How to Field Dress & Butcher a Rabbit

rabbit-hands

When my grandfathers were my age, they went through the field dressing and butchering process nearly every time they ate meat. The modern conveniences we enjoy today didn’t exist, nor did the commercial meat industry. Though I don’t necessarily enjoy the butchering process (and certainly not the killing part), it’s important to me. I feel connected to simpler times and, on some level, to my ancestors. It’s also a reminder that the meat I eat comes from a living, breathing animal. I never want to take that for granted.

I’ve written an article packed with photos over at ARTOFMANLINESS.COM titled How to Field Dress and Butcher a Rabbit.  If you’re interested in reading it, here’s the link: http://www.artofmanliness.com/2014/04/16/how-to-field-dress-and-butcher-a-rabbit/

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

creek-stewart-survivalist

PS-  For an excellent rabbit recipe, head over to GAMEANDGARDEN.com. Stacy has an amazing Fried Rabbit and Sage Buttermilk Waffles Recipe: http://gameandgarden.com/cooking/fried-rabbit-and-sage-buttermilk-waffles/

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

Build A Guaranteed Fire Kit

Spring’s a comin’ and many of you are reorganizing your gear and kits for warm weather on the horizon.  I’ve written posts before about Survival Fire Kits but I’ve never listed suggested contents in detail.  In this post I’d like to share with you what I call a Guaranteed Fire Survival Kit.  When it comes to fire, I don’t screw around. I want guaranteed fire and I want multiple options to get it – no matter what The Mutha’ might throw at me.  This is my current fire kit and one that I believe is fairly thorough.  I’ve also listed the exact contents just in case you want to build your own or modify your existing fire kit.  The fully assembled kits are also available for those who may be looking for a turn-key solution: Creek’s Guaranteed Fire Kit

fire-kit-post

Below is a description of my Guaranteed Survival Fire Kit contents:

  • QTY 1: Maxpedition EDC Pocket: The entire kit is packed in the Maxpedition EDC pocket. I love Maxpedition gear and this is a great little kit. It’s a 5″x7″x.75″ clam shell MOLLE compatible case with tons on interior storage pockets and loops for all kinds of fire implements. It’s made from 105-denier water and abrasion resistant ballistic nylon fabric and is built like a little tank. It makes for a great packable fire kit container. It’s also triple polyurethane treated for water resistance and has taped interior seams.
  • QTY 1: Char Cloth Tin: This is a 2 5/16″ x 3 11/16″ x 13/16″ metal tin (Altoids size) with a hole punched in the lid. 100% natural fabrics like cotton can be made into Char Cloth, which is an outstanding fire starting material. When you have a fire, it’s important to plan for future fires. This tin allows you to make Char Cloth and plan for future fires. See my article here about how to make char cloth: CREEK SHOWS HOW TO MAKE CHAR CLOTH
  • QTY 25: 2″x2″ 100% Cotton fabric squares. These can be used to make char cloth using the tin above. These are sealed in a water-proof resealable bag.
  • QTY 4: Tinder Quik Fire Tinder: These are a compressed, cotton based, fuel impregnated fire tinder. They are also waterproof. Each of these will light with just a spark and will burn for a solid 2 minutes!
  • QTY 15: UCO Survival Matches: These storm proof matches come in a sealed reusable plastic waterproof match case with 2 replaceable strikers. Each match will burn for 12 seconds. These are like matches on STEROIDS! They are also wind and waterproof!
  • QTY 1: 9-Hour Candle: Whether using this candle to dry fire tinder or shaving off the wax to be used as a fuel extender, this is an often overlooked piece of fire kit. This sucker will burn for 9 hours!
  • QTY 1: Light My Fire Mini Fire Steel: Light My Fire Firesteels are my favorite. They are made in Sweden and are a really great piece of kit. This one is good for 1500 strikes and produces sparks that burn up to 5,400 degrees Fahrenheit. This is without a doubt one of the best fire starting tools on the market. It is small, compact and effective. It will great sparks in virtually any weather condition on Planet Earth.
  • QTY 6: FireStix: These compressed fiber and wax impregnated sticks will light instantly with flame or sparks. They will ignite even when wet and are odorless. Great source of kindling in a pinch.
  • QTY 2: Fatwood Sticks: This all natural fire starter is one of the best I’ve used. These are harvested from stumps of pine (fatwood) from the highlands of Mexico. With their 80% pine resin content, these little guys are extremely easy to light and work even when wet. These burn long and hot and will light about any fire you can imagine. They ignite with spark or flame – must shave into shavings to ignite with sparks.
  • QTY 2: 6″ length of Jute Twine: These pieces of Jute serve as the lanyard for the Fatwood Sticks. Jute is one of the best natural firestarting tinders on Planet Earth. Buff up one of these 6″ Jute lengths to make an instant tinder bundle. Invaluable fire-starter! Will ignite almost instantly with sparks!
  • QTY 2: WETFIRE CUBES: This is a man-made fire starting tinder that will ignite even while floating in water – I’ve done it on national television! One cube can burn up to six minutes. I’ve even used one of these cubes with my Esbit Stove before to make Ramen Noodles.
  • QTY 1: Solar Fresnel Lens: The sun comes up every day and no fire kit would be complete without at least 1 solar fire starting tool. I’ve used these little fresnel magnifiers to start fires countless times. They are lightweight and easy to use. Use it on char cloth, deer poop, punky wood, tinder fungus or any other fire tinder that will smolder. These will not produce flame. You’ll need to create an ember and blow it into flame using a tinder bundle (like the JUTE TWINE).
  • QTY 1: Punky Wood: I’ve hand gathered this punky wood from the forest here at Willow Haven Outdoor. This can be used to create a BIG FAT EMBER with the Fresnel Lens listed above.
  • QTY 3: Cotton Discs: These cotton pads (make-up removal pads) are perfect for catching a spark or mixing with chap stick, petroleum jelly or pine sap to create a long burning fire tinder.
  • QTY 1: Steel Wool: Steel wool is another one of those amazing fire tinders. It will smolder with just sparks and burns VERY hot. Use this to blow a tinder bundle into flame. This will ignite even after being dipped in water!
  • QTY 1: 6″x11″x3″ 5 MIL Barrier Pouch: This heavy duty resealable pouch can be used to keep extra tinder dry or to store more fire starting tools. I can also be used as a water container as well.
  • QTY 3: 4″x6″x2″ 5 MIL Barrier Pouch: These heavy duty resealable pouches are a perfect added layer of water proof protection for water sensitive fire materials such as cotton disks and punky wood.
  • QTY 1: Disposable lighter: Uses are obvious
  • QTY 1: Carmex Lip Balm:  This can be mixed with tinder fibers (Jute/Cotton) to make the flame burn much longer – also known as a fire extender. Click here to read about how I make PET BALLS: Creek’s PET BALL Recipe

Hope you’ve found something here that’s useful.  Your turn – what’s in YOUR fire kit?

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

creek-stewart-survivalist

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

The truth about eating insects: Can you eat bugs to survive?

We’ve all watched the scenes on survival television shows when the host chomps into the most disgusting bloated white grub for the sake of “survival.” Most of Western civilization cringes at the thought of it, while many in the East lick their lips in jealousy.

