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How to Build a Campfire

Building a campfire is an essential skill for an outdoors lifestyle.

Whether you’re in the middle of the woods or making smores with the family, building a proper campfire can be a daunting task. With some wood and a little bit of knowledge, it’s not really that hard and can be a big help for many different tasks. Here’s how to do it in a few easy steps.

Start with a fire pit

To start building a fire, you are going to need some sort of way to contain it. Whether it be a big bucket, stones, or even a fancy structure. This is so that you don’t ignite the surrounding area including your house. Also, an uncontained fire is a problem especially in dry environments such as California wooded areas.

If you can’t get a proper area to hold a fire, make sure to keep a fireproof blanket or a fire extinguisher near in case of an emergency. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Getting the wood

Choosing your wood is definitely one of the most critical parts of your campfire. You want to get relatively decent sized chunks of wood for your endeavors. Hickory, White Birch, or Oak are some of the best woods to burn. Cedar lacks in flame but excels in heat, making it great for a winter campfire. Try avoiding softer woods like Spruce or Willow because density is proportionate to burn time.

Storing your wood is also an important step because it won’t burn after a rainstorm. You can put in in a storage shed or even set it outside in a stack with a large tarp to keep moisture and other unwanted debris away from your wood.

Setting up the pyre

The most common way to set up wood is in a cone fashion. This is done by inserting a support stick into the ground and leaning the chunks against it over a pile of small combustible material, or kindling, such as wood shavings, leaves, newspaper, etc. As long as they don’t fall over and have a plethora of airflow, you should be all set.

It is imperative to have extra materials around nearby like kindling to keep the fire going as long as you need it. It would be unfortunate to set up a campfire and invite all your friends and family just to have it go out and be unprepared.

Lighting the masterpiece

So you’ve built your pyre and are ready to set it ablaze. You can use a lighter or toss a lit match in the kindling. Whatever you do avoid using things like gasoline or other accelerants that are not designed for this task. You can severely injure yourself or someone else by igniting a flame with gasoline. Surprisingly, cheese puffs are a decent firestarter after you have a flame going.

Remember to never leave the fire unattended, as you never know what may happen when you are absent.

 Extinguishing the fire

You should always put out the fire if it hasn’t gone out. When you are done, there are a few things you can do to end the inferno. If it is still going strong you can pour water on it or use a fire extinguisher to reduce the flames. If that doesn’t work you can use a fireproof blanket to kill off the big flames and put out the embers with water. At the end of the day, there is always the water hose if available.

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Best Plants and Berries to Eat in the Wild

While going on an adventure, you may see a luscious bush with fruit on it. Although they look good to eat, some of them might be poisonous.

First of all; it’s probably not a great idea to eat something you aren’t familiar with. One of the goals of a plant is to disperse their seeds. There won’t be any seeds if a herbivore eats all of the plant’s fruit, so toxins are used as a measure of protection.

It’s also wise to inform small children about the bad ones as they may not know any better from regular plants. Here is a list of plants that are poisonous, and ones that healthy to eat.

Poisonous Plants

A good rule of thumb is that a poisonous plant probably has poisonous fruit. Stay away from plants with thorns or anything that appears to be defending itself.

Deadly Nightshade

Deadly Nightshade, or belladonna, is native to parts of Asia and Europe. Don’t be fooled by the beautiful flowers because the plant is highly toxic; even by touching it you can develop a rash. Eating a single berry can be fatal. The toxins found in the plant are tropane alkaloids such as atropine, scopolamine, and hyoscyamine. These can cause hallucinations and delirium in small doses but can be counteracted by drinking vinegar1. Nowadays, the plant can be used by optometrists to dilate the eyes.

Hemlock

Hemlock, or conium, is found pretty much everywhere. It’s generally safe to touch but can cause a rash in some people. Hemlock is only a lethal flower if ingested due to the concentration of the toxin coniine, which causes the respiratory system to fail, requiring immediate medical care2.

