Steel Wool an Incredible Alternative to Char Cloth

Steel Wool Fire Starter

Steel Wool is inexpensive, lightweight and is a much better alternative to char cloth when used for making fires. Steel wool takes a spark just as easily as char cloth but burns a lot hotter than char cloth and can even be used if it gets wet.

Another plus to steel wool is that you can use batteries to ignite it. So check out this excellent video by The Outdoor Gear Review to see how well it works and throw some in your fire kit because you never know when it might come in handy.


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Shelter Building: The Basics

Shelter Building Basics

A previous article talked about the importance of shelter placement, so we will not discuss shelter locations in great detail other than to say it may be one of the more important aspects when it comes to your safety. Today’s article will discuss other aspects of shelters such as size, and materials and why you need one regardless of temperature and weather.


In cold weather you want it just big enough for your body, and whatever gear you have. The smaller the shelter the easier it is to heat and to retain your body heat. You also do not want to expend a lot of energy and materials building your shelter.


If you start out unprepared to shelter overnight or even shelter for a few hours then you will have to construct a debris hut or find a natural shelter. Something as simple as breaking a frigid wind or blocking the hot rays of the sun can save your life.

In cold weather however, you will need to insulate your body from the cold ground, so you will need materials such as leaves, pine boughs, pine needles, and dried grasses for ground insulation. A simple waterproof ground cloth would not provide enough ground insulation in cold weather.

Mylar blankets can be used for emergency shelters if you have cordage and other means of securing the material, otherwise a slight breeze can carry the blanket away. Use the blankets along with forest debris. Once you have a debris hut built line the inside with a Mylar blanket to reflect heat in cold weather and use on the outside in the summer to reflect the hot rays of the sun away from the shelter.

Once you have the poles in place any forest debris can be used to help repel rain and snow and to block cold winds and even the sun. Your shelter can be as simple as placing some stout saplings against a fallen log or you can build a tepee style shelter by creating a tripod and filling in the sides with saplings and forest debris.

You can scoop out the soil under a fallen log to create a body sized depression. Pile some debris on one side to create an ad hoc lean to shelter. Build your fire so it reflects into the depression, but of course be careful not to set fire to your new home.

Soil and snow make great insulators for the sides of your hut, but it will require some work to make your hut as warm as possible. It is important to set out on your day hike or other outdoor adventure prepared to shelter overnight. Tarps and Mylar blankets and even the heavier Mylar blankets are lightweight and can be carried in any pack or even folded/rolled and lashed to your body.

For those that think they do not need a shelter at night in the woods in the summer months probably should never get caught in the woods after dark. Once the sun goes down you can get ground fog which can soak your clothing and settle on your skin, and then once the temperature drops you may very well feel cold. Hypothermia can develop at temperatures around 50° F. Cool air combined with high humidity/moisture could spell problems.

You cannot simply drop to the ground and go to sleep. You need some protection from insects, four legged predators, and even reptiles to some extent. Shelter is important and it must be planned for, and be adequate any time you spend a night in the woods.

Pack for the seasons. In the winter a tarp/poncho may not be sufficient for overnight. They are ideal for blocking cold winds for a few hours, or providing shade in the hot sun, but for overnight in extreme cold you may have to use a tarp or poncho along with forest debris to make a warm shelter. Know the terrain and weather patterns before you set out so you can pack your kit accordingly.

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Survival Shelter Location

Survival Shelter Location: Placement is Important

Shelter can mean the difference between life and death in a survival situation, and so the importance of a shelter cannot be stressed enough. However, your shelters’ location is just as important, and it is something that must be carefully considered.

Your shelter will protect you from cold winds, the scorching rays of the sun, from rain, snow, from insects and from predators that prowl the night as well. Mother Nature is unforgiving and she will insist on near perfection when it comes to the location of your shelter.

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Stealth Hunting

Stealth Hunting: Practicing Noise Discipline

If they can hear you they can find you. In some cases, you will have to minimize your noise signature so as not to comprise your location, or mission if you will. In a grid down scenario or in certain other situations, you may have to hunt to survive, and you may have to hunt using stealth and noise discipline to keep your location or the fact you are even hunting a secret.

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Firearm Lights

Does Your Home Defense Firearm Have a Light on It?

Does Your Home Defense Firearm Have A Light on It and Do You Even Need One?

If you cannot see, you cannot shoot. Family members have been killed, or injured by other family members shooting in low light, or no light conditions. Someone sees a shadow or senses movement and the trigger is pulled. Lighting up a potential target may reveal it is not a target at all.

If you cannot see what you are shooting at then you have no idea who you are shooting at.

