Hunting and Survival Tips

The key to survival is preparation. Oftentimes, however, being in a survival situation means that you may not have the necessary tools or equipment at your immediate disposal. Proper survival training and know how allows you to use the items in your environment to your advantage. Such knowledge is invaluable and can be the difference between life and death!

One may think that these skills are only important to outoorsmen, campers, fishers, and the like. This is a common fallacy. Everyone can benefit from basic survival skills! Imagine – you are on a relaxing hike in the woods, when suddenly you realize that you are lost. Everything starts to look the same, and you are not quite sure where to go or what to do. Panic starts to set in. What will you do? With survival skills such as small shelter building, fire starting, how to find potable water, and navigation, chances are you will make it out of any situation – alive and well

Finding Water for Survival

Water is essential, without it you will simply die. In a nutshell without water your chances are less than zero. This is true in all climates whether hot or cold . The human body looses a tremendous amount of water in hot climates. and even larger quantities when exertion enters the picture. Cold weather is no exception, your body still requires at least 2 quarts of water per day..Considering that the human body consists of mostly water, it must remain hydrated, or all of its functions will deteriorate rapidly. Unless water level is maintained illness will follow and possibly death. The simple act of eating should be avoided if water is not available. Remember the digestion of food takes water. If water supplies are low do not eat.

Many times finding water may prove difficult. obviously this can be a problem in the desert. Also the oceans can present a difficult time supplying fresh water as well. Just because water is in abundance does not mean it is consumable.

Streams and lakes are not generally a problem, If it is available disinfect it and drink it. When in hilly areas look in the valleys between the hills. The larger the hills the larger the watershed will be. You might have to dig a hole in the lowest area available to locate water. Dry creek beds can also be a source , as well as rock depressions, When looking in dry creek beds dig into the bank with the direction of water flow as low as possible and let water seep into hole.

In desert or mountain areas that have large rocks depressions. The rocks will sometimes act as cache basins. Always look in these spots.

You must keep in mind, water never has been crystal clear and pure. Any and all water in the wild areas of the world have always been contaminated with micro organisms. Only in the fantasy world of Hollywood and television commercials has pure water existed. The one possible exception would be subterranean spring water. Impure water has been responsible for killing millions of people due to diseases like Cholera and Typhoid, These are deadly threats to life and have existed in the water in past years..Even today in the computer age people should still Consider all water suspect. Meaning unless it comes from a known pure source it should be considered unsafe and contaminated unless treated. Rain water is an exception rain water is nothing more than evaporated and condensed water. If captured in a clean container it may be consumed as is. Drinking salt water must be avoided, Salt water puts a heavy strain on the kidneys and will cause them to eventually stop functioning. The result of this is death.

Regardless how overpowering your thirst may be. Do Not drink impure water. If you do, Chances are disaster will quickly follow. This is a problem you do not want in a survival situation, Waterborne diseases are dangerous and may include Typhoid, Cholera, or Dysentery and many types of bacteria or cysts.

Water may be treated with various methods to render it safe to drink. Boiling is always a safe bet, There are also chemical methods of treatment that are also safe. Iodine based disinfectants are easy to carry, long lasting and do a good job.


Mosquitoes are not only a nuisance, but can also spread disease. They seem to come out of nowhere by the thousands at times. The buzzing alone is irritating, but the bite can bring potential long lasting illness. And once bitten the itching can be unbearable and seems to last a long time. Mosquito’s are a prime food source for bats and many birds. They keep many of these animals well fed.

Only the female mosquito bites, the male is content to live on the juice of trees and plants. The female is on a life long quest for blood. She needs this protein for egg production. Unfortunately in her quest for blood she may bite a sick person or animal and transfer diseases from one host to another. Once a mosquito is infected with a disease it will last the duration of her life. These diseases are no trivial thing, they include West Nile disease, yellow fever, encephalitis and approximately 70 additional others types of disease.

Mosquito’s like water; stagnant water is a prime breeding area. They thrive in the decay of brush and grasses. Empty or eliminate any areas of standing water, this will help reduce the population. There are two classifications of mosquitoes. The Anopheline and the Culicine. It is the Anopheline type, which is the malaria carrier. The Culicine type, which also includes the common house mosquito, and the yellow fever carrier. Both types of mosquito can present serious health issues.

The female may live from a week to 30 days or more. In this period of time she will lay several batches of eggs. Ranging in quantity from 50 to in excess of 200. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist long to determine this can turn into a population explosion rather quickly. Birds, bats, dragonflies are all mosquito predators. Without them we would soon have a very serious problem.

The tiny mosquito is well armed to hunt its prey. They see in a different light spectrum than we do, They are extremely sensitive to carbon dioxide and lactic acid. They seem to prefer dark colors and blues the best. Each time you exhale a breath, you surround yourself with carbon dioxide. To the mosquito its as though you are ringing the dinner bell. Also they zoom in on lactic acid. Sugar products when mixed with saliva create lactic acid. Eating sweets is like waving a red flag. When you exercise or stretch and strain your muscles also create lactic acid. This is a normal function, but to the mosquito it’s a sure-fire way to locate a good meal. The only defense against them without any repellants is to lock yourself away or to cease living. I find neither of the choices very appealing.

