Wilderness Survival Skills to Keep You Alive – Part 1 of 2, by Jerry Ward

[Editor’s note: Today and Wednesday we feature a post by one of our sponsors, OzarkMountainPreparedness.com. I will attend one of Jerry’s wilderness survival classes in Arkansas this coming March as my wilderness survival skills need A LOT of help! If you’re anywhere nearby Arkansas then I encourage you to attend a class.]

Wilderness Survival! The phrase conjures up visions of plane crashes in the deserts of Africa, shipwrecks in the South Pacific, tragic miscalculations of direction in the South America rainforest, and expeditions gone wrong in the Arctic. While these situations are all found in the annals of history and plausible, the bulk of survival situations befall folks in less exotic locales under less glamorous circumstances. Usually Work-a-Day Joe and/or Jane get lost on a hunting trip, stumble and suffer a mechanical injury while out for a day hike, has car trouble on a back road, or has any other run-in with Mr. Murphy. These events can turn a simple afternoon of recreation into a potentially life threatening situation. Hopefully Joe and Jane have had some professional survival training and have with them a kit to help them deal with the priorities of survival.


Statistically, you have an 80%-85% chance of being rescued within 72 hours here in the lower 48. The two major factors of contributing to those numbers are the invention of the helicopter and the cell phone. The helicopter came into its prime during the Vietnam War where it was used heavily as a platform to extract and evacuate wounded military personnel. Pilots and Search and Rescue (SAR) units here in the civilian world realized there was a place for that same mobility and speed during SAR operations. Cellular phones, love them or hate them, have also led to the advancement of rapid rescue these last few decades. The “smart” phones of today can not only be used as a communication device in order to activate SAR, but also as a navigational tool capable of providing rescuers the exact location of the party needing help. That being said, neither of these tools should be relied upon or used as a crutch. SAR teams need notification of a rescue situation. Team members are human and are prone to mistake, illness, etc. Helicopters and other mechanical machines are just that, mechanical. Anything mechanical has limitations and will fail eventually. Cell phones in particular are prone to all sorts of mishaps; loss of power, little or no coverage, a dunk in the creek, breakage due to a fall, and loss. They are nice to have on station and fun to play with, but not something to count on when the chips are down.

Because you can’t count on others for your safety and security, I recommend seeking formal survival training and carrying a basic survival kit that has been cleverly thought out and stocked with practical components. This kit is designed to mitigate the hazards to and help in the preservation of life. It covers the Big 5 of survival: Fire, Water/Food, Shelter, Medical, and Signaling. Let’s take a brief look at each of these categories.


Fire is a simple chemical reaction called oxidation in which the oxygen in the atmosphere reacts with the molecules of a substance to produce energy in the form of heat and light. Fire requires three components to begin and sustain that reaction; an initial heat source, fuel, and oxygen. I’ll save the deeper explanation for a future article, but basically when all three of these components are in the right mixture you have a fire. In a survival scenario, fire is a critical element that cannot be overstressed. It provides a way to purify water and cook food, is an instant signal from the flame and smoke, is a tool to process wood and create containers, provides light at night, helps to maintain core body temperature, and is a companion requiring interaction and providing feedback. I recommend my students carry a minimum of three ways to make fire in their kits and on their person. The methods I prefer are the ferro rod, flint and steel kit, and a Bic lighter with a piece of bicycle inner tube wrapped around it. Toss in a waterproof container with a half dozen petroleum jelly covered cotton balls and you can be sure of a fire in almost all conditions!



