Biking | Diving | Flying | Golf | Horseback |
Paintball | Racing
Welcome to Ahwatukeelife Survival Skills
Knowledge of what to do outdoors, can make your activities more enjoyable and can save your life.
For tips on what to carry with you, please see the Outdoors page.
Remember that the single most important thing you can do in any survival or emergency situation is
to slow down and not panic. Take stock of what you have available, keep it clean, dry, and organized
so as to be of use when you need it.
Click on one of the following to jump to that section:
Food & Water
You should always carry a compass because you never know when you will need one. If your venturing off the path or wandering
in an area you have never been to before, make sure you have one in your pack and another in a coat pocket. If you don't have one
there are a couple of other ways to get a bearing on where you are.
In the daytime
Find an area that is receiving direct sunlight. Push into the ground a straight stick (about 12-18
inches tall). Make a mark where the tip of the stick's shadow lies on the ground with a stone.
Wait anywhere from 15-30 minutes and the shadow will have moved a small amount to one
side where you will make another mark at the shadow's tip. Wait 15-30 more minutes and mark the
tip of the shadow again. At this point you will have three stones that form a line pointing due
east. Add a directional arrow after the last stone to serve as an eastward pointer and draw a
bisecting line at a 90 degree angle to the stone line to depict north and south.
This will help line up landmarks in the direction you wish to travel.
The North Star (Polaris) is the most well known directional sign in the night sky. The two
outer-rim stars of the Big Dipper form an imaginary line that, if you
extend it locates Polaris, which is the last star on the handle of the Little Dipper.
The extension is approximately five times the length. Polaris represents true north.
The very best maps to use when you are traveling outdoors is a topographic map. These maps have
contour lines and will indicate the elevation of the terrain. These maps can be difficult
for most people to interpret, so you will want to familiarize yourself with the legends
and symbols before venturing out with one. Some standard information:
Blue indicates water
Green represents vegetation (often forests)
Red land grids and important roads
Purple for features that have been updated using aerial photography, but not field verified
Brown lines represent elevation (contours)
Black shows man-made structures like trails, railroads and buildings, other roads, boundaries
Lines - may be straight, curved, solid, dashed, dotted or a combination.
The contour lines generally show regular intervals of elevation usually of 20 or 40 feet.
The value of these is that they can indicate the actual "lay" of the land. Tightly bunched
lines indicate sharp relief in the terrain, such as a cliff or a steep mountain face. Tight
clusters of brown lines on either side of a blue line show where a stream or river
cuts through a steep canyon. High elevation lines, evenly spaced and running roughly straight
indicate a ridge; it ends where the lines suddenly crowd. A trail that
cuts back and forth into a tight cluster of brown lines (switchback trail traversing steep country)
will be a slow, hard climb. A mostly straight trail cutting into widely spaced
"sergeants stripes" would be an easier valley descent. For more information on topo maps and
how to interpret them see our sources section below.
U.S. Geological Survey, Information Services, Dept. SA, Box 25286, Denver, CO 80225
1-800/USA-MAPS or 1-800/HELP-MAP
Whether you need shelter for camping or as an emergency in the wilderness, the most important part will be
the selection of the site. If you have a tent, even a small slope can mean a night spent sliding downhill.
A raised, level section is better than a low area which can collect water, bugs and cold air.
Look for overhanging tree limps, rocks or anything that may be brought down on you in a storm.
The higher, the dryer is usually the case, so remember to stay back from stream beds or washes as these
can quickly become flood zones, even with small amounts of rain miles from your site.
Once you have your location selected, clear it of any tree debris, rocks or stones. Make sure
that you keep your tent zipped against mosquitoes, spiders, snakes or other unwelcome visitors.
Also remember to check for obvious bear signs, and even if you see none, bear proof as best you can.
If you don't have a tent you will need to build a shelter or find shelter, sometimes in the middle of a
sudden storm or oncoming nightfall. There are several ways to approach this and they all depend on
your preparedness and your ability to stay calm given the situation. If your vehicle is brook down
and you cannot get help immediately, sleep in the car and use a blanket or coat to keep warm.
If you are lost and have no tools, you cannot build very much. The best you can do is protect yourself from hypothermia and try to
get some needed rest. If you have a tarp, space blanket or large coat, use this to roll up in
leaving some airspace at the top, but keeping your head covered, to stay warm.
For additional warmth, add layers of natural or artificial insulation (dry leaves, boughs,
If you have a little bit of time, you may want to construct a small hut made of nothing but available
debris. You will want a strong ridgepole with a minimum of wrist-thick trunk which you will angle up on one end.
This needs only to be big enough to encase your body. The ribbing will need to be steep enough to help with drainage.
