How To Start a Fire in the Woods

by Richard G – How To Start a Fire in the Woods

Fire and Life

campfireNo discover since the beginning of time has been more important to the development of mankind, then the discovery of Fire. The simple presence of a fire added to the routinely “normal” day in the outdoors instantly adds the feeling of safety to any situation. In any severe or extreme condition, the presence of fire, literally means life. There are many ways to start a fire. They all have the same effect. The Boy Scout Handbook states, “A fire can warm you, cook your meals, and dry your clothes. Bright flames lift your spirits on rainy mornings.

On a starry night, glowing embers stir your imagination.”  The base items needed to build all fires are, Tinder, Kindling and Fuel. Each of these must be collected and be prepared before any attempt to build the fire. These three items are common to all fires. Tinder is material that catch fire easily and burn fast. Wood shavings, pine needles, dry grasses, shredded bark and the fluff from seed pods all make good tinder. You should gather enough to fill a hat. Kindling is dry, dead twigs no thicker than a pencil.

Gather enough to fill a hat twice. Fuel, fuel wood can be as thin as your finger or as thick as your arm. Gather dry dead sticks and limbs. When gathering fuel wood remember these three rules. One, you must always have at least 3 sticks in the fire at a time or it will go out. Two, if you want to burn one, 3” stick, you need to have three 1” sticks burning first. Three, gather twice as much fuel wood then you think you’ll need. Once you have all of these items collected you are ready to begin building your fire.

In every case covered below you will use your “source” to ignite the tinder, which will ignite the kindling, which will ignite the fuel wood. The effect is always the same regardless of the cause of the initial item(s) used to generate the initial ember, spark or flame that actually starts the fire as these take many forms.

Most Common Igniters

The most common and easiest items used to start fires are matches and cigarette lighters. Matches work by striking them against a special surface in order to get them to ignite. The match heads contain sulfur (sometimes antimony III sulfide) and oxidizing agents (usually potassium chlorate), with powdered glass, colorants, fillers, and a binder made of glue and starch.

The striking surface consists of powdered glass or silica (sand), red phosphorus, binder, and filler. When you strike a safety match, the glass-on-glass friction generates heat, converting a small amount of red phosphorus to white phosphorus vapor. White phosphorus spontaneously ignites, decomposing potassium chlorate and liberating oxygen. At this point, the sulfur starts to burn, which ignites the wood of the match. (

Cigarette lighters work by rotating a steel wheel that is in contact with a flint. When the wheel is turned the flint produces a spark which ignites the stored fuel in the lighter creating a flame.

Either of these when applied to the Tinder will result in a fire being started.

Metal Fire Starters

Magnesium and flint fire starters are also very common. A piece of flint approximately 1/8” x 3” will be attached to a piece of magnesium that is approximately 5/8” x 1” x 3”. It works by scraping a small amount of the magnesium from the block onto your tinder. (Magnesium burns at 5000 degrees Fahrenheit.) You then want to strike the flint in a manner to create a spark that will be thrown into the magnesium and tinder.

This is done by holding the bottom of your knife blade directly over the tinder and magnesium. You then place the top rear portion of the starter against your knife blade. Then holding the fire starter firmly with under your knife blade you draw the started backward quickly.

This produces a spark that flies forward from you knife blade into the tinder and magnesium. If you attempt the hold the starter still and create the spark by moving you knife forward across the starter you will most likely know the tinder all over the place.

Wet Weather Starters

Wet weather creates a particular challenge when trying to start a fire. I have found that taking cotton balls and coating them with Vaseline works wonderfully in wet weather. You can fit about 10 coated cotton balls in a 35mm film can. They work by removing one cotton ball from the can and stretching it out until the cotton ball is very thin. Using any of the above methods to light the cotton ball will result in a small steady flame that will burn upwards to 8 minutes.

Lightning was probably the cause of the first fire that man every got to enjoy. If you have got the time, lightning may start your next fire for you too. Otherwise it would be smart to be prepared with a few of the items listed here to help you build you next fire. It could well mean the difference between life and death for you.

How To Stockpile Animal Traps and Related Gear To Supplement Your Survival Food Storage Now And Post Collapse

A supply of animal traps for foraging could mean the difference between life and death to the survivor

A supply of animal traps for foraging could mean the difference between life and death to the survivor

Harvesting wild game for the stew-pot is excellent long-term survival strategy as long as you don’t plan to live off of harvested wild game exclusively. Wild game should be considered as only one link, in your food resupply chain, and not as the whole chain.

You must have variable and independent sources of resupply, lined up and ready to go. I’ve seen too many preppers, who plan to rely 100% on their stored foods. They have no resupply chain, and if the crisis lasts longer than their food stockpile, then they are out of luck.

Plus your stockpile can be looted, burnt, blown away or destroyed a hundred other ways, so please don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak. Plan on losing your main supply, and make plans that will allow you to keep on feeding your family, regardless of how empty your storage shelves become.

But I digress, from the intended subject of this section, and that is suggested tools and traps that you’ll need when foraging for wild game.

To start you’ll need to learn how to trap and use the following trap, and related suggestions to their full effectiveness. To help you with this I can suggest a couple of books, but you’ll still need to get off of your rear-end and actually, go outside and do it. You’ll need to practice, practice and then practice some more, because most animals are smarter than the average human when it comes to trying to trap them.

Books that you should have include:

There are other good how-to-do-it trapping books available, but the three above are my top recommendations. Just don’t think that you’re an expert or proficient trapper just because you read a book, you’re not. You have to get outside and DO IT!

Snares are effective for harvesting small game - be sure to set out 10 or more in different locations to increase your chances.

Snares are effective for harvesting small game – be sure to set out 10 or more in different locations to increase your chances.

