Medicinal Plants

As time goes by, pharmacuticals and over the counter medication will be harder to come by.  Because of this, it would be wise to familiarize yourself with plants that have medicinal properties.  Below I have shared some plants that will help with treatment in emergency situations (bleeding, shortness of breath, weakness, nausea, etc).  When doing research on medicinal plants and herbology, you will come across plenty of plants that fall into the realm of homeopathic remedies.  The only supporting evidence that the plant does what someone claims it does is anecdotal at best.  So without further ado:

Aloe Vera

The leaves of the aloe vera plant are used to heal burns and wounds as well as some other skin ailments.  This jagged green plant grows in arid climates and can be found all over the world.  Aloe vera has been marketed as a “cure all” and is included in products ranging from gels and lotions to yogurt.  However, it hasn’t been shown that aloe helps with anything else.


These tiny fruits grow in temperate and sub-arctic climates (such as North America and the U.K.).  They are very similar to the North American blueberry, however they are not the same.  The pulp of a blueberry is a greenish/white color and the pulp of a bilberry is a dark purple color.  On top of being a great food source, it can be used to treat diarrhea and scurvy.


Clove is a very common ingredient found in many households, but it isn’t an indigenous plant to North America.  It is native to Indonesia and can be found naturally in the surrounding area.  Regardless, if you happen upon some dried cloves they can be used for an upset stomach and as an expectorant.  If you have some clove essential oil, it is an effective topical anesthetic especially for toothaches.


The root of the ginger plant is used to relieve nausea.  Ginger can be found throughout Southeast Asia, West Africa, and the Caribbean.





Indian Head Ginger

Indian Head Ginger, or costus spicatus, is a plant native to the Caribbean and South America.  If you brew the leaves of this plant into a tea it has been known to help cleanse parasites from the drinkers system.




Kava may not have a vital first-aid use, but some of the effects make this plant a good one to have around in the PAW.  When the leaves are chewed they have an anesthetic effect on the mouth and throat (similar to that of chloroseptic spray), and if enough are ingested, it can be used as a sedative.  In small doses, the kava leaf can impart a mild euphoria and increased mental acuity.  Kava is native to Polynesian islands from Hawaii to Micronesia, so unless you are lucky enough to be stranded there when at the end of the world as we know it, you probably won’t come across this plant.


Sangre de Grado

This is a tree that is native to northeastern South America.  The sap from the “Dragon’s Blood” tree is a very unique first-aid tool.  Rub this blood red sap in a wound until it turns into a white paste and it will form into a latex bandage.  On top of covering the wound it is also a verd strong antiseptic and hemostatic.



Sphagnum moss is common around the world.  There are around 300 known species that mostly look different (the only characteristic that ties them together is the way the branches cluster).  The thing about all the species of sphagnum moss is that they have an antiseptic quality.  So when you wrap a wound, put some sphagnum moss in between the wound and the wrap.


Yarrow is used to stop bleeding (topically), help wounds heal, and as an anti-inflammatory.  It is commonly found all over the Northern Hemisphere.  It should be noted that yarrow can promote AND staunch blood flow depending on how it’s prepared.  Placing the plant on the wound will cause it to staunch blood flow.

How to Cross a Rope Bridge

Just being able to make a rope bridge doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily be able to cross it.  The less crossing ropes to your rope bridge, the more complicated the crossing will be.  For suspension bridges and any other bridge where you can plant your feet firmly and walk forward, that’s exactly how you cross.  Just be cautious of your footing.

For either a one or two rope bridge you will want to attach yourself to one of the ropes via a safety harness.  There are safety harnesses commercially available, but here at The Armageddon Blog, we like to assume the worst.  You can tie a Swiss Seat using a 6-10 foot length of rope.  This will prevent you from falling while crossing.

Postman’s Bridge (Two Ropes)

For a Postman’s Bridge you will need to devise a safety rope to tie your safety harness to the top rope of the bridge. I would suggest tying a bowline knot to a carabiner attached to the top rope, and another bowline knot tied to the carabiner attached to your harness.

Once you are attached, you will use the following system of movements in order to cross the bridge.