Try to setup over a dry spot. Being filling in with sticks or branches in all directions. Over this you
will want to build a wall of evergreen boughs, bark, branches or grass. Continue to pile on whatever you can for
insulation - leaves, grass, dry dirt, as thick as possible. You will want a minimum of two feet, but four
feet or more will keep you warm even with below zero temperatures. Try to cover the roof with a tarp
or anything you have, if you do not have anything, use clumps of brush and stones of logs to weight down.
Line the inside floor and walls with anything dry you can find. Remember to leave some insulation at the
door also to close up at night.
If you are in the open desert and the problem is the sun, again you will want to use anything you
can to protect yourself. Try a tarp or space blanket, jacket or shirt. Use a stick to prop up
or stack rocks to elevate or anchor.
For brief protection from rain, use a tarp on a log or make a lean-to.
If you are stuck in the snow, you can dig a trench 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep (use whatever you have to
with your hands being the last resort). Make it only as long and wide as you need to for your
body. Leave a little deeper section at the bottom or foot end of the trench. Line the bottom
with dry insulation (boughs, leaves etc.). Cover with a tarp or thatch a roof with natural
materials and cover with boughs or snow slabs.
Food & Water
Once you have a shelter, if your are going to be somewhere more than on night, you will need to
know how to gather safe drinking water and food. No matter how beautiful the water looks,
you can get sick from it, so you need to know how to purify your water.
The is the most traditional method and is excellent if done properly. With "cold" wilderness water
the main concern is Giardia, you will need to boil for 5-10 minutes. With warm, cloudy, stagnant
or standing water, you will need to boil for the full 10 minute plus before drinking. If necessary
strain the water before boiling.
You can use pumps or filters, check with your local vendor for the appropriate one for the regions
you travel to as they can all work with different bacteria and viruses. Also popular is tablets for
filtering. Tincture of iodine works, make sure no one is allergic to iodine or pregnant before treating with
this method. Both the tablets and the iodine work best with water that is not colder that 68 degrees F.
Colder water will need to be warmed first. Chlorine products, should be avoided for back-country use.
In the Desert
Daytime temperatures over 100 degrees and every movement and every inch of skin deprives the body of
moisture. You risk dehydration (vertigo, nausea, loss of judgment and coordination), heat exhaustion, heat stroke or volume
shock. The last two are generally fatal. Carry enough water which is one gallon per person per day.
Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon, so there is a limit to how much you can carry. If half your
water is gone and your on a day trip - head back. When traveling in a vehicle, carry 3 gallons
per person per day. Make sure you minimize sweating, not water intake. So if your thirsty, drink
what you have. You cannot overdrink for the moment. Your body will store what it doesn't need.
If you are short or run out - find a place in the shade and stay there. Travel in the evening. Don't
travel at all if help is on the way. If you stay still and conserve, a single quart of water
can keep you alive for up to two days in 120 degree F shade. This includes, no eating except
for juice-bearing fruits and succulents; no smoking, no drinking of alcohol,
minimal talking, breathing through the nose not the mouth, dressing to minimize sun contact
and moisture-loss. Wear long sleeves, long pants, broad-brimmed hat and bandanna for neck protection. Loose,
baggy clothes soak up less sweat and create a less evaporative microclimate next to the skin.
Do not ever plan on finding drinking water in the desert.
Making sound food choices can be one of the most important parts of surviving in an emergency
or survival situation. You will want to maintain your energy and stamina if possible. Generally
you are looking for energy foods. All food is simply fuel for your body. Trail food is high-energy food like fruits, vegetables,
and whole-grain mixtures. These will help keep you at peak levels of activity, alertness and
reaction. They are high in carbs, vitamins, electrolytes and fiber. Low in saturated fats and
sugar. Survival food is not generally health food, it is for surviving. It tends to be high in
protein and saturated fat, includes carbs, vitamins and fiber. If you are going to be in the
wilderness, camping, hiking or even just traveling any distance, pack a few "energy bars" or
trail mix with you. The have an excellent mix of nutrients, fiber, electrolytes, protein and fat and
make great survival food.
If you do not have any food with you, eventually you will have to forage for your food. This is the least
desirable way to obtain your food as you will have to know what and how to find what you need, while
expending the least amount of energy looking for it. Insects and bugs can be a good source of nourishment.
Grass-hoppers, wood grubs, bees and nearly all aquatic insects are edible. Earthworms, frogs, tadpoles and
minnows also. Do cook them first since some can transmit harmful parasites if eaten raw. Boiling,
mashing and frying, roasting (on a stick or on a flat rock in fire) make food
safer and more palatable. Plants - acorns are edible but must be soaked and boiled repeatedly
before eating. Other nuts, beech, hickory, pinon pine, butternut and hazelnut are
easy to identify, reasonably palatable and nutritious. Inner tree bark is generally
edible, and best in spring. Pine needles of any species can be steeped in hot water to
make a tea rich in vitamin C. Fresh shoots of young pine saplings can be eaten raw, but are better
if boiled to near transparency. Algae from unpolluted lakes and ponds can be skimmed, boiled and eaten.
