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)

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.




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.





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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



Here is the finished product.


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.



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.

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)


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.


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


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 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.


White Pine


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.


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)


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)


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.


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


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 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.

Dear Lord, Help me to be like my knife.


An Outdoorsman’s Prayer



Thank you, Lord, for giving me my survival knife.

It’s one of my most prized possessions. Sometimes, life can be so distracting, and it’s easy for me to lose perspective about what is really important. When this happens I know it’s time to hit the woods – just me and my knife. There’s nothing like some “knife-time” in the wild to help me gain perspective. After all, it’s in the woods that I feel most connected. It seems I have to “unplug” to “plug in.” My knife helps remind me of how simple life can be. With this knife I can meet my most basic survival needs. I think that’s pretty cool.

I consider my knife a friend. We’ve developed a unique relationship over the years. I take care of it, and it returns the favor. In fact, I’ve learned a lot about myself through using my knife. Today, I ask that you help me to be like my trusted friend.

My knife was designed specifically as a survival knife. It’s not a filet knife or a throwing knife or a shaving knife. I get frustrated when I try to use it for tasks for which it wasn’t designed. I am not much different from my knife in that respect. You have designed me for a specific purpose in this crazy world. Help me to stay on task and find that purpose. You of all people know how many times I’ve tried to do things for which I wasn’t designed. I know I’m stubborn. Maybe You could give me some trail markers so it’s easier for me to find my way along a path that sometimes seems so overgrown. Help me find exactly what I’m designed to do in this world.


My knife doesn’t mind hard work. I don’t baby my knife. I expect it to work hard when I need it to perform in the woods. Oftentimes, the only solution is very hard work. As hard as I’ve used it over the years, my knife has never failed me nor taken the easy way out. Help me to work as hard as my knife. I am thankful for the ability to work hard, and I want You to know that I am willing to do the work required of me. I don’t want to let You or anyone else down. Don’t baby me. You may have to baton me through this harsh world at times, but I won’t break. I want to and am not afraid to work hard.

I know the importance of taking good care of my knife. I know that when I do things like digging and prying, that I can dull and damage the blade. The blade will also corrode, discolor and become pitted if I leave it exposed to moisture and harsh chemicals. But when I polish the metal with oil and sharpen the blade with a wet stone, my knife is renewed. Similarly, Lord, help me to surround myself with people who polish and sharpen me. Give me the wisdom and strength to eliminate the people and habits from my life that may corrode, dull and tarnish my potential.

My knife is simple, Lord, and I like that. I’ve used a lot of different survival knifes over the years, and I’ve learned that it’s not the quantity of features that’s important. How you use a knife is far more important than any of the knife’s physical features. My knife is simple, but in skillful hands it can be extremely effective. Even though I’m simple, Lord, help me to be effective. Help me to skillfully apply myself and learn from my mistakes so that I can live a more effective and impactful life.

Lastly, Lord, at the end of my days I hope to pass my knife down to someone else who can use it in their wilderness adventures. If the world stays on its current path, someone will surely need it. It’s a good knife, and I’d like to see it provide basic needs for someone else after I am long gone. Like my knife, I want to create something worthy of passing down. Help me to live a life that will matter after I am gone from this world. Help me to design a life worthy of a legacy that outlives my short time on Earth. Help me to do things with my life that will have lasting value.

Help me, Lord, to be like my knife.

PS – Oh, and before I die I’d really like to jump Rambo-style down on a wild hog with my knife.  Just sayin’.

DENY DENIAL: Your most primitive survival skill can also be fatal

At most of my survival courses, I ask the group if anyone has ever been in a life-or-death survival scenario. From hunkering down in fox holes fighting terrorists in the Middle East to being trapped in a vehicle during a lake effect snowstorm in Chicago, I’ve heard all kinds of stories over the years. I have long been enamored with the details of survival scenarios as told by the survivors themselves. I always come away with having learned something very interesting about the human psyche and even myself.