As for trap and gear recommendations, I suggest that you lay in a good supply of small game snares, you can make your own snares, but I’ve found that it’s just as cost effective to order them pre-made in bulk, than to make your own, especially when you consider your time.

The Dakotaline Rabbit Snares that are linked to above are the perfect size and weight for trapping small game like rabbit, squirrel, and pheasant. Larger game can also be taken (easily I might add) with snares, but you’ll have to make your own, heavy-weight snares for this (disclaimer: check and follow game laws… yadda, yadda, yadda), full details are given on the pages of the book Survival Poaching, that I linked to above.

My next trap recommendation is the 110 Single Spring Body Trap, these are perfect for rabbit and squirrel sized game, and can be set without a setting tool by most people. When setting these traps, it’s a good idea to use a Safety Grip Tool, for your safety.

These traps work by snapping shut hard enough to kill the animal with a blow to the neck, and have enough power to break your hand if it’s accidentally triggered while you’re setting the trap if your hand is caught.

Benefits of Harvesting & Eating Venison

27 Benefits of Harvesting & Eating Wild Venison: A Look at Venison vs Beef

eating venison

The $10 Fire Kit For Your Bug Out Bag


by P. Mueller

It all began this past winter while watching the national news. Apparently an older couple decided to try an untested short cut home from a nearby casino. This short cut happened to be through a lightly traveled mountain pass. Did I mention there was a blizzard going on at the time? Well, there was. You know what happens next. The folks got lost and their car became stuck in the snow and they weren’t going anywhere. They must not have believed in being prepared for situations like this because they had no useful supplies with them, not even a bit of food, water or matches.

After hearing this story, I decided that I would build an inexpensive fire kit for each of my vehicles, and while at it, another for a prepper friend whose birthday was coming up. Since there are typically higher priorities for my cash, I thought I’d challenge myself to build a waterproof fire kit for under $10. And the challenge was on.

The first step was to comb the internet websites, blogs and YouTube for ideas. To say there are a lot of great ideas is an understatement by far. There are tons of styles and types of containers alone, from mint tins to plastic zipper bags, along with content suggestions too numerous to name.

As stated earlier, the container had to be waterproof, so mint tins and the like were out. I browsed an on-line retailer for containers and found dozens, so once I refined the search by cost, I stumbled upon a 14 cm x 10 cm x 4 cm, waterproof plastic container for $5 with free shipping. There went half the budget and I hadn’t even started on the contents. But that was okay because I knew that I had many of the contents already in the house. I bet you do as well. This hard plastic container is water tight and closes securely against a rubber gasket with a locking latch; a prolonged submersion test was performed on each to verify that fact. The completed kits were placed into freezer zip bags as a first line of defense anyway.

Since I was already at the on-line retail site, I ordered small, but stout, 2” ferrocerium flint rods with red plastic handles and an attached striker. These cost about $3 each and also had free shipping.

While waiting for these items to arrive, I set about pulling together the rest of the contents of the kit. In an empty coffee can, I’d drop items as I found them, not knowing if they would actually be used.

FIRE KITFinally the day came when the items were delivered; the assembly process could now begin. The
first step was to pull out the 550 paracord that’s kept on hand for miscellaneous tasks and projects. The container had a cheapie cord which definitely needed replacement. After watching various on-line videos, I decided on an attractive braid called the Cobra Weave. According to the video, there was approximately one foot of cord for each inch of braid; three feet of cord would be sufficient. That should also be enough for a bow drill cord, if needed. I attached a medium sized split key ring on one end and connected the other end to the box. Now the kit could be hung in a tent, a car or from a go bag,

By this time, the rest of the needed materials had been gathered so it was time to get to work. Below is the kit inventory broken into three categories: ignition sources, tinder and miscellaneous.


Disposable butane lighter – This is your standard, full sized Bic lighter, not the mini or the cheapie. I guess the mini would work, but in an emergency situation I would want as much fuel as possible. The lighter does have a leash clip cover with a split key ring to protect against the fuel being inadvertently released. The leash clip and lighter cost approximately $2 each.

Ferrocerium flint rod – There are many options to choose from when you order these. I needed something that would fit in the container, but would not be so small that it would be tricky to grip and strike with cold hands. The two inch rod I found fit the bill. This particular model had a red plastic “winged” grip that made holding the rod very easy. The rod itself is also quite stout so there are lots of strikes before it is worn out. The metal striker was attached with a small bit of elastic cord and I knew I could do better. Out came the paracord as a replacement. It is important that the rod and striker are not separated because one without the other is useless. I know you could use a knife edge, but that assumes you have a knife.

Lifeboat matches – Here I cheated a bit. I already had the matches so I didn’t need to buy them. I wrapped six matches in plastic cling wrap along with the striker pad cut from a matchbook. For those who don’t know, lifeboat matches are waterproof and can be ignited even when wet. Make sure that the matches can’t rub against the striker or each other while in storage to avoid accidental ignition.

Matches – Again, these I had from a previous camping trip. I took a small matchbox and replaced half of the stick matches with waterproof camp matches. My thinking was that having different types gives options. Just make sure the striker on the box works with all of the matches in the kit. On one of the Alaska reality shows I watch, one gentleman said that he prefers paper matches in the freezing cold, so I included a book of plain, old paper matches.


Cat tail – Last Fall while out golfing, I came across some dried cat tail at the end of the season. I broke a couple off and stuffed them in the golf bag; now I had a use for them. I cut a section long enough that it would fit snuggly in the lid of the container and stay there. Once I wrapped it in plastic wrap, it stayed in place nicely.

Char cloth – This type of tinder intrigued me. I’d seen it work in videos, but had never made any or started a fire personally utilizing char cloth. Now was a great time to acquire a new skill. Using an old, clean t-shirt, I made enough for three patches, each 2”x 3”. Once completed, the cloth was placed into a small brown paper envelope to minimize the mess. Due to space restrictions, I can’t go into the actual process here. That could be a whole post on its own. It is simple to do though.

