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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Camping and Survival Guide

I've been very busy this month and haven't been able to pay as much attention to the blog as I would have liked to. Heres a gem I wrote a while back.

By Ron Layton

This book is in no particular order. It’s a survival guide for those who have at least some experience in the field; after all there are more than enough “Survival Manuals” out there already. Consider this an appendix.


Frisbees are an excellent survival tool believe it or not. They can be used for scooping up water, gathering wild food such as seeds, nuts, or berries and as a plate to eat the food you’ve gathered. It can also be utilized for its original purpose to keep moral up (provided you are with someone, kind of a hard game to play by ones self!)

Frisbee food gathering scenario: You have found a large patch of wild rice or other grass with abundant seed heads. You know that these can be a valuable source of food. Now you find yourself a nice straight stick about ½” in diameter and about three feet long. You hold the Frisbee under the seed heads and gently beat them with the stick. You see all those seeds gathering in the Frisbee? You see all the bugs and chaff, too? No problem. Gently toss the seeds up and as they fall back into the Frisbee blow through them and if you are really lucky there will be a gentle breeze to do this for you. Or, you can pick the garbage out by hand if you feel like spending the extra effort. By the way the bugs won’t hurt you and should be considered extra protein.


Water weighs eight pounds per gallon. If you think you want to carry a five gallon can of water consider the weight: 40 pounds plus the one or two pounds weight of the can? That means you will be carrying very little other than water. Who will carry your gear? The secret is to know how to collect and purify water.

Water scenario: You are at your campsite out in the boonies. You just used the last gallon container of water. Being the savvy camper you saved all the water jugs and now you have six empties. The three of you carried two gallons each to the site. There is a nice clear mountain stream down the hill and there are reasons that one person needs to stay at camp. So two of you take the six empty gallon jugs down the hill and carefully fill them with the clearest water you can find. Now the problem is getting them all back up the hill. Easy. You take a foot of nylon rope per jug and tie a loop in the handle of each jug. Now that you tied loops to all the jug handles you find a decent length pole and slide it through the loops. Each of you shoulder an end of the pole and carry the water back to camp.


Survival Kits: this is a subject that much has been written on and yet so few agree too. What is the perfect kit? Well, the perfect kit is the one that you put together yourself and contains the items you feel you need. It’s always a good idea to read the various lists of what people put in their kit. It may open your eyes to a few things you’ve overlooked including in yours. Below are the contents of my kit. It is geared to my skills and contains things that I feel essential. When you build your kit you will want to include items that you can’t find readily in a survival situation. If you learn and practice primitive skills you will be so much better off for it. These skills are flint knapping, cordage making, basketry, wood working, net making, trapping, shelter making and many others.


Contents of my kit:

