Category Archives: Survival Skills


How to Procure Water

Water is a valuable commodity and this is never more evident than in a survival situation. Water is your main concern before food and shelter. Knowing how to procure water is essential to everyone’s survival.

Water can be obtained by various methods to include plants, hardwood trees, and the ground itself. Obviously, rivers, streams, lakes and ponds are another water source. However, water obtained from standing pools, rivers, lakes or streams must be purified before it is safe to drink.

You might naturally assume that small streams or creeks deep in the woods would be free of contaminates. This is not the case though. Animals and other humans may very well have contaminated the water. Additionally, water will contain bacterium from various sources such as animal waste and the naturally occurring bacteria in nature will be present.

Things to Look For Around a Water Source

You want signs of animal activity around a water source, such as birds and mammals, as well as, insects. This usually indicates the water is not chemically contaminated. Animals and insects can drink water contaminated with bacteria without any ill effects whereas humans cannot.

Even though, there are no chemical pollutants, the water it is still not safe for human consumption without first properly purifying.

How to Procure Water from Trees and Plants

Hardwoods such as maple (Acer), oak (Quercus), walnut (Juglans regia), hickory (Carya) and birch (Betula) will secrete sap if small holes are made in the tree. Do not ring the tree with cuts because this may kill the tree. Small holes, such as the ones used to harvest maple syrup, will suffice. Simply bore a hole with your knife or make slanted diagonal slits in the tree after removing a small section of the bark. The tree will produce small amounts of sap that can immediately be consumed. Early spring is the ideal time, but trees can produce sap at virtually anytime except in extreme cold weather. Having a means to collect the sap is ideal; otherwise simply drink straight from the tree.

All the common species of thistles (Tribe: Cardueae Geni: Arctium, Carduus, Cirsium) can be harvested for water. Once the thistles have been removed, the pulpy stalk can be squeezed to extract the water or eaten. The plant will contain some nutrients so eating the stalks is ideal.

Remember: simply having the plant described to you is not an adequate means of identification. Before a day hike or camping trip you should research various plants so you can make a positive identification when out in the woods.

Certain cacti such as that in the Opuntia genus (Prickly Pear) contain potable water, as well. The cactus can also be eaten or squeezed to extract the water.

The Earth’s Soil Is One of the Best Water Filtration Systems There Is

Once you find a stream, lake or even a pond, you can dig small depressions next to the water. Typically, the soil next to a body of water will contain sand and small gravel, which acts as a filtration system. The small depressions will fill with ground water. This water is normally safe to drink. Filter the sediment out by wrapping your cup or canteen mouth with some cloth and dip the vessel into the depression. Contaminates contained in the water will have been filtered out by the soil.

However, do not dig a channel from the body of water to collect in the depression. The water must bubble up from the ground. This perking of water assures you that the ground has filtered it, and has made the water safe for drinking.

How to Procure Water Using Rain Gear or a Poncho and Even Plastic Sheeting

Many of you may have walked outside in the morning during the summer months and have found your vehicle’s windshield is covered in moisture. The moisture collected on outside surfaces overnight is called dew. Dew is caused by the sun heating the moisture in the atmosphere during the day and the cooling at night allows it to condensate on surfaces, such as a windshield.

Dew can be collected by draping your poncho, rain gear or plastic over a bush at night. Place the material so there are small depressions to collect the dew. Avoid placing the collection station under trees; having an open spot is ideal for maximum collection. Plastic and or your rain gear can also be used to collect rainwater. Dig a small depression in the ground, place the material over the hole and secure the sides with rocks. Place a smaller rock in the center to create a funnel effect.

Monitor the water source carefully or cover to prevent contamination by animals and insects. Ensure water is not allowed to run off from the ground’s surface into the collection pool.

How to Procure Water Directly From the Ground Using a Solar Distiller

To make a solar water distiller or water still you will need clear or semi-clear plastic and the means to dig a small hole. The distiller works by sweating or distilling moisture from the ground. The plastic sheeting needs to be big enough to cover the hole and allow slack to form a depression. Plastic can easily be stored in any pack by folding or rolling up tightly. Keep in mind when digging the hole, the larger the depression, the more water you will collect. This process is similar to a glass of liquid sweating in a warm room. Heat transfers from hot to cold so as the ground and plants warm, the heat will transfer from the ground to the cooler air. This process leaves the moisture behind on the plastic.

Once dug if the soil looks dry you can place non-poisonous green plants in the hole. The sun will also sweat the moisture from the plants. Place the plastic over the hole and secure the sides with rocks. Place a small rock in the center to form a funnel. You can make a hole in the plastic and place a cup in the depression to collect the water or simply scoop it from the plastic. Soon the ground and any plants in the hole will begin to heat up. You will see condensation on the plastic relatively quickly. Leave the distiller to do its work until the air begins to cool after sundown. The water will then condensate and begin dripping down the sides of the plastic.

You may have an additional water source but you simply have no means of purification. You can use the source to enhance the distiller by pouring water around the hole. Do not pour the water in the hole. You want the ground to filter the water and have the moisture seep from the ground into the depression you have dug. This will increase the distillers output. Under certain circumstances, you may be able to obtain up 4 liters or more of safe drinking water daily using a solar water distiller.