Many years ago, a product was developed to repel these small bloodsuckers. It has been used worldwide for many years. There are people that will not or cannot use this product, yet to this day it seems to offer the best defense. The name of this product is “N.N-diethyl-metatoluamide” or commonly called “DEET”.

There are many debates over the concentrations of DEET and what percentages work the best. It seems that 100% is no more effective than 17% as far as repelling goes, although the time frame between applications is much longer with the higher percentages. One company in particular has figured out a time release formula. This formula works very well. The US military forces are currently using this formula. TC.

How to Build a Compass

In our lifetimes few things are more consistant than the sun. It follows the same pattern day after day and year after year. It is so consistant that clocks are designed to use its precise timing. Our planet Earth rotates on its axis extremely close to 15 degrees per hour. This precise timing allows us to make a compass using shadows cast by the sun. We can then use these shadows to find north and south.

From this baseline we are able to determine directions with more than a fair degree of accuracy and consistency. There are several ways to determine cardinal directions by using the sun and shadow methods. But, I shall only give single example in this article. As we have been taught for many generations, the sun rises somewhat in the east and sets somewhat in the west. It also crosses the southern sky. By using this easterly and westerly rise and setting of the sun, we are able to use shadows cast by the sun to build a crude but accurate compass of sorts.

To build a compass using this method, you will need only a few items and patience. A short straight stick, several small stones, a smooth area and a sun that is bright enough to cast a strong shadow.

To build a shadow stick compass such as shown in photos, you will need only the items listed below and patience.

  1. A short straight stick.
  2. Several small stones.
  3. A smooth area, and a sun bright enough to cast a strong shadow.

First, you will need a straight stick approximately 12 inches long. push this stick into the ground so it is in an upright position. Hopefully the sun will be bright enough that it will cast a strong and distinct shadow. Next set a small rock on the ground at the end of the shadow. Every half hour or so, again you will place a different stone at the end of the shadow. As the sun moves a cross the southern sky the end of the shadow will be at a new location on the ground. After you have set several rocks in place, you will notice they will be in somewhat of a straight line. This line of rocks will be indicative of your east / west line. If you stand with your left foot on the first shadow that is cast, and your right foot on the last shadow cast, you will be facing a northerly direction. And your back will be facing a southerly direction. From this basic north south position you will find it easy to determine the other directions. I recommend showing this little trick to your children, they will love it, and as a bonus it may prove useful one day.

Ash Cake Cooking

Food takes on a whole new meaning in the wilderness, and generally a whole new taste as well. Most people will eat things in the wilderness that they wouldnot even consider eating at home. Food that is burnt and hard or even cold seems appealing to them. And why not? It’s different, most generally, unusual In taste and texture. Many times it even looks disgusting to some. Think how many campers seem to long for bacon and eggs cooked over an open fire, in a cast iron skillet. Granola bars are good, and easy to pack, but lack that special taste that seems to say “hhmmmm, camp cooked’. In this letter I will be writing about different cooking methods, some easy and some a little unique. all work well. The photographs you are seeing show bread being baked on a hardwood stick and Ash cakes cooked in a pile of hot coals.

The above photos show the baking of bread being baked on a stick. When baking bread in this manner it will prove to be easier, if a forked stick is driven into ground and the baking stick is set in the fork. This method will allow easy rotation of the bread.This also provides bread that is more uniformly cooked. I have a tendency to over cook most foods, including my breads. If bread becomes a bit dark, simply scrape off the over cooked areas. It is possible to cook this bread into a golden brown and tasty treat. your baking stick should be made of hardwood and dry. Avoid resinous woods as they will impart an undesirable taste to bread

These photos show ash cakes being set directly onto the hot coals for cooking. This method will always burn the outer layer of the bread. This is not a problem for some people. The ash will wipe off the bread and the parts that become burnt can be scraped or cut away. Or you can simply break open and eat the bread inside. I like these cakes. Always, use only hardwoods for the fire and let burn to a bed of coals. By adding sugar and, or a touch of cinnamon the bread is a special treat. Kids love the taste of this bread.

As you can see in these photos, the bread is being cooked on aluminum foil and on a hardwood slab. both methods tend to keep ash and burning to a minimum. The bread likes to stick to the aluminum but I have discovered that a thin layer of flour seems to help and minimizes sticking. I must again stress, use only hardwoods. A flat thin rock that has a fire built on it is also a great cooking platform.The rock will hold heat a very long time. Build a large fire. Find a clean flat rock and set the rock on the fire. Place hardwood onto the top of rock. The wood will burn and heat the rock. Brush coals to the side, so a clean area is exposed in center of rock and place bread dough on rock. let bake until firm, then rotate often for even baking. I have baked potatoes in the same fashion.

Cooking In A Baggie

Cooking foods such as soups in a plastic baggie would seem impossible. It would seem ridiculous to apply heat to a thin plastic bag without destroying it. Yet as strange as this may seem, the baggie not only acts as a suitable container for food storage, but it also makes a suitable cook pot. I recommend carrying two one gallon freezer type baggies in your survival kit. These freezer type storage containers are made of a thicker plastic than their counterpart, the lightweight and conventional storage bags.

