Wilderness Survival

Men vs. Wild Survival Skill Manual
Page 1
Men vs. Wild Survival
Skill Manual
By: Frankie DeBorde and David Wiens
Men vs. Wild Survival Skill Manual
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Introduction and
Note From the Authors
Individuals have been placed in dire situations,
amid dangerous environments, and left desperately
wondering how to react and survive. The answer:
knowledge of certain skills. This packet briefly
explains the primary skills, such as erecting
shelters and surviving bear encounters, needed to
remain alive in the wilderness. Study these skills
attentively, and attempt to optimize nature’s
resources and survive with these skills while still
respecting her ineffable beauty. Above all,
approach with a positive and optimistic mentality,
so that survival is simple and enjoyable.
Happy Travels- Frankie and David
Men vs. Wild Survival Skill Manual
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Table of Contents
1. Shelters-Page 4
2. Fires-Page 8
A. Small Fires-Page 8
B. Smoke Signal Fires-Page 10
3. Water Procurement-Page 13
A. Primary Sources-Page 13
B. Last-ditch Sources-Page 14
C. Purifying Water-Page 15
4. Insect Stings and Treatment-Page 16
A. Treatment-Page 16
5. Basic Navigation and Orienteering-Page 18
A. Orienteering Without a Compass-Page 18
6. Dangerous Animal Encounters-Page 20
7. Basic Edible Plants and Herbal Remedies-Page 22
8. Bibliography-Page 26
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Depending on the environment in which a person is
attempting to survive, shelter can be more important than
food and even water.
An example of this is in a freezing
climate when the cold can kill a person faster than
starvation or dehydration.
Along with protection from the
elements, shelters can be a helpful mental boost in a
survival situation because of the feeling of “well-being”
that they may provide.
When you find yourself in a wilderness survival
situation and it is time to build a shelter, you should
first assess your most important needs according to the
environment and your health.
These needs could include
water, wind protection, or heat.
site of your shelter accordingly.
You should choose the
For example, if you are
severely dehydrated, a priority for your shelter site
should be its proximity to a clean water source.
Below are
a few key characteristics of a good shelter site. Emphasize
different characteristics of your site depending on your
survival situation.
 Site must be large enough to lie down in easily
 Site must have level ground for comfort
 Site must have natural protection from the elements
(an example is next to a boulder that provides
protection from the wind)
 Site must be free of poisonous plants and venomous
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 Site must be close to a water source but not in danger
of flooding or a breeding ground of vexatious
 Site must not rest under dead trees or branches that
could fall
 Site must be abundant with the material needed to
build the shelter
 Site must have a well-drained ground
After you pick a site for your shelter, you should look
through the available materials.
Be resourceful!
the most useful tools for a shelter is a tarp.
One of
There are
many different shelters you can build for different
environments with a tarp.
waterproofing a shelter.
Also, tarps are great for
If you don’t have a tarp,
A waterproof/resistant jacket can help just as
much when building a shelter.
If you do have an object
like a tarp, it is somewhat useless without rope.
Substitutes include shoelaces, elastic from clothing,
strips of cloth (may not always be a good idea if your
clothing is important), and straps from a backpack.
In a
situation without any rope or string at all, rocks can be
used to weigh down the edges of a tarp.
The many different
types of tarp shelters include:
 Hanging teepee
 Regular tent
 Tarp lean-to
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When searching for available materials for your
shelter, expand your vision from man-made materials to
natural resources.
Hundreds of different shelters can be
made using nothing but what the environment offers.
shelters include:
 Debris teepee
 Debris hut (consult following diagrams)
 A-frame
 Lean-to
 Dug-out
 Swamp bed
 Tree-pit snow shelter
 Hill-side shelter
Choose the type of shelter according to the
If you are in an area with wet ground, a
shelter with an elevated sleeping platform is needed so
building a swamp bed would be a good choice.
If you are building a shelter in a survival situation,
a specific type is not mandatory.
Creativity is the key!
Adding or subtracting parts of your shelter to fit your
specific needs is always a good idea.