  1. Shift all your weight to your back hand and leg.
  2. Move your lead leg as far forward on the bottom rope as possible.
  3. Shift your weight equally between your legs and move your lead hand above your lead leg on the top rope.
  4. Shift your weight onto your lead hand and leg.
  5. Move your back hand up to your lead hand (move the carabiner for the safety rope up with this step).
  6. Move your back leg up to your lead leg.
  7. Repeat

This seems fairly easy, but there are a few things to be wary of. 

  • No matter how tight the bridge lines are, there will still be some wiggle in the rope.  Move slowly to avoid losing your balance.
  • If you’re crossing a river, it is entirely likely that the rope will absorb some moisture.  If this happens the rope will be slick: Make sure you have solid footing before shifting your weight.

Commando Bridge (One Rope)

There are two ways to go about this.  You can either cross on top of the rope or below the rope, either way will be equally taxing. 

Commando Crawl (On Top of the Rope)

For this, you lay on top of the rope with one leg bent, foot hooked on the rope and as close to the butt as possible.  The other leg dangles to maintain balance.  You move across the rope using the hooked foot and your arms to drag you across.  While it is harder to maintain your balance with this technique, it is a lot easier to stop and rest your muscles should they become fatigued.

Monkey Crawl (Beneath the Rope)

Grab on to the rope with both hands and hook both heels over the rope.  Move by crawling forward.  This is a simpler method to maintain, however it is much more taxing and nearly impossible to stop and recover should you become fatigued.  On the other hand, if you are using a safety rope you can simply let go with your arms or feet (but not both at the same time) to give them a break.

Crossing with Gear

Should you need to cross with any equipment, hopefully it is in bags.  Attach the bags to the line via carabiner and drag it along behind you.  You can attach the equipment carabiner to a rope and attach it to your safety line carabiner to make it easier to keep track of.

How to Tie a Swiss Seat

There are plenty of knots you can learn that will have much more use and be of more value than the Swiss Seat.  That is, until you need to go climbing or rope crossing.  The Swiss Seat is a makeshift harness that you can use to attach yourself to a rappel or bridge rope in case you don’t have a climbing harness.

  1. First of all, you need a length of rope 6-10 feet in length.
  2. Fold the rope in half, grasping the midpoint.
  3. Place the bight on your left hip.
  4. Wrap the rope around your waist on both sides, ensuring that the midpoint stays over the left hip.
  5. Pull one side under the other to make a half hitch. Repeat so that the rope turns twice around itself. This will eventually be where the carabiner is placed.
  6. Let the free ends of the rope fall to the ground, dangling in front of you.
  7. Reach between your legs from behind and grab each end of the rope in the adjacent hand.
  8. Bring the ends up to the outside edges of your back and tuck the ends under the rope at your waist from the bottom and over.
  9. Simultaneously squat and pull on the rope ends to tighten the seat as much as possible.  Repeat this step until the seat is sufficiently tight.
  10. To maintain the tension, run the ends under themselves from back to front, creating a loop around the waist rope directed back to the front.
  11. Tie the two rope ends into a square knot off-center to the left (to avoid snagging the line you are attaching to).

This should be uncomfortably tight around your body but not cutting off circulation, and certainly not squeezing… sensitive… regions.  After you’re all tied up, attach a carabiner to the wrap of ropes at the front of your body and then attach it to the line and your ready to go.

Bad Plants: What Not to Eat in the Wild

Growing up, we had a yew bush in our front yard and my parents had to almost constantly tell me not to eat the berries from this bush.  They looked so vibrant and delicious-looking that I couldn’t help but be tempted.  It turns out that had I given in to this temptation I would have been perfectly fine as the berries themselves aren’t poisonous, but the entire rest of the plant is (It’s reputed that some bowyers have died from handling too much yew wood while making bows).  There are many plants in nature that rely on their toxicity to survive.  Unfortunately, we humans are incapable of detecting this poison where the natural world has ways of telling.  So we have to rely on our wits to help us avoid these plants.

