WILDERNESS SURVIVAL Taken from the book *Can You Survive* $10.00 + $1.50 p/h from: Gaddis Publications, PO Box 411476, Los Angeles, CA 90041
In my opinion, the most important requirement for wilderness survival is self-discipline. No matter how strong you are, no matter how good your equipment, no matter how extensive your knowledge of wilderness survival techniques--all of these things will be worthless unless you have the self-discipline to use them most effectively. When alone in the wilderness, a great many factors tend to reduce a person's self-discipline at a time when it is needed most. One of these is fear.
Appropriate clothes make up another requirement of survival in the wilderness areas that are often neglected. To be naked on the desert would kill you faster than to be caught there without water. To be caught in a blizzard without proper clothing would be much worse than to be without food. In rocky, mountainous terrain good boots or shoes are the most important survival equipment I can think of. In climbing over rocks and up canyon walls, it is often necessary to support the body's weight on a rocky ledge only an inch wide. The human foot does not have the amount of strength required unless it is assisted by the strong flat sole of a shoe or a boot.
The average city resident usually assumes that he owns some warm clothing. He has a winter coat and one or more winter suits. If a bit old fashioned, he may even have a suit of long underwear tucked away in some dresser drawer. The suburbanite may own a pair of boots that he wears three or four times a year to shovel snow out of the driveway. A simple experiment would convince the average city resident that his warmest clothing is completely inadequate for cold weather survival conditions. Such a person could put on his very warmest clothing, in fact all of the clothing he could manage to get on and then spend just one average winter from sundown to sunup standing around in his own front yard. If the temperature dropped even to 25 or 30 degrees above zero he would probably be chilled to the bone and numb with cold long before morning arrived.
Good clothing for outdoors wear is expensive. Most of us will have to compromise between what we would like to have and what we can afford to buy.
In open country that is hot and dry, the body must be protected from the sun's rays, both direct and reflected. This calls for tightly woven loosely fitting clothes with a good wide brimmed hat. At night, it must be remembered, the temperature may fall considerably in such climates. Warmer clothing may be required for night travel or some suitable cover that will provide warmth while sleeping.
In hot humid climates, the clothing should also be loose and tightly woven. This will help protect against insects and will minimize snagging of the cloth on twigs and thorns
In cold climates or where cold weather can be anticipated, a number of layers of lighter clothing are to be preferred over one or two very heavy garments. Several layers of light or medium weight woolen clothing are recommended with a wind proof outer cover. This permits air to be trapped between the different layers and it enables the wearer to regulate his temperature easily by adding or removing single pieces of clothing. A belt or drawstring around the waist helps to regulate ventilation.
It is especially difficult to keep the feet warm in cold climates. The weight of the body compresses much of the air out of any insulating material under the foot and the movement of the foot prevents the air from remaining still. Furthermore, a certain amount of perspiration always forms. In cold weather this goes as water vapor toward the outer layer and escapes to a greater or lesser extent depending on waterproofing qualities of the boots. Since most boots are at least slightly waterproof, a certain amount of moisture collects inside them in the form of frost. In the most extreme cold, the temperature of boots themselves is so cold that the moisture condenses inside the foot gear no matter how permeable the boots are. Much of this frost forms in the insoles and outer pair of socks. Therefore, extra precautions must be taken to insure adequate warmth for the feet. Heavy woolen socks with a cushion sole are well worth the expense involved.
Insoles are essential to cold weather footwear for they provide added insulation in the soles, thus preventing the cold from coming up from below and absorbing moisture from the feet. Two pairs of insoles should be available for each pair of boots. The two pairs are used altenately, one pair being dried while the other is being used. When insoles are damp, they lose much of their insulating quality. Therefore, they should be alternated frequently and dried at every opportunity. Sun and air will help dry them, even when the temperature is below freezing.
Remember that several pairs of medium weight socks are warmer than a single extremely thick pair because more air can be trapped between the layers. Also keep in mind that when two or more pairs of socks are worn at the same time the outer pair should be larger so that the feet will not be cramped and circulation restricted. During a halt in travel, or at the end of the day, change damp socks as soon as possible. In cold weather damp socks are dangerous because of the possibility of frostbite. If they become really wet, blisters on the feet often result regardless of the temperature.
Remember that inside clothing should be kept loose, clean and dry. Outer clothing should be windproof and water repellant. Avoid outer clothing that has a shine to it or which rustles when moved. The rustle of stiff clothing or a glimmer of moonlight on shiny fabric could give away your position when you are trying to move silently at night.