Cotton balls with petroleum jelly – This was a bit of a project. I cut large drinking straws into 1.5” sections and stuffed it with half a cotton ball slathered in petroleum jelly. The ends are then sealed using a lighter and needle nose pliers. This eliminates the mess and keeps the jelly from drying out or getting all over the rest of the contents.

Jute twine – This I use around the house to tie up plants or wrap packages. I cut an 18” piece and wound it tightly around two ten penny finish nails driven into a piece of scrap lumber. It snuggled next to the cat tail in the lid. There is just enough friction to keep both firmly in place. I realize that 18” is not a very long piece, but it should be enough for a fire or two in an emergency situation. More twine could be stuffed into the voids of the container when done.

Wet Fire – Individual tabs are sold at a big box hardware store nearby for $1 each. These things are great; they burn while wet. Better living through chemistry indeed.


Aluminum foil – 18”x 24”piece folded neatly so that it could be slipped on the side of the container taking up virtually no room. The foil is very handy if you need to start a fire on a wet surface. Spread this on the ground and build up from there.

Candle – This is a 4” long cylindrical candle with the diameter slightly smaller than a dime. The family got these at a church function and it was a perfect fit. The candle can be used for multiple purposes including light, heat and melting snow to make water.

550 paracord – The usefulness of this item in any emergency kit goes without saying. All together the kit consumed about five feet of cord. I used what I had on hand, but there are fifty plus sheath cover colors including a real cool reflective variety. By the way, don’t buy the cheap stuff, you’ll regret it later.

All in, I spent $11. Drat, I missed by $1.00. That’s okay though because I had a blast putting this kit together. I combined many things I already had into a potentially lifesaving kit. There are many items that you could substitute in your kit. Maybe you can get birch bark in your area or prefer fat wood or dryer lint and a magnifying glass. Customize the kit to fit your needs.

Take the $10 Fire Kit Challenge, I dare you! Make mods to this kit like wrapping it in duct tape (itself a nice fire tinder) or connect items to the key ring.

Oh, I almost forgot, the stranded folks finally made it out a week later. Hungry and cold I would imagine, but wiser for the experience.

Weapons and tools for foraging and self-defense

In this article I’ll be talking about choosing the right firearms for self-defense, and for foraging. I’ll try to keep this as short and to the point as possible while still covering everything that you really need to know, in order to make an informed decision when buying and learning how-to use those tools to feed yourself and your family.


No foraging arsenal would be complete without at least one shotgun. By simply changing shot loads or moving up to slugs the shotgun can be used to take every game and predatory animal in North America out to 100 yards. And let’s not forget that a pump-action or semi-auto shotgun loaded with buckshot or slugs makes an excellent self-defense tool, especially if the shooter knows how to use it to its maximum effectiveness.

The shotgun that you choose for foraging purposes need not be expensive; the simple single-shot break-action shotgun is an excellent tool when foraging for food, and best of all they can be bought new for under $200 in most areas, are light-weight and extremely rugged and reliable.

Add a carry sling and a way to carry some extra ammo (I like the Voodoo Tactical Shotgun Shell Ammo Pouch) and you’re ready to go foraging for small game, foul or even larger game if the opportunity should present itself.

Ammo selection will of course depend on what you’re hunting for; I like to keep several different types in my sling loops, where I can quickly get to it and change out one round for another, if needed. Say for example; that I’m hunting rabbit, and happen to spot a deer in the distance, it’s a simple matter to quietly and quickly, switch from a chambered shot-shell (I like #6 shot for small game) to a rifled slug and effectively and humanly take the deer.

For self-defense purposes I suggest a pump-action or semi-auto (I prefer the pump-action but there are also some good semi-autos available) shotgun in 12 gauge, however for smaller shooters a 20 gauge will suffice.  There are so many great brands and models available that it would take several chapters to go into any detail on each, so I won’t waste your time doing that here.

Two of my favorite pump-action shotgun manufactures are Remington and Mossberg, with my personal home-defense shotgun being a Mossberg model 590 with ghost ring sights and speed fed stock. In my opinion the Mossberg 590 is the best “out of the box” pump-action defensive shotgun available today.

.22 Rifles

No survival “arsenal” would be complete without at least one high-quality .22lr caliber rifle. Because there are literally, hundreds of quality brands and models available, I won’t take up your time by trying to go over the details of each one here, but I will instead mention several of my personal favorites.

My first choice for a semiauto .22lr would be the Ruger 10/22 takedown model; this is essentially the same rifle as the super trusted and reliable standard 10/22 but with the ability to be taken apart for transport and storage.

My first choice for a bolt-action .22lr is the Ruger American .22lr with 18 inch barrel. It’s well made with fewer parts to break than a semi auto, and I’ve found it to be more accurate out-of-the-box than any standard our-of-the-box semi auto .22lr that I’ve tested it against.

Another one of my favorite .22lr rifles is the Smith and Wesson MP 15/22, mine has been ultra-reliable after thousands of rounds, and is a perfect training tool for new shooters or for cheap live-fire practice for AR-15 owners. However it’s not my first choice when small game hunting, the .22lr that most often accompanies me on small game hunts is the Ruger American .22lr mentioned above.

My first choice when adding an optical sight (scope) to a .22lr is the Nikon ProStaff Rimfire 4 x 32 Black Matte Riflescope. I’ve tried other cheaper (and a few more expensive) alternatives when scoping .22lr rifles and found the Nikon ProStaff to be the best option.

Centerfire Rifles

Here again I’ll not waste your time by trying to cover 101 different manufactures and models of centerfire rifles, but will instead elaborate on my two of my personal favorites.