Anything from a
swamp bed-lean-to to a dug-out shelter with an A-frame over
it works.
In a survival situation when you do not know what kind
of shelter you are going build, you can start with the
basics of a shelter and adapt to your surroundings as you
work along.
1. The Bed
A common mistake when building a shelter is
starting with the frame.
It is much better to build the
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important bedding first so there is no risk of either
knocking the frame down or not having enough room for the
The bed is one of the most important parts of the
shelter because it separates you from the ground.
It is
good to be off of the ground not only to stay away from
insects but also to stay warmer.
You lose a great amount
of heat when sleeping on the ground.
Logs normally make a
very useful bed.
2. Insulation/Bedding
The next step in building a shelter is the bedding
Leaves and grass are good beddings but any
warm and comfortable material will do.
Another common mistake when building a shelter in a
survival situation is making the shelter too large. In a
compact shelter, you are often much warmer than if the
shelter is large because your body heat is kept close to
Small entrances also stop your body heat from
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Fires are very useful in survival situations.
With a
fire, you gain warmth, comfort, and a significant
psychological boost.
Also, fires can provide protection
from animals and give a person the ability to cook.
Unfortunately, it takes refined skill to start a fire with
the most basic of materials.
It is important to think
about these steps when you are planning to construct a
Remember to choose a site for a fire wisely, with dry
dirt surrounding the area and little plant exposure. A fire
builder has two choices: small fires or signal fires. A
small fire is one that is used for warmth and protection
from the elements along with cooking. The second, signal
fires, are addressed later in the section.
Small Fires
Fire Fuel
Fire is a mystery that has puzzled man since his very
existence upon this earth. It is used for cooking,
generating heat, signaling, and naturally to control plant
growth and maintaining ecosystems. Basically, fire is a
chemical process of combustion between particles, releasing
heat and light, which comes in contact with oxygen and
ignites into flame. The trick with constructing such a
roaring fire is to balance the distance and amount of fuel
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needed to sustain the fire with also spacing it enough
apart so that the oxygen in the air is able to produce more
flames through this reaction process.
Ideal Fuel
Prevalent hydrocarbons in nature, such as coal, are
some of the easiest natural materials to ignite and release
immense amounts of heat, yet are seldom found near the
surface of nature or near campsites. Therefore, wood,
heavily abundant across nature, is the idea fuel for
survivors in the wilderness. The best woods are hardwoods,
which are not necessarily thick or sturdy but always shed
their leaves in winter, meaning they are deciduous.
Softwoods, or evergreens, can however be used as tinder and
kindling, which are two forms of the three bases of a fire.
Tinder: Tinder is very easily combustible material that is
used to ignite kindling.
There are three different types
of tinder, categorized by their size.
Stage one tinder is
the material that makes the initial flame.
tinder is dry, thin, fluffy, and light.
Ideal stage one
When searching for
your tinder, look for materials with these characteristics
instead of searching for specific plants.
Good stage one
tinder includes: dried grass, cedar bark, Spanish moss,
clothing lint, birch bark, bird nests, and fat and resin
from coniferous trees, which are any cone-bearing evergreen
Also, cotton balls catch a flame well and they
might be included in your first aid kid.
Stage two tinder
is slightly thicker than stage one tinder and will hold a
flame for a longer time.
Dried pine needles are my
favorite stage two tinder because they are abundant where I
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go camping but other sticks with the thickness of a
toothpick will work well.
Stage three tinder is one more
step up in thickness from stage two tinder.
Sticks the
thickness of a pencil are good stage three tinder.
Kindling: Kindling is the second layer of a fire that rests
above burning tinder and is used to allow the wood fuel
above it to combust. Supreme kindling is thinly chopped
firewood, small dried branches, and brittle twigs. One of
the most flawless types of kindling material is punk, which
is the dry insides of rotten tree trunks that can be
removed by knife, stick, or hands.