On one such occasion an older gentleman from Colorado (who will remain anonymous) recounted his experience of getting lost one evening after a deer hunt. He had shot and wounded a big buck just before sunset. With adrenaline still pumping through his veins, the zeal of locating his trophy before nightfall clouded the common sense decision to come back and track in the morning. After about an hour and a half of hiking through miles of 10-foot-high scrub brush he ultimately lost the blood trail. But that wasn’t the only thing lost. He too had become disoriented and confused.

The darkening shadows of the setting sun against unfamiliar terrain made everything look different in every direction. Before long, it was nearly pitch black. He had no flashlight, no cell service, no shelter, no water – nothing but his gun and the clothes on his back.

As I probed for more details about the experience, he reluctantly confessed that he knew he was lost long before he admitted it out loud to himself.

He stated, “I remember thinking there was going to be something I recognized around the next corner. Fifty corners later I still hadn’t seen anything familiar.”

To make a long story short, he spent the night in the woods (nearly freezing to death) and eventually hitched a ride back to town after flagging down a truck on a remote mountain road the next evening. He was very lucky indeed. This experience is what drove him to seek out survival training.

“Most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it.” – George R.R. Martin

What can we learn from this and so many similar survival experiences? The lesson is simple: Don’t let denial trump common sense.

Denial is one of the few survival skills we are born with. Though for many it has been mastered with years of practice, no one teaches us how to deny evident truths. One day, this natural survival skill kicks in, and we just start denying things to somehow protect ourselves. It’s a natural human instinct for coping with stress, pain, emotions, fear, anxiety and grief. But even though our instincts mean well, we can’t always be run by instinct alone. We must decide if these innate survival instincts really have our best interest in mind.

The power of denial

Denial is a very powerful adversary, sneaking in under the radar. It’s human nature to struggle with denial during difficult or stressful circumstances. It is a tool our brain uses to deflect inevitable truths – but almost always, especially in life or death survival scenarios, those truths are coming whether we deny them or not.

Using the deer hunting example above, no matter how much he tried to deny the fact that he was lost, it had no self-preservation effect whatsoever. In fact, it only made his circumstance worse.


I was speaking with a woman several years ago who had survived a near fatal bear attack. She told me how as she was watching the bear charge toward her, she found herself wondering what it was behind her that the bear was mad at. This was simply her mind denying cold hard facts because of its inability to face the truth. Of course the bear wasn’t mad at anything behind her. It was charging her. Denial prevented her from taking actions that could have possibly made the attack less severe. Denying the clear and evident truth nearly cost this woman her life. Denial is a powerful (and tricky) emotion.

Denial and survival

Sometimes facing the truth of your predicament is painful. It can be embarrassing and is oftentimes a blow to the ego. However, saving face is never more important than saving your life.

During my public speaking engagements I’ll often ask people if they’ve prepared a Bug Out Bag just in case a disaster strikes their home. Many answer no. The most popular response to my immediate question of “why?” is because “they don’t feel it will ever happen to them.” This is a simple example of how denial can get people in trouble. They are denying the fact that a sudden and unexpected disaster can strike their immediate area at any given moment without warning. It happens to people all over the world all the time. No one is exempt. Common sense (and statistical evidence) says that it is in fact more likely than many realize. There can be a fine line between denial and laziness.

Deny denial a stronghold

Sometimes, especially in a life-threatening survival scenario (and in life), you have to deny denial the power to control your actions. It’s never easy, but it’s always better for you.

The cause of our denial is typically very obvious (i.e. a bear is charging me or alcoholism). Recognizing and stopping denial before it’s too late is the tricky part.

“Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” – Mark Twain

Spotting denial requires us to pay very close attention to ourselves. We love to analyze and criticize others but rarely look in the mirror. Three signs of denial to look for when taking inventory of your thoughts are: 1) Avoiding an issue or a problem, 2) Minimizing the consequences of a decision or event and 3) Refusing to accept truthful facts. Almost all cases of denial that exacerbate a survival scenario involve rationalizations around one of those areas.