For hunting larger game in my area (Tennessee) I don’t need anything more powerful than a .308 win, however if you live in grizzly and moose country then you may want to move up to something like a .338 magnum or similar to be sure of a clean and humane kill.

My first choice for a .308 semi auto is the Smith and Wesson M&P 10. The M&P 10 is built on an AR type platform with a standard 20 round magazine. I’ve found it to be a well-made, accurate and reliable rifle. It can be used for both hunting large game and as a main battle rifle, however the current, 2015 price tag of over $1,600 will no doubt be a road block for many (I had to save for almost a year to afford it).

My first choice for a bolt-action .308 is the Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle, but with a standard rear mounted optic sight instead of the forward mounted “scout” configuration.

All of my .308’s are topped with the Nikon ProStaff 3-9 x 40 Black Matte Riflescope (BDC) optics and also have backup standard iron sights, and a sling. If you’re serious about using a rifle for defense of your property and for hunting then please get a copy of “The Art of the Rifle” by the late Jeff Cooper, it’s a great book that is full of tips and advice that will help to increase your on target accuracy.


This is one of those subjects that I hate to even get into here and that I purposely, avoid discussing in public, because it never ends well, because nearly everyone has their favorite and are unwilling to consider anything else. I too have my own personal favorites, but I’m not like some and unwell to consider other alternatives if something was proven to be better, or just as good but at a better price.

So like we’ve already done above, instead of going into a hundred different manufactures and models, I’ll simply, tell you my favorites that have proven to work for me after years of shooting, hunting, plinking and competition.

Well start with the .22lr – of which my favorite is the Browning Buckmark.  This is the top .22lr handgun made today, period. I’ve carried mine all over the forests of Appalachia, and can shoot it accurately enough to make head-shots on cotton-tail rabbits at 50 yards.

I have no idea how many rounds that I’ve put through mine but it has to be ten-thousand or more and I’ve never had a failure that was not ammo related.

Another excellent .22lr handgun is the Beretta 21A Bobcat. The Bobcat isn’t ideal for small game hunting or self-defense, but it’s weight and compact size will allow you to have it on you at all times, and any handgun that you have with you is better that the one you left at home or back at camp because it was too large, heavy and inconvenient to carry.

I carry mine when I’m on the river fishing, camping, hunting ginseng or just working around the homestead, it’s weight and size make it easy to go armed at all times. The Israeli Mossad has proven the effectiveness of the .22lr as an offensive / defensive tool with its use of the Beretta 70 in .22lr. The Beretta 70 is also carried by Israeli Sky Marshals.

By far my favorite center fire handguns are made by Glock, however they’re not the only quality choice on the market, there are many different handgun manufactures that products worth considering. The most important consideration is to purchase the handgun that fits your hand best. If the handgun fits your hand correctly, you’ll naturally shoot it more accurately.

Out of the Glock line up my favorite model is the Glock model 19. The Glock 19 is a medium-sized 9mm handgun that is the perfect size for open carry, in a belt-holster, yet small enough to be carried comfortably concealed under summer cloths. Another plus is that the Glock 19 has a 15 round magazine capacity, which is comparable with other, larger and heavier 9mm handguns such as the Berretta 92.

When it comes to ammo choices and “stopping power” there are just as many opinions as there are for handgun choices, but my personal carry load in a 9mm round is the Corbon 115 grain +p. Ballistics for this round is close to those produced by the 357 magnum and it is a proven stopper according to both ballistic research and actual real-life use.

Air Rifles

Air rifles are often overlooked by survival planners and this is unfortunate because they have a lot to offer, with the most notable being the ability to quietly take small game out to approximately 35 yards.

However to get this kind of performance from an air rifle you’re going to have to look past the $45 models like those often seen at Walmart, these don’t produce the energy or velocity that is needed to cleanly take small-game. You’ll probably have to spend over $150 at current prices before getting one that will do take small game effectively.

My personal choice and the one that I’ve taken the most small-game with is the Benjamin Titan GP Nitro Piston .22 caliber air rifle. I’ve found the .22 caliber air rifles to provide much better on target effectiveness i.e. dropping small-game in their tracks, than those in .177.

The Benjamin Titan GP .22 caliber air rifle features a 19 inch fully rifled barrel and a muzzle brake, both with a nice looking deep blued-steel finish. I also have a Ruger .177 caliber air rifle and comparatively the finish on both the metal and stock is much nicer on the Titan GP.

As with most air rifles of this type, the Titan GP has no iron sights but the rifle is grooved for mounting an optical sight. The addition of a good set of metal sights would greatly add to the overall functionality and dependability of the rifle.

But as a rule, I prefer all of my rifles to have the choice of iron sights as well as scope-mounting with see through mounts. Scopes can break, become fogged, lose zero etc., and the ability to quickly change from one sighting option to the other without losing the target aids greatly to the utility of any rifle.

The Titan GP features an ambidextrous thumb-hole stock with dual raised cheek-pieces, and while well designed, I found the reach from the grip to the trigger to be a bit long. But, this would not be a problem for shooters with larger hands or longer fingers. Even with the longer reach to the trigger from the grip, I have no problem pulling the trigger or shooting the rifle.

The rifle also has a 2-stage adjustable trigger for fine tuning to the needs of each shooter; however I found the factory setting to be very good for my needs so I left the settings as is. But, adjustment is an option and a welcome addition that I’m sure many will find very useful.

One of the main selling points of the Benjamin Titan is the Nitro Piston system and a velocity of up to 950 FPS. The Nitro Piston offers a several advantages over rifles with a metal mainspring system, such as smoother cocking, no spring fatigue, reduced vibration, functions well in cold weather and the Nitro Piston system is also much quieter.