Eating insects for survival isn’t taboo for the majority of the world’s population. In fact, over 1,000 different insects are eaten by 80 percent of the world’s nations. This comes as no surprise if you’ve ever been to an Asian street market. Eating insects is so common that a word even exists to define it – entomophagy. With a scientific sounding name like that, it must be legit.

Like most reading this article, I have zero interest in eating grasshoppers for lunch today. However, as a survival instructor, it’s a topic that comes up rather frequently and one that warrants discussion.

plated-hoppers

All primitive cultures I’ve studied, including Native American Indians, ate insects. All primitive cultures still in existence still eat them as well.  In survival, all edibles are fair game, and I wouldn’t hesitate for one second to eat creepy crawlies when starvation is the alternative. I had an uncle who ate insects while held capture in the Korean war. He ate other unspeakable things that kept him alive as well.

Insects may sound gross at this moment. That’s because you’re not starving. Perspective is the first to change when hunger sets in. Things you’d never consider as food start looking edible. In the case of insects, not only are they edible, many taste good and are incredibly nutritious.

Believe it or not, most insects are edible. There are, however, some major classes that are more popular than others. Beetles rank in at No. 1. Caterpillars, bees, ants, wasps, cicadas, grasshoppers, termites, locusts, crickets, larvae and grubs fall closely behind. Insects are rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, amino acids and fats. They are surprisingly comparable to beef and fish in the amounts of these nutrients.

I’ve personally eaten a variety of unknown beetle grubs (raw and cooked – the cooked ones taste like bacon fat), crickets, larvae, earthworms (which taste like chicken skin cooked), bees and bee larvae, ants and snails.  I’ve found all of them to be surprisingly good.  It really is a mental challenge more than anything.

Regardless of what’s shown on television, there are some basic guidelines that should be observed when dining on insects in the wild.

Guideline No. 1: Avoid brightly colored insects. Typically, bright colors are warning signs in nature. This is no exception when it comes to insects. A brightly colored insect is nature’s way of saying back off. Choose insects with natural earth tones if given the choice.

Guideline No. 2: Avoid hairy insects. Hairy insects can irritate the mouth and throat. Oftentimes, hairs can also be disguised as stingers. It’s best to avoid insects that appear to be fuzzy or hairy.

Guideline No. 3: Avoid smelly and pungent insects. Scent is another natural warning. If the insect stinks or sprays some kind of stinking liquid, then avoid it all together.

Guideline No. 4: Cook all insects. Though some insects can be consumed raw, it’s always best to cook them (and any other wild game). Many insects contain parasites, and cooking can put your mind at ease. Cooking also softens hard shells and helps to eliminate the “ick” factor of squishy guts.

Guideline No. 5: Avoid insects that feed on poisonous plants. Snails and slugs are notorious for dining on poisonous mushroom and fungi.  While they themselves are edible, the stuff in their system might not be and could end up causing you problems.  The solution is to starve them for a day or so or purge them on other edible plants.  Don’t take any chances.  The calorie reward isn’t worth the risk.

Humans can survive for over three weeks without food. In fact, it is our least important survival priority. Shelter, water and fire are all more important. Survivors are opportunists and should never turn down an easy snack, even if it’s a cricket. Gathering food in a survival scenario is oftentimes a collection of many different sources, and the occasional insect could very well be a part of that mix.

Remember, it’s not IF, but WHEN.

creek-stewart-survivalist

 

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

7 Awesome Movie Survival Blades

In many movies, the cool knives get more attention than the actors themselves.  I certainly have my favorite survival blades over the years and they all aren’t necessarily knives.  You’re already thinking of some I’m sure.  Below are my TOP 7 SURVIVAL MOVIE BLADES.

 

# 1: First Blood: Rambo’s Survival Knife

rambo-knife

How could this knife not be #1.  RAMBO is synonymous with survival and this knife is basically where the phrase “survival knife” came from.  The design with hollow handle and included mini survival kit was revolutionary at the time and everyone had to have one.  This knife was my first survival knife.  I got a cheaper knock-off version of the authentic movie replica but I was 10 years old and didn’t care.  It was and still is my RAMBO knife.  I still have it.  It’s actually in a shadow box hanging on my wall.  This knife played a big part in my love for survival.  Below is the one I got when I was 10.

creeks-rambo

 

The authentic version looks like this.

rambo-first-blood

Here’s a link to a great history of the Rambo knives if you’re interested: http://www.cartertown.com/rambo1.htm

 

#2 The Edge: The Lockback Folder

edge-knife

I love that this knife isn’t an ‘in your face’ survival knife.  It’s a basic lockback folder.  THE EDGE is one of my favorite movies with a classic survival story; a plane crashes and a group of guys have to survive deep in the bush (while also being hunted by a blood thirsty grizzly).  Even though it’s just a movie, it is a simple reminder that even a basic every day carry pocket knife can make a huge difference in helping to provide basic survival needs.  If you don’t already, consider carrying an every day carry pocket knife.  It just makes good survival sense – you never know!

Want to own a knife just like this?  Here is the guy that made the movie version: http://www.lyttleknives.com/gedgcm.htm

 

#3: Book of Eli: Wicked Machete

eli-machete

This is definitely on my short list of favorite survival movies.  In my opinion, Eli’s machete is one of the coolest in any movie I’ve watched.  I think, though, that it’s his skill in using it that makes it so cool.  This is the trick with all good blades and weapons, the effectiveness is really in the hands of the one who wields it.  Choose your blade and practice using it.  Skill and effectiveness will soon follow.  That’s where the admirable stuff comes from.  Anyone can buy a knife.

The Book of Eli movie image Denzel Washington

 

 

#4: Rambo First Blood Part II: Rambo’s Push Daggers

partii-knife

These daggers are often overlooked when discussing Rambo blades but these little suckers were critical in getting him out of mess.  He used them to lay waste to an entire boat full of bad guys.  Having back up blades on our person ‘just in case’ is a great idea.  There are so many concealable and comfortable options these days.  There is really no reason to ever be unarmed.  I love these blades and this is one of my favorite scenes in the whole Rambo series.

 

#5: The Patriot: Tomahawk

patriot-tomahawk

Ok, there is nothing cooler than accurately throwing a tomahawk.  That is just flat out awesome.  This scene where Mel takes out an entire mess of redcoats is gory but his use of the tomahawk is beyond impressive.  It’s no wonder why natives used them so extensively.  This is one of the few ‘tools’ that also doubles as an incredibly awesome looking weapon.  I was at the Blade Show in GA a couple years ago and met two brothers who make some of the coolest tomahawks I’ve ever had the honor of holding.  If you’re looking for a sweet hawk you have to check them out: http://www.2hawks.net/.

 

#6: The Hunted: Tom Brown Tracker Knife

tracker

Benicio Del Toro uses this knife like a beast in the movie THE HUNTED.  Most people either love or hate this knife.  I like it.  The movie made it famous but I appreciate the unique design regardless.  It’s hard to design a new and unique knife and I think Mr. Brown did a great job keeping it simple and functional.  It’s definitely different.  I also like that it’s designed by a survival instructor.  It actually comes with a manual that describes the many ways one can use it.  Here is a link to the instruction manual if you’re curious: http://topsknives.com/pdf/topsknives_tracker_instructions.pdf.  It’s made by TOPS and some more photos can be found here: http://www.topsknives.com/product_info.php?products_id=155

 

#7: Crocodile Dundee: Dundee’s Bowie Knife

dundee-knife

Chuckle.  ”That’s not a knife… this is a knife.”  You know you’ve said it!  This is one of the most famous movie quotes in the history of television.  I remember when you could carry knives like that.  Now, people look at you like you’ve got a bomb strapped to your forehead.  That fact still doesn’t sway my love for a good well-made classic bowie knife.  Though he made this knife style famous, they have the reputation to back it up.

