Could YOU survive?

I have read several articals and watched several documentaries and movies about normal people going hiking, flying or whatever and finding themselves lost or crashed and dying out there or barely being able to survive. Most died from the cold – and most were non-smokers, an interesting point which I will elucidate on later. To me, watching the films, in most I could find ways in which the people could have either lived or made things easier for themselves and I’m not a SURVIVALIST.

I was a Boy Scout. I smoke. I camp and, having grown up through the cold war, especially the 60s, learned much about emergency survival.

If you were a hiker, taking the usual hiking stuff and got lost in the COLD north woods, could you survive several days until found?

I could. One of the major things which has killed lost hikers or hunters (aside from hunters getting drunk and shooting each other) has been not smoking. Why? Smokers ALWAYS carry a lighter or matches. Non-smokers do not. Even many hunters and campers, who stay overnight, often leave their matches or fire starters at camp.

Exposure to the cold kills many, and lack of fire deprives them of not only warmth but a way to signal others for scores of miles day or night, plus to protect them from animals and to cook any food they happen to catch. Non smokers out on a day treck would not think of packing matches, yet many day hikers and hunters have found themselves lost for days. Especially in the colder climates where hikers tackle snow covered mountains or ranges.

There is a little thing out called a survival blanket. It is so small that it will fit into your back pocket and costs about 5 bucks. Very few day treckers think to drop one into their geer or shove it in their pocket along with their wallet. It is plastic, reflective and seals in body warmth and protects one from rain. It is remarkably sturdy.

I have one and have never used it. When going out for the day or just a few hours away from people, fishing or exploring, it goes with me. Since I smoke, so does a lighter.

Can you get drinkable water where there is none? Yes. Snow or frost is obvious. Piled into a folded survivalk blanket, tilted slightly towards the fire you lit with your Bic, it melts and remains cupped in the plastic. The survival Blanket laid out along the ground at night catches the dew, which can be consumed. Then there is the solar still.

You dig a conical hole in the ground, place a container for water at the bottom - a cup, a ripped open beer can - plastic bottom of a bottle or even a cupped piece of the blanket. Line the sides with cactus, or any green vegitation, sliced or crunched up. Place part of the blanket over the hole, secure it in place with sand around the sides and drop a pebble in the center to form a sharp V. During the day, the sun will vaporise the water from the plants and it will drip into the container. Not much, but enough to keep one going.

I’ve always carried a pocket knife ever since I was a kid. Even one of those dinky keychain things can be invaluable if lost.

I also know how to gather brush in great masses to place on the ground as bedding and more to pile over me as a blanket. Used with the survival blanket, it works great!

You will not survive in great comfort and you can go a week or two without food, but you can provide yourself with water, heat, cover and light. Even without the survival blanket or knife, if you can make fire, you have a good chance. If you locate a water source, it is probably contaminated with bacteria. If you have a container you found or made, you can boil the water to sterilize it. (Water can be boiled in a paper cup in a fire. Even in a plastic bottle.)

Small, tin cups, folding or otherwise, designed for campers can be purchased for under $2.00 each. Most hikers carry a plastic water bottle, which, good ones, don’t toss away on the trail. That can be used to boil water.

Could you survive today if you got lost in the woods, stranded on an island (no, not the magnificent Gilligans Isle, which produced everything except serloin steaks), up in the hills, out in the dessert? Hikers and travlers who have died out there or almost lost their lives did not expect to ever get lost either.

The stupidist things I ever read about were hikers in cold, snow country getting lost and not one had any way to make a fire on them. (I’m not talking about those areas where there are no woods, like on mountains and so on, where even if they had matches, they could not find fuel.)

Could you survive until rescued? Do you carry a lighter in your pocket? A cheap pocket knife? Have you ever owned a survival blanket? Think it could never happen to you?

Think again.

“Think of it as Evolution in action.”

I like to think I could survive, though do not particularly wish to be put to the test. Another big factor in people surviving is their will to live. Even people who do really stupid things and end up in bad shape often survive if they are willing to wise up and do what they have to do.

Plenty of people in all sorts of situations croak, once they experience some discomfort, because they just to not want to suffer anymore.

I would rate one other factor much more important than my willpower or your preparation and skill but do not wish to sidetrack this into a religious debate.

Lost in the woods? Heck, here in Canada you could freeze to death if you miss your bus.

To survive in the barren Canadian wilderness one often has to rely only on a swiss army knife, a disposable lighter and what nature has provided. By piercing the gas tank of a parked car with the knife starting a fire with the lighter one can keep warm for precious minutes and survive until the next bus arrives.

