools (Béarez, 1998). Poisoning was such an effective method of harvesting fish that it was not uncommon for groups in some areas to purposefully dam small streams and ponds for this express purpose. Reducing water flow ensured that small quantities of the poison worked at maximum efficiency by minimizing dilution. In cases where the poison was not entirely effective, such as a restricted supply of poison or where stream flow diluted the strength of the poison, fishermen with scooping baskets, spears, or bow and arrows aided in capturing fish that were not fully drugged.

A different method used by the Carib Indians who live along the Barama River in Guyana involves the preparation of kunami balls. Pounded Clibadium leaves are mixed with fresh Cassava (Manihot esculenta) roots, rolled and baked; ashes of burnt Cecropia leaves are added to the resulting paste and pounded further; the mass is kneaded into small balls, rolled in flour, and thrown in the river where fish swallow the balls whole. The effect of this method is similar to other fishing poisons in that the fish become stupefied and float to the surface.


The most common use of fishing poisons documented are plants containing saponin, a glucoside poison. This chemical is usually active in the stem or wood and is diversely distributed among several plant families (Amaryllidaceae, Convolvulaceae, Dioscoreaceae, Lamiaceae, Lecythidaceae, Liliaceae, Papilionaceae, Sapindaceae, Scrophulariaceae, Solanaceae, Verbenaceae, and others).Plants containing saponin are also commonly used as soap substitutes because they can often be worked into a lather. Likely, saponin plants were primarily used for washing or cleaning and secondarily used as a poison after their effect on fish in washing-streams was discovered. Saponin normally breaks down in the digestive system and must enter the bloodstream to be toxic (Elpel, 2000), but fish assimilate saponin directly into their bloodstream via their gills. Fish poisoned by saponin become stupefied and float to the surface where they can easily be collected.

Cultural traditions and archaeological research suggest that a large number of indigenous tribes across the Americas used saponin poisons from many different plants to harvest fish. The Catawba, Cherokee, and Delaware made a fishing poison from the ground bark of Black Walnut trees, Juglans nigra. The Yuchi and Creek used the roots of the Devil’s Shoestring, Symphoricarpos orbiculatus, and the fruit, twigs and buds of the Horse Chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum L., to make two similar fish poisons. The Rappahannock made a fishing poison by mixing cornmeal with fish brine and allowing it to stand overnight before use. Cherokee tribes used the berries of Polk Sallet, Phytolacca Americana, to produce saponins for fishing. The Costanoan Indians of the California area used the pounded leaves of Turkey-Mullein, Eremocarpus setigerus, and the fruits of California Buckeye, Aesculus californica (Bocek, 1984), as well as the entire crushed Soap Plant, Chlorogalum pomeridianum; Indian Hemp, Apocynum cannabinum; Pokeweed, Phytolacca americana; and Indian Turnip, Arisaema triphyllum (Goodchild, 1999). The pulp of Lechuguilla leaves (Agave lechuguilla) are used by Mexican Indians (Alloway, 2000). Further south, in Venezuala, indigenous cultures used the fruiting branches of Soapberry, Sapindus drummondii, and the fruits of Mexican Buckeye, Ungnadia speciosa in the manufacture of their fish-stunning poisons. Not far from there, the Engoroy of Ecuador used and continue to use theThophrastaceae endemic, Jacquinia sprucei, a shrub whose globulous fruits contain high levels of saponin.

In addition to the above, Angier (1972), lists the seeds of Southern Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) and the crushed leaves and stems of Fish Weed (Croton setigerus)as fish-stupefying poisons.


The second group of fish poisons, the rotenones (a flavonoid), are found almost exclusively among legumes (Papilionaceae, Mimosaceae, Cesalpiniaceae), and more specifically in the family Fabaceae. Rotenone was first isolated in 1929 in the roots of its Peruvian namesake, the plant Rotenone (Lonchocarpus sp., locally known as barbasco or cube). Two species of this genus, L. utilis and L. urucu, quickly became an export product as an insecticide due to their relatively high (5-12%) rotenone content. Two related species from Guyana, L. martynii and L. chrysophyllus contain only 2.4% rotenone and are not considered commercially competitive (Van Andel, 2000). Another rotenone (L. nicou) is employed against piranha, and will kill them and their eggs in only 15 minutes at a concentration of 3ppm (3mg/kg) (Duke, internet).

When rotenone is introduced to the water by crushing or mashing the appropriate plant parts (usually the roots) fish respiration is damaged and they are forced to gulp air at the water surface where they are vulnerable.

The liana, Derris eliptica, has been used so successfully as a piscicide in India that it has been widely introduced to other parts of the world where it has become an invasive species (Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk, 2000). In the western world Devil’s Shoestring, Tephrosia virginia, is a legume that was used by the Catawba people to treat rheumatism (Speck, 1937). It has been speculated that this perennial herb may also contain sufficient quantities of rotenone to function as an effective fish poison, but it has not knowingly been tried.

Triterpenes and other poisons

Northern Guyanan natives effectively use two plants containing triterpene, Euphorbia cotinifolia L. and Phyllanthus brasiliensis (Aubl.) Poir., to poison fish. A large basketful of the leaves and stem of these plants will poison small fish in a stream (Van Andel, 2000). E. cotinifolia may be the most toxic of all fish-poisons; this plant’s latex causes blistering if it contacts human skin, and blindness if it comes in contact with the eyes. Fish killed using triterpene must be immediately gutted and cleaned to prevent human consumption of this toxin.

There are many additional plant species with ichthyotoxic properties that are less frequently used, and subsequently less studied in the literature. Some other fish-poison plants in Guyana that have been mentioned (Fanshawe 1948, 1953; Killip and Smith 1935) include Mora excelsa Benth., Bauhinia spp.,Alexa imperatricis (R. Shomb.) Baill., Clathrotropis brachypetala,Gustavia augusta, Macrolobium acaciifolium, Paullinia pinnata,Pentaclethra macroloba, and Ryania pyrifera.

A horde of other plants reputedly work as fish poisons, but reference to their use is difficult to uncover in the scientific literature. Popular literature, anecdotal evidence, and information gleaned from modern survivalists and seekers of historical plant knowledge contain vast amounts of information. Some fish-poison uses that were found in the public literature but did not show up in a scientific literature search include ground Black Walnut hulls (J. nigra), pulped flesh of Wild Cucumber fruits (Marah spp., Family Cucurbitaceae), and the whole Wooly Blue Curl plant (Trichostema lanatum). The leaves and berries of Common English Ivy, Hedera helix, reputedly contain a glycoside called hederagenin that may also stupefy fish.

Additional uses

Fish-poison plants have provided and continue to provide food for ancient, primitive, and modern Americans. Although the process of documenting the many fish-poisons and their use is ongoing, interest in these plants’ potential uses in medicine, agriculture, and industry is growing. Some fish-poisons are reputed to ease or erase the symptoms of HIV and AIDS, although their effectiveness has yet to be clinically proven for the most part. Other uses also exist, but may not elicit as much attention as reputed remedies for such important diseases as AIDS and cancer. Ethnobotanical research of Guyanan fish-poisons has shown their multicontextual use, from remedies to aphrodisiacs. Many fish-poisons are grown to manufacture insecticides, but the exploitation of these plants for other applications is possible.


