How to Stay Safe Hiking in the Desert

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Death Valley’s Zabriskie Point, the Slickrock trails of Moab, Utah and the vast array of amazing hikes that surround the Grand Canyon are just a few examples of outstanding hikes located in the middle of the desert. If you’re not a fan of warmer climes, you might think to shy away from these iconic trails. However, with the right preparation, you can enjoy them just like you would any day hike.

As with any outdoor activity, it’s possible to conquer hiking desert trails if you spend the time to learn the tricks of the trade. Lots of experienced desert outdoorsmen and -women have come before you in this discipline. Here are some of their best teachings when it comes to hitting the trail in desert territory.

Study the Climate

Imagine how difficult it must have been to get outside before the invention of weather satellites! A well-prepared traveler can make themselves more comfortable on a hot day, but to ensure your hike is enjoyable and not miserable, it’s best to check the weather well ahead of time and plan to hike outside the hottest parts of the day. Usually, that’s mid- to late afternoon.

Are you a morning person? That’s perfect for desert hiking. Watching the sun come up from the trail is a magical experience, and you’ll be through with your walk before things get too toasty out. Night owls can make their preference work as an advantage too, although you’ll want to be careful to check whether trails remain open, understand park laws and regulations and bring plenty of lighting equipment if you’re planning to night-hike.

Even though heat is the primary antagonist when it comes to desert trekking, it’s not the only one. Flash floods and monsoons can make your sandy hike into a sloppy nightmare. Understand if your hike crosses land where flood weather can manifest, and whether it’s flood season when you hike. If you get caught in a flooding trail, move to high ground as quickly as you can and wait for help or better conditions.

Have a Trail Map

Getting lost anywhere is frightening and dangerous. In the desert, it can be deadly. Before heading out on your hike, make some time to look at a topographical map of the trail. Print or acquire a trail map beforehand, and regularly track your progress using GPS if possible.

This advice is particularly relevant for longer hikes like the Grand Canyon’s Rim-to-Rim adventure. Even if it’s reasonably straightforward to see which way the trail leads, you need to have an understanding of your progress. If you find yourself moving too slowly and don’t have the supplies or energy required to finish the hike, you should call for help.

Don’t Hike Alone, and Leave Your Itinerary With Emergency Contacts

Like most activities, hiking is better with friends. When you go out alone, your risk of getting lost with no one able to find you increases significantly. Solo hiking trails you know and can complete in a relatively short period are OK, as long as you notify someone you’re going. Unless you’re a highly skilled hiker and camper, do not attempt long distances alone. And regardless of whether you bring company, always tell at least one person outside your party where you’re going and when you expect to return.

Dress in Layers

Layers are always a smart idea for physical activity. For desert hiking, you’re looking for the ability to add some warmth if things cool off quickly, or shed layers to a breathable base if it warms up. Go for moisture-wicking technical fabrics that will dry quickly if you need to douse yourself to bring that core temp down. Want a pro tip? Moisture-wicking underwear from brands like Exoficcio and Patagonia can help make your day more comfortable when it’s warm on the trail.

A backpack is another essential part of your kit that can contribute to overheating. Technical hiking packs will often incorporate breathable fabrics, and you should only choose a pack as large as you need to accommodate the supplies you’ll bring on the trip. Also, many modern hiking packs include water bladders, which are the simplest way to bring along critical hydration during a warm-weather hike. Have some extra water with you to refill your bladder and help cool yourself down if you’re planning a longer hike more on that later.

Wear Sunscreen and a Hat

This tip probably seems obvious, but when you hike in the desert, you’re signing up for a whole lot of sun exposure. Your head, along with any other exposed skin, is likely to absorb some UV rays. So slather on some SPF a good trick is to put your first application on before you leave for the trail. Doing so will allow it time to absorb before you’re in the heat, which will help you stay comfortable.

Keep your SPF with you on the trail. Some hikers like to bring multiple types of sunblock, including zinc, aerosol-based spray and more conventional cream for re-applying to their face and body throughout the day. Don’t forget lip balm with SPF as well. And, of course, a wide-brimmed hat will go a long way to shield your head, face and neck from the sun’s rays. Even a ball cap is a great addition to your kit if you haven’t got something a little more David Attenborough.

Pack Food and Water

Dehydration can be a killer when you’re hoofing it through the desert. You can die of thirst in a matter of days, so do not leave home without plenty of water. A good rule to go by is to bring about two cups of water per hour of estimated hike time. If you’re always thirsty, bring more. If you’re planning to camp out, have a good understanding of where you can find fresh water, and bring a means of filtering it to make it safe to drink.

If you’re bringing pets along, don’t forget plenty of water for them to drink, as well as a vessel for them to drink out of. We’re not always advocates of bringing pets be sure it’s safe for your four-legged friend to come along. Overcommitting your dog to a long hike in the heat can be dangerous, because dogs can’t sweat and don’t know when to stop following their owner if they get dehydrated.

