Many thanks to Tedd St. Rain for posting this over at MySpace. With the way things are going, and looking ahead as far as possible, I sincerely believe that this information is going to become real important, real quick, therefore, here it is...
When the shit hits the fan and you head for the hills, some basic knowledge will help you.
Attitude is everything. Some of you may read this and think "yeah, o.k., now get on to the good stuff". What you must realize is that without the proper mental attitude, the other topics will be of little use. If you have done your homework, and practiced the techniques described, you will survive if you have a positive mental attitude. Tell yourself that you WILL get out of this. You WILL persevere.
I have seen some survival books talk as though collecting water is easy, catching game with snares is simple, and survival is something that can be taught in books. When I was young, I lived in the country. On Friday afternoons, I would take water proof matches, a liter of water, my bow and some arrows or my trusty Ruger 10/22, a ground blanket, and spend the weekend making snares, fishing with equipment I made, and hunting for my dinner. I used primitive fire making methods and only used matches when I had to. I can tell you that there is nothing easy about any of this shit. There was much I didn't know at the time, but I had read lots of books. I probably knew more at 11 than most people ever do. Cable TV was unheard of, and computers were magical talking 'entities' as seen ..rek. For me, society was full of unnecessary trappings that only made men soft and weak.
By Sunday I was ready to return home. I shot a few birds and rabbits, caught a few fish and ate well. But I learned something that many people do not realize. To survive you must battle three things in this order:
You can die in a few hours if you cannot retain body heat. You can die of exposure in 72 degree weather! You will develop hypothermia when your body loses heat faster than you can produce it. You need calories to generate body heat. People can die of hypothermia in warm water. The water is cooler than they are, subsequently the water absorbs body heat until their body can produce no more. It is a slow death.
When you breathe your breath causes water loss. Perspiration causes water loss. Evaporation from your eyes causes water loss. If you cannot replace these losses you will die. Drink water with little microbes, parasites, etc. and you will develop diarrhea. This will increase your fluid loss and you will die even faster. Food is the last thing you will need. In moderate climates, you can survive without food for up to 30 days. You will die without water in one or two in the desert! Finding edible berries and plants are the last things you need to learn. Conserving fluids and body heat are the primary survival skills. If you can survive long enough to get real hungry you are doing a good job. In extreme cold food is more important because your body converts food to heat.
First examine what you have to work with. Seat cushions from a vehicle are insulation. Glass with imperfections, bifocals, binoculars, etc. can be used to focus the suns rays enough to start a fire. Thread stripped from a foam seat cushion and wound together can be used to lash things together, make fishing nets, sutures for stitching wounds, etc. Remember your priorities. Shelter, Water, and food. You will have to balance these priorities and make decisions. You will burn calories while walking, calories that will be hard to replace. You will also perspire, can you afford the water loss? If the enemy is searching for you, you will have to move to a safe location.
Exposure and Body Heat - Winter:
Time is running against you here. You must work quickly and conserve energy. After you have taken inventory, build a fire. Hopefully you will have matches or a lighter. You must conserve these valuable items. Before you build your fire, pick a place for your shelter. Now gather combustible materials. Cones from pine trees don't burn. Bark doesn't either. DON'T waste matches trying to ignite them.
Gather material in this order:
Very small match stick thickness twigs. Have at least a good double handful. They must be dry. To find dry sticks in the rain, look under the overhang of an embankment, under-side of logs, dead dry roots pulled out of an embankment, the center of a stump or dead tree dug out with a knife or hatchet.
Small sticks a little bigger than the ones above. You will need more of these. Some of these may be a little wet. Bigger sticks, Twice the thickness of the ones before, even more of these. Keep moving up in size until you are collecting branches and small logs. If the wood is available you will need as much as you can gather in an hour. Drift wood will work if it's dry.
Now that you have your wood it's time to build your fire. Take your time and do this right. DON'T throw the fire together haphazardly. This will only waste fuel and increase the risk of the fire not lighting. Every match you have is like gold. Do not waste them. If you do this right you will only need one.
