Basic Survival

060921-F-9165S-284 If you Google search the word survival, it will reveal a myriad of sources – some that are just out to make a buck, while others are sincerely and wisely providing good advice. Even National Geographic has a website dedicated to this subject. The site has a suggested survival kit listing, as well as links to survival schools that will train you, hands-on, survival techniques, as well as survival video available. There are television programs on survival one with a British ex-soldier (Man Versus Nature, Discovery Channel) who served in the Special Forces branch of the British army who is dropped in remote regions to make his way back to civilization with just a small backpack, rope and knife. He eats disgusting things that have the protein to keep strength to perform necessary actions to get out of a wilderness situation alive. Series segments are available on DVD. Survival techniques are not just for men - women should learn survival techniques as well. There is a site tailored for women, with the basic survival techniques provided here and in FM 21-76, but addresses specific requirements for females from the female point of view that also includes specific requirements when it comes to personal hygiene.

I would like to add a note here that FM 21-76 has been superseded by an update -  FM 3-05-70.

History has shown that females can be a formidable counterpart to males concerning defense and survival. Celtic women, to the astonishment of Roman troops, were familiar with the use of swords and in one case when a Roman detachment decided to prey upon a small wagon party of female Celtics with children, they sent the Roman troops in retreat because of their fierce fighting. Women have a natural desire, like the human race to survive, and defense mechanisms are set in place, especially when it concerns their children. Women in the Israeli army and police force are well-trained citizens who perform their duties well. Everyone in the family should have, at a minimum, the rudimentary skills and knowledge of how to survive and defend themselves via martial arts and firearms. This is the reason for, and the importance of, the militia clause in the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States - standing to protect life, limb, property, and the right/liberties of the Constitution against foreign and domestic enemies. Knowledge of how to survive and defend what one has would be key if there was a national disaster that caused the breakdown of society without constitutional law enforcement and the home guard that stands for the state militia of yesteryear.
There are those who have never served in the military, so never had the benefit of what was taught and that could be applied to civilian life situations. It does not mean that they can be ignorant of survival methods; especially with all the reputable classes available. Often times, people use their vacation time to attend survival and defense training and then go camping to practice the art of survival.
As each generation passes, some skills are lost due to progress in technology and some of those skills are no longer required in everyday living in the more modern world. This is not a good thing, however, one can see there is usefulness in both the world of technology and forgotten methods of home living. Preppers, what they call survivalists today, practice and prepare just in case of some disaster, caused by nature or humans. Homesteaders live either on-the-grid saving themselves money by using solar, wind, and geothermal energy; while others live off-the-grid totally self sufficient using the same technology. Solar powered battery chargers are available, so when living off the grid, one can still use their Kindle reader to access thousands of books archived or use battery-operated devices of all types. At least until the batteries completely break down and cannot be replaced.
Forgetting simple ways of doing things, like cooking, should not be forgotten, totally replaced by technology.
Knowing how to produce your own butter without the benefit of electricity or the advantage of purchasing at the local food store should be an art not forgotten. The same goes for skills disappearing like horse shoeing, furniture making directly from wood gathered in the woods or any skill that people in the late 1800s and early 1900s knew how to perform. Part of this, I guess is the increased amount of people who have become urban. There are many left who live in rural areas who know some or all of these skills – but that is slowly disappearing as generations get old and die. As the Muller Lane Farm website states:
Many times I worry about where the culture is going
There are many people out there who have gone back to the basics that are important in life, lost in a high-tech world. It takes hard work, but the self-satisfaction cannot be determined in dollars. It is people like the Muller’s who will be the survivors of a collapsed techy world. They are not people who believe that using modern technology is useless, for they use the computer technology and Internet to pass on this information so it won’t get lost in history.
Would anyone today know what a cooper is? A lost trade indeed and you can read about it at the Pioneer Broom Shoppe.
A simple thing like a broom becomes something that requires making because of some disaster that forces people back into an age that people read about in history books.