You can of course turn on the room’s lights, but your night vision is gone once this happens and there may be an aggressor (s) in the room with you. If you turn a light on in a room and you are in the same room, then you cannot see into other darkened rooms. A tactical light mounted correctly lights up the target or the area where you suspect a target is, not the entire room, thus preserving your night vision.

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Survival Fishing: Various Techniques

Survival Fishing

All fresh water fish found in the United States is considered edible, which means there are no known species with poisonous flesh. With that being said however, certain toxins in the water such as mercury can be present in the flesh, which of course, can pose a health risk.

Others things to be concerned with are the needle like barbs on the dorsal fins of catfish/bullhead species. The wound created by the barbs is likened to a bee sting or other insect bites, and they can become infected if not treated.

Certain fresh water fish also have teeth that can cause a rather nasty wound if you are not careful. Any cut or scrape and especially a puncture wound from a barb in a survival situation can lead to infection, which can be deadly.

Come Prepared and Leave Alive

Ideally you would have an emergency kit that included some rudimentary fishing tackle. Tackle such as hooks, bobbers, some weights, fishing line and possibly artificial bait. If you have line and hooks you can fish and be successful with a little patience and very little skill or experience. A pole can be fashioned rather quickly using a small flexible sapling.

First, we will talk about fishing when you have come prepared with some tackle, knives and other various tools and materials. Then we will talk about how do you fish for survival if you show up to the party empty handed.

1.) Trotlines

If you have four or five hooks you can set up a simple trotline. Attach a few inches of line to each hook, then bait and then attach each one to a baseline (trotline) made out of whatever cordage you have available. The baseline will have to be sturdy enough to hold the weight. Paracord would be ideal.

Stretch the baseline tightly across a small section of the river or stream letting the baited hooks dangle a few inches in the water. You may have to add weights to the stringers to keep them from floating with the current.

Anchor the baseline well on both sides. You can drive stakes into the river or stream bed to anchor the baseline, and by doing this you can more easily move your trotline if you are not having any luck. Anchor it well to ensure the current does not carry away your hard earned catch. Double check your work.

Fish like cover so when survival fishing look for pools close to the bank where there is overhead foliage and high grasses growing in or near the water, submerged logs, and debris dams.

2.)  Fishing Spears

A fishing spear is easy enough to make if you have a cutting tool. Cut a slender sapling as straight as possible, and it should be long enough so it can be plunged straight down from a standing position, with plenty of sapling left to grip.

Split the end into three barbs (keep separated by small wooden wedges) and sharpen each one to a point. A single blunt spear tip will not penetrate well. It will crush the fish, but not hold it, so you may lose your catch to the current.

If you have a fire you can harden the green sapling points by heating over a flame. Heat until the ends are ash coated but not charred, and let cool and do again. Heating green wood essentially speeds up the seasoning process, by removing most of the moisture, which hardens the material.

You may have watched some survival shows where Dave C., for example, throws a spear from the bank to snag some fish. You would not have much luck doing it this way if you are using a field expedient fishing spear. It will not be balanced or weighted properly, and you simply cannot get enough thrust behind it.

The best method for spear fishing in a survival situation is to wade into a shallow pool and stand still and let the fish begin to swirl around you after the silt has settled. You can do this from the bank if you can stand nearly over the water. A cut bank overhang would be ideal, but be careful it does not collapse on you. Thrust straight down, this ensures you do not lose the spear, and by looking straight down you have better optics, and can judge the positions of the fish for more accuracy.

3.) A Single Line Attached To a Branch

This is a very simple and passive fishing method, and you can hang multiple baited hooks in the water along the shoreline if you have the line and hooks. Use this method for fishing along the banks under cover. Fish like shaded pools in hot weather, and they will gather to cool off, if the current is slow enough.

4.) Hand Fishing (Noodling)

In some states hand fishing is illegal for various reasons. In Missouri, for example, catfish is considered a game fish. Larger more mature catfish are typically caught by Noodling and the state fears that Noodling would dramatically reduce the population of mature egg laying catfish. If a mature fish is taken from the nest after laying eggs, the eggs do not stand much of a chance and they die off.

Catfish are vulnerable during their nesting season usually June thru August. Therefore, hand fishing for catfish can be very successful during this time, because you essentially reach into their nesting spots with your hands.

In a survival situation of course you do what you have to do to survive. However, you can encounter things other than catfish, such as water moccasins, and even alligators in some southern states when reaching into crevices underwater. Not to mention the barbs can give you a nasty sting, which as stated earlier can become infected.

5.) Netting Fish

You can weave a fish net out of cattail fronds, grasses, and supple vines and from cordage you have on you. Clothing can be cut into strips and made into netting, but do not ruin clothing you are wearing. Look for discarded materials first. This process is time consuming however, but is a reliable method in some situations.