As for food, will you need snacks for a two-hour jaunt, or is this going to be a longer-distance journey? You can probably guess what kinds of snacks work well on a hot trail. The typical selection of fruits, trail mix, energy bars and dried foods comes to mind. Don’t go overboard with caffeinated gels and snacks, because they can lead to dehydration if you use too many. Always pack more snacks than you think you’ll eat. You don’t want to get caught in a pinch if there’s an emergency or you have to stay out longer than planned.

If you’re planning a longer-duration hike, you should think about meals to bring. The time-honored tradition of sandwiches can make for a fun trail lunch and should provide enough protein and carbohydrates to get you through a longer pull. You can meal-prep ahead of time or find some pre-made at a nearby market.

If you’ll be spending the night on the trail, there are many tasty options to cook up. Depending on the size of your pack, you may be able to bring a legitimate camp cooktop and grill up some meats or veggies extra points for s’mores.

Those who are more interested in saving weight should check out a camp stove such as a Jetboil or MSR. You can use these highly packable stoves to boil water, which you can then use to rehydrate freeze-dried meals. The selection of these types of meals is impressive these days, with everything from chicken casserole to beef stroganoff to mac and cheese and even stir-fried vegetables. Not willing to pay the premium for fancy backpacking food? A box of dried pasta and dehydrated vegetables cooks up in a snap, too.

Bring First-Aid Items

A basic kit with bandages, a tourniquet, cold compresses, tweezers and painkillers is probably all you need for shorter hikes. If you’re staying out longer, it’s probably smart to come prepared with additional supplies. Treatment for foot conditions like blisters can come in handy if you’re covering lots of ground, as can aloe vera gel for sunburns. Make sure you have a supply of any medicines you need to take regularly, even if you don’t plan to stay out long. In case of emergency, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Go at a Safe Pace

Even if you feel like you typically keep a fast pace, the effects of the sun and heat can slow anyone down. Moving too quickly can cause dehydration, cramping and other issues. Ultimately, your best bet to complete your hike in a reasonable amount of time and still feel good is to go at the pace your body tells you is OK. If you’re part of a group and need to move slower than your friends, say so. They should understand you don’t want to push yourself too far, and should be willing to adopt a slower pace if you need to.

Treat Wildlife With Respect

There’s a real chance you’ll see some wildlife while you’re on the trail. It might even be part of your motivation to go hiking. However, remember when you spot wildlife on the trail, you’re not looking at a domesticated animal. The best policy is always to remain at a safe distance. Don’t pursue wild animals, which could turn aggressive or could hurt themselves while trying to evade you. Many endangered species are under legal protection, and you’ll be breaking the law if you bother them but more importantly, trying to force a wild animal encounter could have negative consequences for everyone involved.

That rings true of all animals you spot on the trail, but use particular caution when you encounter larger animals and predators such as bears, mountain lions, coyotes or even larger herbivores. It is not safe to approach these animals. Remember, you’re a visitor in their habitat. Be respectful and don’t attempt to bother them. Doing so could result in a tragedy.

Have a Supply Stash in Your Vehicle

Imagine taking a wrong turn on a hike. You recognize you’ve made a mistake, but not before you’ve made your way far off the trail you had planned on taking. You’re going to have to dig into your extra supplies, which means by the time you get back to your car, you won’t have anything left, and you’ll have had to make the extra effort to get back. In this scenario, you can understand why it’s critical to keep extra supplies in your car.

Extra water, snacks and even a change of clothes are all great things to have on hand in your car for when you return from the trail. If all goes as planned, you may never use them, and that’s OK. It will give you peace of mind to know they’re at the ready in case you or a fellow hiker needs the help.

Know How to Get Help

Cell phones have made venturing outdoors much less daunting than it once was, and that’s all for the best. Before you head out, though, make sure you have mobile service while on the trail. Many remote locations still lack cell coverage, which is why it’s smart to have a radio or GPS beacon, some additional means of summoning help if you need it. If you find yourself on the trail with no means to reach anyone, go back. It’s not worth the risk.

Have Fun!

Desert hikes can expose you to vast arrays of plants and wildlife and bring you to new and fascinating places, all while you’re getting fresh air and good exercise. You’ll have the chance to spend some quality time in the great outdoors with your friends and family, in places many people never make an effort to enjoy. So get outside and have a great time just keep the tips we mentioned in mind to ensure things go smoothly and safely. Where’s your favorite desert hike? Let us know in the comments below.

How to Heat Your Tent With a Swedish Log Torch

This isn’t what I expected to see when I started watching this video. To be honest, I’d figured this guy was going to somehow bring a Swedish log INSIDE the tent (which would’ve been a bad idea) but I was pleasantly surprised to see what he chose to do and, more importantly, how well it worked out. Stick around to about the 12:00 mark where he briefly discusses a few safety concerns…

Camp Tarp Shelter Wizardry

This guy is awesome! He’s always coming up with neat outdoor survival ideas, and this one is a great one to know for camping. FYI, he also links to a series of other tarp tent videos that may be of interest to you as well. Here’s the tarp shelter wizardry one; it’s a bit hard to follow at first but if you watch it again I think you’ll get the idea…

How to Heat Your Home in an Emergency Situation

The weather may be warming up, but that doesn’t mean you can stop thinking about preparing for next winter. Whether you’re dealing with a blizzard, floor or the zombie apocalypse, you’ll need to be able to heat your home during an emergency. Here are some ways to heat your home if the world ends or the power goes out next winter.