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle is a flower native to the northern hemisphere. Depending on the species, some come with mildly poisonous berries. Eating a few berries can result in a moderate stomach ache or dizziness. Even though the symptoms aren’t severe, it’s generally safer to stay away from these.

Holly

Holly is a festive plant used for decoration. It looks very similar to honeysuckle and is also non-lethal. The active toxin inside of the holly berries is called saponin. Even with eating multiple berries, you won’t really get a worse reaction than a rash and vomiting3. Still, don’t eat it.

Edible Plants

Here are some fruits and plants that are completely safe to eat. If you see a familiar fruit or one that isn’t poisonous, you should wash it off before consumption to remove any dirt or other contaminants.

Crab Apple

The crab apple is a sour fruit found on some trees. There are different varieties and tend to be different colors. Crab apples are found all over the world. It isn’t the most pleasant thing to eat and can give you a stomach ache if you ingest too many.

Huckleberry

As the state fruit of Idaho, the huckleberry (or the bilberry) is found in North America and Asia. There are reports of some health benefits from the berry, but none have been scientifically acclaimed. The huckleberry can be used in place of the blueberry for pies, jelly, etc.

Serviceberry

The serviceberry, or sugarplum, is a bush most exclusively in North America, with some in Asia. The fruits are sweet when ripe as denoted by the name, and are essential to the ecosystem. The seeds give off an extra almond-like flavor, from the amygdalin within them.

Elderberry

Elderberries are old. Just kidding. Native to almost everywhere, the flower and fruit can be used to treat minor ailments in terms of the cold or headaches. It can be brewed into a tea or ingested traditionally. Be careful though; if you eat the stems (Who would want to eat those anyway) you can get the same side effects as the honeysuckle plant from the harsh alkaloids found within them.


Sources:
1. Largo, Michael. “The A-List Celebrity of Poisonous Plants.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 18 Aug. 2014, slate.com/technology/2014/08/poisonous-plants-belladonna-nightshade-is-the-celebrity-of-deadly-flora.html.

2. Largo, Michael. “Plato’s Description of Socrates’ Death by Hemlock Was a Little Too Kind.” Slate Magazine, Slate, 21 Aug. 2014, slate.com/technology/2014/08/poisonous-plants-socrates-drank-hemlock-tea-as-his-preferred-mode-of-execution.html.

3. “Holiday Plants with Toxic Misconceptions.” PubMed Central (PMC), www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3555592/.

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Wilderness Survival: Take Care of Your Feet

The most overlooked outdoor survival strategy is right under your nose—well, five or six feet under your nose.

Your backcountry comfort – not to mention survival – starts from the ground up. | Image courtesy of MaxPixel.com

Ask any infantryman, and they’ll tell you that taking good care of your feet is one of the best things you can do to stay off the injured list. If you’re planning on doing some real hiking out in the backcountry, especially if you plan to be out for multiple days, now is the time to make sure you don’t wind up on the side of a mountain with two “flat tires”—feet that just can’t move you any further. Here’s how to keep that from happening.

Before the Hike

It can often be daunting to buy a new pair of boots, but this is a decision that can make or break your trip. Get out there and try the boots on. | Image courtesy of Armchair

First, you need to get those boots squared away. Your footwear is absolutely critical, because “a few blisters” can absolutely develop into a real emergency in the backwoods. Not only can they make it exquisitely painful to walk, they open an avenue for infection to set in. If you have any circulation problems, that’s doubly dangerous. So what you want to do is make sure that your boots not only fit you properly, but they’re completely broken in.

This is a time when you’re better off shopping in person at a brick-and-mortar store, so you can compare boot fit in real time. Secondly, you should hit that store at the end of the day, preferably after you’ve been on your feet for a while. (This will help replicate the swollen feet everyone gets after using them for any significant time.) You should wear socks as similar as possible to the ones you’ll be wearing in the backcountry.

