sharpening a survival knife

Mini Survival Tips

(A little ingenuity can make a big difference in a survival situation.)

Please click on the links below to view the Mini survival tips.

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Mini Tip 1:
survival tips Light a fire using a plastic bottle and water.
Take a clear plastic bottle with a little water in it (or piece of clear plastic wrap – form it into a "bubble", i.e. bring the four corners together, the bubble is then filled with water) and use this a lens to focus the sun's rays onto tinder.


Mini Tip 2:
survival tip Make a signalling kite using a carrier bag, sticks and string.
Carrier bags are found almost everywhere and even in remote places they tend to turn up. Even a damaged bag can be used to make a good signalling kite, especially useful if the plastic is a bright colour. The kite needs a tail, make it from strips cut from the bag. To fly, simply throw the kite and pull the string as if you are fishing.

Extend the string while doing this. You may need to give it some help to get into the air by running a little. If so, check that the ground ahead is free of obstacles as you are likely to be looking up as you do this and not concentrating on the ground.

kite survival tipHow useful is it? Well, we tend not to see the obvious, that is why search and rescue is often difficult, however, we are more likely to notice the unusual. So an object bobbing up and down above ground level is more likely to catch attention. For this reason the size and colour of the kite is important. It probably increases your chances of being seen by a couple of percent, not much, but every little helps. See photo below for suggestion of how to make a makeshift kite. If you have no tape, the cover can be fixed to the sticks by tying it on with thin strips cut from the bag:

Mini Tip 3:
cable ties survival tip Electrical cable ties have many survival uses.
Cable ties are incredibly strong, light, and should be carried in your survival kit. Choose the longest length you can get because they can be cut down for smaller jobs. They are just handy to have in your rucksack. Useful for quickly lashing poles together when making a quick (or permanent) shelter, bed, etc., or for hanging things up (like plastic bags filled with water). They have so many uses, for example, fixing a sheath knife securely to a pole to make a harpoon or spear. Their only disadvantages are they can be used only once and have to be cut to remove them. See photo below:
electrical cable ties in survival
Electrical cable tie

Mini Tip 4:
emergency whistle survival tip Make a paper whistle in 30– seconds.
Useful emergency whistle that can be heard a surprisingly long way off.

whistle for survival

Mini Tip 5:
super glue in a survival sitation Using Super Glue to fix minor cuts.

survival uses for super glue

Photos above, top left – Liquid Bandage,
top right – Super Glue and bottom – Dermabond.

Super Glue and it's surgical cousin Dermabond are ideal for fixing minor cuts. Dermabond is considerably more expensive than Super Glue because it contains solvents that are less toxic to skin and is sterile. Both work equally well, but some people have a reaction to the Cyanoacrylate in the glue. The cut has to be a clean–cut with no ragged edges. The skin has to be cleansed and bleeding has to be stopped before applying, otherwise the glue is washed from the wound. To apply:

With clean hands or a clean towel, wash the area of the cut with cold water and soap. Dry with a clean towel. Make sure the site is completely dry.

The glue should NOT be placed inside the wound but on TOP of the skin, where the cut comes together.

Create a seal by bringing the cut together with your fingers, but do not squeeze the cut together.

Apply the liquid bandage over the TOP of the cut. Spread it from one end of the cut to the other, covering the cut completely.

Hold the cut together for about a minute to give the adhesive enough time to dry.

Keep the site as dry as possible. It is OK to bathe after the liquid adhesive has dried, but excessive moisture can loosen the bond.

It is okay to wash the site with soap and water daily to keep the area clean and prevent infection.

Do NOT use any other ointments on the site of the cut. This will weaken the bond and slow the healing process.

Do NOT scratch or scrub the site. This will remove the glue.

supergling up wounds
wound closed with Dermabond

Mini Tip 6:
cell phone as a survival aid Even with no reception, your cell phone may help rescuers.
In the mountains of Oregon, USA, in 2006, a stranded motorist and her two children were located by plane after technicians triangulated transmissions from her cellphone. Sadly, her husband died when he left his car stranded in the snow and attempted to find help on foot. But his wife and two children were saved because rescuers were able to locate the family. Even though they could not make a call, their cell phone was still sending out signals to a nearby tower, making it possible for rescuers to locate them.

Even if communication isn't possible at all, bringing a cell phone along can still be an aid to potential rescuers: The bright glow from the screen can serve as a tiny beacon. A lost daytime hiker in the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix, USA, was found by rescuers after they used night-vision goggles to locate her illuminated cellphone screen from two miles away.