 

Conclusion

I’m sure there are plenty of other great movie survival knives out there.  Which ones am I missing?  What are your favorites?  Have you ever bought a movie replica knife?

Remember, it’s not IF but when,

creek-stewart-survivalist

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

This belt could save your life! How to make a Paracord Every Day Carry (EDC) belt. by Anthony and Kelly Braun

NOTE:  This is a post written by Anthony and Kelly Braun.

After attending Creek’s Survival 101 course and a talk from him about Every Day Carry (EDC) I began looking at my EDC.  I wasn’t carrying much survival gear as my EDC, so I began investigating mini survival kits. I wanted to find something that I didn’t have to remember to grab every day and something unobtrusive that didn’t take up a lot of bulk in my pocket. The typical mint tin version was out. I wanted to create an EDC mini survival kit that I would easily remember and would not take up too much space. I had been making paracord bracelets for 6 months prior to taking Creek’s courses and found one particularly useful weave called the Ladder Rack or Trilobite. (Here is the video link to making the bracelet that I used.) A nice feature of this weave is that it has approx 2 feet of paracord per inch of bracelet. (The standard Cobra Knot has about 1 foot of cord per inch of bracelet.) Looking at that weave I envisioned trapping items inside the cavity of the weave for safe keeping. In order to accommodate everything I wanted, I realized I would need a longer area than a bracelet, so I thought; why not make it a belt? I wear one daily anyway, it doesn’t take up space in my pockets, and by making it this way no one would suspect I have an EDC survival kit with supplies to do many things.

Initial Thoughts

There are some drawbacks to this project, the first one being the belt sizing. It is not adjustable, so once it’s made significant weight gain or loss will cause you to have to make another belt. Second, it’s not quick-release to access supplies or use the paracord, as it takes some time to unweave the belt. (My first attempt took me 20 minutes to unwind) Third, specific items in the belt cannot be accessed individually, one would have to unweave the belt and get access to all the items. But once the belt is unraveled, it contains quite a few supplies that would greatly aid survival if I had nothing else and was stranded– I would be far ahead of the curve, at least.

If you have not seen the ladder rack weave or made a bracelet with it, I suggest you practice before attempting the belt. Learning the pattern without trying to hold extra items inside will make the construction much easier. I modified the weave a bit by adding an extra turn of cord down the length of the belt.   This added some width (and therefore more holding room for supplies), and added to the amount of paracord per inch of finished belt. Here is how I made my belt:

 

Supply list (and the use I foresee):

  • paracord 100ft (multiple uses including shelter)
  • whistle on buckle (rescue)
  • 3 snack size ziploc bags (water collection/carrying, keeping tinder dry)
  • condom (water carrying)
  • coffee filter (water filtration)
  • cotton PET ball (fire starting)
  • 30 in of jute twine (fire starting tinder)
  • 30in of military trip wire (snare making for food)
  • safety pin (quick repairs, spare fish hook, splinter removal)
  • 3 zip ties (attaching/lashing items, makeshift handcuffs)
  • 4 storm proof matches with striker (fire making)
  • 30 feet of fishing line with fishing hook (food)
  • camping wire saw (cutting wood for fire or shelter)
  • 20in of latex tubing (straw to get hard to reach water, tourniquet, slingshot for hunting)
  • flexible mirror (signaling)
  • 2 water purification tablets, individually wrapped
  • 1 electrolyte replacement tab (dehydration prevention)

full-supplies
There are many ways to modify this list and customize the belt.  Just remember that everything you add needs to be able to be stored in essentially a long thin tube.

The belt making process

I started with 100 feet of paracord, a buckle, and all the survival gear I wanted to include. This changed throughout the process, as some items just didn’t fit and others I had to eliminate when I ran out of space. The list above is my final supply list that actually went into the belt. As I mentioned above it’s a one size belt and not adjustable; so, I started with one of my current belts and used that for measurements. I measured out the 50 ft mark in my paracord and looped a hitch knot in one end of the buckle through it (I used the female end). The other end of the buckle I laid at my belt hole that I use to buckle my regular belt and ran both ends of the paracord through it. Instead of just bringing the ends back to the female end of the buckle and starting the weave like I would for a bracelet, I threaded them through the female end one more time and brought the two ends back up to the male end to start my weave there.

larks-head

 

looping-through

In the picture you can see there are four lines running between the 2 ends of the buckle. Then I brought the 2 loose ends back along the outside to the male end once more and started the knot to begin the weave.

two-buckles

first-knot

weave-beginning

 

Here is the starting knot pulled tight. If you are not careful it is easy for the length of the whole belt to change while tightening the first knot. I had to remeasure it frequently and keep tweaking it to keep the same length. Once you get a few rounds of the weave  down, the length holds tight and its no longer an issue.

weave-start-1

weave-start

Also, at this point I did a few other things to make it easier to do the weave with such a large amount of cord:

First, I baled each length of cord into about 8 inch loops and secured them so I was just weaving with bundle instead of the entire length of cord (which would just knot up). For the majority of the belt there is plenty of slack and it works great. If you get to the end and have a large bale left you will need to undo it and just thread the cord as a single strand.

coil

Then I also took some tape and secured the four inner cords just to keep them lined up so they didn’t become twisted during the weaving process.

tape

Then the final thing I did to help identify the lines and keep them straight (but also to secure materials for the kit) was to wrap the jute  around one of the outer cords. I secured this with an overhand knot at each end and wrapped the snare wire around the other side.

jute-wire

Here are the items ready to start weaving the in the belt.  I wrapped each stormproof match in aluminum foil then secured that to the camp saw. I did the same for the fishing line. I did this to keep the small items from moving around and possibly falling out of the belt (or stabbing me in the back) and also to cover the saw so it didn’t wear through the paracord wrapped around it. I stored the condom in one of the ziploc bags rolling it lengthwise. I also folded and secured the coffee filter in another ziploc bag, and the PET cotton ball in a third. I took each one of the  zip ties and rolled one of the ziploc bags around it.

supplies

Basically I just laid the items on top of the 4 strands of the cord through the middle of the belt and wove around it. I had to overlap some of the items  lengthwise so they fit but I tried to even everything out so it didn’t make the belt too stiff in some parts and flimsy in others.

interior

Above is the belt in process. I didn’t worry too much about getting everything tight and even at the beginning. I just wove the belt so everything was trapped in it then afterwards went back through and tightened everything up starting at the far end working down toward the end where the unsecured lines were. I tightened 2 rows at a time so it was easier to keep track of which part I needed to pull on next to tighten.

end

The initially completed belt is seen above. Then below is the belt in process of it being pulled tight. As you can see there was significant slop in the initially completed belt. I only had about one foot of cord left when I first finished.  After tightening the entire belt I ended up with about 9 feet extra on each piece. All that is left is to finish the belt by your preferred finishing method– either by cutting off and melting the ends or using fibs to tuck a length of cord back into a half dozen or so weaves.

tails

 

Here is the finished product.