Water is critical to life. You will die in about three or four days without it. That being said, being able to find water and render it safe is a definite need in the kit. Natural water sources include the obvious: creeks, rivers, ponds, etc. There is also precipitation, transpiration, condensation, sub-surface water pooling and the like. Here again, the source of a future article. Treat all collected water as suspect and purify to ensure safety. There are all sorts of water purifying devices on the market today. I have two I’d like to recommend. The first is some sort of chemical treatment that will kill the microbes swimming around in the drink. Chlorine and iodine are the most common and easy to obtain. Unscented chlorine bleach and 2% tincture of iodine from the pharmacy are the two I prefer. Add two drops per quart of either the chlorine bleach or 2% iodine tincture, shake thoroughly, and wait 30 minutes before drinking. Medical note- if you have a shellfish allergy do not use iodine. The second method I recommend is the Lifestraw. The Lifestraw is a straw you simply place down into the contaminated water source and drink through just like a soda straw. When you are finished, simply blow through the straw to remove the excess water, close the caps on each end, and toss back in your gear. The Lifestraw filters down to a size of 0.2 microns and has a service life of 250 gallons. It weighs mere ounces and is built to withstand the rigors of life in the field. Boiling is always an option, so be sure to include a stainless steel container to place in your fire.


Food is another thing to consider when constructing a survival kit. The human body can make it for around 30 days without nourishment, but why be hungry when you avoid it. After just a few days without food, your energy level will be greatly diminished. A decreased energy level will manifest itself as a decrease in work around camp; which could lead to your demise. Always include some high-fat/high-calorie foodstuffs in the kit. Things like peanuts, meal replacement bars, trail mix, chocolate, etc. will give you an energy boost and help with the overall morale of the survivors. Also, a little training in primitive trapping techniques and wild edible plants will increase your chances of survival should the situation go from short-term to Robinson Crusoe.


Wednesday we focus on shelter, medical and signaling. Stay tuned!

Jerry Ward Bio

Jerry Ward is the owner and operator of Ozark Mountain Preparedness, LLC located in Berryville, Arkansas. He has been teaching survival skills since 2004 and opened Ozark Mountain Preparedness in 2010. Before becoming a full-time survival skills instructor he worked as a rock climbing guide, wildland firefighter and gunsmith. Jerry studied wildlife biology at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. He is an avid fur trapper and student of history. His outdoor pursuits have taken him all around the United States and abroad, including fur trapping in Alaska, fighting wildfire in the American West, researching primitive cultures in the Desert Southwest, trekking the rainforests of Belize, and exploring the Highlands of Scotland. He has been featured in numerous publications, including Currents and American Survival Guide magazines. Jerry is a member of The Wilderness Medical Society and The Society of Primitive Technology. He can be reached via the web at http://ozarkmountainpreparedness.com or phone at (870)350-6995.


Outdoor Condensor Microphone Plans and Trip Wire Alarm System

The more I think about prepping for the long term the more I realize how important early warning can be. I should point out that I have no experience whatsoever with such concepts as I never served in the military or brewed up a batch of moonshine–I just watched the last episode of Moonshiners. 🙂

Anyway, two interesting things were recently brought to my attention that may prove useful to you:

  1. An article on Outdoor surveillance with condenser microphones – for those with some electronics background this project is probably a breeze. The purpose is to build your own microphone to monitor your property. I like the idea but only wish it didn’t seem to require a amplifier to work… maybe there’s something else that can be done?
  2. A Trip Wire Alarm system – placed strategically around natural points of egress (that’s nerdy talk for places like walkways) this alarm system will not only alert you to a problem but quite possible cause the bad guy to run the other way since it fires off a .22 blank when tripped! The price might seem a little prohibitive at first glance but maybe it suits your particular situation.


If you have any experience with these products or something similar, I would enjoy learning what you know.

