Startseite 100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Surviving in the Wild and Being..
Due to the technical work on the site downloading books (as well as file conversion and sending books to email/kindle) may be unstable from May, 27 to May, 28 Also, for users who have an active donation now, we will extend the donation period.

100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Surviving in the Wild and Being Prepared for Any Disaster

From national bestselling author and retired Navy SEAL Clint Emerson comes the essential guide for surviving today’s emergencies—from navigating in the wild to staying alive in any disaster.

These 100 skills, adapted for civilians from actual field experiences of special forces operations, offer a complete hands-on and practical guide to help you survive in the wild no matter the climate or terrain; be prepared for any crisis; and have the critical life-saving knowledge for staying safe in any hostile environment or disaster.

Yesterday’s survival guide is no longer relevant. 100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition is what you need for today’s world, combining survival hacks developed on the battlefield with the low-tech tools you have on hand. This book is your essential prep manual, from securing shelter, building fire, finding food, and navigating back to civilization no matter the environment to thinking like a special forces solider so that you can survive a hostage situation, an active shooter, a suicide bomber, or a terrorist threat on the subway, and even apply trauma medicine as a first responder.

Full of specific scenarios to help you get in the mindset of survival, 100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition is better than a Swiss Army knife whether you’re lost at sea, forced to land a plane, fighting off a bear, or deciding whether to run, hide, or fight. Next to each skill are easy-to-grasp detailed illustrations, because when you need to survive the apocalypse, you don’t have time for complicated instructions.
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:
EPUB, 77.86 MB
Download (epub, 77.86 MB)

You may be interested in Powered by Rec2Me


Most frequently terms

This book is incomplete, tried downloading it three times and it doesn't work.
28 May 2018 (13:51) 
You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.

Weapon and Warfare. Machine Guns

PDF, 9.76 MB
Thank you for downloading this Touchstone eBook.

* * *

Join our mailing list and get updates on new releases, deals, bonus content and other great books from Touchstone and Simon & Schuster.


or visit us online to sign up at


A Note to Readers




001 Become Crisis Proof

002 Build a Personal EDC Kit

003 Train to Survive

004 Prepare a Vehicle Go-Bag


005 Environmental Navigation

006 Solar Navigation

007 Celestial Navigation

008 Magnetic Navigation


009 Minimum EDC, Jungle Environment

010 Collect Water in a Rainforest

011 Build a Rainforest Fire

012 Scavenge and Spearfish Rainforest Survival Food

013 Build a Bamboo Hammock

014 Escape a Wild Boar Attack

015 Minimum EDC, Arctic Environment

016 Collect Arctic Drinking Water

017 Build an Arctic Fire

018 Locate Survival Foods in Subzero Conditions

019 Build Expedient Arctic Shelters

020 Avoid Hypothermia

021 Minimum EDC, Desert Environment

022 Locate Drinking Water in an Arid Desert

023 Spark a Fire with Sunlight

024 Hunt and Scavenge Desert Survival Food

025 Build a Cooling Desert Shelter

026 Minimum EDC, Wetland Environment

027 Filter Water in a Swamp

028 Spark a Fire with a Mobile Phone

029 Find Food in a Wetland

030 Build an Elevated Swamp Bed

031 Minimum EDC, Mountain Environment

032 Purify Mountain Water

033 Build a Fire with Damp Wood

034 Find Food in the Mountains

035 Build Efficient Mountain Shelters

036 Emergency Climbing Techniques

037 Survive a Bear Attack

038 Cross Rapids Safely

039 Minimum EDC, Maritime Environment

040 Convert Seawater to Drinking Water

041 Reinforce Food Supplies While Drifting at Sea

042 Create Improvised Flotation Devices

043 Survive a Shark Attack

044 Defend a Ship Against Pirates


045 Fortify Your Home Security

046 Profile a Home Intruder

047 Build a Tactical Nightsta; nd

048 Use a Flashlight as a Tactical Tool

049 Build an Improvised Concealable Rifle Rack

050 Survive Home Invasions

051 Combat Clear Your Home

052 Command and Control a Home Invader

053 Create and Apply Improvised Restraints

054 Prisoner Handling

055 Escape a Carjacking

056 Access Your Locked Vehicle


057 Create an Improvised Door-Closer Lock

058 Barricade Inward-Opening Doors

059 Barricade Outward-Opening Doors

060 Handle a Bomb Threat

061 Elude Ransomware Attacks

062 Detect an Inspired Terrorist

063 Ambush an Active Shooter


064 Outwit a Pickpocket

065 Counter a Purse Snatcher

066 Outsmart a Virtual Kidnapper

067 Prevent and Survive an Express Kidnapping

068 Resist an Attempted Abduction

069 Spot a Concealed Handgun

070 Spot a Suicide Bomber

071 Choke Out a Bad Guy

072 Take Out a Hijacker


073 Escape a Tsunami

074 Survive an Avalanche

075 Survive an Earthquake

076 Survive a Thunder Snow Blizzard

077 Survive Tornadoes and Hurricanes

078 Survive a Sinkhole Fall

079 Escape a Flooding Vehicle

080 Walk Away from a Runaway Train

081 Escape a Skyscraper Fire

082 Escape Social Unrest and Riots

083 Survive a Pandemic

084 Survive a Human Stampede

085 Escape a Stadium or Theater Shooting

086 Survive an Inspired Terrorism Attack

087 Survive Long-term Captivity


088 Send a Distress Signal by Day

089 Send a Distress Signal at Night

090 Send a Distress Signal on a Smartphone

091 Leave a DNA Trail


092 Primary Assessment

093 Stop the Bleeding

094 Treat Gunshot Wounds

095 Occlude a Sucking Chest Wound

096 Treat Foreign Object Impalements

097 Suture a Cut

098 Treat Minor Burns

099 Splint Fractured Bones

100 Perform a Cricothyrotomy


About the Author

A Note to Readers

The skills described in the following pages are called “deadly” for a reason. Many were inspired by the missions and training of Special Forces personnel, operatives who are routinely pushed to the limits of their endurance, precision, and ingenuity under life-threatening conditions. But unlike the original 100 Deadly Skills, a manual intended to expose civilians to a shadowy special ops world filled with subterfuge, surveillance, and surreptitious infiltration, this survival edition is geared toward actions that will save lives—yours and those of the people around you. The skills in this book are meant to help you overcome a range of deadly situations, from getting lost at sea to being caught in the crosshairs of an active shooter or the tusks of a wild boar.

Still, some of these skills are extremely dangerous, and many should only be attempted in the direst of situations. All require the application of personal judgment, their necessity in any given situation highly dependent on context. A cricothyrotomy (see page 252) should be performed by an untrained bystander only in the event that a massive trauma has mangled a victim’s upper airway, less invasive attempts to restore breathing have failed, and an emergency dispatcher agrees that the benefits outweigh the risks. A botched attempt could result in spinal injury or the laceration of a major vessel or artery, eventualities for which even the most well-meaning bystander might be liable. Starting a signaling fire with a cell phone battery (see page 68) should only be undertaken in extreme situations. And attempting to thwart a pirate attack (see page 102) or take out a hijacker (see page 174) is a brave act of intervention with an extremely high level of risk.

The author and publisher disclaim any liability from any injury that may result from the use, proper or improper, of the information contained in this book. The stated goal of the book is not to enable deadly actions but to entertain while simultaneously imparting a body of knowledge that may come in handy in the absolute direst of emergencies.

Be deadly in spirit, but not in action. Respect the rights of others and the laws of the land. May the strongest survive.

Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.

—Carl Sagan


The state of survival isn’t what it used to be. Scroll back several hundred years, and the living was harder, but the environment was a known quantity. Though our ancestors could still be felled by illness, natural disaster, or marauding troops, they knew the lay of their land. They probably hadn’t roamed far, from birth through old age, but they understood the risks they faced, and prepared for those they could control.

Too often these days we’re lulled into a false sense of security, an easy complacency born of a matrix of assumptions about the modern world. The trains run on time (or are predictably delayed), we hit the brakes at red lights, we plan adventure treks and travel freely around the globe. If anything goes wrong, we reach for the tiny computers in our pockets and find the answer we’re looking for or summon the help we need. But the same conveniences that make our lives run so smoothly—the top-of-the-line gear that is meant to make outdoor exploration even cushier, the cars that whisk us to our offices, the computers that research our queries and crunch our complex algorithms, the planes that vault us thousands of feet through the air toward our final destinations—render us soft on survival skills and vulnerable to predators.

With a change of perspective, our modern conveniences start to look a lot like security loopholes.

Perhaps worst of all, their convenience is a double-edged sword. Our reliance on automated, networked, “smart” devices and machines has also made us more dependent, less smart—unable to find our way around our own cities without the aid of pinging cellular towers or satellites tracking our positioning from outer space, much less make our way around in unfamiliar territory.

If a catastrophic event occurs, will you have amassed the knowledge and undertaken the preparations necessary to survive? What does survival look like in a time when borders are porous and threats are varied, ever-changing, and sometimes unknowable? An increasingly global, networked society demands a new prototype for survival. A blueprint that brings us back to a core arsenal of lost skills, teaching us how to navigate a landscape devoid of street signs or satellite signals while preparing us for the newest and most up-to-date threats emerging in our urban environments—from lightning-fast pandemics to social media–enabled kidnapping scams.

A new blueprint for survival understands that the line between war and peace can be fractured in an instant, not by a marauding horde but by a lone actor carrying out the delusional fantasies of a self-proclaimed world order. This blueprint understands that in order to survive such an attack, each and every citizen must be prepared to fight. And it also understands that though the natural world around us sometimes seems to have been tamed, Mother Nature still has the power to surprise and shock.

Take it from a retired Navy SEAL with twenty years of special ops service and extensive experience in identifying and fortifying security loopholes: The only elements of crisis under our control are our own preparation and response. A true warrior is prepared to fight in any environment on earth, protecting his or her loved ones from threats as varied as gunshot wounds and home intruders. And whether a crisis is medical, man-made, natural, urban, or rural, a base layer of knowledge and forethought can make the difference between life and death.

Only the strong survive. Only the knowledgeable prosper.

The world isn’t getting any safer. Be ready to stand your ground.



001 Become Crisis Proof

Survivability isn’t just a matter of carrying the right tools or following the most punishing physical training regimen available. Beyond muscle, brawn, and a crisis-oriented readiness kit, the most important element of survival training begins with the adoption of a preemptive, proactive mindset.

