Sunday, August 11, 2013

Four basic survival needs.

Many people talk about the basic needs of survival. In a survival situation, it's important to remember the four essentials. These are water, food, shelter and security.

WATER - It's generally accepted that a person can live for three or four days without water. When you factor in the kinds of things you'll have in a survival situation such as adverse weather or terrain, you begin to shorten that period of time. In arid environments, you sweat out a lot of water. In a cold environment, you might sweat less, but you'll sweat without even knowing or feeling it. This can be equally as dangerous as sweating profusely in a hot location. Look for low lying areas and green vegetation. Upon finding water, observe for signs of use by local wildlife. Needless to say, mosquito larvae or animal carcasses in or beside the water are signs that the water may not be safe for drinking. Animal tracks can be an indication of use, signaling that the water is at least useable. Boiling is still needed. Be observant of any tracks as they can clue you in on what wildlife is nearby, be it predators or prey. Digging several feet into the soil can also yield amounts of drinking water, though it will need to be filtered if possible before the usual boiling.

Many people believe that you must allow water to boil for a bit of time to be safe. This is not necessary. Once the water begins to form bubbles from the heat, it has already passed the point of killing all bacteria present. Another thing to remember is that it is possible to boil water in a plastic bottle, as long as the bottle has enough water in it to absorb the heat. Otherwise, the bottle will melt.

Water from plants is generally safe to be used for drinking. Some thick vines can hold large amounts of water. Beware of any milky discharge. This means the plant is not producing safe water to drink. Coconuts can be a valuable source of fluids. The younger the coconut, the more water it will have before it turns into "coconut milk". That milk is still good for drinking and it contains electrolytes and sugar for energy. The meat is good for food as well. If you crack the coconut carefully, it can be used as a bowl for catching rainwater.

FOOD - Food can sometimes be harder to find than water. It can be difficult to know which plants can be eaten. A good way to test if a plant is edible is to take a part of the plant and chew a tiny bit once or twice, making sure to get it on the tongue. An itchy, extremely bitter or slight burning sensation means that the plant is not safe to eat.

Local wildlife is another source of food. However, it is often advisable to use more energy to escape to civilization than to hunt for food that you have to chase or kill. If you can manage to catch prey, ensure that you do not rupture the intestines during the skinning process. This will contaminate the meat of the catch and make it unsafe to eat. Cut into the skin along the front mid-line of the body with a knife or a sharp edge of a chipped rock. Peel the fur or skin back. You should be left with a thin membrane holding the guts in. Carefully slice through this without rupturing the intestines.

Fishing can be a low energy method of finding food. Finding a small stream allows you to block it off with sticks or a makeshift net. Fish are easy to clean and relatively fast to cook. Be aware of other abundant sources of food native to the area you're in. If you find yourself in a Louisiana swamp, boil crawfish over a fire. If you find yourself near a rocky shore, look for crabs, clams and small fish.

SHELTER - Building a shelter is often overlooked. The problem with this thinking is that the weather can turn on you at anytime, and if you aren't protected at all from the elements, all the food and water in the world may not save you. Rain and wind can give you hypothermia, even in the Summer. The ambient air temperature can rise rapidly even when there is snow on the ground, causing you to sweat without even knowing it. Shelter can lift the spirits of those in a survival situation and provide additional comfort and protection from dangerous wildlife. When on the move, leave you nightly shelters intact as a sign that you have been there. Rescuers have found lost hikers after coming across their abandoned stick shelters.

A simple and effective shelter can built between two thin trees using nothing more than three long sticks and some large leaves. Don't have large leaves? Gather some extra sticks for "cross beams" and pile some grass or pine needles on for a roof. Keeping yourself out of the sun, rain and wind is important. Don't overlook it. Beware of creatures that live in caves when choosing one for a shelter. They make great shelters, but be careful. Caves can quickly flood even in light rain. Fallen trees can provide quick protection from weather as well.

If possible, gather some strong sticks with a split at one end, stick them strongly into the ground and place cross branches over them to make a bed that keeps you off the ground. Use leaves, pine needless or grass to soften it. This will keep the ground from sapping your body heat and keep you away from bugs and snakes.

SECURITY - This is probably the most overlooked essential. Local wildlife has a food chain system, and in many places, you drop several spots on that chain when you find yourself in a survival situation. A long, heavy ended stick can be used as a basic club. Sharpen the end on a rock for a spear type of weapon. Using a knife to whittle a sharp point is even better. A firearm, when in trained hands, is an ideal security tool. If I had to choose one of my personal weapons to take into a survival situation, I'd choose my Ruger 10/22 carbine rifle. .22LR is an ideal survival caliber. A survival knife has a million uses and self defense against predators is certainly one. Be aware of the predators in your area. In Florida, you'll need to watch for alligators. In Montana, cougars pose a threat. In Texas, the Javelina (a type of wild boar) can seriously injure a grown man. Every region of the world has different threats. It would behoove you (If I can use an Army term) to be educated on the local threats.

It is worth mentioning that in some parts of the world, guerrillas, pirates, criminals, armed rebels or terrorists pose as big of a threat as any wildlife out there. If you must find yourself in these areas, be knowledgeable, well armed and always have an escape plan from any location you go to. Even when staying in a big city hotel, there are factors to keep in mind. Staying on the first or second floors makes you one of the first targets in a terrorist attack or room break-in, but staying above the third or fourth floors makes escape from the building for any reason (Fire, for example) problematic.

I don't mention fire as one of these essentials because it is a major part of every one of the four "must haves" I just went over. Fire is required for boiling water, cooking food, warming your shelter and keeping predators away from your camp. It goes without saying that fire is a necessity, and it is such a necessity that it deserves a separate discussion altogether. I'll talk about fire soon.

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