Gear up for survival with LifeSaver
Posted 12 months ago
Whether you live off-grid, are a lone trekker or just enjoy walking in the hills with friends, knowing how to look after yourself away from the bright lights, might just save your life. In fact, in today’s politically and environmentally uncertain world, basic survival skills and the right survival gear, could prove vital.
So, at LifeSaver we’ve compiled the top 5 survival tips to help keep you safe in the wilderness.
No 1: Purifying Water
No surprise that this is our number one! Human life can only last 3 days without water, so it really is essential to life. Our body contains 60% water and continually needs to be rehydrated. Dehydration can cause serious physical side effects such as fatigue and decreased endurance – not helpful when you need to be alert and efficient.
To stay hydrated, you should drink between 2 – 4 liters a day, dependent on activity levels. But drinking from an unfiltered, natural source has its own dangers, as you never know what bugs might be lurking in the water. Find the cleanest looking water possible, and avoid stagnant or still, pooling water, unless you’re desperate. Polluted water can cause diarrhea, pneumonia, and other illnesses. That’s why a trusted, portable water purifier bottle is critical for survival. There are quite a few on the market but not all survival drinking water purifiers have been made equal!
The LifeSaver Liberty ™ bottle is a great piece of survival kit. It removes virus (99.999%), bacteria (99.9999%) and protozoa, commonly known as cysts (99.99%). It’s independently tested, and exceeds the highest drinking water standards. And, for practicality, it comes with a 5ft scavenger hose, to easily access water without getting wet. So, you can even filter large volumes of pure, clean water, directly from your natural source, not just into your own bottle but into spare containers to save for later or share with others.
Alternatively, you can always boil water for 2 – 3 minutes to kill any bugs. But for that you’ll need fire, which brings us conveniently to tip number 2.
No 2: Building a Fire
Apart from being useful to purify water, fire provides several other survival benefits. First, it prevents the risk of hypothermia. This is particularly important if it’s cold or wet. Fire will keep you warm and dry you out.
It can be used to cook, or ‘smoke’ preserve food, particularly raw meat, killing bacteria and parasites. It’s the perfect wilderness distress signal system, pinpointing where you are using smoke by day and light at night. It also keeps unwelcome company at bay – fire will deter wild animals and smoke protects from nasties, such as mosquitos.
Starting a fire isn’t easy, so preparedness and having the right gear for survival will help – whilst there are plenty of innovative products on the market, the humble match or a standard lighter could turn out to be your best friend. And, if all else fails, the traditional ways are your back up. So here are our key tips:
- You’ll need tinder. A simple tin of Vaseline lip balm could be the answer to your prayers. Check out how to make petroleum jelly cotton ball fire starters here: http://www.ramblinjim.com/articles/using-vaseline-cotton-balls-as-a-fire-starter/
- Start small – gather thin, dry sticks to act as kindling. Alternatively, shredded bark from cedar or birch trees burns well, as do dry cattails. If it’s wet, peel damp bark off a dead standing tree until you get to drier layers. You only need enough to get started.
- To create and catch your initial spark you can:
- Use a glass lens – point the lens at the sun and then aim the beam created at the tinder nest until it begins to smoke. When it starts smoking, gently blow on the tinder nest until you produce a flame. Good alternatives, to a conventional lens, include the bottom of a drinks tin (rub in chocolate, if you have any to hand, to clean it and make it shine), a mirror or a water-filled balloon or condom. You can even create a lens out of ice, if you’re stranded in a freezing environment. Just make sure your lens is thicker in the middle and thinner at the sides.
- Use friction – Maybe not as easy as they make it look in the films! You’ll need to create a v-shaped notch in a log, and choose a strong stick to create the friction. Rub the twig between your hands as fast as you can, moving your hands up and down quickly. When the log begins to smoke, use your tinder nest to catch any glowing sparks flying off.
- Once you’ve got the fire going well, start to build on top of it – like a bit of a teepee – spacing larger logs out evenly so they don’t suffocate or collapse the fire.
No 3: Finding Shelter
Humans are not designed to weather the elements for long and, in extreme situations, exposure is more likely to kill you than dehydration or starvation. So, finding somewhere safe to shelter is critical.
If you haven’t come prepared with a survival shelter system, you’ll need to improvise. Look for a natural shelter, such as a cave, hollow trees, rock formations or even abandoned structures but be wary – wild animals don’t make friendly house guests, especially if they got there first.