A review of the available scientific and popular literature reveals that the ancient practice of poisoning fish was an important method of securing food, and continues to flourish in many cultures today. A modern medical perspective on these plants may uncover additional uses for these plants. Unfortunately, the poisoning of streams to capture fish has had ecological consequences. The efficiency of this method has ensured that its increasing use as populations increase may result in the extirpation of susceptible fish species from their native streams. Despite illegalization of this method in countries such as Guyana, the practice continues and many of the plants are grown commercially, both for personal use, for sale to one’s neighbours, and for production of industrial products. It is with caution, then, that we should explore these uses, both from a standpoint of caution when using plants to poison fishes, but also (and perhaps more importantly), from the standpoint of exercising caution when infiltrating these cultures for industrial, pharmaceutical, or technical purposes.

Eating Bugs

Whenever I tell someone that I teach Wilderness Survival, the first thing they seem to ask is, "Do you eat BUGS?!!!".

If the gods are smiling on me, I'll spot a likely meal crawling, buzzing, or sliming it's way along and I eat it. That stops the questions about bugs.

Sometimes I wish that I did something else for a living...

Bug eating is not at the top of my list of fun things to do. However, when I see the faces of folks as I munch a big GREEN tomato bug, or harvest some JUICY maggots, I feel a little better about the practice.

Moths, regular old "fly into the light" moths, are pretty good. They taste a bit like almonds. Grasshoppers, dried or fried, are kinda like chalky potato chips or cheese puffs on steroids. Live grasshoppers kick like hell and can give you worms, the kind you probably wouldn't eat.

If you are going to eat bugs it is best to cook them first...

From a survival point of view, is there any reason to eat bugs?

Let's take a BRIEF look...
BEEF provides 200 - 300 calories per 100 Grams depending on the fat level. Each gram is about 18% fat, about 18% protein and about 58% water

LIVE TERMITES provide about 350 calories per 100 Grams. With 23% protein, 28% fat and 44% water per gram they constitute good eats.

MOTH LARVAE provide about 265 calories per 100 Grams. They are about 63 % protein and 15 % fat with only about 4% water per gram. These are good if you want to get into body building on a budget.
Do you want to decrease the fat in your diet? Eat Moths.

There is another issue. A cow weighs 1000 to 2000 POUNDS. A moth weighs a few mg's. It takes a lot of moth killing to make a meal.

Of course there is always the happy Maggot... that's a different story... Easy to capture, often found in clusters, high in calories and protein. Properly prepared they taste and look like wild rice.

From the standpoint of a survival food, bugs make a lot of sense as a food of opportunity. Unfortunately lots'O folks won't take that opportunity and feed on the crawly critters. It's a bit of the "Gag Factor" that stops them.

To use bugs as a food source you first need to get over your "Inculcated societal food values" (Food preferences) and start munching. But don't start by trying to choke down those juicy cockroaches (215 calories, 100grams). Start by buying some mealworms from a pet food store. Fry them and eat 'em... I think you'll find that they are quite tasty.

If you don't blow chunks this first time, try something a little more exciting. Place a LIVE mealworm in your mouth and BITE DOWN. Yummy. Eat more live ones. Soon you'll find yourself grazing on live mealworms, they're that good!

You may find that they are SO good you'll be offering them to friends as a snack at parties. Then you'll be just like me... "Do you eat Bugs???!!!!"

One recipe I learned to enjoy... The Montegnards of the Central Highlands in Vietnam would catch crickets, put them in a container which had a 2 inch strip of oil painted on the inside. The oil kept the little buggers :>) inside the jar. The little guys would hang out inside the jar for about 24 hours. This gave them a chance to empty their intestinal tracts (the cause of some bitterness in the flavor). After they were "clean" they were dumped into a cloth bag which was then hung by a fire to dry (cook slowly) or left in the pot and heated in situ on a slow fire. When dried they were munched as a tasty snack or used in rice meals. Grass hoppers are prepared in the same way but it is best to pull the legs off before the feast.

In any case, either bug (or most bugs) can be crushed and added to stews. This disguises the appearance and reduces the spew factor.

Ants are, for the most, part one of the best bug feasts. The formic acid pretty much disappears when they are boiled. Black ants eaten raw have a semi sweet flavor. Sorta like crunchy raw sugar with legs. We use them to sweeten ephedra tea.

Bees and wasps are OK eaten after a good boiling. The poison is basically a protein which disassembles at boiling temperatures. The stinger softens. Pounding them before boiling is effective. Bee and Wasp Larvae are delicious!

One of the most dangerous insects is in the cantharides family (blister beetles). I doubt that you will run into those unless you pop over to the Mediterranean just to munch bug. There are of course many cautions... Just a note. Beetles amount to about 40% of the known insects. The larvae of many beetles are very high in fat and protein and make great snacks.

When in doubt about a bug do the insect safety test. And follow these time tested rules.

Always try to cook insects.

Never eat bugs you find dead.

Don't eat bugs that bite back!

If it smells really bad, don't eat it!

One last thought. If you have a strong stomach... or at least a clear spew zone for a Technicolor yawn... try maggots. Road kills are often infested with them. Gather a handful or two, drop your prize into an old sock, and rinse in cold clear water a couple of times. Then boil. After about five minutes, toss in a bullion cube. When the cube has finished dissolving, settle back to a fine hot stew of what looks like brown rice. It is really a fine meal.

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Old 02-11-2009, 12:40 PM   #7
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The Wilderness Forge
I never thought that knife making could be so trashy.

Recently my personal need for steel took another leap, oddly this time it was into the junk heap! It happened while we were filming a video about primitive knife making with two of the leaders of the Neo-Tribal Metalsmiths, Tai Goo and Tim Lively. What I learned from them about the process of converting junk into not only serviceable but beautiful, durable and functional blades, made me rethink a lot of what I have held as gospel for years. I also yearned to try to use their primitive metalsmithing techniques under wilderness survival conditions.

I should say that I think most knife collectors have seen or used blades made by “Uncle Jasper” who created knives from old files or busted saws. Some of us even own a few of these ancestral blades. Most of these old blades were created by “stock removal” methods, grinding away anything that doesn’t look like a knife. The Neo-Tribal folk on the other hand rely primarily on forging techniques...heating and then hammering the old steel into shape. They then harden and temper the resulting blade using a variety of methodologies. What I learned from the Neo-tribal masters seemed like something that could be accomplished under field conditions.

Mid June Y2K my wife Karen, Rob Simonich and myself led a gang of 12 wilderness folks into the “River of No Return Wilderness” of central Idaho. The participants carried every conceivable make and model of modern blade but for the first time I left behind all of my modern cutlery and carried only my primitive hand forged Lively and Tai Goo blades. Made of truck springs, the hardening and tempering on these blades had been performed with transmission oil, vegetable oil, barbecues and red-hot tongs. (Their construction can be seen in our primitive knifemaking video.) The blades look primitive by modern standards but then they should, after all, they were hammered into shape in a few hours with less than 3% stock removal!

One of the objectives of the trip was to see if we could apply the techniques of the Neo-Tribal metalsmiths as shown in the video, to the field, using only natural and manmade materials we found in our travels and the materials we carried in our survival kits. I made one concession to the process... We brought along a fencing tool.

What’s a “fencing tool”? It goes by a variety of names but out here it is a multipurpose tool incorporating a hammer, pliers, nail lifter, wire cutter and if used correctly, a can opener. It is probably the ancestor of all multipurpose tools as variations of this tool have been around since before the prairies were fenced.