Most civilians living in relatively peaceful modern societies move through their days in a haze of passivity, assuming the worst that will happen is a missed deadline, a parking ticket, an argument with a loved one. The ground is solid beneath their feet. The only risk entailed by a Saturday night movie or ballgame is that the newest superhero sequel disappoints or their favorite team loses. But as we’ve learned, sophisticated urban centers aren’t immune to the threat of global conflict or to the unpredictable menace caused by lone actors whose sinister plans may escape the notice of their closest friends and family.

A survival mindset rejects the lure of passivity and instead prepares for a range of undesirable possibilities—whatever their nature and wherever they may occur, from a mountaintop to your local cineplex. A survival mindset isn’t paranoid, but realistic. And it begins with a multipronged strategy for awareness and response to crises of all kinds, comprised of situational awareness, personal and cultural awareness, active threat reduction techniques, and the adoption of an offensive—and not defensive—mindset.

Situational Awareness: Whether you’re traveling or on home ground, reduce your vulnerability to threats by adopting situational awareness as a personal philosophy. Look outside the three-foot bubble most civilians inhabit as they transit through their surroundings. Look up, look down, stay off your mobile device. Orient yourself to your surroundings and to potential threats you may spot in the vicinity, and make advance decisions about your potential response to these threats as you see them. Set thresholds for defensive or offensive responses. If the man who seems to be following me crosses over to my side of the street, I will duck into the next place of business to call 911 and get help from bystanders. Identify exits in enclosed, crowded public spaces in advance. Identifying situational risks and thinking through crisis response in advance allows you to act without hesitation when emergencies strike. If and when chaos descends, you’ll be making your way to safety while others are still scrambling to determine a response.

Personal and Cultural Awareness: Combine personal awareness with cultural awareness to reduce the odds of being targeted as a potential victim. Personal awareness involves scanning your self-presentation and demeanor from a predator’s perspective. What does your look telegraph to thieves or violent criminals? Flashing expensive brands and logos only draws attention to you as a potentially lucrative target, so favor generic clothing and accessories. No matter the scenario, you stand to benefit by being the gray man or woman, a figure who passes unnoticed through a variety of contexts. Cultural awareness involves scanning your self-presentation and demeanor against the prevailing customs of any given environment. When you are traveling, an aversion to ostentation should be combined with a preference for assimilation. Tourists and travelers are frequently targeted as easy marks for a variety of crimes, scams, and heists. Altering your everyday appearance in order to blend in with the local population is one simple way to reduce your visibility.

Threat Reduction: Women looking to protect themselves from predators can start with a few very simple measures that may lessen their chances of being targeted. Wear long hair in a bun rather than loose or in a ponytail, to avoid giving predators a handle to hold on to. Necklaces and IDs worn on lanyards around your neck could also be used by a predator seeking to gain control over you. Wear pants—predators are known to target women wearing skirts and dresses, and pants offer maximum mobility and protection in any kind of crisis.

An Offensive Mindset: When it comes to survival, “self-defense” is a natural association. But in most crisis scenarios, a defensive mindset won’t do you much good. If the crisis threshold has been crossed and the moment for action has arrived, it’s time for you to flip a mental switch and move into offensive mode. In confrontations with violent adversaries, you must match or exceed the level of aggression you are presented with. Assume the worst-case scenario—that your aggressor is trained in mixed martial arts or very accurate with his or her weapon—and fight back with everything you’ve got. Your life depends on it.

This spirit of aggressive counteraction is just as applicable to natural disasters or survival in the wild. In any crisis or disaster scenario, your goal is to aggressively move away from the danger as quickly and efficiently as possible, remaining in control of your emotions and refraining from letting hysteria take over. The fight-or-flight instinct is powerful, but it must be combined with clearheaded thinking for optimal response.

Note: Each skill in this book is broken down into its most critical parts, or Courses of Action (COAs), introduced by a Concept of Operation (CONOP) and then summed up by a BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) that spells out the skill’s key takeaway.

002 Build a Personal EDC Kit

Survival is a game of adaptability, and many of the skills in this book focus on improvised tools created from available materials at the last minute. But a small amount of well-chosen gear goes a long way. Every man or woman must tailor his or her own EDC (everyday carry) kit to the environment and to personal habits, but whether you’re looking to fine-tune your kit or starting from scratch, a few small, lightweight items should be considered baseline necessities (see opposite).

A bulletproof insert, custom-fitted or ordered to fit a variety of bag sizes, can transform your bag into a quick shield against a gun-toting assailant. A small flashlight has endless uses as a navigational tool or signaling device (page 114). A steel-barreled pen works overtime as both a writing device and (when stabbed into an opponent’s eye or neck) a weapon of self-defense. A roll of coins can be folded into a bandana and turned into a bone-crushing tool. The same bandana can be used as a tourniquet, while a tube of super glue can be used to create improvised sutures (page 246). A pair of Kevlar shoelaces, worn or carried, can be used to saw through metal. And medical shears will cut through clothing or metal wire.

In combination with the weapons a civilian might regularly carry, a small can of Mace provides a nonlethal means of self-defense.

A GPS device provides navigational backup in the event that cell phone service is interrupted during a natural or urban disaster, and a printed map adds an extra layer of insurance should both devices fail or be stolen.

Reattach purse or bag straps with carabiners if you can—a removable strap can be of great use during a crisis (see page 200), as can a length of tubular nylon (page 96).

003 Train to Survive

If you don’t have the physical conditioning necessary to get yourself out of trouble, the skills in this book won’t do you much good. Whether you’re exiting a burning building or knocking a dangerous assailant unconscious, the ordeal will consist of surmounting the initial crisis and then running or crawling your way to safe ground some distance away. At a minimum, you want to be able to push, pull, and lift your own body weight. Ideally, you’ll have the strength to lift your own body weight while also carrying a loved one to safety.

Full-body strength and cardiovascular endurance are two prongs of a solid functional workout that will give you the initial fortitude to pull yourself out of a crisis—and then the endurance you’ll need to get out of harm’s way. An adaptable workout based on hauling, pushing, punching, and pulling a heavy weighted mass will have the best chance of approximating real-life survival scenarios.

Work through the phases of the workout in thirty-second intervals, starting with the Heavy Bag Sprints (see opposite). Working the core and the legs, these will inevitably resemble more of a forced march than an actual sprint. Proceed to Heavy Bag Ground Pounds, which work arm and back strength while engaging core rotational force. Ground your legs during Heavy Bag Pulls, pulling the rope hand-over-hand to bring the bag toward you. Alternate sides after ten reps or thirty seconds of Heavy Bag Squats. Proceed to another Heavy Bag Ground Pound, this time letting the rotational power exit through your knees as you push the heavy bag across the floor.

End the interval series with a quarter- or half-mile full-speed sprint. Rest for thirty seconds to one minute, then repeat the sequence up to five times.

004 Prepare a Vehicle Go-Bag

A basement full of emergency supplies is an excellent starting point for disaster preparation, but the trunk of your car is an underutilized resource. Crisis is unpredictable, and a nimble response should be mobile-adapted. Conceal a vehicular go-bag beneath or beside your spare tire to surmount not only a flat but also a plunge into a sinkhole (see page 196) or an unexpected cold-weather trek toward roadside assistance. Stock your go-bag with items crucial for life-support and self-defense, including but not limited to:

Carabiners. Strap down gear in a maritime environment, hang food supplies in the mountains, or make an improvised seat belt.

Concealed Razor Blade. An undetectable weapon can be a very powerful tool.

Duct Tape. Splint a fractured bone (see page 250) or create an Improvised Magnetic Compass (page 20).

Dynamic Rope. Haul yourself out of a sticky situation.

First-aid Kit. Temporarily stop bleeding in the event of a collision.

Flares, Flare Gun, Air Horn, Whistle. The ability to signal for help may get you out of a very tight squeeze.

Flashlight, Lighter. A large flashlight has a multitude of uses, and a lighter ensures you’ll never be without fire.

Food and Water. Maintain a three-day supply to prepare for a lengthy drive out of town in the event of a large-scale urban crisis or natural disaster.

Handheld GPS Device. Supplement your cell phone and/or built-in GPS system in case both systems fail.

Multi-tool. Cut through wire, loosen screws, or saw down metal with a single tool.

Pistol, Ammo, Fixed-blade Knife. Arm yourself in case things go sideways.

Sleeping Bag, Hammock, Poncho Liner. Increase your comfort and endurance in survival conditions.

Warm Layers. Cars can break down anywhere, and running your heater overnight is a great way to wear out your battery.



005 Environmental Navigation

In a survival scenario, an overreliance on your GPS system can be a liability. Devices can be lost or destroyed. Under a triple canopy or in inclement weather, they may not be able to contact the three or more satellites needed for positioning. And most important, in the absence of street names, being able to pinpoint your position won’t help you if you don’t have a context for the environment’s topographical landmarks.

To mitigate against these possibilities, carry a compass, extra batteries, and a map as backup—and perform a generalized map study prior to setting out into the wilderness. Your goal should be to familiarize yourself with the terrain within a fifteen- to twenty-mile radius of your destination. If you have the misfortune of getting lost, having memorized the direction of landmarks such as lakes, villages, mountains, and oceans will make for smarter decision-making on the fly.

So will an observant eye. Whether by design or by accident, Mother Nature provides those who pay attention with a host of clues regarding their whereabouts. Because most winds are western-prevailing, for example, trees and bushes tend to display thicker foliage on their eastern sides. A prevalence of branches (as opposed to leaves) marks the southern side of the tree, which gets the most sunlight due to planetary tilt. And moss growth generally favors the northern side of trees, because moss favors shade. This last clue only works in the aggregate, because shade may be coming from neighboring trees or plants. As with all clues, make sure you see an overall pattern before jumping to conclusions about your cardinal directions.

To create a makeshift emergency compass, see page 20.

006 Solar Navigation

Though the satellite tracking that has pervaded so many aspects of modern life dates back only a half century, the use of celestial objects as navigational tools has been around for thousands of years. If you’ve performed a map study and outfitted yourself with a basic working knowledge of the environment, tracking the movements of our closest star—the sun—should help you find your way to safe ground.

The simplest way to use the sun’s movements is to determine which way your shadow is being cast. Because the sun rises in the east, a morning sun will cast your shadow to the west. Past noon, when the sun is starting to set in the west, your shadow will point toward the east.