That is what the gist of this LPJ webpage series, mini-E-book is truly about. If you are looking for combat tactics, hand-to-hand combat instructions and scenarios, this is the wrong survival site. There are groups called paramilitary civilian units in America who believe in training and preparing for some Rambo situation, and after examination/research one finds that few or none of these guys ever served in the military. To be a veteran is not a prerequisite, but it just appears that some of these groups are merely enacting what they see on film meant for entertainment – trying to live out their own action-adventure fantasies. A few of these groups are racial supremacists who have a dark underlying reason for what they do and believe in. This is not meant to be here. A few entities are genuine survival groups gathering with like-minded individuals to prepare for any disastrous or chaotic situation.
The first thing in surviving any given situation is to keep a clear head and use it. Confidence and experience is a good thing to get things started on the right path. If you are going to put together a survival kit – don’t wait until it is necessary to use it, become familiar as to how to use the items before the time it is required to use it. For example, there are nifty Firestarter kits out there utilizing magnesium bars where you shave off particles and then create sparks on the fire starting material along with dried bark or other material to create a fire. It would be beneficial if you are experienced when it becomes necessary to create a fire for warmth and cooking (and keeping predators away from your camp).
Fm 21-76 begins with an introduction at Chapter 1 concerning survival actions using each letter in the word survival of which I have re-tailored for disaster situations that is different from combat situations:
S – Size Up the Situation – If you are in a combat situation, find a place where you can conceal yourself from the enemy. …you have to consider what is developing on the battlefield.
Because there are different situations and scenarios concerning sudden emergence into a survival situation, some actions required will have to rely upon common sense. However, the basic rule of assessing the situation, calmly and with thought – act, not just react – is the first and prime element of surviving a disastrous event or circumstance. Suddenly finding oneself trapped behind enemy lines is, of course, a different situation where all electrical apparatus has been knocked out by an EMP or an economic or natural disaster. But the principle of assessment and keeping one’s head is applicable to any of those scenarios.
The second part of the first letter ‘S’ in survival is to size up your surroundings. If you are already familiar with it, such as being at home when disaster occurs; however, you may be somewhere else at the time and then must get back home to unite with family and perform the planned action to take that you hopefully discussed and reviewed beforehand. In a forest, jungle or even some deserts, there are patterns of animal activity. They can provide you a warning sometimes. If birds are singing and insects are making their noises and suddenly stops that activity – it means they are aware of another presence besides you. This is just an example of being caught in a wilderness survival situation.
The third consideration would be to size up your physical condition. This applies, of course, if there was something that occurred where harm may have come to you. When your adrenaline kicks in during a physical attack or other circumstance, this sometimes causes you to not notice that you are bleeding or received some sort of trauma. The next step would be to take care of any wounds.
The next step would be checking your equipment. And the final step would be the activity required to provide water, food, and shelter.
The next letter in survival is ‘U’. Use all your senses, Undue haste makes waste. This simply is as stated previously about keeping one’s head and analyzing the situation and considering the situation in order to make a good decision as to what to do next. Panic is the result of fear taking over your senses, and as Frank Herbert wrote in Dune – it is a mind killer. Fear always presence itself, the secret is not allowing it to overcome you - or be afraid to act; whether in self-defense, survival, or against tyranny. Heroes are not born such, they surface amongst us from those who have pushed aside their fears and put their own safety and well-being behind that of others.
Using all your senses require concentration and training your brain into a mode not required in every day life. Sounds and smells will alert your brain and allow a better assessment of the situation.
The letter ‘R’ in survival – Remember Where You Are. This would be important if you are somewhere when the emergency occurs away from your home and family. You must get there. Road situations may be limited. There will be other drivers out there that may panic and cause dangerous conditions on the highways – or the highways, in the case of an EMP attack your vehicle as well as others are not operating. You will have to get to your homestead another way. You are going to be worried about your family, but must keep your head clear in order to get home.
‘V’ is the next letter in survival. Vanquish Fear and Panic. This returns to the basic principles of the situation. You cannot think clearly and produce a dangerous situation if you allow fear to take over your senses. With two combat tours in the fifteen years of military service, I can tell you that everyone has experienced fear in those circumstances. If anyone tells you that a “hero” or a particular veteran says he is or wasn’t afraid – he is either lying or just plain insane. One of the key points in training in the arena of psychology is that one must train himself or herself to keep that fear at bay in order to perform or turn that energy of fear into something else. FDR was correct when he told a nation after the Pearl Harbor attack that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. You are not a coward if you become afraid. You only become a coward when you allow that fear to overcome your senses and your sense of duty to you and others that may depend upon you.