Steps to cook in a baggie.

If a container of some sort is available to support your baggie when it is full of water then by all means use it. If none are available then a hole dug in the ground offers the needed support to hold the baggie in a vertical position. The size of this hole should be only large enough to hold bag in a secure upright position. The next few steps are easy enough to follow. first locate approximately 6 to 10 golf ball size rocks, these rocks should be smooth. Wash the rocks thoroughly in clean water. This is necessary to remove any dirt or mud. Now start a hardwood fire and let the fire burn to a bed of hot coals. keep this fire strong by adding wood until you have an abundance of hot coals. Use a blow tube to direct air into fire. this will increase temperature considerably. Add your golf ball size rocks to fire and let them sit in hot coals. After 20 minutes or so, remove the rocks one at a time and add them to your water filled baggie. Use green sticks to remove rocks from fire. Cut a flat end on each stick , this will help greatly in holding rocks in place. Be sure your baggie already contains the appropriate amount of water and your chosen ingredients for your soup.

Be very careful when handling these rocks, DO NOT touch them with your hands. These rocks will be extremely hot. Under most conditions, about six of these rocks added to soup mix will normally bring solution to a boil. Be careful, as these rocks will stay hot a very long time, When you believe the rock has lost most of its cooking heat,add another, and so on. Only a few medium size rocks will bring water too a very high temperature. If you happen to have aluminum foil in your survival kit, then insert a folded piece in bottom of the baggie, this will be helpful in the prevention of holes from sharp rocks. A layer of Dandelion leaves will also perform same function. Your baggie is worthless if it becomes punctured or torn. I have used two of these freezer type plastic bags at the same time. Insert on inside of the other, add a small amount of water between the two. then fill the inner baggie with your soup mix and water. I once had some doubt as to whether this would actually work the first time I tried it. But it does work. Our minds tell us that the hot rock will destroy the thin plastic. As of yet, I have never melted or burned a hole in the baggie. Although I have punctured one. My recommendation is to use the smoothest rocks you can find. Always avoid creek bed rocks. The internal pressure from steam will cause rock to crack and many times actually explode. Rocks are pourous and will absorb water. When these rocks are heated, steam builds up internally and in many cases, causing them to explode.. Good luck on this method of food preparation. The lowly baggie may not be the best cook pot, but then again its not the worst by far.

Wilderness Cooking

Cooking in the outdoors whether for survival purposes or just for the fun of it, can be very enjoyable or a real hassle. There are many factors and variables that can turn the best of intentions into a gourmet nightmare. Obviously, if you have all of the cooking equipment you need with you, then your chances for a culinary delight are greatly improved. But in a survival situation, the reality is ‘It ain’t gonna be no Pic Nic’. Let’s face the truth, when you are scrubbing for grub it should be easily prepared, contain the necessary nutrients your body needs and hopefully have a taste that is reasonably palatable. I realize some types of foods are going to taste bad enough that they could gag a maggot. Although we are able to make them taste better, or at least a little bette

The first item on our list will be fire. Cooking fires to be more precise. Not all types of fires can be utilized efficiently for cooking. What we need for cooking is a good bed of hot coals. In the majority of cooking cases it will be the coals and not the fire itself that should be utilized. That is, unless you are browning, toasting or reflecting the heat of the fire. Always try to use hardwoods for cooking since they burn slower and hotter than softwoods. Always avoid evergreen trees if possible. The resins in the wood will cause the fire to burn inconsistent and will often impart a bad taste to roasted foods. Always have a bed of coals large enough to cook your foods. Heat regulation is very important. A good rule of thumb are the hand and second count method. Place your hand approximately four inches above the coals and count the seconds before you have to remove your hand from the heat. This may seem like foolish thing to do. But unless you have hands of steel you won’t linger to long. The length of time you are able to hold your hand near the coals will give the approximate temperature of the heat. A simple chart is below:

1 second or less=450-500 degrees F.
2 to 3 seconds =400-450 degrees F.
4 to 5 seconds =350-400 degrees F.
6 to 8 seconds =250-350 degrees F.

There are many efficient cooking methods and all will get the job done, some are simply easier to use than others. Ash cooking for example is a very old method and works well. I must stress again, always use hardwoods for ash cooking. By simply laying food on top of the coal bed it will cook just fine. Very little if any ash will stick to the food. Besides, a little ash will not hurt you anyway..The early mountain men and pioneers would prepare dough and roll into balls or flatten. They would then lay this prepared dough directly on the hot coals. Often the outside will burn somewhat,but this does not create a problem or ruin the bread. After baking, break open the dough ball and eat the soft inner bread. If the crust is not to brown, brush off ash and eat the hard outer crust. Or dip in coffee. Everyone should try this. I have a complete article written specifically for ash cake cooking. Take a look and read.