Third, you’ll want to break those bad boys in. This goes way beyond wearing them around the house for a few hours. Fill a pack up with about the amount of weight it’ll have when you get out there for real, put it on, and then walk. Outside, on varying terrain, if at all possible. When you get back home, check your feet. Are there any “hot spots” where blisters might be gearing up to make an unwelcome appearance, like my ex-girlfriend at a family picnic? If so, you may want to either try using a boot stretcher to give yourself a little more wiggle room, or you may choose to apply moleskin to those spots before you start hiking.

In the Backcountry

Clean and bandage your feet as soon as possible, and give your feet a thorough rest at the end of a long day.

Once you’re out in the backcountry, make a habit of giving your feet a good once-over every time you remove your boots. (If you’re like me, your friends will scatter like pigeons when they see the shoes coming off, so you’ll have plenty of privacy.) Clean, disinfect, and bandage any blisters, but don’t try lancing them if you can avoid it. Antibiotic ointment—particularly the type that has a little Lidocaine in it—is your friend. Change your socks regularly for clean, dry ones. In fact, if you’re going to make room in your pack for anything “extra,” let that extra be fresh socks…more than you think you’ll need.

Remember, take care of your feet—and they’ll take care of you!

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Tips on Preparing Food Kits for Survival

Dealing with a difficult situation is already daunting.

Pair it up with lack of energy and it’s not a situation you’d ever want to be in. The key to surviving out in the open is to have energy to take on whatever comes your way. That’s why selecting the right food for your survival kit is imperative.

If you have the option, you can thrive by collecting berries and fruits from the surroundings. But what if that isn’t even an option? It’s always advisable not to go for wild berries as they can be poisonous.

The big question is what food items to include in your survival kit? You don’t want to take unnecessary stuff as it’ll just be a waste of space. You need to focus out in the open and there are foods that can help you with that. These food items are the ones that should ideally be in your survival kit. Foods with a high-calorie count and lots of protein are the best shot you have at preparing for the worst. With the right ingredients to boost your energy, these foods can be your savior in times of dire need.

Get ready to pack your bags and head out for an adventure. But not before you read these tips and ensure you have the resources needed for an emergency.

Save Storage Space

Don’t let bulky boxes or packages weigh your backpack down. The lighter your backpack is, the easier it will be for you. Keep only the most vital of food items. The key is to take things that can provide instant energy. This way you can quickly recover burnt calories with the right food kit for survival. That added push is what you’ll need in case an emergency arises.

Long Storage Life

The whole point of preparing a food kit for survival is to take sustainable food that’s edible when needed. In order to fulfill the instant energy requirement, people forget that they need something that can last a long time. In this regard, energy bars are the perfect ration to take along. They don’t go bad so soon and will give you the boost of energy you need to survive. Naturally preserved meat will go a long way and so make sure you include some in the survival food kit.

Nuts and Dried Fruits

The best thing about these nutritious munchies is that they take so much less space. Packed with calories, a handful of dried fruits and nuts are a great option when instant energy is on your mind. Apricots and raisins are a must have in your survival food kit. Not to mention that they also offer potassium and dietary fiber.

These are all essential elements you’ll need to survive in case of an emergency out there. Make sure you store them in vacuum-packed containers. This prevents air getting to them and oxidizing the nuts. You can prevent nuts from losing their freshness by storing them in these air tight packages.

Instant Energy Foods

Carbohydrates are your gateway to an endless supply of energy and that’s why energy bars are a must-have in your survival food kit. Healthy and filling, these rations can stay fresh for at least 6 months. That’s an impressive life span and that’s why they are included in every survival food kit. The same goes for granola bars.

Water Filter

An ample supply of food would do you no good if you can’t find clean drinking water. You need at least a gallon of water per day. Unfortunately you can’t carry a large quantity of water around with you. Make sure you have a water bottle with you at all times. Another item that will make your life easier is a water filter. There are ways you can get distilled water by using a simple DIY but keeping a professional water filter is always a great idea.