Huh? Whoa there… I thought I was on top of my ‘get by when things go wrong’ skills. But boiling water in a paper / plastic bottle? How do you keep the paper from falling apart or disintegrating so it can’t hold your H2O? How do you keep the plastic from melting? I hope you can see why I find this counterintuitive… if you can 'splain you may A) save my life someday or B) let me impress the hell out of my friends. Maybe both. Thanks.

Once in a while you can get shown the light
in the strangest of places
if you look at it right…

Personally, not being an outdoorsy type, I’d probably die like a fish. I found the topic interesting though, because it reminded me of my brother. Last year he was diagnosed with Graves Disease and had to have his tyhroid destroyed. He will have to take thyroid hormones for the rest of his life. He was pretty blue about this for some time, and the family was a little confused as to why he was so depressed – after all, his prognosis was excellent. I, knowing him well, knew what his problem was: He has always prided himself on being a survivor. He believed fondly that if dropped onto a desert island with nothing, he could survive… The fact that he would now die in pain unless standed on a desert island with a Rite-Aid made him face his mortality full-frontal. Never fun.


Full of 'satiable curtiosity

BOILING WATER IN A PAPER CUP and other unlikely containers.

A paper cup containing water placed in a fire will not burn below the level of the water. Water can be boiled in it this way. (It is best to fill it to the brim.) If it was designed to hold water in the first place, it probably will not fall apart during the process and one can make ones’ own paper cup out of a sheet of paper with no glued seams. Plus one needs to imbed the cup in ashes or in the coals to support it, which will keep it from falling apart.

Some might come apart, but those chances are slim.

A plastic bottle, top section cut off, filled with water, will not melt below the line of the water. (Remove the hollow, glued on bottom manufacturers often put on them to enable them to stand upright. THAT, being unprotected by the water, will melt.)

It is a known fact that any burnable or meltable container, when filled with water and exposed to heat, will not burn or melt because the water will not allow this.

In plastic, one may experience the upper edges melting or burning, but they will not go below the level of the water. In a survival situation, the little bit of contaminate this may add to the water is acceptable.

(Muddy or murky water can be filtered into the container by placing a piece of ones clothing over the opening prior to filling. It will not get all of the gunk out, but large chunks of it. Boiling is to kill harmful bacteria.)

One might not like the looks or taste of the finished liquid, but it will keep one alive when there are no other sources available.

“Think of it as Evolution in action.”

Thanks there… going to go home tonight and try and make myself a cup of tea in the fireplace.

Mark: You’re wrong about the plastic. Paper MAY work, if it’s porous enough to saturate with water. If it’s wet it won’t burn, and the water will conduct the excess heat away.

Plastic doesn’t work like that, nor would a coated paper cup that doesn’t absorb water. Those will simply burn through and the water will run out.

You can actually boil water in a large leaf, if you can fold the leaf so it makes a cup and then pin it together with a couple of twigs or something.

The original message in this thread sounds a little preachy to me. Before you congratulate yourself on being a smoker, you might want to consider that the odds of you ever saving your life through having matches or a lighter on you are orders of magnitude smaller than the odds of your dying of cancer from your smoking.

A lot of people who die in the wilderness die simply from panicking. They don’t stop and THINK. Some of them are so conditioned by the notion that it can’t happen to them that they don’t even start to think about long-term survival until it’s too late. Once hypothermia sets in, it affects your ability to think, it affects your hand-eye coordination, and even if you do manage to get a fire going and get some shelter it might be too late to save your life.


Paper WILL work, whether it is soaked through or not. That’s the first lesson one learns in Scouts and it was demonstrated on Mr. Wizard and I, personally, have done it. Same with a plastic water bottle. The water inside conducts the heat away from the material it is against and keeps it from combusting. SOME plastics may reach a softening point at the temperature of boiling water and give way.

No, I was not congratulating myself on being a smoker, but was just being sarcastic. I have observed an increase in deaths or near deaths of people lost since it became a major thing to stop smoking and people stopped carrying matches or lighters.

True, panic kills many, but exposure kills just as often if someone is unprotected. yes, drinking containers or boiling containers can be made out of leafs – especially if you live in a tropical state, but most northern states rarely have large leafed plants.

Hot stones fished from a fire may be used to boil a plastic bottle of water if stacked around it also. For the energetic, a shallow trench dug in the dirt, filled with fire, then covered with a thick layer of sand and green vegetation can provide a warm bed on a very cold night. So can sleeping between two fires.