Meats can be cooked in the same manner, the heat of the coals will sear the outside of the meat and trap the inner juices. After cooking, the ash will easily brush off the meats. This meat will be absolutely delicious. Potato’s and tubers can be buried in the coals and left to cook. They will also develop a hard outer crust while cooking. To eat, simply cut open the hard crust and eat the contents. Potatoes or tubers may also be packed in a layer of thick mud or clay and buried in a bed of hot coals then left to bake for approximately 20 minutes or longer. After cooking, break off the mud or clay shell and eat the prepared foods. Many types of foods may be prepared in this manner. In the months ahead I will describe other types of cooking methods. In the meantime, try the methods described above. You will be surprised at the delicious meals you are able to prepare using very little. Good luck.

Bivy Sacks

The very word Bivouac, means (a temporary encampment). But in the eyes of the outdoor enthusiasts, it means a temporary encampment in a micro shelter. These new breed of miniaturized tents are extremely small and weigh very little. Some weigh barely over 2 pounds. They will fit easily in a small day-pack and are designed to handle the worst of weather conditions. These are far superior to the old style cotton bivy sacs that were once issued to American military personel. These old bivy sacks were little more than sleeping bag covers. The newer models that are currently being used by the U.S.military are very high tech. These are manufactured using a very grade material and laminated with waterproof breathable fabrics. The outdoor enthusiast market offers sleeping bag covers that are not only waterproof and breathable but can be zipped completely shut to seal off even the harshest of weather conditions. Some models are little more than tiny tents. I have used both types. If a person is claustrophobic then these shelters will not suit their needs at all. After all, they are very restricted as far as room goes. But as a emergency survival shelters, or for use on extreme lightweight backpacking trips, there shelters are hard to Beat.

The quality of these shelters is superb. and the ability to seal them off from heavy rain or snow is very good. I once slept comfortably through a blizzard in northern Michigan a few years back in one of these bivy sacs. The wind along with blowing snow was ferocious that night. By morning I was covered in several inches of snow, yet none of the snow or wind penetrated my small nylon fortress. Many bivy sacs have micro screen netting sewn into them for extra breathability along with offering insect relief. Most of these models can be seal completely off to the outside weather.

I have even slept in the northwoods of America, where the mosquito population is huge and they have proven to be relentless blood suckers. These mosquito’s simply will not let up. I have zipped myself inside the bivy sac and slept thru the night while hundreds of mosquito’s were trying desperately to get at my warm blood. These shelters are by no means inexpensive, although a decent nights rest is worth a great deal. The photographs show various brands and models. All of the brands shown are worth considering. If you are able to deal with this type of shelter. Keep in mind they are small. Try one, you might like it. I sure do.


Sleeping Pads

I have stated many times in the past that only a fool sleeps uncomfortable when they do not need too. In this Letter I will focus on commercially manufacture sleeping pads. I realize these pads are a long shot from pine boughs or a moss and leaf bed. But none the less, they are out there on the market for sale, and they do work. Most are relatively inexpensive. Extemely functional and pretty darn comfortable. In the very cold regions of the northern United States and Canada, These pads can save your life. When I am on a backpacking trip into the Cold northern regions, I always carry two pads. Sleeping on two pads, even on a frozen lake has proven to be very comfortable. By using two pads, I have never felt the bite of cold even while sleeping on ice. The insulation value changes of course depending on the thickness and type or pad used. There are several types available. I will attempt to list the most popular types along with the positive and negative sides of each type.

Sleeping pads perform two important functions. The first is to provide a comfortable bed. Even when sleeping on hard or uneven ground. Secondly, they provide an important insulation barrier between you and the cold ground. This barrier will prevent heat loss from your body to ground through conduction. They function much like a sleeping bag by trapping and holding non-circulating air. Dead air is an insulator, moving air is not.

There are several types of pads available. Many are very light and offer borderline comfort on rough terrain, yet maintain remarkable insulation qualities. A few are exceptional at both yet still weigh very little. Then there are the self inflating open cell foam pads, they are heavy by a couple of pounds, yet offer supreme comfort and tremendous insulation. They are bulkier and take a few minutes to fully inflate. much longer in cold temperatures.

Lets start with air mattresses. I consider these a poor choice. Air mattresses may be ok in fair weather for car camping and floating around the pond on, but avoid them as a winter or wilderness choice. Air mattresses are heavy and require effort to inflate. They puncture and tear easily. the air inside is free to move when you do. This alone makes them a poor choice as an insulation barrier.

Open cell foam pads. Open cell foam pads are lightweight and inexpensive. They are constructed of millions of tiny foam cells. These cells tend to restrict air movement which makes them a better insulator than the air mattress. These pad are very comfortable, yet tend to be bulky. Another negative is the foams ability to absorb moisture in wet conditions. Open cell foam must be cut four times as thick as closed cell pads to achieve equal insulation.

Closed cell pads are constructed of very dense foam filled with tiny closed air cells. These pads are very inexpensive. The will not leak, impossible to deflate. have almost no air movement in thev pad. They weight next to nothing and can be cut into smaller sections for sitting pads. On the negative side, they are thin, stiff and firm and offer less than perfect comfort and rocky ground.