Another thing sure to be found in most books on survival is a list of personal equipment for backpacking, cooking, camping, etc. As one sits at home and contemplates the needs of living in the wild, such a list can grow and grow and grow. Many times in the past I have watched people start out training maneuvers heavily laden with all sorts of equipment. At every stop they will go through their pack and eliminate a few items, leaving them neatly piled beside some tree to be retrieved on the way back. It is simply amazing how much equipment you can do without after walking fifteen or twenty miles over rugged terrain.
In making an advance selection of material which you may want for such purposes, keep always in mind that you may have to live with this gear for months at a time and carry everything that you own on your own back and in your pockets. Weight is the most vital factor to consider in arranging your equipment. Also remember that the cheapest gear is never a bargain but the most expensive equipment is not necessarily the best. Shop carefully with the factors of weight and durability always in mind.
Several years ago the Minutemen Organization published a list of recommended equipment for backpacking and survival situations. Now, after having spent several months under such circumstances myself, I have reviewed this list to see what changes I would make if I had to do it all again.
The first item to consider is the pack or rucksack. Although they are manufactured in many varieties and some are considered preferable to others, it is best if each individual does his own research to find out which pack is best suited to his or her needs. Special consideration should be given to size, weight, comfort, flexibility and so on.
A pack used with a pack frame will carry more weight much more comfortably than a pack without a frame. These frames come in various sizes and should be purchased accordingly. If you are 5'8" and under, you should purchase a "medium" frame. Those over 5'8" and under 6' should purchase a "large" frame. Those over 6' should purchase an extra large frame. Most frames come equipped with padded shoulder straps but if yours does not, such pads may be ordered separately. Of course, aluminum frames weigh less than those made from wood, steel or fiberglass. Unfortunately, many of them will not stand up under a heavy load or over a prolonged period of heavy use. If you purchase an aluminum backpack frame, examine all the joints carefully. Remember that aluminum metal is rather soft and will tear easily. If fastened together with bolts or rivets, they may easily pull through the holes in the metal frame. Another point for special attention is the fasteners that connect the frame to the cloth straps. Oftentimes these will be made of rather small gauge wire simply bent into shape and they are sure to spring loose at the first opportunity.
The next item to consider is your sleeping bag because it takes up more space and will weigh more than any other single item you are apt to carry. It is very easy to underestimate the quality of sleeping bag that is necessary to stay warm in even mildly cold weather. Keep in mind that it takes one and one-half inches of insulation to keep you warm at 40 degrees Fahrenheit and another 1/4 inch in thickness for every ten degrees colder you go. In other words to stay reasonably warm at zero degrees will require a sleeping bag approximately two and one-half inches thick. This statement is generally true regardless of the type of insulation your particular bag may contain. The synthetic fibers, such as dacron are virtually as good as goose down so far as their insulating qualities are concerned. The difference is that a two and one-half inch thick bag of goose down will weigh considerably less than a dacron bag of equal thickness. You should try to buy a bag with insulation not less than two and one-half inches thick while keeping the total weight of the bag at about five pounds.
Clothing has already been mentioned and the first aid kit will be in another file. This leaves a long list of items that might be labeled "miscellaneous." Include a nylon cord not more than 20 or 30 feet. A climbing rope is nice to have if several members together are working their way through mountainous terrain but unless some definite need is anticipated, I would leave such heavy and cumbersome items at home.
Include such food items as these: dehydrated meals for at least 14 days, sugar, vitamins, and an abundant amount of halazone tablets. The dehydrated foods are fine so far as weight is concerned but I am more convinced than ever that cooking must be kept at an absolute minimum. There are times perhaps when it may be essential to cook certain vegetable items to guard against toxic substances or to cook animals that have been captured and might be infected by some disease. Except for these necessary occasions, even the smallest fire places such a traveler in great danger of being discovered by the enemy. For these reasons, leave coffee, tea, and boullion cubes at home along side your cigarettes and pipe tobacco. Sugar can best be carried in the form of candy that cannot be spilled or be easily ruined by moisture. Ordinary foods contain all of the salt that a person normally needs for good health, and pepper of course, is one of those niceties of civilization that is best left behind also.
Of those foods that are readily available, the best in my opinion for emergency survival rations would include canned meats and cheese, peanut butter mixed with sugar packed in plastic containers, and various types of candy that are customarily sold in small pieces and in plastic bags. All of these items are very low in water and therefore contain a high proportion of nutritive value, and they can be eaten with knife and fingers out of the container in which they are carried. For the person who may be required to flee for his life at any time, survival foods beyond the amount he can carry in his pack are a very dubious investment.