An easy (but tedious) way of determining a plants toxicity is to look for signs of other animals eating parts of it or observing the plant to see if any animals eat it.  Some animals aren’t affected by poisons that affect humans so this doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t poisonous, it just makes it less likely to be poisonous.

Universal Edibility Test

If you encounter a plant that you think may be safe to eat, you should conduct the Universal Edibility Test on it to ensure that it is, in fact, safe to eat.  The UET minimizes your chances of being injured or dying from contacting a poisonous plant.  It is a long and tedious process, but it could very well save your life.  You must have an empty stomach at the start of the test so you need to fast for at least 8 hours before you start.

  1. Separate the plant into five basic parts: leaves, roots, stems, buds, and flowers.  Some plants have parts that are edible while the rest is poisonous (as with yew bushes).  Separating each part lets you test the individual pieces to determine its edibility.
  2. Rub a part of the plant on a bit of sensitive skin (wrist, inside of the knee or elbow, etc.) and wait eight hours.  During the waiting period, you shouldn’t eat anything, but it is acceptable to drink water (and only water).  Throughout the waiting period, watch out for a burning sensation, redness, welts, or bumps on the skin.  These indicate that you are having a reaction to the plant, and if it affects your skin, it will affect your stomach.  If you encounter any of these reactions, rinse your skin, wait 8 hours, and start the test over with a new piece of plant.
  3. It has been shown that some toxins that were present in a plant raw were not present after boiling the plant.  If you have the means to boil the plant, then do so.
  4. Whether or not you boiled the plant, place the plant against your lips for three minutes.  If you feel any burning or tingling, remove the plant, rinse your lips and start over with a new piece of plant.
  5. Taste the plant for 15 minutes without chewing.  If you experience burning, tingling or any other unpleasant sensations.  Discard the plant, rinse your mouth, and start over with a new piece of plant.  Remember that just because it tastes bad doesn’t mean it’s poisonous.
  6. Chew the plant thoroughly and leave on your tongue for 15 minutes.  DON’T SWALLOW!  Again, if you experience any burning, numbness, or tingling spit out the plant, rinse your mouth, and start over with a new piece of plant.
  7. Swallow the soggy, masticated bit of plant.  Now you get to wait another eight hours while watching for signs of nausea.  You can only drink water during this time.  If your feel nauseous at any point during the 8 hours, induce vomiting and drink lots of water.
  8. Eat about a quarter cup of the plant (specifically the part you have been testing) in the same manner as you’ve tested to this point (just without all the waiting).  Once you get it all down, wait for adverse effects again for eight hours, only drinking water.  If you feel sick, induce vomiting, drink lots of water and start over.

At this point the plant part can be considered safe to eat, just don’t gorge on it.

Signs To Avoid

Memorizing all the plants in an area can be tedious, and will do you no good if you are surviving in a different area, but that doesn’t mean that you’re totally screwed.  There are some surefire ways to determine if a plant is poisonous or not:

  • Plants with shiny leaves.
  • Don’t eat mushrooms. Some are perfectly safe, but others are highly toxic and it’s very difficult to differentiate between species of mushrooms.  Also, mushrooms don’t offer much in the way of nutrition so they really aren’t worth the risk.
  • Umbrella-shaped flowers.
  • plants with milky or discolored sap.
  • Bitter or soapy taste.
  • Smells like almonds.
  • Leaves in groups of three.
  • Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods.
  • Spines, fine hairs, or thorns.
  • Dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsleylike foliage.
  • Grain heads with pink, purplish, or black spurs.

There is a saying about berries that holds true:

White and yellow, kill a fellow.
Purple and blue, good for you.
Red… could be good, could be dead.

Additionally, a good way to determine if a red berry is poisonous is to look at how they’re grouped on the branch.  If berries are grouped in bunches, then avoid them.  If the berries grow individual off the branch, then they are probably good.

How to Tie a Figure Eight Slip Knot

The Figure Eight Slip Knot is an adjustable loop-on-the-bight knot.