Self inflating pads. These seem to have most of the good qualities, and the negatives are not hard to deal with. And This type of pad offers great comfort, this type of pad also comes in a variety of thickness. They are constructed of open cell foam, yet they are sealed into a nylon cover with a valve built in for inflation. The nylon case holds trapped air with the foam restricts its movement. These pads will self inflate, after valve is left open. After inlation simply close the vale. A few puff of additional air may be required. The cover is easily cleaned with soap and water. They will puncture in the field, nothing is unbreakable. Although they can be easily repaired . On the negative side, they are more expensive, can be punctured or ripped, and some tend to be a little bulky to carry. A pad of this type when used in conjunction with a closed cell pad, will offer supreme comfort and insulative qualities. Here is a workable suggestion… Sew a sleeve that will allow you to insert both type pads into it. Leave one end open, this will allow you slip both pads into one container. This simple sleeve will keep both pads together. If you do not do this, you will find both pads tend to move about, leaving you on the cold ground.


Thistle is a plant that is hated by many farmers. Thistle is considered to be an invasive plant that spread quickly in disturbed soils. Once entry is gained into unused fields, it is very difficult to eradicate them. They compete for space, water and nutrients in the soil. They grow very well where conditions are favorable for them. The thistle will grow in patches or singularly. The thistle plant has a worldwide range. Thistles can be found growing in dry rocky or moist sandy soils, such as forested meadows, clearings, prairies, roadsides, river and stream banks. It seems to thrive well in most areas. Its prickly leaves and straight stem make it easy to recognize the plant. The flower heads range from a beautiful purple, white, pink, or yellow.

Bees, moths and butterflies often frequent the colorful flowering head. Stinging ants, wasps, even bumblebees have a fondness for the nectar. Songbirds eat the seeds and the flowers. Even the tiny hummingbird may be seen eating insects on the flower head or collecting the down for their nests. The common thistle, although regarded by many to be a nuisance plant and noxious weed by many is a storehouse of edible food. Virtually all parts, less the spines can be used for food. It can be very useful in survival or wilderness living.

The roots, stems, young leaves, flower buds and even the seeds can be eaten. The roots can be eaten raw or cooked into a table vegetable such as a tastey turnip substitute in prepared foods such as soups. The roots can be dried and ground into flower or used as a stew extender. As a sugar substitute, roast the roots in an oven at low heat and extract the sugary syrup. It has a slightly bitter taste and is caramelized in color. This syrup can be used as a sugar substitute. The roots can be peeled and boiled then pickled in brine or soaked in sweetened cinnamon sugar syrup for a tasty sweetmeat. This is a traditional and tasty side dish in Armenia.

The peeled stems have long been considered to be wilderness thirst quenchers. The peeled stems are a nice treat to the knowledgeable woodsman, hikers and survivalist. The stems are juicy with a sweet taste and work well as a satisfying thirst quencher. Even the flowerless young stems are edible. Peel off their sharp prickly spines along with the hard outer rind filled with fibers and eat raw like celery. They can also be used as a potherb or made into a candied treat or pickled. The basal and stem leaves can be despined and eaten raw in salads or cooked as a vegetable. A hot tea can be made from the leaves. Eating the raw leaves is an acquired taste. Use only the young leaves, as the mature leaves are unpalatable. A hot tea can be made from old and withered leaves as a wilderness medicine such as an emetic (a vomit producing agent) to treat mild cases of food poisoning. The list of uses for thistle is quite impressive. The list is far greater than the limited room I have in this newsletter to write about. As a survival food, its uses are indeed impressive, and as a medicine the list is equally impressive. So the next time you come across the lowly thistle plant, consider it your friend instead of the noxious enemy many have always considered it to be. The thistle plant has far to many good qualities to be considered a lowly weed.


Cattail, a most unlikely food source, or so it would seem. Actually there are four species of the American cattail, all of which are edible. Early settlers and Native Americans all used the cattail plant year-round as a source of food and fiber. Cattails are easily recognized by their tall and stiff flower stalks, which arise in clusters with long sword, shaped and pointed leaves. The flowers at the top of these stalks have the appearance of two sausage like sections. The pollen-bearing male flowers above, and the seed producing female flowers below. Cattails grow in the shallows of lakes, ponds, rivers and estuaries throughout the country.

The humble cattail has many delicious edible parts. Unlike many other plants the cattail does not have an acquired taste. The cattail is a storehouse of food no matter what time of the year you choose to use it. In fall and winter the mature flower head can be used as excellent insulation when used in clothing. It also works well as tinder for fire starting.

In early spring cut the young (18”) sprouts close to the rhizome. These may be peeled and eaten raw or slice and boil like green beans. The taste resembles cucumbers and the texture similar to carrots. In early summer cut the young flower heads just as they are beginning to turn from green to yellow. Remove the husk and boil, eat them, as you would corn on the cob. From mid fall to mid spring use the starchy rhizomes (the underground stems connecting plants). These make a great potato substitute or can be dried and ground into flower. To harvest, dig between plants with a digging stick and break off section of rhizome. Save the tiny green sprouts known as Russian asparagus. Boil in salted water. Peel away the rhizomes spongy outer husk and use only the white pithy inner core.