In fact, the Titan is noticeably quieter than my other air rifles, and is much quieter than my Ruger air rifle which is the loudest of the lot.

Bows, Arrows and Blow Guns

I’ve used blowguns for small game since I was in my early teens, and I can assure you that there’re not toys, far from it. In practiced hands (and lungs) the blowgun can be used very effectively, to take small game and are much more accurate and deadly than the slingshot.

There are currently three sizes of mass marketed blowguns in the U.S. one in .40 caliber, .50 caliber and .625 caliber diameters.  Each has different advantages over the other, but I personally prefer the .40 caliber versions, because I’ve found that I can shoot them further with more accurately, and haven’t noted any difference in effectiveness when taking small game.

Fortunately, blowguns are priced so cheaply that you can buy several (or make your own) to see what works best for you. If you’re interested in finding out a wealth of information on blowguns, and how to make your own Michael Janich has an excellent book available to help you with that it’s called “Blowguns: The Breath Of Death” and covers everything blowgun related.

Another favorite weapon for foraging is the bow and arrow. In skilled hands the bow and arrow can be used to take both large and small game and like with the blowgun you can make your own. However it’s likely that nothing that you can make in the home workshop will compare to the power and velocity of commercially manufactured compound and crossbows.

Bows are like handguns in that you should try out several before deciding what works best for you. Personally, I prefer a more traditional recurve bow with a 45 pound draw weight over a compound, but that’s a personal choice and only one that you can make after gaining experience.

Survivalize your gear with survival cord

by Jim Ballou – Author of –  Long-Term Survival in the Coming Dark Age – Preparing to Live after Society Crumbles

We visited this basic idea in a prior article describing how it might be utilized with a survival carbine, but here we will consider a broader application that involves wrapping other suitable survival gear with cordage. Tubular bodied flashlights, certain knife handles, fishing rods, walking staffs, cylindrical containers, ax and hatchet handles, and other tools and gear often lend themselves well to being wrapped with cord. The practice can be a practical one in my view, for at least three good reasons:

Miscellaneous tools and gear wrapped with survival cord to give it added utility.

Miscellaneous tools and gear wrapped with survival cord to give it added utility.

Reason 1: it guarantees that if you happen to have the wrapped item with you in an emergency situation, you will automatically have with you a supply of cord. The value of cord to someone in the wilderness is beyond description. If you endeavor to build a bow and arrow, you’ll need a bowstring.

If you decide to firmly bind a spearhead to a stick, or fabricate a throwing sling, you’ll need lengths of cord. Whenever you lace up your boots, tie down your gear to secure it, suspend your supplies or food high in a tree, lash poles together to make expedient camp furniture or emergency shelters, build survival snares, weave some netting, repair torn clothing, catch fish, pull an oil rag through the barrel of your shotgun, or rig a trip-wire alarm around the perimeter of your camp, chances are some type of cord will be used for the task. In my opinion you can never really have too much of the stuff at your disposal in the remote places.

Reason 2: a tight wrapping of cord can provide a certain layer of surface protection. Especially on something like the neck of an ax or splitter maul that is repeatedly subjected to the shock of impact with tough firewood during chopping and splitting, a cord-wrapped handle will sustain this shock arguably better than will an unbound handle.

Finally, a cord-wrapped surface provides a more secure grip than, say, a smooth bare wooden or plain steel handle. Sometimes simply maintaining a firm, no-slip grip on a tool can help prevent potentially nasty accidents. Additionally, a cord-wrapped handle tends to provide a more comfortable (or tolerable) grip in very cold or very hot weather.

Small items might also be wrapped with small cord, thread, or lace. This Zippo lighter’s surface was first wrapped with duct tape to help hold the cord in place.

Small items might also be wrapped with small cord, thread, or lace. This Zippo lighter’s surface was first wrapped with duct tape to help hold the cord in place.

Okay, so now that I’ve given you my three main reasons in favor of the survival cord wrap, I have to acknowledge that an argument against doing so also exists, and this was pointed out in comments following the article wherein I described wrapping the stock of a carbine.

It was explained that cordage, like any other fabric, tends to hold moisture and if kept close against most metal or wooden surfaces for a period of time will contribute to the rapid rusting, rotting, or corroding of these surfaces.

I believe this is a perfectly valid concern. I also understand that the idea proposed here isn’t for everyone, or necessarily even appropriate for every piece of survival gear. I think we should identify our priorities, and weigh all of the pros and cons whenever adding to or altering any important piece of equipment.

The handle of a stainless steel diver’s knife wrapped with #550 parachute cord.

The handle of a stainless steel diver’s knife wrapped with #550 parachute cord.

I will say, however, that I have been wrapping many of my own tools and other equipment with all kinds of cord for nearly three decades, and I have yet to ever personally observe this kind of problem with any of my wrapped gear. My guess is that nowadays with polymers, aluminum, and stainless steels being such popular materials comprising so much of our modern survival gear, this is perhaps not as common an issue now as it might have once been.

My answer to this controversy is simply, if our goal is to maximize the utility value and versatility of our gear for survival, then we need not concern ourselves much at all with these aesthetics issues. The possibility of causing a little surface rust over the long term would likely be the least of my concerns when faced with any immediate real-live survival situation.

Now, for those who ultimately decide to wrap their gear with cord, I have a few thoughts I wish to share with you. The type and size of cord will naturally be a very important consideration. Certain types of cordage are simply more practical for certain applications than others, and we have to think about our survival tasks. For sewing, I tend to lean toward heavier-than-necessary sizes of thread, to ensure maximum strength where long-lasting strength could be preferable.

For general-purpose small diameter cord (larger than thread but still smaller than parachute cord), I personally prefer Polyester Dacron instead of nylon for the material of composition, simply because Dacron stretches less (I have heard that Kevlar exhibits little or no stretch under tension as well, but I have no personal experience with it to share).