  1. Make a bight in the rope.
  2. Hold the center of the bight in the right hand. With the center of the bight in the right hand and the legs of the rope secured, twist two complete turns clockwise.
  3. Reach through the bight and grasp the long, standing end of the rope. Pull another bight back through the original bight.
  4. Pull down on the short working end of the rope and dress the knot down.
  5. If the knot is to be used in a transport tightening system, take the working end of the rope and form a half hitch around the loop of the figure eight knot.




How to Tie a Wireman’s Knot

There are many knots that fall into the loop-on-the-bight category, but this one is particularly helpful when building a rope bridge (as described in an upcoming post).  This knot is basically tied by reverse french braiding the loops.

  1. Wrap two turns around the left hand (palm up) from left to right.
  2. Name the wraps from the palm to the fingertips: #1 (heel), #2 (palm), and #3 (fingertip).  Grab the #2 wrap (middle) and place it over the #1 wrap (heel).
  3. Grab the #1 wrap (now in the middle) and place it over the #3 wrap (fingertip).
  4. Grab the #3 wrap (now in the middle) and place it over the #2 wrap (heel).
  5. Grab the #2 wrap (now in the middle) and pull up to form a fixed loop.
  6. Dress the knot down by pulling on the fixed loop and the two working ends.  Pull the working ends apart to finish the knot.

How to Tie a Round Turn and Two Half Hitches

Knots are pretty important in survival.  Most people don’t realize it until they suddenly have to tie a rope and the knot collapses and they have no idea why.  One of the best knots for tying the end of a rope to a static object is called the Round Turn and Two Half Hitches.  Called this because of the components that go into tying it.  You turn the rope ’round the object and secure it with two half hitch knots.

  1. First, wrap the rope around your static object.
  2. Then loop the running end of the rope over the standing end.
  3. Tuck the running end of the rope through the loop created by the last step.  Pull to tighten the knot and push it back close to the anchor object.
  4. Wrap the running end of the rope over the top of the standing end again.
  5. Tuck the running end of the rope through the loop create by the last step (again).  Pull to tighten the knot and push it back close to the first half hitch.

This will create a stable knot that can take a fair amount of weight without weakening.


If you are lucky enough to live in an area where temperatures never get severely cold, you probably don’t need to worry about hypothermia.  You also don’t know how to cope with it if it does happen.  Hypothermia is a condition in which your core temperature drops below the level necessary to maintain normal bodily functions.  An average adult’s core temperature should fall in between 94°F and 100°F.  Once you dip below that range you will start to experience hypothermia.  It may only be mild hypothermia, but mild hypothermia can quickly escalate to severe hypothermia.

It is key to remember that, no matter how drastic the situation may seem, there is no such thing as a “lost cause” with hypothermia victims.  As long as you take appropriate, moderate measures, the victim should recover.  A little girl in Sweden had a documented case of hypothermia in December 2010 in which her core temperature was close to 55°F and she survived!

Mild Hypothermia

Mild hypothermia is the most common form of hypothermia encountered, and luckily the least damaging.  Symptoms of mild hypothermia include:

  • shivering – Muscles near vital organs will involuntarily begin to spasm. This is a defense mechanism in order to insure that your organs stay warm.
  • hypertension and tachycardia – When you get cold, your body starts to pull blood away from your extremities and into your core to keep your vital organs warm.  This can caused increased blood pressure and heart rate.
  • tachypnea – Typically, you breathe at around 12-20 breaths per minute.  Breathing faster than that can be a sign of hypothermia.  This one is difficult to gauge since physical activity of any kind can increase your breathing cycle into that range.
  • vasoconstriction – When you start shivering and your muscles start to spasm, this can cause neighboring blood vessels to constrict, lower blood flow throughout the body.  This is also one of the ways in which your body keeps blood in your core and away from your extremities.
  • cold diuresis – As your body resrticts flow of blood to your core, other systems can get confused and think that you have an excess of liquid in your body.  This will signal the kidneys to start extracting some of that liquid from the bloodstream and remove it as urine.  This is why it is doubly important to stay hydrated in the cold.
  • mental confusion – If you or someone you are with starts to get confused, or act strangely, this is a sure sign of hypothermia.
  • hepatic dysfunction – Liver failure or dysfunction isn’t really a symptom so much as it is a result.  Even in the mild stage of hypothermia, serious damage can occur if not dealt with as soon as possible.
  • hyperglycemia – An increase in blood sugar is not uncommon, nor is it a problem if your blood sugar levels return to normal within a reasonable amount of time.  If left unchecked, it can lead to some nasty side effects including permanent blindness.