I was confident that we would be able to locate plenty of material for use in a camp built forge. I’ve learned over many years of wilderness teaching and trekking that some people act like pigs when they head for the woods. When they are finished with something these two-legged trash trucks would rather toss it aside than carry it back out. Our plan depended on locating old hunting camps and the junk left behind by the human dump trucks. Find them we did.

We identified four steps in the wilderness metalsmithing process;

1) Locate and transport materials to the worksite

2) Construct a charcoal kiln.

3) Construct a bellows and forge.

4) Test the forge and make something

Step one: Locate and transport materials to the worksite.

Three days into the trip I sent the Tractors (Our motto for the group... “We eat more dirt than a tractor”) off on a daylong gathering expedition. Within 6 hours we had collected the bottom third of a 30 gallon drum, two 1 Gallon Coleman fuel cans, one empty propane cylinder, two fiberglass “ribs”, a pair of rotted fatigues, two elk leg bones, some cans, four large steel spikes, a handful of smaller ten penny nails, a steel rod, a horseshoe, some wire and some other bits and pieces. We had a veritable treasure trove of materials to work with...

Step two: Construct a charcoal kiln.

Charcoal is virtually essential to a wood-fired primitive forge. While forging temperatures can be reached with hard wood fires and a good bellows, we had only Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine, woods that are too soft to get the really hot fire we needed. Our first objective was to create a charcoal kiln with the 30-gallon drum. To do this, our initial step required a trench over which we would set the drum. We used our .45 ACP drills to ventilate the bottom of the drum. With the drum thusly ventilated and placed over the trench we should be able to get a good air draw into the drum from the bottom and the wood should char quickly. Ideally, after the wood was reduced to red-hot embers we would close off air to the bottom of the drum, cover the embers with dirt and douse the fire with water. In the morning we would have our charcoal.

As the kiln fire burned and the hair on my legs started to char I realized how hot the coals were getting so, in the interests of science, we tossed in the rusty horseshoe. In a short while it was red-hot but not the cherry, non-magnetic, hot we needed for forging. Still, by using a stout piece of Lodgepole pine as a cudgel it was hot enough for us to beat the steel into a straight piece of metal suitable for use as a spear tip. Just for the heck of it Rob Simonich battered one of his Nordooh blades through the red-hot steel with the heavy wooden club. I should add that by doing so he violated the warranty in his own blade. The blade survived as a mildly serrated Nordooh. No one else was willing to offer a blade to the gods of fire and steel.

Step three: Construct a bellows and Forge.

Airflow is crucial to a forge. Air, fuel and fire create heat and we needed lots of air to make our camp-made charcoal into a viable heat generator. The closer we got to fission the happier we would be. One of our members, Ray, came up with the ideal solution. Using a heavy-duty trash bag and a flexible fiberglass rib found at a hunter’s camp, he made a huge bellows. Attached to the bottom of the bag and held in place with junk wire was a hollow Elk leg bone. That bone was connected in turn to a piece of the fatigue pants leg and then to another piece of bone. The pants leg gave us a flexible connection between the two pieces of bone pipe and acted incidentally as a valve to restrict airflow from the fire back into the bellows. The resulting bellows blew so hard it put a smile on everyone’s face. Our initial use for the bellows involved the charcoal kiln where the additional air helped to speed the charring process.

The forge didn’t need to be large for our purposes. We were planning to test the theory and application of a technique seen in our video but this time in a wilderness setting. Our forge was made of one of the old Coleman cans with one side removed. The pour spout became the air inlet and the interior was lined with mud taken from a nearby stream. To make our “fire mud” Eric, our forge meister, collected mud, mixed it with wood ashes from our fire and added dried sedge grass to give it strength. After forming, the resulting forge box was dried in the sun.

One of the old beer cans was sliced open and rolled into a tube to function as a Tuyere (Pronounced TWEER... an air inlet for a forge or blast furnace) and inserted through the fuel can pour spout. Ray connected the bone bellows outlet pipe to the Tuyere tube and we had our forge.

Step Four: Test the forge and make something.

The group accomplished all of the steps above in a single day. The following day we would test the assembly and the overnight rest would give the mud some time to cure. We started a fire in the little forge the next morning and there was a short cheer when the first rush of air came blasting into the forge chamber. The bellows worked like a charm and the homemade charcoal glowed a ferocious white/red when the air growled into the hot coals. First into the fire was one of the 10 penny nails. Five minutes after hitting the heat and with a piece of granite as an anvil I had finished shaping and hardening a primitive paddle drill. Nothing sophisticated here. I heated the nail till it was cherry red then smashed the tip flat with the hammer on the fencing tool. I sharpened the edges with a smooth stone then reheated the nail and plunged it into cold water to harden (quench) the steel. The drill made clean little holes easily. The first tool was finished. Later this nail drill was used to make holes in bone buttons, lanyard holes in wooden spoons and for many other tasks.

Next we heated one of the large steel spikes. With roughly a ½ inch diameter we figured it would make a fine chisel. It was a bit too long so we heated it till it was soft, whacked a couple of dents in it then broke it in half. Several more heats and we had our hammer forged chisel. We stone ground it to shape and then water hardened it. We had made a steel-working tool. Now we could cut other hot steel.

We could have continued the forging process and made knives, tongs or other tools but my point was made. A primitive forge is a do-able project.... Primitive steel knives, tools and weapons can be made in a wilderness setting. Next time I’m going to turn the remainder of that steel spike into a spearhead, the heavy bolt will become a knife and the wilderness will hear the dull think of my hammer as it turns trash into goods.

Oh! And the Lively and Tai Goo blades... How’d they stack up? I wouldn’t hesitate a moment to recommend them to anyone. They may look primitive but their performance, balance and feel is very modern. The primitive appearance is beguiling and grows on you as you understand and appreciate the expert skill of the metalsmiths who made the blades. Now I’m gonna go search for grandpa’s old hammer forged knife... the one he made from a file, I heard tell he never had to sharpen it and it was so sharp he cut all the way back to the 4th century...

OH! and by the way, you can see the entire process in our Survival Camping video...

Trapper thoughts

By George Michaud

Being a trapper is something I am very proud of. I know animals and I know their habits well enough to not only track them but also to be able to predict where that animal will place its next step within 2 square inches. I know their habits well enough to catch and kill them in large numbers. But the trick is to know how many animals can be taken without destroying their breeding stock, taking enough so that you can maintain the environment. Trapping is like ranching, you try to maintain a viable herd.

If I were to trap as the “Defenders of Wildlife” say I do, there wouldn’t be any animals left. “Defenders of Wildlife” say there aren’t any animals left now. This is from people 90% of whom do not believe that elk and deer shed their antlers every year and who claim to know how old a deer is before it becomes an elk. I have trapped the same wilderness area for 12 years, in fact the same beaver pond for 12 years. After the beavers exhausted the supply of willows and aspens in the area, they moved down stream about 1⁄4 mile and built a new pond.

“Defenders of Wildlife” blame the destruction of the wolf on trappers when the real culprit was the Federal Government and Veterinarians. The trappers were not denning wolves—digging out wolf pups—they didn’t want to destroy their livelihoods. According to the Dept. of Agriculture not enough wolves were being killed and the wolves were poison shy ie. they avoided poisoned baits. That is when the Dept. of Agriculture came up with the great idea of having veterinarians infect captured wolves and wolf pups with sarcoptic mange and then releasing them back into the wild. Sarcoptic mange is very contagious and fatal only after a very long period of acute suffering.