My thinking is that I might use it to improvise a bowstring, and I don’t want the cord’s length to start growing after a few shots. I also don’t have much faith in artificial sinew, because my understanding is that it is comprised of stretchy nylon. The American Indians used real animal sinews for bowstrings quite a lot, however, and it obviously served them very well.

Okay, so now let’s say you’ve chosen your cord and have decided to wrap it on some of your survival gear. We briefly discussed how to do this neatly and securely in the previous article, but it might warrant repeating for any new readers.

First, form a bight in the standing end of your cord and lay this stretched out flat along the length of the object being wrapped. Then wind tight and tidy coils of cord around the object (and over this bight), progressing towards the kink in the bight until only a small “eye” is left of it protruding from under the final end of the wrapping.

Now simply feed the running end through the eye and firmly pull on the standing end of your cord to draw the eye together with the trapped running end under the coils. Trim away any excess cord (and maybe melt the ends with a lighter to prevent fraying) and the task is complete.

If you wish to create a very temporary wrapping, it is easy to form a “quick release” in the running end that allows the cord to be removed quickly and without any cutting, or time-consuming prying and un-tying. While feeding the running end through the eye just before drawing everything together, simply double it back and run it though again so that the eye actually traps a bight in the running end. This leaves you an end of cord that can be pulled to undo the whole works.

Here a clear plastic jar used to store miscellaneous small hardware also serves as a handy spool for small-diameter survival cord.

Here a clear plastic jar used to store miscellaneous small hardware also serves as a handy spool for small-diameter survival cord.

I have found that the surfaces of some types of gear – glass jars come to mind – are slick and very difficult to firmly wrap with cord without having the coils sliding unmanageably all over the place. This is sometimes remedied by wrapping a layer of duct tape around the item before applying the cord, to give the cord something to grip onto.

I have also found that it is very easy to attach a lanyard cord to most objects by wrapping over the lanyard’s running end/ends. This could make an item more accessible perhaps by providing a convenient way to hang it from a hook or a branch, as well as making it easier to tie securely to something else like a belt loop or a backpack.

Needle cases normally just hold sewing needles, but yours can be wrapped with various sizes of thread to make them into complete little sewing kits, saving space in your gear.
Hopefully I’ve given you some food for though here. With just a bit of preparation to some of your gear as described in this article, you might never be without valuable cordage in the wilds.

Bio : Jim Ballou has worked as a self-employed, independent insurance agent and a freelance writer for over sixteen years. More than sixty of his magazine articles on a variety of topics ranging from primitive and early American crafts and tools to wilderness survival skills have appeared in five periodicals since 2000, includingBackwoods Home Magazine, The Backwoodsman, Wilderness Way Magazine, Primitive Archer Magazine, and Modern Survival Magazine.

Mr. Ballou’s first non-fiction book titled: Long-Term Survival in the Coming Dark Age was published by Paladin Press in 2007, and it quickly became a Paladin best seller. This was followed by four other popular non-fiction titles with Paladin Press, including: Makeshift Workshop Skills for Survival and Self-Reliance, MORE Makeshift Workshop Skills,Arming For The Apocalypse, and the most recent title, The Poor Man’s Wilderness Survival Kit.

Ballou’s interests are too varied to list here but include blacksmithing, gun collecting, target shooting, reading and learning about history, writing, camping, hunting, fishing, treasure hunting, exploring, experimenting with tools and creative processes, survival and self-reliance related topics, plus all of the primitive skills, among numerous other interests and hobbies. He lives with his wife and two kids in Idaho.

Bird Feeders and Trapping Birds for Self Reliance Post SHTF

Today’s non-fiction writing contest entry was written by Brian F

Resources for this article:

Over the last couple of weeks due to the severe winter weather I felt badly for the wild birds. I did not have any store-bought feed for them so I scavenged the kitchen and came up with some treats for them.

My wife is terrified of birds, I think she was flogged by roosters as a young child so she avoids birds at any cost. When I told her what I was doing I got one of her spectacular expressions, followed by “Why?”

bird trap 1I explained that with all the snow and ice they were having a hard time of finding food. She watched while I rummage about, when I found the container of bacon grease I told her I would make a couple of suet cakes.

She always wants to help, so the suet cakes were made up with stale bread crust, flour from the night’s before home-made shake n fry batter, some old corn meal, and other bits and pieces. The grease was warmed in the micro wave and poured over the mixture in muffin tins. Once cooled I took one out to the birds.

Here’s the problem the cats decided that they liked the suet! So the birds did not get much. There a few metal post in the yard left by the former owners. I thought, Hm, post for feeders that I don’t have. But wait! I dug through my scrap material pieces, in my “treasures” I found two pieces of wood that looked as though they would be a good feeder platform.

In a few minutes in the shop I had the base made! While looking at the new feeder, I decided it needed a ledge, but the scrap wood pile is quite low. So the solution? I used an old tuna can! Screwed it to the wood base after drilling a hole in the block to slide down the post and viola! Bird feeder!

I put a couple of suet cakes in it, and in a little while I had probably 50 birds swooping in for bites.  I spent hours the next few days watching birds come and go. But my mind was still working.

Backing up, I have heard and read of stories from Italy that after WW2 meat was scarce and expensive. The people would catch small birds for the meat in their marinara sauce. I am a firm believe in being self-reliant, in the past I trapped birds for the practice. The problem was unless a ready food source was available often I would not catch birds.

bird trap 2So I can put all the pieces together in my backyard, feeders that I make, food that would just be tossed into the compost bin, traps that I can build. All this equals an addition source of protein!

