Category Archives: Skills

strength and honor

Learn these 12 Outdoor Skills Right Away

12 OUTDOOR SURVIVAL SKILLS EVERY GUY SHOULD MASTER

Every man should be able to at least make a fire.

Think fast: You’re stranded in the woods with darkness falling and no help in sight. Can you to get safety before the elements (or wild animals) get to you? Wilderness guru Creek Stewart checks in to help you determine if your outdoor skills are really.

Survival Skill #1
Locating a Suitable Campsite
“You want to stay high and dry,” Stewart says. Avoid valleys and paths where water may flow toward you (flash floods get their name for a reason—they can deluge a low-lying area in minutes). Choose a campsite free from natural dangers like insect nests and widow-makers—dead branches that may crash down in the middle of the night—as well as falling rocks. Ideally, you want to be close to resources like running water, dry wood (from which you can assemble your shelter and build a fire) and rocky walls or formations that can shield you from the elements.

Survival Skill #2
Building a Shelter
Not surprisingly, hypothermia is the number one outdoor killer in cold weather. That means a well-insulated shelter should be your top priority in a prolonged survival situation. To make a simple lean-to, find a downed tree resting at an angle, or set a large branch securely against a standing tree, and stack smaller branches close together on one side. Layer debris, like leaves and moss, across the angled wall. Lastly, insulate yourself from the cold ground–which will draw heat from your warm body–by layering four to six inches of debris to lie on.

Survival Skill #3
Starting a Fire With a Battery
Any battery will do, says Stewart. “It’s about short-circuiting the battery.” Connect the negative and positive terminals with a wire, foil (like a gum wrapper), or steel wool to create a spark to drive onto your tinder bundle. Have your firewood ready.

Survival Skill #4
Building Your Fire
Stewart views fire building in terms of four key ingredients: tinder bundle of dry, fibrous material (cotton balls covered in Vaseline or lip balm are an excellent choice, if you’ve got them) and wood in three sizes—toothpick, Q-tip, and pencil. Use a forearm-sized log as a base and windscreen for your tinder. When the tinder is lit, stack the smaller kindling against the larger log, like a lean-to, to allow oxygen to pass through and feed the flames. Add larger kindling as the flame grows, until the fire is hot enough for bigger logs.

Survival Skill #5
Finding clean water
“You’ll come across two kinds of water in the wild,” Stewart says. “Potable water that’s already purified, and water that can kill you.” When it comes to questionable water—essentially anything that’s been on the ground long-term, like puddles and streams—your best option is boiling water, which is 100 percent effective in killing pathogens. But sometimes boiling isnt an option.

Rain, snow, and dew are reliable sources of clean water you can collect with surprising ease, and they don’t need to be purified. With a couple of bandanas, Stewart has collected two gallons of water in an hour by soaking up dew and ringing out the bandanas. You can also squeeze water from vines, thistles, and certain cacti. Are there any maple trees around? Cut a hole in the bark and let the watery syrup flow—nature’s energy drink.

Survival Skill #6
Collecting Water With a Transpiration Bag
Like humans, plants “sweat” throughout the day—it’s a process called transpiration. To take advantage of this clean, pure source of water, put a clear plastic bag over a leafy branch and tie it tightly closed. When you return later in the day, water will have condensed on the inside of the bag, ready to drink.

Survival Skill #7
Identifying Edible Plants
There’s no need to go after big game in a survival situation, and chances are you’ll waste energy in a fruitless attempt to bring them down. “Make your living on the smalls,” Stewart says. That means eating edible plants (as well as small critters like fish, frogs, and lizards).

Separating the plants you can eat from those that will kill you is a matter of study and memorization. Buy a book to familiarize yourself with plants in different environments. And don’t take any chances if you’re uncertain (remember how Chris McCandles died in the end of Into the Wild). A few common edible plants include cattail, lambsquarter (also called wild spinach), and dandelions. Find these and eat up.