KNIVES- Gerber Freeman sheath knife, neck knife, Swiss army knife (Huntsman model, this is the old model which doesn’t include toothpick/tweezers so I carry a Classic model with it), and a small lock back Buck single blade. All these knives cover various chores and I believe in redundancy for the most valuable items.
10X LOOP- this is handy for close inspection of objects and for fire starting with the Sun.
FIRE KIT- This contains two 35mm film cans of tinder (Vaseline soaked cotton) and two Ferro-cerium spark rods (again, redundancy) with a small carbon steel folding knife. The knife is used only on the spark rods. This way my other knifes don’t need to be abused for this purpose. As a side note, I find it easy to hold the rod close to the tinder, put the blade against the rod, and pull the rod away from the tinder. This way you don’t knock the tinder away as well as possibly damage the blade by hitting something. All of this is stored in an Army issue decontamination kit container. My 35mm film can with my fishing tackle is stored in here too. My third fire kit is one of the little Coghlan’s, the “metal match” type and it came with prepared tinder. For the price this little unit is amazing. The tinder is very reliable also. This kit is kept in a separate container in the bag.
PARA CORD- This is the real thing. How to tell? GI Para cord has five or seven individual lines inside the nylon sheathing. These individual cords can be stripped out and used for a multitude of tasks. I once took a length of inner cord and stripped it down even further to see how small I could get it. I ended up with several yards of fine line for fishing or sewing or whatever other use it could be put too. Supposedly Para cord has a rating of 550 pounds test. This means its pretty strong stuff but it wasn’t meant to be used for rappelling. When you use it to make clothes line or other camp items remember not to make un-tie able knots. You don’t want to have to cut this stuff up and waste it. I consider it worth its weight in gold.
PONCHO- Mine is a store bought one and is made of heavy vinyl. It rolls up and is kept in its own stuff sack. I take extra caution when I wear it so that I don’t damage it accidentally on snags and such.
SPACE BLANKET- Used as extra insulation inside my sleeping bag and as an emergency blanket if I get caught without my sleeping bag. This and my poncho would keep me pretty warm.
SNARE WIRE- Self explanatory. I carry enough for several dozen snares. The more snares you put out the better chance you have of trapping something.
SNARE KIT- This contains my multi strand cable for larger game as well as crimps and snare locks made from washers.
SIERRA CUP- This is my drinking cup and hangs on the outside of my bag. In a pinch it can be used to cook a small cup of soup or a cup of tea.
FOLDING SCISSORS- I have a pair of the Chinese made scissors in my kit. I like these because they are made from stainless steel and very rugged.
CANTEEN CUP- Another multi use item. It can serve as my cooking pot, cup, and dipper to fill water jugs, food gathering container, and tool and hardware holder when I’m working on a project.
FISHING KIT- I carry a spool of Spyderwire line (30 pound test) about 200 yards. I prefer this type as it is multipurpose and can be used to sew and repair the tent, tarps, etc. This is made of Kevlar and is quite thin for its test weight. Strong stuff! My tackle consists of a couple dozen different sized hooks and several dozen small split shot. These are kept in a 35mm film can inside my fire kit. I have an Altoids tin with two small bobbers and my multi purpose three inch long sea fishing hooks in it. These hooks are lashed to a long stick and used like a gaff for dragging small game from its den and for pulling branches with fruit closer to the ground.
ALTOIDS TIN- See under fishing kit
BANDANAS- These are another all purpose item. They function as pot holder, bandana, sweat rag, food gathering container, washcloth, tourniquet, and many other uses. I always have at least two in my kit.
HEAD BANDS- I carry two of these also. They are just long enough to go around your head and keep the sweat out of your eyes. One is just a strip of cloth and the other was manufactured, it has some kind of gel beads in it that hold the water longer if you soak it first.
FLINT KNAPPING TOOLS- I have a working knowledge of the art of flint knapping. What a wonderful skill to master! I can make arrowheads, knives, scrapers, drills, and myriad other tools from suitable rocks. Even old bottle bottoms can be utilized to knap a fine tool. The beauty of this skill is that I can make a flake blade and save my steel blades for more important tasks. When I’m done with the flake I can just discard it or keep it till it’s too worn to use anymore. My knapping tools are an antler bopper made from the main shaft of a deer antler and an antler tine for pressure flaking. I also carry an awl made from copper ground wire and hammered square (hammering copper hardens it). It’s used for pressure flaking too. A piece of heavy leather that covers the palm of my hand finishes off this kit. I’ve cut a hole in the leather pad for my thumb. This keeps it from sliding from my palm. The bopper, tine, and leather pad are in an outside pocket of my bag. If you have a chance, learn flint knapping!
LED LIGHT AND BATTERIES- I have a small light that uses three button cells. It’s very bright and the batteries last a very long time. The LED bulb is supposed to last 100,000 hours. That’s nearly 10 years. The extra batteries are stored in a plastic tube. LED lights are the greatest thing to come along, I believe. When I was young you would be lucky to have a flashlight last through the night till the batteries died. And if dropped it was a given that the bulb would be shot. Not so with LED lights. They come in a variety of sizes and prices. This one was purchased at Harbor Freight for $2.00, is about 2 ½ “long and has an on/off switch on the back end. A keychain clip is attached with a small chain to the switch itself. I hang this on the outside of my bag. It’s clipped to one of the zipper pulls.
