Sunday, April 13, 2008

How to Survive the Wilderness With Just a Knife

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

Believe it or not, survival in a temperate environment is easy. In the woods one can die from a number of different things. However, by simply having the knowledge and exploiting what you know, the woods can become a home and a new reality. By having a simple blade, one can fashion his own tools and his own means for survival.
NOTE: Before considering any of the information below, recognize that temperature defines precedence in the wilderness. If the temperature gets below 40 degrees at night consider fire your most important prerequisite. However if the temperature rises to greater than 90 degrees during the day, consider moving and working at night and sleeping under cover during the day.


  1. Find Water. First things first, you are stranded somewhere in a temperate wilderness during late morning, the worst case is that you do not know where you are. That is not a problem. You don't know where you are, but you know where you want to go...downhill. This is because water is held stringently by the laws of gravity and you want water first as you can only survive three days without it. Move to the lowest point you can find.
  2. Make friends with trees. On your way downhill, educate yourself of three different trees.

  • White Birch Look for a white tree with a paper-like material coming from it. This is an important tree, it's called the White Birch. Not only is the inner bark edible, but the outer bark can be used as a waterproof container (if it doesn't have any holes in it). Also, most people don't know this but you can cut a hole in the tree and get a spicy sweet sap a lot like a maple. Some other useful attributes are a follows:

~~ One can cook soup in birch bark as it will not burn with liquid inside it.
~~ Birch bark can be used as temporary rope
~~ The white birch can be carved into a good walking stick.
~~ Birch bark has been used in the making of native canoes.
  • American Basswood The second tree you should know is called a Basswood. This tree is really easy to recognize. It has grey, sometimes veiny bark and some of the largest heart-shaped leaves to boot. Do not get this tree confused with a moose maple, which has leaves with three points. This tree is important, as it is going to be your source of rope, snares, straps and ultimately your backpack. You will start to see this tree as you get closer to water, it's thirstier than you are and can also be a source of water if you don't feel daft sucking on the side of a tree.
  • Common Maple The third and final tree you need to know is the common Maple. This is going to be your walking stick as well as your protection. It is a very hard wood with a clean grey-looking bark. Now picture a Canadian flag in your head, that is a maple leaf. If you don't know what a Canadian flag looks like, suggestion is to pick up a book and find out before you go into the woods.
  • Cut some Basswood bark. If there is no water, move to the base of a hill or a mountain where a stream or river will most likely run near its base. This is where that tree lesson will come in handy.

    • Find a Basswood. As stated above, they love water and high banks.
    • Use your knife to cut a horizontal line all the way around the trunk. Do this at the bottom and about four feet above that.
    • Now cut one straight vertical line from the top line to the bottom one.
    • Observe that the top line looks like a T where the two lines meet. This T is where you will dig your two thumbnails into the tree.
    • Now gently pull these two flaps away from the white wood below. You should now have a curved floppy rectangle.Now the easy part:
    • Cut this strip into as many smaller vertical strips as you can. Ideally they should be about 1/4 inches wide.
    • Now flip these strips over to reveal a wet shiny layer, THIS IS THE LAYER YOU WILL USE FOR ROPE.
    • Carefully pull the green outer bark away from this thin sheet of wood. Observe that the green part will be significantly thicker than the thin material that you want.
    • Wrap these thin strips around themselves so that they each make a ring about 3 inches in diameter.
    • Use your green junk to wrap up about three quarters of your new rope.
    • Place this wide jumble of rope around your wrist so it will be out of the way.
    • Use the other 1/4 of your rope to make shoulder straps, a belt, and most importantly a bicep strap to go on your upper arm for your knife.
    • All your green bark scrap should be saved and strapped to you otherwise, using your new lashing or other strips of bark.
    • After all that work you will most likely be thirsty. Luckily all you have to do is go downhill to get some much-deserved water.

