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When it comes to survival, the more you know, the better. While you can’t possibly prepare for every single thing that is out there, you can try your best to be as aware of as many of them as you can. Sometimes these bits and pieces of knowledge can seem quite like useless trivia at times, but don’t be fooled. The knowledge is there not to be useful ALL the time, but rather to be there when you need it the most.

1. Need Help? Create a Thick Fire Signal

A combination of fresh pine and spruce leaves produces a lot of smoke, which is what you want with the signal. Start out by building a small fire using dry leaves, twigs, or other tinder. Collect the fresh pine and spruce leaves and compile them into a bow. When the fire is up and smoking, put the leaves over the fire, making sure to cover it completely. This will cause the branches to burn intensely, producing even more smoke.

2. How to Stay Cool in the Desert

This may not be the best-smelling solution to preventing heatstroke when you’re out in the scorching desert, but it works. Take a piece of cloth like a bandana and soak it in urine. Wrap it around your head and it will keep your head from feeling the wrath of the sun. Heatstroke is the second leading cause of death in the desert, next to dehydration.

3. How to Tell Where North Is With an Analog Watch

If you need the help of a compass but you don’t have one, you can use an analog watch to do that. Point the hour (short) hand at the sun and draw two imaginary lines between it and the 12 o’clock point. You will create an angle between the two lines. Draw an imaginary straight line bisecting the angle. The line point away from the sun is north because the sun always goes to set in the west direction.

Disclaimer: telling time by the sun doesn’t work as effectively when you are too far up north or south.

4. How to Tell Where North Is Without an Analog Watch

Don’t worry. As long as you know what time it is, you can still tell where north is. Simply draw an analog representation of the time on the ground and draw the lines from there. Cellphones are particularly useful in telling the actual time regardless of where you are because mobile tech nowadays uses GPS to be able to tell the time of the day regardless of location. Of course, it’s always advised that a survivalist have a watch with them at all times.

5. Always Have Char Cloth Ready

Take any small piece of cloth and place it inside a metal container. Make sure that the container has a cover. Burn the container (with the cloth inside it) for a couple of minutes. You know you’re doing it right if the cloth remains intact but is dark from all the burning. Char cloth is really great for starting fires because it catches fire with just a small spark.

Tip: Try cutting or ripping a large cloth into really small pieces and neatly roll them inside a tuna can. You’ll have yourself an entire pack of char cloth!

6. Use Hand Sanitizer to Start Embers

Hand sanitizers may look like they’re only useful for cleaning your hands, but they’re also good for starting fires. This is because they contain alcohol, which is flammable. Simply use some of the stuff on a char cloth or some leaves or other tinder and they’ll easily catch fire from a spark. Always keep a small bottle in your pocket.

7. Use Pine Wood Shavings to Start Fires & Repel Mosquitos

The resins from pine trees are very useful if you reduce them into tiny shavings. They easily catch fire and can therefore be used as an easy-to-find ingredient for starting fires because they can be found practically everywhere. But what makes them special is that the smoke that’s produced from burning the shaved fat wood makes effective mosquito repellents.

8. Retain Body Heat With Readily-Available Items

This is a lifesaver in many situations where you’re caught in really cold weather and you’ve got no means of starting a fire. Simply stuff newspaper, dry grass, and leaves under your clothes and you’ll be retaining significant amounts of body heat when you need it the most. You can do this to almost all of your clothing, from head to toe.

9. Get Water from Trees

This works on any tree, but it works better on trees with leaves that are directly exposed to the sun. Wrap a plastic bag around the leaves. When the sun forces the water inside the leaves to evaporate, the water will be trapped inside the plastic bag and settle into the plastic bag. With proper positioning, the water will be trapped in a way that you can simply poke a hole through the bag so that the water flows through. You can then keep the water in a container. Note: Make sure your plastic bags are clean.

10. Use Toothpaste to Relieve Bug Bites

This is a well-known home remedy for burns and some wounds, but few people know that their toothpaste can help treat bug bites as well. This is because they have properties that will help soothe any itchiness or pain that most bug bites cause. They will also help reduce any swelling that might result from the bites.

11. Keep Tampons in Your Survival First-Aid Kit

Tampons are very effective in dealing with deep wounds because they were designed to absorb lots of moisture. They also gradually take the shape of the wound as they swell over time. You can bring lots of them because they’re small, lightweight, can be bought almost anywhere, and are pretty inexpensive.

12. Keep a Used-Up Lighter Handy

If your Zippo or flintlock lighters have run out, keep them because you can still use them to make fire. There’s usually cotton inside these types of lighters. Take them out and use the flint to create a spark. The cotton is usually so dry it will catch fire easily. Alternatively, you can keep using the lighter to create sparks that could help you start a fire with other types of tinder-like char cloth.