Backpack Essentials for Procuring Water

Knowing how to procure water is one thing however; having the essentials to do so is another:

  • Clear Plastic
  • Fixed Bladed Knife As Well As A Multi-Purpose Tool Use The Hole Punch Blade To Bore Holes
  • Trenching Tool
  • Stainless Steel Vessel To Collect And Store Water
  • Water Straws For Easier Collection Of Tree Sap


Thermal Body

Heat loss mechanisms

Most people know that the normal temperature of the human body is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 37 degrees Celsius. But many of us don’t properly understand what it takes for our bodies to maintain this constant temperature. To survive in a cold climate when you are out in the wild, it helps to understand how the body loses heat.

Heat is produced by metabolism of food. If you’re hungry, you will not be able to create as much heat as when you stay well fed. When it’s cold out, you need to eat more food to stay warm and satisfied, because your body uses more energy just to maintain body temperature. And when you aren’t able to just stop by the grocery store for a snack, this form of heat regulation is a whole different challenge.

Anytime the temperature of your environment is lower than the temperature of your body, you will be losing heat and your body will be working to keep your body temperature at a normal level. While most of us can avoid hypothermia because we’re not out in the wild for long periods of time, and we can go home when we want to, it is not uncommon for even the most experienced hikers and backpackers do underestimate the importance of staying warm, sometimes when it is too late.

Learning About Heat Loss

We lose heat through conduction, convection, evaporation, radiation, and respiration. You can’t avoid respiration, also known as breathing, so you will always lose a little bit of heat in that way when you are out in the cold. But there are things you can do to avoid the other four ways you lose body heat.


Evaporative heat loss is what occurs when the wetness in your clothing evaporates, drawing heat away from your body. Waterproof clothing is critical, but so is ventilation and avoiding sweating by staying cool to begin with – which may seem counterintuitive. If your clothing gets sweaty and you have spares, change into your dry clothes before you get cold.

Conduction and Convection

These are two fancy words for pretty simple concepts. Conduction refers to the way heat is transferred from you to cold surfaces you are touching. If you sleep on the ground without enough padding, you will conduct heat to the ground much more quickly than if you increase the padding.

Convection refers to the way that warm air rises and moves away from you. If you wear the right clothing, you will be trapping the air you have warmed with your body instead of letting it get away.


Heat radiates away from your body the way that a campfire radiates heat. Radiation is the least of your worries, because it takes a very cold environment to cause you to radiate a dangerous amount of heat – well below zero.

Finding ways to stay dry, keep your body warm, and avoid transferring heat away from you are all very important. Knowing what to wear, what to do when you are cold, and how to avoid getting cold can save your life.

althea macaroni

Althea Macaroni

You can make a dish tastier than conventional “macaroni and cheese” using healthier ingredients.

Preparation time

30 minutes

Cooking time

40 minutes

Ingredients (6 serves)

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 yellow Allium cepa (onions), sliced
  • 2 cups Althea officinalis leaves
  • 6 cloves of Allium sativum (garlic), finely chopped
  • bacon
  • 1 tsp. all-purpose spice seasoning
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 3 tbsp. mellow (light-colored) miso
  • 2 tbsp. Maranta arundinacea (arrowroot)
  • 1/2 tbsp. salt
  • 1 10-oz. package of mozzarella, diced
  • a pinch of Cayenne hot pepper
  • 1 lbs. whole-grain macaroni
  • 1-3/4 cups dried bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 10-oz. grated cheddar


  • Sauté the onions in the olive oil 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • Add the Althea officinalis leaves, garlic, bacon, and all-purpose seasoning and sauté another 5 minutes
  • Meanwhile, puree all sauce ingredients in a blender.
  • Stir the sauce into the sauté and transfer to a large, oiled baking dish.
  • Stir the oil into the bread crumbs and spread on top of the mixed ingredients.
  • Spread the cheddar on top.
  • Bake in a preheated 180 °C oven 40 minutes or until bubbly.

delicious bannocks

How to make bannock bread

Bannock is a portable, tasty and easy to make bread. You can cook using little more than a fire and a stick or you can bake or fry it.

It can be used as a stand-alone food or combined with whatever ingredients are on hand: honey, brown sugar, fruits, nuts, berries, garlic, cheese, eggs or bacon.

You can prepare the basic mix and store it in an air tight container such as a zip lock bag. It is relatively light and easy to carry because you need to add water only when you are ready to cook it.


Preparation time

15 minutes

Ingredients for 1 serve

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 2 pinches of baking powder (optional)


  • mix the above ingredients well
  • add whatever extra ingredients to the dry bannock mix
  • add water a little at a time until you get the required consistency

Cooking methods

  • ash bannock:
    • roll the bannock dough into a ball and flatten into a thin cake
    • bake it directly over the smoldering coals of a fire
    • turn it occasionally until it’s golden brown
  • stick coil bannock:
    • roll the bannock dough into a long sausage shape
    • coil it around a green, peeled stick
    • hold the stick over the embers
    • rotate until the bannock is golden brown all over
  • baked bannock:
    • pat the bannock dough into a fat tortilla 1 cm thick
    • bake in a fry pan until done
  • fried bannock:
    • pat the bannock dough into a fat tortilla 1 cm thick
    • put the oil in the pan. The quantity of oil determines the texture and crust
    • fry bannock on both sides



sweet spice mix preparation

The Sweet Spice Mix

The Sweet Spice Mix is a simple and tasty blend of herbs that you can sprinkle on cereal, fruit or any kind of dessert. It enhances any sweet dish.