Survival Skill #8
Using a Split-tip Gig to Catch Critters
Gigging (hunting with a multi-pronged spear) is the simplest way to catch anything from snakes to fish. Cut down a sapling of about an inch in diameter, and then split the fat end with a knife (or sharp rock) into four equal sections ten inches down. Push a stick between the tines to spread them apart, then sharpen the points. You’ve got an easy-to-use four-pronged spear. Much easier for catching critters than a single sharp point.

Survival Skill #9
Navigating By Day
If you ever find yourself without a GPS tool (or a simple map and compass) you can still use the sky to find your way. The most obvious method to get a general bearing by day is to look at the sun, which rises approximately in the east and sets approximately in the west anywhere in the world. But you can also use an analog watch to find the north-south line. Just hold the watch horizontally and point the hour hand at the sun. Imagine a line running exactly midway between the hour hand and 12 o’clock. This is the north-south line. On daylight savings? Draw the line between the hour hand and one o’clock.

Survival Skill #10
Navigating By Night
Find Polaris, or the North Star, which is the end of the Little Dipper’s handle. If you can find the Big Dipper, draw a line between the two stars at the outer edge of the constellation’s dipper portion. Extend this line toward the Little Dipper, and it will line up with Polaris. Face Polaris, and you’re facing true north. If there is a crescent moon in the sky, connect the horns of the crescent with an imaginary line. Extend this line to the horizon to indicate a southerly bearing. Once you determine your direction, pick a landmark nearby or in the distance to follow by daylight.

Survival Skill #11
Tying a Bowline
Knots come in handy for a slew of survival scenarios—tying snares, securing shelters, lowering equipment or yourself down a cliff face. Ideally, you should have an arsenal of knots, from hitches to bends to loops, in your repertoire. But if you learn only one, learn the bowline.

“It’s your number one, go-to rescue knot,” Stewart, who uses a mnemonic for every knot, says. It’s foolproof for fastening rope to an object via a loop, particularly when the rope will be loaded with weight: the harder you pull, the tighter the knot gets. Stewart’s mnemonic for tying the bowline from any angle is “the rabbit comes out of the hole, around the tree, and back in the hole.” Use this mnemonic, says Stewart, and “it doesn’t matter if you tie it spinning on your head. It’s going to come out right.”

Survival Skill #12
Sending Up a Survival Signal
At times—like when you have a debilitating injury—your only hope for getting saved is to maximize your visibility so rescuers can find you. Two methods, if used properly, will guarantee that, if someone’s looking, they’ll see you.

The first is a signal fire—and the first rule is to put it out in the open for visibility. That means hilltops or clearings in a forest where nothing, like a cliff face or trees, will disperse the smoke. Create a platform to raise the base of the fire off the ground so moisture doesn’t saturate the wood. Save your absolute best combustible material for your signal fire to guarantee a quick light. Once the fire is lit, pile on green branches, like pine boughs in winter, to produce thick smoke. “It’s not about warmth, it’s about 15 seconds of smoke,” Stewart notes. “That’s about all you’ve got when you hear a plane before it’s out of sight.”

The second is a mirror signal. A flash from signal mirror—even at night, by moonlight—can be seen for miles, much farther than any flashlight. You don’t need a store-bought signal mirror to be effective. Improvise with any reflective surface you’ve got, from rearview mirrors or headlights to a cell phone screen. Aiming the reflection is the key, and it’s simple. Hold out a peace sign and place your target–be it plane or boat–between your fingers. Then flash the reflection back and forth across your fingers.

Strength and Honor

10 Ways To Become a Better Man

10 Ways To Become a Better Man in 2016

Evolve and Dominate –

“Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.”
– HL Mencken

How will you start the new year? Let’s face it, most of us will do the same shit this year as we did last year. Of course, same doesn’t always mean bad. If what you are doing is working than why would you change it. But same doesn’t mean good either. So, if you feel like there are parts of your life that you haven’t figured out yet, you’re not alone. I want to start off by saying this isn’t about B.S. resolutions that you’ll drop halfway into February. I’m talking about real life changing habits that can be reinforced day by day.