These are sick people. They did the same thing for rabbits in my area. There used to be a 7 year cycle in the rabbit population, it doesn’t happen anymore. The Depart. of Agriculture struck again. At the urging of ranchers and farmers, they infected the rabbits. I haven’t seen a jackrabbit in this area in 14 years. There aren’t any, but not because of trapping.

This stupid action, using infectious diseases, has really upset the balance. It crossed over to the snowshoe rabbit population where the jackrabbit and the snowshoe rabbit’s habitat overlap. This has had a very detrimental effect on the Canadian Lynx. There aren’t many lynx around anymore because the main food source for the Canadian Lynx is rabbits. No rabbits means no lynx. This has also detrimentally affected a number of other species like fox, hawks, eagles, coyotes and owls. These animals all depend on rabbits for some part of their diet.

“We are from the government and we are here to help you. We will fix it ’till it’s broke.”

They scream that logging is destroying the forests. I like logging, it opens up the forest. I especially like clear cutting, if the logging is done in a patchwork quilt pattern. This way there is cover for big game at the edge of every clearing where they are feeding. I also want the forest service to leave the slash piles. These provide shelter for small game that also feed in the clear cuts.

I know the next one of my beliefs will raise a few hackles. I want them to log the stream banks for about a hundred yards on each side, again in a patchwork, each clear cut being about 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 mile in length.

Now that you have calmed down, let me explain. There are some American Indians who believe the beaver built the world by bring mud up from the bottom of the ocean. Beavers are habitat builders. By clear-cutting the stream banks of old growth timber, you open it up so that grass, willows, and aspen can grow along the banks.

When there are sufficient willows and aspen, the beaver will move in and build a pond. These ponds that the beaver build not only support the beaver, it supports an entire ecosystem from bugs to big game.

Along with the beaver there are muskrats, mink (that hunt the muskrat), otter, fish, turtles, frogs, snakes, ducks, geese, swans, and bugs which inhabit the pond. At the edges of the pond are rabbits, mice, voles, moles, fox, coyotes, pine marten, weasels, elk, deer, and moose.

I trap 1 to 3 beaver every year from the ponds trying to take only half of the last years litter. Beaver produce 2 to 6 young every year depending on food supplies. In this way I can maintain the balance between beavers and their food source.

When trapping muskrats I want to take 50% to 75 % of the muskrats. The reason being is that a pair of muskrats, under optimum conditions, can produce 100 muskrats in a season. The adults can breed every 6 to 8 weeks starting in March with 10 kits per litter. At 8 weeks of age the young can breed, so in a short time, you can have a lot of muskrats. Again by trapping up to 75% (depending on population and food source) I can maintain a healthy muskrat population. The muskrats are not only a food source for predators, the lodges that the muskrats build in the fall become nests for ducks, geese, and swans in the spring. If they aren’t trapped they overpopulate in a short time, eating themselves out of house and home. Then disease takes over and wipes the population out and everything suffers. It is all connected.

The point here is that there is a surplus of animals produced every year that can either be used or wasted. If you kill it you have to eat it is one thing I hear over and over. Okay if you eat it the meal is with you for 1 day. If you take the fur, you can make a garment that will last a lifetime. By selling the furs you can support a family. Fur is a renewable natural resource, no petrochemicals are used is its manufacture. The latest studies have proved that for warmth nothing surpasses fur! Plus, it is beautiful.

I have worked on several wildlife studies and what I learned is that I won’t do it anymore. On one wildlife study, they wanted to study pine marten and they had a $50,000 grant to do it. The first thing the people doing the study learned was that they couldn’t catch the pine marten to study them. So, they hired us trappers to live trap them. At the beginning we told them what the habits of the pine marten were. At the end of the study they learned that everything we told them was true. But the reason I won’t help in any more studies is that I caught one of the pine marten that had been radio collared after the study was over. Its fur was ratty and the animal was starving to death. The radio collar was making it impossible for the animal to hunt.

Sure I kill hundreds of animals every year but I am not going to torture them for weeks until they finally starve to death. We trappers know the animals better than these people with their college degrees ever will. Our livelihood depends on it and yet we are portrayed as the bad guys.

One woman complained that I was trapping and killing all the animals. The game warden told her that there was more wildlife in the area since I started trapping than before I came. It was true. I wanted to build up the habitat and the animal population so I would have more animals to trap. The game warden even gave me live traps so I could catch beavers that were causing problems for the local ranchers during the summer and transplant them to areas where I wanted more beaver ponds.

My relatives were trapping here in the Tetons in the 1840s and other relatives were guides and trappers out of Bent’s Fort on the Santa Fe Trail. I come from a long line of trappers and hunters on both sides of my family.

Now that I have ranted and raved and you know where I am coming from. I will tell you how to catch the animals in a later posting.

HOODS WOODS - Urban Survival!
Emergency Preparations - Gettin' Ready for Troubled Times (Version 2)

Here we go again. (shortcut to the list)

Back in the early 80's a buddy of mine who seemed to be "connected" started telling stories out of school. Stories about Nukes being hijacked by terrorists. Stories about "A" bombs already sited in American cities, ready to be detonated by a phone call. I did what checking I could and became nervous... very nervous. I'd made it through two tours in "Nam" a year living with the Turks in Turkey and a lot of time in Central and South American jungles. I wasn't going to throw in my hat now. "Uh Oh," I thought... Time to prepare. So I did.

Having more dollars than sense I set about building a bomb shelter on my ranch in California. Four months and $125,000 dollars later I had my shelter. Solid steel walls, just a bit over 1000 sq. feet of floor space, buried 26 feet underground in a geographically protected area... I felt safe. Problem was... I didn't have a clue about stockpiling supplies. So I learned. It took time but eventually I had laid in a 3 year supply of food for 6, built a subterranean water storage and well system, brought in 2 Propane generators (4kw and 10kw), fuel storage and batteries. I had enough stuff to live underground with five friends for three years... I also had a huge hole in my bank account... But, I was ready and... nothing happened. Times changed and I sold the place, shelter and all.

Now I wish I'd kept it...

One of the things I learned way back then is that there is much more to preparing for a catastrophe than throwing cash at the problem. Preparing involves both a mindset and a system for physical preparation... Let's take a look at the process.

The Mindset
No one knows what any urban emergency will bring. What everyone does know is that something will happen. Getting ready for any emergency is much like having a spare tire in your car. No one expects a flat but we carry the spare and the tools regardless. It's considered prudent to have that spare... just as you have auto and home insurance and many other safeguards. For some reason food storage is ignored.

Natural disasters are common all over the country but a "spare tire" is seldom included in the plans. Insurance yes, food no. Pay the bean counters and expect the government to feed you. Urban emergencies change that. The bean counters won't pay you and the government can't feed you. That has to be the mindset... You need to prepare.

Let's be real. Unless you have a bank vault and a gang of Hell's Angels to protect it, a years supply of food is pushing the boundaries of reasonable emergency storage. Back when I set up my shelter I felt confident that a camouflaged shelter, 26 feet under ground, in a blasted nuclear landscape, would be fairly safe from marauding bands of starving natives. The five friends I picked were more than capable of helping me to protect my little retreat.

When I talk to clients about preparedness I hear, "Gotta get a year's supply of food," and "We bought food for a year," etc. Etc. Where does everyone get this "year" stuff? I have my suspicions but I'll let that slide. The big dehydrated food suppliers might not like it.