  1. Go Muddin'. While your getting some water, there is a very important step that will save you a lot of grief latter. While you're near water, it is important for you to cover yourself in a thin sheet of blue clay or dirt if no clay is available. This layer must cover every piece of open skin. This layer will be your only defense against black flies, deer flies and ticks. The best advice that can be given is to enjoy yourself, this step is very important and seriousness will not help your morale nor your situation. Enjoy the innocent child you left behind.
  2. Invite some friends. After you have your armor, it's now time to set some snares. Find game trails, which should be littered all around the banks of your water source. Take off around 6 of your strips and tie a 1-inch diameter loop at the end. Slip the other end of your Basswood snare through this loop and prop it up above the ground at a level appropriate for the game trail you are occupying. Small trails speak towards small game, large trails should be avoided. For rabbit, raccoon, quail and partridge, place the snare 4-10 inches above the ground. For added measure, one can rub mud around this loop to disguise the scent and the appearance of the freshly wrought basswood.
  3. Ugh... Make Fire! Now if the day is getting late, your best bet is to make a fire. It is often best to gather a lot of dry wood first, with sizes ranging from twigs to small logs. For multiple fire starter methods, type "how to make a fire" into the WikiHow search directory. The fire bow method works particularly well with basswood. Before lighting your fire, clear a 6-foot circle around your fire site. Choose a location without branches immediately above the fire. Collect as many head-sized stones as possible to ring the fire and keep it from spreading. This method is actually optional, as fire will contain itself if there is no fuel around it. However, a ring of rocks will trap and reflect heat inward making it easier to keep going. One of the most important aspects to remember about fire is to respect it. Keep it contained.Once you have your fire, it is important to keep the flame below two feet, that way your fire will not take much in the way of fuel. You do not want to go back into the forest for more wood. Insects will maraud you. Your thin coat of mud or clay will block their bites but not their sound. On a psychological level, the simple fact that they could still get in your eyes and ears should keep you well stocked before you start your fire.
  4. Build a shelter. One does not really need a shelter in average conditions. However if you do need one, or expect rain, the main thing is to keep it small, dry and off the ground. Never spend time building small cabins or even a shelter bigger than your body. This is a waste of energy and resources, and it's easier to keep heat captured in a smaller space. Large clumps of moss that you can use to cover a small wooden skeleton work well. Also, Birch bark makes for an excellent shingle. Your best bet, however, is to use massive amounts of softwood and ferns. If you are quick, you can gather enough for a six-inch barrier that will shed rain as well as hold heat. In two hours one cannot only sleep comfortably but dry and warm.
  5. Stay conscious of the fire. As you sleep, make sure you are aware of just how far away your fire is. Grogginess could have you lying right on top of it with no one there to put you out. If you do not feel comfortable with a fire going while you sleep, you can put it out and dig a hole where you are to sleep and fill it with the coals. By putting a layer of dirt over this spot you can lie on top of it and sleep very comfortably.
  6. Look for breakfast. When you wake, be aware that insects come out a dawn. Now is the time to pick up your metabolism and move quickly, as the insects can still get in your eyes. Also, movement trains your body to provide its own heat through exertion. The only problem is that one's motivation to move is usually lacking. Your motivation should stem from the fact that you had set 6 snares the previous day and one of them might hold breakfast lunch and dinner. So to raise your body heat, move from snare to snare. You may have gotten lucky.
  7. Tighten that belt... Now it is important to prepare yourself for two contingencies.

    • The first is that you got absolutely nothing and have a very hungry and downtrodden demeanor. If this is the case, simply go to your nearby Birch tree and cut a 4-inch triangle out of the bark. Turn one point towards the ground. You can eat the underside of this bark, as it is very nutritious. Also, a small trickle of sugary sap comes out of the bottom point of this triangle. Don't worry if it's not much. Surprisingly, a human can survive off a tablespoon of food a day for a limited time.
    • The second contingency is that you got something, most likely a rabbit or a small game bird. There is a pretty good rule for eating things on animals: Don't eat anything that looks inedible. Otherwise, almost anything's fair game if you cook it well enough ... and by well enough I mean burnt.
    • Here's another rule with food: Don't eat where you sleep or sleep where you eat. Scraps and entrails will attract predators (ie BEARS). Discard bones, entrails, beaks, etc., VERY far from your shelter.