The best way to stave off denial is to confront unfortunate and stressful truths as quickly as possible. Become a responsible owner of your own decisions – good or bad. Ignoring or putting off bad news only makes the consequences worse. Practice recognizing and confronting denial now so that it doesn’t catch you by surprise when survival is at stake.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

Mental Survival Skills: Don’t Give Up The Ship

“Don’t give up the ship. Fight her till she sinks.” – Captain James Lawrence, US Navy, 1813


For Christmas last year I received a gift from a friend of mine. It was a big, navy blue flag with bold white letters that reads, “Don’t give up the ship.”   Confused at first, I did some research to see where that quote came from.  It didn’t take long to find out that this command was given by U.S. Navy Captain James Lawrence, who ordered his crewmen to not give up during a battle against the British warship HMS Shannon even though he himself was mortally wounded.

Do you have a “fight her till she sinks” attitude?

So much of success in survival (and life) is mental. More people have made it through unspeakable survival scenarios (and achieved lofty goals) because of the sheer refusal to give up the ship. Mental perseverance is at the core of survival.

I hung the flag up in our media room at Willow Haven which you can see below.  Now, it’s a visual reminder to me every time I go into that room.  Visual reinforcement of important skills is never a bad idea.


Practice makes perfect.

There is only one way to master survival skills – practice. Whether physical or mental, all survival skills worth having are the result of trial, error, failure and repetition. For example, to master fire by friction (rubbing two sticks together), one must develop special techniques, strengthen certain muscle groups and understand specific steps in order to be successful. These skills don’t come from books or videos or verbal instruction. They only come from hands-on practice.

Mental stamina is no different. Each and every day we have opportunities to practice mental stamina. I call this muscle group the giveupmaximus.

Strengthen your giveupmaximus one small decision at a time.

Each time you flex your giveupmaxiumus by refusing to give up, it gets stronger. Alternatively, each time you give up (even on seemingly insignificant tasks), this muscle group gets weaker. Each decision to give up (not flex) makes future opportunities to give up easier and easier. Flex your giveupmaximus as often as possible. Don’t give up on even the little tasks you attempt throughout each day. Refusing to give up on the little things will pay huge rewards when you need stamina for the tasks that really matter.

When you pull a shopping cart from the corral on your way into a grocery store and it’s stuck to another one, don’t give up and choose a different one. Follow through with your decision to take that cart and “unstuck” it. Not only have you flexed your giveupmaximus, but you’re also not leaving the problem for someone else to solve. I’ve gone back to my truck to get tools to unstick a grocery cart before. Make the little things personal. Little flexes build subconscious stamina. We are faced with hundreds of opportunities to strengthen our giveupmaximus each and every day. Take them!

Failure is not failure; giving up is failure.

Develop a new perspective about failure. Failures are rarely final attempts. You haven’t failed until no more attempts are possible.

Giving up is final. Giving up relinquishes all future attempts to try. Failure is a step in the right direction, a learning opportunity.

As Henry Ford famously stated, “Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.”

Giving up develops counterproductive, anti-survival qualities including low self-esteem, unfulfillment and resentment toward others. The more one gives up, the easier giving up becomes. It’s a vicious cycle that destroys willpower and fuels long term frustration. This is the give up snowball effect. Overtime, giving up on small tasks reduces the endurance necessary to push through larger and more complex goals and dreams. We are a product of the little decisions we make each day.


Large tasks and goals can feel overwhelming – even if your giveupmaximus is in good shape. In survival scenarios, goals and tasks are complicated with life-threatening elements and are easily clouded by fear, confusion and panic. Even small tasks can feel daunting.

For large tasks that may feel too big to conquer, I suggest breaking them down into manageable chunks. I call this goalienteering, named after the sport of orienteering. Orienteering is a sport where you use a map and compass to navigate from point to point toward a final destination. Reaching each individual point along the way makes the final destination achievable. The little destinations between are critical! The same is true with life and survival goals. Practice goalienteering now, so that you know how to do it when your life may depend on it.

Fight till you sink.