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1. Controlling Heat Loss

Before you choose a way to heat your home, you need to make sure the building isn’t bleeding hot air. A lack of insulation, degraded weatherstripping around your doors and windows, and the windows themselves can all allow heat to radiate out of your home, making it harder to keep things warm.

Start by checking your attic for insulation. If you don’t have any insulation or it has been years since its installation, consider upgrading or replacing it. This won’t just help you keep the home warm in the winter time — it can also help you reduce cooling costs in the summer by maintaining the interior temperature.

Weatherstripping around your doors and windows also work to keep out cold air and prevent your heated air from escaping. If yours has deteriorated, it can’t do its job. You can line the edges of your windows and doors with draft stoppers, but this is only a stop-gap measure. The best thing you can do is to replace the weatherstripping entirely. This is easy, even for DIYers who aren’t terribly handy, and you can do it in an afternoon.

Ideally, you’ll want to replace your windows with double-paned options, but if that isn’t in the budget, you won’t be left out in the cold. You can insulate your windows with things you have around the house, like blankets, pillows and tinfoil. Instead of using your thin summer curtains that let in natural light, swap them out with heavy insulated ones. You’ll want to be able to let sunlight in during the day — if there is any — but you don’t want to let all your hard-earned heat escape at night when the temperature drops again.

2. Propane or Kerosene Heaters

Your first thought might be to pick up a couple of space heaters you can plug into the wall, but those won’t do you a lot of good if the power is out or the infrastructure has collapsed. You’re going to need something capable of generating heat that has its own refillable or replaceable fuel source. That’s where kerosene and propane heaters come in.

These free-standing heaters generate hundreds of thousands of BTUs of energy per gallon of fuel. Kerosene costs a little more and may be harder to find — you can find propane anywhere because so many people like to use it for their barbeque grills — but you get more bang for your buck.

Whichever fuel source you choose, you’re going to want to buy it in bulk. Sure you can buy propane cans and kerosene cans in the camping section of your local hardware or department store, but if the power is going to be out for a while, this isn’t a cost-effective way to heat your home. Instead, consider having a propane or kerosene tank installed and buying fuel by the gallon.

3. Candle Heaters

If you don’t have the means or the space to install a fuel tank in your home, you’re not without options. If you’re trying to heat a small space, all you need is a couple of bricks, a couple of terra cotta pots, a long steel bolt and some candles or Sterno cans.

Now, candles and fuel cans don’t generate a lot of heat on their own unless it’s concentrated, such as under a food dish at a buffet, but they do generate heat. The problem is that with any sort of flame or small heat source, it’s not going to radiate heat you can feel unless you’re standing directly over it. Hot air is less dense than cold air, so it will rise to the ceiling where it isn’t doing you any good.

By using a nested pair of terra cotta pots, as well as a steel bolt, you can create a sort of heat battery. The heat from the candles or fuel cans accumulates inside the pot, raising the temperature of both the steel and the terra cotta. Over time, this build up reaches critical mass and starts to radiate heat out into the surrounding area. By keeping the candles lit, you can heat a whole room with one of these simple contraptions. You probably already have most of the pieces scattered around your house.

4. Wood Stoves

You don’t have to remodel your house to use a wood stove to heat the interior. Small portable wood stoves are available. You’ll just need to place them near a window and use a pipe chimney to vent the smoke and ash outside so it doesn’t cause issues indoors.

If you’re planning on using a wood stove to heat your home, you will need to have a generous supply of wood either ready to split or already cut to use as fuel. Spend the cool fall months restocking your fuel supply so that you will have everything you need in case the power goes out. Of course, if you run out of wood, you can always pick up an ax and head out into the forest to find more fuel, so this becomes an incredibly viable option as long as you live near some trees.

5. Fuel Oil Heaters

You don’t have to rely on electricity to heat your home. In fact, more than six million homeowners use fuel oil to power their furnaces. Fuel oil furnaces have a reputation for being dirty or bad for the environment, but while that was true in the past, it isn’t anymore. Fuel oil today contains 93% less sulfur than it did in the 1980s and is between 90 and 95% cleaner than it was in the 1970s.

If you’re considering switching to heating oil as your primary home heating source, make sure you complete the conversion early and refill your tank before the temperature starts to drop. Getting someone to come out for a refill in the middle of a blizzard will be nearly impossible — and if they are willing to make the drive, it will cost you a lot more than it would have in off-peak season.