When it comes to your environment, weather can change rapidly, so time is of the essence. Without the chance to scour the terrain for a suitable ‘des res’, you’ll need to create your own. You can utilise the root ball of a large fallen tree or an undercut bank to form a back wall and build out from there, using either a tarp (if you had the foresight to pack one) or branches and debris from the surrounding area. Or, just look for the most densely populated tree you can find such as a fir tree or willow. Trees can be remarkably good at keeping you dry and providing protection.
If it comes down to building your own structure, check the wind direction – you don’t want your shelter with its back to the wind, as this will draw smoke inside. And look out for potential dangers, such as falling branches or flash floods. Find a large sturdy branch and two strong forked branches to create the main skeleton then using smaller sticks and twigs form a lattice work that will secure and enclose the shelter. Finally, cover with a combination of leaf litter and mud.
One last tip – No matter what the environment, try to elevate your bed off the ground, even if you just create a mattress of tree branches. This will help you stay dry and avoid bugs scuttling around on the ground.
No 4: Foraging for Food
Humans can live without food for up to a month but that doesn’t mean you should or you’d want to. We need food for energy and if you’re lost in the wilderness, energy will be an important commodity.
Preferably, we need a mix of carbs, fats, proteins, fiber, vitamins and minerals to survive long term. So, where will you find all of this in nature?
Fish, small game, insects (oh yes!), edible plants, fruit, berries and nuts can provide a plentiful supply of nutritious food – and most of this is accessible in some form in all forests, woods and wilderness. However, working out what’s toxic can be tricky.
General rules for foraging include:
- Avoid plants with white or yellow berries – ivy, holly or mistletoe berries too
- Don’t eat mushrooms. Some varieties are deadly, so it’s not worth the risk
- Avoid plants with thorns
- If it tastes bitter or soapy, spit it out
- Steer clear of shiny leaves
- Stay away from plants with leaves in groups of three
- Stay away from plants with umbrella-shaped flowers
- Avoid beans or plants with seeds inside a pod
- Milky or discolored sap is a warning sign
- Avoid anything with an almond smell
For protein – apart from meat or fish – worms, grubs, termites and beetles are a perfect source. Boil or slow roast them to negate the effect of any harmful toxins. However, it’s recommended to avoid any that are brightly colored, pungent, hairy or can sting or bite. If you’re lucky enough to find or hunt fish or meat, the golden rules are don’t eat anything putrid or rotten – no matter how hungry you are – and make sure that good meat or fish has been thoroughly cooked before you tuck in.
And if you’re still not sure, you could always try the universal edibility test.
No 5: Navigating to Safety
Thousands of hikers get lost every year but with some natural navigational skills, the right equipment and a little common sense, it doesn’t have to signal disaster.
Natural navigation means using your senses rather than technology like maps, GPS or a compass, to keep a track on your location. In our modern world, most of us don’t pay as much attention as we could to the telltale signs around us. But we are hard-wired to do just that. So, here’s some basic navigation techniques:
- Be prepared. Study where you’re going and get a clear mental map of the area. What’s the natural landscape made up of – rivers, hills, valleys, railway lines, lakes, trails and roads – and importantly, in which direction. Are there any major landmarks that would help you identify where you are and, most importantly, where’s the nearest town.
- Learn your landscape. The ability to explore where you are without getting further lost, is key. So, either memorise, or make a map of where you are, to ensure you can always get back from point A to point B. You can start small, by getting to know a limited area in each direction. Another good tip is to create markers, small stacks of stones, crosses on trees etc, as you move around.
- Use your senses. Stop, look and listen, to get your bearings. You may be able to hear traffic, machinery, voices or water. If there’s water close by, follow it downstream. It will likely connect to a larger body of flowing water. Follow that, switching each time it connects to a larger body of water, still heading downstream. If you can’t find any water, aim to walk downhill. Either of these routes are likely lead to back to civilization.
- Navigate by the stars. This is simple enough if you know how to find the north star. From this you can work out every other direction. If star gazing isn’t your thing, check out how to find the north star here. https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-find-Polaris-the-North-Star/
And one final modern-day tip – on route, take lots of photographs with your mobile phone. This could serve as useful survival aid to follow your steps back to safety.
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