Become a person who will fight till you sink. The world needs us, now more than ever. Practice each day flexing your giveupmaxiumus on the seemingly insignificant tasks and chores to build endurance for the day when everything might hang in the balance.  Don’t Give Up the Ship!  Fight her till she sinks!

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

5 Make-Shift Urban Survival Lights When the Electricity Goes Down

It’s impossible to be perfectly prepared for an imperfect world. Sometimes you just have to go MacGyver and solve common problems by using the resources you have on hand – combined with a little ingenuity, of course.  I’ve always said that the ability to improvise is one of the most important survival skills.

This article is a collection (not all my own I’ll admit) of a few, creative, makeshift lighting solutions you may have to deploy as a last resort if the grid goes down. You just never know when one of these innovative ideas might shed some light into your darkness one day.

Shining Sardines

Sardines are an excellent survival food. They have a long shelf-life and are full of protein and fats. Maybe you have some sardines packed in your emergency food storage. If not, consider them.


On a different note, oil lamps have been used for hundreds of years. From rendered whale blubber to modern kerosene lanterns, oil lamps are excellent “off-grid” lighting solutions. What do sardines and oil lamps have to do with each other? Quite a lot, actually, if your sardines are packed in olive oil.

Once you’re done smashing those tasty bites of fish, place a natural fiber wick into the remaining oil and slightly over the edge of the sardine container. The wick, in this case a cotton string from a mop head, will absorb the oil. Once the wick is fully soaked, simply light the end. A sardine lamp with just a little bit of oil will burn for many hours. Sure, it’ll smell like fish, but that’s what you get for not including emergency candles in your “bug in” supplies. Running low on oil? No problem, just top it off with some more olive oil from the pantry – or any cooking oil for that matter.

Cotton Fiber Mop Head

Cotton Fiber Mop Head

Cotton Fiber Wick Soaking Up Olive Oil

Cotton Fiber Wick Soaking Up Olive Oil

Sardine Olive Oil Lamp

Sardine Olive Oil Lamp

Glowing Crayolas

Games and toys are excellent items to pack in an emergency kit – especially if you have small children. Simple toys such as crayons and coloring books can help keep their mind off of the misfortune that caused the lights to go out in the first place.

But if you’ve focused only on toys and no essentials, like candles and flashlights, then you may have to sacrifice some of their least favorite crayon colors and make some Crayndles. I made that word up. Crayons are basically colored wax. If you’re in a hurry, just break the point off and light the paper label at the end of the crayon. As the wax melts, the paper becomes a wick and one crayndle will last about 30 minutes. Not too bad.


You can also get a little more creative and sandwich a natural fiber wick (like a shred of t-shirt material) between three crayons that have been stripped of their labels. Bind everything together with two short pieces of wire. Paper clips work well. Then, simply light the wick. I got one of these to burn about an hour. Not too bad for a 10-second makeshift crayndle.

Three crayons - No Paper - With Cotton Fiber Wick

Three crayons – No Paper – With Cotton Fiber Wick

Cotton Fiber Wick in Middle of Three Paperless Crayons

Cotton Fiber Wick in Middle of Three Paperless Crayons

Three Crayons - No Paper - Wired tight around cotton fiber wick

Three Crayons – No Paper – Wired tight around cotton fiber wick

Blazing Bottles

If you’ve listened to anything I said in “Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag,” then I know you at least have a headlamp packed in your 72-hour disaster kit.

Yet as nice as headlamps are, they aren’t always the perfect lighting solution. Ever tried having dinner or playing cards across the table with someone who’s wearing a headlamp flashlight? It’s really annoying and gets really old, really fast. You get blinded every time they look at you.

Instead, set a relaxing mood perfect for cards and a sardine dinner using a headlamp and a water-filled clear plastic milk jug (or any clear container filled with water). Invert the headlamp around the bottle so that the light shines toward the CENTER of the bottle. The water diffuses and diverts the light – making a nice, mellow, glowing lamp that will help set a perfect mood during any disaster “bug in.”