At midday, this technique will be difficult to use, as a sun that’s high overhead won’t cast much of a shadow at all. But if you’re wearing an analog watch, you have all the tools you need in order to determine your cardinal bearings (the direction of north, south, east, and west). Raising your wrist as if you’re looking at your watch, rotate your body so that the hour hand points directly toward the sun. The halfway point between the hour hand and the twelve o’clock mark on your watch indicates the way south.

If you’re unsure of the time of day, create an improvised sundial and use the movement of your shadow to chart your course. To construct, place a stick in the ground, setting a rock at the end of the shadow cast by the stick. Let fifteen minutes pass, then place a second rock at the end of the new shadow. Draw one line between the two rocks, and another perpendicular to the first. The end of the perpendicular line furthest from the stick will point toward north.

007 Celestial Navigation

Guided by the ancient practice of celestial navigation—the star-gazing technique that ferried countless sailors, pirates, and explorers to distant shores and plundered treasure—any traveler should be able to determine cardinal directions, even in pitch-black darkness. Which is good news for civilians crossing a blistering desert (see page 52) or fleeing disaster, when traveling after sundown may be unavoidable.

The apparent position of the stars in the nighttime sky, and the selection of stars that will be visible to you, will depend on your latitude and longitude, the season, the cloud cover, and the time of night. In the northern hemisphere, the North Star is an effective gauge of northerly direction. Because the star sits so near the earth’s north pole, its position in the sky is almost unchanging. The earth’s rotation causes other stars to appear to move across the sky, but the North Star remains pinned at the globe’s upper pole as the planet spins like a top. The North Star isn’t the brightest in the sky, so search for it by identifying nearby constellations: the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, and Cassiopeia. The star lies in a direct line with the two outer stars of the Big Dipper’s bowl (see opposite—using the distance between those two stars as a measuring stick, it’s roughly five lengths away) and with the central star or topmost point formed by the W in Cassiopeia. The North Star is also the last star in the Little Dipper’s handle.

There is no consistently visible star at the southern pole, but in the Southern Hemisphere you can determine direction by locating the Southern Cross. Trace an imaginary line from the constellation’s brightest star to the star directly opposite, through the longest axis of the constellation’s cross; using the axis as a measure, the southern pole lies four-and-a-half lengths away, in the direction of its brightest star.

At the equator, locate Orion’s Belt. The three horizontal stars that comprise Orion’s belt lie along the east-west line; Orion’s torso points toward the north, his legs toward the south.

008 Magnetic Navigation

More than an entertaining science experiment, a DIY compass is a useful navigational aid—and like all great improvised tools, it’s made from materials that can be leveraged from a variety of available sources. Electric wiring can be found in radio speakers, flashlights, the harness of a vehicle. Batteries are tucked inside an endless array of devices. And everyone should have a roll of duct tape in the back of his or her trunk. All you really need is a bit of serendipity or forethought in procuring a needle or a slender length of steel.

Using a few simple steps, a steel needle or piece of wire fencing can be magnetized and employed to similar effect as store-bought compasses, which rely on magnetized needles that align themselves with the earth’s magnetic field or “magnetosphere.” An electric charge will cause ions in the needle to congregate at one end, and when floated weightlessly, the needle will automatically point north-south.

One difference between the two versions is that store-bought compasses are properly magnetized so that one of their needles aligns south, the other north. Ideally, you’d want to magnetize only one end of your needle, but this can be difficult to manage when working with such a small and thin gauge. So use your needle as a source of more general information, to find the axis representing north and south. In order to determine which end is which, you’ll need to confirm via another form of natural navigation. (See pages 14, 16, and 18.)

Note: The northern direction on a compass is actually the earth’s northern magnetic pole, which lies about one thousand miles south of true north, the earth’s geographical north pole. Improvised compasses should be combined with maps when possible, as they only provide a general sense of direction.



009 Minimum EDC, Jungle Environment

Dark, loud, and buzzing with dangerous life forms, a jungle can quickly become one of the most frustrating environments on earth, its terrain presenting even experienced navigators with uniquely challenging obstacles to transit and survival. Progress at ground level is often undertaken in near darkness, every step impeded by thorny, sticky, and sometimes poisonous plant life with a supernatural ability to grab onto skin or clothing. Terrain will be overshadowed by the lush canopy of trees and vines that makes jungles and rainforests appear so green and idyllic and also blocks a large portion of visible light from the dark and damp forest floor. The environment is hot and humid, yet demands full coverage for protection against insects and plant life. Discomfort is a given.

If you find yourself lost in a jungle, know that the density of your surroundings and the relentless oppressiveness of the climate are likely to increase feelings of panic and hopelessness. Keep moving. Momentum is important in a survival scenario.

How to Clear a Path Through the Jungle

Many factors can make efficient transit through a jungle a losing battle, but following streams or game trails may diminish the need for trail-clearing. Regardless of your path, a proper knife is essential for cutting your way through the jungle’s thick matrix of brush, vines, and limbs, an ever-present reality that makes even a single step a challenge. The optimal tool is the Kukri, an indigenous long-bladed knife whose curved blade shortens the overall length of the tool without compromising blade length, thus making it easier to carry.

To clear a path, swing the knife in diagonal motions, using an overhand hold.

For ease of access, the knife should be worn in a leather or Kydex waist sheath—you’ll find many uses for a sturdy knife in the jungle, from procuring and preparing food, to building a shelter, to self-defense, so you’ll want it close at hand. A sharpening stone is also a must.

Though a jungle is the opposite of a desert in being so densely packed with vegetation and natural features, there are similarities when it comes to navigation. In both environments, a lack of topographical differentiation can make it easy to lose your way. Additionally, in a jungle, GPS devices are likely to fail due to the thickness of the canopy. And, unlike in desert sand, footprints may not be noticeable, increasing the likelihood of circling back on yourself. Travel with a map and a compass, and use a Sharpie or colored tape (see page 224) to mark your path as you go. This will have the added benefit of creating a trail for potential rescuers.

Protecting Yourself from the Environment

The jungle’s plant life can inflict a surprising amount of damage upon unprotected flesh. Shin guards in adult and child sizes, worn on the forearms and lower legs, can help protect your limbs from sharp, thorny obstacles and over-emphatic swings of the blade as you clear your path. Forearms, shins, hands, and feet are the primary points of contact with any sharp brush and thorns you encounter, which makes a pair of lightweight leather gloves essential as well.

Any exposed skin is also vulnerable to the jungle’s most persistent class of predators. With potential foes ranging from dengue- or Zika-carrying mosquitoes to army ants and poisonous centipedes, jungles are rife with critters whose bites could result in a life-threatening fever. Even a single bite from an army ant could render your hand inoperable for a day, so proper coverage is essential—from a breathable long-sleeved shirt and pants to gaiters that seal off the lower extremities and prevent leeches and spiders from crawling up pant legs. Overlap clothing and gear to create protective seals.

For additional security, layer on panty hose under clothing. Leeches cannot penetrate its tight weave or obtain traction on its slippery surface, though they have a surprising knack for fighting their way through layers of clothing. A full pair may be worn on the lower body, with a secondary pair cut off at the feet and waist to provide additional protection to arms. To deal the predatory worms a final death blow, add water to a pouch or tin of chewing tobacco and let it soak for a few minutes, then rub the solution over extremities and onto panty hose and clothing. No matter how carefully covered you are, leeches will find their way inside your clothing, and nicotine paralyzes and kills them faster than man-made repellents.

A panel of mosquito netting is a baseline essential. Wear a small patch over your face while you’re working your way through the jungle, and drape the rest over your sleeping quarters (see page 34) at night. Failing to protect yourself is not an option.

Multiple changes of socks and a breathable shoe help keep the feet warm and dry, an issue that pertains not only to comfort but also to survival. Your choice of footwear can make or break you in the jungle. To avoid trench foot or jungle rot, the result of the environment’s inescapable humidity and the high probability of wading through water, steer clear of shoes made of Gore-Tex or other non-breathable materials. These will trap in moisture, which can begin to degrade your skin in less than a day. Left untreated, trench foot can result in gangrene and the very real possibility of amputation. Remove socks at night and anytime you stop to rest, to let your feet dry. Hang wet socks on the outside of your pack to dry during transit.

010 Collect Water in a Rainforest

Perhaps the wettest non-aqueous environment on earth, the rainforest offers plenty of clean, drinkable water to visitors who know where to look—as well as many opportunities for taking in dangerous parasites and bacteria from contaminated sources. If you find a river or stream and happen to be carrying water filtration tablets or the equipment necessary to boil the water clean, you’re in luck. If not, mitigate against the risk of contamination by digging into the ground a few feet from the shoreline, where you’ll find water that’s been filtered through the soil’s rocks and sediment.

Even when you’re far from rivers and streams, the humid ecosystem offers many options for hydration. Frequent rain is one such source, and a container is all you need in order to collect it. No water bottle? Cut a segment of bamboo just above and below a joint. The hollow plant is solid at the joints, creating a closed-off cylinder that can be stood upright on a level surface.

The plant can also provide a direct source of clean water, filtered by its passage through the soil and the plant’s cell walls. To access, cut a hole just below a joint of live, green bamboo, then use a smaller bamboo shoot as a straw to drink the water that courses through the stalk.

The rainforest’s abundant vines can be tapped similarly in the name of survival. The key to success is to cut two notches in a vine, the first high, the second (the “bitter end”) low to the ground. The higher notch allows air to flow in, pushing water down to the collection point below.

A more labor-intensive but plentiful source can be found in plantain and banana palms, whose root systems are shaped like giant bowls—full of clean drinking water coming right up from the palm’s roots. Cutting the trunk requires muscle power and a sharp blade, but the effort will be worthwhile.

011 Build a Rainforest Fire

An overnight stay in a handmade bed forged from materials found in the environment is unlikely to be extremely comfortable. But the addition of a fire may make the difference between a few hours of much needed rest and a night spent tossing and turning.

Nighttime in the jungle can be damp and cold—and it’s also the time when many of the forest’s insects and predators come to life. Though most insects are attracted to light, they will be repelled by the fire’s smoke. Larger animals will be repelled by its flames.

Fires are obviously also essential in any survival environment as a means to cook food and purify water gathered from rivers or streams. In a jungle, you can leverage the natural abundance of highly flammable bamboo to light an easy-to-start blaze. Look for dried pieces of bamboo that have fallen to the ground and are a light tan in color, not green.

You’ll need a knife (see page 24) to collect shavings from the skin of the bamboo, which will act as kindling. The plant’s core will act as tinder and fuel, and friction will create the spark necessary to start any fire.