6. Fireplaces

If you have a gas or wood fireplace in your home, you’re already one step closer to heating your home in the event of a power outage or another emergency. There are a few things you should do before you light that first blaze, though, including:

  • Have the Chimney Cleaned — For a wood fireplace, a clogged chimney isn’t just a fire hazard. It could also leave you choking on smoke and carbon monoxide because these byproducts have no other way to get out of your home. Before you light a fire for the first time, call a chimney sweep and have the whole system cleaned.
  • Clean out the Firebox — If you haven’t cleaned out your fireplace since last winter, now the is perfect time to get rid of all those old ashes and get it ready for the new cold season. Make sure you keep the damper closed while you’re cleaning, though, or an errant gust of wind could send ash all over your living room.
  • Stock up on Fuel — Being ready for anything means you need to have enough fuel to see you through the entire winter if need be. If you have a wood fireplace, start chopping wood before the weather gets cold. If you have a gas fireplace, top off your tank before a blizzard comes through. Unfortunately, if you opted for an electric fireplace, you’re going to be out of luck if the power goes out.

We’ve been using fireplaces to heat our homes for as long as we’ve had homes. It can be a great tool if the power goes out, so make sure they’re ready for the cold winter months.

7. Purchase or Maintain a Generator

Losing power doesn’t just mean you won’t be able to heat your home. It also means you can’t charge your phone, turn on the lights or cook on an electric range. Having a backup generator can help you do all of these things and more.

Make sure your generator is outdoors or in a well-ventilated area. Generators run on gasoline or diesel, which means they produce carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, both of which can kill you in high concentrations. Don’t run a generator in the house, no matter how much you don’t want to go out in the cold to plug stuff in and refuel it.

[Editor’s note: Even in a partially-ventilated garage, such as with the garage door half open, toxic CO can build up which can be deadly! ONLY ever use a generator and similar outdoor gear OUTSIDE to stay safe.]

Pay close attention to the power rating of your generator as well. If you overload it, it will shut down or even fail, and you’ll be out of luck for electric heat, charging your phone or keeping your refrigerator running.

8. Choose One Room to Heat

In an emergency, you aren’t going to want to try to heat every room in your house. In the long run, it ends up being a waste of fuel. Instead of trying to heat all 2,000+ square feet, choose one room that is big enough to hold everyone in your house, and designate that as the “warm room.” Close the doors, insulate the windows, cover the vents and plan on spending most of your time in there. Keep the doors and windows closed as much as possible to keep in the warm air and conserve your fuel.

If you keep those doors closed, you can theoretically heat an entire room just with your body heat, too — but it will take a while, and you’ll be cold while you do it.

9. Layers, Layers and More Layers

The last thing you should stock up on is warm winter clothing. Even if the heater is working, keeping your thermostat set lower and layering up can help reduce your winter utility costs. If the power goes out, layering up — including hats, scarves and gloves — can keep you warm and prevent frostbite while you get your heaters set up.

Also, move your winter clothing stash to your designated warm room, so you don’t have to worry about pulling on cold pants, shirts and other items while it’s below freezing outside. After all, pretty much the only thing worse than cold underwear is a cold shower.

Don’t start by putting on your heaviest coat, though. Add multiple thin layers you can easily remove if you warm up or move into a warm area. Heavy coats aren’t always necessary as long as you have enough layers. If you get too warm or start sweating, change your bottom layers. Wet clothing draws heat away from your body and makes it harder for you to stay warm.

Stay inside as much as possible, and layer up.

Stay Warm

If the power goes out during a floor or the world ends and the entire infrastructure collapses, you’ll need to figure out how to heat your home. These ideas are all things you can prepare and have ready before the temperature starts to drop. This is one case where it’s better to have all of these things and not need them, rather than to not have them and potentially freeze to death or burn your house down trying to stay warm.

It is important to remember that many of these solutions can present or create a fire hazard if they are misused. Take the time to maintain your equipment, so you’ll always be ready once Old Man Winter shows his face. No one wants to spend all their time in one room playing board games while the power is out, but if it takes the utility companies a while to restore the system, this could keep you warm throughout even the coldest winter.

No matter what you choose to do, be ready for falling temperatures, and stay warm this winter!

Note: This was a guest post.

How To Utilize Trees For Survival: The Ultimate Guide To Surviving Off Of Trees

Image Credit: https://www.nps.gov/mora/learn/nature/trees.htm

Earth Day always gives us a little time to think about the trees. Planting a tree on Earth Day is a tradition in many places, namely because these life-giving plants help provide clean air and natural resources like wood, as well as habitat for other living creatures.

But trees aren’t just worthy of our appreciation on Earth Day. In fact, you can make use of them so many ways that you’ll be a generally better survivalist just by understanding their many applications. With the right knowledge, trees can provide food and water, shelter and even basic construction materials.

A Long History of Utility

Today, the construction industry is probably the first thing that comes to mind when we consider how important trees are. Lumber from all types of trees is harvested every day around the world to be used as building material, fuel for fires and pulp for paper products. But even before we were building things from trees, hunter/gatherer tribes were collecting nutritious tree nuts as a source of food. They later discovered the value of trees as one component of a farming system.

Prominent historical figures like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington revered these important crops and understood well the value they lent to the North American continent. Before the founding of the United States, indigenous peoples made use of tree-based products like nuts and sap for use in daily life. Nearly every part of a tree can be put to good use, and no one knew it better.