  8. Follow that water. Now that you know how to gather food and water, it is important to recognize the other use of rivers. Humanity was not build upon the backs of man, but on the banks of rivers. To find humanity, simply follow your river downstream. Using all of the things stated above, a person can live indefinitely in the woods.


  • For Antiseptic, seek out the common honeybee. The grey oozy substance they use on the inside of their nests is one of the worlds greatest antiseptics.
  • For Energy, seek out soy plants and sources of vitamin B as well as sugar foods and fruits to provide great amounts of energy on an empty stomach.
  • For Band-aids, seek out the common spider. Their webs can be inserted into open gashes or cuts to stop bleeding.
  • For Fire Starter, seek out the fir tree. The bubbles on fir bark can be popped to reveal highly flammable sap.



  • Berries are common in the wild and make excellent meals. However, beware situations like the one shown to the right. Bears are often great connoisseurs of berries and will often inhabit that source of nourishment. Most bears will retreat if you encounter them in the open. However, they might see you as competition is such a scenario and attempt to remove you from the situation. The picture below shows a blackberry patch (A) and a rather large rump print on the ground next to the bush (B). This is proof that a bear will sit in these bushes to feed. Do not go near bushes if you hear rustling sounds.
  • The best experience with a wild bear is the one that never happened. Like most animals, they naturally fear man. Making lots of noise as you hike about (clanging metal, blowing whistles, singing, banging sticks, etc.) will alert them to your presence and usually make them move away. Obviously, this is counterproductive when you're hunting. One should note that grizzles and polar bears are curious animals and will go towards unnatural sounds. However grizzly and polar bears are often found north of habitable regions. 98% of the worlds grizzly population being in Alaska.
  • NEVER approach a bear cub. Trust that even if you don't see her, Momma is nearby. She won't be happy with you. If you see a cub, walk quickly and steadily away.

Mountain Lions

  • Mountain lions and large cats are the exception to most game rules. You cannot play dead with a mountain lion and you can't outrun them. Also even if you move away slowly and get them out of sight, they will undoubtedly follow you waiting for any vulnerability. The best advice is to be vicious and decisive. They will come at you and dodging is usually not an option. However there is a technique to be used. Hold your left forearm in front of your neck and wait for the lion to bite. It will bite your forearm in order to remove the defenses around your neck. With it jaws locked quickly plunge the length of your knife upwards into the bottom skin of its jaw. Because of the head trauma it may not let go, plunge the knife into the skin around its jaws, twist and push away in one motion. If it is not dead it will most likely be trying to rub its head against rocks or trees. Run in a zig zig pattern away from the wounded animal. Wait for a half hour and return to make sure it is dead. Now you have food. Apply honey to spiderweb and place both on your arm. check periodically and make sure no blood gets out as it could attract other predators.