Examples of grease/ fat that is often throw out, chicken cooked in the crock pot, once it cools there is a layer of fat at the top of the broth, cooking sausage yields a nice bit of fat. Obviously bacon does also. Flour and meal from our shake n fry mixes, the tiny crumbs from chip packages, bits of bread and crust. Old out of date seeds. The list can go on for quite a while.

There are dozens of traps for birds illustrated on the net. I have tried almost all of them. But by far my favorite is the “Repeating Sparrow Trap” that I have seen. I have reversed engineered this trap from photos and videos, but it can be bought from the designer and patent owner for about 60 dollars US. I will not reproduce the drawings here, really if I did it would be theft.

But if you are inventive you can build your own, or just buy one and copy it. I love mine, I set it out and caught a bunch of birds over a months time. I caught a lot of Starlings also. Nuisance, pest, imported into the U.S.

I’m sure some folks would balk at eating birds but what do you think chickens are? With using those scraps and oils that is normally throw away you are encouraging the birds to come and once they are used to seeing box traps in the yard/ garden you can catch some and weed out the imported pests.

A benefit is when the garden is going the birds will catch insects from the yard and garden, just be sure then to leave pans of water out for them to reduce pecking at your veggies.

At this time harvesting birds may be frowned upon the powers that be, but in a situation you can supplement you food storage. Which is a desirable thing, a goal that I practice. It is not difficult and just think of the hours of entertainment you’ll have watching birds or in my case watching my house cat watch the birds.

Prizes for this round (ends April 23 2015 ) in our non fiction writing contest include… Please send your articles now!

  1. First place winner will receive –  A  case of six (6) #10 cans of Freeze Dried Military Pork Chops a $300 value courtesy of MRE Depot, and a  WonderMix Bread Mixer courtesy of a $300 value and five bottles of the new Berkey BioFilm Drops a $150 value courtesy of LPC Survival – total prize value of over $750.
  2. Second place winner will receive –  A gift a gift certificate for $150 off of  Federal Ammunition courtesy of LuckyGunner Ammo.
  3. Third Place winner will receive –  A copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of and copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of

How to Make A Campfire Last All Night

How to make a campfire that will last all night with little or no further maintenance beyond the initial phase. This fire lay (or a variation) was a traditional fire used in the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Norway and Sweden. It was and is used as an all night fire lay for traditional type camping while using open front shelters. It is known there as “Rakovalkea” or “Nying”. In english it would be known as possibly “gap fire” or “long fire”.

A Quick Primer on Silent Weapons and Why You Need Them

Crosman Benjamin Trail NP .22 Caliber Nitro Piston Air Rifle

My Benjamin Trail NP .22 Caliber Nitro Piston Air Rifle from

Silent Weapons – well maybe not completely silent but silent enough to not draw attention to yourself… The value of silence under certain survival conditions could literally mean the difference between life and death for the survivor.

Taking game silently could be essential in keeping your location secret and avoiding potential threats, or frightening away every other animal in the area.

Never fall into the trap of being totally dependent on one food source. Too many things can happen to quickly deplete,  or even completely destroy your supply. Remember Morphy’s law will be in full effect and in top form after any disaster.

Please have a plan to supplement your food storage with wild game, eatable plants, fresh garden produce, domestic animals etc., evaluate your location and personal situation and plane for at least three independent sources to supply or at least supplement your survival food needs.

The area backing up my homestead / retreat is covered by thousands of acres of forest –  with an ample supply of deer, wild turkey, black bear, pheasant, rabbit and squirrel.

I would be foolish to not make preps to use those abundant resources to supplement my food storage. By far the best foraging tool is a firearm, but under most survival conditions silence would be desirable or even essential. Because of this reality,  I have several tools that will allow me effectively take game without arousing suspicion or attracting unwanted attention including…

.22 caliber CB caps

While not completely silent the .22 caliber CB caps caps are much quieter than standard loading with this round. The sound is more of a thud compared to the crack of standard rounds. Small game can be taken out to twenty-five yards with careful shot placement.


A blow-gun is the epitome of simplicity. It is basically a tube through which a dart is blown. Blow-guns offer silence not found with other weapons and the dart can reach a muzzle velocity of 250 fps or more. I bought mine years ago from a mail order supplier but they can be made at home for nearly nothing.


The sling-shot is generally seen as a child’s toy but can be very effective on small game and birds out to about twenty yards. The key is to practice enough to become efficient in its use. I’ve a folding slingshot to great effect to take a lot of small game – the animals are usually stunned and not killed and must be finished off by other means. I always keep a folding slingshot in my bug out bag.

Bow and Arrow

Modern compound bows are great for taking larger game, but are expensive with most models costing more than a comparable firearm. Primitive bows are easy enough to make from materials found in nature, for me the hardest part has always been the arrows. I have several handmade bows, but for the most part I prefer to use commercial arrows and broad heads.

Air Guns

In my opinion, the spring piston models are the best design choice of the models now available. They are cocked by a single stroke and the force driving the pellet out of the barrel is consistent meaning better accuracy. Look for a gun with a fully rifled barrel, adjustable sights and grooved for scope mounting. Also look for a rated muzzle velocity of at least 1,000 fps. Pyramid Air  has a huge inventory of great air-rifles at competitive prices and fast shipping… What types of “silent weapons do you have in your foraging arsenal?

Happy Campers Guide for Getting Away for a Few Days…

 by Happy Camper.

Camping tips…

This is my master list for camping that I would like to share with the Wolf pack, I am convinced that this is an evolving list, it will never be perfect because the people we camp with and the places we go will always be different.  I would like to know what you would do differently to what I have in my list.

I have refined my camp requirements to:

  • 3 x 50L tubs, Food, Utilities and Power.
  • Cooler box (Techni Ice 135L icebox).
  • A few chairs.
  • A step ladder.
  • Bag of assorted ropes and camp tools.
  • Tent when my children camp with me.
  • My own bedroll, bedding and water drum is permanently in my vehicle.