The next letter in the word survival is ‘I” – Improvise. FM 21-76 states:
In the United States, we have items available for all our needs. Many of these items are cheap to replace when damaged. Our easy come, easy go, easy-to-replace culture makes it unnecessary for us to improvise. This inexperience in improvisation can be an enemy in a survival situation. Learn to improvise. Take a tool designed for a specific purpose and see how many other uses you can make of it. … An example is using a rock for a hammer. No matter how complete a survival kit you have with you, it will run out or wear out after a while. Your imagination must take over when your kit wears out.
Nothing to add there – it can be applied in all sorts of survival and disaster situations.
The next letter is ‘V’ in the word survival. Value Living …
All of us were born kicking and fighting to live, but we have become used to the soft life. We have become creatures of comfort. We dislike inconveniences and discomforts. What happens when we are faced with a survival situation with its stresses, inconveniences, and discomforts? This is when the will to live – placing a high value on living is vital. The experience and knowledge you have gained through life and your Army training will have a bearing on your will to live. Stubbornness, a refusal to give in to problems and obstacles that face you, will give you the mental and physical strength to endure.
This goes back to mental awareness and keeping focused. Morale is an important factor in a long-term survival situation or undetermined length of time the situation will continue. Being without the things we take for granted in every day living. I know I would miss my computer, admittedly. It is not must for entertainment, but a tool in researching and obtaining knowledge/information of a myriad of subjects. It is a tool of communication. Opening a food package and popping in the microwave is a good thing in a world of convenience and where time is quicker. In a survival situation keeping ahead of the five basics of life and survival can be a fill time job. Food gathering, preparing and storage can be a full-time job.
Next is the letter ‘A’ in the word survival. Act Like the Natives.
The natives and animals of a region have adapted to their environment. …
This is the presumption for a scenario where you are in a foreign place, military situation; however, it can be adapted to a disaster-caused survival situation, specifically the animal life in your area that can provide clues to survival.
Animals also require food, water, and shelter. By watching them, you can find sources of water and food. Warning: Animals cannot serve as an absolute guide to what you can eat and drink. Many animals eat plants that are toxic to humans. Keep in mind that the reaction of animals can reveal your presence to the enemy. …
And finally, the letter ‘L’. Live by Your Wits, But for Now, Learn Basic Skills.
Without training in basic skills for surviving and evading on the battlefield, your chances of living through a combat survival and evasion situation are slight. Learn these basic skills now – not when you are headed for or are in the battle. How you decide to equip yourself before deployment will impact on whether or not you survive. You need to know about the environment to which you are going, and you must practice basic skills geared to that environment. For instance, if you are going to a desert, you need to know how to get water in the desert. … Survival training reduces fear of the unknown and gives you self-confidence. I teaches you to live by your wits. …
Develop a survival pattern that lets you beat the enemies of survival. This survival pattern must include food, water, shelter, fire, first aid, and signals placed in order of importance. For example, in a cold environment, you would need a fire to get warm; a shelter to protect you from the cold, wind, and rain or snow; traps or snare to get food; a means to signal friendly aircraft; and first aid to maintain health. If injured, first aid has top priority no matter what climate you are in. Change your survival pattern to meet your immediate physical needs as the environment changes.
In military and civilian survival situations those basic needs are important. Signaling would not be required if faced with a disaster that puts you into a situation of survival; however, if it is a case of being rescued by authorities, than letting people know where you are is important, of course.
Chapter 2 of FM 21-76 deals with the psychology of surviving:
It takes much more than the knowledge and skills to build shelters, get food, make fires, and travel without the aid of standard navigational devices to live successfully through a survival situation. Some people with little or no survival training have managed to survive life-threatening circumstances. Some people with survival training have not used their skills and died. A key ingredient in any survival situation is the mental attitude of the individual(s) involved. … Having survival skills is important; having the will to survive is essential. … Stress is not a disease that you cure and eliminate. Instead, it is a condition we all experience. Stress can be described as our reaction to pressure. It is the name given to the experience we have as we physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually respond to life’s tensions. We need stress because it has many positive benefits. Stress provides us with challenges; it gives us chances to learn about our values and strengths. Stress can show our ability to handle pressure without breaking; it tests our adaptability and flexibility; it can stimulate us to do our best. Because we usually do not consider unimportant events stressful, stress can also be an excellent indicator of the significance we attach to an event—in other words, it highlights what is important to us. … The goal is to have stress, but not an excess of it. Too much stress can take its toll on people and organizations. Too much stress leads to distress. …stress can be constructive or destructive. … It can also cause you to panic and forget all your training. … In response to stress, the body prepares either to “fight or flee”. … Injury, illness, and death are real possibilities a survivor has to face. …