Headlamp Bottle Lamp

Headlamp Bottle Lamp


Beaconing Bacon

If you’re like my mom, then you have a jar in the cupboard where you pour and keep excess bacon grease. This grease makes the perfect improvised survival candle. Jam in a natural fiber wick and light. It’ll burn as long as any comparable sized candle.  See this post here about how to make a BACON GREASE CANDLE.

No bacon grease? No problem. If the electricity is out, then the bacon in the fridge is going to go bad anyway, so you might as well use it for something. Tear off the fatty pieces and jam them in a jar around a natural fiber wick, and this will burn like a candle as well. The fatty bacon pieces will melt just like wax. Mmmmm, smells like bacon.  TIP:  Smear the wick with bacon fat first!

Smashed Bacon Candle

Smashed Bacon Candle


Kindling Crisco

But what if the electricity is off for more than 30 days straight and you need a light source that will shine for at least a month?

No problem, Crisco’s got your back.

Press a natural fiber wick (like a cotton t-shirt shred or a mop strand) using a forked stick to the bottom of a can of Crisco and you’ve got one of the longest burning emergency candles on the planet. Yum, doesn’t that make you hungry? Fried chicken anyone?  We’re testing it right now but I’ve heard reports of these burning for more than 30 days straight!!!???

Note: Smear the top of the wick with Crisco to get it to burn better.

Forked Stick Positioned to Jam in Cotton Fiber Wick

Forked Stick Positioned to Jam in Cotton Fiber Wick


Removing Stick after Pushing in Wick

Removing Stick after Pushing in Wick

Cotton Fiber Wick - Trimmed

Cotton Fiber Wick – Trimmed

Crisco Candle

Crisco Candle



What’s the lesson here? Make sure you have non-electric lighting solutions in place just in case the grid goes down. If your solutions are battery powered, you will also need extra batteries as well. Oil lamps, flashlights, candles and glow sticks are great emergency light sources. Don’t resort to smashing bacon fat into a jar with your bare hands unless you absolutely have to.

Note: Candles have a bad reputation of causing house fires. Makeshift improvised candles are even more dangerous. Use only as a last resort, burn only on a noncombustible surface and keep close watch on any makeshift candle. A house fire can turn a “bug in” scenario into a “bug out” scenario really fast.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

Survival Mentality: How the numbers 80 and 20 can help save your life.

Sorry, no flashy pictures with this post – just a good solid discussion about Survival Mentality.

The 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 rule has been a popular buzz phrase in the business and self-help realms for many years. But what if I told you that understanding this rule could actually save your life?

A quick history …

In the 1800s an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, noted that 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the population. Ironically, he also observed that 20 percent of the pea plants in his garden produced 80 percent of the peas (anyone feel like the 20% of pea plants right now?). This universal ratio ultimately became known as the Pareto Principle and simply states that “80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.” It’s also been dubbed as “the law of the critical few and the trivial many.”

I’ll leave the business and self-help application of the 80/20 rule to those who have gone before me. Many people have written and spoken about how this principle can improve your performance and effectiveness in life and business. Today, I will discuss how it can actually save your life.

In a survival scenario, prioritizing your time and resources is critical. You must make the absolute best use of the resources both inside of you (like energy and thoughts) and around you (like natural tools and gear). Understanding and applying the 80/20 rule to survival skills and resources not only helps one prepare and train, but also perform. It all starts with mentally identifying 80/20 patterns. Below are a few of the more prominent patterns that I’ve noticed in my years of practicing and teaching survival skills.

Twenty percent of all survival skills offer 80 percent of the life-saving value

There are literally just a handful of skills that can determine whether someone triumphs over a survival scenario. Then, there are hundreds that are nice to know. There are the critical few and the trivial many.

The ability to provide shelter, source water, make fire, signal for rescue and stay mentally motivated are among the critical few.

Oftentimes, people focus on learning the skills they want to know before the ones they need to know. It’s not always the easy and fun activities that produce the most rewarding results. In fact, successful people (in life and survival) typically do what others don’t want to or aren’t willing to do. Understanding the concept of sacrifice will pay survival dividends.