Cattail leaves are not edible but can be dried bundled then used as a cooking fuel. The leaves can be used year-round for weaving mats or baskets.


I am not to confident in the fact that anyone knows where the first snowshoes were developed. I have heard many opinions as to their origin. But none of that speculation really matters. The design of the snowshoe is pretty much the same today as it was countless years ago. The major difference is in their size and the materials used. Early snowshoes were very large in comparison to the models of today. Many of the older types would often reach seven feet in length. These shoes were designed for large open spaces and fast travel. these were called,Alaska’s, Yukon’s, and Pickerels. These shoes were quite long and not very maneuverable in wooded areas. Today’s snowshoes are made mostly with very high tech plastics, aluminum and composite materials. The overall length has shrunk considerably. These new models are very lightweight and offer tremendous strength. The sole purpose of a snow is to offer floatation on snow. All snowshoes will sink somewhat into the snow. The depth of this penetration will be determined by the snows texture, the overall size of the shoes and the total weight the shoe must support.

The above photos show three different types of snowshoes. The far left is the more traditional wood and rawhide lace. These shoes are considered by many to be the best and the most attractive. Middle photo shows a pair of U.S.military magnesium framed snowshoes. These snowshoes have plastic coated stainless steel cable for lacing. I like these shoes. The far right are aluminum tube frames with synthetic decks. These snowshoes are very lightweight and offer great strength and floatation. This is pretty much the current trend and style being manufactured today. Many different manufactures offer similar models. Prices vary according to bindings, materials and size.

This set of shoes are constructed with a solid deck being molded around aluminum tubing. This type of shoe is a little heavier but extremely strong. They also come in varying sizes. This type of shoe is also becoming more popular each year. s. This set happens to be a little shorter than the top right pair. Never wear a shoe that is larger than what is needed. Always keeping in mind that a backpack or any equipment other than yourself will require a larger shoe. On the far right are the small Swiss army snowshoes. These work well with limited weight and on hard packed snow. And they are very cost effective, generally under twenty dollars a pair. snowshoes are worthless unless they can be fastened firmly to the foot. It seems every manufacture claims to have the best bindings. I have used many different bindings, The all seem to work pretty well. The new synthetic bindings are easily fastened even while wearing gloves or mittens. A note on wooden and rawhide snowshoes is in order. When winter ends and it is time to retire your snowshoes until the next year. Consider giving the a thorough cleaning and coat them with 2 layers of shellac or clear varnish. I have used the new polyurethane coating with success.

There are many good books on the market that offer substantial information concerning this winter sport. Read a few. They all offer good tips. If you have never walked on snowshoes then by all means try the sport. It is very hard work, but the rewards of going into places no other can with them is a lot of fun. The winter sights are awesome. Try it, you may just love it.

Making A Spoon

Eating utensils can be easily made even in the wilderness. The common spoon is by far one the most practical and useful choices of utensils to make. And soups are much easier to eat with a spoon, Soup dishes are not only easily prepared, they are nutritious as well. In the wilderness, a spoon may be made by using a knife and dry wood. The center is easily burned out to a rough shape using the hot rock method. Heat rocks in a bed of coals,Then using a forked stick or two small green sticks set hot rock on wood to burn to shape. Bowls can also be made in similar fashion. Once a general shape is formed only time and effort are required to finish the bowl or spoon. Scraping and shaping is easily accomplished with a knifes edge or sharp rock. A smooth finish is easily obtainable using sand or finely crushed rock dust. use the dust as you wood sandpaper. The finish product will not only be a beneficial item, but it will aid in helping to relax the mind and will keep a persons thoughts focused.

These spoons are not only easily made but will last many years. Not to mention a possible souvenir. And perhaps a reminder of an experience that not many people have. Try to build this spoon, I believe you will find it enjoyable and very gratifying.

Sleeping bags

A sleeping bag is our personal micro shelter. It has the ability to provide wind protection and offer a snug warm bed and a good night’s rest–that is of course, depending on whether you are using the correct bag for the temperatures your are in. Keep in mind, a sleeping bag does not act as a heater, it simply has the ability to trap and retain the heat radiated by our bodies. Many factors will determine the appropriate bag for individual use. Obviously the type and amount of insulation material is a primary concern when choosing a bag. The type of insulation used will determine its climate use. It’s ability to dry rapidly and compresses easily are factors that must be considered. Down has been considered the ultimate insulation of choice by mountaineers for years. Mountaineers can use down because the areas they operate in are dry. Cold yet very dry.

Many backpackers also prefer down. It has the ability to loft quickly and maintain its loft for many years. It is lightweight and will compress into a very small bundle for carrying. The single most negative quality of down is its ability to absorb moisture. Once wet or moist it can take a very long time to dry again. Bottom line is, wet down has zero insulation properties. I have used down for many years. I love it. I have never encountered a problem with a damp sleeping bag. Several companies are making the outer shell material from waterproof, windproof, and breathable fabrics. If this is an option when purchasing a sleeping bag, then by all means do so. Cheap sleeping bags will not get the job done. You may encounter a situation where staying in a bag for an extended period of time may be necessary. Never cut corners when purchasing a bag. A good quality down filled bag will last many years. There are currently many synthetic filled sleeping bags on the market. These modern synthetic bags are reasonably price and offer a long list of excellent qualities.