FORAGING NET- I rescued this from an old landing net. I took a piece of nylon cord and ran it through the mesh around the edge of the opening. This is the carrying strap and helps keep it compressed when stored in my bag by wrapping it around the folded net. I use this net to gather nuts, fruits, whatever. Mine is made from cotton cord. The one I made for my wife is heavier monofilament cord.
POCKET SAW- This is a two bladed saw I picked up at Wal-Mart. It has both fine and coarse hacksaw blades that fold into the handle. It’s about four inch long and made of fluorescent orange plastic. The brand name is “Allway”. I use it for making various tools at camp and it cuts metal unlike the saw on my Swiss army knife. The blades are easily replaced by taking a regular hacksaw blade and snapping off 3 ½” of the ends. The hole in the blade is where the screw in the handle goes through and tightens down when in use. It’s very handy to have one of these.
EATING UTENSILS- I have an old US Army spoon and a fork from a camping silver ware set in a carrying case. The spoon as fairly large and is used for cooking as well as eating. No need to carry a table knife as I use one of my other blades.
1ST AID CREAM- I carry a tube of this in my bag.
LEATHER STROP AND STROP CARD- I have a leather strop that is loaded with red rouge as well as a business card that is loaded on the back. These give a final edge to my knives.
DIAMOND HONES- I carry several small diamond hones for sharpening my knives. I have both flat and rod types.
HONE OIL- I carry a small bottle of honing oil for the diamond hones. When this runs out I’ll just use water. Diamond hones last a lot longer if you use some kind of lubricant when you sharpen with them.
STRING- I have a small assortment of string for various tasks.
FOLDING STRAIGHT RAZOR- This is for shaving and minor surgery.
SEWING KIT- A small sewing kit is mighty handy. Mine has thread, needles, buttons, and a thimble for everyday repairs. I also have a spool of heavy thread to use with my sewing awl needle for repairing gear or the tent.
EXTRA EYE GLASSES- I wear prescription reading glasses. I carry a regular size pair in their case and I have a small folding pair in their case.
COMPASS- I have an orienteering compass in a GI compass case.
DENTAL FLOSS- I use this for fishing or sewing and if necessary suturing. I keep three rolls in a small zip lock bag. This is kept in the compass case with the compass.
PRUNER- this is a pair of folding pruners with a few blades in the handle. I use these when foraging plants, butchering game, and trimming branches.
SLING- I am proficient with a sling. They are easy to make but you need lots and lots of practice to become good with one.
CABLE TIES- These are the common electrical cable ties you find in hardware stores. They can be used for gear repair, making camp tools, etc.
BLANKET PIN- This is used to pin my wool army blanket around my shoulders when it’s cold. This is great for when you get up early in the morning and there’s a chill in the air. I also use it to attach things on the outside of my bag such as my poncho if rain threatens that day. These were issued during World War One and I don’t know where you could get one other than an antique store. I believe they were made for other uses, too. Some are marked “Rison”.
HEMOSTATS- I carry a pair of the smallest ones I could find. These are for first aid, fishing, and various repair work. I keep these in the Altoids tin with my fishing tackle.
P-38 CAN OPENER- Self explanatory. I have one of the new large ones and I have used it to score arrow shafts during construction. I keep this in my Altoids tin with my fishing tackle.
SNIPER VEIL- I use this camouflage, netted material for hunting and food gathering. It can be used to leach ground up acorns, too.
POCKET MIRROR- I use this for shaving, signaling, and the occasional speck in the eye. Mine is an old cosmetic compact. The case protects the mirror and there’s room for a few Band Aids in the compact.
FINGER NAIL CLIPPERS- I use these for trimming nails as well as trimming fishing line, string, sinew and electric cable ties.
WHISTLE- Used for signaling. A really loud one does wonders to scare away bothersome bears.
BAND AIDS- I carry both regular and butterfly type.
BENADRYL CAPSULES- I keep these handy because I’m allergic to bee stings. Always remember to carry any medications that you must have.
IODINE TINCTURE- For first aid and can be used to purify water.
IODINE TABLETS- Portable Aqua brand for water purification. I keep these in the pocket of my canteen cover which holds my cup. I don’t use the canteen as I have a 1 quart water container with a carrying case. It’s a wide mouth Rubbermaid. The snare wire, sniper veil, and space blanket are stored in the canteen cup.
SCALPEL BLADES- I have four blades wrapped in aluminum foil. These are stored in the Altoids tin.
BLOW PIPE- This is used to coax a flame or to raise the temperature of a fire. I made it from a piece of aquarium aerator tubing and a small telescoping antenna. This fits neatly in a pocket of my bag.
ALUMINUM FOIL- I have about a square foot of foil folded up and it’s stored in the Altoids tin. This is for covering my canteen cup while cooking. It helps keep the heat in thus making for more efficient cooking.
AWL- This is a handmade awl that I made a deer antler cap for. I use it for repairs, basket making, sewing, etc.
WARREN WOOD CARVING SET- This is a very useful tool. I can make eating and cooking utensils with it as well as carve trap triggers. The blades are extremely sharp and could be used for minor surgery if necessary. The kit has a handle, six different blades, a crooked knife blade, and two chisels.
FOUR-IN-HAND FILE- This has both flat and half round regular cut file and flat and half round rasp all on one tool. I use this for various wood working chores. It’s easy to rough out a self bow with one of these as well as make axe handles and other tools. Mines made by Nicholson and I keep it in its own leather sheath.