Some people have trouble operating in settings where everything is not clear-cut. The only guarantee in a survival situation is that nothing is guaranteed. … Even under the most ideal circumstances, nature is quite formidable. … Without food and water a person will weaken and eventually die. … Forcing yourself to continue surviving is not easy as you grow more tired. … There are some advantages to facing adversity with others. … Being in contact with others also provide a greater sense of security and a feeling someone is available to help if problems occur. … Remember, what is stressful to one person may not be stressful to another. Your experiences, training, personal outlook on life, physical and mental conditioning, and level of self-confidence contribute to what you will find stressful in a survival environment. The object is not to avoid stress, but rather to manage the stressors of survival and make them work for you. …
Man has been able to survive many shifts in his environment throughout the centuries. His ability to adapt physically and mentally to a changing world kept him alive while other species around him gradually died off. The same survival mechanisms that kept our forefathers alive can help keep us alive as well. …
Fear is our emotional response to dangerous circumstances that we believe have the potential to cause death, injury, or illness. This harm is not just limited to physical damage; the threat to one’s emotional and mental well-being can generate fear as well. … Frustration and anger encourage impulsive reactions, irrational behavior, poorly thought-out decisions, and, in some instances, an “I quit” attitude (people sometimes avoid doing something they can’t master). …
Depression is closely linked with frustration and anger. … Depression is an expression of this hopeless, helpless feeling. There is nothing wrong with being sad as you temporarily think about your loved ones and remember what life is like back in “civilization” or “the world”. … On the other hand, if you allow yourself to sink into a depressed state, then it can sap all your energy and, more important, your will to survive. …
Man is a social animal. … Very few people want to be alone all the time. … You must have faith in your capability to “go it alone”. …
Don’t pretend that you will have no fears. Begin thinking about what would frighten you the most if forced to survive alone. Train in those areas of concern to you. The goal is not to eliminate fear, but to build confidence in your ability to function despite your fears. …
See circumstances as they are, not as you want them to be. Keep your hopes and expectations within the estimate of the situation. … Learn to see the potential good in everything. …
Detailed prior planning is essential in potential survival situations. … One important aspect of prior planning is preventive medicine. … A dental problem in a survival situation will reduce your ability to cope with other problems that you face. Failure to keep your shots current may mean your body is not immune to diseases that are prevalent in the area. … Even the smallest survival kit, if properly prepared, is invaluable when faced with a survival problem. …
The environment is the key to the types of items you will need in your survival kit. … In preparing your survival kit, select items you can use for more than one purpose. … Do not duplicate items, as this increases your kit’s size and weight. Your survival kit need not be elaborate. You need only functional items that will meet your needs and a case to hold the items. For the case, you might want to use a Band-Aid box, a first aid case, an ammunition pouch, or another suitable case. This case should be water-repellent or waterproof, easy to carry or attach to your body, suitable to accept varied components, and durable.
In your survival kit, you should have – first aid items, water purification tablets or drops, fire starting equipment, signaling items, food procurement items, and shelter items. Some examples of these items are – lighter, metal match, waterproof matches; snare wire, signaling mirror, wrist compass, fish and snare line, fishhooks, candle, small hand lens, Oxytetracycline tablets (diarrhea or infection), water purification tablets, solar blanket, surgical blades, butterfly sutures, condoms for water storage, chap stick, needle and thread, and a knife. Include a weapon only if the situation so dictates. [or just in case, like a .38-caliber or .357 caliber revolver with spare rounds; however, I feel a crossbow with scope would be best with at least 150- or 175-pound force capability and at least ten crossbolts. Crossbolts can be made by hand from what is found in nature, while ammunition cannot. You can recover a crossbolt, but cannot recover a bullet. Using a crossbolt or compound bow for hunting leaves ammunition of pistols, rifles, and shotguns for self-defense and taking down dangerous big game, like the Grizzly.]