13. Have Aluminum Foil Within Reach

While you’ll always have this in your survival food kit to store your food, keep a separate sheet in your bag to always have a dry surface. This can come in handy as a dry surface to start fires on, especially when it just rained and the soil is too damp for you to be able to start a fire. Use this with your char cloth and other tinder you have with you and you’ll be able to start a campfire even when it’s wet outside.

Aluminum foil can also be used as a makeshift bowl. Simply place a rock on top of the foil and wrap it around, using the rock as a mold. Tinfoil can also be used as a reflector around a campfire to maximize the heat. The uses of aluminum foil are endless.

14. Reduce Excessive Light with Masking Tape

Having too much light from your flashlight could be dangerous at night depending on your situation. Placing masking tape over the light will lessen the amount of light enough to give you a low profile while giving you plenty of light to work with.

15. Know How to Find the North Star

The North Star always points to true north, which is great for when you don’t have a compass at night or when you want to check the accuracy of the compass you have. Try looking for the big dipper first, which is easy to find if you know your constellations. Then draw an imaginary straight line through the edges of the big dipper and this will lead you to the tail of the little dipper. This is the North Star.

16. Opt for a Guitar Case as a Survival Bag

This is a rather unusual but very useful alternative to the typical bug-out pack. The shape of the case will allow you to store an unbelievably large amount of items. Plus, it’s very inconspicuous, especially when a hiker’s or camper’s backpack is often the easiest way to spot a person who isn’t from around the area, which can have its disadvantages. It’s a good way to pack lots of stuff without sticking out in public.

17. Use Carbon Steel Parts as Body Armor

The carbon sheets that you can get from saws have been proven to be able to withstand 22 caliber pistol bullets. With just a bit of duct tape and some proper attachment, you can create armor around your backpack and clothes that will protect you from shrapnel, arrows, and certain types of bullets. They’re bendable, snap-proof, and pretty darn useful. There is a caveat though, carbon steel will rust and is not stainless steel.

Always check on the condition of your tools before use.

18. Grill Survival Food with Metal Picks

You will most likely have long, thin metal rods or picks (used for tents) among your equipment. You can use this to form a makeshift grill by laying them across two logs. Use twigs and strings to keep them intact when necessary. Set this up over a fire and you can grill fish over the picks. You can use an aluminum cup to boil water over this setup as well.

19. Use Hot Stones for Warmth & Water Purification

Even after the fire has died, the rocks will still hold on to enough heat to keep you warm. The heat of the rock can also be used to purify water. Simply place them inside aluminum cans filled with water. It will cause the water to boil, purifying it enough to be safe to drink.

In some scenarios, it might be necessary to boil water underground.

20. Improve the Taste of Water by Adding Charcoal

The water from swamps, even after they’ve been purified, can still smell really dodgy. To remedy this, add some charcoal to the water while it’s being boiled. Not only does this add to the purification process, but it also makes the water taste much more “drinkable.” It also takes away that bad smell.

Bonus tips

1. Always Wear a Survival Bracelet

More popularly known as paracord bracelets (because they’re made from the same material as military-issued parachutes and equipment), these bands are more than just accessories. They’re actually cords that are woven together, which you can unravel and use partly whenever you need the cords to tie stuff up. Almost every single piece of the paracord bracelet is a usable string – right to the small threads that are used to keep the end of the cords together. Use them to tie stuff, hang food, set up traps, and even as tinder to start fires.

2. Use Aluminum Sheets to Improve Your Survival Shelters

The aluminum blankets or sheets added to your shelter will significantly increase your shelter’s heat retention capacity. The aluminum facing outward of the shelter can also reflect sunlight, allowing you to stay cooler under the shelter. Among the survivalist community, these are referred to as “super shelters,” and rightfully so.

3. Use Glow Sticks to Improve Personal Visibility

These aren’t just for rave parties. Glow sticks make it easy for you to be spotted at night (i.e. by rescue groups). When needed, activate one of the sticks and tie them with a paracord outside your backpack, allowing it to hang freely. You will be very easy to spot even in pitch-black darkness with these glow sticks.

4. Use a Poncho for a Quick Shelter & Water Desalination/Collection

These seemingly simple disposable raincoats actually have so many uses in the outdoors. Obviously, it’s best used as a raincoat, but here are some other things you can do.

  • Use it as a makeshift shelter. It’s big enough to fit one person.
  • Use it to desalinate seawater. Just boil seawater underneath a tented poncho to catch the vapor and produce the water through condensation. This will separate the salt from the water, making it drinkable.
  • Use it to collect rainwater.

5. DO NOT Use Unclean Water to Wash Wounds

While this sounds like common sense, a lot of people will make the mistake of using water in rivers to clean their wounds without treating them first. Bodies of water, as clear as they may seem, will have bacteria from all sorts of matter, including animal feces. If your hand has any cuts or lacerations, don’t ever dip them into the water.

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