I used to carry several items for cooking such as a nesting set of cooking utensils, heat tabs or sterno, knife, fork and spoon, plate, cup and scouring pad. Of these, I would make do with my canteen, canteen cup and a good hunting knife. Such cooking as may be essential can be done in the canteen cup. If you know where to look, tinder is always available for starting fires. Sand can be used to clean your canteen cup thus eliminating the scouring pad. Under desperate circumstances, good table manners do not justify the extra weight of a fork and spoon.
Other items usually listed that I would eliminate include candles, shovel, ax, wire, rubber tubing, folding saw, pliers, wirecutter, screwdriver and file. Items which I would retain include matches in a waterproof container (I'd carry along a lot of these); a flashlight is good so long as the batteries will last; a sharpening stone is worth the weight; compass, maps, ground cloth, thread, safety pins, needles and extra buttons are well worth it. While they weigh very little a few fish hooks, line and sinkers might be included though I have grave doubts as to their practical value. Except in the high mountains I would say that a good insect repellent is worth its weight in gold.
A small towel or washcloth has many uses that justify the weight. Soap and toothbrush are essential. For men, a razor and blades may be necessary to avoid looking conspicuous on those occasions when contact with other civilians is unavoidable. For women, tubeless tampons and ziplock bags for disposal purposes. Other desirable miscellaneous items include a small magnifying glass, paper and pencil.
The dangers of noisily shooting or trapping wild animals while trying to evade hostile forces is illogical. In this regard a good slingshot, boomarang or blow-gun with poisoned arrows would be worthwhile in killing small game silently if the opportunity presents itself. In capturing wild game, beware of those animals that are caught too easily. They may be diseased and therefore, unsafe to eat without cooking.
Plant foods (See end of file for list of descriptive books) will often constitute a major part of the survival diet. The reasons are basic and clear:
1) Plant food is more abundant than fish, meat or eggs under most circumstances 2) Plant food is easy to obtain without equipment 3) Plant food can be obtained silently without arousing the enemy 4) A vegetarian diet is usually rich in vitamins, rarely being accompanied by dietary deficiencies such as meat and fish diets sometimes produce.
The biggest difficulty with the vegetable foods is their low caloric content. Large quantities must be consumed in order to meet the energy needs of the person that is engaged in hard work or considerable exercise. Generally speaking, the seeds, fruit, rapidly growing sprouts and roots have more food value than other parts of the plant.
More than 300,000 kinds of plants grow wild in various parts of the world. A comparatively small percentage of them are poisonous. Many more, however, are simply not digestible by human beings. The *Army Survival Manual FM 21-76* (See end of file for source) devotes over 100 pages to descriptions of various plants that are edible but only a small percentage of those described are widely found in the United States. Rather than waste time looking for plants that you know are edible, it is better, in actual survival circum- stances, to determine which of the plants you find growing abundantly right where you're at may be safe to eat.
Avoid plants that have a bad smell or seem to be covered with stinging hairlike projections. If given a choice, select those plants for further testing that bear a resemblance to ordinary domestic vegetables. When you find what looks like an edible plant, subject it to the "taste test." Take a small amount into your mouth, chew it and then spit it out. Then watch for symptoms. If it tastes all right and there are no symptoms, go ahead and swallow a pea sized quantity. If the taste is really disagreeable, don't eat it. Remember that grapefruit is sour and lettuce is often rather bitter so an unpleasant taste does not, of itself mean poison. A burning, nauseating or bitter taste is a warning of possible danger. Continue with progressively larger quantities over a couple of days until you are sure it does not affect you adversely. A small quantity of a poisonous food is not likely to be fatal or even dangerous. One exception to this are mushrooms. Although many fungi are edible, they are generally not worth the risk involved as their nutritional content is very low.
Some plants are poisonous raw, but safe after cooking. The cooking removes the poison or converts it chemically. When security precautions permit, cook all unknown foods. In the tropics and warm climates, there is a real danger from bacteria that may be growing on the outside of such foods, especially in areas of human habitation. Cooking will take care of this hazard also.
Don't waste time taste testing plant foods that are rare or difficult to get. Make sure there is a worthwhile supply available before testing. Also, just because a small amount of plant food passes the test, don't assume that you can eat unlimited amounts with impunity. Large amounts of ripe coconut for example, can cause disabling diarrhea. There are some obvious exceptions (such as dandelions, wild figs, bread fruit and papaya) but generally speaking it's best to avoid eating plants that have milky juice.