Here are some of the items I carry in my main pack. A Frisbee, tri fold army issue shovel, bowie knife, camp ax, folding saw, and spare ammo. The ax and bowie knife are attached to the outside of the pack as well as the shovel. Other items are spare clothes, an army blanket and my sleeping bag. My sleeping bag is a Slumberjack Super Guide and weighs two pounds six ounces. It fits neatly in its stuff sack and takes up very little room. My sleeping pad is attached to the bottom of the pack. I carry an eight foot by eight foot tarp to use as a ground cloth when I don’t feel like putting the tent up. When I go hiking I carry a minimum of food as I plan to add wild game as well as forage. If I were planning to “bug out” I would carry substantially more food and leave the bowie and shovel cached somewhere handy or in the car.


Water: how much to carry and how to find more. We know water weighs eight pounds a gallon. That’s a fairly heavy load considering you’ll be carrying a lot of other stuff. Having plenty is vital. It rates right up there with fire, first aid, and shelter in importance. When I travel into the back country I carry at least a gallon jug and my one quart canteen (which in real life is a Rubbermaid water bottle). I like to go to areas where I’ve been before and am familiar with the resources. When I go to a new area the first thing I do is scout around and take stock of the local foragables and water situation. My primary way of purification is boiling. If I’m in a hurry I’ll just get a quart of water and add an iodine tablet. After the recommended time for the iodine to work is up I add a couple vitamin C tablets. This helps to make the water more tolerable and removes most of the iodine taste. Part of my cooking kit is a 3 pound coffee can that I use to boil water in as well as cook with. I’ve attached a bail to it. If you take care of these cans they will last for a very long time. Most water found in the wilds is polluted. Either parasites such as Giardia or other nasty’s and there is always the possibility of chemical pollution such as old mines (heavy metals and acids). This is why knowing what’s in your area is important. If, for instance, you collect water from a mountain stream be sure there are no mining operations up stream. I’m not sure if the water filters available will remove these toxins. Even if there is no sign of local industry always treat your water in some way. Giardia cysts have been found in very remote areas. The only water I ever drink untreated is that which comes directly out of a spring. Now if the spring is coming directly out of a hillside I believe you have nothing to fear. But, if its collecting in a pool I would treat it.


Organizing your gear: When I pack my backpack and survival bag I try to make the most of the available space. I organize everything so that I know exactly where something can be found quickly. I use a lot of different containers and try to keep stuff in certain categories such as pocket knives with sharpeners, fire kit, knapping kit, carving kit, etc.
My favorite containers are the little square or rectangular plastic boxes with snap on lids. These are available at Wal-Mart and various dollar stores. I use all kinds of small containers such as Altoids tins, pill bottles, plastic match safes, and many others. Use your imagination and you’ll find lots of uses for everyday, throw away items.

ACORNS are edible when they have been processed properly. Some acorns are edible without much processing other than grinding and cooking. Others contain Tannic acid which is very bitter. The only way to remove tannins is to leach them out with water. The Indians used several methods. One was to grind the shelled acorns and put them in a tamped pit in the sand near water. Water was constantly poured over the meal until no trace of bitterness was left. Another method was to bury the whole acorns in a swamp and return in a year. The acorns turned black but were edible. Sometimes the meal was put in a tightly woven basket and several changes of water poured through till leached. Later methods were to put a piece of cloth in a basket and leach the tannins out with several gallons of water, usually hot. Also the coarsely ground acorns were put in a burlap bag and left in a stream till leached. Some folks recommend boiling the acorns in several changes of water but this removes a lot of the oil and taste. I prefer to soak the coarsely ground acorns in a plastic or glass container. When the water turns brown I replace it. This may require several changes until the tannins have been completely leached out. Still another way is to put the coarse meal in a cloth bag and run a lot of hot water through it. You can tell when the tannins are gone by the taste of the meal. If there is no trace of bitterness its done. Now all that needs to be done is dry out the meal and store it or eat it. Certain species of oak produce acorns which require little or no processing. These are termed sweet acorns and the ones with lots of tannic acid are called bitter acorns.