Remember, self-improvement does not have to coincide with a calendar or a clock.

It’s about progression and practice. It’s about maturity and growth. It’s a quest to build a strong body and a great life – the kind you can be proud of. So, Let’s get to it!

Do something in each category, each day, for 30 days and you will be totally surprised.

1. Constantly improve yourself
This is the single biggest step you can take to achieving the body and the life that you have always wanted. Make a list of the major areas in your life that you want to improve on and take action. Just do something small each day and you will be surprised by your progress. For example, if you want to be stronger but you can’t get to the gym try doing push ups in the morning and again in the evening.

2.  Stop projecting your weakness onto others

All of us have projected our own thoughts, feelings, motivations and desires onto others, and have been at the other end of projection. Many of us learned to project onto others as we were growing up, when our parents, siblings or caregivers projected their unconscious feelings, thoughts and motivations onto us.

3.  Replace bad habits with good habits

All of the habits that you have right now — good or bad — are in your life for a reason. In some way, these behaviors provide a benefit to you, even if they are bad for you in other ways. A few ways to break a bad habit are to choose a substitute for your bad habit, cut out as many triggers as possible, join forces with somebody, and surround yourself with people who live the way you want to live.

4.  Learn to take the lead

Do not wait for a crisis to emerge to make a decision. Inventory your values and goals, and set a plan for how you will react when certain crises arise and important decisions need to be made. DO NOT wait to make you choice until the heat of the moment, when you will be most tempted to surrender your values. Set a course for yourself, and when trials come, and you are sorely tested, you will not panic, you will not waver, you will simply remember your plan and follow it through.

5. Become an expert in a thing that you enjoy

If there’s something you like to do — playing basketball, cooking, watching history documentaries, drinking beer, whatever — becoming an expert in it will make it even more fun and fulfilling. For me, it’s Aikido and green tea. I’d recommend listing 2-3 things that you really like to do. Then pick on or two and figure out can learn more about it, become better at it, or both. Read articles, watch free videos, buy a book, or find someone who’s really good and knowledgeable at it.

6. Spend more time alone in nature

Every organism has an ideal habitat; take it out of its habitat and it could die, or at least suffer ill-effects. Take a freshwater fish and stick it in a saltwater tank, and soon the fish will be floating belly up. Time spent outdoors is linked to lower levels of obesity. Nature keeps you mentally sharp. Nature promotes calmness and fights depression – need I say more?

7. Stop comparing yourself to others

It is natural to compare yourself to others, and even envy them. But when you become obsessed with your deficiencies, rather than the areas in which you excel, you are focused on the wrong thing. This can be debilitating and it can even prevent you from taking part in many aspects of your life. The first step is changing how you view yourself to to become aware of it.

8. Be on FUCKING TIME

No need to explain this one. Either you get it or you don’t.

9. Give your best

Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.

10. Embrace the grind

The grind, its what separates the winners from the losers. It’s what gets your hand raised at the end of a long fought battle. It’s what lets you know what you are doing to win. The grind beats you up… wears you out, knocks you down and whispers in your ear “you’re not good enough”. “Is that all you’ve got”, The grind picks you up and pulls you forward. When the time comes to reach down through pain and weakness, the last reserve of strength you have left, the grinds got your back. the grind can not be tamed, it cannot be put off for tomorrow,The grind pushes you through your feet and lifts you to victory , you should not fear the grind but respect it, don’t avoid the grind embrace it.

Oh, and use beard oil.

Strength and Honor

The Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement – One Day at a Time

Get 1% Better Every Day.

Written by Brett Mckay

www.ironjohnbeard.com

The Power of Taking on Step at a Time.

Strenght and Honor

The Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement –

It’s happened to all of us.

You have a “come to Jesus” moment and decide you need to make changes in your life. Maybe you need to drop a few pounds (or more), want to pay off some debt, or desperately long to quit wasting time on the internet.

So you start planning and scheming.

You take to your journal and write out a bold strategy on how you’re going to tackle your quest for self-improvement. You set big, hairy SMART goals with firm deadlines. You download the apps and buy the gear that will help you reach your objectives.