Once you’ve prepped your materials, it should only take about twenty strokes of your scored bamboo halves (see illustration) to create smoke. Blowing on or waving your hand above the kindling will turn that smoke into spark.

Note: Bamboo, an invasive species that is one of the rainforest’s most bountiful offerings, can also be leveraged as a fish-catching spear (see page 32), a sleeping surface (see page 34), a cooking vessel, or a receptacle for food—among its many other uses for survival.

012 Scavenge and Spearfish Rainforest Survival Food

There are as many ways to get sick in a rainforest as there are sources of food in this rich and life-filled environment. Compounding the threat of mosquito-borne tropical illnesses like malaria, dengue fever, and the Zika virus, food-borne ailments like trichinosis, salmonellosis, and leptospirosis are just as common in a rainforest as in any natural environment. If you’re unable to cook your food, seek out fish and insects such as worms, grubs, and termites. These will still be safest when cooked, but can be eaten raw, as the parasites they tend to carry are generally less life-threatening than those hosted by mammals or reptiles. They’re also rich in proteins and the essential fats and nutrients needed to sustain human life.

Avoid roaches, which are well-known carriers of disease, and brightly colored insects, which stand a fair chance of being poisonous. While snakes, frogs, and other reptiles may be plentiful, they can be coated with salmonella and other bacteria and thus need to be cooked for safety (see pages 60 and 70). Snails, also common in the environment, are fond of dining on poisonous plants.

Depending on your starting condition and weight, you might be able to survive without any food for up to two months. But to avoid going into a state of semi-starvation that will make it impossible for you to find your way out of the wilderness, you’ll ideally want to consume around two thousand calories per day. That translates to about 1.5 pounds of insects or 2 to 3 pounds of fish, or some combination of the two.

To catch fish using a spear carved out of bamboo (see illustration), wade into shallow waterways and stand very still. Fish will approach if you don’t reveal yourself as a predator. In still water, toss blades of grass or other pieces of natural debris on the surface as you see fish approach; they will mistake the detritus for bugs and come up to bite.

013 Build a Bamboo Hammock

The ground is the last place a visitor wants to be when the sun goes down and the forests’ creatures—from centipedes and spiders to snakes, bats, boars, and the big cats who reign above them all—come out to feed. A warm body on the forest floor is a perfect target for predators, large and small.

That’s why the optimal temporary shelter in a jungle environment is a cocoon-style nylon hammock (see page 25) that lifts the sleeper up off the ground. Small, collapsible, and easy to set up, an adventure hammock specifically made for rainforest conditions can easily be tied from tree to tree, with a protective swath of mosquito netting dangling from a cord a few feet above it. But if your primary hammock is torn (a real possibility given the prevalence of thorny plant life in the environment), you can make a quick and surprisingly durable version from a single shoot of bamboo.

Start building your shelter well before sundown—the forest’s thick canopy will muffle the jungle in darkness long before the sun actually dips below the horizon. Select a piece of green, live bamboo for strength, and leverage the plant’s unique flexibility to your advantage by splitting that single shoot into long horizontal lines woven through with shorter lengths from the same shoot (see illustration). Selecting a shoot two to three feet longer than your height will leave sturdy knobs that can be attached to trees with pieces of vine, and the resulting construction will spread apart to absorb your body weight.

Sleeping in a suspended position does expose you to circulating air. If the nighttime environment is cool, layer loose brush between the hammock and your body to serve as extra insulation.

None of these measures may guarantee a comfortable night’s sleep, but they will maximize your chances of waking up to see another sunrise.

014 Escape a Wild Boar Attack

What are your chances of running into a wild boar? Higher than you might think, given that the animal ranges across a wider territory than almost any other mammal on earth. Wild boar attacks on humans are infrequent, and the tusked animal is more likely to run from you than charge. But when startled, especially if accompanied by its piglets, this forefather of domestically bred pigs becomes a lot less friendly than your average farm animal.

And it runs a whole lot faster, too.

Plentiful in a variety of forest types across several continents and increasingly found in suburban areas around the world, the animals are characterized by sharp tusks, tough snouts, and large, bony heads. These are the tools the wild pigs use to dig and forage for food—and the lethal weapons they recruit as a means of self-defense. The creatures are legendarily ferocious when provoked, with jaws that can easily crush bone, and massive, armored forebodies that make them impervious to shots fired from a standard-issue pistol. (A .308 rifle round would be the better choice.)

If you spot a wild boar from a distance, steer clear of its path. If the animal is nearby, get to higher ground—climb a tree, a car, or a large boulder. If you are charged by a wild boar, which can travel at speeds up to thirty-five miles per hour, outrunning the beast won’t be an option. But you can take advantage of the creature’s heft and lack of agility by doing last-minute sidesteps.

As a method of last resort, fight back. Aim to shoot or stab the animal in the face, between its shoulder blades, in its belly, or at its axillary nodes, just beneath its front legs. Do not let the animal take the fight to the ground—maintain your height advantage at all costs.

015 Minimum EDC, Arctic Environment

“Pack light, freeze at night.” A common expression among military troops hauling 150-pound packs across frigid terrain, the saying holds true for wintertime campers and arctic adventurers alike. You may be able to maintain your core temperature while traveling through twenty-degree terrain during daytime, but staying warm will prove much harder when temperatures drop far below zero and you’ve stopped moving for the night.

Better safe than sorry. Pack gear in a slant-bottomed sled in order to be able to carry more of the large, bulky items you’ll need for warmth. You’ll consume less energy pulling supplies across snow and ice than you will attempting to carry them, which is important because being as efficient as possible about your energy expenditure will help you stay one step ahead of hypothermia (page 52).

Gear and Supplies

Arctic environments are ruthless, matched only by scorching deserts in their hostility toward human life. Assuming there’s little chance of finding yourself in an arctic zone by accident, proper preparation for the temperature extremes and food and fuel needs of this environment cannot be overstated. Research is essential. Know the temperature ranges, risks of avalanche, and weather patterns so that you can appropriately pack for and map your itinerary. Navigational aids (not pictured) should include a compass, a GPS device, and maps. If one fails, the others can act as backup. Sunglasses are key, as the reflection of blinding sunlight off white snow can make navigation a challenge. Eye strain and photokeratitis, a painful optical sunburn also known as sun blindness, are also risks.

A snow anchor and a pair of snowshoes act as fail-safes should conditions become impassable by ski. In thick drifts of soft powder, snowshoes displace body weight across the wide, webbed underside of the shoe, reducing the amount of sinkage. If snow reaches up to your waist, you could expend hundreds of precious calories in the process of traveling just a few feet.

Should conditions become even dicier, a snow anchor could be the tool that allows you to stop your slide down a steep incline. Learn to use one before you travel. The equivalent of the Kukri knife you’d carry in the jungle (page 24), a snow saw and shovel are the indispensable multi-use tools that could enable you to catch your dinner, build a shelter, or surmount an unexpected obstacle.

In addition to a cold-weather tent and highly insulated sleeping bag, low-temperature sleeping requires a bivy sack, a thin and nonporous external shell layer. Sealing in as much body heat as possible is the only hedge against a night spent tossing and turning—or worse. A thick sleeping pad will help insulate you from the cold ground, which acts as a sponge for the precious heat you’re emitting; a folded up “smother” or fire blanket can fulfill the same purpose, while also providing essential insulation anytime you need to warm up quickly. A few lit candles can bump up the temperature inside a tent or snow shelter (page 48) by a few degrees, but must be extinguished before you go to sleep to mitigate the risk of fire.

Food supplies must be extensive. The body burns nearly twice as much fuel in low-temperature environments, requiring food sources that are dense, high in fat, and plentiful. In addition to prepackaged dehydrated meals and energy bars, pack high-fat foods like peanut butter, bacon fat, nuts, and chocolate. There’s no such thing as too many calories when your metabolic system is working overtime to burn food into life-sustaining heat. Combine that with the energy expended by hauling a heavy sled and potentially trekking across long distances, and you’ve got a recipe for tremendous hunger—and rapid weight loss if caloric intake is insufficient. For optimal health, plan to consume five thousand or more calories per day, and pack extra emergency rations just in case.

Water filtration devices are a given. Though in emergencies snow and ice can be consumed without filtering with minimal risk (page 42), filtering is generally recommended, particularly if water is coming from streams or lakes.

Specialized camping retailers offer a great quantity of cold-weather items that will increase your level of comfort, but weigh the inclusion of additional items against the extra weight they’ll add to your load.


Your primary weapon of defense against the external temperature is a multilayer system that collects body heat and seals out wind and cold. Puffy, porous layers of fleece and down won’t perform if they aren’t properly sealed off, which is why a high-performance outer shell is key. Choose one in a Gore-Tex-like cold-weather material that locks in heat but remains slightly breathable; unlike with zero-porosity materials, this breathability helps wick sweat off the body.

Keeping not only warm but dry is essential in a cold climate, as a layer of moisture on the skin will quickly freeze when exposed to the elements. Wet socks in particular can rapidly cause tissue die-off as vasoconstriction shuts off blood supply in order to prevent heat loss through wet feet, which syphon off heat twenty-five times faster than dry feet. Even in warm but damp climates (see page 54), cotton kills. Moisture-wicking wool socks are a non-negotiable defense against trench foot.

016 Collect Arctic Drinking Water

When you’re trekking through an arctic environment, food and warmth will be hard to come by—but one thing you can be sure of is that you won’t be going thirsty. With water all around you in the form of snow and ice, options for hydration will never be far. And they’re often very pure. But the principal risk in arctic environments, hypothermia (see page 50), can be compounded by eating snow or ice—cold substances that will bring down your core temperature as they pass through your neck, one of the areas of the body that is most vulnerable to heat loss. The neck’s carotid arteries continuously pump a large supply of warm blood directly to the brain, and the jugular vein sends that supply back down to the heart. That’s some of your body’s most valuable real estate.

Collect Pure Water from the Environment: Though heating water to its boiling point is always the safest course of action as far as purification, fresh snow and ice collected from areas free of standing water or other visible sources of contamination can be consumed with relative confidence. Most bacteria present in the source water won’t survive at freezing temperatures.

Choose Ice Over Snow: The former has a greater fluid density, while snow is partly comprised of air.