Here’s a list of sweet and bitter acorns:

Ballota Oak- Quercus ilex var. rotundifolia
Bur Oak- Q. macrocarpa
Chestnut Oak- Q. prinus
Chinquapin Oak- Q. muehlenbergii
Dwarf Chinquapin Oak- Q. prinoides
Emory Oak- Q. emoryi
Gambel Oak- Q. gambelii
Huckleberry Oak- Q. vaccinitfolia
Live Oak- Q. virginiana
Mongolian Oak- Q. monolica
Swamp Chestnut Oak- Q. michauxii
Swamp White Oak-Q. bicolor
Valley Oak- Q. lobata
Valonia Oak- Q. aegilops
White Oak- Q. alba


Black Oak- Q. velutina
California Live Oak- Q. agrifolia
Cork Oak- Q. saber
Kellogg Oak- Q. kelloggii
Laurel Oak- Q. laurifolia
Pin Oak- Q. ellipsoidali
Red Oak- Q. rubra
Scarlet Oak- Q. coccinea
Shumard Oak- Q. shumardii
Water Oak- Q. nigra

Non-Oak Acorn: this is the Tanbark Oak – Lithocarpos densiflorus native to California and Oregon. It has sweet acorns.


Caching for the future. First off, the definition of a cache. A cache is a hidden supply. The Army uses this system for special operations troops. For the best information check out the Army manual on caching, TC 31-29, US Army Special Forces Caching Techniques. It covers just about everything you could possibly need to know on the subject. My favorite caching container is the five gallon plastic bucket with the water proof seal lid. The lid is somewhat water proof but as positive insurance I always seal it further with silicon rubber caulking. I do this right before I bury it as there is less chance of breaking the seal from too much jostling around. I run a heavy bead of caulk with a caulking gun several times under the edge of the lid. After an hour or so it has set up enough to bury. I still put the bucket in a heavy duty garbage bag for even more insurance. Remember to mark the cache location on a map. It wont do you much good if you cant find it. I wouldn’t trust GPS as the system may not work in a survival situation. Besides, dead batteries, dead GPS.

Here are some items I would cache:

Ammo, radios, flashlights (LED of course), food, lithium batteries, button cell batteries, alkaline batteries, needles & thread, medical supplies, fire starting kits, various plastic bags, towels, wash cloths, bandanas, blankets, boots & shoes, clothing, rope, string, tools, nails, screws, glue, wire, books, paper, toilet paper, prescription glasses, cooking & eating gear such as small pots & utensils, candles, soaps & sanitary needs (tampons & napkins for women), money (?) and anything else I deem important enough to bury four feet down. Why four feet? Its beneath the maximum frost level below 5,000 feet and deep enough to discourage most animals from raiding your cache. If you cache food and other time sensitive items you may want to keep a journal of what was buried when so you can replace outdated items.


Tinder for fire starting kits. I make mine from cotton and Vaseline. Take a cotton ball and a fingernail sized gob of Vaseline and mix it in good. You will only need a small piece of this tinder to start a fire. I have experimented with different fibers for tinder/Vaseline mix’s. So far I have used dogbane, yucca and stinging nettle and they work as good as the cotton tinder. I save the fibers that are too short to use when I make cordage. I do the same as the cotton/Vaseline tinder prep. As far as store bought tinder my favorite is the Coghlan’s brand. They’re the pink cotton ones saturated with ?. Whatever it is it works great and a little piece does a fine job.

Until next time.......take care and thanks for reading.


Mungo said...

That's a nice, comprehensive document you've written there! I think it is time to take some pictures to accompany it, typeset it nicely and provide it as an e-book - either for a small cost or for free!
Mungo Says Bah

American Bushman said...


That's a very thorough post.

I think Mungo's got the right idea. That's great stuff and certainly worth e-publishing.