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Thread: Survival Myths

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    Survival Myths

    FIRE MYTHS

    Survival Matches - I see "waterproof survival matches" listed in more kits than I care to count, and I gotta say... terrible idea. While it may add a sense of drama to a movie when "Rambo" is down to his last couple matches, you don't need that kind of drama if you're in a life or death situation!

    The space and weight taken up in a kit or in your pocket by a dozen "survival" matches would be better filled with a small Bic lighter. A lighter will start a LOT more fires than those few matches. If you're worried about the lighter failing, then bring a magnesium fire starter. These are 100% waterproof, will light thousands of fires, and the magnesium burns a lot hotter than matches.

    Flashlight Method - This is a method I've seen by which you can break the bulb of your flashlight, and then use the coil inside to light a fire. Simply put... give it a shot in your backyard and you'll find that it's great at destroying flashlights but terrible at actually starting fires! Recommendation... bring a lighter, and use your flashlight for... LIGHT!

    Ice Lens Method - Can you start a fire with a lens that you fashion from ice? Probably not. Scientifically, it's possible, but in all practical sense, the odds are really slim to none. Seriously, give it a try in the comfort of your own backyard on a nice warm day. Feel free to let me know how well this works. Also, while you're wasting hours on this, imagine that you're also freezing to death in a snowy, icy environment. You'll quickly realize that this is a colossal waste of your time and energy, and you won't get a fire going. I guarantee you that. Recommendation... bring a lighter! I've actually seen this work, use as a last resort though -Ulf

    Soda & Candy Bar Method - This fire starting method is yet another fun science experiment, but in actual use, it's another colossal waste of time, at the end of which... you'll have no fire. If you're lounging in your backyard someday and suddenly decide that you'd like to piss away the entire afternoon on some fruitless endeavor, go ahead and give this a shot. However... in a real survival situation... eat the friggin' candy bar and be glad for it. Drink the friggin' soda and rejoice. Be glad for those precious calories, and then keep the can as a canteen and cooking vessel. Recommendation... bring a damn lighter! This works as well, but only on the brightest day and it takes very long, maybe an hour, leave it sit pointing in the same place for an hour and wait for it to smoke, last resort obviously. -Ulf


    SHELTER MYTHS

    High Ground is Warmer - This is one survival tale that keeps popping up all over the place. We're told that when considering locations for a shelter, we should avoid valleys and low lying areas because cold settles there and it may be several degrees colder than higher ground. This is scientifically sound, but in actual practice... it's pure, unadulterated bullshit. This is because while a thermometer may show a few degrees difference between two elevations, thermometers are incapable of measuring wind chill factors.

    In most cases, higher elevations are exposed to a lot more wind while small valleys and lower areas are sheltered from it. A thermometer may show that actual air temperature has increased 2 or 3 degrees by moving to higher ground, but the temperature as far as your body is concerned is likely to have dropped by 20 or 30 degrees. Wind will suck away your body heat faster than you can generate it. Today as I write this, it's almost 50 degrees and sunny outside... a seemingly nice March afternoon. However, today's wind chill factor drops that to somewhere between 20 and 30... and suddenly it's not so great!

    Now consider what happens once you get a fire going. Most fires will quickly heat the surrounding area, but when you have some wind factored in, most of that heat is carried off. Also remember that a fire in the wind is going to consume about twice as much wood. You'll spend most of your time and energy finding firewood, and then get very little heat as a reward! Not a very good tradeoff. As such, one of your primary concerns is to find a place that's very sheltered from the wind and elements, and then build yourself a nice, warm fire to keep you warm!

    Shelters Should Be Built From Dead Materials - This one came from our friends in the "green" survival movement. They are far more concerned that a few trees might get killed than they are about your life. All advice from them should be considered highly suspect. Imagine building your shelter as a big pile of dead leaves and wood. Now imagine having a campfire anywhere near that. Do you really want to climb in there and go to sleep? Nuff' said.