Survival Medicine

One of the key elements of survival is taking care of physical needs in order to have the capability to deal with other elements required to survive. Preventive medicine, briefly mentioned above, is of course the first step. Having some basic, rudimentary knowledge of first aid is essential – not just for yourself, but others as well. But to survive and maintain help, you will need water and food, as well as a habit of good personal hygiene practices. Keeping clean is the basics of preventive medicine.


Dehydration2 posterDuring the normal process of physical activities at various levels, water retention in the body is lost. Average daily exertion at 68-degrees Fahrenheit (20-degrees C) causes the average adult to lose 2 to 3 liters of water daily. Heat exposure, cold exposure, intense activity, high altitude, burns, and illness can increase body water loss. This water loss accelerates physical problems or compounds them.
5% loss of bodily fluids causes one to become thirsty, irritable or even nauseous and/or weak.
10% loss of water causes dizziness, headache and tingling sensation in your limbs.
At 15% loss of bodily fluids causes your vision to dim, urination may become painful, tongue swollen, deafness and your skin may feel numb. A loss of body fluids greater than 15% will require immediate first aid by someone else because you are probably unconscious or delirious and at the brink of death.
ama_digestive_stomachandother_lev20_preventingdehydrationdiarrhea_jpp_01Signs of dehydration are:
- Dark urine with a strong odor.
- Low urine output.
- Dark, sunken eyes.
- Fatigue.
- Emotional instability.
- Loss of skin elasticity. Pinching the skin and releasing it shows signs of dehydration.
- Trench line down the center of the tongue.
By the time you feel thirsty, you have already reached a 2% dehydration stage, so feeling thirst is not a sign of how much water you must replace. You must replace water as it is lost. Drink small amounts of water occasionally until you body receives a little more than one liter of water within an hour. Increase your water intake during physical and/or mental stress, or subject to hot climates. Your urine output must be at least 0.5 liters every 24 hours. If food is not available or limited, try to increase water input by drinking 6 to 8 liters per day. Two to three liters per hour would be required, ideally, in a desert climate. You can survive far longer without food than water; however, both are required in order to maintain your strength for survival tasks required.
Along with water loss, the body also loses electrolytes (body salt). The average diet of an adult provides necessary salt intake, so only water replenishment is required. In a survival situation or when ill, additional salt must be used. A mixture of 0.25 teaspoon of salt to 1 liter of water will provide the necessary concentration that body tissues need. The rule of thumb concerning water …
Always drink water when eating. Water is part of the digested process and could lead to or assist the dehydration process. Conserve your sweat – not water intake. If you must ration water, do so sensibly. A daily intake of 0/5 liters of a sugar-water mixture (2 teaspoons per liter) will help prevent dehydration for at least one week – but this is provided that your water loss is kept to a minimum by limiting activity, conserving energy and loss by heat.
You can estimate fluid loss by several means. A standard field dressing holds about 0.25 liter (one-fourth canteen) of blood. A soaked T-shirt holds 0.5 to 0.75 liter.
You can also use the pulse and breathing rate to estimate fluid loss. Use the following as a guide:
With a 0.75 liter loss the wrist pulse rate will be under 100 beats per minute and the breathing rate 12 to 20 breaths per minute.
With a 0.75 to 1.5 liter loss the pulse rate will be 100 to 120 beats per minute and 20 to 30 breaths per minute.
With a 1.5 to 2 liter loss the pulse rate will be 120 to 140 beats per minute and 30 to 40 breaths per minute. Vital signs above these rates require more advanced care.
[FM 21-76, Chapter 4]


