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Could you survive "wilderness conditions"?

November 01, 2006
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Could you survive "wilderness conditions"?

Taken from the Calibre Press Street Survival Newsline

Whether you patrol in a remote area, are facing a serious weather emergency, heading to the woods during hunting season or just enjoy exploring the great outdoors, knowing how to survive "wilderness conditions" can make a life-saving difference should you encounter an emergency situation.

A special test that appeared in "Men's Journal" magazine will help you determine how much you really know about surviving in wilderness conditions.

First, the questions (answers will follow below)

1. Here are four essentials for survival in the Wild. Assuming none is at your immediate disposal during a crisis, which should you try to arrange for first?

A. Shelter
B. Water
C. Food
D. Fire

2. You've got no water and are near no obvious water sources. Describe three options for slaking your thirst.

3. Of the following, which is probably your safest source of water?

A. River
B. Stream
C. Lake
D. Pond

4. Ground-to-air visual signals are used to attract the attention of pilots and can be made using branches, strips of cloth, or even footprints tramped in the snow. In such instances, what does the signal "V" represent?

5. True or False: A good way to test the edibility of a plant is to eat a minuscule amount of it and wait two hours to see if any symptoms occur.

6. In two words, describe how to quickly fashion a knife from a rock.

7. Describe three survival uses for a plastic trash bag.

8. When building a tent or a survival hut, it's best to situate the entrance so that it's facing in which direction?

A. North
B. South
C. East
D. West

9. Match the shelter with the phrase that best describes it.

I. Hogan
II. Debris
III. Snow burrow
IV. Lean-to

A. Sturdy, cemented
B. Instant protection
C. Simple versatile
D. Improvised and warm

10. What 's the difference between tinder and kindling?

11. As a man, are you more likely or less likely to survive a wilderness crisis than a female in the same situation?

12. Which best describes the reason experts advise looking over you shoulder frequently when hiking?

A. It alerts you to the presence of wild animals.
B. It lets you know what the trail looks like in reverse.

13. Which serve(s) as a good natural insect repellent?

A. Mud
B. Cedar
C. Frog saliva
D. Pine tar

14. Which is the paramount concern when sheltering yourself in a snow cave?

A. Freezing to death
B. Bear attack
C. Suffocation
D. Dehydration

15. The main difference between feline tracks (those of mountain lions, bobcats, etc.) and canine tracks (those of foxes, coyotes, wolves) is:

A. Canine tracks have five toes; feline tracks, four.
B. Feline tracks show claw marks; canine tracks are rounded.
C. Feline tracks are rounded; canine tracks show claw marks.
D. To the untrained eye, there is no difference.

16. Define "reflector," in its fire-building sense.

17. Which is not true about bears?

A. They can tear apart a car.
B. They can run as fast as horses for short distances.
C. They can climb trees.
D. They will not attack unless obviously threatened.

18. True or False: Your level of physical fitness affects how susceptible you are to altitude sickness.

19. You sprain your ankle on a hike. All of the following are sensible treatments except:

A. Soaking the foot in an icy stream.
B. Urinating on a cloth compress and wrapping it around the injury.
C. Tightening the laces on your hiking boot.
D. Soaking the foot in fire-heated water.

20. You're shivering, but you have no extra clothing and you're two hours from the trailhead. In your pocket is a box of matches. You're surrounded by dry leaves and twigs but few branches. What should you do?

[This test, created by Ted G. Rand, appeared in "Men's Journal" magazine and is reprinted with special permission to the Calibre Press Street Survival Newsline by Men's Journal Company, L.P. All Rights Reserved.]

The answers

1. [Which of the 4 survival essentials--shelter, water, food, fire-- should you try to arrange for first if stranded in the wild?]

Answer: Choice A -- Shelter.

The majority of wilderness casualties result from exposure, either to extreme cold or extreme heat.

2. [You've got no water and no obvious water source is available. What are three ways to quench your thirst?]


a. Use a cloth to soak up morning dew from rocks and nonpoisonous plants (like most grasses), then wring it out into a container or your mouth.

b. If you have a plastic trash bag, build a solar still: Dig a hole three feet deep and four feet in diameter, place a container at its bottom, and arrange the bag in the hole with a rock at its center, secured around the edges by more rocks, so that one corner of it is about three inches above the receptacle. Heated by the sun, the soil in the hole will produce moisture that will condense on the underside of the plastic sheet and collect in the container.

c. Go the plant-a-tree route: Use a knife to carve a notch about a half-inch into a hardwood or a sycamore tree, then use a hollow reed to slowly tap the fluid; slice the bottom off a grapevine; or crush the fruit of a prickly pear cactus after skinning it and removing the spines.

3. [Which is the safest source of water?]