Knowledge of how to get the most from American icons like oak, maple and pine has been handed down for generations. You might be surprised how much there is to know!

Tree-Based Foods

You’ve probably consumed a great many tree-based foods in your life without ever even thinking about it. Tree nuts are the most obvious, with popular and time-honored examples including acorns, walnuts and pine nuts. Almonds, popular edible tree nuts revered for their health benefits, are actually not safe to eat raw in the wild because they contain natural toxins. Stick to the first three if you’re looking for a tree-based snack in the American wild.

In addition to tree nuts, many fruit-bearing trees form the backbone of the exceptional variety of fruits we enjoy nearly year-round in the United States. Apples, peaches and citrus fruit like oranges and tangerines all come from trees, although some are more common in the wilderness than others.

Mulberry trees, while lesser-known to those seeking fruit in the market, can offer a snack while you’re exploring open spaces. Cherry trees are both farmed and naturally occurring. The bright yellow honey locust tree and rare hackberry are native varieties that produce edible fruits and seeds and are less commonly farmed.

Not surprisingly, many types of food-producing trees have been put into large-scale farming operations in places like California, Florida and New York. If you’re a fan of fresh orange juice, you might know how sensitive these farming operations can be. To enjoy the great selection of exotic fruits available to us — a luxury almost no other country enjoys as well as the USA — we have to take care to keep our tree farms healthy and adapt to shifting weather patterns.

Some tree farming operations have even created new forms of hybrid fruit. Examples like the grapple and tangelo take characteristics of naturally occurring fruit and leverage genomics technology to offer an entirely new experience. This genetic experimentation has recently given us the SnapDragon and RubyFrost apples, products of work done at Cornell University. Trees are continuing to provide new sources of food today!

Water, Sap and Resin

In addition to delicious fruits and nuts, trees can provide life-sustaining water and other liquid products, including the popular sap, used for making syrup. In addition to sap, the thick, amber liquid you might think of as sap is in fact a different substance altogether called resin. Pine, fir and ceder trees, along with their relatives in the Pinaceae family, produce resin, which is typically thick and tar-like and makes a much better adhesive than thinner, watery sap.

To collect sap, whether it be for use in making syrup or just to have a drink of the high water-content liquid, bore a hole in the side of a tree and insert a tube for the sap to flow through. You can drink raw sap right from the tree as a source of water. To make the maple syrup or other sweet products requires processing. Called “sugaring,” the process of making syrup involves first setting a tap in place and then allowing enough liquid to pool in your bucket or other collection device so that you can boil off the extra water.

Sugaring rigs vary in their size and design, but a “stereotypical” rig consists of a wood-fired stove with a broad pot or pan at the top. Sap is poured into the pan and kept at a low boil for hours on end. Removing the right amount of water to make syrup and not hard candy takes a little finesse and a lot of practice. However, once it’s ready, maple syrup can be kept for many months as a stable food. It’s a great way to have a treat around and prepare some sugar for a survival situation. Not a bad gift come holiday time either!

Unlike maple syrup, pine tree resin won’t help your breakfast taste better. However, it does have some good-to-know survival uses. It can be collected around a damaged area of the tree, and it will harden when it’s exposed to sunlight. Native Americans have been known to use pine tree resin to close wounds — it’s a natural antiseptic because it keeps moisture from entering the wound, and it can be peeled from the skin once healing is far enough along. It’s also helpful treating rashes and can be made into a tea to treat a sore throat.

Aside from its medicinal uses, resin can be used to help with starting fires, as a sealant to waterproof clothes and shoes and even as glue when it’s combined with crumbled charcoal. To make your glue, heat resin until it’s thin and mix it with the charcoal powder in a ratio that’s two parts resin to one part ash. Use a stick to collect the dark-colored mixture as it cools. The cool glue won’t be good for bonding things, but you can reheat it to apply to a surface when needed.

Additional Medicinal Uses

Many survivalists find tree-based products to be useful for curing ailments along with their nutritional value. Similar to the pine resin tea we mentioned earlier, nature provides us with a slew of natural medicine available just by processing basic tree-derived items. Pine nettle tea, for example, is a famous cure for vitamin C deficiency that early frontiersmen relied on because of the prevalence of scurvy.

Many outdoorsmen still enjoy making pine nettle tea for its woody flavor, and while boiling for too long can remove some of the vitamin C from the brew, you can decide how strong to make it if you’re not in need of saving from scurvy.

Willow tree bark contains salicin, a naturally occurring compound that’s similar in makeup to aspirin. If you’re far from home and in need of pain relief, peel a hunk of bark from a nearby willow and chew it to unlock the tree’s natural anti-inflammatory properties. We’ve listed some additional herbal remedies derived from trees below:

  • The sap of the alder tree can be used to calm itching and wash wounds. Alder leaves and bark can be boiled to make a tea that will reduce a fever.
  • Apple trees provide a number of digestive remedies. Peeled apple tree root can be consumed to cure diarrhea, while stewed unpeeled apples can be used as a laxative. Apple cider with garlic and horseradish can be used to treat skin conditions.
  • Ash tree leaves can be made into a tea to reduce gout, jaundice and rheumatism, and the tea is also a laxative.
  • Tea made from the flowers and berries of the Hawthorne tree can have positive affects for cardiac health and lower blood pressure.
  • Linden and closely related basswood products can calm nerves and are effective remedies for headaches, spasms and pain.
  • Green walnut husks can be slit to produce a sap that’s effective for treating ringworm.
  • Witch hazel is a famous remedy for many conditions. It is anti-inflammatory, hemostatic and antiseptic.

