Special Forces Survival Guide Ever wondered how to get water from a cactus? Do you know how to create a shelter in a sand dune? Want to make your own spear thrower? The Special Forces Survival Guide ($15.95; Ulysses Press; ulyssespress.com) will teach you those skills and countless others that have been gleaned from the survival manuals of the Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Delta Force, Green Berets, Royal Marines, French Foreign Legion, Australian SAS and Canadian Special Forces.


Ever wondered how to get water from a cactus? Do you know how to create a shelter in a sand dune? Want to make your own spear thrower? The Special Forces Survival Guide ($15.95; Ulysses Press; ulyssespress.com) will teach you those skills and countless others that have been gleaned from the survival manuals of the Navy Seals, Army Rangers, Delta Force, Green Berets, Royal Marines, French Foreign Legion, Australian SAS and Canadian Special Forces. Lean-To When constructing a lean-to shelter, make sure that the face of the shelter is pointing into the prevailing wind.
A-Frame Shelter A-frame shelters are relatively easy to construct, and when properly covered with foliage (plus any other materials, such as a groundsheet) they are warm and weatherproof. If you don’t want to make end supports, simply prop the main horizontal branch between two low tree forks.
Fire without Matches
When people think of starting fires without matches, they often think of hand-drill or bow-drill methods. Yet there are many other techniques for making a flame, including:
1. Making sparks from a battery 2. Professional flint and steel sets
3. Using a magnifying glass to catch the sunlight
4. Placing tinder in a flashlight reflector
Crossing a River
The safest way for a group of three or more people to cross a river is by using a loop of rope as shown. The person who is crossing is either inside the loop or holding onto it, and so can easily be pulled to shore if he or she falls down during the crossing.
Marking a Trail
If you have to move from one position to another, leave trail signs to give search parties or other people information about where you have gone, or to provide details about what lies ahead. Signals include, from top to bottom: “This is the road,” “Turn left,” “Turn right,” and “Danger.”
Plant Weather Indicators
Plants can be good indicators of the approach of rain, usually because parts of them close up as the moisture content of the air increases. The plants here (from top to bottom: clover, shamrock, morning glory and chicory) give typical examples of presentations on hot (left) or rainy days.
Snow Melter Don’t eat unmelted snow or ice. This snow melter consists of a large platform rock with a fire beneath it. The rock is angled downward to direct meltwater into a container.
Making a Stone Axe
This survival tool should be used only for light chopping duties, such as breaking up sticks, because the axe head will not be stable enough for heavy applications. Cut a slit opening to hold the blade and use lashings to reinforce the handle.
Watch Navigation
To navigate by watch in the Northern Hemisphere (right), point the hour hand at the sun and bisect the angle between it and 12 o’clock to find south. In the Southern Hemisphere (left), point the 12 o’clock mark at the sun and bisect the angle between the mark and hour hand to find north.
Water Filter
The contrasting layers of this water filter each strip out particles of debris from the water, leaving it clean enough to be boiled for purification. Use multiple layers of rocks and sand. Everything is contained in a cloth bag.
Sweep Search
If you are lost in the wilderness, be aware of how search parties might be looking for you. They will generally use one of the two techniques, the sweep search, shown here, or the square search (next slide). Helicopters will typically describe an ever-widening circle out from your last-seen position. The sweep search involves multiple searchers spread out in a line, all advancing at the same pace.
Square Search The square-search technique starts from a central position and then works outward systematically, turning at right angles and progressively lengthening the distance of travel to methodically cover an area of ground.
Joining Ropes
These techniques are used for joining ropes without creating a significant weak point between the ropes. From top to bottom: Square knot, single-sheet bend, double-sheet bend, Carrick bend.
Tracking skills involve picking up multiple signs of past movement and putting them together in a direction of travel. Signs change with time. For example, footprints crumble and become full of debris the older they are. The following are good indicators of human/animal presence, clockwise from top left: displaced rocks, broken foliage, broken cobwebs, footprints.
Drawing out a Rabbit
Flush a rabbit from its burrow by making a fire near the entrance to its hole and wafting the smoke inside.
Estimating Angles
Estimating angles can be a useful skill for helping calculate distances and also for computing bearings. Some simple hand configurations, shown here, provide rough guidelines to useful angles. Note that every finger’s width between sun and horizon represents about 15 minutes of available sunlight.
Top left: 150 degrees
Top right: 120 degrees
Center left: 2 degrees
Center middle: 4 degrees
Center right: 6 degrees
Hitches are used when you need to attach a rope to a piece of wood (or similar object) or to another rope. Ensure that the appropriate type of hitch is matched to the nature of the job.
Half hitch (top left)
Timber hitch (top middle)
Half hitch and timber hitch (top right)
Clove hitch (center left and middle)
Round turn and two half hitches (center right)
Rolling hitch (bottom)
These lashings are most useful during construction of shelters (particularly frame-type and platform shelters) and survival rafts. From top to bottom: square lash, diagonal lash, shear lash.
Loop Making
A bowline is one of the most effective loop knots for holding equipment (top); a triple bowline (center) makes a useful sling; a bowline on a bight (bottom) is a stronger version of the bowline.
Field Rations
Rations should be designed around what will satisfy the balanced nutritional and energy requirements of your survival. Here are some examples of durable foods that together serve both short- and long-term needs: powdered yeast, hard candy, ginger cookies, canned fruit, chocolate bars, granola bars, onions.
Pack essential, often-used items such as flashlights, maps, compasses, knives, first-aid kits, and fire-starting equipment in easily accessible pouches, pockets, and bags. Make sure any survival bags you use are completely waterproof and free from tears.
First-aid Kit
A good first-aid kit should include items to treat wounds, limit or treat infections, safely reduce pain, and aid in delivering life-saving techniques. Make sure you are properly trained in how to give antibiotics and painkillers, if you carry them.
Stitching a Wound
Stitching a wound is not recommended for those without professional medical training. If rescue will not arrive for a long time, however, it may be the only option. Sterilize a thread and needle; make a stitch at the midpoint of the wound; pull through one side of the wound; stitch through the other side; draw the wound together; tie the stitch off. Repeat as needed.
Time and Navigation By Shadow
Time-elapse plotting using a shadow can help you ascertain direction (left) and time (right).
Deadfall Traps
The trigger is the most critical part of a deadfall trap. It must be sensitive to touch, but resistant to simple collapse and being blown down by the wind.
Deadfall Trap (2)
A deadfall with a baited figure-four trigger.
Deadfall Trap (3)
A deadfall with a tripline release.
Deadfall Trap (4)
A deadfall and snare combination.
Deadfall Trap (5)
Trigger for deadfall/snare.
Cloud Types
Generally speaking, the higher and wispier the cloud type, the better the weather. The lower, darker clouds typically signal approaching rain, especially if combined with an increasing wind strength. Pictured here from top are Cirrus, Cirrocumulus, Cirrostratus, Altocumulus, Altostratus, Stratocumulus and Nimbostratus. Cumulonimbus is the tall cloud at right in the image.
Survival Tin Contents should include: matches, candle, flint/striker, sewing kit, water purification tablets, compass, signaling mirror, safety pins, wire saw, fishing line, plastic bags, snare wire, potassium permanganate.

Do you know how to create a shelter in a sand dune? This guide __will teach you those skills and countless others that have been gleaned from the survival manuals of the special forces.