I use 20 percent of my tools 80 percent of the time

Let the 80/20 rule guide how you prepare for an adventure. I spend a lot of time in the field, and I can report matter-of-factly that I use 20 percent of my gear 80 percent of the time.

Knowing what I use more often helps me prepare in advance for adventures, but it also gives me a keen understanding of what I really need in a survival scenario. If ever faced with a sudden and unexpected survival scenario, I will be able to identify the critical few quickly and clearly. A cutting tool, container, fire starting tools, cordage, water and shelter materials are immediately at the top of the list. Anything else is a bonus.

Twenty percent of the steps in a survival skill produce 80 percent of the results

This 80/20 observation comes directly from students who attend our survival training courses. Often, students will arrive who have read all of the best survival books and watched all of the best survival videos but have never taken the opportunity to practice these skills ‘hands-on.” They may understand the concept, know the basic steps and even have seen someone complete the skills successfully, but they still are missing the 20 percent of critical knowledge that only comes from personal trial and error. Often, the trivial many are meaningless without the critical few. Spend time on the 20 percent that really matters.

Twenty percent of your food sources provide 80 percent of your calories

Understanding this principle alone can save your life. Energy conservation and risk reduction are at the core of survival. It’s easy to lose common sense when your brain teeters at the edge of fear and panic. Understanding when and when not to spend valuable time and energy is critical. It makes no survival sense to spend valuable resources or take considerable risk to hunt or gather food that has little to no calorie reward – but people do it all the time in survival scenarios. Often, survivors will spend more calories sourcing food than it will give them back. Hunting and gathering with the 80/20 rule in mind can help quell the urge to be overzealous and prioritize target foods.

Learn to identify 20 percent of the wild edible plants that you see 80 percent of the time

There are literally hundreds of wild edible plants in any given geographic area – except for some desert, high mountain and arctic regions. It’s just not practical for the average person to learn them all – and certainly not necessary. It can be time consuming, overwhelming and confusing. Focusing on being able to positively identify, harvest and prepare the 20 percent of the wild edible plants that you see 80 percent of the time is a much more effective use of your time. This principle allows you to intensely study a select few plants very easily. An intimate knowledge of the critical few is much better than a marginal knowledge of the trivial many. Start with these: cattail, dandelion, Jerusalem artichoke, wapato, thistles, mustards, docks and nettles.

More 80/20 survival patterns certainly exist. Even 20 percent of the wood species in an area can provide 80 percent of a fire’s heat and longevity. The 80/20 ratios exist on many different levels when it comes to survival and preparedness. As you study, practice, prepare and purchase survival supplies, try to identify the 80/20 patterns that can help your efforts be more effective.

What other 80/20 survival patterns can you identify?

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN.

TOP 21 Survival Pick Up Lines

Let’s face it, finding another survival-minded partner isn’t the easiest task in the world.  Sometimes it can feel like trying to start a friction fire with water soaked wood.  Or, like trying to find the one edible cattail in a marsh of poisonous water irises – darn near impossible!

And let’s face it, survival-types aren’t known for being the most socially suave category of people, am I right?  It takes a special person to understand the things that survivalists really get excited about – like composting toilets, stacked and racked food storage, gravity fed water systems, heirloom seeds,  Bug Out drills, wild edibles, household arsenals and the list goes on and on.  You know what I mean.

Well here at Willow Haven, we know a good survival partner not only makes a lot of sense, but also makes life more rewarding.  They aren’t just someone to reload magazines when lead starts flying. They’re a key component to a solid support system.  Consequently, we are extending our survival training to help with this social dilemma.  Don’t worry we’ve got your back!  Hopefully our advice in the skill of approaching a survival minded partner will help.  You won’t, however, be able to use the 2 is 1 and 1 is none philosophy when choosing a survival life partner.  That probably won’t go over so well.

Without further delay, below are the Top 21 Survival Pick Up Lines:

Survival Pick Up Line # 1:

Stop.  Just stop.  You had me at ‘food storage’.