Egg Storage Experiment – Week 3 Results

My how time flies… we’re already to week 3 of my–possibly–18 week experiment of egg storage without refrigeration. Here’s where we’re at (click images to enlarge)…

Here’s the mineral oil egg (doesn’t float and no smell when opened):


And this is the control egg (also did not float and no smell when opened):


Here’s what they look like on the same plate (the left egg is the mineral oil egg):


Pam had asked a bunch of questions last week so I’ll try to answer them for this week:

  1. Did I crack the ‘control’ egg? Yes. I cracked both eggs (and smelled both before and after cracking).
  2. Any changes in the consistency of the whites? None that I noticed except that MAYBE the control egg whites are more yellowish.
  3. Was the yolk still more or less in the center? A picture’s worth a thousand words… so, yes. 🙂
  4. Was the yolk already broken when you cracked it? The yolk doesn’t look broken to me even after cracking.
  5. Do I think the shells will deteriorate over time? I haven’t a clue but I would assume they do at the microscopic level.

Overall, I would say that if I didn’t know which egg was which, I couldn’t have told them apart. This is still a bit surprising to me as I would have anticipated the control egg to have gone bad by now, but that’s just the ignorant suburbanite in me speculating.

And, since I had already eaten lunch before checking my eggs, I cooked them up and fed them to the dog as per Bev’s suggestion.

What if the Mistake is With Preparation?

mistakeThis post is me being my own devil’s advocate. You see, not long ago I posted an article on The Probability Spectrum of Disasters which basically stated that you should focus your preparations on the scenarios that are most likely to happen to YOU rather than what you’re most afraid of or some guru says you should be preparing for. Examples would include job loss, chronic illness, house fire, etc. Once you’re as ready as you can be for those scenarios then move on to things like earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes and eventually EMP, pandemics, and so on.

I then got to wondering that if it’s all about the numbers (the statistics) then I would imagine that being affected by a disaster is actually statistically less likely than NOT being affected by one. In other words, I’m willing to bet the math says that in my lifetime I’m less likely to NEED the vast majority of my preparations than not, small power outages and such not withstanding.

So, why am I doing it? Why am I planning for a less likely scenario? Taking it a bit further, consider the fact that I’m even less likely to be drastically affected (i.e., end up dead or maybe displaced) by any single disaster, then the statistics certainly don’t bear out my desire to prep. I’m better off preparing for normalcy… kids’ college, 401K, retirement, etc.

Granted, I would need to find some numbers to verify my assumptions but let me ask you, how many people do you know that have been severely affected by a disaster in their lifetime? (I’m talking about earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.) I know I’ve lived through nearby earthquakes, seen tornadoes from afar, and even remember my parent’s house flooding due to a lot of rainwater and poor city sewer drainage but I would be the first to say that I’ve never been drastically affected by any of these. In fact, I can’t think of anyone I personally know that has been severely affected or even displaced by any serious emergency situation.

This isn’t to say that it can’t happen. Obviously disasters happen, people become displaced, lose everything, and even die. We know that. But I put a LOT of time, effort, money, and thoughts into my preps and it never seems to end. I sometimes stare at my assorted “for emergency only” gear and wonder if it would have been money better spent on a 401K, my kids’ college funds (hah!) or just dining out.

I don’t truly know that I will ever need any of my stuff. Most of my friends and family would never spend a dime on “for emergency only” gear and I’m sure that many think I’m a bit crazy (or at least I’m their first and only stop if disaster ever strikes them). I know I’m venting to the converted here but are we (the real 1%) wasting our time? Are my preparations the real mistake?

I Must Be Boring You to Tears Lately!… and a 1000 Post Milestone

I can see by a general lack of comments that I really must be boring you folks to tears lately, so I apologize for that. You know, the blogosphere continues to amaze me. Posts and concepts that I think would be quite interesting often aren’t while posts that are much more mundane can be winners. I simply don’t get it. So long as you’re learning something and choose to stick around then I guess it doesn’t matter.

On a happier note, I noticed that today we went over 1000 total blog posts since this blog was started a little less than a year ago, which I consider a healthy accomplishment. Hopefully the next 1000 will continue to be useful, interesting, and inspiring to you.

Last, I hope you have a wonderful weekend, enjoy the Superbowl if you’re watching it (my $$ on San Francisco), and I look forward to a better next week.