If you or someone you know is suffering for mild hypothermia, follow these steps to get them on the road to recovery.

  1. Reduce Heat Loss – Get them any additional layers of clothing you can get your hands on, swap out wet clothing for dry clothing, get them doing something physical, get them to shelter.  Passive rewarming is the best technique at this point.  Let them use their own body heat to get them back in working order.  Remember that overdoing it can be just as bad as not doing anything at all.
  2. Add Fuel & Fluids – It is essential to maintain hydration and energy consumption.
    1. Food Sources
      1. Carbohydrates are quickly converted to energy, making them ideal for someone with mild hypothermia.  They’ll give you a quick burst of energy that can increase body temperature.
      2. Proteins are more slowly converted, making them ideal as a preventative measure.
      3. Fats burn the slowest of all, but will give you the greatest energy conversion.  It takes a lot of water for your body to break fats down so it’s imperative that you keep yourself hydrated.
    2. Food Intake
      1. For someone suffering hypothermia, hot liquids are a great food source – you get the caloric intake plus an external heat source.
      2. Sugary snacks are a great way for someone in the throws of mild hypothermia to recover – they’ll get a fuel surge that should get them back to normal rather quickly.
      3. Trail mix is a wonderful (and tasty) combination of carbohydrates and fats that work well as a preventative measure against hypothermia and as a long term supplement to any sugars given to the victim.
    3. Things to Avoid
      1. Alcohol is a vasodilator, it will force open the constricted blood vessels in your extremities, which will in turn increase heat loss.
      2. Caffeine causes water loss increasing dehydration.
      3. Tobacco/nicotine – a vasoconstrictor, increases risk of frostbite
  3. Add Heat – You can do this be introducing an external heat source, such as fire or another body.  A classic survival technique for rewarming a hypothermic comrade is to climb into a sleeping bag or under a blanket together and share the normothermic persons body heat between the two people.  If you weren’t good friends before this experience, you will be afterwards!

Moderate Hypothermia

In the next stage of hypothermia, the extended duration of a low body temperature results in shivering becoming more violent. You will experience muscle miscoordination, where you have less control over your movements or they will be less accurate.  Movements will become slow and labored, accompanied by a stumbling pace and mild confusion. You will  become pale. Your lips, ears, or digits may have a blue tint to them.

To treat or prevent moderate hypothermia, follow the same steps as with mild hypothermia.

Severe Hypothermia

In the most devastating stage of hypothermia, you will begin to experience the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in speaking,
  • sluggish thinking,
  • amnesia,
  • inability to use hands,
  • stumbling,
  • cellular metabolic processes shut down,
  • exposed skin becomes blue and puffy,
  • muscle coordination becomes very poor,
  • walking becomes almost impossible,
  • incoherent/irrational behavior,
  • pulse and respiration rates decrease significantly, but fast heart rates (ventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation) can occur,
  • major organs fail,
  • clinical death occurs (because of decreased cellular activity in stage 3 hypothermia, the body will actually take longer to undergo brain death).

A significant chunk of hypothermia deaths are associated with what is called “paradoxical undressing.”  As you become more brain-addled, you may start to undress, regardless of the temperature.  Experts theorize that this is either due to a malfunction in the hypothalamus, causing the brain to trick itself into being to warm, or because shivering muscles become exhausted and stop, allowing the blood vessels to dilate, allowing a surge of blood and glucose into the extremities, causing an actual increase in heat in the outer regions of the body.  Think about what happens when you come inside after being in the cold for a while: You stop shivering and suddenly everything is warm to the touch, or at least feels hotter than it should.

It is also not uncommon for people with severe hypothermia to resort to an action called “terminal burrowing” which is similar to what hibernating animals do.  When they get too cold, they make there way to their hibernation chamber and burrow in for the winter.  Humans aren’t equipped for hibernation, so when they “burrow in” (under a bed, behind a dresser, in a hole in the snow) they simply shut down and die.