You feel that telltale rush that comes with believing you’re turning over a new leaf, and indeed, the first few days go great. “This time,” you tell yourself, “this time is different.”

But then…

You had a long day at work, you just can’t make it to the gym, and by golly, eating an entire pizza would really make you feel better.

Or an unexpected expense comes up, and your bank account dips back into the red.

Or you decide you’ve been doing really well with being focused, so what’s a few minutes of aimless web surfing going to do?

Within a matter of days, your fiery ambition to change yourself is extinguished. That audacious, airtight plan in your journal? You don’t even look at it again because along with your goal to lose weight, your daily journaling goal has also met an untimely demise.

And so you’re back to where you started, only even worse off than before. Because now you’re not just an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man, you’re an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man who has failed at not being overweight, in debt, or easily distracted. The sting of failure can feel like an existential gut punch.

But time heals all wounds. Nature has — for better and worse — blessed us with terrible memories, so we forget how crappy we felt when we failed in our last attempt to radically improve ourselves.

Thus, six months later that itch to change yourself returns, and the whole scenario plays itself out again, like some Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich-infused version of Groundhog Day.

Getting Off the Roller Coaster of Personal Development
Our quest to become better often feels like a roller coaster ride with its proverbial ups and downs. By the time you’re headed down Self-Improvement Mountain for the twentieth time, you’re vomiting out the side of your cart in self-disgust, cursing yourself that you once again bought a ticket to ride.

Why are our attempts to better ourselves usually so uneven, and why do they so frequently end in failure? There are a few reasons:

Focusing on the big goal overwhelms us into inaction. It’s an article of faith in the world of personal development that you have to make big, Empire State goals. You don’t just want to dominate in your own life — you want to dominate the world.

And so you draw up plans for leaving behind the 99% of schmos out there, and becoming part of the extraordinary 1% — not necessarily as measured in pure wealth, but in passion, fitness, financial independence, and number of Machu Picchu pics in your Instagram feed.

But the enormity of your goals ends up overwhelming you into inaction. What we moderns call “stress” would be better termed “fear”; the physiological reaction is the same in both emotions. A big, audacious goal looks to the brain just like a saber-toothed tiger stalking us in the woods, and the idea of paying off $100K in student loan debt seems so impossible that it’s actually scary. And when our brain encounters scary, the old amygdala kicks into fight-flight-freeze mode, and you assume the position of deer-stuck-in-headlights.

Big, giant goals can be awe-inspiring. But like many awe-inspiring things — a lion, a black hole, the Grand Canyon — they can also swallow you whole.

We think a magic bullet will save us. Let’s say that we’re able to overcome the torpor-inducing effects of aiming for radical personal change, and we start taking action towards achieving our goals. As humans are wont to do, instead of just getting right to work doing the boring, mundane, time-tested things that will bring success, we typically start looking for “hacks” that will get us the results we want as fast as possible and with as little work as possible. We want that magic bullet that will allow us to hit our target right in the bulls-eye with just one shot.

The danger of looking for a magic bullet is that you end up spending all your time searching for it instead of actually doing the work that needs to be done. You scroll through countless blog articles on productivity, in hopes of discovering that one tip that will make you superhumanly efficient. You listen to podcast after podcast from people who earn their living telling people how to make money online, hoping one day you’ll hear an insight that will unlock your businesses’ potential, so you too can make your living online, telling other people how to make a living online. You research and find the perfect gratitude journal so you can be more zen.

The insidious thing about searching for magic bullets is that you feel like you’re doing something to reach your goals when in fact you’re doing nothing. Magic bullet hunting is masturbatory self-improvement. All the pleasure, without the production of metaphorical progeny.

vintage 1927 Bill Jones motivational poster proud of your record

We stop doing the things that helped us improve in the first place. Okay. So let’s say you don’t let the bigness of your goal overwhelm you, and you’re not a chump magic bullet hunter either.

You get to work. Slowly but surely you start seeing results. You lose five pounds. You whittle $200 off your debt. You meditate for 20 minutes a day for a whole week.