There’s More to Proper Food Storage Than You Think

leftoversLast week I got into a short, yet friendly, comments discussion with HealthyPrepper (one of my recent favorite YouTube channels by the way) on one of her videos regarding the storage of crackers for the long term. Suffice it to say, that I suggested there’s more to consider when storing crackers (she was storing regular Ritz in the video) than just placing the crackers in a foodsaver bag with oxygen absorber and calling it done.

Granted, it’s always wise to do your best to minimize the impact of the biggest food storage detrimental factors, including oxygen, moisture, heat, light, and infestation. What she was most concerned about was to reduce oxygen exposure, and for good reason: it’s a huge contributing factor that directly affects shelf-life. Anyway, I had mentioned than she should be careful with storing these particular crackers because they had a significant fat content in them, which could cause them to spoil even when sealed in the package; I suggested she should stock low-fat crackers (e.g., low-fat Ritz, Saltines, etc) but I never fully explained myself… mostly because I wasn’t really sure why.

Now, I beleive that it’s quite likely the crackers she wanted to store–regardless of fat content–will do quite fine without any packaging for a good year or so assuming they’re not subject to problems like temperature extremes. And, I certainly concede that attempting to minimize oxygen exposure first with a foodsaver bag and second with a oxygen absorber will better allow the crackers to store for much longer, maybe years on end without worry. To be honest, I’ve never tried to store snacks foods like this because they simply don’t last long enough around our house and I would prefer to save my foodsaver bags and other long term storage equipment for what I consider better uses.

While I’m thinking about it, let’s define racidification (according to Wikipedia) before going any further:

“Rancidification, the product of which can be described as rancidity, is the chemical decomposition of fats, oils and other lipids (this degradation also occurs in mechanical cutting fluids). When these processes occur in food, undesirable odors and flavors can result. In some cases, however, the flavors can be desirable (as in aged cheeses). In processed meats, these flavors are collectively known as warmed over flavor. Rancidification can also detract from the nutritional value of the food. Some vitamins are highly sensitive to degradation.”

The Wikipedia definition goes on to state that there are three types of rancidification: hydrolytic (caused by moisture exposure), oxidative (caused by oxygen exposure and is usually the most common), and microbial (caused by bacteria).

So, the question is this: why is it important to consider fat content in stored foods?

More specifically, if oxidative rancidity is the most likely cause, and if by using an oxygen absorber I greatly reduce that likelihood (and also reduce moisture content due to the oxygen absorber’s need to consume moisture to work properly), and assuming there are no microbiological agents present inside the cracker package that may also cause rancidity, what in the world could I have to worry about?

While I couldn’t put my finger on it, my gut kept saying that something was wrong with these assumptions! I might also point out that, per numerous experiences from around the Net, it seems foodsaver bags aren’t nearly as reliable as mylar bags to stay sealed. It’s also poignant to mention that Foodsaver bags are not a 100% impermeable oxygen barrier (like mylar bags are) and over time will allow oxygen (and odors) to to penetrate the bag contents.

Now, I never could find a great resource as to how oxygen impermeable foodsaver bags are, but I did find this resource that lists oxygen permeability of common plastics. Since foodsaver bags are made of polyethylene (PET) material then I will use that coefficient as the permeability factor which, as it turns out, is very low compared to the other listed plastic materials (at 0.035… followed by a bunch of nerdy stuff). How much does that equate to over years to exposure to oxygen? I haven’t a clue! Add in a common 100-300 cc oxygen absorber that should continue to absorb oxygen until it can no longer do so and I haven’t any idea how long the typical foodsaver bag will “keep out” oxygen. I would assume that it’s quite some time, however.

Fast forward a day or two from the comments I had with HealthyPrepper and I read this SurvialistBoards thread about canning crackers, which seems to vindicate (sort of) my stance on the issue but without the hard evidence that I’m looking for.