As stated above, you can live longer without food than water, but without food you become too weak to perform tasks to survive and your mental capacity deteriorates as well. The average person requires an intake of 2,000 calories per day at a minimum.
Plant foods provide carbohydrates, as well as essential vitamins your body requires. While it will not sustain you, despite what vegetarians say, for long periods of time, it can certainly help you from starving to death. Meats provide the body with fuel for heat. Roots, green vegetables, and plant food contain a natural sugar which provides calories and carbohydrates. Plants can be dried for storage by wind, air, sun and fire. Plants are generally easier to obtain than meat.
To acquire meat, one must learn the habits of local wildlife and how to capture them if a weapon is not being used to kill them for food. Some animals will also provide bones that can be used, when dried out, as implements and tools, and the hide can be used for clothing or making containers. Certain bones can be splintered and shaped/sharpened into sewing needles. Hide can be cut into strips and braided to make a strong rope.
Insects, crustaceans, mollusks, fish and reptiles provide sustenance while you prepare traps or snare and hunt for larger game.

Personal Hygiene

As stated previously, personal hygiene is a form of preventive medicine. It prevents infection and disease and can actually improve one’s morale. The luxury of a hot shower and bathing with soap may not be possible. If you have soap, use a cloth and some container of water and especially clean your feet, armpits, crotch, hands and hair as these can be sites of infestation and infection. Soldiers have learned that short, closely cropped hair is essential to lessen the chance of infestation of critters like ticks. A daily inspection of these insects should occur when you bathe – paying attention to the head and crevices like armpit and crotch where they like to hide and attach themselves.
If water is not available for bathing – take a sun bath. The sun provides a sort of disinfectant, cleaning action. You know this if you hang your clothes to dry on a clothesline. The clothes smell “fresh” and clean. Of course, according to the climate, remove your clothing and expose your body to the sun and air for one hour, being careful not to burn. Some fair-skinned people may have to reduce that to one half hour.
If you have water available (a small pan of it will make a good hand wash bath), but no soap, you can use ashes or sand or even make soap from animal fat and wood ashes mixed. To make soap this way:
Extract grease from animal fat by cutting the fat into small pieces and cooking them in a pot. Add enough water to the pot to keep the fat from sticking as it cooks. Cook the fat slowly, stirring frequently. After the fat is rendered, pour the grease into a container to harden. Place ashes in a container with a spout near the bottom. Pour water over the ashes and collect the liquid that drips out of the spout in a separate container. This liquid is the potash or lye. Another way to get the lye is to pour the slurry (the mixture of ashes and water) through a straining cloth.
In a cooking pot, mix two parts grease to one part potash. Place this mixture over a fire and boil it until it thickens. After the mixture—the soap—cools, you can use it in the semi-liquid state directly from the pot. You can also pour it into a pan, allow it to harden, and cut it into bars for later use
. [Fm 21-76, Chapter 4]
Keeping your hands clean, especially when preparing meals is important. Keep your fingernails closely trimmed (fingernail clippers are a good thing to have in your survival kit).
Keep your clothing and bedding clean. Air out your bedding daily – hanging in the sun is a good thing. Try to keep clean socks and underwear changed daily. Use the air/sun cleaning method if water is rationed. Turn sleeping bags inside out and air/sun it for at least two hours.
Keeping your teeth clean is important. If you don’t have a toothbrush, make a chewing stick by chewing on a stick at one end to separate the fibers and use it to brush your teeth. Using a strip of cloth wrapped around your finger helps as well. You can use sand, baking soda, or salt when no toothpaste is around. You can use common string to floss or make yourself some toothpicks.
If you develop a cavity, you make temporary fillings by placing candle wax, tobacco, aspirin, or portions of a ginger root into the cavity. Clean and rinse the cavity before filling. Wilderness dental kits are available that you can add to your medical/survival kit.