Survival Pick Up Line # 2:

Here.  I brought you a bouquet.  It’s edible.


Survival Pick Up Line # 3:

You know, I’d love to invite you over to my place, but my bunker location is a secret.

Survival Pick Up Line # 4:

Hi.  Let me buy you a drink?  Excuse me bartender, do you take gold?

Survival Pick Up Line # 5:

I’m going to do something really special for our dinner and movie date tonight.  I’m busting out the good stuff – Mountain House and Red Dawn.


Survival Pick Up Line # 6:

I’ll show you my Bug Out Bag if you show me yours.

Survival Pick Up Line # 7:

Girl, without you it’d be TEOTWAWKI for sure.

Survival Pick Up Line # 8:

Is that a Bow Drill Spindle in your pocket or are you just happy to see me.


Survival Pick Up Line # 9:

I bet you look beautiful through the amber lens of a gas mask.

Survival Pick Up Line # 10:

Wow, you look hypothermic.  Hurry – let me help regulate your core body temperature!

Survival Pick Up Line # 11:

It’s a good thing you’re naturally beautiful.  All those other chicks are screwed when the grid goes down!

Survival Pick Up Line # 12:

You give the phrase “double tap” a whole new meaning!


Survival Pick Up Line # 13:

Let’s Bug Out from all this noise and head back to my Debris Hut.

Survival Pick Up Line # 14:

Wanna barter some of my heirloom seeds for your organic eggs?


Survival Pick Up Line # 15:

If you were a survival tool you’d be a ferro rod because you’re on FIRE!

Survival Pick Up Line # 16:

DANG!  I need to come out of my bunker more often!

Survival Pick Up Line # 17:

Let’s pretend S already HTF and we’re the only people left.  The human race now depends on us.

Survival Pick Up Line # 18:

You must be magnetic because you’re making my compass needle move!


Survival Pick Up Line # 19:

You’re showing early signs of dehydration.  You’d better let me buy you a drink before it gets serious.

Survival Pick Up Line # 20:

Wanna start a friction fire?

Survival Pick Up Line # 21:

You’re the only person I’ve ever met who’s made me ask myself, “Am I OK with 15 years of food storage instead of 30?”


WILLOW HAVEN OUTDOOR: Full Spectrum Survival Training!

There’s no better place to meet like-minded people than at a SURVIVAL COURSE at WILLOW HAVEN.  Click here for the FULL COURSE SCHEDULE.

Got a good survival pick up line?  We (and thousands of other readers) would love to hear it!  Post in a comment below.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,


Survival Lessons from Hansel & Gretel

I’m sure most of you have seen the recent television trailer promoting the Hollywood blockbuster remake of the famous Hansel & Gretel fairy tale    It reminds me of a very simple but important survival strategy if you ever find yourself lost in the woods.

We all know how the story goes.  In an attempt to not get lost in the woods, Hansel & Gretel leave a trail of breadcrumbs so they can retrace their path back home.  It was a great idea, but poorly executed.  Hungry birds gobble up the breadcrumb trail-markers and Hansel & Gretel end up completely lost.  Fortunately, this fairytale has a happy ending.  Unfortunately, many similar real-life stories of people getting lost in the woods don’t end so well.

There are many accounts each and every year about people just like you and me who get lost in the woods.  Whether on a day-hike in a national park or a remote hunting trip, it’s easy to get turned around in unfamiliar territory.  Oftentimes, panic and fear lead to poor decisions that further complicate these sudden survival scenarios.  I remember a story not too long ago of a family traveling a remote road while on vacation.  Their car became stuck in deep snow and they were stranded on a road in the middle of the woods for 9 days.  Out of gas and desperate for rescue, the father decided to leave the vehicle and try to find help.  As he traveled away from the car, he didn’t think to leave a trail of ‘breadcrumbs’ for a potential rescue crew to see and/or follow or for himself to use to find his way back to the car.  After he left, a rescue helicopter finally spotted the car and saved the mother and small children.  Because the father left no signs of travel, they were not able to quickly locate him.  When they did, a day or so later, he had died of hypothermia deep in the woods.  A few very simple survival techniques could have prevented this tragic outcome.  Surprisingly, many people make similar mistakes when lost.