Wood fuel: Wood fuel is what produces sizzling embers and
scorching flames. Wood fuel is what actually warms the
survivor outdoors. Preferred wood fuel should be dead and
seasoned, meaning the sap has exited the wood and left open
cracks where the heat can easily radiate within the log.
Sugar maples, beech, white oak, yellow and white ash,
northern poplar, sweet gum, sour gum, hemlock, and spruce
trees are exemplary wood fuels if dead and seasoned.
Survival tip: avoid rotting wood, which is caused by fungi,
for it decreases the potential energy of the wood fuel.
Smoke Signal Fires
As survival expert Les Stroud once stated, "A fire is
both pivotal in survival and can be an almost euphoric
experience." This terse document shall focus on the
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creation of smoke signals, or columns of smoke from burning
fires that are used as means of conveying a message, often
a distress signal, to a distant person. There are several
steps to be followed when creating a signal fire.
1. Everyone should immediately begin looking for wood to
use as fuel for the signal fire. Members should be able to
recognize in their environment that dry, hardwood fuel is
ideal for starting the fire, yet live, green foliage and
plants are needed to be burned in the fire to cause the
smoke to transform into dense, black fumes which are much
more visible from rescue ships and planes.
2. After fuel is collected, party members should scrutinize
their environment and search for an ideal clearing, away
from the center of a thick wood, to build the signal fire.
Begin removing debris that may litter the clearing.
3. Build 3 fires, in a triangle position, which is
recognized as an international distress signal. Find a way
to cover the fuel so that it will stay dry if inclement
weather is arriving. Keep tinder and wood ready to light at
any given moment to get the attention of planes flying
Useful smoke signal fires can also be prepared in the
following ways:
 If the survivor is left beside a river or lake, lash
logs together with rope to make three rafts and burn
the fires on top of the rafts. Secure the rafts
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together, in a triangle position, and anchor them to
the bank.
 Survivors may use small isolated trees as a signal
fire. Make sure that the trees will not catch other
trees or vegetation on fire. This could create a
rampant, lethal forest fire. Place dry timber and bark
and empty birds' nests in the boughs of a living tree
and light it up for massive smoke and a tall signal
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Water Procurement
Water is the most essential ingredient in the human
body. Water comprises about three quarters of the human
body and is a major component in every cell. Most humans
cannot survive after several days without water, while
others can survive up to a week, or longer, without food.
There are two environments in which a survivor can procure
water: primary water sources and last-ditch water sources.
Handle your water judiciously, and, if in severe need of
water, eat less food and lie down to rest. This reduces the
energy that your body uses that would require water.
Indications of dehydration include: red or pink skin,
parched throats, excessive sweating, and dark yellow urine.
Also, a dehydrated person will be slow, clumsy, and
withdrawn, as well as show poor judgment.
Primary Sources
The best primary sources of water are those that flow,
including rivers, streams, and creeks. If those are not
available, one must move to more stagnant bodies of water,
such as lakes and ponds, or less ideal swamps, marshes,
fens, and bogs. Snow, slush, and ice are also primary
sources of water. Also, scrutinize the water source that
you have found. Scan the shoreline or check upstream for
contaminants such as dead animals, whose seeping wounds or
decaying flesh can adulterate the water supply. Generally,
higher altitude means purer water sources.
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Areas to look for water and signals of primary water
sources: downhill, especially in valleys, for gravity pulls
water down low. Second, observe changes in vegetation, for
denser or darker leaves could mean water prevalence. Next,
examine the sky for color changes. Generally, the sky is
bluer above water sources. Finally, follow animal trails or
areas where birds seem to congregate, for it is almost
always near a primary water source.
Last-Ditch Sources
If all attempts to find primary water sources prove
futile, a survivor must resort to last-ditch resources.