finished-belt

One final piece I added was the 2 metal key rings that came with the camp saw about 6 inches from either end. That places them right about where my hands fall. I use them for clipping carabiners and carrying additional items.

metal-ring

 

Final thoughts/ Re-evaluation

The belt did end up being a little tight around my waist, as  I forgot to take into account how thick the tubing (along with everything else layered in there) would end up. When I make my next one, I will probably try to add a half inch to the initial length of the belt. The other thing I was considering was using a flat rubber tourniquet in place of the tubing. I would then lose the straw capabilities but would decrease the belt’s bulk significantly. Another thing that could possibly be used would be flat surgical tubing (sometimes called a Penrose drain). This could be used for the straw purpose but would be kind of like sucking the end of a freezer pop. But this  would make a good tourniquet and slingshot. Also, I put all the items on what would be the inside of the belt but some of the aluminum foil shifted and ended up on the front surface, and it is now somewhat visible.   This is not a huge problem but it brings attention to the fact that this is not just a belt but something more. I would like to deaden the reflection somehow. Another area to change might be the buckle itself.  I have seen different belt buckles for sale that have had a small compartment to store items (the water tabs?) or one that has a compass on it. I happened to have whistle buckles around so I used one of them.

So, what do you think? Feel free to comment on ways to improve or other ideas this might spark for you.

Creek’s Additional Comments

First, that is amazing that you guys were able to get those supplies (and paracord) into a compact, nondescript belt.  That is a full blown survival kit!  I love it when people push the limits of creativity when it comes to carrying basic survival supplies on their person.  History reports time and time again (almost every week) that victims of sudden and unexpected survival scenarios could dramatically benefit from very simple survival supplies like the ones you’ve included in this EDC belt.  I wear a belt every single day and it’s the perfect clothing item to modify in such a way.  After reading this post, I’m only left with one question: WHEN CAN I BUY ONE?????

NOTE:  This is a post written by Anthony and Kelly Braun.

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

How to Make a Primitive Funnel Fish Trap that keeps on giving.

Passive trapping versus active hunting is almost always preferred in a survival scenario.  Not only does trapping typically require less energy, but it also enables one to focus on other important survival tasks such as shelter, fire, water, foraging and signaling.  Passive fish traps are among some of the oldest documented relics from indigenous cultures all over the globe.  Stone weirs built many hundred years ago in rivers and low tide areas still exist today.  Funneling fish for easier capture was a strategy used to put food on the table in almost every primitive culture.  While different trap designs exist, there is one design that seems to be universal – the woven funnel trap.  Whether made from bamboo in the wetlands of Asia, reeds on the coast of New Zealand or grapevine in the forests North America the funnel basket trap varied only slightly in design across multiple continents and cultures.  This speaks to its effectiveness in the field and I can confirm first hand that it is one of the most effective primitive methods for putting fish in the frying pan.  Below is one method I use to build a classic Primitive Funnel Style Basket Fish Trap.

catfish-in-trap

There are essentially two parts to the funnel basket trap: the body and the inverted cone cap.  The concept (as can be seen by the schematic below) is simple.  Lured by the scent of bait, the fish enter the main trap body through the inverted cone shaped cap.  Once inside they aren’t smart enough to figure out how to get back out.  It’s not at all uncommon to catch other types of water critters in these traps as well including crayfish, crabs, shrimp and even small turtles.

basket-trap-schematic

It all starts with building the main trap body, which is typically in the shape of large cone.  The size is based on the type of fish you’re attempting to catch.  I’ve had great success with traps that measure 4-5’ long and the main body opening in the 20-24” range.  To build the main body framework you’ll need 7 to 11 small saplings a little longer than your intended main body trap length.  The main body must have an odd number of ribs.  This is necessary for the over/under weaving pattern that we’ll discuss later.  The number you use isn’t important.  I normally use 7.

willow-staves

If you have cordage then this process will be easier.  In this example I’ve used willow bark cordage exclusively.  During the spring and summer months you can easily strip the bark from willow saplings in long strips.  These strips make perfect cordage for lashing together a funnel trap.

willow-bark-stripped-on-sapling

willow-bark-stripped

I start by lashing one end of my willow staves around a stick about 12” long x 2” in diameter.  This keeps the staves in a nice uniform circle.  Then, using a piece of grapevine and some willow bark I create a hoop to form the opening for the main body and quickly tie it to the inside of the other end of the willow staves.  This helps to create the main cone shape to the trap body.  The hoop will be removed after the trap is about ¼ woven.

base-lashed

base-lashed-bottom

grapevine-hoop

frame-hoop

Now is time for weaving.  I’ve used all kinds of different materials for weaving traps.  It really comes down to what is available.  In this example I start with some left over willow bark and then move to some cattail leaves.  I finish it with a variety of grapevine and Virginia creeper vine.  I’ve even used long pieces of grass before.  In some environments and seasons it can be difficult to find enough of what you need so it doesn’t have to be entirely woven from the same material.  Mine often are not.  The weaving pattern is simply an over/under pattern repeated.  When I weave in a new piece I normally overlap the previous one by at least one rib.  It’s important to pull everything nice and snug.

grapevine

trap-one-quarter-side-back

trap-one-quarter-top

trap-three-quarters

trap-three-quarters-inside

Once you get about ¼ done with the trap you can pull out the grapevine hoop at the top and the weaving will go much, much faster.  The hoop is just to hold the shape temporarily while you get started.  You can expect the weaving process to take at least 1-3 hours, depending on the size of the trap.  You can extend the length of the trap if you wish by shoving in longer ribs alongside the existing ones and continuing to weave.

When you come to a finishing point, simple lash the last three wraps together in a few spots with some willow bark or cord and trim off the jutting ribs about 1 inch above the rim and the body portion of the trap is finished.  It’s now time to weave the cone which will form the cap/entrance of the trap.

cone-top-lashed

trap-done-lashed-top

The easiest way to form the cone/cap of the trap is to stick an odd number of stakes (ribs) in the ground to form a cone shape.  The bottom (smaller hole) of the cone should be large enough for your target fish to fit through.  In this case I’ve made mine about 4 inches in diameter.  The top (larger hole) should be right around the same diameter of the open mouth of the trap body you’ve just woven.  This cone will be a cap for the trap body and you want the two larger holes to mate up nicely.

cone-sticks-in-ground

Once you have the cone shape staked in the ground, it’s time to start weaving again.  I prefer smaller vines over larger hard to manage ones.  The ones in this example are about ¼ inch in diameter.  Weave them to the very top of the cone shape and lash them to finish it off just like the end of the body.

cone-side-view-not-finished-1\

cone-side-view-not-finished

cone-side-view

cone-finished-topview

Pull the cone from the ground and trim off any protruding ribs from the top and bottom holes.

cone-pulled-out-of-ground

cone-trimmed

This concludes all of the hard work.  Now, the trap is ready to be baited and set over and over again.  This is a self sustaining trap.  Each time something is caught, the inedible and unusable parts such as the intestines and some organs and bones are used to bait the trap again to catch more food.  Each caught fish provides food and future bait.  I’ve found that native fish parts and pieces produce much better results than store bought items such as chicken livers, bread or peanut butter.  All animals prefer to eat what they naturally would.