You should always tell someone where you’re headed and when to expect you back before you embark on any adventure.  Remember the story of Aron Ralston who’s real-life survival story inspired the hit movie 127 HOURS?  His arm became trapped by a rock in a canyon while hiking.  He didn’t tell anyone where he was headed or when to expect him back.  This mistake left him with 2 options: cut his own arm off or die.  Give yourself more options!


If you realize you’re lost, the general rule of thumb is to STAY PUT.  Soon enough, rescue crews will begin search efforts.  Survival statistics prove time and time again that a moving target is harder to find than one that’s sitting still.  Traveling increases the survival risk on many levels.  First, you can become even more lost.  Second, traveling increases your risk of injury.  It also agitates existing wounds.  Lastly, traveling consumes more life-saving energy and resources such as water.

Sometimes, though, staying put may not be your best option.  You may have to travel to secure survival resources such as water or shelter.  If you must travel, learn an important lesson from Hansel & Gretel.


Many rescue crews consist of volunteers.  These people may be members of the community, friends and family.  They are not expert trackers.  Don’t force them to look for your footprints or little broken leaves and branches to follow your trail.  If you decide to travel, always leave very clear and obvious trail-markers that indicate both where you’ve been and where you’re headed.

Survival trail-markers don’t need to be complicated.  They should be simple.  The best trail-markers are unique from the surrounding environment in shape, color and movement.  Sometimes, though, you may not be able to get all three.  Do the best you can.  Below are a few classic survival trail-markers.

Y-STICK with stick indicating direction of travel

Rock or pine cone arrow indicating direction of travel

Shredded bandanna or t-shirt tied to branch along path traveled


Wilderness survival isn’t complicated.  Sometimes it’s the simple things that can save your life.  It’s easy to let fear, panic and the thought of a night under the stars get in the way of good old common sense.  Stop, breath, remember the basics and maybe even lull yourself to sleep with your favorite fairy tale.  If you follow these steps, rescue won’t be far behind.

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,



Wanna Get Knotty? Survival Knot Series: The Bowline

Survival Knot Series: The Bowline

The incessant reference to all of these “fiscal cliffs” in the past several weeks makes me think about a very important survival knot that everyone should know. If I could only teach one survival rescue knot, it would be the bowline.

The bowline is designed to create a very secure non-slipping loop at the end of a rope. This loop can be tied around your waist in the event you need to be hoisted up from the bottom of a “physical” cliff. I wish I knew a knot that could save us from the fiscal kind.  You’re on your own with that one.

Besides rescue, the bowline knot has many other practical survival functions. Two bowlines can be used to tie two ropes together. It can be used to create a loop in the end of a rope for a snare noose. It can also be used to tie off a boat or canoe when at shore. It is a great survival knot to learn. In addition, the bowline is one of the few knots I know that can be tied using only one hand. It’s not hard to imagine that one arm might be injured if you’ve fallen to the bottom of a cliff. Or, you might be holding onto the cliff with one hand. Being able to tie a one-handed survival rescue knot then becomes a matter of life and death.

To tie the bowline, you need only remember the following pneumonic: “The rabbit runs out of his hole, around the tree and back into his hole.”

Below is a step-by-step tutorial showing how to tie the bowline using this pneumonic.

Start by running the rescue line around your waist.

STEP 1: Create “the rabbit hole” and “the tree” by making a loop in the long end of the rope. Notice the right and wrong way to make the loop.


STEP 2: Now take “the rabbit” and make him come out of “his hole” …


STEP 3: Around “the tree”


STEP 4: And back in “his hole”


STEP 5: Pull to tighten.


Now, once you’ve mastered this knot using both hands, it’s time to try it one handed.  Good luck!

Remember, it’s not IF but WHEN,


Creek's new survival fiction novel, RUGOSA, now available on!