    WATER MYTHS

    Boil for 10 Minutes
    - This is one so old, I don't even know where it came from. I've also heard 5 minutes, 15 minutes and even 20 minutes of boiling time. All of these are bullshit. I'll keep this short... if the water reaches boiling point, it's safe to drink, period, end of story. Once the water has small visible bubbles at the bottom it's already sterilized, don't waste time and water boiling a lot of it off. -Ulf

    Divining Rods - This is another old wives tale. Use your common sense and you'll probably find water. Use a forked stick and "mystical psychic powers", and you may find yourself very dead. I've heard people claim that a divining rod is simply tapping into one's subconscious thoughts. I suppose if you're some sort of walking emotional wreck who keeps every shred of logic and common sense buried away in your subconscious... then sure... go ahead and wave your stick. Hold a seance while you're at it. Maybe the spirits will tell you where to find water.

    The rest of us (sane folks) will simply think our way through the situation. Common sense says water runs downhill. If you walk downhill, you're pretty likely to find water. Birds and animal trails can also lead you to water... they need it as much as you do.


    FOOD MYTHS


    Plants Are a Good Source of Food in the Wilderness - Unless you're a certified expert not just in plants, but in the plants of the given region you happen to be in, stay the hell away from the plants!

    Here's the facts...
    - ALL fur bearing mammals are safe to eat, and will provide you with nutrients and calories.
    - ALL 6 legged insects are safe to eat, and will provide you with nutrients and calories. Not true. Stick with fat ants/termites and maggots if other sources aren't available. If any bug has bright colors, a weird smell or seems to walk around unafraid of things there's a reason for that. -Ulf
    - Almost all freshwater fish and almost all birds are safe to eat, and will provide you with nutrients and calories.
    ...and finally
    - MOST plants will harm you, make you sick, or worse... poison you. There are actually very few that will provide you with any nutrients or calories. Look for things like wild onions. Some water plant's roots are safe too eat and in spring are very palatable. -Ulf

    It's a simple equation... if it walks, crawls, swims, or flies, the odds are in your favor that it's not only safe to eat, but that it will provide you with the nutrition and energy your body needs. If it sits there like... umm... like a plant, the odds are against you both for your own physical safety, and for nutritional content. It's just not worth the gamble unless you're absolutely sure!

    Source

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    One old survival book advised that white berries are never edible, blue ones usually are, and red ones are a gamble. Or maybe it was the other way around. Anyways I thought of numerous counterexamples before realizing that the book was written for WWII pilots downed in New Guinea rather than kids in suburban New Jersey.

    Supposedly lizards take more energy to catch than you get from eating them. A simple trick I learned from my dad refuted that statement: a noose from a wild oat was easy and effective, but I never tried eating the lizards I caught on a trip out West.

    Another book (Woodsmoke) was filled with old Indian survival tricks but on closer examination one of the more useful ones was which wildflowers will cure typhus.
    The sitters in the hall seldom know
    The kin of the new-comer:
    The best man is marred by faults,
    The worst is not without worth.
    -- The Havamal, #133 (trans. Auden and Taylor)

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    Good post to read before I go hiking this weekend.

    I carry a piece of flint around my neck though, so no worries on the fire part.

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    Dandelion is a very readily found plants that is a nutritionally complete food. They're very bitter and I wouldn't recommend eating them raw. Every year my grandfather collects dandelion and eats it as a salad. He says to get them in early spring when they're not as bitter, but if you're in the wild you can boil later season dandelions make them less bitter. They're a good food to get essential vitamins and minerals if you're in the wild for a long time.

    4. Leaching: This is the process mentioned earlier of boiling out the water soluble sesquiterpenes, leaving a wonderfully rich flavor. In my experience, using fresh, rapidly growing greens, you only have to boil them once for three to five minutes for them to release most of their bitterness. I typically just adorn them with a little olive oil and I’m a happy camper. The technique of leaching goes like this: Start a pot of rapidly boiling water, chop up the greens to about one inch pieces, put them in the water, stir to keep them submerged. After 3 minutes, sample a small piece. If not bitter, remove the greens from the water and serve hot. If still bitter, leave the greens in the boiling water. Sample again after five minutes. If still bitter, consider transferring them into a second pot of boiling water for three to five minutes. In my opinion, if they need more cooking than that, they are too bitter.
    Source


    Dandelion nutritional data
    http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/v...roducts/2441/2

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    Nettles are great. Do you have them in America? I only eat them to amuse myself, and have something to chew on while walking, but I imagine if you had to eat them on a bigger scale they'd be quite worthwhile.