You’re having success!

But in our personal backslapping, we would do well to heed Napoleon’s warning: “The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory.”

There’s a tendency for folks to view self-improvement as a destination. They think that once you reach your goal, you’re done. You can take it easy. So when these folks start having some success and things start getting better in their lives, they stop doing the things that got them to that point. And so they start backsliding.

I fell into this trap when I was first trying to get a handle on my depression. I’d take some proactive steps to leash my black dog — meditate, write in my journal, get outside, etc. As soon as I started to feel better, I’d think, “Hey! I beat it this time! I’m cured!” So I let up. I stopped doing the things that helped me feel better in the first place. And of course, I went back to feeling terrible.

Self-improvement isn’t a destination. You’re never done. Even if you have some success, if you want to maintain it, you have to keep doing the things you were doing that got you that success in the first place.

The Kaizen Effect: Get 1% Better Each Day
“Little strokes fell great oaks.” –Benjamin Franklin
It’s time to get off the self-improvement roller coaster.

To do so, we’re going to embrace the philosophy of small, continuous improvement.

It’s called Kaizen. It sounds like a mystical Japanese philosophy passed down by wise, bearded sages who lived in secret caves.

The reality is that it was developed by Depression-era American business management theorists in order to build the arsenal of democracy that helped the U.S. win World War II. Instead of telling companies to make radical, drastic changes to their business infrastructure and processes, these management theorists exhorted them to make continuous improvements in small ways. A manual created by the U.S. government to help companies implement this business philosophy urged factory supervisors to “look for hundreds of small things you can improve. Don’t try to plan a whole new department layout — or go after a big installation of new equipment. There isn’t time for these major items. Look for improvements on existing jobs with your present equipment.”

After America and its allies had defeated Japan and Germany with the weaponry produced by plants using the small, continuous improvement philosophy, America introduced the concept to Japanese factories to help revitalize their economy. The Japanese took to the idea of small, continual improvement right away and gave it a name: Kaizen — Japanese for continuous improvement.

While Japanese companies embraced this American idea of small, continuous improvement, American companies, in an act of collective amnesia, forgot all about it. Instead, “radical innovation” became the watchword in American business. Using Kaizen, Japanese auto companies like Toyota slowly but surely began to outperform American automakers during the 1970s and 1980s. In response, American companies started asking Japanese companies to teach them about a business philosophy American companies had originally taught the Japanese. Go figure.

Illustration small things add up over time self-improvement

While Kaizen was originally developed to help businesses improve and thrive, it’s just as applicable to our personal lives, and it’s the antidote to perpetual, puke-inducing rides on the self-improvement roller coaster.

Instead of trying to make radical changes in a short amount of time, just make small improvements every day that will gradually lead to the change you want.

Each day, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever it is you’re trying to improve. That’s it. Just 1%.

It might not seem like much, but those 1% improvements start compounding on each other. In the beginning, your improvements will be so small as to seem practically nonexistent. But gradually and ever so slowly, you’ll start to notice the improvements in your life. It may take months or even years, but the improvements will come if you just focus on consistently upping your game by 1%.

You’ll eventually reach a certain point with your personal development in which a 1% increase in improvement is equal to the same amount of improvement you experienced in the first few days combined. That’s sort of hard to get your mind around, because math. But think about it: 1% of 1 is just .01; 1% of 100 is 1. You’re maybe at a 1 right now, and will only be making tiny improvements for awhile. But stick with it. You’ll eventually reach that 100 level (and beyond) where you’ll be improving by a factor of 1 every day.

That’s the power of the compounding effect.

Why Kaizen Works
“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.” —John Wooden
The Kaizen approach to self-improvement completely circumvents the unproductive ups and downs all too common to the quest. By breaking down big, overwhelming goals into super small, discrete pieces, Kaizen encourages action. The small successes you experience with your baby steps feed on each other and start building some momentum, which leads to taking bigger and bigger actions.