A quick note about food storage... If you get ready for an emergency and nothing happens, you can eat the preparations we suggest here and go on about your business. Of course if you buy a years supply of dehydrated food...

If you already have a year's supply of food... congratulations. There are some things you need to do to keep that supply under your control. We'll talk about that another time.

If you are new to food storage, let me help you get started on a path to self-sufficiency that is less daunting than that mountain of supplies needed for a year. To begin we need to consider the process of getting ready.

The Process
Like so many things, preparing for urban emergencies begins with a list. This is a list that you make. Consider it a homework assignment for the big test.

Grab a steno pad and a pencil. For three days write down everything you use, eat, take or work with. The list might look like this: (pwpp = per week per person, pmpp = per month per person)


Toilet paper
12 squares
@ 1 roll pwpp

1 brush pmpp

tooth paste
1 squeeze
1 tube pmpp

2 blades pwpp

It won't take long for you to understand just what you need to survive comfortably on a daily basis. You'll begin to understand that preparing for a year of urban survival is much more than several hundred pounds of dry food. It is the entire life structure that you've become accustomed to. Remember, what goes into your body must come out. Where does all of that waste go? Trash bags... If I have a year's worth of garbage behind my house, how will I hide the fact that I have something to make the garbage with? Hmmm. In the bomb shelter I had a trash compactor for trash waste and a sophisticated septic system for body waste. What will you do if the water shuts off?

After you've made your list of the things you use for your family, your pets and maintaining your lifestyle, you will begin to understand the magnitude of survival in a place with no power, water or other services. You will also begin to come up with alternatives to supply you with conveniences. Candles instead of electric lights, water collection buckets at the roof drains, water purification for that water. Ass rags instead of toilet paper. Etc. Think like a settler and think defensively.

Once you have the list of non-food items that you need and use... go get them. A dozen tubes of toothpaste and a dozen toothbrushes don't cost much at warehouse stores. Remember too, you don't need to get the most expensive brands... just get something that works. Repackage everything to make it as compact as possible. Get a few extras when you can to use as barter. That fellow next year with all that dry food... bet he forgot his toothbrush! He'd give his eyetooth for one of yours.

Those warehouse stores like Costco/Priceclub, Sams, Walmart, etc. are your best source of inexpensive bulk, storable canned and dry goods. With careful selection and prudent choices you can cut the cost of preparations by 80% less than the cost of specialized dehydrated and freeze dried foods. You can save much more over the cost of MRE's... and you will eat warehouse food if the emergency fizzles.

While you are collecting all the support stuff you need at a warehouse store you'll notice the shelves full of bulk-canned foods. Things like tamales, chilis, stews, beans, canned meats, pasta, canned salads, dehydrated potatoes and more. People eat that food all of the time or the store wouldn't sell it. This is exactly why you should start loading up on canned foods. Pick canned foods you know. Consider this... you know how to prepare the item and, for the most part, it already contains the water you need for preparation and it stores well. If you decide you don't need to store food any more... just eat it till it's gone. End of problem.

Just an aside. I've talked with some folks about this process and I've heard, "Canned food doesn't offer a very well balanced diet." OK, sure. I don't eat a balanced diet and I'd bet you don't either. I take vitamin supplements to make up for deficiencies. My doctor says that I'm not dying. I humbly submit that with the pressures of survival all around you, the notion of switching to a balanced diet of crap food for the first time in your life will not make you happy.

The short version... Buy what you use now, but get it in cans.

Putting Together Your Supplies
Since no one knows what will happen with with any urban emergency, any guess is a good as any other and any preparations are better than none. If you can only afford to purchase a few weeks of food and goods, do so. You will not be a burden for the amount of time you've prepared for.

We are suggesting that everyone have on hand a three-month supply of food. This way the cost is nominal, the storage volume acceptable, the risk low and the benefits significant.

Laying out a grand or two for food is a real burden for most families. However, most folk can make preparations a bit at a time. Over time, Karen and I have come up with a list of foods and quantities that should be a reasonable and inexpensive guide for most folk. The items on this list can be compiled from inexpensive foods and grains purchased at feed and grain stores and from your local market. While you collect these items consider "copy canning."

Copy canning takes place in increments. When you shop for your weekly foods, purchase double (or more) of any canned and packaged goods you need. The extras are marked with the date and placed in storage. Each time you buy groceries "double copy" the foods you buy. Move the oldest dated foods to the pantry and place the newest foods in storage. Little by little you will accumulate a good supply of the foods you purchase and eat naturally.

You must also consider the needs of your pets. Track the food needs of your animal friends and set aside enough food to provide for them for the same period. Do not expect to feed them table scraps... there will be few to share. They will not be able to forage and will be killed.

Also, consider your medications. Lay in a supply of antibiotics, antihistamines, OTC painkillers, etc. Load up on your regular scripts. I can say much more about this, and will in a future article.

In a nutshell... It is time to prepare for the potential disaster approaching us. The process does not need to kill your finances, rob you of space in your home or expose you to high risk. Neither does it mean that you need to be inconvenienced with foods that you are unfamiliar with and have no other use for should the disaster not materialize. By preparing you will assure yourself and your family of a reasonable chance for a comfortable transition to the new millennia.

Good luck.

The List
The list shown is for three months.

Food Item

3 month supply
Quantity in Pounds
Quantity in pounds by age
Family of four, 2 children ages 4 & 9

Total Lbs. needed

Canned meats

Canned margarine, powdered eggs, etc.

Dried beans, peas, lentils, etc.

Dried fruit juice and concentrates

Dried fruits (dried, equal to this fresh weight)

Gelatin, Jell-O, tapioca, instant pudding

Grains, rice, oats, millet, etc.

Non-fat dried Milk

Peanut butter

Potatoes (dried, equal to this fresh weight)


Shortening, oils

Sugar, Honey

Variety of vegetables dried (equal to this fresh weight)



All of this food will fit in a standard Station Wagon.

There is much more information to come.

Good luck!!!

Remember, Ron and Karen Hood operate Hoods Woods in Idaho and pay their bills by teaching survival skills on video tape. If you are interested in survival and find the information on this site valuable, help contribute to their survival by purchasing one or more of their videos, these skills will be enormously valuable should you be involved in a disaster. People, or the government, can take your goods and preparations from you but they cannot take your knowledge.

Emergency Preparations - Karen Hood's Article
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The “Real” Deal about Nuclear, Bio, and Chemical Attacks

By SFC Red Thomas (Ret)

Since the media has decided to scare everyone with predictions of chemical, biological, or nuclear warfare on our turf I decided to write a paper and keep things in their proper perspective. I am a retired military weapons, munitions, and training expert.

Lesson number one: In the mid 1990’s there were a series of nerve gas attacks on crowded Japanese subway stations. Given perfect conditions for an attack less than 10% of the people there were injured (the injured were better in a few hours) and only one percent of the injured died. 60-Minutes once had a fellow telling us that one-drop of nerve gas could kill a thousand people; well he didn’t tell you the thousand dead people per drop was theoretical. Drill Sergeants exaggerate how terrible this stuff was to keep the recruits awake in class (I know this because I was a Drill Sergeant too).

Forget everything you’ve ever seen on TV, in the movies, or read in a novel about this stuff, it was all a lie (read this sentence again out loud!)!

These weapons are about terror, if you remain calm, you will probably not die. This is far less scary than the media and their “Experts,” make it sound.