Correct, coated paper cups might not work, especially wax coated Dixie cups because they are held together by the wax itself. (No, guys, you cannot boil water in that ancient condom you’ve probably been carrying in your wallet since high school. Too thin. It will burst.)

Sections of Bamboo are excellent – only make sure you DON’T use a double jointed section. If you place a section in a fire with a sealed joint, it will explode. Plus, you’ll want to clean out as much of the inner lining as you can with a stick. BIG sections of Bamboo make EXCELLENT water carriers also, but few places have major stands of Bamboo.

“Think of it as Evolution in action.”

It seems, as usual, Dhanson has beaten me to yet another thread.

Sorry to disagree on this one with you DH but MarkSerling has it right. I think the confusion lies in his description of the process.

What you need to do is start a fire and let it burn down a bit. (no flame) Pile the coals into a heap and make a depression in the center. Place your flammable cooking pot into the depression (already filled with water if possible)and backfill around the edges with ash. This will keep air from coming in contact with the outside. The water on the inside keeps the whole shebang from rising above 100c. Anything that falls apart at or near the boiling point of water will not work. So those wax coated soda cups are out. Plus even if the seams held, the water would have parafin floating in it.

Solar stills are highly overated in survival type publications. They will, at best, produce 4 oz of water in a day, and if no suitable drinking tube is available, have to be reconstructed every time you open it. Still 4 oz is better than none.

Water stored in bamboo is bound to be rank after 12 hours, less in the tropics. Boil it.

In my experience, most people vastly overestimate their wilderness survival skill. Watching nature shows will not give you the experience you need, nor will practicing at a jamboree. I see several “experienced” hikers a year heli-lifted out of the forest after a couple of days spent lost in the wilderness. They usualy look as if they narrowly escaped death, while my buddies and I frequently spend weeks in the same area for recreation.

The key, of course, is preparation. Know your terain and do not exceed your ability. If you cant read a compass, stay on marked trails. Not loosing your head and compounding your problem helps as well. But keep in mind that even competant outdoorsman can be bested by mother nature. A flash flood or blizzard come to mind as things that could kill even a skilled survival expert.

I’m not a smoker
but I carry a lighter always
cause of dogs which may or may not
always be prepared,says I

Evilghandi: There’s a good reason why I always beat you to these threads: I have no life.

Have you actually tried the plastic container thing? I have. Didn’t work. But it MAY work, depending on the type of heat source involved. See, plastic is a decent insulator, and as a result won’t conduct the heat applied to it to the water very quickly. So if you apply a hot source (like an open flame) to the exterior of the plastic bottle, the temperature on the outside will rise above 100C and the plastic will melt through. An extreme example would be taking a blowtorch to it. The temperature gradient is just too high, and the water can’t conduct the heat away fast enough.

Now, if you could put the plastic container in a smoldering fire and keep the surface of the plastic away from direct contact with red-hot coals, it might work.

EG – Don’t mind if I call you EG, do ya?
You are correct about people watching nature shows and thinking they can survive without practice. I had the fortunate experience of living in a richly wooded rural area as a child, where there was only 1 other house on my block and just 1 on the block behind me. I had no kids living within a mile of me so I spent much time in the woods.

I practiced what I learned and still do when I go camping by boat on some of the small, local river islands. (It takes A LOT of sweetgrass stems to even dull an appetite and fresh fish cooked without spices, right from the water, over a fire is kinda crappy.)

Now, here is a cool thing you can do at home. Dig a fire pit about 3 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet. Pack it with wood and burn it up into a real good bed of coals. Take one chicken, clean it well and remove those extra fat chunks they leave in the flaps. Stuff it with a chopped up mix of tomatoes, green pepper, mushrooms, onions, MUCH garlic, some celery and small, new potatoes (cut those in half). Add salt and pepper and tobasco sauce. Seal the flaps with a couple of thin, sharp sticks. Wrap in about 8 layers of heavy duty aluminum foil. Bury in the coals completely. Cover the whole thing with dirt and go get drunk for about an hour and a half. Dig up, dust off, open up and enjoy!

In Florida and other southern states, plantan leaves or palm fronds will do just as well, but layer heavily.

Right about the Bamboo also. The water will sour if kept in there too long, especially in green tubes. One can fire dry them for better tasting and longer lasting water.

“Think of it as Evolution in action.”

When I was younger I actually did the ‘roughing it’ thing to extremes a couple of times. As a young teenager I read a book called, “My Side of the Mountain” about a young boy who wants to be Thoreau, and runs away from home and lives in the woods. I wanted to be like him. So more than once I spent a couple of nights in the woods armed with nothing more than a knife and a flint and steel. It seemed awfully romantic at the time. I built a lean-to, a nice reflector fire, and spend the day whittling all kinds of little neat cooking implements and hunting down berries and tubers for soup stock.