What’s more, one of the underlying assumptions of Kaizen is that there is no magic bullet that will suddenly make things better. Change comes through small, continuous improvement. Instead of wasting your time searching for the “one thing” that will change everything, Kaizen calmly directs your attention to the task at hand and offers this needed reminder: “You already know what you need to do. Get to work and find small ways to improve along the way.”

Finally, Kaizen isn’t a “one and done” approach to life. It’s a process of continual improvement. You’ll never “arrive” with Kaizen, so the temptation to rest on your laurels once you’ve seen a bit of improvement is reduced. The Kaizen mindset reminds you that all improvements must be maintained if you wish to secure your gains. As Rory Vaden says: “Success isn’t owned, it’s rented. And the rent is due every day.”

How to Implement Kaizen in Your Life
Ask yourself this question every single day: What’s one small thing I can start doing that would improve my life? The Bearded Lifestyle.

Then, start small. Like really small:

Want to start the exercise habit? Just do a single push-up as soon as you roll out of bed in the morning. The next morning, add another. And so on and so forth. In two months, you’ll be doing 60 push-ups in the morning. In a year’s time, you’ll be giving Charles Bronson a run for his money.
Want to establish a morning and evening routine? Start with the evening, and concentrate on the 10 minutes right before you go to bed. Plan what you’ll do during those 10 minutes — it can be as simple as brushing your teeth for 2 minutes, flossing for 1, and reading for 7 — and make it a habit. Every day, add 5 more intentional minutes until your whole evening becomes a satisfying routine. Then work on the morning.
Want to start journaling? Instead of making it a goal to write a page each day, just start off with writing for a minute. That’s it. You might only get a sentence or two down, but that’s okay. The next day, add a minute. In a month, you’ll be writing in your journal for 30 minutes if that’s something you want to do.
Want to start reading your scriptures more? Start with one.single.verse. Add another verse each day, until you’re reading a chapter a day.
Want to start meditating? Begin with a minute of breathing exercises. That’s it.
Want to lose weight? Cut out one sugary drink a day. Or cut your usual afternoon snack in half.
You get the idea. Think of the smallest step you can take that would move you incrementally towards your goal. Then try to make it even smaller.

When tackling big goals, it’s usually advised to only work on one goal at a time, but with the Kaizen approach, working on several things at once it entirely doable.

Try to do just 1% better than the day before. Start small and make your increases gradual. Avoid the temptation to get impatient and start rushing forward and taking bigger leaps. Take it slow, steady, and consistent.

Simply try to do a little bit better than you did the day before.

Yes, the improvements will be gradual. Some days you may not even notice your improvement and it will be tempting to abandon ship and try something else. But with Kaizen, Father Time is your ally. You’ve got to play the long game with your self-improvement — you have to develop what wrestling legend Dan Gable calls the “Patience of Change with your self improvement.”

As my buddy Mark Rippetoe would say, “Just do the program!”

Once you’ve reached your goal, start a maintenance plan, and keep it up for the rest of your life. Lost enough weight? Keep up the manageable diet/exercise plan you’re on, indefinitely. Reached the point where you’re reading 30 minutes a day? Keep it up, and enjoy watching a library of read-books accumulate year after year.

Self-improvement isn’t a destination. It’s a process. It’s like shaving; even though you did it this morning, you’re still going to have to wake up and do it again tomorrow. The process never ends.

Give up on the idea that you’ll someday “arrive.” You’ll never arrive. Instead of focusing on the results of your effort to improve yourself, focus on the process. Joy in the journey, and all that jazz.

And remember this: If you want to maintain the improvement you’ve made, you have to keep doing the things that brought you that success in the first place. Don’t let your early success lull you into a false security, and allow yourself to slack off.

What About Setbacks?
Of course, you’ll encounter setbacks. Some days you may get worse by 1%. That’s okay. It’s just 1% worse. Forget about yesterday and concentrate on today. Get back into the saddle and start doing 1% better again.

Change is possible.

You can get better.

It just takes time and patience.

With small strokes, you shall surely fell great oaks.