Anyway, in doing some research I ran into this Wikipedia definition on oxygen absorbers: “An oxygen absorber is a small packet of material used to prolong the shelf life of food. They are used in food packaging to prevent food colour change, to stop oils in foods from becoming rancid, and also prevent the growth of oxygen-using aerobic microorganisms such as fungi.”

Uhm… uh oh! Maybe I’m completely wrong? Maybe I own HealthyPrepper a big ol’ apology?

The answer is yes and no.

While the underlying belief is that reducing the oxygen in the package is a good thing to reduce the problems that cause rancidity, it’s also possible that it could promote additional problems that would otherwise not occur because your nose has already detected that the food has spoiled.

This (long) excerpt from the National Center for Home Food Preservation website on “Should I Vacuum Package Food at Home?” article states why doing so may end up being a bad idea (I won’t highlight the important parts, just read the whole thing):

“[…] Producing a vacuum means removing air from the contents of a package. Oxygen in environmental air does promote certain reactions in foods which cause deterioration of quality. For example, oxidative rancidity of fats in food and certain color changes are promoted by the presence of oxygen. Therefore, removal of oxygen from the environment will preserve certain quality characteristics and extend the food’s shelf life based on quality.

However, removal of oxygen from the surrounding environment does not eliminate the possibility for all bacterial growth; it just changes the nature of what is likely to occur. In fact, what is most likely to be eliminated is growth of spoilage bacteria. The bacteria that normally spoil the quality of food in noticeable ways (odor, color, sliminess, etc.) like to have oxygen in the environment. If able to multiply on foods, these spoilage bacteria can let you know if a food is going bad before it reaches the point it makes someone sick. In an almost oxygen-free environment like vacuum packaging produces, the spoilage bacteria do not multiply very fast so the loss of food quality is slowed down.

Some pathogenic (illness-causing) bacteria, however, like low-oxygen environments and reproduce well in vacuum-packaged foods. In fact, without competition from spoilage bacteria, some pathogens reproduce even more rapidly than in their presence. These bacteria often do not produce noticeable changes in the food, either. In the vacuum-packaged environment, food may become unsafe from pathogenic bacterial growth with no indicators to warn the consumer; the bacteria that would also normally be multiplying and spoil food in ways to make it unappealing (odor, sliminess, etc.) are not able to function without enough oxygen.

For example, C. botulinum (a very dangerous pathogen that causes the deadly botulism poisoning under certain conditions) grows at room temperature in low-acid moist foods if the package presents anaerobic (lacking in oxygen) conditions – if the bacteria are present, of course. Without the competition from spoilage bacteria, reproduction is even easier. Refrigeration at 38-40 degrees F becomes a critical step for storage of low-acid vacuum-packaged foods that aren’t otherwise stable (don’t keep) at room temperature (e.g., canned properly). The actual temperature of the refrigerator and the temperature at which it keeps the food are essential to maintain safety of this product. If the food were not packaged under vacuum, the oxygen in the environment would offer some protection against C. botulinum growth and toxin development in the package. […]”

The take-away should be that by doing something that we would have otherwise expected to be a good thing could turn out to be a very bad thing for our health! I should mention that I rarely use my foodsaver to store foods and never do so with an oxygen absorber; not because I knew better but just because it seemed to be an economical choice and because if I was going to store foods for long term I was going to do so as best as I could and that meant using tins cans, glass, or mylar bags… all of which are known to be impermeable to oxygen.

To sum up, be extremely careful with your assumptions as to what can be stored for long term as well as how it should be stored. Your health and safety is nothing to be fooled around with. If you’re going to store your own foods then do so as close to how the commerical food manufactureres would to better protect you against potential “accidents waiting to happen” like this.

Win a FREE Sun Oven by Sharing Your 2013 Food Storage Goals (FoodStorageMadeEasy.net Giveaway)

I just noticed that Jodi and Julie at FoodStorageMadeEasy.net are offering a free sun oven giveaway contest! All it seems that you have to do to be entered into the contest is to post a comment about your 2013 goals on their Facebook page by Sunday, February 3 (winner announced on Monday). I would have jumped at the opportunity but I already have a sun oven. Click here to learn the details. Good luck!!