Melt Ice with Body Heat or Fire: Fuel is precious in glacial environments, so leverage your body heat to melt ice to drinkable water when you can. If you’re appropriately layered, you’ll release vast amounts of body heat during transit no matter how cold the environment. Avoiding the brachial arteries that travel through the armpit and the femoral arteries of the inner thighs, valuable convoys for a significant portion of the body’s blood supply, place ice in a water bottle and allow it to melt between layers of your clothing. When stopped, conserve body heat and switch to melting ice with fire.

017 Build an Arctic Fire

When snow and ice cover the landscape, locating materials with which to build fire can be a challenge—but given the dire need for a heat source in a subzero environment, expending additional effort to gather materials will be worthwhile.

Despite their appearance, arctic environments may actually be quite rich in dormant and dead plant life. Camp near trees, and you’re likely to find fallen branches and dried-out ground cover beneath the snow. Digging in one spot may not yield results, but a treasure trove of kindling and tinder could be buried a foot away. Remove the outer layer of icy or snow-dampened bark, and you’ll find dry, usable tinder inside. These endeavors will be time-consuming—but depending on the circumstances, they may also be lifesaving.

With kindling and fuel in hand, harnessing the latent energy of any extra batteries you may be carrying as a fire starter is a potentially dangerous but manageable proposition. Steel wool, an indispensable scouring agent for outdoor dish washing, can be repurposed as a bridging mechanism. As the batteries’ charged electrons rapidly course through the wool’s fine steel threads (see illustration), they will create a significant amount of heat. The wool’s cocoon-like structure, with air pockets distributed throughout its intermeshed threads, creates an ideal environment for combustion.

To assemble, bridge both ends of two AA or AAA batteries stacked positive terminal to negative terminal (anode to cathode) with a length of steel wool, or plunge a single nine-volt battery directly into steel wool. Keep fingers away from the contact points and be prepared to swiftly position the wool beneath your pile of kindling. The wool will quickly turn red and begin to smoke.

To create a black smoke signal that will contrast an all-white environment, add tar-rich pinecones once your kindling is well lit.

018 Locate Survival Foods in Subzero Conditions

In an arctic survival scenario, maintaining core temperature becomes the human body’s number one priority. To that aim, the body will sacrifice fat cells, fingers and toes, and consciousness at the outer limits. And it will burn through any available food at nearly twice the normal rate.

Keeping body temperature fifty or more degrees above external temperature is hard work, requiring a substantial amount of fuel. While you can survive on far less, the optimal number of calories for functioning at full capacity in a low-temperature environment is five thousand. If you’re trekking across foot-deep drifts in order to find your way out of a barren wasteland, you’re going to need your strength.

Look Along Shorelines: While snow-covered environments may look devoid of sustenance, the shorelines of arctic lakes and rivers are frequently home to nutritional powerhouses like mussels and clams, which can safely be eaten raw and can also double as bait.

Carve Fishing Holes: Finding enough fat to stoke your body’s engines will be a challenge, and wading into ice-cold water in search of fatty fish while trying to survive freezing temperatures is inadvisable. If lakes or riverbeds are frozen solid, however, you can use an ice saw to carve fishing holes into the surface. Ensure that the ice layer is at least four inches deep before you walk out onto it by using a knife to test thickness from the shore.

Set and Monitor Multiple Lines: Cut multiple fishing holes to maximize your chances of hauling in a catch, and monitor them with improvised bobbers. Tie lengths of fishing line to pairs of sticks longer than the diameter of your fishing holes and stacked into X shapes. When a fish bites, the sticks will jam across the hole.

019 Build Expedient Arctic Shelters

If you are forced to shelter in a wilderness environment, a preexisting form of natural cover will be a lucky and time-saving find. A cave or rock formation can provide a night’s refuge or respite from a storm, as can trees with dense foliage or root systems with deep pockets. But take precautions—a space that looks like it could provide great cover for you may be just as appealing to wildlife. Look for animal tracks, feces, and trampled vegetation before you set up camp. A polar bear or other animal that has staked out a prime location is likely to return.

Insulate a found space by pulling in as much vegetation as you can, lining the floors and walls and creating a makeshift barricade at the opening. Your body heat alone can warm up a well-insulated space by ten to twenty degrees.

When it comes to building a shelter in an arctic environment, the properties of snow and ice can counterintuitively be leveraged to your advantage. Like a properly insulated cave, a shelter made of snow will trap body heat and keep out cold air, because the high concentration of air that makes snow a less than ideal water source also makes it a highly insulating building block.

Digging out a pocket of space below the low-hanging branches of a tree is the quickest way to build a snow shelter, one that leverages the structural fortitude of a natural resource. While it may be tempting to burrow into a deep snowbank, beware of the risk of collapse.

With no sign of cover in sight, a trench shelter can be built into the snowpack in an hour or two with the use of a snow saw and a shovel (see illustration). Build trench and poncho shelters perpendicular to the wind so that the cold air doesn’t pass through.

020 Avoid Hypothermia

Characterized by shivering, a jittery resting heart rate, and a state of mild confusion, the onset of hypothermia can become a medical emergency in a very short period of time. When shivering stops and heart rate decreases, you’ve moved into dangerous territory. Your core temperature is plummeting, signaling a slowdown in the body’s chemical reactions, which can result in death.

There is no set external temperature at which hypothermia will occur. Determining factors include wind conditions, the amount of insulation a person is wearing, the person’s level of hydration and fitness, his or her body fat percentage, and his or her exposure to moisture. (Because water is an excellent conductor of heat, moisture on or near your skin will draw heat away from the body.)

If symptoms occur, immediately add layers, or remove wet clothing and replace with dry. Insulate the body from the cold earth with layers of vegetation or available padding materials. If emergency hot packs or other sources of heat are available, place them beneath armpits, around neck, or at groin so they are in direct contact with arteries. Do not use them on hands and feet before your core has been warmed back up—warming extremities will cause a rush of blood back to your core that may result in cardiac arrest. The body naturally sacrifices blood flow to extremities in order to conserve resources for essential functions.

Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine, which cause vasodilation (the dilation of blood vessels) and increase heat loss.

Treatment for more severe hypothermia (a solution of sugar water, the application of mouth-to-mouth or CPR) requires assistance from a second party, so it’s essential to remedy the situation before it’s too late.

021 Minimum EDC, Desert Environment

Trekking through an arid environment means carrying serious quantities of the number one resource required to sustain life—one gallon of water per person per day, plus emergency rations. But water weighs more than eight pounds per gallon, and the exertion of carrying anything more than a gallon and a half will cause you to lose more fluid through sweat than you’d be able to replenish with the water on your back. You’ll also be loaded up with the cold-weather gear that will enable you to survive the desert’s radical temperature ranges. All of which adds up to quite a load. Hauling that gear requires only 20 percent of the energy that you’d expend carrying the same load, so a mechanism that allows you to pull rather than carry life-support material becomes essential.

The ideal structure for hauling gear across desert terrain is an expedition racing cart, a simple wagon which can either be purchased or made out of PVC piping and bicycle tires. Double up on wheels as pictured—flat tires are likely on hot surfaces dotted with sharp rocks, and a pre-attached spare means you won’t have to stop and waste energy changing a tire.


Travel by night and sleep by day to outwit the desert’s brutal temperature shifts. When the sun goes down, the day’s blazing heat can be displaced by a thirty-degree drop in temperature. Reversing your body clock allows you to conserve on your water and fuel needs by saving your exertion for hours when you’ll lose the least amount of fluids through sweat—and ensures that your body won’t be wasting valuable kilocalories trying to create warmth as you sleep through a frosty night.

Navigating an unchangingly flat landscape in the absence of visible landmarks presents obvious challenges even during the day. While traveling by night certainly magnifies visibility challenges, it also offers one navigational asset: the canopy of bright stars visible in the desert’s dark night. (For a short course on using celestial navigation as a backup to GPS devices, see page 18.) The nighttime desert isn’t as dark as you think, but depth perception will be compromised after sundown. To compensate, use hiking poles to steady yourself.

When it comes to navigation, it’s always safest to assume that one or more of your tools may fail, so bring several forms of backup and start by doing a detailed map study before you set out. The more knowledge you have of the terrain before you start, the better prepared you will be for a potential emergency. In the absence of visible landmarks, use pace counting to keep track of the distance you’ve traveled in any given direction. Count every other step. A single adult step spans approximately one meter, so one hundred double-steps add up to approximately two hundred meters.

Take advantage of any opportunity to refuel. If you spot cloud cover or rain begins to fall, get to high ground when possible—flash floods can happen quickly in desert landscapes. Be sure to collect water during any downpour.

Gear and Clothing

Proper footwear is essential. Trekking shoes specially designed to withstand high temperatures will prevent hot spots on the undersides of the feet—these occur when the body pushes fluids to contact points that have become irritated, resulting in painful blisters that can impede progress. Pack blister plasters and foot powder along with many changes of socks. Even in desert environments, cotton socks (see page 41) are a liability that can very quickly lead to a dangerous case of trench foot. Lightweight wool socks will keep the feet dry and help prevent tissue death.

On the upper body, cotton can be useful in a very hot environment. Though high-performance synthetics claim to achieve cooling and wicking benchmarks that natural fibers cannot, under a baking hot sun, there’s no substitute for the breathability of cotton. Layers of synthetic material that aren’t exposed to direct sunlight can be useful, particularly in the case of non-chafing synthetic underwear. A lightweight scarf can be used to protect your neck and face from wind- and sunburn, and comes in handy in the event of a sandstorm. When in doubt, go native.

Remember: Preparing for the desert’s abrupt changes in temperature means you won’t be packing light. You’ll also need adequate cold-weather layers to pile on as you trek during the night. The saying “Travel light, freeze at night” is just as applicable in the desert as it is in the arctic.

022 Locate Drinking Water in an Arid Desert

Your best hedge against dehydration in an arid environment? Never get lost in a desert without an adequate water supply. But if you do find yourself low on H2O, take every possible precaution in order to conserve your body’s remaining levels of hydration as you seek out new sources of water.

Conserve Your Internal Hydration: Stay covered when moving during the daytime. When the wind blows over your sweat-dampened clothing, you’ll benefit from a cooling effect. Better yet, follow the desert protocol of resting during the day and traveling at night, when you’re less likely to sweat and release valuable fluid (see page 52). If you are completely out of water, do not eat. Digestion will quickly use up your remaining resources of internal hydration.

Ascend to High Ground: When land formations allow, ascend to high ground before you shelter for the day. As you plot the course that seems most likely to result in rescue, look for clues that potential water sources might be near. From above, track vegetation and animals. Down at ground level, seek out signs of life.