  • Ticks can be one of the most psychologically and physically taxing parasites in a temperate environment. They are small eight legged arachnids, that like insects are attracted to heat sources. They will often times lay in wait in grass two to three feet high where they will then transfer to your clothing. From there they will go to your head or your crotch, the two highest sources of heat on the human body. from there they will secrete a local anesthetic that they use to hide their movement as they bore headfirst into your skin. In this state they look like a piece of corn stuck loosely to your flesh. However when you touch them their legs pop out and wriggle making even the hardest of woodsmen cringe. Several removal methods and misconceptions will be addressed bellow.
  • NEVER burn a tick out. Often times their guts will spurt into the open cavity that they use to feed, namely under your skin. If you use this method you must burn the skin an inch around the area of infestation or you run the risk of getting Lyme disease and rocky mountain fever. There are better, and less painful ways of tick removal.
  • NEVER yank the tick out, their anchor like jaws will stay under your flesh and may give you rocky mountain fever or Lyme disease.
  • Removal method: Find a fir tree. Look for a Christmas tree with bubbles on the bark. Grab a stick, pop the bubble and place that end flatly under the new hole, now roll one end of the stick up over the bubble with pressure applied, use this method to squeeze the sap out. This should gather sap on the end of the stick. Now spread this sap over the tick generously. Pop more bubbles if you need to. Now with the pitch on your arm find a very oily plant or tree. Ash works well. Now observe that the tick has pulled himself up a bit. spread as much ash oil on the pitch as you can and repeatably wipe the sap off. The tick will pull himself up because he cannot breath. After the tick has been rubbed off spread more oil over the area to lift up the sap, if all else fails cover the spot with peanut butter, or animal fat, wait, and then wash your hands in water, the sap will come off quite easily. Also note that the vitamin C in the sap has made the skin more supple.

Intestinal Parasites

  • Intestinal parasites can be dealt with in many ways. Two of these ways are as discussed bellow.
  • One effective way is to find a fern that grows in most temperate environments. This fern is called pasture brake. During the early days of its lifespan it looks like a small fiddlehead with brownish white hair growing off from it. The typical species of pasture brake is four inches tall. During this stage it is edible both raw and cooked. It is, however a mild poison that changes the environmental conditions of your intestine making survivability a tall order for any parasite. As this plant gets older it becomes more poisonous. If the plant is tightly curled you can eat one every hour or if it is fully grown, one every other day to get rid of the parasite.
  • Another way to rid yourself of intestinal parasites is to eat two cigarettes a day until they are gone. The poisonous nature of cigarette ingredients are not lost on intestinal parasites.

Poison Ivy

  • Poison ivy is a small three leaved plant that usually lies very close to the ground. In order to turn away any would be predator its leaves contain a chemical called urushiol which bonds with skin cells and creates a very prominent and uncomfortable rash that can last as long as five to six weeks. If you have made contact early stages will show a simple rash. However, for severe reactions expect significant blistering and/or oily discharge. Treatment methods and myths will be listed below.
  • NEVER Burn Poison Ivy its smoke is highly toxic. Also urushiol cannot be destroyed or dissolved by ordinary means.
  • NEVER cut out the blisters or attempt to remove them. The ooze that comes from them is not contagious and will not spread the rash under ordinary circumstances.
  • NEVER urinate on the rash, this does not work and can even intensify the reaction due to the ammonia in the urine.
  • MYTH: Clothing will not protect you from poison ivy, urushiol will seep through clothing in as little as fifteen minutes. If you know you have come in contact do not physically touch the area as the urushiol will spread. Instead, remove the article with thick cloth or bark covering your hand and anchor it in moving water for at least an hour. After a time the urushiol will leave the artical.
  • Useful Method: If contact is made in less than seven minutes the chemical can usually be washed off with soap before it bonds with your skin cells. However the chemical is a oil so soap is needed to wash it off. In other words water will not work alone. However this method is highly debatable as soap can also house the chemical and spread it in the same fashion.
  • Useful Method: Immerse your body in water for an extended period of time. Oil is lighter than water so the urushiol may as matter of physics remove itself from your skin before it has bonded.
  • Useful Method/Myth: Alcohol will not dissolve or remove urushiol by itself. However it may delude it enough so that it can be drawn out with a spongy material or cloth.
  • Conclusion: urushiol cannot be pulled away from the flesh once its bonded, the only thing that native technology can do is to numb the itch or treat the reaction not the chemical itself. Therefore the only one that can truly treat it effectively is a doctor armed with Tecnu or Ivy remover.

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