Chemical weapons are categorized as Nerve, Blood, Blister, and Incapacitating agents Contrary to the hype of reporters and politicians they are not weapons of mass destruction they are “Area denial,” and terror weapons that don’t destroy anything. When you leave the area you almost always leave the risk. That’s the difference; you can leave the area and the risk; soldiers may have to stay put and sit through it and that’s why they need all that spiffy gear.

These are not gasses, they are vapors and/or air borne particles. The agent must be delivered in sufficient quantity to kill/injure, and that defines when/how it’s used. Every day we have a morning and evening inversion where “stuff,” suspended in the air gets pushed down. This inversion is why allergies (pollen) and air pollution are worst at these times of the day.

So, a chemical attack will have it’s best effect an hour of so either side of sunrise/sunset. Also, being vapors and airborne particles they are heavier than air so they will seek low places like ditches, basements and underground garages. This stuff won’t work when it’s freezing, it doesn’t last when it’s hot, and wind spreads it too thin too fast. They’ve got to get this stuff on you, or, get you to inhale it for it to work. They also have to get the concentration of chemicals high enough to kill or wound you. Too little and it’s nothing, too much and it’s wasted.

What I hope you’ve gathered by this point is that a chemical weapons attack that kills a lot of people is incredibly hard to do with military grade agents and equipment so you can imagine how hard it will be for terrorists.

The more you know about this stuff the more you realize how hard it is to use.

We’ll start by talking about nerve agents you have these in your house; plain old bug killer (like Raid) is a nerve agent. All nerve agents work the same way; they are cholinesterase inhibitors that mess up the signals your nervous system uses to make your body function. It can harm you if you get it on your skin but it works best if they can get you to inhale it. If you don’t die in the first minute and you can leave the area you’re probably gonna live. The military’s antidote for all nerve agents is atropine and pralidoxime chloride. Neither one of these does anything to cure the nerve agent, they send your body into overdrive to keep you alive for five minutes, after that the agent is used up. Your best protection is fresh air and staying calm. Listed below are the symptoms for nerve agent poisoning.

Sudden headache, Dimness of vision (someone you’re looking at will have pinpointed pupils), Runny nose, Excessive saliva or drooling, Difficulty breathing, Tightness in chest, Nausea, Stomach cramps, Twitching of exposed skin where a liquid just got on you.

If you are in public and you start experiencing these symptoms, first ask yourself, did anything out of the ordinary just happen, a loud pop, did someone spray something on the crowd? Are other people getting sick too?

Is there an odor of new mown hay, green corn, something fruity, or camphor where it shouldn’t be?

If the answer is yes, then calmly (if you panic you breathe faster and inhale more air/poison) leave the area and head up wind, or, outside. Fresh air is the best “right now antidote”. If you have a blob of liquid that looks like molasses or Kayro syrup on you; blot it or scrape it off and away from yourself with anything disposable. This stuff works based on your body weight, what a crop duster uses to kill bugs won’t hurt you unless you stand there and breathe it in real deep, then lick the residue off the ground for while. Remember they have to do all the work, they have to get the concentration up and keep it up for several minutes while all you have to do is quit getting it on you/quit breathing it by putting space between you and the attack.

Blood agents are cyanide or arsine which effect your blood’s ability to provide oxygen to your tissue. The scenario for attack would be the same as nerve agent. Look for a pop or someone splashing/spraying something and folks around there getting woozy/falling down. The telltale smells are bitter almonds or garlic where it shouldn’t be. The symptoms are blue lips, blue under the fingernails, rapid breathing. The military’s antidote is amyl nitride and just like nerve agent antidote it just keeps your body working for five minutes till the toxins are used up. Fresh air is the your best individual chance. Blister agents (distilled mustard) are so nasty that nobody wants to even handle it let alone use it. It’s almost impossible to handle safely and may have delayed effect of up to 12 hours. The attack scenario is also limited to the things you’d see from other chemicals. If you do get large, painful blisters for no apparent reason, don’t pop them, if you must, don’t let the liquid from the blister get on any other area, the stuff just keeps on spreading. It’s just as likely to harm the user as the target. Soap, water, sunshine, and fresh air are this stuff’s enemy.

Bottom line on chemical weapons (it’s the same if they use industrial chemical spills); they are intended to make you panic, to terrorize you, to herd you like sheep to the wolves. If there is an attack, leave the area and go upwind, or to the sides of the wind stream. They have to get the stuff to you, and on you. You’re more likely to be hurt by a drunk driver on any given day than be hurt by one of these attacks. Your odds get better if you leave the area. Soap, water, time, and fresh air really deal this stuff a knock-out-punch. Don’t let fear of an isolated attack rule your life. The odds are really on your side.

Nuclear bombs. These are the only weapons of mass destruction on earth. The effects of a nuclear bomb are heat, blast, EMP, and radiation. If you see a bright flash of light like the sun, where the sun isn’t, fall to the ground!

The heat will be over a second. Then there will be two blast waves, one out going, and one on it’s way back. Don’t stand up to see what happened after the first wave; anything that’s going to happen will have happened in two full minutes.

These will be low yield devices and will not level whole cities. If you live through the heat, blast, and initial burst of radiation, you’ll probably live for a very very long time. Radiation will not create fifty-foot tall women, or giant ants and grass hoppers the size of tanks. These will be at the most 1-kiloton bombs; that’s the equivalent of 1,000 tons of TNT.

Here’s the real deal, flying debris and radiation will kill a lot of exposed (not all!) people within a half mile of the blast. Under perfect conditions this is about a half-mile circle of death and destruction, but when it’s done it’s done. EMP stands for Electro Magnetic Pulse and it will fry every electronic device for a good distance, it’s impossible to say what and how far but probably not over a couple of miles from ground zero is a good guess. Cars, cell phones, computers, ATMs, you name it, all will be out of order.

There are lots of kinds of radiation, you only need to worry about three, the others you have lived with for years. You need to worry about ”Ionizing radiation,” these are little sub atomic particles that go whizzing along at the speed of light. They hit individual cells in your body, kill the nucleus and keep on going. That’s how you get radiation poisoning; you have so many dead cells in your body that the decaying cells poison you. It’s the same as people getting radiation treatments for cancer, only a bigger area gets radiated. The good news is you don’t have to just sit there and take it, and there’s lots you can do rather than panic. First; your skin will stop alpha particles, a page of a news paper or your clothing will stop beta particles, you just gotta try and avoid inhaling dust that’s contaminated with atoms that are emitting these things and you’ll be generally safe from them.

Gamma rays are particles that travel like rays (quantum physics makes my brain hurt) and they create the same damage as alpha and beta particles only they keep going and kill lots of cells as they go all the way through your body. It takes a lot to stop these things, lots of dense material; on the other hand it takes a lot of this to kill you.

Your defense is as always to not panic. Basic hygiene and normal preparation are your friends. All canned or frozen food is safe to eat. The radiation poisoning will not affect plants so fruits and vegetables are OK if there’s no dust on em (rinse em off if there is water). If you don’t have running water and you need to collect rainwater or use water from wherever, just let it sit for thirty minutes and skim off the water gently from the top. The dust with the bad stuff in it will settle and the remaining water can be used for the toilet, which will still work if you have a bucket of water to pour in the tank.