Mini Tip 7:
using a bandana in a survival situation A Bandanna is a useful piece of survival kit.

Bandannas can be triangular or tubular. A triangular bandana has to be knotted. In my view, the tubular bandanna is more versatile and you are less likely to lose it. Many suppliers on the internet have short video clips illustrating the many different ways the tubular bandana can be worn. A Shemagh is also a good alternative.

Photos left to right: Shemagh, Bandana, Tubular Bandana.

A Bandana has some fairly obvious uses in survival situations, here are a some of them:
  • A a brightly coloured Bandana can be used to catch the attention of possible helpers;
  • A medical sling;
  • A tourniquet;
  • Bandaging a wound;
  • A make-shift sling shot;
  • A hat to protect against the sun (very useful in jungle rather than wearing a hat as all round vision is maintained);
  • To protect the neck from sun (wet it);
  • In the cold it will give extra warmth when worn under a hat;
  • As a water filter;
  • As a breathing aid in dusty or cold conditions;
  • As a make-shift fan belt for a car.

Mini Tip 8:
survive mini tip using socks Survival uses for a spare pair of socks.

sock in a survival situationFiltering water through fabric can help remove the more visible sediment and creepy-crawlies. Pour dirty water through the sock and into a container. (Ladies, you can also use your bra for this step.) Allow the water to settle so any remaining sediment can fall to the bottom of the container. Pour the clearest settled water into a pan and boil it to make it safe to drink (To find out how to do this correctly, enter "boiling" as a search word in the book to find out how) . For added safety, add a water purifying tablet if you have any with you.
Even water treated this way can taste pretty horrible because of the minute quantities of dissolved methane gas in the water. To make it more palatable, make a small quantity of charcoal, crush it up and mix into the filtered water. (Don't know how to make charcoal? Enter "charcoal" as a search word in the book and find out how to do it.)  Leave overnight, repeat the filtering and boiling process and the water will taste much better. Wash out the sock so you can use it again.

Fill a sock with damp sand to make a very effective cosh.

Cotton socks can also provide you with a source of fire-starting tinder. Rub or pick off as much lint as you can. The resulting pile of fuzz will quickly catch a spark when you're trying to light a fire.

In cold weather, socks can make effective mittens. They are even more effective if placed inside plastic bags. There you are, windproof warm mittens made in seconds. You can usually even wear them over a pair of gloves for added protection.

A sock stretched over a wooden or wire frame can make an effective trawl net for catching small fish.

Cut the toe end off a pare of socks (works well with Smart Wool Socks as illustrated above) to make a pair of leg warmers or arm warmers.

Mini Tip 9:
plasic poncho Survival uses for rubbish bags (garbage bags).

emergnecy poncho
Plastic rubbish bags (garbage bags), particularly the large, heavy-duty type, are exceptionally useful in survival situations. Staying warm and dry is a priority when exposed to the elements, particularly if you don't know how long it will be until you have access to shelter and heat. Cutting a hole in the top of a large plastic bag and slipping your head through it instantly makes it a rain jacket and windbreaker.

But that's just the beginning of the uses of a rubbish bag. They can also be split open and used as protection from the sun, they make good internal lining for a debris shelter, they can be filled with leaves for use as a pillow or mattress, or simply as something to sit or lie on that will keep you from getting wet on the damp ground. They can be filled with snow and left to melt; they can be used as a liner in a hole to catch rainwater. They are an effective covering for a backpack to keep it dry during a shower or storm.

A heavy-duty rubbish bag can even be filled with air and used as a flotation aid to assist in river crossing. Several bags can be used to make a raft.

survival uses of plasic bags for floatation

Mini Tip 10:
emergency tooth repair Lost a filling? A temporary cavity fix. Survival toothbrush.

Temporary cavity fix:
Candle wax works to keep the air out of a cavity but easily falls out while eating and drinking. First gargle with warm salt water and swill it vigorously around your teeth. This kills many of the harmful bacteria. When you lose a filling it hurts because the sensitive nerve is exposed and cool air irritates it. To make a temporary filling, light a candle and drip wax on a clean surface. Scrape up the wax while still warm mould it into the cavity hole. If the wax falls out at any time before resealing the cavity gargle with warm salt water again to clean and stop bacteria from growing in your tooth.