Being that severe hypothermia is so… well… severe, you have to be incredibly cautious when trying to rewarm them.  Follow these guidelines and you may bring you comrade back in from the cold.

  1. Reduce Heat Loss – You want to wrap them up in as much insulation as possible.  Get them out of any wet clothes and into dry ones.  Wrap them in blankets, if you have an aluminum “space” blanket, wrap them in that first.  Stuff them in a sleeping bag or two. Wrap them in an outer layer of plastic to keep them protected from water and wind.  DO NOT put them in a sleeping bag with another person at this stage.  The drastic difference in temperature could actually burn them or cause other permanent damage.
  2. Add Fuel & Fluids – Do not give the victim any solids, their stomach has already shut down and won’t be able to digest any non-liquids.  Ideally, if you have some Jello, you should make a diluted form of that (use twice as much water as instructed).  This works so well because it contains sugar and protein, plus you can make it with warm water, just don’t make it too warm or you’ll risk burning them.
  3. Urination – In this state, the victim will most definitely be suffering from cold diurisis and will need to urinate often.  Whenever they feel the urge, let them.  Unwrap them from their cocoon, let them pee, then wrap them back up.  If urine is left in the bladder, your body wastes some of its heat energy keeping the contents of your bladder at body temperature.
  4. Add Heat – Apply mild heat too vital areas in order to transfer that heat to nearby arteries and into the blood stream.  Apply heat to the neck, armpits, groin, and palms of the hands.  These areas will transfer heat to the carotid, brachial, and femoral arteries, and the arterial arch respectively.
  5. Rescue Breathing can be used in severe cases to increase oxygen in the blood stream and to transfer heat.

Terminal burrowing – In the final stages of hypothermia, the brain stem produces a burrowing-like behavior. Similar to hibernation behavior in animals, individuals with severe hypothermia are often found in small, enclosed spaces, such as under the bed or behind wardrobes.

How to Stay Warm in the Cold

25% of the year (more or less) is going to be uncomfortably cold.  Most of us don’t realize just how cold it gets because we have car heaters and furnaces and so on.  If you live close enough to the equator that you don’t know what I’m talking about then you’re one of the lucky few that doesn’t need to read this article.  Congratulations!  You’re all set to survive “winter!”  For the rest of you there are a few things you can do to make winter survivable.

Know Your Limits.

I remember several occasions where I thought I was prepared for the cold weather only to find out how wrong I was.  That’s the first thing you need to do to survive the cold – Be Prepared and know you’re limits.  If it’s too cold out for you to go tromping around, don’t risk it.

If You Don’t Have To, Don’t Go Outside.

You’ve likely got some kind of shelter built (temporary or permanent) that protects you from the elements.  If you’re warm inside your shelter, don’t go out unless you need to.

Go South, Young Man!

Follow in the footsteps of your grandparents.  When winter starts  creeping in, start heading towards Florida.  The further South you get, the less inclement the weather will be.  If you get far enough, you won’t have to worry about staying warm.

Stay Dry

In my opinion, if you’re out in the elements, there is nothing more important than staying dry.  If you are soaking wet (from falling into a pond for instance), it is better to strip out of your wet clothes and rub off the excess moisture from your skin with snow than it is to stay in the wet, rapidly cooling clothes.  Your socks will get wet quickly and often, it is important to make sure your feet stay dry so change your socks when you can.


You should wear several layers of clothing.  Be constantly aware of your body temperature and adjust your clothing accordingly.  If you start getting a little warm, take off a layer.  If you start to get a little cool, put a layer on.  If you get to warm, you’ll start to sweat, the sweat will eventually cool off, making you cold and miserable (and possibly dead).

Avoid Cotton

Cotton is a great material in the summer time because it soaks up your sweat and allows it to evaporate rapidly, leading to a cooling effect of the skin.  This is the exact opposite of what we want in cold weather.  It is better to wear undergarments made of synthetic materials like polyester because these materials having a wicking effect that draws your sweat away from your skin, thus avoiding the cooling effect of cotton.