Using Trees for Shelter

Up until now, we’ve been mainly focused on the ways you can use tree-based products by ingesting them. However, trees make an effective survival tool as a form of shelter too. Perhaps you’ve noticed the way a healthy redwood offers shade on a hot day. Maybe you’ve enjoyed climbing the trees in a nearby orchard as a child. Being large and stationary, trees can provide these basic benefits of coverage and a high vantage point, but they can also do a lot more in a survival situation.

If you’re in need of a calm place to set up camp while in the wilderness, a thicket of trees might be just the thing to provide shade and knock down wind that could otherwise interfere with your tent or other camp shelter. Don’t have a tent? Why not just use the trees themselves? Assuming the trees in your area provide suitably hard wood, you can collect large, fallen branches and arrange them in a lean-to to shield yourself and your belongings from animals and elements.

If you can find a large enough dead tree, you can even hunker down inside the hollowed-out trunk itself. Doing so sounds rather idyllic because it is. Finding just such a tree is rare, and if you do plan to use one as shelter, be sure to check its structural integrity. A dead tree with a hollow trunk may not endure a bout of strong wind, and you won’t want to be in it when the upper regions come crashing down. Maybe take a picture and move on.

Of course, wood is an excellent building material, and if time is on your side, you can use tree products to construct your own shelter. You can do so by planting and growing a protective shelter belt to keep wind and elements off your encampment or crops or by harvesting existing wood and constructing a small structure. Using basic tongue-in-groove construction, it’s possible to stand up a simple log building using a good set of trees, a sharp ax and perhaps a few other basic tools. Keep in mind that this undertaking is not a beginner-level project.

An Alaskan mill, a lumber-processing tool that can be built using a fallen log and metal brackets, is a handy way to produce real, right-sized cuts of lumber in the backcountry, but it takes a skilled saw-man to run. Still, in a situation that requires you to fabricate a sturdy wooden structure without help from the kinds of tools you’d find in a larger-scale construction setting, the Alaskan mill is the perennial go-to. If you’re going to look into using one of these, find someone who’s done it, and practice safely getting to know the ins and outs of this tool, as it can be very dangerous.

Man’s Other “Best Friend”

Your dog is probably a lot more fun than a tree, that’s not asking much. But when you consider all the wonderful things trees do for us — providing fresh air, healthy snacks and sustenance for wilderness adventures, handy sap and resin products, medicines and lodging and more — trees are absolutely amazing.

This guide gives you a good overview of the many ways you can benefit from trees in wilderness settings. Hopefully, what you’ve read here will prove useful. There’s so much you can do with the numerous tree-based products covered here and elsewhere. What plans do you have to make use of this new knowledge — are you going to begin brewing pine-nettle tea or harvesting maple sap for use in syrup? Let us know in the comments below!

Note: This was a guest post.

Seattle Snowmageddon – Why All The Panic?

Image Credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photography-of-trees-covered-with-snow-773594/

So I went to the grocery store (Central Market) yesterday around lunch time simply because I wanted to grab a few things that my wife prefers and which I could only get there locally, such as some specific toothpaste and fermented pickles.

Yeah, I know… nothing that I really needed for the “snowmageddon” coming today and this weekend, such as actual food or pop tarts, lol.

The thing is that when I tried to find a parking spot, I couldn’t. And I mean there was NOTHING anywhere nearby! I was thinking to myself, “Man, lunchtime sure is busy here.” And, so, I eventually gave up and took my kid to Dairy Queen for lunch.

It was only later that I realized the madhouse at the grocery store was because everyone was doing their last minute shopping for a snowstorm that we’re just not accustomed to having around here. And it has been the ONLY thing on everyone’s mind for days now; I’d suspect it will be THE news for the entire weekend.

The funny thing is that I think we’re only due to get around 4-6″ of snow, which would have been a nuisance where I used to live in the Midwest but nothing to freak out over. And I’d image for those who live in the northern states (e.g., Michigan and Wisconsin) that a half of a foot of snow is barely anything to mention on the nightly news.

But, my complaint is always the same when it comes to things like this: there was absolutely no reason for people to have acted any differently had they already been prepared!

Really.

It never even crossed my mind to have to go to the store because of the snowstorm. I already have everything I need, including food, water, batteries, firewood, and so on… and I didn’t need to panic shop because I failed to have these items already on hand.

Because, after all, disasters don’t always give us days warning like a looming snowstorm might. Sure, there are some items it would be beneficial to stock up on–such as prescription medications–but even then it’s possible to ensure you don’t have to run out to the store at the last moment.