Survival toothbrush:
Throughout the Middle East and Africa, the root of the arak tree, or Salvadora persica, is used as a natural toothbrush. It has antiseptic and astringent properties which help to clean and protect teeth and gums.

 arak rooot in surivivalTo use arak root, soak the root in water for a few hours to soften the natural fibres. Then, scrape off a little bark from the tip and gently chew until fibres have separated and the root becomes brush-like. Clean the teeth by rubbing the root up and down as you would a conventional plastic toothbrush. When the fibres become overused, simply cut off the tip, scrape off more bark, and continue to use as before.

The root has a slightly bitter taste but is highly effective. I had to use this method for two years in Africa and flossed with waxed sewing thread; upon returning to Europe my dentist told me my teeth were in excellent order.

Any fibrous root will work, the root of the coco palm can also be used. Always check that any root you use is safe by applying the "Universally Accepted Edibility Test for Florae."

Salvadora persica (Arak Tree)

Mini Tip 11:
 shallow water blackout Avoid Shallow Water Blackout.
 burning oil

The term "Shallow Water Blackout" is a medical term for a faint in any depth of water (brought on by a lack of oxygen and carbon dioxide) where depressurizing is not a factor (depressurization occurs as the surface is approached following a breath–hold dive of over ten metres).

There are survival situations where it may be necessary to swim under water, for example, to escape a flooded tunnel or passage, to pass through a sump in a cave, to escape burning oil on the surface of the sea following a shipwreck, etc.

The uninitiated faced with the need to swim under water will take many breaths first and then one deep breath before making the under water swim in the mistaken belief they are increasing the oxygen levels in the blood. In fact, they are doing the opposite. If we hyperventilate, or possibly if we breath–hold after prolonged vigorous exercise, or if we are very frightened, our oxygen levels can go critically low whilst our carbon dioxide level isn't high enough to make us uncomfortable enough to signal we need to take a breath. In Shallow Water Blackout, the CO2 level remains low and we don't feel the urge to breathe even though the brain is critically short of oxygen. Because we have no warning signal to obey, no strong desire to breathe, we don't know how short of oxygen we are and we suddenly faint under water. Death follows quickly.

It is worth remembering that hyperventilating won't actually get any more oxygen into your body it just rids the body of carbon dioxide.

Shallow water blackout can be avoided by ensuring that carbon dioxide levels in the body are properly calibrated prior to diving and that appropriate safety measures are in place; this can be achieved by doing the following:

Take a moment to relax before making the dive and allow blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels to reach equilibrium. Breathe absolutely normally; allow the body to dictate the rate of breathing to make sure the carbon dioxide levels are properly calibrated, especially if feeling anxious or frightened. If excited or anxious about the dive, take extra care to remain calm and breathe naturally; epinephrine (adrenaline) also causes hyperventilation without the diver knowing.

When the urge to breathe comes on near the end of the dive, immediately seek access to air.

If possible, do not make the dive alone. Dive in pairs, not everyone succumbs to Shallow Water Blackout at the same rate and one partner may be able to last long enough to help the other. Make sure you know how to do CPR.


Mini Tip 12:
 survival-expert mini tip Carry a blood clotting agent

celoxEmergency blood clotting agents are available as pads, sprays, and crystals. Carry one in your survival kit, dash–pack, abandon ship bag, rucksack, home and car emergency kit. Also carry a few surgical grade sterile gauze pads and bandages.

Severe bleeding can cause shock and death in less than 10 minutes, and even moderate, prolonged bleeding can do the same. These agents are used by the US and UK military and should be capable of:
  • Clotting blood fast (on average – in thirty seconds), even arterial blood loss.
  • be effective in clotting hypothermic blood;
  • working without generating heat, and therefore there being no risk of burning the affected area;
  • being broken down in the body into glucosamine, a natural sugar.
  • being left in the wound for up to seven days if emergency medical help is not on hand.
Make sure the chosen product is tested (preferably endorsed by military and first aid organisations) so there is no allergic reaction and the product is suitable for babies and children (and animals).

  • Spray blood clotting agent over or pour blood clotting crystals onto the wound area.
  • Pack any cavity with the blood clotting agent or surgical gauze.
  • Apply pressure directly to the wound until blood flow stops and a clot develops and strengthens. The amount of pressure and time required depends on the severity of the wound and the blood flow from the body. For minor wounds, finger tip pressure for a few seconds should be enough. For severe bleeding, strong pressure for up to five minutes in advised.

Other good products include:
clotting blood