Review of Energizer 7 LED Trailfinder Headlight

I recently purchased the Energizer 7 LED Trailfinder Headlight off a recommendation of Steven Harris of Solar1234.com because I was in the market for a new headlamp.

After removing it from the package there was some basic assembly required, including attaching the headband and installing the batteries. One thing I noticed was that the battery compartment door was initially a bit difficult to remove but after first removal was no problem. I should point out that the battery door is secured in place with nice and secure clips but, once removed, is very precariously attached to the unit with a flimsy pieces of plastic (I guess it’s plastic) and seems to me to be something that could easily break. This is not a huge deal to me because the flimsly plastic serves no purpose other than to keep you from losing the battery compartment door but I would have preferred something a bit better.

I would also like to mention one more slight detraction, and that is the fact that the on/off (and change light mode) button is somewhat difficult to push. As a result, if you’re just trying to cycle through the light setting to turn if off then that could be an annoyance. I think I would have preferred a single on/off button and other button (or method) to switch between light settings.

I immediately started using the headlamp and found that it has four lighting modes: night vision (uses red color to keep from ruining your vision in the dark), spot light (uses three white lights), flood light (uses two different lights), and full power (uses all five lights). I’m not sure why they felt the need to include so many lighting options but I guess it lets me tailor my lighting needs a bit better and to conserve battery power. Personally, I would have preferred maybe three settings at most, but I’m really just nit-picking here.

On to more positive things…

As for function, the until can certainly light up a small room quite well and I was easily able to see what I was doing wherever I wandered while testing it. The package says the unit outputs 58 lumens but I only care if I can see what in the world I’m doing and that I was able to do.

Another good feature that I liked is the pivoting capability of the light; you can get two distinct angles when using the pivot (not including straight ahead, or no pivot at all). In fact, I found myself using the pivot feature most of the time.

I ended up wearing it for about an hour as I unpacked a few other things and eventually forget that I was even wearing it. However, once I realized I was still wearing it and later removed the headlamp I was glad to have it off my head as it is a bit bigger than other headlamps that I have used. Of course, it does include a nice foam pad that keeps the headlamp from pressing hard against my forehead, which was nice.

Another big plus is that this particular headlamp utilizes 3 AAA batteries, which means that so long as you have the capability to recharge AAA batteries then you can use it for a LONG time. The batteries used is something to pay close attention to. I have purchased headlamps in the past that utilize watch-sized batteries which makes them lighter-weight but also means you cannot recharge them. The package says it can run on a set of batteries for up to 14 hours on maximum setting. So, if you use a lower setting then that means a longer run time. In my opinion, 14 hours on max from a single set of batteries is a good deal for a headlamp.

Despite a few minor annoyances, all-in-all I would say that for the price (less than $17 shipped at the time of this post) this Energizer 7 LED Trailfinder Headlight is a good deal given light output, battery capacity, and overall capability. In fact, I should have ordered two. 🙂

HOW TO KILL WITH YOUR HANDS DVD…to survive a violent attack

I have no idea how long the link below will continue to be active, but Coach David has just told me that he is making Disc 1 of his B.E.T. system FREELY available for a limited time on YouTube. I had an opportunity to review it a few weeks ago and was getting excited about (hopefully) offering it to you for a good price in the near future, but free wasn’t exactly what I was thinking about. 😉

Anyway, I thought the content was very useful and maybe, as Coach David says, it will save a life. Here’s what he sent…

Watch now before YouTube bans it!

I believe in the non-aggression principle until someone breaks it…

Watch for a limited time.  Send to your friends before I take it down or YouTube bans it!

(HD) HOW TO KILL WITH YOUR HANDS DVD…to survive a violent attack (Disc 1 of 2)