I aim for the 15/15/15/15 rule.  That is 15 minutes to pack, 15 minutes to set up camp, 15 minutes to pull down camp and 15 minutes to unpack the vehicle.  Anything past this time frame and things become a chore.

This is the routine that I aim to stick to, when going camping.  And below it is noted the ‘Camping Master Lists’ that are the specific items that I have in each tub if you are interested in the particular item lists.


Notify a third party that where you are going, who is going and when you will be returning.

Check on weather and tidal conditions.

Ensure that your arrival will be in suitable lighting conditions.

Check and pack all prepared items.  Aim to stick with the 15 minute rule.

Check stocks of medication and water. Ensure these items will not get damaged from travelling.

Purchase fresh food, ice and fuel vehicle.

When arriving at your destination, check communication availability, check overhanging trees, all persons to apply insect control, start camp fire and then get site set up.

Have site set up before dark including lighting and solar requirements.


All tents, tarps, sleeping items, ropes etc must be cleaned of debris and folded.

Food and utensils stored in plastic tubs are to be reassembled (these are to go into the kitchen for cleaning, sorting and restocking upon arriving home)

Pack items as to how they need to be removed from the vehicle when you get home, so the last item that you pack into the vehicle will be the first out.

Bag rubbish / recycling separately to be dropped off at a rubbish point on the way home, or put into rubbish / recycling bins when arriving home.

On the way home wash car at the car wash, generally only the outside of the vehicle can be cleaned as the inside will be full.  Refuel the vehicle if you need to.

When getting home, everyone needs to pitch in before tending to their personal requirements; this is where the term ‘many hands make light work’ comes into play.

All items are to be tended to as needed, including item cleaning, repairs, packing away. Finally vacuum the vehicle.  Have a shower, coffee and plan next adventure. J


FOOD TUB: Coffee, tea, flour, sugar, milk powder, salt, pepper, gravy, sauce, plain noodles, ramen noodles, cheese sauce powder, rice, canned foods, cereals, custard powder, peanut butter, vegemite, jam, powdered energy drinks, dry dog food, matches, cooking oil, basic first aid kit, pain meds, antihistamines,  sanitary and cleaning items, toilet paper, baby wipes, insect control, cash for sundry items and fees. Recipes for camp food- to be in another article.  Everything to be individually vacuum sealed.  All of these items are stored in a 50L water proof clip lock plastic tub.

UTILITY TUB: Cooking equipment including, tongs, egg flip, cutlery, two cast iron skillets, two pots- one is only to be used for boiling water (my personal sanity revolves around the availability of fresh coffee), dishwashing soap and cloth, sharp knife x2, army knife, can opener- old style, fire starting gear, extra matches, extra batteries (& steel wool) , cordage, screw driver, pliers, small axe, insect control, stove & butane cans and fire starting preps, each person is allocated and must maintain their own mess kit.   One butane can per meal, extra fire lighters. All of these items are stored in a 50L waterproof clip lock plastic tub.

POWER TUB: Lighting equipment, battery packs, solar panels, utility chargers and torches.  Spare torches.  Allow a minimum of one torch per person and one lantern per area, keep track of the items as they will be mobile.  Torches abscond from camp sites.

As a general rule, I have a 9v USB solar charger for each of my ipad and iphone, also I have a solar battery bank that doubles as a USB power pack and I can charge my own lantern and torch off this,  I keep these for me only, not to be used by anyone else’s hands except mine.

In my camp vehicle I made a conscious decision not to add solar panels to the roof for power within the vehicle, as a weighted decision against adding an additional battery (with isolation switch) that would be charged by the motor anyway.  Either way having a large solar panel or an additional battery I would need to purchase an inverter.  It was more beneficial to invest in a better quality inverter in my opinion.

COOL BOX: This is one of the last items to be packed, for fresh food storage, the correct way to maintain a cool temperature for a maximum period of time is to decrease the ambient temp before adding food and ice, Tip: I generally purchase fresh food and ice when heading out of town, I go to the supermarket and buy fresh items, then stop by the service station to fuel the car and buy ice.
WATER DRUM: minimum 5L per person per day, allow 10L minimum in summer.

CHAIR: for each person.  Folding step ladder for additional seating or as a side table.

TABLE: optional, I generally omit a table due to the space they take in the vehicle.

FIRST AID: Check each first aid kit before each trip, first aid kits to be located in food tub and each vehicle, several portable kits for walking / hiking trips.  Personal medication requirements at double the anticipated amounts.   Communication facilities for emergency to be in place at all times, the Australian bush has an abundance of things that like to bite.  All first aid kits to contain extra matches.

SHELTER & BEDDING: Vehicle, tents to requirements and bedding to requirements.

Tools: Hammer, axe, basic vehicle tools, additional sharp knives, scissors, army knife, matches.


Use the light and dark to your advantage,  Early morning: solar items to go on charge, clean up camp site mess (manners are important), check and pack stocks, tidy out tents, check food and water for insects, animal nibbles and spoilage.

Before dark: Finalize evening meal, have the fire going, prepare evening activities, hang wet clothes to dry, insect control, check fire wood stock.  Kids to prepare own entertainment in tents, check lighting for the evening.
Each person gets allocated named items that they need to look after: Cup, plate, utensils, torch, bedding.  “Sorry kids if you lose it, its gone”

Above all, have a great time and be safe.

**Important note: I would like to add that I went camping last week, off grid, alone.  I did not take my utilities or power tub with me.  This has got me to thinking that it may be wiser to have each tub as a combination of food, utilities and power, rather than having everything separate.  What are your thoughts on this?