Take a medium size branch and lay it down. Now build a tiny lean-to with the smallest sticks by leaning them up against the branch. Take more and and lay them perpendicular to first layer, and parallel to the big branch. Use lots of very small sticks and leave enough gaps between them for the flames to rise up through and ignite the upper layers. If it's raining or windy cover yourself with something to protect your fire. Now add the bigger sticks to the top of the your neat little lean-to, using a tee pee shape, and surrounding the little lean-to on all sides. Leave a small gap up close to the big branch to get your match under the pile. If you have a small slip of paper or lint from pockets, put it under the lean-to and ignite it. As your fire grows, start adding more and more sticks to get the fire very hot. Now add the larger sticks, the heat will dry them if they are damp. (Not if they are green or soaked through.) Keep building your fire in stages. DON'T wait too long to add the next size larger sticks. The heat generated from the rapidly burning small ones is needed to dry and ignite the larger ones. As soon as you can, put some bigger stuff on by laying them across the big branch on the ground. Once your fire is going, DON'T let it go out. If you need more fuel gather more, and start building your shelter.
This is the fastest shelter I know of:
If there a snow bank nearby You are going to dig a cave in the snow. You want the opening to be away from the wind. The cave has to be very small. For a snow shelter to be effective it must be below freezing. If not, melting snow will saturate your clothing and you will freeze. Hollow out a place to lie in the snow. If you have something to line the floor with it will be much warmer. If you have nothing but plastic or something, try to find evergreen tree limbs to line it with. You want as much between you and the cold ground as you can. You will lose more heat by being in contact with the cold ground than you will from the air. The air in your cave will warm and retain heat. If you have a small heat source you can place a vent through the roof to allow gas to escape. You must ration your heat source. You will need it more at night when the temperature drops. Luxuries to add will be more insulation, seat cushions, etc. and a door.
A "Ranger Pile" is a shelter used by small parties who lack bulky camping equipment or who for tactical reasons, must not risk fire or shelter construction. First layer of men, four or five lays very close together on two ponchos snapped together. Next layer lays on top of the others, cross ways. Another layer on top of them. Remaining ponchos are snapped together and pulled over the top and tucked in around the sides. If a quantity of DRY pine needles, leaves, etc. can be quietly collected, this can be used for insulation stuffing. Just pile it on each layer before the next gets on. This is how small recon teams survive without carrying a lot of bullshit with them.
A vehicle will block the wind but the compartment is too big to retain body heat. You will freeze if you stay in a car. Strip cushions, carpet, floor mats, insulation, etc. from the vehicle to line your shelter with. If you have tools and can remove the hood or trunk lid you can use these for a reflector to direct heat in one direction from a fire. NOTE: You will not need a car in the woods so put it to use.
If you are fortunate enough to have the materials to construct a lean-to, build one similar to the way you built your fire. Keep the openings away from the wind, and towards your fire. Use a reflector to direct the heat into your lean-to.
Clothing - Winter:
Thin material should be put closest to your body, as should wool. If you have extra foam from seat cushions, stuff your shirts and pants with it. It will work as insulation. Extra clothing can be stripped in to pieces of about 5" x 4' and used as wrapping for extra socks. You want to have the material that best holds in heat closest to your skin. This same concept can be used when you have the luxury of a sleeping bag. Sleeping bags are designed to hold in heat much better than clothes. When you get into a bag, remove all of your clothes and lay on them. Naked, your body heat will be trapped between your skin and the bag. Otherwise your heat escapes through the thin material of your clothing, and stays between your clothes and the bag, until it dissipates. If you have no clothes for the environment, you will have to use the shelter for clothing. Keep your shelter VERY small and use insulation. This is your only chance to survive.
If there is plenty of snow and ice you will have a good water supply if you have a fire and a container to melt it in. DO NOT EAT SNOW. It will lower your body temperature and bring on hypothermia. Always melt it and get it warm first.
Do not drink alcohol of any kind. It will thin your blood and increase your urine output. If it's strong enough, you can use it as a disinfectant.
You may want to find a book named "White Dawn". It chronicles the lives of three men who were lost in their small whaling boat in the arctic back in the 1800's. It is an excellent work of fiction but provides many accurate details of how northern aboriginal peoples survive in their climate.