Knobby berries such as raspberry, blackberry and thimbleberry can be eaten and mixed in to improve
flavors of other wild foods but avoid smooth-skinned berries that you cannot identify.
Stay away from unfamiliar mushrooms and don't eat any plant unless you can confidently identify it as
edible. Prickly Pear - The pulp and fruit (remove the seeds) can be eaten fresh.
Beyond those things just mentioned, the information for this section is too lengthy to cover here, and includes hunting, fishing and
foraging and the tools to do so. We will try to cover this with a link to a new page in the next month or so.
No matter what food you have or find, you will need to keep it safe from bears, bees, ants and anything
else that likes to eat! If possible, make sure all food is covered in some manner. Make sure everything
is put away at all times you are not eating. You can hang food, pack in a container, or stuffsack.
Do not store, cook or handle your food near where you will sleep. Make sure it is downwind of you
and that you clean up thoroughly after eating.
Fire will warm you, cook for you, purify your water, signal help, ward off insects and help to
keep you calm. Everyone should know how to start a fire quickly and efficiently. Choose a
good site, out of the wind and on a dry-ground base. If you need to, make a windbreak by piling
up some rocks or digging a pit. If the ground is wet or snowy, layer dry sticks of
flat rocks to provide a base. Steel wool is excellent as tinder, but you can use
fire-starter blocks or cubes that burn when wet or in the wind. Natural tinders include
dry conifer needles (undersides of large, low boughs) tiny conifer twigs, gumlike pitch,
dry bark flaps and peels, grasses and weed stalks and thin shavings from wood branches. Kindling is
basically tinder in larger form. Small dry crackable twigs or split dry branches, nothing much thicker than
a pencil. Fuel - larger dry branches and dean tree trunks and thicker branches. Don't bother cutting
or breaking fire log size, just feed larger pieces in bit by bit when the fire is larger. Arrange
the fire lay: tinder at bottom, kindling loosely teeped over it, fuel over that. In high winds you can use a lower
horizontal crosshatched pattern in the same order. Don't suffocate the tinder and kindling by
placing to tightly. Leave room for air circulation to feed the flame. Light the fire from the
windward side so the match flame is pushed into the heart of the combustibles.
Wait until the blaze is roaring then add more and larger fuel.
If you are lost or hurt and need rescue, the first thing you will need to do is try to signal
for help. Make sure anytime you are going somewhere you let people know where your going and
when you expect to return. The first thing you will probably want to do is use your cell phone.
For the sake of this section we will assume you either did not bring one or you cannot get a
signal. Signals are generally seen or heard by someone. If you are in a situation where visibility
is low or hampered by fog, rain, snow, smoke or anything else, you will want to use sound.
For hunters in trouble, that signal has always been three gun shots spaced evenly 10-15 seconds apart.
The three blasts are also used for whistles, air horn or whatever is available. Always keep a
whistle in your vehicle and on your person as they can be used repeatedly and is better than
shouting. You can also use rocks or sticks. Visual signals are generally the most common used.
Remember to think about the perspective of the potential rescuer. Do not use one fire to signal
for help, as anyone passing overhead, may mistake it as a simple campfire. Light three spaced a
bit apart and easily viewed.
Making sure your medical kit is appropriately stocked can make your trips more comfortable.
The most important painkiller you can carry is acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen. Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
can be used for pain and fever and is safe for children, but won't help reduce inflammation. Aspirin, is an excellent anti-inflammatory, but cannot
be used in children under 16 years of age. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve) are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory
drugs (NSAIDs) that are good at relieving pain. Safe to take for many days, with
minimal side effects. Naproxen and ibuprofen can irritate the stomach linking and should be taken with food and a full glass of
water. Do not use any analgesics in a patient with a suspected head injury, neurological illness or compromised
respiration. The most common side effect is constipation, so use of a laxative may be necessary or
large quantities of water, coffee, fruit or fiber.
Typical signaling devices have been Morse code, flags and the International Surface-to-Air Emergency ground
signals. The Air to Ground signals are in almost all survival manuals, books and pamphlets. Although
there are several (18) different codes, you should only need to memorize the following few:
Up and down means "Yes"
Side to side means "No"
Arms outstretched head looking up means "I Need Help"
One hand waving, other hand down at hip means "All ok"
If you use something brightly colored it acts as a flag and is more easily seen.
On the ground you can make a very large V which means "Help"
On the ground you can make an arrow to indicate that you have gone in this direction
On the ground you can create an SOS
For any type of signaling, try to be in the most open area you can find. Make use of the most contrast
possible. Use reflective materials if possible (mirrors or anything shiny).