Taking Care of Your Feet

Soldiers are taught from the beginning that prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to the health and without healthy feet troops can't go anywhere. Wash, powder and massage your feet on a daily basis. Keep your toenails trimmed in a straight cut. Wear dry socks, when wet - change immediately. Check for blisters. If you get a small blister, do not open it. An intact blister is safe from infection. Apply a padding material around the blister to relieve pressure and reduce friction. If the blister bursts, treat it as an open wound (it really is – an abrasive wound). Clean and dress it daily and keep a pad around it. Leave large blisters intact and avoid bursting or splitting. Use a sewing needle or a fine suture needle that is clean and sterilized and thread it with sterilized thread. You can obtain sterilized suture packets for this use, so keep a package or two in your medical kit, along with sutures. Push the needle and thread through the blister after cleaning it. Remove the needle/suture and leave both ends of the thread hanging out of the blister. The thread will absorb the liquid inside and reduces the size of the hole, as well as ensuring that the hole is closed up. Pad around the blister.


Try to plan for regular rest periods at least 10 minutes per hour during your daily activities. This will refresh you and makes you more comfortable and alert.

Clean Camp

Never urinate or defecate in your camp. Use the 50-meter rule – and 100 meters away from any food or water source. If you haven’t built a permanent latrine, dig “cat holes” or a deep trench with a shovel next to it, so you can cover feces each time you use the latrine pit. Collect drinking water upstream from the camp site and always purify water.

Medical Emergencies

Breathing Problems
Foreign matter in the mouth or throat can obstruct the opening to the trachea.
Facial or neck injuries can affect breathing.
Inflammation and swelling of the mouth and throat can restrict breathing.
Sometimes the tongue will block the air passage when unconscious.
Severe Bleeding
Any cut major blood vessel is extremely dangerous. Shock begins to appear after losing one liter of blood. The loss of 2 liters will increase the state of shock and the loss of 3 liters of blood is normally fatal.
Shock, acute stress reaction, is a symptom that occurs when cardiac output is not enough to fill the arteries with blood and provide proper blood supply to organs and tissue.
Lifesaving Measures
First perform a quick physical exam, looking for the cause of injury if not known and follow the standard ABCs of first aid usually starting with the airway and breathing if there isn’t any substantial bleeding. A person will die faster from arterial bleeding before dying from a restricted airway.
It would be a good idea to take a course, available locally, sponsored by the Red Cross in basic first aid and first response procedures. I will not go into detail here concerning lifesaving measures, but there are several good books out there for instructions complete with diagrams and step-by-step drawings. FM 21-76 [FM 3-05-70] is an excellent source and there are wilderness survival books small enough to keep in your backpack for reference; as is the Special Forces Medical Handbook.