Keep your Hands and Feet Warm.

It is important to keep your extremities warm.  When cold, your body draws most of your blood into your core to keep your vital organs protected.  If your hands and feet get too cold, you’ll get frostbite and potentially lose fingers or toes.  Wear warm boots and socks, and wear warm mittens.  Gloves are okay, but mittens are better because your fingers stay warmer when they are all together.  There are mittens you can buy that the top half on the mitten flips off so you can use your fingers for particularly dexterous tasks.


Keep your Head Warm.

Similar to the previous point, it is equally important to keep your head warm.  Your head accounts for 1/3 of your heat loss from less than 10% of the surface area of your body.  This means that if your head is warm, your whole body will feel warm (or at least warmer).  If your head is cold, it will precipitate limited blood flow to the extremities and heighten the risk of hypothermia/frost bite.

Keep Moving

When you exert yourself, you expend energy.  Particularly, energy in the form of heat.  Simply moving around will be enough for you to start to warm up.

Stay Hydrated

Being in the cold can sap your body of moisture just as quickly as being in the hot sun can, but it doesn’t feel like it.  Staying hydrated will stave off any ill effects of the cold.

Pee and Pee Often

You’re body spends a great deal of energy keeping your core temperature at around 98.6 degrees and that includes your bladder.  If your bladder is full, that’s even more energy being wasted on something that you’re going to get rid of anyway.

Breathe Through Your Nose

You have four pairs of sinus cavities that connect your nose to your trachea.  This isn’t a coincidence.  These cavities filter, humidify and warm the air as it enters your body.  If you breathe in cold air, by the time it gets to your lungs, it’s warm.  If you breathe through your mouth, you get a lungful of cold air which robs your core of warmth, expending more energy to keep you warm.

How to Make Animal Traps

At this point, it should be obvious that it is a universal truth that food will be incredibly scarce (unless you’re incredibly lucky or well prepared).  You have to accept that you will inevitably have to gather or hunt any food you eat.  The easiest way to hunt animals is to set traps for them because you simply build the trap and then occasionally check it for prey.

Traps and snares are designed to crush, choke, hang, or otherwise entangle the prey, commonly incorporating several of these principles together to better ensnare prey.  In general, the simpler the trap the better.  The more complex a trap is, the more points of failure you have to contend with and the less it fails, the more often you eat.  So leave the Rube Goldberg machines in your pack.

There is no “catch all” trap that works for all species, you need to establish what type of prey is in the area and focus on one.  There may not even be prey in your area.  Look for the following in the area you’re in:

  • Runs and trails
  • Tracks
  • Droppings
  • Chewed or rubbed vegetation
  • Nesting or roosting sites
  • Feeding and watering areas

These clues will let you know if there is prey in the area, and what species are around.  You will want to place your traps where you know animals will pass through.


The most important part of any snare or trap is to make it blend in with its surroundings.  This will keep from alert your prey that something may be wrong.  If you are evading pursuit or capture (from cannibals or zombies or a roving motorcycle gang of runaway midget circus clowns), camouflage can hide your presence in the area.

It is best to construct your traps away from the spot you want to place them.  If you construct them in place, you will likely break nearby vegetation, make tracks in the dirt, and leave your scent all over everything nearby.  All of this will cause the prey to be alert at the very least, and to completely avoid the area at worst.  If you have to dig a hole for your trap, make sure to remove all fresh, loose dirt as this will further alert your prey of your presence.

Green wood and other live vegetation will ooze sap which produces a smell that will raise the hackles of any potential prey, warning them away from your trap.  On top of that, that same sap  will eventually dry and can potentially gum up the workings of your trap, allowing prey to pass through it unharmed.

Scent is a big factor in trap making.  If anything smells wrong, your prey will become wary of the situation and potentially avoid your trap and let’s face it: you smell wrong.  It is imperative that you mask your scent near the trap.  You can try to remove it, but it’s a difficult process and, to be honest, not worthwhile.  There are a number of ways you can mask your scent.  You can use animal urine to mask your scent, but this is tricky because you need to use urine from an animal that isn’t a predator of the animal you are trying to trap, nor can it be from an animal not indigenous to the area.  Unfamiliar smells will cause animals to be cautious.