The biggest drawbacks are their weight and lack of compressibility when carrying on a backpack. On the positive side, they are moisture resistant and may be purchased with same shell fabrics as expensive down sleeping bags. When purchasing a sleeping bag choose a darker color for the outer shell. It has the ability to absorb the sun’s solar energy and will aid in quicker drying times. Always purchase a sleeping bag with a good hood, draft tubes and shoulder collar. The hood will be greatly appreciated when air temperatures plummet. Draft tubes run the internal length of the sleeping bag alongside the zipper. Their purpose is to prevent heat loss thru zipper and prevent drafts from penetrating bag. The shoulder collar or muff is designed to cinch around neck and prevent heat loss thru top of bag. This is a big positive when outside temps is low. All sleeping bags are not created equal.

Unfortunately there is not a usable scale to compare one brand to another. ALWAYS use a sleeping pad under a bag. The cold ground will strip your heat quickly. Avoid air mattress use in cold environments. Air mattresses do not offer adequate insulation from ground. Each time you move the air in mattress moves redistributing cold air internally. I prefer the self-inflating foam core sleeping pads. They offer comfort and tremendous insulation. Buy one. Also offered is the dense closed cell foam sleeping pads. These are excellent. They do not offer the comfort of a self inflating foam core pad, but are much lighter and considerably less expensive. If you choose to purchase, or already own a sleeping bag that does not have a water repellant shell, consider purchasing a cover. Some are reasonably priced while others are designed for extremely harsh conditions and are priced accordingly. Above all, remember the heat our bodies create is dependent on a fuel source; food is our fuel source. Stay fed and hydrated and your furnace will continue to put out heat. Any questions you may have about sleeping bags, I will happily answer for you. Just email me with your question and I will promptly reply. Check out the list of web sites below if you are in the market for a new sleeping bag. This list is made up of what I consider to be the best there is in sleeping bags. List is in alphabetical order.

Survival knives

It seems that when we hear the words survival knife. We conjure up mental images of huge razor sharp Bowie knives. These mental images may even include large fierce looking saw teeth on top edge of knife blade. While larger knives will always require less time and energy to perform most survival related tasks, they are by no means the only style of knife to use. Many knives that are considerably smaller may accomplish a wide variety of survival related tasks. It is therefore a mistake not to include a good pocket knife in your survival equipment. Small tasks, such as cleaning fish or game are accomplished easily with a small sharp pocket knife. Try peeling an apple with a ten inch Bowie knife, and you will soon understand what I am saying here.

The Large Bowie style knives shown in above photographs are handmade and extremely strong. These large knives will make many hard to do tasks much easier. I personally feel that any knife that is to be used in a survival role should have a blade length of 6 inches minimum and a maximum blade length of close to ten inches. I realize there are many excellent knives on the market with blades in excess of ten inches. If such a knife interests you, then by al means purchase it. When considering the purchase of a knife, try to stay with models that have full tags. A full tang knife is simply constructed as one piece of steel from tip of blade to end of handle butt. This knife will normally have handle slabs bolted or riveted to the tang. This type of knife is very strong. Hollow handle knives are not my cup of tea. This type of knife was very popular a few years back, when many believed you could carry enough supplies in the handle to keep one alive in the wilderness indefinitely. For the most part hollow handle knives lack the strength to handle prolonged abuse. There are exceptions to this rule of course. I know of at least one manufacture that creates his knives from a solid single piece of steel. These knives are a work of art. I suspect I will get a bushel of email telling me how wrong I am on this subject.

Another consideration should be saw blade teeth found on many survival knives. While these teeth appear as though they are capable of cutting anything into two pieces, most simply do not work well. They knife industry is saturated with this type of knife. I have found the small Swiss army knives to have excellent saws, including an assortment of other useful tools. These small saws actually do work, very well in fact. They are perfect for building snares and a wide variety of other survival requirements and tasks. When purchasing a new knife, your decision may quickly become clouded and very confusing. Especially with the wide selection of steels that are available today. Many of us have heard stories concerning the difficulty in sharpening a knife made of stainless steel. I find that this notion is total nonsense and not a problem anymore. The new breed of diamond sharpeners will do a superb job of restoring a knife to razor edge sharpness, plus they are very durable and will last many years. Ceramic knife sharpeners are also an excellent choice. These ceramic sharpeners will last a lifetime and work very well. When the pores become clogged with metal, they are easily cleaned with scouring powder and running water. I own many knives made with various types of steels. I find each of them performs very well. whether the blade is made of some exotic combination of steel or plain old carbon steel, they all perform the same function, they simply cut.