Exposure - Desert states:
Since there is nothing in the desert to hold in the heat, it dissipates quickly after the sun goes down. Deserts can drop to near freezing over night. During the day the temperature will soar and fry your brain and dry you out and kill you. For this reason any movement should only be at night. For shelter you must get out of the sun. If you can, dig a hole to get in and cover it. Do not strip off your clothes. Have you ever wondered why Arabic people wear those long, heavy, hot looking clothing on their heads and bodies? It is because moisture evaporation is your worst enemy in the desert. Clothing helps keep in this moisture and slows evaporation. It must be loose enough to allow heat loss. You will need to stay warm at night, refer to the Winter topic above.
Water is THE most important thing to consider in the desert, it must be conserved. Long term drinking of urine can make you sick, but if it's all you have you will have to drink it. Succulent plants like cactus also contain water, as do the bodies of snakes, lizards, and other animals. Suck every drop you can from them, but avoid the poison glands in snakes (they are right behind the head in the neck). The only two parts of animals in North America that cannot be eaten are the livers of the polar bear and bearded seal. They contain toxic amounts of Vitamin A.
If you have plastic or a poncho you can collect water at night in the desert. dig a hole (or use support sticks) as wide as the plastic. Make a hole in the plastic at the center. Stretch the plastic over the hole and weight down the edges with rocks. Press down the center of the sheet or tie it to a rock to pull it down. Place a container under the hole. When dew forms on the plastic it will roll down hill through the hole and it into your container. Use your poncho during the day as shade. Again do not drink alcohol, it will increase your urine output and aid in dehydration. I know...it sucks.
Exposure - Tropical & sub-tropical states:
Here, heat and sunlight are your worst enemies. Insects and water contamination are also major problems. The heat and humidity of the jungle makes for rapid bacteria growth. Any untreated wound will fester within a few hours. In a day or two a cut can become bad enough to cause gangrene. You must protect yourself by turning down sleeves, blousing your pants to keep insects out, and wearing gloves and a hat.
Water must be boiled well to kill parasites. Safe water can be found in water vines. These are very thick vines that hang down from large trees. Cut one at a 45 degree angle, move up the vine and cut it off about three feet up or sever it to release the suction. Hold your mouth under the vine and the water will flow out. This water is safe to drink without boiling. Try not to let it run along the exposed outside of the vine though, that area will have tiny insects living on it.
Streams are usually as deep as they are wide. Diffenbachia (or "dumb cane") can be crushed and added to water to stun fish. Mangoes, bananas, coconuts, and other fruits are safe to eat if you wash them with sterile water first.
Some miscellaneous things for tropical & sub-tropical states:
Blow guns are difficult to make, but I'll tell you how for the hell of it. Take a limb and split it length-wise. Scrape the bore of the weapon into both halves. It must be perfect. Allow it to dry and polish the bore halves smooth. The two sides must fit perfectly. (This is harder than it sounds). Bind the two back together with bark or vine strips. Darts are made from any wood that can be sharpened. To launch the dart a small tuft of fiber (like cotton) balled around the base of the dart.
During the rainy season in tropical states, grubs can be found in the center of trees. They are a great source of protein. Build a platform or hammock to get off of the ground when you sleep. Insects will eat you alive if you don't. Mud can be used to keep mosquitoes off. The tropics are a garden of Eden compared to the desert or the arctic. With a little common sense anyone car survive.
I don't know of any poisonous plants that don't taste extremely bitter and nasty. If the leaf tastes mild it is probably OK to eat. When in doubt, try a little piece first and wait a couple of hours. If nothing bad happens try twice as much and wait again. Keep doing this until you've tried enough to have made you sick. If you are still OK then it's probably safe to eat. There are exceptions to this rule, most notably among berries. Some berries don't taste too bad but are poisonous.
You should educate yourself before going to a new area. Pictures in books never look like the actual plant. Generally, if it crawls, walks, or slithers on it's belly it is safe to eat.
Remember, your job is to stay alive long enough to make sure they don't.