The Bearded Lifestyle Series.

12 Outdoor Skills Every Man Should Master

Could you complete these Skills?

Team Strength and Honor 

Sure, you’re in decent shape, and your iPhone has GPS and an app for everything. But what happens when you’re injured or stranded and the batteries die? You need a few key skills for the inevitable moment when you find—or lose—yourself without that digital crutch.

Survival expert Creek Stewart, author of Build The Perfect Bug-Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit, has spent thousands of hours testing himself in real world survival scenarios and training others to be competent in the skills he’s learned. “It’s not if disaster will strike,” he likes to say. “But when.”

“You can read countless books on survival methods and watch YouTube instructional videos all day long,” Stewart says. “But until you get out into the field on your hands and knees and practice those skills yourself, all you’ll have is  a false sense of security that you’d know what to do in a crisis.”

If you’ve haven’t mastered these 12 core tenets of wilderness safety, there’s no time like the here and now to practice. Bring your most backwoods-savvy friend along for guidance—and don’t forget to let someone else (friends, family, park rangers) know exactly where you’re headed before you take off.

Survival Skill #1
Locating a Suitable Campsite
“You want to stay high and dry,” Stewart says. Avoid valleys and paths where water may flow toward you (flash floods get their name for a reason—they can deluge a low-lying area in minutes). Choose a campsite free from natural dangers like insect nests and widow-makers—dead branches that may crash down in the middle of the night—as well as falling rocks. Ideally, you want to be close to resources like running water, dry wood (from which you can assemble your shelter and build a fire) and rocky walls or formations that can shield you from the elements.

Survival Skill #2
Building a Shelter
Not surprisingly, hypothermia is the number one outdoor killer in cold weather. That means a well-insulated shelter should be your top priority in a prolonged survival situation. To make a simple lean-to, find a downed tree resting at an angle, or set a large branch securely against a standing tree, and stack smaller branches close together on one side. Layer debris, like leaves and moss, across the angled wall. Lastly, insulate yourself from the cold ground–which will draw heat from your warm body–by layering four to six inches of debris to lie on.

Survival Skill #3
Starting a Fire With a Battery
Any battery will do, says Stewart. “It’s about short-circuiting the battery.” Connect the negative and positive terminals with a wire, foil (like a gum wrapper), or steel wool to create a spark to drive onto your tinder bundle. Have your firewood ready.

Survival Skill #4
Building Your Fire
Stewart views fire building in terms of four key ingredients: tinder bundle of dry, fibrous material (cotton balls covered in Vaseline or lip balm are an excellent choice, if you’ve got them) and wood in three sizes—toothpick, Q-tip, and pencil. Use a forearm-sized log as a base and windscreen for your tinder. When the tinder is lit, stack the smaller kindling against the larger log, like a lean-to, to allow oxygen to pass through and feed the flames. Add larger kindling as the flame grows, until the fire is hot enough for bigger logs.

Survival Skill #5
Finding clean water
“You’ll come across two kinds of water in the wild,” Stewart says. “Potable water that’s already purified, and water that can kill you.” When it comes to questionable water—essentially anything that’s been on the ground long-term, like puddles and streams—your best option is boiling water, which is 100 percent effective in killing pathogens. But sometimes boiling isnt an option.

Rain, snow, and dew are reliable sources of clean water you can collect with surprising ease, and they don’t need to be purified. With a couple of bandanas, Stewart has collected two gallons of water in an hour by soaking up dew and ringing out the bandanas. You can also squeeze water from vines, thistles, and certain cacti. Are there any maple trees around? Cut a hole in the bark and let the watery syrup flow—nature’s energy drink.

Survival Skill #6
Collecting Water With a Transpiration Bag
Like humans, plants “sweat” throughout the day—it’s a process called transpiration. To take advantage of this clean, pure source of water, put a clear plastic bag over a leafy branch and tie it tightly closed. When you return later in the day, water will have condensed on the inside of the bag, ready to drink.