Answer: Choice B. A clear, fast-running stream is generally safest. The higher its elevation, the less the chance that you'll encounter chemical pollution from farm or factory runoff or from biological pollutants from human and animals. But you should always filter water into a container through cloth and then purify it with an iodine tablet or by boiling it.

4. [What does the letter "V" spelled on the ground mean to a pilot?]

Answer: Seen from above, a "V" indicates that assistance is required.

5. [True or false: To see if a plant is edible, eat a very small amount of it and wait 2 hours.]

Answer: False. Some plants can be toxic even in small amounts. It's best to positively identify a plant before digging in. Become familiar with the characteristics of grasses, cattails, pines, and acorns-four plant groups that are almost always safe for consumption.

6. [Use 2 words to describe how to make a knife from a rock]

Answer: Break it.

7. [3 survival uses for a plastic trash bag?]

Answer: Here are six: a. raincoat; b. rescue flag; c. insulated coat or sleeping bag (when filled with dead leaves, pine needles, etc.); d. rainwater catch; e. solar still; f. lean-to cover.

8. [Which direction should a survival hut face?]

Answer: Choice C. Situating the entrance to the east allows you to catch the morning sun crucial for heat. Also, since most North American weather patterns move from west to east, you'll be minimizing the chance that wind or rain will blow into your shelter.

9. [Match the shelter name with its description]



A Hogan is essentially a log or rock cabin, with a well-kneaded mixture of mud and grass forming the durable mortar.

A Debris Hut uses a rib cage of triangularly placed branches; multiple layers of soft debris (such as leaves, grass, brush, and moss) are piled around this frame to create amazingly effective insulation.

A Snow Burrow -- formed by cannonballing into a safe snowbank and setting in backward--can provide instant shelter during a blizzard.

A Lean-to can be constructed just about anywhere from dead leaves, some branches, and a couple of poles.

10. [What's the difference between tinder and kindling?]

Answer: Thin strands of dry fibers (culled from grass, reeds, or the inner bark of dead trees) that require only a few sparks to ignite are Tinder. Small, dry twigs of wood that catch and amplify the incipient flames of tinder are Kindling.

11. [Men are more or less likely to survive a wilderness crisis than a female?]

Answer: Less likely. Research studies and anecdotal evidence both support the notion that testosterone is a liability in the wilderness. One guy, for instance, broke his leg and crawled back to civilization on the power of his upper-body muscles. In the process, he dragged his legs through snow puddles and got frostbite in both of them, leading to a double amputation. A woman in the same situation would probably have used a branch as a cane.

12. [Why should you continually look over your shoulder when hiking?]

Answer: Choice B. Trails look dramatically different in reverse, so looking over your shoulder is an excellent measure against getting lost. for the record, animal attacks in the wilderness are exceedingly rare.

13. [What's a good natural insect repellent?]

Answer: Choices B and D. Cedar contains insect-repelling tannic resins. The pitch, or tar, of pine trees is also an excellent, if gooey, form of repellent.

14. [What should be your biggest concern when building a snow cave for shelter?]

Answer: Choice C, suffocation.

To avoid suffocation, use a stick to create an air vent in the wall. During blizzard, check the hole frequently to make sure that snowfall hasn't obscured it. Incidentally, your body heat can warm a snow cave to 40 degrees Fahrenheit even as the outside temperature hovers just below zero.

15. [What's the main difference between feline (bobcats, etc.) and canine (wolves, etc.) tracks?

Answer: Choice C -- Feline tracks are rounded; canine tracks show claw marks.

16. [Define "reflector" in its fire-building sense]

Answer: A reflector is a U-shaped wall of rocks, usually about two feet high by three feet wide, that helps concentrate the warmth of a fire.

17. [Which isn't true about bears?]

Answer: Choice D. Bears are entirely unpredictable in their behavior toward humans, so you should always consider them to be dangerous.

18. [True or false: Your level of physical fitness affects whether you'll suffer from altitude sickness]

Answer: False. On the other hand, adequate hydration, consumption of carbohydrate-rich foods, avoiding overexertion, and gradual acclimatization have all proved to forestall altitude sickness, which usually strikes above 8,000 feet.

19. [What SHOULDN'T you do if you sprain your ankle on a hike?]

Answer: Choice D. Soaking a recent sprain in warm water will increase internal bleeding, leading to inflammation and pain. Snow, ice, or cold water combined with tight compression around the joint will prevent or slow swelling. A a last resort, a urine-soaked compress will cool during evaporation and provide some relief.

20. [How can you keep warm with no extra clothes, a box of matches and just leaves and twigs--no branches--at your disposal?]

Answer: Tuck your shirt into your jeans, and your jeans into your socks, then stuff as many dry leaves into your clothes as possible, for insulation. Start for the trailhead at a moderate clip, and you may even work up a sweat.

Stay safe!

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