Finally there’s biological warfare. There’s not much to cover here. Basic personal hygiene and sanitation will take you further than a million doctors. Wash your hands often, don’t share drinks, food, sloppy kisses, etc., ... with strangers. Keep your garbage can with a tight lid on it, don’t have standing water (like old buckets, ditches, or kiddie pools) laying around to allow mosquitoes breeding room. This stuff is carried by vectors, that is bugs, rodents, and contaminated material. If biological warfare is so easy as the TV makes it sound, why has Saddam Hussein spent twenty years, millions, and millions of dollars trying to get it right? If you’re clean of person and home you eat well and are active you’re gonna live.

Overall preparation for any terrorist attack is the same as you’d take for a big storm. If you want a gas mask, fine, go get one. I know this stuff and I’m not getting one and I told my Mom not to bother with one either (how’s that for confidence). We have a week’s worth of cash, several days’ worth of canned goods and plenty of soap and water. We don’t leave stuff out to attract bugs or rodents so we don’t have them.

These people can’t conceive a nation this big with this many resources. These weapons are made to cause panic, terror, and to demoralize. If we don’t run around like sheep they won’t use this stuff after they find out it’s no fun. The government is going nuts over this stuff because they have to protect every inch of America. You’ve only gotta protect yourself, and by doing that, you help the country.

Finally, there are millions of caveats to everything I wrote here and you can think up specific scenarios where my advice isn’t the best. This letter is supposed to help the greatest number of people under the greatest number of situations. If you don’t like my work, don’t nit pick, just sit down and explain chemical, nuclear, and biological warfare in a document around three pages long yourself. This is how we the people of the United States can rob these people of their most desired goal, your terror.

SFC Red Thomas (Ret)
Armor Master Gunner
Mesa, AZ

Unlimited reproduction and distribution is authorized. Just give me
credit for my work, and, keep in context.
Karen Hood's - Can the Dependency


By: Karen Hood

© 1999 Karen Hood

I was in the grocery store the other day and overheard a woman talking to her husband. She said, "I’m concerned about this terrorism thing. I don’t even know where to start. What foods should we get?" I watched them for a little while. They continued down the isle with worried eyes and an empty cart. I continued with my shopping and ran into them a couple isles later. They had a nearly empty cart and they still looked worried. The answer was right in front of them the whole time. Just buy what you normally buy, but buy more of it.

Too many people think that they need to spend thousands of dollars on one- to two-year quantities of freeze-dried foods in order to stock up properly for terrorist alerts. I know that there are a lot of people here in the United States that just don’t have the extra money to spend on these major freeze-dried packages. There are other ways to prepare.


Canned goods are less expensive - Canned goods bought in bulk are roughly, pound-per-pound of finished product, about 25% of the cost of the same product offered in freeze-dried or dehydrated form. The canned foods just seem to take up a little more storage area. That’s a small sacrifice when you think about the amount of money you’ll be saving.

Canned goods generally have more calories - It’s difficult to make a direct caloric comparison between freeze-dried/dehydrated foods and canned foods. But it is generally true that canned goods contain more calories in the form of fats than freeze-dried foods. Fat has more calories per ounce than other types of foods so it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that canned foods, in general, have more calories pound-per-pound than do freeze-dried foods. Published food values support this contention.

Canned goods already have water for preparation in the can. Freeze-dried/dehydrated foods have no water content. This means that on top of the drinking water you’ll need to store, you will have to store extra water for your food preparation if you have freeze-dried foods.

Other advantages – Canned foods have a good shelf life, they’re available at virtually every market, and you are already familiar with the preparation since these are foods that you eat every day.


Ron and I have a this take on food storage. Our rules are simple and they’ve worked for us.

Buy what you can afford.
Buy what you’re familiar with.
Buy foods on special, from warehouse stores, or from feed and grain supply stores.
Organize your buying for 3-month increments.
Learn to Can
Buy what you can afford. Don’t completely deplete your savings by buying a massive amount of food all at the same time. This could be devastating to your family economy and it’s not necessary. Buy extra food during your normal shopping excursions. Instead of buying one can of corn – buy two and put one in your storage room.
Buy what you’re familiar with. Of course you could buy freeze-dried foods, but what if it isn’t as bad as you are preparing for? You’re going to be stuck with pounds of food that’s different from what you normally eat. A stressful time is not a good time to totally change your diet. If you buy foods you’re already familiar with – you’ll already know how to fix them. Also, if the crisis isn’t as bad as you planned for, then you’ll be able to eat these canned foods as you would on a normal day.
Buy foods from warehouse stores. These stores are great! Purchasing bulk quantities at a reduced price: what resource can be better than that! These warehouse stores are all over the United States and are completely stocked up. They’re especially good for canned goods in bulk, such as rice, beans and seasonings. Make it a point to check your local newspapers for canned foods on sale. Coupons can also help you save money. Feed and grain stores are a great resource too! They carry many inexpensive grains that people normally buy for their farm animals. These grains are the same grains that you’ll need. Any good feed supply store is going to have a great selection of the grains.
Organize your buying for three-month increments. Some folks are buying food quantities for their family for 1-year increments. To make it easier on your wallet and mind, buy enough food for you and your family to last you for three months. When you’ve gathered enough food for you and your family (and pets) for three months, THEN gather another three month’s worth of food and so on. Here’s a simple chart to use as a rough guide for buying your food.
Learn to can – Canning is easy to do and inexpensive.
The list shown is for three months. You should increase your supply in three-month increments. Complete each three-month supply before moving on.

Food Item

3 month supply
Quantity in Pounds
Quantity in pounds by age
Family of four, 2 children ages 4 &9

Total Lbs. needed

Canned meats

Canned margarine, powdered eggs etc....

Dried beans, peas, lentils, etc,

Dried fruit juice and concentrates

Dried fruits (dried, equal to this fresh weight)

Gelatin, Jell-O, tapioca, instant pudding

Grains, rice, oats, millet etc.

Non Fat dried Milk

Peanut butter

Potatoes (dried, equal to this fresh weight)


Shortening oils

Sugar Honey

Variety of vegetables dried, (equal to this fresh weight)



**Recommended Dietary Caloric Intake from USDA


Most of the items on this above list are self-explanatory. There are a few points I’d like to bring up about some of the items listed though.

Canned meats could be any type of meat. Get a variety. The notorious canned Spam, for instance, is a good source of meat/protein and it stores well (about 5 years). Canned tuna, salmon, chicken, turkey are all good sources of protein. Many times you’ll find free recipe offers on the can. Spam is a great example. If you look on the back of the can, you’ll frequently see a free offer for a cookbook with several recipes that will help you make the most of this canned meat delight. Spend a little time sending in for these free offers. They might help you be creative when hard times arrive.

Canned margarine is harder to find. Margarine in the tub will last a long time even un-refrigerated. It ordinarily separates into its components when it’s not refrigerated. Just mix it up as it separates and try to keep it as cool as possible. Quick tip: Velveeta cheese is an eternal food that stores for a long period of time. Velveeta heated and mixed with a little water and powdered milk makes a reasonable butter substitute.

Shortening Oil is another favorite of mine. I recommend storing olive oil because it stores very well, can be used for baking and as a replacement for butter or margarine. Another good thing is that it can also be used in oil lamps for emergency lighting.