You will have to wade into a shallow pool and essentially scoop the fish with your net or make the net big enough to where it is a floating or drift net, which is illegal in many states because of the large number of fish it traps. The drift net you could construct would be small and manageable.

In most situations you would simply want a net that allows you to scoop up fish that have gathered in shallow pools. Salmon, for example can be more easily netted at certain times of the year when they swim up river to spawn.

Making Your Own Tackle

You may have seen Cody set out to make cordage from Yucca, for example, and before you know it he has made rope, carry baskets for gourds and even shoes, and if the show was any longer he may be able to build a house this way. You however, probably will not have as much luck.

You do have fishing line with you though. Your shoelaces, the pull cords on zippers, cordage on your backpack, wiring from a bicycle or vehicle and even plastic garbage bags can be made into fishing line.

You can make field expedient fishing line by braiding green grasses into line and cattail fronds make ideal cordage. Separate the fibers and let dry in the sun for a few hours and then braid together.

Fish hooks can be made from paper clips, or any metal, pop tops, wood, and bone. The simplest of hooks would be the Gorge hook, which resembles a fat toothpick sharpened on both ends. The hook can be one to two inches long. The length depends on the size of fish you expect to catch. If the hook is too long the fish cannot swallow the entire hook and if too short it will not lodge in the in the mouth of the fish.

Sharpen both ends and create a channel in the center so your line can be attached without slipping off either end. Bait both ends and attach a weight so the hook does not float to the top. Let dangle a few feet down and attach a bobber to the line. You can use foam ear plugs for bobbers, a piece of Styrofoam, and even a water bottle that is capped and empty.

Bait can be fuzzy seed pods, scraps of rations, grubs, worms, ants, crickets and other insects. Use pop tops for spoons and lures.

Fish can see shiny objects in the water and can sense light and movement out of the water as well. Light will attract certain fish at night, so if you can get a torch lit you can dangle a line off a pole as you hold the torch above the water.

If you do not have a knife you will have to work with stone and scraps of metal you find along the shoreline to make your fishing tackle. Often times though, you will be able to find tangled line, hooks, and other useful debris near any waterway.

No matter how remote the area may seem someone has probably been there before you, and has fished the waters. Look for discarded line, especially line that has been snagged and is still in the water because it may have the hook, weights, lure, and even the bobber still attached.

Scavenge the area before expending a lot of energy trying to make cordage and hooks, because there is a good chance you will find the fishing tackle you need discarded along the shore. You may even find discarded netting, which can be used as a net, or it can be cut up and used for fishing line and cordage for other uses.

Gain versus Effort

Fishing is typically a passive method of gathering food, so once you have your tackle made and lines put out, you should begin working on other methods of food gathering. Monitor trotlines, floating nets and static lines closely. Leaving fish netted or hooked for very long may mean you can lose the catch. Do not leave the area with the trotlines, static poles, and netting in place.

Hunting for food without adequate weaponry will burn up energy, and it can be very time consuming and dangerous in some cases, if you are not equipped to handle large or dangerous game that can turn on you. Get your fishing methods incorporated before you attempt to hunt or trap game.

Waterways can provide you with more than food and water. Waterways can also lead you to civilization. Follow rivers and streams downriver and fish along the way.

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Magnesium Fire Starters

Prepare Your Fire Starters Ahead Of Time: Making Fire Starters

First, a question, do you scrape your magnesium bar to get fine particles or do you shave it to get curls.

High quality magnesium shavings will burn at approximately 5600° F/3093° C. The magnesium content in the bars available at camping stores and other retail outlets can vary. The percentage of magnesium would not be 100 percent. Other metal alloys are mixed in, and the more alloys contained in the stick the lower the burning temperature.

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Those with Technology Will Own the Night

Thermal Night Vision

For centuries major battles between armies were fought during daylight hours because darkness meant blindness. Of course small bands of soldiers have always operated at night, gathering Intel, harassing the enemy, and committing acts of sabotage since conflicts began thousands of years ago, but battles for the most part were fought when opposing forces could see each other.

Flaming torches would have been carried in years past to light up pathways and trails, but the torches were a beacon that allowed others to track the progress of their rivals.

To operate at night without artificial lighting meant you needed to know the terrain well, and in most cases armies on the move did not always get to choose the location of battle, and even if they could they did not have the time to map out the area.

Today however, technology allows for unrestricted night operations. Terrain can be lit up without giving away the location of those conducting the operations in the dark. Soldiers, law enforcement and others can now see at night, because of technology.

