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possible, tear off a few pieces of any brightly colored clothing you may have on and tie it to your shelter.


Fire Next, if it is cold, make a fi re. Al-


ways carry a method of starting a fi re. Better yet, carry two ways. Fire will save your bacon. It will keep you warm, help signal rescuers and boost your morale. A small Bic mini lighter and some matches are all you need. However, the really small fi re rods (fl int and magnesium with striker) are awesome and will spark even when wet. A fi re needs three things to start: heat (spark), air and fuel. Tinder can be dryer lint in your pockets or shred- ded dollar bills. Think outside the box. Burning that $20 bill in your wallet may be the best money you ever spent if it gets a fi re going that keeps you from freezing to death. When you make your fi re, gather plenty of materials, especially the small stuff (straw wood is the size of a piece of straw). Gather tinder-dried grass, dried moss, dried leaves, pine needles, milkweed fl uff and cotton- wood seed fl uff. Then the straw wood, then pencil sized wood, then sticks the size of your fi ngers, thumb and fi nally your wrist. Don’t go too big too early. A fi re takes some nurturing and tending at fi rst. Use down, dried wood, that is off the ground, perhaps leaning against other trees or hung up in low branches. This wood is best because it sheds water quicker, dries out and doesn’t rot or become mossy as quickly.


Water After fi re, you will need water.


This is especially true in a hot, dry en- vironment. In the desert, I’d say wa- ter is more important than fi re, even though it gets cold at night. It is best to carry water with you of course. If you did not bring any on this trip, you will need to go get some. You may not have a container to hold water, but look around. A small baggy, a con- dom, a Styrofoam cup, beer can or glass bottle will all do. Many times you will fi nd an old can or bottle in the woods when there are no people around for miles in any direction. Any container will do to carry it in, but make sure you treat your water before drinking. It may look pure and clean, but you don’t know how many raccoons and possums used your drinking water as a toilet. Hint: a lot! A fi lter is best, but boiling works too. A drop or two of iodine per quart will kill the bad stuff and so will a drop or two of chlorine bleach. The Katadyn Micropur tablets are the best hands down because they kill


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Nothing dies easily in the wilderness, however, one mistake and you may end up a scattered pile of bones in the woods.


bacteria and viruses. The Micropur MP1 tablets also kill cysts, which are often hard to kill. Another advantage is that they are easy to carry since each tablet is sealed in foil. Both how- ever, require a few hours to work. Any of the water fi lters on the market are good. The SteriPEN has been used all over the world and has been effec- tive in killing parasites and bacteria using UV rays. However, if you have no means to treat your water, and you think you will be rescued in two to three days or sooner, drink the water. Hopefully you will be back in civili- zation by the time any sickness hits you and you will be able to get treat- ment. Regarding solar stills: they are a worthless and foolish method of at- tempting to get water. You will expend more sweat making one than water you will gain. Making solar stills will quickly put you upside down in a des- ert environment. In the desert most barrel cactus contain drinkable wa- ter in small quantities. Never ration your water. People have been found dead, with water in their canteens. You need the water inside your body. Store it there. If you get dehydrated, you start making mistakes, mistakes that can cost you your life.


Food A note on food; you probably don’t


need any for a 72-hour survival situ- ation. Yes, you will be hungry. Yes, your energy will decrease. But most of us in America have a reserve of body fat we can pull from if needed. However, food is helpful in the cold because it helps create heat during di- gestion. Bringing some food with you is great, but don’t put yourself at risk trying to spear trout in a fast moving rocky stream. Many people expend more calories in the pursuit of food than they get from the food once they catch it. You can also risk injury if


you start thrashing around a stream trying to spear a fi sh and end up fall- ing onto some rocks.


Being Found The fi nal thing you need to con-


sider is getting found. You need to at- tract your rescuer’s attention. A whis- tle and a signal mirror are both great tools. Anybody can use a whistle and the sound carries much, much farther than your voice. Remember, three of anything is a distress signal: whistle blasts, gunshots, etc. A good signal plan would incorporate a ground to air signal: a large X placed on the ground, stamped into snow, laid out with logs or dirt, means, “I am here and can‘t continue.” It would also in- clude a signal mirror during the day (scanning the horizon and any pass- ing aircraft), a strobe or fl ashing light at night and a whistle throughout the day. Bright-orange fl agger tape is useful to mark your position or your back-trail if you are on the move. But have a plan. Of course a cell phone would be helpful, but it could have been broken in the initial emergency or you might not be able to get a sig- nal where you are. It’s not rocket science but it takes


a little preplanning and the mindset to bring the basic gear that will help you survive. You also need to know how to use these items. An afternoon spent practicing the signal mirror with a friend, building a shelter and a couple fi res would be time well spent. The confi dence gained in knowing how to survive in the wilderness also helps prevent fear from creeping in. Fear paralyzes. It affects how you think, and even how your body handles extremes of temperature or dehydration. Proper prior planning will help prevent a search and rescue mission from becoming a body recovery mission. *


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