And for those of you who refuse to listen and just “have to” stock up at the last moment, can you at least NOT merely buy milk and bread? And maybe include food that doesn’t need refrigerated?

It’s just a thought… do what you will with it.

Splitz-All Log Splitter

My kid has been watching YouTube videos lately on neat, new gadgets and one that caught my eye was this Splitz-All Log Splitter. And, while I’m not quite sure it’s worth the price tag, the Splitz-All sure is an interesting way to split wood besides with an axe or hydraulic log splitter. Enjoy…

How to Survive Getting Stranded in the Snow

Winter is here, and the temperatures are falling fast. One thing no one wants to think about is the possibility of getting stranded in the snow. How will you survive if you get stranded in the woods during a blizzard, or your car gets stuck in a snowdrift on the side of the road? What about getting snowed-in when the power goes out? Here’s a comprehensive guide that will help keep you alive if you get stranded in the snow.

Stranded in Your Car

You’re heading over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house when the unthinkable happens — you hit a patch of ice and drift into a snowbank, getting your tires stuck. You can call AAA, but you’re stuck with the task of surviving until they reach you. How can you survive getting stranded in your car in the snow?

Car survival starts with proper preparation. You should keep a survival kit in your car at all times, which should include supplies like:

  • Food: Keep some high-protein,non-perishable snacks in your survival kit, like nuts and protein bars. You’ll need more calories to keep moving if it’s cold.
  • Water: Store plenty of drinking water in your kit. If you can, store them upside-down so that the tops don’t freeze. You can still get dehydrated even if it’s snowing outside, so make sure you drink plenty of water.
  • Extra clothing and blankets: You need to stay as warm as possible. Keep an extra set of clothes and some blankets in your car so that you can layer up or change clothes if you get wet.
  • Flares and flashlights: Emergency flares can help rescue crews see you even if it’s snowing heavily. Flashlights will keep you from draining your phone battery trying to see in the dark.
  • A spare phone battery and charger: Keep your phone charged so that you can contact emergency services.
  • A shovel: A military e-tool (folding shovel) is ideal because it takes up very little space when folded. You’ll need to keep your tailpipe clear of snow and other obstructions if you’re planning on running the car to stay warm. If the exhaust pipe gets blocked, it can cause carbon monoxide to back up into the car.

The key is to stay warm until the tow truck or other rescue services can arrive. You can run the car to keep warm, but make sure that the tailpipe is clear. Car interiors aren’t very good at conserving heat, so if you’re worried about running out of gas, just run the car until it’s warm, then shut it off. Turning the car on for short periods will conserve fuel while helping to keep you warm.

Try to remove the snow around and underneath your tires, as well as the snow in front of your car, as much as you can. Then, try to move the vehicle forward and back slowly, a few feet at a time, to see if you can get enough traction to get yourself out of the snow and back onto the road. If you’ve got a few people in the car, you may be able to get yourself un-stuck with some old-fashioned elbow grease.

You can give yourself more traction with sand or kitty litter too. Just make sure you’re using something natural — you’re not going to be picking it up afterward.

[Editor’s note: A come-a-long could be a useful tool for this very purpose.]

Keep snow chains or other traction tools in your survival kit as well. It might be cold outside, but adding chains to your tires is a lot better than staying out in the cold for hours or days on end.

Stranded in the Woods

Camping or hiking in the winter can be fantastic, but getting stranded in a blizzard can be dangerous. The key to survival here is to have the right equipment. You’ll need four primary things to survive if you’re stranded in the wilderness— food, water, shelter and warmth. If you’re camping or hiking, chances are you have at least two of those things. If you don’t have water, melting snow over a campfire is a useful alternative.

You should know that shelter is essential if you’re hiking or stranded without a tent. A proper shelter will help protect you from the wind and keep you a little bit warmer while you ride out the storm. If you find yourself stranded in the wilderness, building a shelter should be your first priority. Look for downed branches, especially those from coniferous trees that still have a lot of foliage on them. You can use them to build a lean-to in a sheltered area to protect you.

If the snow is deep enough, don’t hesitate to start digging. Snow insulates and can help keep you warm and out of the wind. Just make sure the roof of your snow structure is strong enough that it won’t collapse and trap you inside. You can even dig a trench in the snow just large enough for you and top it with the branches you found.

Your second priority is to build a fire, which serves two purposes: to keep you warm–which is vital in these situations–and the smoke from your fire can help rescuers or passers-by narrow in on your location.

Doing so can be difficult in the wintertime because most of the dead wood is wet from the snow, but if you can get a good fire started, you should be able to dry out most anything. You’ll need a firestarter (the Swedish Light My Fire firesteel is good). If you smoke and have a Bic lighter in your pocket, you should be covered. If you don’t usually carry a lighter, starting a fire with wet wood can be nearly impossible. It might be a good skill to practice when you’re not in a survival situation.

Significant Health Hazards in the Winter Woods

Be aware of the two most significant health hazards that come from wintertime survival situations — hypothermia and frostbite.

