Lost in the Woods

If I was lost in the woods, (North East, North America, about 40deg Latitude), without any tools, just the clothes on my person, what is:

a) best method of starting a fire?

b) what to eat?

c) what to eat (if anything) in winter?

I read a storey once about a boy lost in the Candian woods with not much more than an ax. I believe he started a fire by finding some type of rock or minerial that sparked when struck with the ax. Could you start a fire some how without any metal? What was the rock?

Just some thoughts while hiking yesterday through a shady wood.

Bob Z

Look for a book called “The SAS Survival Guide”, or something to that effect. It’s chock-full of neat tips on asserting your natural superiority over nature.

Whoops, shoulda said your “rightful” or “God-given” or something else instead of “natural”.

Well, I know this isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, but my advice would be:

  1. Find a stream. At 40 deg lat in eastern US (think about a line going west from NYC), this would be easy.

  2. Follow the stream (in direction of waterflow) to civilization. It won’t take longer than 6-8 hours anywhere around 40 deg lat in eastern US, and in most places, probably less than an hour or so.

But you’re probably assuming you’re out of reach of civilization until you get unlost.

To make a fire, you can use cedar bark strings and a rock and twirl a stick in it until it ignites the cedar, etc. But don’t hold your breath, it’s damn near impossible unless you’re an Indian who’s been doing it all his life or something.

Food? Cattail tubers, wild onions, and hickory nuts, I guess. Wintertime would be very tough.

Anyway, the moral of this story is: if you’re going somewhere you could get lost and have to spend the night, you need to bring a survival kit: Some powerbars, iodine water purification tablets, first aid kit,knife or leatherman and a poncho. Mike a kit and leave it in your daypack, then it’s a no-brainer.

MAKE a kit, even…:smack:

The SAS Survival guide, as already mentioned above. Wiseman used to be a SAS soldier (if you don’t know, the SAS are the British equivalent of the American Delta Force). This book is the BIBLE on survival in inhospitable lands. I’ve looked through it a few times, and it deals with everything from recognising poisonous mushrooms / plants, filtering water, making fires, making primitive traps and snares and navigation by stars and the sun. There’s also a much larger version of the book, although I don’t know whether it is more detailed, or just has more pictures.

You could also look out for surivival programs on TV. In the UK there used to be a program called “Tracks” which dealt with this sort of thing, and one of its presenters (forgotten his name at the moment) now presents similar programs on his own.

PS: The presenter I’m thinking of is Ray Mears. He also seems to have written a few books, too:

The rock used to start fires is flint (but you need metal to use it to start fires). It’s also useful for making tools, like knives, axes, and spear or arrow heads. Basically, hit it with another rock and it’ll chip into sharp edges. You can find flint in most riverbeds in the region you’re asking about (and I think all over the world). It’s a black rock, slightly shiney. If in doubt, try breaking it with another rock, and if it gives sharp edges, then yep, it’s flint.

If there are any clearings in the woods, by the way, you can add dandelions to the list of edible stuff. Early in the spring, the greens are delicious, and even after blooming when they get bitter, they’re still quite edible. And if, by chance, you can catch and kill any sort of fish, bird, or mammal, that’ll be edible, too, though you’d probably want to cook it if possible, and not keep any past a day or two.

I have a question about that statement, Chronos… are you sure you need metal to start a fire? I think that as a kid, I used to strike two flints together… and done fast enough, they would produce sparks. Just the two rocks hitting each other, no metal required. Or am I imagining that?

No, you are correct. Striking two flints together also produces a spark, IIRC. Although it’s normally done with the blade of a knife.

You can strike flints together to make sparks, but it is not anywhere near as effective as flint and steel.

In winter, you can hypothetically start a fire by using an ice lens.


Although in a real-life situation, I suspect you’d merely be amusing yourself while freezing to death.