Dig Belowground: Dry riverbeds may yield hidden reserves of hydration in the form of damp sand. If you find nothing after digging at least a foot down, try a few more spots. Even a riverbed that has long been dry might be harboring moisture from a recent rain.

Collect Dew: As a last-ditch effort, sacrifice part of a night’s movement to lay out clothes and collect the night and morning’s dew. Using a similar technique in drought-stricken regions, researchers have been able to collect as much as half a quart of dew from a single square meter.

023 Spark a Fire with Sunlight

Bright sunlight may be the desert’s most abundant natural resource—but once the sun sets, a lack of cloud cover means the landscape retains very little of the day’s heat. Temperatures can drop very, very quickly in a desert. So if you’re not moving through the night (see page 52), you’ll need a heat source to keep you warm.

Leverage the daytime’s bright sunlight to build a fire while you still can. All you’ll need is a clear plastic bottle filled with a bit of water or other liquid and several sheets of newspaper; the ink on the paper will act as an accelerant. In the place of newspaper, dried-out leaves and grass or shavings from a dry branch can also be used as kindling. Most deserts contain plenty of highly flammable brush.

Use the convex end of the water bottle to refract or change the direction of the sun’s rays. As the light passes through your makeshift lens, its rays will converge, their heat energy concentrated into a single hot spot. The apparatus should magnify the power of sunlight to such an extent that the newspaper glows red and begins to smoke with heat. Wave the newspaper gently toward the lens, and that smoke will very quickly erupt into flame.

Time of day and season will play a part in determining the intensity of the sun’s rays. This technique will be more successful for an adventurer working at high noon on the equator than for an unlucky traveler caught on a Northern Hemisphere desert in the dead of winter.

Note: A glass bottle may also be used, potentially rendering liquid unnecessary if the glass is thick enough to refract sunlight on its own, without the additional magnification provided by water.

024 Hunt and Scavenge Desert Survival Food

Resist the urge to rip into the first form of plant life you come across when trekking through a desert environment. Though vegetation may be sparse, plants such as the candelabras cactus or the flowering datura plant can induce severe vomiting or hallucination. Instead of taking a risk, hold out for some of the safe, edible plants commonly found across the deserts of North America—chia sage, prickly pear cactus, and barrel cactus.

Embraced by the Native Americans and the Aztecs, the chia sage has a long medicinal history. Beat the plant’s bright purple flower into a container to release its seeds—nutritional powerhouses that can be eaten raw or soaked in water to form a pudding. Protect hands while shaving spines away from prickly pear cactus pads, also known as nopalitos in Latin American cooking, or burn the spines off. And avoid drinking the juice of the cylindrical barrel cactus; its flesh is edible, but its liquid contents can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

To hunt down a snake for food, locate a long, forked stick and have a sharp knife readily accessible. Use the forked end of the stick to pin down the snake’s head. Working from behind the snake, slide your hand around its jaw and forcefully clamp it shut. The snake’s body may coil around your stick or arm, but focus on controlling the head. Release the stick and, still pinning down the snake’s jaw with your other hand, use your knife to decapitate the snake.

Cut three inches below the head to make sure you’re getting rid of any poisonous glands, then quickly toss the head away. A snake’s strong biting reflex can be set off by electrical charges in its nerve endings for up to an hour after its death.

Though poisonous snakes can generally be identified by their diamond-shaped heads, it’s safest to assume that any snake you come across might be dangerous. A snake can lunge a distance equivalent to half its body length, so approach with care.

025 Build a Cooling Desert Shelter

When you’re in survival mode, you should perpetually be looking to conserve energy, and stumbling upon a preexisting shelter is the kind of lucky break that could help you shore up many precious kilocalories.Your first choices for shelter in any environment should be natural formations.

In a desert environment, protecting yourself from moisture isn’t usually a concern, so sources of shade may fit the bill if complete enclosures aren’t available. An open rock formation that lets in a cool breeze could easily provide adequate cover. But in a sand desert devoid of nearby land formations, an efficient shelter can be built into the sand using only two poncho liners or tarps and a shovel—or even your bare hands.

The two-layer shelter, pictured opposite, works by counteracting the greenhouse effect that normally accrues in enclosed spaces, most notably exemplified by a parked car on a hot day: The sun’s UV rays enter the car through the glass, but then cannot escape, bouncing around until the vehicle eventually becomes far, far hotter than the surrounding environment. Trapping the sun’s rays between two tarps, open at both ends, means that even the warmest wind can sweep through and chase the rays away before they have a chance to enter your shelter. On a bone-dry, windless day, the tarps will still trap UV rays and keep your sleeping space considerably cooler than the surrounding environment.

Digging down a couple of feet beneath the layers of sunbaked sand will net you a sleeping space that is many degrees cooler to begin with. Creating a sloped, open entrance for your quarters ensures that air will flow around your body as well. Build the trench parallel to the wind, with the sloped, open end facing into the air current.

026 Minimum EDC, Wetland Environment

Swamps, bogs, marshes, river flats . . . Though many of the world’s wetlands have been lost to logging, sizable examples can still be found on every continent but Antarctica, some of them spanning hundreds of square miles. Often rich sources of fish and plant life, these fecund, low-lying environments are some of the globe’s most biodiverse places. But their stagnant waters, rich in decaying organic matter, are also highly effective incubators for parasites, bacteria, and disease-carrying insects.

Water is everywhere in a wetland environment, which is why much of the gear that’s specific to the terrain involves keeping you and your belongings as dry as possible. Wetland waters will always be cooler than the temperature of the human body—which means that through convection, prolonged immersion can result in hypothermia even in warm weather.

Use multiple dry bags to keep belongings free of moisture and to disperse weight throughout your watercraft. Even if you’re trudging through shallow waters, pulling a well-stocked supply in a kayak is preferable to lugging a partial kit on your back. Do not abandon your gear if you become stranded in a remote area. You may be underestimating how long you’ll be forced to depend on the survival tools you’ve brought with you.

Practice capsizing and reentering your watercraft long before you have to do so during an emergency, and tie down all gear as a precautionary measure. Boost the usefulness of your PFD (personal flotation device) by placing a knife, whistle, and strobe light in its pockets. In the event that you capsize or are separated from your watercraft, you can use the knife to cut yourself free from any weeds or foreign matter you encounter, and your whistle or strobe light to signal for help.

027 Filter Water in a Swamp

Water purification is non-negotiable in a wetland environment, where hydration may be plentiful but will almost certainly be laced with harmful parasites and bacteria. “Swamp fever” (a catch-all term for malaria, leptospirosis, and the mumps), the Everglades virus, and cholera are just a few of the waterborne ailments common to swamps around the world. These diseases can have devastating physical and sometimes neurological ramifications.

Though your EDC kit should contain both a water filtration kit and a stove with which to boil water clean, an improvised filtration system can also be made from a collection of found materials: a plastic bottle (often found floating around swamps near urban environments), a sock, charcoal, and an assortment of gravel culled from the shoreline.

The most indispensable layer in this improvised filtration system is the charcoal, well known for its ability to bind to a wide range of toxic substances. In its “activated” form—when it’s been treated for optimal absorption—charcoal becomes the main ingredient in most commercially sold filtration systems, and it’s also used to tend to ailments from flatulence to poisoning.

To make your own charcoal, build a campfire on shore and let it burn until the logs have burned down into coals. (Store-bought barbecue briquettes are treated with chemicals and thus not suitable for use as a filtration layer.)

Organize your layers so that the largest particles are at the top, catching large pieces of debris, and the finest are at the neck of the bottle. When you pour water through your filtration system, the drip should be slow; a steady stream means your filtration system is too porous.

Boiling water is the safest approach to purification (see page 94), but you should never die of thirst in a swamp.

028 Spark a Fire with a Mobile Phone

You’ve tried to use your phone to call for help, to find your way to safety, to contact loved ones. But after the last remaining sliver of battery fades away and the device goes dead in your hands, that mobile phone can still be used as a lifeline.

Outfitted with powerful batteries packed with valuable chemical components, personal electronic devices like phones, tablets, and navigational systems can be used as fire starters long after they cease to function. Powered by lithium ions, they are so energy-dense that, when shorted, their contents have a tendency to overheat and burst into flame.

The first challenge will be accessing the battery, which manufacturers typically make difficult by design for safety reasons. Once you’ve pried the battery from your device, try to use any remaining charge by bridging the battery’s positive and negative terminals with a knife or other piece of metal with a nonconductive handle or grip. The resulting spark may succeed in getting your tinder to smoke, but a significant shock may be the more unwelcome by-product.

If the first approach doesn’t work, set the battery on the ground and rupture the battery cells by spiking the surface with the tip of your knife. The battery will short, releasing a burst of energy as its protective circuit is destroyed. Dousing the battery with water will achieve a similar and potentially even more explosive effect. The liquid will quickly degrade the protective circuit that prevents the battery’s cells from mingling and attaining peak voltage.

Stand back quickly. The battery will erupt into flames the size of a small campfire or explosion while releasing toxic compounds.

Note: Lithium-ion fires are dangerous, toxic, and very difficult to suppress. This skill must only be attempted in survival scenarios as an option of last resort. Do not attempt to practice these steps.

029 Find Food in a Wetland

Despite their often forbidding look of decay, biodiverse wetland environments tend to be home to an array of plant and animal life, from the reptiles, fish, and amphibians that dwell in their waters to the birds and insects whose calls and humming fill the air. One amphibian that’s abundant in many wetlands is the common frog, which favors standing water over currents. Easy to catch, the creature yields a well-known delicacy when relieved of its torso, its legs roasted over a spit.

Beware of the poisonous frogs native to tropical environments. Small and brightly colored, they secrete lethal poisons that can cause adverse reactions like seizures, paralysis, and heart attacks. The golden poison frog is said to secrete enough lethal toxin through its skin glands to send ten adult humans to their graves—which is why native populations historically used those secretions to create lethal poison darts. Today, pharmaceutical companies cull the secretions and use them as the basis for potent painkillers.

Avoid toads, which secrete toxic substances emanating from the parotid glands located on the backs of their heads. Squat and wide, toads are considered less dangerous to humans than poisonous frogs, but they can still sometimes be lethal.

To catch a frog, use a sharpened stick to pin the animal to the ground. Look for frogs on muddy banks close to the shoreline, or buried beneath logs or rocks during colder months. They feed on insects and earthworms, so follow their food trail to suss them out. Frogs tend to be most active at night, though hunting them in the dark without a light source is inadvisable; a bright light will not only protect you from potential injury, but will also cause frogs to freeze in their tracks.