Now I look back on it and think I must have been insane.

Mark, all of your “skills” will do you no good, because when civilization collapses I will hunt you down and eat you for dinner. Did you know that human flesh tastes superb after two hours burried in a charcoal pit with spring onions, gingerroot and radish greens. Just dig up, dust off, open up and enjoy!

Who’s Mr. Survival now?

Hell is Other People.

Pshaw on all of you. You’re making this far too complicated. If one finds oneself too far away from the resort and the guides out of touch, one simply whips out the Iridium phone and calls the concierge, who will happily send a car. Sheesh!

Livin’ on Tums, Vitamin E and Rogaine

Ha! I was out in the woods with some friends and we wanted to test out my little trivial bit of knowledge that water in a cup can boil.

We filled a big plastic cup with water and stuck it in our fire (big ole roarin fire too) and watched it. The cup slowly melted, but never did it melt below the line of the water.

So there, you can, I’ve done it, whoever messed up used the wrong kind of plastic. Use a big red plastic dixie cup.

A few things I always carry with me while camping/hunting:
A good knife(I carry a Buck with a large blade on one side and a hide ripper on the other. A wire saw(these are great, get a tough one, not one of those el cheapo survival knife models). Butane lighter. Compass. A couple of power bars(taste like shit but, if conserved, can last a few days and provide great enrgy). Space blanket. About 20 ft of twine(I use DOD parachute cord). 2 qt canteen.

The best way I’ve found to boil water in the wild is by dropping hot stones from a fire into the water. You can use a cup, or even a depression in a rock to do this.

If you are without something to hold the water, you can try this: Cut about a six" long cylinder from a tree or branch that is about 6" to 12" in diameter. Place smouldering coals in the middle of one of the ends and blow gently, spreading the flame/smoulder onto the wood. Control the burn with water or by rubbing with a stick to put out the fire when it comes close to the edges. Continue until you have burned a hole deep into the “cup/bowl”. Warning: This takes a long time. Sometimes an hour or two, but you end up with a great implement.

I’ve also messed around with making arrowheads and fishing hooks by carving an impression into wet wood then melting the shot from shotgun shells(this required putting them into a beer can which was cut in half, but I’m sure you could do it another way) and pouring it in.

Of course the question begs to be asked,“Why make arrowheads when you have shotgun shells?”. Well, ok, umm…for fun dammit!

“Teaching without words and work without doing are understood by very few.”
-Tao Te Ching

BTW, I made those burn-cups and boiled hot water with stones while camping with the kids one time. We made hot chocolate in them and they thought it was great! (Gotta impress the kiddies :wink:

There you have it, testimonial that the plastic boil method does work. A side note would be, Water boiled in molten plastic tastes like crap. Do it, say, “wow” then dump it and grab the bottle of CC.

That aside, here are EvilGhandi’s survival tips.

Pack an days extra food. My favorite is compressed mince meat It comes in a small (2"x2"x4") box that is sealed like those juice boxes the kiddies love. It tastes like crap but it weighs in at over a lb. and contains the caloric content of a whole pie. It’s compact size and shelf life of 300,000 years make it ideal.

Foil survival blanket. Works as shelter and doubles as a signaling device.

Extra matches. If you own a seal-a-meal or similar device, use it to waterproof the pack.

Pocket knife, in your pocket.

A small candle.

Possibles bag, This is an old peice of frontier gear that no outdoorsman is ever without. Like the little tool kit in your trunk, it should contain do dads an watchhickies you can use to preform repairs to your gear. Mine contains; saftey pins, stiff wire, some duct tape on a stick, a couple 6" squares of cloth, a hotel sewing kit, 6’ of dental floss (versatile stuff)and a single edged razor. (I know I forgot something.)

A little bottle of bleach. (Do you really think you will be able to boil water in a downpour?)

A little tin cup and some sort of water container.

Experience, Take your survival kit and a plastic tarp out to the woods and live on only it for a weekend. Marvel how your “emergency” rations seem to be your main course.

Dan, insane indeed, Flying around has made your legs weak, get out and walk, in the woods, with the bears… or not.

Mark, sounds right on. The part about eating grass for dinner tells me you know your stuff.

Democritus, umm… there has to be a reason to melt your bullets? Beer was always ample reason for me.

Sake, stick to hunting city boys, unless you are prepared to take on someone who has killed wild boar with a buck knife.

And lastly…


Matches v wild dogs? Am I missing the joke here?