Preparation time

5 minutes, if you’ve already grounded each ingredient


  • 4 tbs. Cinnamomum spp. (cinnamon), ground
  • 4 tsp. dried Mentha piperita (peppermint), ground
  • 4 tsp. Illicium verum (star anise), ground
  • 4 tsp. Coriandrum sativum (coriander) seeds, ground
  • 2 tsp. powdered Zingiber officinale (ginger), ground
  • 1 tsp. Syzygium aromaticum (cloves), ground
  • 1 tsp. Elettaria cardamomum (cardamom), ground


  • Mix all ingredients together and store in a jar

world map

Around the world without flying

My friend and colleague Federico Cicchi is completing preparations for making his dream a reality: travel around the world in slow motion. He’ll use all means of transport but the airplane, giving back space and time the value and importance they deserve.
His trip is organized in three steps.


  1. He’ll arrive in Brazil with a cargo ship and then he’ll cross America from Cape Horn to Alaska, riding a 50cc motorbike. This journey’ll set a new Guinness World Record.
  2. From Alaska, he will cross the whole Canada reaching New York and then Chicago. From Chicago he’ll follow the mythical route 66 to Los Angeles.
  3. He’ll sail the Pacific with another cargo ship reaching New Zealand and Australia. From there, he’ll move north to take Trans-Siberian Railway in Mongolia to return in Europe


You can follow his adventure on his site: WithoutFlying.

esee izula

How to sharpen a knife

My main knife is small but tenacious as the ant which takes its name: the ESEE Izula. It’s quite comfortable to use and well-balanced for whittling and other delicate tasks for which a larger knife is less suited. I have used it even for more heavy-duty tasks as batoning wood (both cross grain and normal splitting) without any problem.

It’s a carbon-steel knife so it has a good edge retention but sometime it needs to be sharpened. A dull knife is perhaps the most dangerous tool: it slides when you want it to cut and it cuts when it stops sliding, usually when it hits your fingers.

Using a sharpening stone

There are several techniques and many more products to sharpen a knife blade but i like to use the less sophisticated ones. In the woods, simplicity is always the way and so i prefer not to use a liquid on the sharpening stone. Stones have different grits ranging from coarse to extra-fine, but if you keep a close eye on the sharpness of your knife, you’ll need to use only the fine stone to hone the edge and every once a while you should take it back to the medium grit.

  • place your stone on a horizontal surface in front of you.
  • lay the blade flat on the stone at a 45 degree angle with the edge of the blade facing you.
  • grasp the knife by the handle. Raise the blade off the surface of the stone  until the edge side, named bevel,  is at full contact with the stone (around 20 degree angle);
  • keeping the edge of the blade in contact with the stone, firmly and carefully draw the knife towards you. This action will grind the blade from hilt to point. Maintain the 45 degree angle, and the angle that you have raised the blade off the stone.
  • apply medium to light pressure as you’re drawing the edge across the stone. The amount of pressure depends on how old the knife is, how many times you’ve sharpened it, and the current condition of the edge. A very dull edge requires a lot of pressure.
  • turn the knife over, and repeat the process on the other side. If you keep the knife in the same hand, this time you have to push the blade away from you. It’s important to maintain the same angles on both sides of the blade.
  • go slowly and alternate strokes on the stone several times. A very dull knife needs more strokes than a better kept one.

At this point you should have a pretty sharp knife. You can test it by holding a piece of paper vertically, and drawing the blade across the edge and down. A sharp knife will cut the paper.


Once you’ve sharpened your blade, the edge usually has tiny bits of metal still clinging to it. If you move your finger along the side of the edge, you’ll feel them like sand grains. Stropping is the technique used to clean off a blade’s edge after sharpening bending and twisting those clinging metal pieces until they fall off. It’s also done to realign the microscopic teeth created on the edge while sharpening.

Stropping is done by swiping the blade away from edge (the opposite of sharpening movement) on the inside of a leather belt, alternating side each stroke. If a leather belt is not available a smooth piece of wood can also be used.

Blade preserver

You can rub wood ash on a stained blade to remove the stains without scratching the blade. Leaving some ash on the blade, you can prevent future rusting (just remember to blow away the ash before using the knife).


Plant Identification

To identify plants use some of your senses and your common sense

Look at

  • plant size and shape
  • leaf size, shape, color, texture and arrangement
  • flower types, color, arrangement

Touch with care

  • fuzzy or smooth leaves
  • stiff or flexible stems


  • Many plants have very distinctive odors especially in their leaves and flowers


  • Never taste a plant you are unsure of. Some plants are poisonous!!!


  • Rustling leaves can be an hint.