As you can see from the photos, the cone shape is inverted to cap the larger opening of the trap body.  Fish can easily swim inside but don’t have the logic and reasoning skills to find their way back out.  After baiting, I tie the cone cap on in three spots to ensure it doesn’t come loose.

finished-front

finished-front-angle

I’ve found it’s a good idea to contain the bait inside of something rather than just random tossing it inside the large trap body.  I’ve used all kinds of methods.  I’ve created little bait balls wrapped in a scrap piece of t-shirt and tied it hanging from the inside.  I’ve also used little wire cages.  Pinecones are a good primitive solution.  You can wrap and stuff your bait inside the stiff pinecone bodies and it keeps the bait in one place.  Then, this ‘bait ball’ can be hung from the back of the trap.  Using this method, fish have to come inside to get the bait rather than nibble it through the sides when it’s free-floating randomly inside the trap body.

pinecone-hanging

Now, it’s time to set the trap.  I don’t personally like getting in water when I don’t need to so I set this trap by tying it off to a stake or tree near the water’s edge and simply throw it a few feet off shore.  These traps will often float so you may need to toss one or two big rocks inside to weigh it down.  I had to do that to this one.  For bait, I sacrificed a small bullfrog and smashed the bits and pieces of him into the pinecone (except I kept the legs for dinner).

american-bullfrog-1

trap-floating

I checked the trap early the next morning and had a small bluegill.  I gutted it and kept the meat for dinner.  I stuffed and wrapped the guts, fins and head into the pinecone bait ball and threw the trap back in.  Some of the frog was still left over but the fresh scent is necessary.  Later that day I caught a larger bluegill.  I repeated the gutting and bait ball process.  The next morning I checked the trap again and found a large catfish.  Honestly, I’m not even sure how this monster wiggled its way into the trap.  His head was almost as big as the entry hole.  I didn’t set the trap a third time but you can see by the gut pile next to the catfish that there is plenty of bait to do so.  Like I mentioned, this is a self-sustaining trap.  It will keep giving and giving and is an amazing way to passively gather food in a survival scenario when saving calories is imperative.  I’ll choose passive trapping over active hunting all day long.

bluegill-first-small

bluegill-trap

catfish-in-trap

catfish-gutted

Below is a photo of Kevin from my SurviVacation II course with the first basket trap he ever made.  It’s a monster and he also caught a bluegill in an overnight set.  Experience isn’t necessary but patience is.  He spent several hours making sure it was woven well.  It’s important to pay careful attention to detail when weaving the trap.  Every fish inside counts – even the ones only 2” long.  A 2” fish can lead to a 10” whopper but the trap must be well made in order to catch even the smallest fish and crayfish.  This is one skill you just can’t rush.

kevin-trap

 

If you like learning primitive skills like this one, consider reading my latest book The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide which can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Unofficial-Hunger-Games-Wilderness-Survival/dp/1440328552

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

Creek

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

My most popular question – ANSWERED! – And, how a CROW changed my life.

I get asked a lot of questions.  I mean a lot of questions.  I spend a good part of every morning replying to questions asked via e-mail and voice mail.  I get asked a lot of questions at our training courses here as well.  I also get asked a lot of questions at speaking venues and book signings.  I never get tired of them and am always happy to share whatever knowledge I have about whatever the subject that is being discussed.

Out of all the questions I get asked, there is one question I get asked most often…

How did you make your dream of becoming a survival instructor a reality?

Many ask this question, or some version of it.  Some, it seems, are more interested in this topic than survival information.  I always find that interesting and because it happens so often, I’m convinced there must be something to it.  I thought I’d take a moment to tell a little bit about my story and maybe shed some light on exactly how my career came to pass and how, in fact, I made it happen.  The last few words of the previous sentence are written with intention.  Notice I didn’t write ‘and how it happened’.  I wrote ‘ and how I made it happen’.  It’s that small difference that can determine whether or not something comes to pass.  We’ll get into more of that later.  For now, let’s start at the beginning.

Yes, I was a Boy Scout.  And, yes, I am an Eagle Scout.

I get asked that a lot too.  Boy Scouts reinforced my love for the outdoors and my interest in self reliant skills.  Remember, the Boy Scout motto is ‘Be prepared’ after all.  I’ll always have fond memories of my time in scouting.  I also grew up on a farm and spent most of my childhood outside.  Long story short, I discovered at an early age that I’m happiest in the woods.

High school happened.  Then college.

I graduated high school and then went to Butler University in Indianapolis, IN.  I actually started as a pharmacy major – HA!!!!  It didn’t take me too long to figure out I was hiking the wrong path with that choice – no offense to my pharmaceutical minded friends :)  I settled on a business major.  I was now in the city, but found myself in between classes and on weekends wandering the small patches of woods that spotted the campus .  I longed for the feeling of being submerged in nature.  It was definitely missing from my life and I knew it.  It all came to a head one day with a crow.

The Crow

Yes, a crow.  You know, the bird  - black with a really annoying call.  Well, there was a certain crow that came every morning to the yard just outside my dorm window.  It always came early and always made an insane amount of noise squawking and calling.  It’s call echoed throughout the small grass courtyard and tormented me awake each morning.  Somehow, this daily diatribe of squawks and cackles summoned the inner woodsman in me that the city and college life had so subtly repressed.  I decided to set a snare for that crow, which I had now named after one of my least favorite pharmacy professors.

crow

I still remember the thrill and challenge of building that snare.  I was trying to outwit one of the smartest and alert birds on the planet.  I don’t remember much about college but I remember that incident like it was yesterday.  Everything had to be perfect; the trigger I carved from the pine tree in the parking lot, the knots I tied into the dental floss line, the bait, the placement, the timing, everything.  It was me against thousands of years of pure natural instinct, now bird-animal against human-animal.  For that moment, I was a primitive hunter in the small courtyard of my college dormitory.  I’ll never forget the horrified look from the girl looking out her window opposite my room as she watched me haul the flapping squawking crow by the feet up the side of building to my window on the 3rd floor.  I didn’t care.  No one was going to steal the glory or joy of my primal victory.  Part of me wonders if she was happy to see it captured as well.

Don’t worry, I didn’t have the heart to kill it up close so I let him go.  Needless to say,though, he never came back.  I still say a quick Thank You to the good Lord every time I see a crow.  Those birds represent a time when something changed in me.

The moment of action

If you ever want your dreams to come true then at some point you have to stop thinking and start acting.  Soon after ‘the crow’ I decided to take steps toward what I determined was my long-term goal: TO TEACH WILDERNESS SURVIVAL SKILLS.  I checked with the school administration but they didn’t have a WILDERNESS SURVIVAL major.  ”What kind of school is this,” I thought.  ”No Wilderness Survival Major?  What has the world come too?”  I’m just kidding – I stuck with the business degree but started putting together a PLAN B immediately.

My first book

I spent most of my free time during my sophomore year at college writing my first survival manual.  It was a 90 page self published book with hand-drawn sketches of the survival skills I knew at the time – which wasn’t much.  I didn’t make excuses.  I moved forward.  No, I wasn’t qualified to write a survival book.  In fact, I wasn’t qualified to write any kind of a book on any subject.  No, I didn’t have a publishing contract.  I also didn’t have any money.  But, I didn’t let any of that stop me.  I pushed forward anyway and made no excuses that might somehow allow me to quit.  When my friends were down the street partying, I was writing and drawing and researching.  Oftentimes, in order to be successful, you must do what others aren’t willing to do.  You must be willing to make sacrifices.  That was just fine with me.