There’s no need to go after big game in a survival situation, and chances are you’ll waste energy in a fruitless attempt to bring them down. “Make your living on the smalls,” Stewart says. That means eating edible plants (as well as small critters like fish, frogs, and lizards).

Separating the plants you can eat from those that will kill you is a matter of study and memorization. Buy a book to familiarize yourself with plants in different environments. And don’t take any chances if you’re uncertain (remember how Chris McCandles died in the end of Into the Wild). A few common edible plants include cattail, lambsquarter (also called wild spinach), and dandelions. Find these and eat up.

Survival Skill #8
Using a Split-tip Gig to Catch Critters
Gigging (hunting with a multi-pronged spear) is the simplest way to catch anything from snakes to fish. Cut down a sapling of about an inch in diameter, and then split the fat end with a knife (or sharp rock) into four equal sections ten inches down. Push a stick between the tines to spread them apart, then sharpen the points. You’ve got an easy-to-use four-pronged spear. Much easier for catching critters than a single sharp point.

Survival Skill #9
Navigating By Day
If you ever find yourself without a GPS tool (or a simple map and compass) you can still use the sky to find your way. The most obvious method to get a general bearing by day is to look at the sun, which rises approximately in the east and sets approximately in the west anywhere in the world. But you can also use an analog watch to find the north-south line. Just hold the watch horizontally and point the hour hand at the sun. Imagine a line running exactly midway between the hour hand and 12 o’clock. This is the north-south line. On daylight savings? Draw the line between the hour hand and one o’clock.

Survival Skill #10

Navigating By Night
Find Polaris, or the North Star, which is the end of the Little Dipper’s handle. If you can find the Big Dipper, draw a line between the two stars at the outer edge of the constellation’s dipper portion. Extend this line toward the Little Dipper, and it will line up with Polaris. Face Polaris, and you’re facing true north. If there is a crescent moon in the sky, connect the horns of the crescent with an imaginary line. Extend this line to the horizon to indicate a southerly bearing. Once you determine your direction, pick a landmark nearby or in the distance to follow by daylight.

Survival Skill #11
Tying a Bowline
Knots come in handy for a slew of survival scenarios—tying snares, securing shelters, lowering equipment or yourself down a cliff face. Ideally, you should have an arsenal of knots, from hitches to bends to loops, in your repertoire. But if you learn only one, learn the bowline.

“It’s your number one, go-to rescue knot,” Stewart, who uses a mnemonic for every knot, says. It’s foolproof for fastening rope to an object via a loop, particularly when the rope will be loaded with weight: the harder you pull, the tighter the knot gets. Stewart’s mnemonic for tying the bowline from any angle is “the rabbit comes out of the hole, around the tree, and back in the hole.” Use this mnemonic, says Stewart, and “it doesn’t matter if you tie it spinning on your head. It’s going to come out right.”

Survival Skill #12
Sending Up a Survival Signal
At times—like when you have a debilitating injury—your only hope for getting saved is to maximize your visibility so rescuers can find you. Two methods, if used properly, will guarantee that, if someone’s looking, they’ll see you.

The first is a signal fire—and the first rule is to put it out in the open for visibility. That means hilltops or clearings in a forest where nothing, like a cliff face or trees, will disperse the smoke. Create a platform to raise the base of the fire off the ground so moisture doesn’t saturate the wood. Save your absolute best combustible material for your signal fire to guarantee a quick light. Once the fire is lit, pile on green branches, like pine boughs in winter, to produce thick smoke. “It’s not about warmth, it’s about 15 seconds of smoke,” Stewart notes. “That’s about all you’ve got when you hear a plane before it’s out of sight.”

The second is a mirror signal. A flash from signal mirror—even at night, by moonlight—can be seen for miles, much farther than any flashlight. You don’t need a store-bought signal mirror to be effective. Improvise with any reflective surface you’ve got, from rearview mirrors or headlights to a cell phone screen. Aiming the reflection is the key, and it’s simple. Hold out a peace sign and place your target–be it plane or boat–between your fingers. Then flash the reflection back and forth across your fingers.

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Signal Fire

Signal Fire