You need a refreshed and energized mind to make sound decisions out in the open. When there’s food in your belly, you’ll be able to overcome the hardships and finally find your way back home. Just remember to keep your spirits up! Losing hope could be the worst thing you can do to yourself. As long as you have the energy and strength to help yourself, there are chances you can survive the ordeal.

So, make sure you prepare your survival food kit with care. Include all the above mentioned items and you won’t be at your wits end in case of an emergency.

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Top 6 Survival Skills

It is a good idea to always be prepared and develop skills that can help you in tough situations.

In this piece, we examine the top 6 survival skills that will greatly increase your chances to survive in extreme conditions.

Willpower and Attitude

Perhaps, the most important skills you need to survive are willpower and attitude.

Many people are prone to panicking if they find themselves in adverse, survival situations and stress out. People who are not used to living in harsh conditions will find it very difficult to cope with survival lifestyle.

The best thing you can do to have a strong will and attitude is to train yourself for survival situations. Put yourself in a difficult situation every now and then to test your limits. It does not matter whether you do it by taking a camping trip in the wilderness or hiking through the local park. Train your body and mind for all kinds of situations.

You should also focus on improving your fitness. Surviving on your own requires a lot of hard physical labor and you would find it extremely difficult if you are not at least moderately fit.

Navigating and Scouting

In most survival situations, you will find yourself in unfamiliar territory with no bearing of where you are or where to go.

Learn to use maps and navigation tools like compasses. You can also develop a basic understanding of the movement of the sun, the moon and stars to guide your way. This is the method used by our ancestors (and many species of animals) to guide their way to food, water and shelter.

Binoculars are a great help for scouting. They will help you look into the distance, saving you time and energy. They will also help you avoid potential danger.

Some people develop a keen sense of their surrounding and can detect changes in weather, wind and temperature. You can become good at this by developing your senses of observing, listening, smelling and feeling the wind against your skin.

Building a Shelter

The elements are perhaps your biggest enemy in a survival situation. Your one priority should be to build a shelter, before nightfall. After thirst and hunger, the third cause of death for people lost in harsh environment is hypothermia. A shelter will not only protect you against the elements but also guard against wild animals.

If you don’t have access to tarps or tents, look into using natural resources to build a shelter. Caves are a good choice as they will protect against cold winds and most wild beasts. But be careful in approaching a cave as it could already be inhabited by a creature. Caves could be inhabited by bears, wolves or wild boars. Look for signs of habitation, before approaching a cave.

You can also use large broken branches by securing one against a tree to form an angle. Cover it with leaves, moss or long strands of shrubs bunched together. The first priority should be guarding against wind and rain. Cover the ground with leaves and grass to insulate from the cold ground.

Finding a Drinkable Source of Water

Rain and dew are good sources of getting drinkable water. You should look into building a rain-catcher that can collect water in the long-term.

For immediate needs, you will need to get clean water from the ground. Be very cautious when collecting standing water from lakes or puddles as it can contain a lot of pathogens that will cause cramps, pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Always make sure to boil the water, before drinking.

You can also collect water from plants and trees by squeezing vines, pouring out dew from flowers or tying a plastic bag around leaves which will collect water as leaves perspire.

Building a Fire

Being able to build a fire, with or without a fire starter is an essential survival skill. Fire will help you fight cold, boil water, cook food and keep dangerous animals at bay.

There are many methods that can be used to start a fire. You should know at least a couple of them. Also, learn how to find good sources of fuel. Dead and dry leaves, branches and plants are good to keep a fire going.

Locating Sources of Food

While you may survive without food for a day or two, you would need to get a source of energy in the long run. Our ancestors were hunter gatherers so the instincts of getting food in the wild are in everyone. The only thing you need is to bring it out.

Knowledge of edible plants and berries could be very useful. You can also build a fishing spear easily with a dagger and tree branch. You can even get meat if you know how to build a trap for catching small prey or have experiences using a bow and arrow for hunting.

If you have the skills for getting food in a survival situation, it could mean the difference between life and death.