I photocopied my book at Kinkos and had them spiral bind it.  In my mind, I was a published author!  Nothing could stop me now!

I remember sitting at my desk staring at a big pile of homemade survival books thinking, “OK, now how am I going to sell these?”  Come to find out it is much harder to sell a book than to write one :)

I called local Boy Scout troops.  ”Get back to my roots,” I thought.  I traveled from troop to troop giving FREE survival demonstrations as an attempt to hawk autographed copies of my new book.  That went pretty well but I didn’t like having to travel to meet my customers.  ”How can I get them to come to me,” I wondered.

 My first course

“Aha!  I’ll host a survival course!  I won’t even charge.  I’ll just sell my books,” I told my Mom and Dad while trying to convince them to allow me to invite total strangers on our farm so that I can teach them survival skills in the woods behind the house.  I wish I was a fly on the wall in my parent’s house that evening.  I’d do anything to hear that conversation.  Thank God for good parents because they let me.  They were also still confused about me not being a Pharmacy Major.  That’s another story for another day.

So, I sent out a press release to local newspapers and started publicizing my survival course by an AUTHOR!  Believe it or not about 15 people showed up and most of them bought a book – autographed of course!  Below is a picture of me (pre-ponytail) teaching kids how to flip people off.  Just kidding – I’m teaching them how to whistle loudly for signaling but that picture still cracks me up:)

newspaper-markup

 WOW, I learned a lot

Teaching that first course taught me MANY lessons.  First, I learned that I needed WAY MORE DIRT TIME in the field in order to REALLY teach survival skills.  Second, I learned that I LOVED DOING THIS.  For the first time in a long time I felt like I was on the right path to something that fulfilled me.  I had peace with a direction.  I was combining my love for self reliant survival skills with my joy of working with people.  It was perfect.  Now, how in the world do I make a living doing this?  Here are a couple photos from my first ever survival course.

walk-1 walk-2

My first advertising efforts

“I’m a business major, I can figure this out.”  I invested a few hundred dollars in an ad at the back of Boy’s Life magazine.  Boy’s Life is a magazine for Boy Scouts.  If you were in scouting then you know what it is.  As a scout I would scour the little ads in the back and often begged my parents to order me the X-Ray Glasses and Magic Sea Monkeys.  I figured this was the perfect place for me to offer my new survival book.  Was I prepared for the flood of orders?????

1st-ad-markup

 

1st-ad-big

 

My marketing strategy was to offer a FREE survival booklet which was a teaser to order the full book for $15.  I even posed for the camera in my Boy Scout uniform (my Mom took the photo in our living room).  I was ready to be a millionaire!  The orders did not come pouring in like I imagined.

My first business lesson

There are no get rich quick schemes.  As Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  I think here is a good time to tell you that I am not especially gifted at anything really.  I’ve always said that my best gift from God is me being too stupid to know any better.  I grew up watching my parents work extremely hard.  They never complained, they just worked.  They instilled in me that if you want something then you’re going have to work for it.  Sometimes they failed but they never quit.  I wasn’t going to quit either.

For me, failure wasn’t an option.  I knew it was going to be work.  I had to spend 100s, even 1000s of hours practicing and perfecting the skills I wanted to teach AND I had to figure out how to build a business around teaching survival skills.  Talk about a tough business model.  You can’t find a book on this one!

Keeping the ember alive

I think you know you’re on the right path when your passion for the subject doesn’t die even though you aren’t getting the positive feedback you want.  Even though I wasn’t able to make a living with survival skills & writing at the time, I still enjoyed doing it.  I still believed that these skills were important and I still enjoyed working with people.

Life happens

Yes, I wanted to teach survival skills as my career.  But, I had to make money and pay bills too.  For many years, teaching courses and selling books was supplemental income.  If I taught survival skills for the money I would have quit in year 1 for sure.  I could not have survived financially for very long if I wasn’t working other full-time and part-time jobs.  Here comes that whole SACRIFICE thing again.  

It was Herbert Grey that said, “Successful people make a habit of doing the things that unsuccessful people don’t like to do.”
 Well, I was getting pretty good at working evening and weekends to make my long term dreams come true.  I worked for over 10 years doing other things as a means to an end so that I could one day do what really fulfills me.  I had a t-shirt business.  I had a snow-cone business.  I sold door knobs for a major hardware brand.  I worked nights at major shipping carriers.  Here’s the kicker – I turned down awesome job offers out of school from big name Pharmaceutical Companies for pharmaceutical sales positions.  I guess a half Pharmacist & Business Major sounded like a good thing to some people.  Trust me, those jobs were enticing but they would have never allowed me the flexibility to build my own business on the side.  I’m sure my parents were convinced I had lost my mind.  The reality is that I was prepared to lose everything for what I wanted.  Sure, it was a risk but I remembered a quote from Goethe – “The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.”  I wanted more than ‘safe’ and ‘secure’.

It wasn’t easy

Building my business was anything but easy.  I’ve always said – “If it’s worth having then it’s worth the effort.”  Just as Robert Frost wrote in The Road Not Taken, ” Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”  Oftentimes when following your dreams, the path will certainly be less traveled.  It will be overgrown with wild rose and stinging nettle.  Occasionally, though, those roses will bloom and you might as well make tea and cordage from those nettles.  Perspective is everything and the journey builds character and perseverance.  Even if you fail, you still have the journey.  That’s more than many will ever see.

I’m still learning

I’ll never claim to know everything about anything.  I learn new survival tips and tricks every day AND I learn life lessons every day.  When your classroom is Mother Nature you learn really quick that you’ll never learn all there is to know.  She is absolutely and unequivocally unpredictable.

What I’ve learned about Mental Survival Skills

It’s funny, I’ve studied survival skills now for over 15 years.  For most of those years I only focused on physical skills such as fire making, shelter building, etc.  However, there is a whole new world of skills to practice.  These are the mental survival skills.  Unlike the physical survival skills, we can use mental skills in our daily life.  In fact, I’ve discovered that if you think using many of these mental survival skills every day then your life can change.  Below are just 3 of many mental survival skills that can not only help you survive any scenario, but can also change your life!

  • The Absolute Refusal to Give Up: Never give up no matter how bleak the circumstances.
  • The MacGyver Factor: Use what you have to get what you need.
  • Exorcise the Demon named Negativity: Do not tolerate negative thoughts or negative people in your life.

That’s my best answer

So for those of you who’ve asked ‘how I’m able to do what I love’ – this is my best answer.  Hopefully it’s been insightful.  I look forward to training with you in the field sometime soon.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,

Creek

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

8 Things You Should Know Before Buying a Gas Mask

The driving plot behind some of our best-selling post-apocalyptic fiction novels in America is a looming reality for many people and nations in the world. As droves of Israeli citizens line up at the post office in Israel to pick up their government-issued gas masks, many of us can’t help but ask the depressing question, “Should I buy a gas mask?”

gas-mask-solo-web

In this article I’ll do my best to clear up many of the questions and myths that surround one of the most iconic symbols of the survivalist movement – the gas mask.