Fires are a common occurance in nature and the animal kingdom treats them with  a bit of non-chalance.  Animals will only become anxious about fire if there is actual flame present, so using smoke in the trap area is a good way to mask your scent.  You could go so far as to char your trap in order to lock in that smoke smell, just make sure your trap will still work after you set it.

Mud is also a good way to mask your scent.  Swamp mud is the best because the scent of rotting vegetation lingers on the mud and let me tell you, that is a STRONG smell.  Just cake your trap in mud.  Again, make sure your trap will still work afterward placing the mud.


A trap by itself can be effective, but not a gaurantee.  If you place a trap on a trail, an animal could decide to simply walk around the trap, leaving your stomach empty.  What you want to do is set up some sort of way to guide your prey into your trap; make it more difficult to avoid the trap.  This technique is called channeling.  This can be as simple as putting your trap on the far end of a shrub that’s in middle of the trail, or as complex as constructing a funnel-shaped barrier between two trees.  Most animals will opt to push forward on their chosen path than try to backtrack, so they’ll walk right into your trap unless they’re certain that it’s bad for them.


Baiting a trap is kind of like camouflaging your trap, but instead of hiding bad smells, you’re introducing enticing smells.  You are trying to lure the prey into the trap with the appeal of food.  This will greatly improve your chances of success if you can spare the resources.  If you are trying to trap fish, you need to bait the trap or you will more than likely not catch anything.  Try to bait the trap with something from the animals normal diet, don’t use something not indigenous to the area.  Also don’t use anything in abundance (baiting with corn in a cornfield won’t get you anywhere).  A lot of animals are big fans of salt, so you can bait your trap with some salt.  Have you ever given peanut butter to a dog before?  They go crazy for it!  For some reason, animals love peanut butter so it makes a great bait.  Make sure to leave bits of your bait outside the trap so that the animal will get a better smell and possibly a taste of the bait.  If its something good, they’ll be more likely to fall into your trap.

Simple Snare

As the name implies, a simple snare is the most simple of snares.  It is simply a noose  placed over a high traffic path for the animal.  Once the animal puts its head in the noose, the noose will tighten as it continues to move.  The more the animal struggles, the tighter the noose will get.  This trap will typically only restrain the animal, not kill it so you need to check these traps more often to minimize the suffering of your prey.  If your noose is made of rope, it is possible for the noose to loosen so it is recommended to use wire instead, as wire will retain its constricted size.

Twitch-Up Snare

A twitch-up snare is a step up in complexity (as well as effectiveness) fromk the simple snare.  Essentially, the prey gets its head caught in the noose (as with the simple snare) but then the animal is snapped off the ground, more than likely snapping its neck, killing it quickly.  The easiest way to get this motion to occur is to bend over a sapling and attach it to some sort of trigger mechanism.  I personally like to use a notched triggerbar set up.  This consists of a stake in the ground with a notch in it and a piece of wood (the triggerbar) that fits snugly into that notch.  Tie the trigger bar to the bent sapling and then tie the triggerbar to your noose.  When the animal is caught by the noose, it will pull the triggerbar away from the stake, which will cause the sapling to snap upright, which tightens the noose around the animals neck, pulling it into the air and snapping its neck.

Squirrel Pole

The squirrel pole is probably the most effective way to catch squirrels.  It relies on the naturally agility and curiosity of squirrels.  Place a series of nooses on a long pole leaned against a tree, so that any squirrels that climb the pole will have to walk through the nooses.  Place them close enough together that a squirrel cannot fit between.  If the squirrel is able to stand comfortably on the pole, they will chew on/through your noose, just for the sake of chewing it.  Squirrels will cautious of your trap initially, but eventually will have to investigate.  They’ll climb the pole, get caught in the noose, and then fall off the pole, snapping their neck or strangling themselves.  This trap is nice because you can catch multiple squirrels with one setup.

These are just a basic few types of traps that you can build.  There are a great number of different traps for any number of different types of animals to trap.

Further Reading