Spear in shallow waters from inside your watercraft, or from a perch on an improvised shelter (see page 72).

030 Build an Elevated Swamp Bed

If there’s little hope of reaching the shoreline before nightfall, there are many reasons to consider building an elevated temporary shelter, roof, or shelf over standing water in a wetland environment. Sleeping on your watercraft will expose you to cold and damp, and to possible undesirable encounters with water moccasins or alligators.

Assuming you had the forethought to pack a hammock (see page 34), you may want to build a roof over your sleeping quarters to protect you from the elements—or from aerial surveillance. A shelf could be useful as a surface on which to build a fire (in an enclosed container like a cooking pot), a perch from which to fish, or a docking station from which to work on a vessel in need of repair.

To build, look for three trees that create a triangular pattern sizable enough to act as a sleeping or work surface. Collect three straight branches long enough to extend from tree to tree; in this environment, you may need to do some climbing in order to find them. Strip the branches down and lash them to the trees using parachute cord, rapelling line, or vines and bark shavings collected from the environment.

Lash each branch individually from tree to tree to increase the overall strength of your shelter.

Lay a tarp over the frame, wrapping and tightening it around the edges. Or create a taut surface by weaving and lashing vines and large leafy branches over and around the frame.

Leave the structure in place when you transit to your next location if you want to sow a trail of bread crumbs for potential rescuers. If you don’t want to be found, dismantle the structure.

031 Minimum EDC, Mountain Environment

With specialized equipment becoming more and more streamlined in recent decades, we’ve condensed our food, camping, and survival needs down to the single pack we can carry on our shoulders. But we often do so at expense to our energy levels, our joint health, and our ability to fully prepare for the vagaries of the environment. Early explorers would never have attempted an expedition without an assortment of pack mules and wagons, and while we don’t want to compromise our independence, we can use a modified form of transport to approximate their pioneering ways.

If trail conditions and regulations allow, a mountain bike provides a form of locomotion that broadens your options as it lightens your load. Store camp and survival essentials like cookware, water filtration supplies, water, and navigational tools in one dry bag. Another bag should hold the food appropriate to your expedition (MREs, dehydrated rations, energy bars), and yet another should contain your clothing. Pack for the varying temperatures that are common to mountain environments by bringing light, midweight, heavyweight, and shell layers. Do not skimp on socks. (See page 27 for a reminder of their importance.) Carry bulky, lightweight sleep gear in a pack on your back.

An inflatable personal dinghy that packs down to approximately football size, along with a paddle that breaks down into four lightweight pieces, is a useful hedge against impassable waterways that would otherwise cause lengthy detours. Lay your bike across your lap or the bow of the dinghy as you ford the river or lake.

This methodology, familiar to athletes who’ve competed in multi-day adventure courses, is an update on the scouting model of mountaineering that allows for maximum mobility and flexibility.

032 Purify Mountain Water

Thinking of taking a sip of that crystal-clear mountain springwater without filtering or boiling it? If you’re at a high enough elevation, the water will generally be pure, but you never know whether an animal has been bathing or defecating just a few hundred feet upstream. Cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis, shigellosis, and the norovirus are just a few of the bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections that can result, but boiling or filtering water will effectively kill or sequester most impurities. Bring water to a rolling boil to purify, and keep at a boil for one minute, plus one additional minute for each one thousand feet of altitude, just to be safe.

In the absence of a workable pot, you can boil stream water in a plastic bottle filled all the way to the top, making sure no air pocket is left inside. Because plastic melts at a higher temperature than water boils, you’ll be able to heat the bottle without melting it. Use a piece of rope or strong string to tie the bottle to a tripod made of sticks. Due to the lack of oxygen, the water will not visibly boil, but tiny bubbles will appear when boiling temperature is reached.

If you’re unable to build a fire, employ nature’s built-in filtration system by digging a hole near the water’s edge and using socks or other pieces of cloth to soak up hydration. The liquid will have been partially filtered through layers of soil and rock.

Avoid standing pools of water. Bacteria thrive in warm, wet environments where they are undisturbed by current.

Keep your hands clean. Some experts believe the transmission of bacteria from hand to mouth to be more of a threat to outdoor enthusiasts than waterborne bacteria.

Note: Plastic bottles will leach carcinogenic contaminants when heated, so the plastic bottle boiling method is to be used only as a last resort.

033 Build a Fire with Damp Wood

Even in a damp environment, if wood is plentiful, a successful fire will be within reach. Follow these fire-making tips, applicable to any setting, to make sure yours burns hot and strong.

1. Seek out pine needles or sticks that are coated in or filled with highly flammable sap.

2. If you find a wet log, peel off a couple of layers of bark to expose dry wood.

3. A smooth log with a large mass won’t burn very well. Split larger pieces of wood to expose their ragged internal surfaces.

4. You need fuel, spark, and air to make a fire. To make sure the last element is in bountiful supply, shape logs into a teepee triangle or a lean-to that allows room for air to circulate. A pile of sticks will eventually smother itself.

5. Travel with fire starters like Vaseline, hand sanitizer, or a dedicated store-bought product, or collect lint from your dryer, douse it in lighter fluid, kerosene, or gasoline, and store it in a Baggie.

6. Light the fire from the windward side, blocking the wind with your body so the flames don’t blow out before they’re burning strong.

7. Light your fire from below. Fire burns upward, and lighting from the lowest point gives the flames every opportunity to climb.

8. A good supply of tinder (pine needles, brush, dry leaves) is the lifeblood of an effective fire.

9. There’s no overstating the importance of tinder. Add hefty pieces of wood too early, and your fire will go out. Keep adding tinder until your fire has the strength to burn a bigger log.

10. Unless strong winds are burning down your fire, a fire pit may be isolated from the airflow necessary to keeping a fire burning. Instead, build your fire atop a mound of dirt.

034 Find Food in the Mountains

Game is abundant in many mountainous regions. But if your aim is to transit through the environment and find your way to safety within a few cycles of light and darkness, you don’t have time to waste building or setting traps—or potentially contracting a severe digestive ailment from improperly cooked animal flesh. Your goal should be to continue your movements across the landscape, gathering any edible vegetation you come upon and casting a line if you are fortunate enough to find a body of water. Many of the world’s lakes and rivers are swarming with fish, so unlike an attempt to catch up a rabbit, casting a line in a survival scenario is an appropriate use of your energy and time.

Setting up a trotline is one way to maximize your chances of catching a fish. Attach multiple segments of fishing line, of varying lengths, to a string of parachute cord or a strong vine. Bait and hook the lengths of fishing line, then anchor the string to a tree, a bush, or a rock on one end, sinking it with a weighted water bottle or large rock on the other. When you see the line move, haul in your catch.

As you’re performing a map study in advance of transiting through the environment, familiarize yourself with the edible plants and insects native to the area. Commonly available and safe sources of fats, nutrients, and proteins include pine nuts (the seed of the pine tree), clover, and grubs and earthworms. Select dried-out pinecones whose scales have already opened, smashing them against the ground to release their seeds. Sour root clovers are a particularly tasty member of the clover family, but typically any type of clover is edible and harmless. As a general rule, any plant you see animals eating is likely to be safe for human consumption.

035 Build Efficient Mountain Shelters

At close range, the optics on a mountain can be extremely deceiving. Viewed from afar, the idyllic trail you climbed belongs to a massive, unforgiving ecosystem with the power to alter wind and weather patterns for hundreds of miles. And come nightfall, or when a cold front suddenly blows in, a sun-drenched rocky outcropping can become an ice-cold, windblown tundra in a matter of minutes.

If you’re forced to shelter overnight on a mountain without a tent, insulation will be key. When you’re hiking or driving through mountainous terrain, a poncho (stashed in the trunk of your car or a backpack) is a light and useful form of insurance that can be deployed as a tent, rain cover, ground cloth, or insulating layer in the event of an unexpected sleepover. In warmer weather, a sleeping bag and bivy sack may be sufficient to get you through a night spent under the stars, but better safe than sorry.

To prevent a sudden rain from dousing you in feet of rushing water, check to make sure the ground you’re sleeping on isn’t a dried-up creek- or riverbed. Stake out flat, elevated ground free of scat or large animal tracks, ideally near trees.

If you’re traveling with quality tools (see page 74), you should be able to make an insulated shelter out of branches and foliage. Ski poles, hiking poles, or ice axes can be substituted for tree trunks or stumps to create both poncho tents and lean-tos.

Before you set out on any trip through an unpopulated area, do a thorough map study. If you’re stranded on a mountaintop, even a basic knowledge of the surrounding area (e.g., knowing that the closest town is due east) may help you find your way to safety. In the absence of topographical knowledge, follow rivers and streams downstream.

036 Emergency Climbing Techniques

Inexperienced climbers generally make the same mistake: over-relying on arm strength, a bias that quickly results in fatigue for all but the most overbuilt. Whether you’re climbing a mountaintop or the side of a building, you’re far better off recruiting the powerhouse muscles of your legs and core, spreading the effort throughout the body rather than delegating the work to a single, isolated muscle group. The key to successful climbing is to revert to the natural, full-bodied movements toddlers instinctively use to escape their cribs and playpens—before they gradually unlearn the human body’s natural facility for climbing over and around obstacles.

The principle of full-body climbing is easy enough to grasp when it comes to chimneying or stemming up a narrow chute (see illustrations). To chimney, brace back and feet against opposing surfaces and walk up the walls, shifting pressure between opposing hands and feet to ascend. To stem, spread the body in a wide X position, and use a sideways crab walk to gain elevation.

To hoist the body over a ledge, use arms and legs to raise the chest to ledge level—then recruit the legs, hooking a heel on the overhang.

When dangling on a steep incline, your arms shouldn’t necessarily always be the highest point. If you can identify a third point of contact within reach, hold your body as close to the wall as possible, then scissor up a leg to hook the heel. Once you’re stable, release a handhold and reach for the next contact point.

When using the hands for grip, apply the whole-body principle to the hands themselves. Rather than letting the weight dangle from your fingers, distribute the tension of the grip throughout the hand. And remember: Not all holds are horizontal. A vertical protrusion can be equally useful in a moment of crisis.