If you are forced to be on the move or setting up a temporary camp, the tent is best. Tents today are made of light material, so you can have a multi-person tent in your survival gear. At the least, you should have a 6x10-foot tarp for a lean-to with rope, bungee cords and light stakes. In most cases, setting up shelter will be the first thing you do. Remember, the larger the shelter the harder it is to maintain heat. This is especially important in cold climates. The modern tent provides shelter from the elements and is completely enclosed with a tent floor and zip screen, which prevents animals and insects from getting in. Choose a flat rock free area with no stumps or roots to protrude through your flooring. If you are forced to make shelter out of whatever is available in the environment make it so it does the job of a tent. When setting up camp ensure that you not in harm's way by local natural environment. A more permanent shelter can be built underground. Interest in underground shelters has returned since the end of the Cold War.
Avoid flash flood areas in foothills or canyons.
Avoid avalanche in snow country or rock slides in mountainous terrain.
Avoid sites that are near bodies of water that are below high water marks.
The lean-to shelter can be made from an Army poncho or a tarp. The Army poncho, readily available from a military surplus and sport supplier, is a dual purpose item, following the rule that survival supplies should have more than one purpose. It can be used as rain gear to keep you dry or material to build a shelter with. You will need rope or parachute cord, at least three stakes, two poles or use two trees that are 2-3 meters apart. Make sure the back of the lean-to is into the wind. FM 21-76 provides a complete instruction in making a poncho lean-to. By placing brush at the sides of the lean-to provides further protection from wind and cold. Your sleeping area should have material such as a camping pad, leaves or pine needles to prevent body heat loss. You can lose as much as 80% of your body heat when lying on bare ground. FM 21-76 also provides instructions on how to make a tent from two ponchos. You can also make an A-frame shelter from a poncho or tarp by tying a rope between two trees and placing the poncho or tarp on the rope to where the rope is in the middle of the tarp. Stake both sides that hang down. This is my favorite tent for temporary shelters if no tent with flooring and screen is available.
Three-Pole Tepee [tipi)
The tepee was the useful shelter of the Plains Indians. The tribe would move where the game went, specifically the buffalo herds, as well as set up winter camp in selected areas. Downed airmen in a survival situation use their parachutes to make a tepee. You can obtain a parachute from military surplus suppliers, if you wish to include it in your survival gear pack. It is shaped perfectly for use as a tepee, and is strong, yet lighter than making a tepee from other material. Native Americans made their tepee from treated animal hides, like deer or buffalo. There are many crafts that have been retained by the American Native tribes. Europeans who first settled in North America learned much from the local natives. In the case of survival, it applies today. Reading material is available that provides information about Native American crafts and skills that could be useful in surviving a disaster. For those who would like to include a ready-made tepee in their survival gear in lieu of a standard tent, there are sources like outfitters for expeditions and wilderness travelers who sell commercially made tepees and other supplies.
If you decide to construct a tepee you will need three poles that are 3.5 to 4.5 meters long and about 5 cm in diameter (little less than 1.5 inches). Lay the poles on the ground and lash them together at one end. Stand the frame up and spread the poles to form a tripod. You can use additional poles to provide more support, but do not lash them to the tripod. The great thing about a tepee is that you can build a small fire pit in the center and provide heat source protected from rain and wind. The opening at the top of the tepee provides draft for the smoke to rise and leave the shelter. Additional draft can also be provided by the sides of the tepee not touching the ground. See imaging below [Source: FM 21-76, Figure 5-4]

Water Procurement

Now your shelter is in place and it is time to deal with water supply. The best advice once again comes from FM 21-76, Figure 6-1. The golden rule in water procurement is to purify it before drinking. See FM 21-76 for details on how to make water stills and other material/devices for obtaining water in different climates.
SurvivalStillSurvivalRainwater collected in clean containers is almost 100% safe drinking water or even a water still. Any other water should be purified. But why take chances - purify all drinking water. Use iodine or chlorine (water purification tablets) or boiling to purify water, the latter method preferred because of taste. You can use the commercially sold water purification systems with filters – but how long will those filters last? Boiling water for one minute at sea level or boiling water for 10 minutes no matter where you are is the method to use when no filtration or water purification tablets are available. It will taste better with the filtration or boiling method. Personally I would not trust just using a purification system and boil it anyway, so why not save a step and the funding it costs for water purification systems that require replenishment of filters? Water purification systems are not cheap. By water purification, you will prevent such diseases/parasites such as: Dysentery, Cholera, Typhoid, and parasites like amoeba (especially the brain eaters), flukes, or leeches.
A hand-made solar water purification system is shown at left, however, you must remember that the water purified still requires the boiling process described above. It would be good to include plastic sheeting with a collapsible container in your survival kit. As you can see, the water purification and collection system is made up of simple parts, thus will fit in any bug-out survival individual pack. In a family of four, for example, each adult should have a complete bug-out pack that includes the survival pack. One reason is that two water stills operating at once is better than just one.
All these tips and information can be tried out on camping trips, getting fresh air and experience preparing just in case of a disaster, either natural or not. Much of what is on this page comes from the original field manual, now replaced with FM 3-05-70. I will update when it is necessary. The basic standards for survival remains the same, no matter when it was published. The major changes is what devices are available today because of technology and innovation that was not available when FM 21-76 was published.