Grains, wheat, and millet are all good to have in storage, but they’ll do you little good if you don’t have a grinder or don’t know how to prepare them. These whole grains are easier to store for longer periods of time than their powdered form (flour). Flour can last about 6-12 mos. in a non-airtight container. If you store it in an airtight container, you’re looking at about 1 ½ -2 year storage. It may be a little stale if you keep it the full 2 years, but it will still be useable. So if you’re not sure how to prepare those grains – just buy flour and store it in airtight containers for emergencies


Now that you’ve purchased your foods – how the heck do you store them? That’s simple too. You’ll need to establish a pantry and food storage area or areas. Store your staple foods such as canned goods, dry beans, rice, and bottled foods in a cool, dry place. The storage temperature is best if it’s between 34 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Get more than one storage area. Because we have limited storage area in our home, we decided to rent a storage space. We rented the smallest and cheapest one nearest our home. This way when we fill up our storage in our home – we can move that food over to the storage facility. We found it’s cheaper to rent a storage facility for a year than it is to buy a few month’s supply of freeze-dried foods.


Rotating Storage - Rotating storage is geographically based. In other words, you will need to create a pantry in one area and a separate storage area. The storage area is used to hold the extra supplies you’ll be storing in case of an emergency. All cans and foods that go into rotating storage must be marked with the date of purchase. Here’s how you use it: Assume you’re going to cook a dinner and you look in your pantry for the food item you need. But you do not have it. Write that item down on your shopping list and go to your storage area. Take the item out of your storage area and use it for cooking. If it is not already in your storage area, go back to your shopping list and increase the quantity of the item so you can put that item in storage and in your pantry. This assures you that the items you have in storage are the things that you usually use.

Keep all your shopping lists for at least a month to check to see what items you use the most and the quantities you use. This gives you a good consumption history to work with.

Copy canning - When you shop for your weekly foods, purchase double (or more) of any canned and packaged goods you need. Mark the extras with the date and place them in storage. Each time you buy groceries "double copy" the foods you buy and rotate them in the pantry. Move the oldest dated foods to the pantry and place the newest foods in storage. Little by little you will accumulate a good supply of the foods you purchase and eat everyday.


Here’s a rough way to figure out about how long your canned foods will last:

Low-Acid canned foods (pH level of 4.5 or lower) – last about 2 - 5 years. This includes canned meat, stews, soups, pasta, potatoes, carrots, peas, pumpkin, etc.

High Acid canned foods (pH level of 4.6 or higher) – last about 1 – 1 ½ years. This includes tomato sauces, fruits, vinegar-based foods, etc. Remember that this is an estimated, recommended shelf life. Some of these foods will still be edible after the recommended storage date, but the foods could have nutrient or quality loss if used after this amount of time. It’s also very important that if the can is bulging, leaking, smells bad or spurts when you open it – THROW IT AWAY! Make sure when you throw it out that you put it in a place that your pets or your kids can not get to it.

Here’s a condensed chart of some basic canned staples to help you figure out about how long some common canned foods last:

Canned FoodShelf Life Recommendations

Chicken, turkey, tuna, fish, seafood, meats
2-5 years or until expiration date on can

Baby Food
Play it safe – 1 year or until exp. date on can

Tomato sauce
1 year

Most fruits
2-5 years

Fruit Juice
6 mos. – 1 year

1-2 years

Baked beans
1-2 years

Spaghetti sauce
Usually 1 year - use by exp. date

Usually 1 year – use by exp. date

**Remember that your canned food may still be edible if it’s older than the recommended shelf life. The quality and nutrient content tends to deteriorate after this amount of time.


There are 2 main spoilage factors: Bacterial and Enzymatic.

Botulism is one of the most life-threatening bacteria in canned foods. Botulism toxin is mostly found in home-canned foods. The canned foods you buy from the store, for the most part, are canned under stringent guidelines and proper temperatures. This bacteria forms the spores that create toxins only in the absence of oxygen. These are mostly found in low-acid foods. To avoid being exposed to these bacteria it’s very important that when you open any of your older canned foods, especially home-canned meats, to heat them or boil them for 10-20 minutes before eating them!

Enzymatic spoilage is the natural deterioration of foods. Enzymes, for example, are what make tomato’s get ripe after picking. The enzymes keep working and eventually rot the tomato. These enzymes are relatively harmless and for the most part, their action can be slowed with cool temperatures.


It’s easy to make mistakes when preparing for the future. There are so many things to think about. Here are a few common mistakes that people make when planning their food storage program:

Well-Balanced Meals: It’s easy to stock up on a bunch of grains and rice. You can live on this, but it would be better if you had canned meats or canned veggies too. Be sure to store foods that will make your diet balanced.
Too Much of the Same Food: It will be a little boring if you bought a 3 month supply of tuna, beans and rice. I’ll promise you – you’ll want to kill yourself if you have to eat the same thing over and over for 3 months or more. Please make sure you have a variety of foods in your pantry.
Vitamins: Your diet might not be as well balanced if a disaster strikes – so it’s important to keep a stock of vitamins for everyone in your family. Most multivitamins contain more than the recommended RDA’s from the USDA. Vitamins are very important for your body systems to work properly.
Storing your food in one area: If anyone wants to take your food – all they have to do is visit one room and you’re out of luck. Store your food in different locations. That way if someone steals from you – there’s a greater chance that they won’t have found ALL your supplies.
Not enough beer or wine: It’s easy to just think about food when you’re preparing your food storage program. But wouldn’t it be nice to have a glass of wine or beer with that yummy food you’ve stored? My point here is - Don’t forget your beer!! (Remember if you don’t drink, you can use it for barter)
Remember your pet’s needs too. Your furry friends rely on you to feed them. If you’re planning on feeding them just table scraps when the crisis comes – DON’T. There won’t be any. Monitor how much food your pets eat in a given time and prepare for them too. If they have any medications they need – be sure to stock up on them.
Not enough spices: Store spices you’re familiar with. They could make something that’s just barely edible into something that’s very palatable. Get those spices in stock!

Not enough water/ fluids. The average adult person should drink about 7 gallons per week – for drinking purposes only. In addition to this, you’ll need to sock up on water for cooking purposes. The advantage of having canned foods in your pantry is that most of them already have the water needed for cooking. You can store canned soda’s, bottled water, and other beverages of your taste. These store well and for long periods of time. Warehouse stores sell these bottled liquids in bulk. If you do have running water when the disaster strikes; don’t be too sure that it’s clean water. You’ll need to filter that water. Keep a water filter in your supplies as well.

Now you know the basics for getting started on your food storage program. I don’t want to completely turn you away from buying any kind of freeze-dried foods. Freeze-dried foods are good to have in your pantry because they can be stored for very long periods of time. They’re great for surprise guests. But it’s always good to keep a copy canning rotation cycle going.

In short… It is time to prepare for any potential disaster approaching us. The process does not need to kill your finances or be unbearably stressful. Neither does it mean that you need to be inconvenienced with foods that you are unfamiliar with and have no other use for should the disaster not materialize. By preparing in the ways I’ve mentioned, you will assure yourself and your family of a reasonable chance for a comfortable transition into the new millennia.

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Old 02-11-2009, 01:13 PM   #9
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Now thats a thread !
I shall svae this thread , read it and get back to you on this .
Nice to see folks sharing the knowledge .

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Old 02-11-2009, 10:30 PM   #10
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A year eating 100% wild and foraged food: week 7

Artical here - http://wildmanwildfood.blogspot.com/

Fergus the forager - Website here - http://www.wildmanwildfood.co.uk/Dye...%20plants.html
Now thats a thread !
I shall svae this thread , read it and get back to you on this .
Nice to see folks sharing the knowledge .
Cheers mate.
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Old 05-11-2009, 04:14 PM   #11
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Ray mears outdoorsurvival ebook -


The wild foods of great britain ebook -
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