To make an educated decision about whether or not to go on a gas-mask buying spree, you should first consider the following:

 

Surplus does not necessarily mean ‘good deal’

At one point or another, all of us have seen the military “surplus” gas masks advertised online, in catalogs or in Army/Navy retail stores. These masks are “surplus” for a reason. They’re either outdated and have been replaced by more effective models or they are defective. Many of the older surplus masks are famous for being incredibly difficult to deploy and also very ill-fitting even when strapped on correctly. You’ll never find a guarantee of performance on these domestic or imported surplus masks. There’s a reason for that, too. Many of them also ship with filters that are also long expired. I’ll get into that in a later heading. The price of surplus gas masks is enticing, I’ll admit, but the risk is not worth the savings. A good current gas mask that’s up to spec is going to cost at least $125, and more for many models. And that doesn’t include a stock of $40-$50 replacement filters. Surplus gas masks do make great novelties for the man cave, however.

 

Not all gas masks are created equal

Shocker, right? There are certain criteria you need to look for when buying a gas mask. First, make sure the mask and filter is rated for chemical blowing and riot control agents, designated by the CBA/RCA rating, and nuclear, biological and chemical agents, carrying the NBC rating.

Some gas masks on the market are nothing more than glorified surgical masks. While this may be sufficient for most biological threats, it’s also important that any mask and accompanying filter you purchase is certified to protect against nuclear and chemical threats as well. Be sure to discuss this with any supplier before ordering. Third party testing is preferred.

I prefer a mask with filter connections on both sides versus just one side or just in the front. This not only offers more flexibility (i.e. positioning the filter opposite where a gun stock may interfere), but also allows the user to positively attach a replacement filter on the opposite port before removing an expired one.

Field of view is a common frustration with many masks on the market. It’s important to have an unobstructed view during times that warrant the use of a gas mask. Many older surplus masks have small goggle-type eye holes, which virtually eliminate all peripheral vision. How about prescription glasses? It’s important to make sure the mask in consideration accommodates spectacles.

 

You’ll probably need a few spare filters

Not only do filters have a shelf life, but they also don’t last as long while in use as you might imagine. Most need to be replaced after just several hours of use depending on the environment and gas concentrations. Even if breathing in “uninfected air,” they last less than 24 hours. What does this mean? First, it’s not hard to imagine the need for several filters per person depending on exposure times. Second, it’s important to keep track of the expiration date for any filters on hand. At $40-$50 a pop, the cost of replacement filters can add up quick. I would suggest purchasing a mask that accepts 40mm NATO threaded filter canisters. These tend to be the most readily available and popular.

 

Too late is almost always too late

Unless a gas mask is securely deployed before attacks are made, it’s often already too late. Especially in the case of biological and chemical agents, even momentary exposure can be fatal. This begs the question about where you should keep a gas mask. Should it be kept in the home? At work? In the car? Or, should there be one in each location? It’s impossible to predict the time and place that a potential threat may take place. Even if you own a gas mask, a sudden and unexpected attack may not give enough warning to deploy it in time before you have to take your next breath.

 

Paul Bunyan probably won’t make it

paul

Most gas masks don’t play well with facial hair, and I’m not just talking about Duck Dynasty-sized beards either. The 1-week lazy man can be affected. I even have a few female relatives that might have an issue. Any type of facial hair can degrade a critically tight seal against the user’s face. If you’re serious about buying a gas mask, you should also be serious about a clean shave each morning.  NOTE:  Hooded versions of gas masks are manufactured that can be used with beards.

 

You were not born with innate knowledge on using a gas mask

plug-filter

Deploying and strapping on a gas mask isn’t as easy as they make it look in the movies. In fact, many have died by either putting it on incorrectly or not being able to put it on at all while under stress and panic. There are even accounts of people suffocating to death by not removing the plastic seal before screwing on a new filter. I even did this when I installed my first new filter. It’s an easy mistake to make. There is a reason the military conducts gas-mask training exercises. Properly fitting and using a gas mask requires practice. Hands-on training by a professional is preferred. Prior practice at home is an absolute minimum.

 

The United States is a big place

It would be very difficult to cover the entire U.S. with nuclear, biological and chemical agents. Most agree that it is those in the large cities who are in the red zones. A farmer in the middle of Kansas is much less likely to need a gas mask than someone who works in Washington, D.C. This should be considered when making preparedness expenditures. There may be better things to spend a preparedness budget on besides gas masks if you live in areas unlikely to be targeted with nuclear, biological or chemical threats.

 

Gas masks are a means to an end, not the end themselves

You can’t live in a gas mask. They are meant to be a temporary defense for escaping the “green cloud.” If the threat doesn’t stop (i.e. NBC attacks keep coming) and you don’t have a permanent protected place in which to retreat (like an NBC-filtered bunker or safe room), that’s bad news indeed. Even though some gas masks are fitted with drinking straws, it’s just not practical to wear a gas mask for an extended period of time. Gas masks are a short-term solution to hopefully what will be a short-term problem.

Hopefully these insights have helped to “clear the fog” around this somewhat confusing topic. Some reading this article might decide the “surplus” gas mask in the closet purchased online after 9/11 is probably better used as a Halloween costume than a life-saving survival tool. I wouldn’t hold your breath for U.S. government-issued gas masks any time soon. I don’t see that happening in the near future. If you want one, you’re going to have to buy it.

 

So, Creek, do YOU own a gas mask?

Yes, I do – several.  I purchased mine from http://www.approvedgasmasks.com.  I have no vested interest in that company nor do I get any kind of a kick back on sales.  They don’t even know that I’m listing them as a source.  I’m sure there are many companies out there who offer current quality gas masks.  This is just one I’ve had personal experience with.  If you know of a trusted source, by all means, leave a comment and share for others.

Do you own a gas mask?  Why or why not?

Remember, it’s not if, but when.

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

Survival Gear Snapshot: September 2013

 What is a Survival Gear Snapshot???

We all like to dream a little, right?  In this (and future) Survival Gear Snapshots I’ll feature a variety of cool survival items (at least ones that I think are cool – you may disagree) in a themed survival-esque photo.  Some things will be affordable and some things will be ridiculously expensive.  The point is to put together a collage of cool survival-themed items.  If you think somethings too expensive – big deal – it doesn’t cost anything to look at it.  I’m currently looking for some good ideas for next month so if you know of some cool survival products or gear companies you’d like to see in an upcoming SNAPSHOT, leave a comment.

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To have your product considered for the next Survival Gear Snapshot, please e-mail publicrelations@willowhavenoutdoor.com.

 

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.
 
 

6 Trees Every Survivalist Should Know & Why

Now is a good time to go out and flag the following six trees before the leaves drop (except the pine).  Revisit them in the winter and learn how to ID them by the bark alone.  Then again in the Spring with the buds and new leaves.

 

White birch (paper birch)

birch

White birch is easy to identify with its distinctive, white, papery bark. The sycamore tree also has white bark, but it does not sluff off in thin, paper-like furls like the white birch. The sycamore also has large hand-shaped leaves versus the white birch’s smaller, oval-shaped leaves with a pointed tip. The birch leaf is also irregularly toothed.  These grow almost exclusively in northern climates.

birch-leaf

White birch survival uses:

  • Sweet drinkable sap that does not need purification
  • Containers can be fashioned from the bark (and even canoes – hence the name “canoe birch”)
  • It’s papery bark makes some of the finest fire starting tender on the planet, which will light even when damp because of its resinous quality
  • A fine tea can be made from the small twigs at the end of a branch or by shaving the bark from new growth. Toss a palmful of these elements into boiling water for a fresh, wintergreen-flavored tea
  • The tinder fungus (chaga) grows almost exclusively on the white birch tree. The fungus is one of the only natural materials I know of that will take the spark from flint and steel. A piece of tinder fungus along with flint and pyrite to create sparks were even found on Otzi, the “iceman” who was uncovered in the Austrian Alps several years ago.
  • Pine tar can be extracted from the bark of the white birch by heating it over a fire.  Pine tar makes an excellent natural adhesive which natives used for all kinds of purposes including securing stone points on arrows.