One of my favorite knives is manufactured by a company that offers a video demonstrating the effectiveness of their product line. I own one of their large knives, and it not only cuts well but edge retention is simply amazing. I like this knife very much. There are many other companies that offer outstanding and high quality knives at very reasonable prices. I feel there is no reason in this day and age to not own a superior quality knife. Many custom made knives are very good, although the prices for hand crafted knives may seem a little high for some wallets. You must keep in mind these are hand crafted and require considerable effort and skill to make. These knives shown in accompanying photographs are all handmade. These knives have been hand forged using a coal fire forge, anvil and hammer. Plus many hours of sweat and hard work. These knives may or may not be better than many manufactured by large companies. One of the benefits of owning a handmade custom knife is pretty simple. It will be the only one of its kind in the world. They may be similar knives but each will be different. Regardless of which type of knife you choose to own, always purchase the best you can for the amount of funds you are able to spend. Above all, try to avoid tricky or gimmick knives and included items. Always avoid any knives that are questionable. If even slightly in doubt, avoid purchasing the knife.

I recommend taping a pouch to the sheath. This small pouch when taped to the sheath will allow you to carry a considerable amount of survival related equipment. Far more in fact then could ever be carried in a hollow handle. I recommend avoiding double edged knives as survival tools. Double edged knives make far better weapons than tools. Plus the likelihood of an accident is greatly reduced. Many knives come with a false top edge. Which is merely an unsharpened top edge. This reduces weight, enhances cosmetics and may be easily sharpened if so desired.

Handle design and material are critical. The design of the handle must be comfortable enough to be used on a long term basis without creating blisters. I feel that knives with round handles tend to roll in the hand when using them for heavy chopping, such as shelter building. Even though the knife may be of top quality, they can still be a problem. The old style coffin handles are very comfortable. They do not roll in the hand and they do not slip. Many come with synthetic handles and are resistant to numerous chemicals, plus they will not slip even when wet. Above all never select a knife because a friend has one like it, or it is just plain “cool” to look at. If I were to do such a thing, I would own hundreds of cool looking knives. Consider the knife a tool foremost and keep it sharp, clean and well oiled. If you do these things, the knife will last you many years. Who knows it may even save your life one day.


Pemmican is a combination of ingredients that offer a very good and long lasting food source. There are many recipes for pemmican, but the original, and still the best, was used by Native Americans for generations. To make real pemmican you need to start with very dry jerky, rendered fat, and dried blueberries, blackberries or raspberries. First step is to render the fat; this is very easy to do. Cut fat into small pieces and heat in a skillet until juice is released from the fat. Discard the chunks. Pour the rendered fat juice into glass jar and let cool for later use. Second step is to use beef or deer jerky, or any lean meat such as elk, moose, bear etc. The meat should be very dry. Begin by cutting the dry jerky into small pieces and pound until thoroughly pulverized. Next put pulverized jerky into a bowl. Now mix in the rendered fat using even proportions of jerky with the rendered fat juice. Be sure to mix thoroughly. This mixture should have the consistency of sausage. If not, add dried jerky until the mixture takes on the feel that you would like. Now you can add dried berries at this point if so desired. Be sure to mix berries in well, always making sure to maintain sausage consistency. After taking on the texture that you prefer, roll into small balls about the size of large marbles. This is a high level and nutritious food. The Native Americans would use Pemmican as a long lasting and nutritious staple on long hunting trips and war parties. Be sure to store in plastic baggies and freeze until needed.

A modern day version of an old recipe that some may find a little more palatable:

5 oz. dried, crushed beef
1 1/2 cups of raisins
1 3/4 cups of chopped nuts, peanuts, cashews, or nuts of your choice
1 cup of dried fruits–apples, peaches, dates, apricots, or whatever you want
2 1/2 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. peanut butter

Put dried, crushed beef in mixing bowl. Add raisin, nuts, and fruits. Mix well. In sauce pan, slowly heat honey and peanut butter until the melt together. Stir. Mix with dry ingredients in the bowl. Roll into balls. Put into baggie.

Bushcraft Knives – Buying the Best

If you intend to truly experience the nature of a genuine hunt, to track animals through the wilderness for days and experience the thrill of adrenaline as your hunt comes to a climax, you need to go prepared. Being prepared means having the right kit. If you are going to be hacking through the undergrowth, building your own fires, killing, skinning and cooking your own food, you need a tool that is up to the job.

Bushcraft knives and multitools are a hunter’s best friend. A bushcraft knife needs to be able to do a multitude of things. You can use it to get past otherwise un-passable obstacles, gut a fish, make a shelter and, if you were to find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing to, you can use it to defend yourself. With this in mind, you want a tool that is sturdy, hardwearing and most of all, reliable. This is not the time to go cheap and save a few pennies.

The best bushcraft knives are somewhere between 3.5 and 6 inches long. Any shorter and it’s useless, longer and you are looking at risking blade breakages and injuring yourself if you use it for smaller more delicate job. It’s all about the balance. Whilst most jobs can be done with a decent knife, the variety of multitools on the market today mean you can have a miniature saw, a pair of pliers, a can opener (let’s face it – berries, nuts and small dead animals are not for everyone) and a whole host of other useful tools at your finger tips. Of course, the multitool is not for the purist bushcrafter but it has a time and a place in the hunting world. Whatever tool you choose to go for, make sure it is high quality, that it covers your needs and that you keep it sharp, safe and close to hand!