The *Army Survival Manual FM 21-76* must be considered the basic work on techniques of physical survival under adverse conditions. It is divided into seven chapters. Chapter one deals with the general problems of individual and group survival, health and first aid. Chapter two deals with navigation and cross country travel. Chapter three deals with the problems of finding water and making it safe to drink. Chapter four deals with food, both vegetable and animal and the various means of obtaining these foods in wilderness areas. Chapter five deals with firemaking and cooking. Chapter six deals with the survival problems that are to be found in special areas such as the arctic, desert areas, jungle or tropical areas. Chapter seven deals with special hazards to survival, such as poisonous plants, dangerous animals, etc. The Manual is to be read carefully at home and then left behind with all those many items that are not really worth their weight to carry with you.
For the experienced sportsman, properly equipped and in the proper season of the year, wilderness survival for a period of a few days or weeks is no problem at all. Unfortunately, we have no guarantee that a communist occupation of our country will last a few days or weeks. Suppose it lasts twenty or thirty years? When traveling continuously over rough, rocky ground, the best pair of boots will only last two or three months.
In his book, *Mountainman Crafts and Skills,* David Montgomery gives us directions for tanning the hide of a deer and using this to make Indian type moccasins. This sounds very good but there are certain probems involved. If you are being hunted by police forces or military personnel, you may not want to risk the sound of a rifle shot to kill the deer in the first place. Of course he also shows us how to make numerous traps by which we might catch the deer without making such noise. Once again however, a hunted man would find it very risky to set a trap and then return hours or days later to see if he had caught any game. If his enemies found the trap first, they would no doubt have a nice reception party waiting for him at his return. In any case, a shoe or boot with a good stiff sole is absolutely necessary for rock climbing or extensive travel over rocky terrain.
Various survival books devote considerable space to the selection of edible plants as opposed to plants that may be poisonous. Here again, we have problems. Many of the plants shown in these books are actually quite rare in wilderness areas. In Norborne, Missouri, I have a yard full of dandelions but I did not see one single dandelion in all of the Gila wilderness area.
Also to be considered is the fact that most plant foods are quite low in calorie content. If you want to go on a reducing diet, spinach, cabbage, green beans and brussel sprouts will all help you lose weight. These domestic vegetables are quite nutritious compared with most green vegetables that you might find growing wild. A guerrilla fighter or fugitive who is being sought by his enemies will generally be required to keep on the move. It will not be possible to spend all day hunting out particular plants that you know to be edible, picking the limited quantities that may be available and then cooking them in order to obtain the maximum nutritive value from them.
Building a fire can be dangerous. Smoke can be seen a long way off. In the winter time especially, even a very small smokeless fire will cause moisture in the cold air to condense and form a conspicuous cloudlike column rising high in the air and visible for a considerable distance. Enemy forces are certain to investigate any suspicious source of heat that may be located in a remote area during their occupation. In one day's time, a single aircraft equipped with modern heat detecting devices can search an area of several hundred square miles. In fact, Che Guevara's Bolivian adventure came to an end shortly after his guerrilla band was located by just this technique.
The danger of using a fire complicates both the water problem and the housing problem. Boiling is the best and surest way to purify contaminated water. Lacking a fire, one must depend on water purification tablets. Thus these tablets should be one of the MUST items in your survival kit. Except in the very coldest weather, a fairly primitive shelter will keep you from freezing to death if you have a small fire burning. Without the fire however, much warmer clothing and better shelter will be needed.
I do not mean to imply that these books are without value. To the contrary, they deserve careful study by every patriot who might find himself forcibly deprived of the comforts of civilization. The point to remember however, is that these books were written with a situation in mind which may be con- siderably different from the circumstances which American patriots could face in time of anarchy, war, enemy occupation or government tyranny. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Book Sources of more information:
Army *Survival* Manual FM 21-76 $9.95 Updated (March 1986) FM 21-76 $19.95 *Can You Survive* $10.00 *Mountainman Crafts and Skills* $16.95 *Survival: A Manual That Could Save Your Life* $16.00 *Prepare Today: Survive Tomorrow* $13.95 *Edible? Incredible: Pondlife* $7.95 *Common Edible Plants of the West* $4.95 *Edible and Useful Wild Plants of the U.S. and Canada* $6.95 *The Mushroom Manual* $8.95 *Know Your Poisonous Plants* $6.95 [excellent] *A Field Guide To Animal Tracking in North America* $13.95 [excellent]
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