This means that targets can be engaged at night as well. There are of course limitations and usually Mother Nature has a hand in the limitations. Rain, snow, cloud cover, sand storms, and other acts of nature play a role in the effectiveness of the technology.

Okay So What Has All of This Have to Do With You

The grid goes down and Martial Law or even nighttime curfews are enacted, but its dark and no one can see you right. Well, you can be seen if someone is looking with the right equipment. Drones and manned aircraft can detect heat signatures inside of structures from hundreds of feet in the air. If you are huddled up inside a structure, you may only think you are hidden in the dark. The right technology can determine what room you are in and on what floor.

If you slip outside to do some Intel gathering you can be tracked, and all of your movements recorded. The darkness is no longer cover if technology is used against you.

Things You Can Do

There are no absolutes when it comes employing counter measures against thermal cameras. It is difficult, if not impossible to defeat the technology with what you would have available. There are some that claim there are cloaking devices available or will soon be available. There may be such devices, but do you have one, can you get one, and more importantly how confident are you that it would work if you did have one?

You Can Make Detection More Difficult By Confusing the Operator

You are not trying to confuse the cameras, but instead are trying to confuse the humans analyzing the data. Cloaking devices if they do work would likely leave a black hole against the background however. Whatever cloaks you will cloak the background, as well, and this stands out. To a trained operator this indicates that something is there. They may not be able to tell if it is human or not, but only humans would or could cloak themselves or equipment, so there you have it. A red flag like a black hole may warrant closer inspection. Someone may be sent in to get eyes on the object.

If you have a basement and are worried about drones or other aircraft scanning to see the number of occupants in the home you may be able avoid detection by gathering in the basement as long as the basement is below ground level. However, heat signatures will be all over the home, from electrical devices, to lanterns to candles you may have lighted and then extinguished. If you sat in a chair the chair may still emit enough body heat to show up on a thermal camera.

You can use thermal blankets to contain your heat signature or the signature from appliances, or furniture. The blankets are not foolproof, but they could reflect the heat to the point where it may look like a small rodent, cat, or dog instead of a human or a heat signature that would indicate a human presence. Heat will essentially leak through, but not necessarily enough to determine what the object may be.

If outside you can blend in with warm objects such as steam vents if in an urban area or get close to brick/stone walls that would have absorbed heat during the day. Getting next to generators that are not your own could work as well.

However, keep in mind in certain situations there may be people looking for energy sources such as generators and steam vents, and they would use thermal cameras to find the heat signatures.

Heavy foliage, rain, fog, and snow can reduce your heat signature, so do nighttime maneuvers, if you can in the rain, snow, or fog. When traveling at night stay in the brush, walk along or even in rivers, streams or along bodies of water to help confuse the analysts.

Carry thermal blankets with you, and if at home or in any structure a wool blanket can even help somewhat, but again it is not a guarantee, but anything you can do, you should do, to break up your image and reduce the heat that the cameras see.

Glass is also known to reduce/block thermal imagining. How practical this might be depends on the situation and possibly the glass itself. Nevertheless, the more you know the better off you will be. A typical office building usually has numerous glass windows.

If the grid is down some people will experience darkness like never before, because many are not aware of how much light is available in the world from artificial light that bleeds over. The street light down the block, a neighbors’ porch light and the combined lighting from cities large and small all fight back against the darkness. When cities go dark you are essentially blind at night except for the artificial lighting you may carry, but it may only allow you to see a few feet or a few yards in any direction. You are blind in the darkness but others may not be.

Cameras pick up heat and the data is arranged so the operator can see an image, and then possibly determine what that image is. Human shapes are readily identifiable, so you have to do what you can to make it harder for the analyst.

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How to Boil Water in the Ground

Boil Water In The Ground
As preppers, we may be prepared for many situations, but what would happen if you found yourself in a survival situation with no drinking water? Worse, no drinking water and no method to purify it. If water is available you could take the chance of drinking it, sustaining yourself for a bit longer, but at the risk of getting very sick. Boiling water is the best method of killing pathogens in a pinch, but what do you do when you have no container in which to boil it? Check out this video, it takes resourcefulness to a new level.

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Disappearing in a Crowd

Disappearing In a Crowd: Staying Off the Radar Once the SHTF

According to Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov it only takes one tenth of a second for people to form an impression when they first meet a stranger. The study also concludes that “longer looks” at a stranger will not sway the first impression (Wargo, 2006).

The first impression can be a lasting impression, and there are no “do over’s”.

Fair or not, like it or not, we all are being judged continually. We all are being sized up, if you will, by strangers, acquaintances and law enforcement as we move about during our daily lives. We are judged by our actions, our looks, and race and by our political and religious affiliations.

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