American Basswood

basswood

The American basswood (also called American linden) is a very common tree – especially in the Eastern U.S. It prefers moist soil and is often found by creeks, streams and ponds. It likes to grow several shoots from the base so it’s not uncommon to see the basswood growing in what appears to be clumps. Basswood trees have large, heart-shaped, coarsely toothed leaves and dark red young leaf buds. One of the most distinctive features of the basswood is what I call the “tongue.” A tongue-shaped leaf grows at the base of the regular heart-shaped leaves on mature trees. Hard, little, nut-like fruits dangle from the center of this “tongue” leaf throughout the summer.

basswood-cord

Basswood survival uses:

  • Delicious edible leaves – especially in spring
  • “Bass” comes from the word “bast,” which is an old word for rope. The inner fibers from the Basswood make some of the best natural cordage on the planet.  In my last course, 2 adult men could not break a 1/2″ thick strip of basswood bark.
  • Basswood is my favorite wood to use in fire by friction sets. It is soft and makes a perfect friction fire wood for bow drill spindles and hearthboards and for hand drill hearthboards.
  • Basswood is preferred by most wood carvers and chainsaw carvers because of how easy it is to work and carve
  • Inner bark layer is edible and can be scraped off with the edge of your knife. It has a very sweet flavor.

basswood-cordage

White Pine

pine-tree

The leaves of the White Pine grow in batches of 5 needles. Every fall the white pine loses all of its needles except those that grew that year. Pine is an evergreen. Evergreen trees keep some green leaves year-round, unlike deciduous trees, and have needle-like leaves. They also produce cones (pine cones) instead of flowers.

pine-needle

White pine survival uses:

  • Resin can be used a fire extender when mixed with tinder material
  • Resin can be heated and mixed with crushed charcoal to make a natural epoxy
  • Resin-rich joints and stump pieces make incredible fire kindling
  • Make pine-needle tea from the green pine needles – very rich in Vitamin C
  • Inner bark layers are edible
  • Harvest pine nuts from the pine cones
  • Pine needles make excellent fire tinder
  • Pine needles make excellent natural insulation material for debris huts and survival shelters
  • Green pine boughs are perfect for lean-to shelter roofs
  • Green pine boughs are great for making a ‘pine bough bed’ to protect from the cold ground or snow
  • The lower, dry, dead branches of the pine tree (squaw wood) is often some of the driest fire kindling available. It is exposed to the wind and also protected from the elements by the year-round needle canopy above,  I’ve also used these branches for making bow drill fire friction sets.
  • Very effective candles and lamps can be made from pine resin
  • Pine resin can be used to waterproof seams in clothing or crude containers
  • The very pliable surface layer roots make excellent (and strong) natural cordage. Use as a whole or split into smaller pieces.

White Oak (and all oaks in general)

oak

White oaks have rounded leaf lobes instead of pointed ones like red oaks. Contrary to popular belief, acorns are edible. I like white oak acorns better because it seems they are less bitter and it takes less effort to leach out the tannic acid (which causes this bitterness) to become more palatable. An abundance of acorns in mid-summer makes the oak family almost impossible to misidentify. Oaks are some of the largest trees in the forest. I have many white oaks at Willow Haven that are over 100 feet tall and easily 3-4 feet in diameter.

White oak survival uses:

  • Acorns (after leaching out the tannic acid) can be ground and used as flour to make acorn bread
  • Tannic acid (which can be extracted by boiling or leaching acorns and/or inner oak bark and twigs) is anti-bacterial. I’ve used it as an antiseptic wash before and have heard of it being used to quell diarrhea.
  • Acorns can be used a trap bait for squirrel and other small game animals
  • Can tan leather using the tannic acid found in bark, acorns and wood
  • Oak is a very hard wood that is good for ax handles, digging sticks and shelter frameworks
  • When dried, the white oak flowers make suitable tinder bundles and can be found in great abundance certain times of the year

Sugar Maple (and pretty much all maples)

maple

The sugar maple is one of my favorite trees and probably one of the most popular in the Eastern woodlands. Its beauty is on full display when the leaves change each fall into bursts of red, orange and yellow. The leaves usually have five lobes, and the tips are pointed. Young maples have smooth silvery bark. The unmistakable, “winged helicopter” seeds are a tell-tale maple tree indicator. Sugar maple is the source for maple syrup. This tree is preferred because its sap has high sugar content. It takes 40 gallons of sugar maple sap to make 1 gallon of maple syrup.

maple-tap-bucket

Sugar maple survival uses:

  • In later winter/early spring when the sap is running, the sugar maple is an excellent source of drinkable water (sap) that needs no purification. Maple Sap is nature’s version of an energy drink – rich in sugar and nutrients. I’ve filled a 1-liter canteen in as few as 15 minutes before.  Maples don’t have fully developed (or any) leaves during this time of year – hence the important of 4 season identification.
  • The seeds inside the little helicopters are edible, just like edamame. I just boil them and lightly salt. They can also be fried or added to stews. Remove the outer helicopter.
  • I almost always use maple branches for wilderness cooking. Whether it’s a spit roast, a hot dog stick or utensils, I can always find a maple branch suitable for the task. Maple branches naturally have a lot of forks, which is great for pot holders and other wilderness kitchen uses.  I also use the leaves to wrap fish or other small game animals when cooling in an earth oven.
  • Young maple leaves are also edible. Toss them into a salad or boil them down with other spring greens. They get bitter and rough as they mature.

Willow Tree

willow

There are tons of different willow varieties. Every willow I’ve seen has a similar leaf shape. The leaves are narrow, lance-shaped and grow in great numbers along the branches. Willows must be in moist areas to survive. If you’ve found a willow, then there is a water source nearby.

willow-up-close

Willow survival uses:

  • Willow bark contains a chemical called salicin, which is similar to aspirin. I can personally attest to its effectiveness in relieving headaches and inflammation. Just chew on a few small green twigs and swallow the juices.
  • In spring and summer, willow bark will peel away from the wood and makes excellent cordage that can be used for a huge variety of tasks.
  • Young willow branches and saplings are very flexible and can be used to weave a variety of different baskets and funnel traps.
  • I’ve used dried willow wood on many occasions for friction fire sets – both hand drill and bow drill
  • Willow saplings make excellent frog and fish gigs. Just split the base into 4 equal sections, press a rock to the bottom of the splits and sharpen the tines.

Feel free to list other uses for these trees that I may have overlooked in the comments below!

Remember, it’s not IF, but WHEN.

About Willow Haven Outdoor & Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is the Owner and Lead Instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor - a leading Survival and Preparedness Training Facility located on 21-acres in Central Indiana.  For more information on Survival Courses and Clinics offered at WHO, click HERE.  Creek is also author of Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit and The Unofficial Hunger Games Wilderness Survival Guide.  Visit Creek's personal web-site here: WWW.CREEKSTEWART.COM. You can contact Creek directly at creek@willowhavenoutdoor.com.