Collecting rain is fairly simple. Create a hole lined with
clay or plastic to collect the water. Also, dew has been
known to provide water for wilderness survivors. The best
way to procure it is by tying a rag, shirt, or tuft cloth
around one’s knees or ankles, depending on the length of
the grass, which will, in turn, collect the drops of water
from the grass. Squeeze the shirt or rag to release the
water into one’s mouth or water bottle. Finally, a
fantastic way of procuring water in any survival situation
is through a vegetation sill. However, the process can be
tedious for a survivor due to the time required to collect
a substantial amount of water. One will need green, leafy
foliage, a clear plastic bag, and a small rock. Choose a
sunny location with a slope on which to place the sill,
following these steps:
1. Fill any plastic bag with air. (The simplest way is to
turn the edge into the wind.)
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2. Remove any sticks that could puncture the bag, and
fill it with three-quarters full of innocuous
3. Place a small rock or stone in the bag to weigh it
4. Place the bag in sunlight, with the mouth of the bag
situated higher than the base of the bag.
5. When water has condensed, loosen the knot at the mouth
of the bag and drink it.
6. To ensure a regular supply of water, remove the
vegetation and replace it regularly.
Purifying Water
The most straightforward method of purifying water is
through boiling it over flames. One should boil water for
five minutes to kill all possibly harmful pathogens, and
add an extra minute for every 1,000 feet above sea level.
Another simple way of purifying water is through iodine
drops. One should mix no more than five drops of iodine per
quart of water. Shake well and let the water stand 30
minutes before drinking. Remember, water is mandatory for
survival. If the choice left is between drinking possible
contaminants or dying without water, drink away!
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Insect Stings and Treatment
The most common stinging insects inject venom under the
skin of the victim in what is known as a “venom sac”. The
stinger of the yellow jacket, bee, hornet, or wasp is
attached to the venom sac and should be removed by scraping
the stung area of skin with a fingernail, credit card, or
blunt side of a small knife, so that the venom sac is not
punctured. This ensures that only small amounts of the
virulent venom are released within the survivor’s body.
 If allergic or suffering from allergic reactions,
the victim should immediately be sent to a
hospital if one is in proximity to the wilderness
area. Treat stung area with ice to significantly
reduce swelling.
 Wash the stung area, before and after removing
the stinger, with soap and water.
 Itching may be relieved and pain alleviated by
applying antiseptic or a mixture of baking soda
and a few dabs of household cleaning ammonia. If
deprived of basic household necessities in the
wilderness, apply stung area with mud and cover
with a bandage or gauze.
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 Take pain killers, such as an aspirin, to further
mitigate pain and itch.
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Basic Navigation and Orienteering
In a true survival situation, one must be equipped
with skills in order to navigate back to civilization.
Before venturing in the outdoors, one should procure an
updated topographic map of the area as well as a compass.
Public consensus is that one should stay put in his or her
area and not wander off if lost; this is predominantly
true, especially if the survivor knows that others know of
his or her general position. However, if the survivor knows
for certain that no others have any idea of his or her
location, they should consult their maps, locate their
immediate position, and draw with a pen or pencil a line to
a desired location on the map. However, the survivor must
ascertain what direction on a compass that location is in
from their current position. Remember, you must adjust for
declination on the map, which is usually given on a side of
the map with a simple diagram. Finally, gather your
belongings, hold your compass close towards your body, and
move in the angle direction previously located on the
topographic map.
Orienteering Without a Compass
The most basic orienteering method is that, in the
Northern Hemisphere, the sun rises in the East and sets in
the West. Also, another popular method in the Northern
Hemisphere is to locate the North Star and get your
bearings from there (obviously realizing that from figuring
out the direction of north, one can consequently figure out
Men vs. Wild Survival Skill Manual
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the remaining cardinal directions.) To find the glowing
North Star in a myriad of stars in space, one should locate
the Big Dipper. One should then follow a line from the end
star of the Big Dipper diagonally north to the bright end
star of the Little Dipper.
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Dangerous Animal Encounters
It is possible that a survivor could encounter a
dangerous animal. In fact, in some areas, it can be highly
likely. Bears and mountain lions are normally placid
creatures, yet one must realize that humans are the
invading animals’ environments and as a result, the animals
can be disgruntled and dangerous.
Initial tips: When strolling in the woods, it is
imperative that a survivor is aware of an impending threat.