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    Freshly-moulted cicadas are delicious in a stir fry. They are also edible fresh although my recipe requires a few shots of whiskey. Down the shots first and then you can nibble on the bugs without reservation.

    I don't recommend chocolate-covered cicadas, though. They must be just about the only desert I have ever cooked that stayed in the fridge uneaten despite numerous hungry house guests. I finally threw them out.

    I went through a phase when I tried many of the delicacies in Eull Gibbons' books on wild edible plants. Drying Jack-in-the-Pulpit roots was too much work and they were still hotter than any jalapeno. Indian Cucumber Root was delicious but too rare. I may have single-handedly turned it into a threatened species by trying to get a decent meal out of it. I refused to try his bowlderized poison ivy recipe. I am told that stinging nettles are especially nutritious but I had to pass on those, too.

    Most garden weeds are better than the vegetables one gets from the nursery. Purslane and lambs quarters are much nicer in a salad than arugula. But you do need to know what you are doing as I caught some jimson weed growing in my lettuce patch.
    The sitters in the hall seldom know
    The kin of the new-comer:
    The best man is marred by faults,
    The worst is not without worth.
    -- The Havamal, #133 (trans. Auden and Taylor)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ulf View Post
    Dandelion is a very readily found plants that is a nutritionally complete food. They're very bitter and I wouldn't recommend eating them raw. Every year my grandfather collects dandelion and eats it as a salad. He says to get them in early spring when they're not as bitter, but if you're in the wild you can boil later season dandelions make them less bitter. They're a good food to get essential vitamins and minerals if you're in the wild for a long time.


    Source


    Dandelion nutritional data
    http://www.nutritiondata.com/facts/v...roducts/2441/2
    My dad used to tell me that when he was a child his mom would make dandelion soup and that's how the family would survive when there was no money and no food. It must be decent nutritionally speaking because everyone survived in that family of 9.

    Someone else once told me a similar story about their family, only they were eating potato skins that a farmer nearby would give them since he was going to throw them out anyway. Potato skins seem like they would be more nutritious than dandelions, but if you are in the wild, as opposed to just plain poor, and already have potatoes then you don't need to worry about starving.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oswiu View Post
    Nettles are great. Do you have them in America? I only eat them to amuse myself, and have something to chew on while walking, but I imagine if you had to eat them on a bigger scale they'd be quite worthwhile.
    My wife's an Herbalist and she's been trying to get me to try nettles for a while now. I'm not sure what kinds grow where but I know we have a lot of stinging nettles around here, which I'm not sure are the right kind to eat aside from in soup.

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    Stinging nettles are the ones to eat. They are supposedly rich in vitamins and presumably antioxidants. The younger ones are supposed to be better. Once you boil them for a few minutes, the stinging feature breaks apart and you can eat it like spinach.
    The sitters in the hall seldom know
    The kin of the new-comer:
    The best man is marred by faults,
    The worst is not without worth.
    -- The Havamal, #133 (trans. Auden and Taylor)

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    Nettles are also good if you have hay fever or allergies. Lots of minerals. Cattail roots are Ok cooked and the pollen is a good starch in soups. Chives and wild onions are easy to identify.

    Strawberry and raspberry leaves make a nice tea.

    Young grape leaves can be boiled. They are not particularly tasty but will not hurt you. Sumac berries add a tart flavor and some vitamin C. Rosehips have C as well. There are a number of edible wildflowers but they seem uncommon.

    Give me a lighter any day. It is really hard to make fire with an improvised bow drill.
    Land of the Free because of the Brave.
    "Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment." Dag Hammarskjold
    "Children know the truth. Love is not an emotion. Love is behavior." Andrew Vachss

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