Hypothermia is the condition that occurs when your body temperature drops too low. You’ll start to shiver uncontrollably — it’s your body’s natural way of trying to warm you up — and you may begin to get confused or have trouble thinking. You’ll know it’s progressed to severe hypothermia if you stop shivering. At this point, your body has used up your energy reserves and can’t keep you warm any longer. At this stage, medical intervention is needed.

Frostbite occurs when the tissue in your extremities or any exposed areas freezes. The water in your cells turns to ice crystals, causing the cells to burst. Severe frostbite can even require amputation. Stay as covered as possible, and take the time to warm up your fingers and toes, especially if they start to tingle or the flesh starts to feel hard.

If you know you’re going to be out in the woods, investing in some self-heating clothing which can help keep you warm no matter how cold it gets. If you’re going to be out in the snow fora while, or you find yourself stranded, this gear ends up being worth every penny.

Once you have a shelter and a fire, it’s time to start thinking about food and water. There are plenty of foods you can forage for in the winter time. Just be sure you double and triple check anything you harvest to be sure that it’s not poisonous.

Stranded at Home

Weathering a winter storm at home might not seem like the hardest thing in the world to do, but if the power goes out and with it your heat, it can quickly become a survival situation.

Keep a storm preparation kit in your home at all times. It will be similar to the one that we listed above in the section about getting stranded in your car, with a few notable differences:

  • Water: You might be able to get by with a few water bottles in your car, but at home, you’ll need more. Plan on one gallon of water per person per day for the duration of the storm. Half of that is for drinking, and the other half is for hygiene needs.
  • Battery or crank-powered weather radio: Keep track of the storm and changes in the weather with a radio that’s tuned in to your local NOAA station.
  • Diapers, formula and other infant supplies: If you have a baby in the home, keep everything they’ll need in your emergency kit.
  • Pet supplies: The same rule goes for pets. Make sure you have everything they could need for the duration of the storm.
  • Prescription medications: If anyone in your household relies on prescription medications, make sure you have a sufficient supply on hand before the storm hits.
  • Flashlights and lanterns: If the power goes out and it’s storming outside, these tools can make it easier to see.

The most important thing to do during a winter storm–especially if the power goes out–is to stay warm, fed and well-hydrated. In most cases, all you can do is wait it out.

If the power is likely to go out, consider investing in a generator to keep your lights, heat and other appliances running until power is restored. Always place the generator outside, and make sure it’s clear of snow and other obstructions before starting it up. Don’t plug your generator into your home’s main power though as doing so can create dangerous feedback for linemen who are trying to restore power after the storm.

Further Steps to Take While Waiting at Home

Unless you have a fireplace, don’t start a fire in the house. If you do have a fireplace, make sure the chimney isn’t blocked by snow for some odd reason. Otherwise, the smoke and CO2 can start building up to dangerous levels inside your home since it will have nowhere else to go.

[Editor’s note: ALWAYS have a quality battery-powered CO2 alarm if you have a fireplace or any gas appliances… it could save your life!]

Keep each room closed, primarily if you’re relying on a fireplace or portable space heaters to keep warm, and try to avoid going outside if at all possible. Homes are designed to maintain their internal temperature, but opening doors let in more cold air which then must be needlessly heated. Besides, it’s usually safer to stay inside during a winter storm anyway.

Remember to be aware of the signs of frostbite and hypothermia even at home. Make sure to stay dry. You might sweat or get wet from moving snow away from the door or generator. If you do, change your clothes immediately upon coming inside! Wet clothing pulls more heat away from the body, increasing your risk of hypothermia.

When you’re sheltering at home, the best thing you can do is stay warm, stay hydrated and wait for the storm to pass. Electric companies sometimes can’t work to restore power until the storm is over, so be prepared to remain in place even after the sun comes out and the storm dies down.

Take the time to check on your neighbors once it’s safe to do so as well. Young children and the elderly are more at risk during a winter storm, so if you can safely walk to the neighbors’ house then it might be worth it to check on them and make sure they’re warm and have plenty of food and water.

Staying Safe in the Worst Circumstances

No one wants to think about getting stranded in the snow, but it does happen. The best thing you can do, in any of these situations, is to be prepared for it. Set up an emergency kit in your car and home. Keep a small survival kit — with supplies like matches, a knife, a saw and some high-protein snacks — on your person or in a vehicle at all times. If you’re heading out into the wilderness, be prepared. Have proper clothing, and remember the four most important things that you need — food, water, shelter and warmth.

Winter is here–ready or not–and the snow has already started to fall. Being prepared for such a situation can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. Take the time to prepare now, before you need any of these supplies or survival skills. Wintertime is beautiful, but without the proper preparation, it can also be deadly. Stay safe out there.

[Editor’s note: This was a guest post.]

Why A Mylar “Survival” Space Blanket Is Worth Having In Your Pack

I’m generally VERY against the cheap mylar “survival” space blankets mostly because there are better option and, honestly, people don’t use them right. I’m a much bigger fan of the SOL Heatsheets (or get two person version) which are discussed in the following video. That said, any such blanket has limitations and must be used appropriately as shown below…