One should make his or her presence known, especially in a
bear infested area, by singing, humming, playing the
harmonica, or whistling. This can create psychological
comfort for the survivor, as well. These sounds usually
ward off bears or decrease their chances of being hostile
if they do encounter the survivor. However, do not
overreact. Survivors should be careful in not attracting
bears that would otherwise not meddle with human intruders.
Also, in a campsite, keep your area clean, free of food
scents, and suspend meat from a high branch 50 or more
yards away from the campsite.
Encounter Tips: Remain positive and brave in an
encounter with a dangerous animal such as a bear and
mountain lion. Contrary to popular consensus, never run
from the animals. Instead, wave your hands and speak in a
soothing way to the animal. If possible, slowly slip away
from the animal’s vicinity. If the animal is pestering or
hostile, attempt to climb a nearby tree. If the animal
charges, attempt to play dead, or, if such proves futile,
Men vs. Wild Survival Skill Manual
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use any nearby resource to fend off, maim, or kill the
charging animal.
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Basic Edible Plants and Herbal
Plants are prevalent in almost any survival situation,
even in deserts or arid environments, but a survivor must
discern whether the plant is poisonous in order to survive.
Eat only those plants that one can identify are safe to
eat. However, plants are both easily procured and can
satisfy most nutritional needs, and should be sought after
in any long-term survival situation.
Next is the Universal Edibility Test that any survivor
should apply when speculating the edibility of a plant.
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Below are a few of the most prevailing edible plants and
their uses. Remember, meats, bearing high amounts of
protein, are also needed to survive!
Men vs. Wild Survival Skill Manual
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Acorn: (U.S. and Southern Canada) Found in oak trees;
prevalent across nearly all American forests. Acorns are
naturally bitter, and one can remove the sharpness by
boiling the acorns until a yellowish tint of the water
appears. Dry the acorns in a cast iron frying pan or in a
stove, and then grind them into a flour substitute that is
perfect for then baking the flour into pancakes. Or, as the
Native Americans did, bury the acorns in a quagmire or bog
to remove the pungent taste. Finally, crushed oak leaves
will promote the healing of minor wounds.
Beech: (Southern and eastern U.S. and Canada) The nuts of
abundant beech trees can be eaten raw and are both sweet
and nutritious. These nuts can be ground into a coffee
substitute or roasted. The sawdust of Beech wood can be
boiled in water, dried, and added to flour to bake
bread.(Beech are deciduous trees and can easily be
identified by nits with an almost “hairy” coat).
Men vs. Wild Survival Skill Manual
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Blackberry/raspberry/huckleberry: (Temperate U.S. and
Canada; brisk, elevated areas) These succulent berries are
most often eaten raw and contain high contents of the
beneficial vitamin C.
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Graydon, Don. Mountaineering: the Freedom of the Hills. Seattle:
Mountaineers, 1992. Print.
"How To Use a Compass." Learn Orienteering. Web. 5 Mar. 2010.
"Predicting Weather." U.S. SAR Task Force Main Page. Web. 27 Apr. 2010.
Tawrell, Paul. Camping & Wilderness Survival: the Ultimate Outdoors
Book. Lebanon, NH: Paul Tawrell, 2006. Print.
"Train to Survive." Wilderness Survival: Free Info Covering All Aspects
of Survival. Web. 10 Feb. 2010. <http://www.wilderness-survival.net/>.
"Wilderness Survival: Firecraft - How to Build a Fire." Wilderness
Survival: Free Info Covering All Aspects of Survival. Web. 6 Apr. 2010.
"Wilderness Survival: Food Procurement - Traps and Snares." Wilderness
Survival: Free Info Covering All Aspects of Survival. Web. 21 Jan.
2010. <http://www.wilderness-survival.net/food-2.php>.
"Wilderness Survival: Psychology of Survival - Preparing Yourself."
Wilderness Survival: Free Info Covering All Aspects of Survival. Web. 7
Jan. 2010. <http://www.wilderness-survival.net/mind-3.php>.
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