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  • November 30, 2011

    Survival Skills: Brain Tanning Hides-10

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    Before the advent of chemical tanning of hides to make leather, animal skins were subjected to all kinds of strange concoctions to degrease and soften them. Urine, wood ashes, tree bark acid, and even toxic substances like mercury have been employed over the centuries to tan skins into useful leather.

    But few natural substances have had such a long and successful track record as animal brains. How does it work? Brain tissue is full of very fine oils that condition and soften the animal skin, if the skin is moving while it dries. If the skin just lies there and dries out, brains or no brains, the glues in the skin naturally set up and you have “raw hide” as the result—great to let the dogs chew on, but not so great for making clothes.

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  • November 29, 2011

    Survival Skills: Tying Knots That Work-12

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    You may have heard the phrase, “If you don’t know knots, tie lots.” I wish it was that easy, but when it comes to reliable, dependable knot tying, more twists and turns won’t always guarantee a better knot.

    While most woodsmen, lumberjacks, Boy Scouts and sailors probably know dozens of knots that they could tie blindfolded, I prefer quality over quantity. But which knots are the most useful?

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  • November 23, 2011

    Thanksgiving Survival Tips-3

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    The travel, the overeating, the family fights, the leftovers, the deep fried turkey accidents... How on earth do we make it through the most gluttonous American holiday each year?

    Getting There In One Piece

    You want to get there safe, right? Not everybody has their mind on the road, and the kids fighting in the back seat can take your attention away from driving, too. Play the “quiet game”, or better yet, tell them funny stories about Thanksgiving when you were a kid. Maybe you can give them some harmless dirt on somebody who will be attending, and it can be your private joke with the kids all day. 

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  • November 22, 2011

    Survival Skills: Finding Tinder Part 2 – Tinder From Your Home-9

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    You’ve probably heard about drier lint and cotton balls for tinder. But are these the best materials that your home has to offer?

    In the last post on tinder from the wild, we looked at grass, leaves, pine needles, tree bark, weed fluff and wood shavings as tinder. So in the same line of thinking--looking for dry, fluffy plant-based material--what would be good to take out into the field to get a fire going when the chips are down? Here are six of the best options.

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  • November 18, 2011

    Survival Skills: Finding Tinder Part One – Tinder From The Wild-4

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    Tinder is dead, dry plant-based material that is capable of turning a spark into a flame. Without some form of tinder, sparks and small flames cannot grow to be fires. Lucky for us, there are always materials relatively close at hand in the wild that can be used as tinder. Any natural tinder used for fire making should have several things in common.

    First, it should all be dead—but usually not rotten—plant-based materials. Rotten plants tend to lose more and more of their fuel value as they decompose. There are always exceptions, but just remember to always use dead plant-based materials.

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  • November 16, 2011

    Off-Duty Coast Guard Cook Saves Girl From Drowning-3

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    Few things demonstrate the average Coast Guardsmen’s drive to help others and save lives like the recent off-duty actions of Petty Officer 2nd Class Leon Doniphan, as he leapt into the Columbia River to save a young girl from drowning.

    Doniphan is a food service specialist aboard Coast Guard Cutter Alert, which is home ported in Astoria, Oregon. On the evening of Sept. 10, Doniphan had finished his work on the cutter and was on his way home when he came upon a troubling scene.

    “I noticed a group of individuals on the shore fixated on the river’s edge,” says Doniphan.

    A young girl, about 11 or 12 years old, was swimming in the river near a large navigation buoy, 40 feet in diameter and chained to the river’s shore. The girl had tried unsuccessfully to swim against the current and was panicking. Nearly swept under the buoy, she managed to grab a hold of small piece of metal on the structure’s edge, which was the only available handhold.

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  • November 15, 2011

    Survival Skills: Field Dressing With a Stone-3

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    Most people seem surprised when I mention my affinity for butchering game with stone tools.

    Yes, you should always have several modern knives while out hunting and camping. But what happens if there is an emergency and your gear becomes lost or is stolen? It’s always nice to have a backup plan, or two, or three. Surgical-sharp, disposable blades can be as close as the nearest creek rocks.

    Not every rock can be broken to create a good cutting edge, but most parts of the globe have abundant rocks that will work. Some of the best choices for cutting stones are flint, chert, jasper, chalcedony, quartz and obsidian. That last one is a form of volcanic glass common on the west coast, which is capable of being broken into such sharp pieces that the cutting edge can be just one molecule thick in some spots. That’s 25-times sharper than scalpels used in modern surgery! So put away any ideas that rock won’t cut.

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  • November 14, 2011

    Survival Gear: SOG’s Force Knife-10

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    SOG’s Force knife is the meanest knife in my collection, hands down.

    The stout thickness and minimal grind profiles are the secrets behind the strength of the blade. The Force is one of the best-constructed and toughest fixed-blade knives in the SOG knife family. But is it functional in the field?

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  • November 9, 2011

    Global Rescue Evacuates Climbers From Violent Miner Strike In Remote Indonesia-0

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    Imagine the thrill of mountain climbing in the remotest parts of the world. Fun, right? Now imagine that someone in your group just received a critical injury. You manage to haul the injured man to the nearest medical care facility, only to find a full blown riot taking place there. Your fun just got replaced with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

    Now let’s change gears a third time. Imagine the relief you would feel after a sat phone call said a chopper was on the way. 

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  • November 9, 2011

    Survival Foods: Can You Really Eat Tree Bark?-3

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    Yes, you can eat tree bark as a safe and nutritious wild food--as long as you are using the right part of the bark from the right species of tree. And to clarify, we are not talking about the crusty, corky grey part of the bark. The bark section of choice for food is the cambium layer, which lies right next to the wood.

    Plenty of our ancestors used this edible inner layer of tree bark as both food and medicine. Many Native American cultures included the inner bark of pines and other trees as an important staple of their diet. This use was so common in some areas that early explorers visiting North America recorded acres of trees stripped of bark for food by the locals.

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