037 Survive a Bear Attack

If you run into a black bear on a mountain trail, be grateful for your good fortune. Compared to polar bears and brown bears, black bears are much less likely to attack. Brown bears (sometimes also known as grizzly bears) are the most aggressive species of bear, while polar bears are always hungry—and unlike black and brown bears, polar bears will actively track and hunt down humans across their arctic terrain. Their massive height and heft make them formidable opponents, capable of disemboweling prey with a single swipe of their claws.

Human-bear interactions have become increasingly frequent as various regulations and conservation efforts have swelled the bear population across North America, with black bear sightings particularly on the rise. Fortunately, bear attacks are very rare in general—you have a 1 in 2.1 million chance of being mauled, which means that almost any routine daily activity has a greater chance of killing you. But activities such as bow-hunting for elk in the mountains of Montana or backpacking in the Yellowstone range will significantly increase your risk of a lethal attack. And there’s no discounting the occasional suburban visitor who rifles through Dumpsters or even locks himself inside the family sedan.

Commonsense Precautions

The number one reason for bear attacks? Humans getting too close for comfort. Give bears an extremely wide berth, and never get between a female bear and her cubs. If you spot a bear from a distance, change your route. Stay quiet, so as not to pique the bear’s interest. Should a change in direction be impossible, do not proceed until the bear has been out of sight for thirty minutes.

If you’ve spotted bears in the vicinity, clap your hands and use your voice to emit a steady stream of noise as you transit. Bears have a formidable sense of smell, so when you’re stopped for the night, follow the commonsense strategies of double-bagging and hanging your food. Place food, cookware, and utensils at least one hundred feet from your tent, and never set up camp near bear scat or tracks. Store any scented products (toothpaste, soap) with food and cooking supplies. Do not sleep in the same clothing you cooked in, as food scents may remain on fibers.

Transit through bear country with two or more companions if possible—bears don’t tend to attack groups.

Carry bear spray (a form of pepper spray), which has been shown to be more effective than handguns at deterring bear attacks, and a whistle. Grizzly bears are currently protected as a threatened species in the lower forty-eight states, so killing one will result in a federal investigation complete with forensic analysis.

If the bear is close and has spotted you, get big. Wave your arms around and make noise. Often this strategy will make bears stop in their tracks and run off.

When Bears Attack

If the bear charges you, this is the moment to use bear spray or shoot. Dispense bear spray when the bear is within forty feet, or aim rifle sights at a spot below its chin, or just behind its front legs if shooting broadside. If you are unarmed, stand very still. The bear may be doing a false charge to test your mettle as a potential predator, and could lose interest once it sees that you are not a threat.

If the bear attacks, most experts agree that this is the moment to lie down and play dead. You want to convince the bear that it has done its job and effectively minimized the perceived threat you posed. Lay flat on your stomach to protect your organs, crossing your hands behind your neck to guard your arteries. Or curl into the fetal position, covering the back of your neck with your hands. Playing dead is an effective strategy with a 75 percent success rate; because most bear attacks are defensive in nature, bears will back down once they recognize that you are not a threat. Of course, nothing is predictable in the wild. Bears, though omnivorous, subsist mostly on plants and fish—but they have been known to feast on human flesh.

Never turn your back on a bear, and never try to run. Both of these actions can kick-start a bear’s predatory reflexes—and you’ll never be able to outrun a bear, as the animals can travel at up to thirty miles per hour. Instead, slowly walk away sideways, keeping an eye on the animal so that you can monitor its movements.

If playing dead does not cause the bear to lose interest, you are the rare victim of a predatory attack. The bear intends to kill and possibly eat you, so fight back with any available weapons—a knife, sticks, rocks, your fists. Aim for the eyes and nose, where the bear is most sensitive.

There’s no tried-and-true, written-in-stone protocol for handling a bear attack, in part because attacks are so rare. So it’s no surprise to find debate among bear-country dwellers about how to handle a grizzly charge versus an encounter with a black bear. Some say that playing dead is more likely to work with the former, claiming that the latter’s less frequent attacks are more likely to be offensive. But all agree that pepper spray is the single best deterrent, one so effective that it has been used successfully by children under the age of ten.

038 Cross Rapids Safely

Look both ways before you cross. Better yet, avoid crossing rivers entirely if you know you are going to be exposed to the elements for any length of time. Wet shoes and socks can lead to serious problems a few miles down the road, and rapids can be stronger than they appear.

If you must cross a river with fast-moving currents, scope out areas upstream or downstream of your position, seeking out a path that will make your crossing as efficient and safe as possible. Crossing straightaways between two bends may allow you to take advantage of a slowdown in current after a curve. Look for shoals or shallow points that may allow you to hop from one dry spot to another. Avoid a visible pileup of debris along an embankment, which could indicate strong currents and may entail a risk of getting trapped. A gathering of ripples is a likely indicator of a mass of rocks, another obstacle that could make a crossing more difficult.

To cross on foot, locate a long stick—adding a third leg to your walking posture will increase your stability. Face the current, and make your crossing slow and steady. Rushing will only increase the likelihood of getting knocked off your feet.

Cross deep, rushing waters only as an option of last resort. If you must swim, strip and place gear in a large garbage bag. Tie off the bag securely, leaving air inside so that the inflated bag functions as a flotation device. Swim diagonally up current to counter the effects of drift.

039 Minimum EDC, Maritime Environment

Though cruise ships carry a supply of emergency survival rafts and require passengers to submit to safety drills, deep sea fishing expeditions or voyages aboard private yachts may take a more casual approach to emergency prep. Familiarize yourself with basic strategies for deep sea survival in order to hedge against the unexpected.

Generally stocked on larger vessels, emergency survival rafts are constructed to automatically inflate upon hitting water. Some older models will require you to unscrew a valve, but generally won’t involve inflating the raft while passengers are still onboard the ship.

Shipowners assembling their own maritime EDC kits should stockpile a variety of signaling, navigational, medical, and life-support essentials. Rafts should be outfitted with external lights that will be seen by passing boats in the night, as well as flares, flare guns, and ChemLights that allow passengers to actively signal to get the attention of aircraft and nearby vessels. The earth begins to bend at seven nautical miles at sea level, but a flare gun enables passengers to send signals one thousand feet up into the air, where they can be seen by ships or aircraft many more miles away.

Rafts should be stocked with paddles, but passengers should not make uneducated decisions about navigation unless they can see their way to shore. Their best chance of rescue will be to drop anchor and remain close to the shipwreck, the site of any last-minute transmissions that may have been caught by the coast guard.

If a GPS device indicates that a shoreline is within twelve miles, an attempt to reach the shore may be worthwhile, but activating a personal location beacon (PLB) that beams out your location on rescue frequencies may turn out to be a more useful maneuver. Devices that depend upon satellites function very accurately on open water, where signals won’t be interrupted by tall buildings or dense vegetation.

040 Convert Seawater to Drinking Water

Water everywhere, but not a drop to drink. No truer words were ever spoken in a maritime environment, where drinking salt water will only hasten your demise. As the kidney begins to work overtime to purge the body of excess salt, the body expels liquid faster than it can be replenished, with fatal dehydration the rapid result. But by using a pocketknife or razor and a couple of found objects, you can create an improvised desalination system that harnesses the single resource most abundant at sea.

Leaving the cap screwed on, cut off the bottom from an empty cylindrical water bottle (the bigger the better) and discard. Cut off and discard the top from an aluminum beverage can. Fold the bottom of the water bottle up into itself, rolling up the plastic to create a gutter of two inches or more. Fill the open can with seawater and place it on a solid surface. Place the bottle over the top of the can. The heat will evaporate the water, which will rise and condense on the interior surface of the bottle while the salt is left behind inside the can. As droplets accumulate on the plastic, they will slide down into the gutter you’ve created. Let the receptacle sit in the sun until a sufficient amount of drinkable water has accumulated.

Though we rely on the formula of a gallon of water a day for emergency preparedness, under survival conditions human beings can live on a liter—which translates to a quarter of a gallon or one tall bottle of water, less if you’re able to find high-moisture foods like fish and seaweed rather than subsisting on emergency food rations. Without any water at all, fatality will result in three to five days, depending on external temperature, genetics, and starting level of hydration.

041 Reinforce Food Supplies While Drifting at Sea

Though the human body can survive thirty days without food, depending on your personal supply of good luck it may take as long to catch a fish. So in the event of a shipwreck, don’t assume you’ll be able to coast on your emergency food supply. Begin to ration food immediately, and gather improvised materials in order to construct a net and /or a set of fishing tackle.

Any piece of material can be used as an improvised net, from the shirt off your back to a poncho liner to a pair of pants. Tie shirt arms to a paddle or stick and knot the bottom of the shirt. Submerge the shirt so that fish can swim into the “net” through the neck opening.

Creativity will come in handy in assembling improvised fishing tackle. If emergency food supplies include canned food or beverages outfitted with aluminum pull tabs, these can be used as hooks. Cut or break off the larger of the tab’s two rings at the midline to create the hook, and thread your fishing line through the smaller ring. Work with what you have. The needle of a safety pin can be twisted into a hook, but even a pair of scissors lifted from an emergency medical kit could be jammed open and put to good use. A length of fishing line can be fashioned from either dental floss or paracord, the nylon utility cord that’s a favorite among both members of the military and serious outdoor enthusiasts. Also referred to as 550 cord for its maximum weight-bearing ability, the cord can be split into six smaller strands, each capable of holding about a hundred pounds.

While a seagull sighting may be a sign that land is nearby, that landmass could be uninhabited—and any animal that enters your orbit should be considered potential food. While the odds of successfully clubbing a seagull may seem low, there have been several instances of shipwreck survivors who have done just that.

042 Create Improvised Flotation Devices

Even at temperatures of sixty to seventy degrees, submersion in open waters can quickly cause hypothermia to set in. Long before muscles would ordinarily fatigue from treading water, disorientation and a lack of muscle coordination will result. Securing a flotation device becomes essential as energy wanes.

In the event of shipwreck, the safest course of action is to remain as close as possible to the sunken ship’s debris. A Mayday call placed by the ship’s crew would have alerted coast guards and nearby boats to the ship’s last known position. And if you are stranded without a working raft, the debris will also become part of your survivability plan.

Large cans, barrels, and any other empty containers can be gathered and tied together to create a makeshift buoy. Water bottles can be grasped onto or shoved inside clothing once you’ve drunk their contents and screwed the cap closed. Trash or other plastic bags can easily be inflated by being swept through the air. Clasp the openings in your fists as you swiftly plunge the bags down into the water to create bobbing balloons with a high level of buoyancy.

Even a pair of pants can be transformed into an improvised flotation device, a survi