Posts tagged: survival skills

Survival Skills: 4 Myths About Staying Warm In Winter

Survival Skills - 4 Myths About Staying Warm In Winter

You don’t have to be wandering in an arctic wasteland to die of hypothermia. This slow, cold method of demise can happen at temperatures above freezing, and it can even happen in your own apartment, house, or snowbound vehicle. If the heat goes out, the cold can kill within hours, and it does so without prejudice or preference, taking young and old, fit and fat, healthy and ill alike. Want to make the right choices in frosty weather? Then don’t fall for these four common myths about staying warm.

Drink alcohol for warmth

Many folks think that a pull of whiskey or brandy might warm the cockles, but booze is a poor beverage choice in cold-weather emergencies. Alcohol dehydrates the body (wasting water) and causes flushing of the skin (wasting heat). These effects make a person much more vulnerable to hypothermia. Alcohol can also impact motor skills and increase memory lapses and impulsive behavior, all of which are dangerous in a survival situation. And when the booze wears off, a person is often left tired and confused. Couple the physiological effects of alcohol with a dangerous cold-weather scenario and you have a cocktail for disaster.

Wear two pairs of socks

If one pair keeps your feet warm, then two pairs should keep them even warmer, right? Nope, your boots were designed to hold your feet and one pair of socks, not two. The second pair compresses your foot, cutting of circulation and making your feet colder than they’d be with a single pair. This impaired blood flow makes your feet even more vulnerable to frostbite, a major winter threat.

Suit up with long johns

This one has a loophole. Good long johns made from wool or synthetic fiber will definitely keep you warmer. But if you go cheap, purchasing cotton long johns, then you’re in trouble. Even without sweating, the normal moisture that your skin releases will soak into the cotton fibers and cause them to cool your body – not insulate it. If it’s cold enough for long johns, then it’s too cold to be wearing cotton. If you got suckered into buying cotton long johns like many of us have over the years, treat yourself to an upgrade and use the old ones to make char cloth or wash your truck.

Shivering is the first sign of hypothermia

Slowing muscles is usually the first sign of hypothermia—not fast twitching muscles. The forearm muscles are often the first to become sluggish. A finger dexterity check can tell you as much (or more) than any other test. This assessment is quick and can be performed at any time in cold conditions. Simply touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of each of your fingers on the same hand. Assuming you can do this in warm weather, this full range of motion means your forearms haven’t locked up, and you are not hypothermic—not yet anyway. Failure to touch your pinky and ring finger means that muscles are locking up, and stronger hypothermia symptoms (like shivering, teeth chattering, and clumsiness) will soon follow.

Have you heard cold weather tips and tricks that didn’t pan out? Help us bust a few myths by sharing your experience in the comments.

By Tim MacWelch

Testing Your Emergency Plan

Testing Your Emergency Planphoto source:

If you read my column regularly, you know the importance of an emergency plan as an integral component of your overall urban survival skills. Yes, it’s great if you keep a first aid kit, MRE and water on-hand, but unless you’ve mapped out how you plan to use your supplies, you’ll be a lot less effective in helping yourself, your family or your neighbors to get through a natural disaster or civil emergency. An emergency plan is vital, and testing that plan is equally critical.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast, we were within the projected path, giving us a chance to really test our emergency plan. We went through all the details that I’ve mentioned to you in previous blogs, and guess what? We found holes in our own emergency plan! Thankfully, we didn’t get hit by the storm directly, and this valuable experience has helped us identify the changes that needed to be made.

How concerned should you be about an emergency plan run-through? I’ll give you some examples of situations that people have found themselves in, and let you be the judge:

• During a power outage, the homeowner retrieves a flashlight, only to discover that the batteries, which were stored inside the flashlight, have gone dead. (Tip: To keep batteries from discharging, don’t insert them into your flashlight until you need them.)

• Emergency supplies were stored in different areas of the house, making it difficult to find them during a power outage, slowing evacuation.

• The backup generator has been stored for years without being used, causing the fuel inside to spoil and making it impossible to start.

• Critical emergency supplies were stored in the basement and were flooded before they could be used.

Testing your emergency plan doesn’t require you to wait for a massive storm. Simply set up scenarios that you could likely face in a real emergency. I’ll give you three possible drills you could test against your emergency plan, and this will get you thinking about others practice runs you could create for other potential situations you could face.

• High winds snap tree branches, plunging your town into darkness. You need to be able to find your generator in the dark, get it started and run the appropriate extension cords to critical appliances.

• A tanker truck crashes on a nearby road, emitting a toxic cloud. You need to have your go-bag (including food water, spare clothes, insurance papers, ID, prescriptions and any other items) and your family in the car within five minutes, ready to evacuate.

• You’re alerted to a surprise snowstorm while at work. You need to plan out an effective route home, both by your normal route and by a secondary route in case the roads are clogged. You also need to contact all family members, arrange transportation home, and ensure that there’s enough food in the house to endure multiple days stuck inside.

If you have kids, you certainly don’t want to scare them with doomsday scenarios, but teaching them age-appropriate preparedness skills will make them better equipped to face the realities of life. Many stories have been told of children who saved the family from harm by knowing what to do in an emergency. And instilling your family members with the idea that you’re all a responsible for each other’s well being is never a bad thing.

Be safe and stay alert,

By Thomas Sciacca –

Awesome Survival Skill: Pickling

Awesome Survival Skill: Pickling
Awesome Survival Skill: Pickling – Graphic © Background photo: Pexels (PD)

Mmmm.. the delightful smell of simmering vinegar, dill and mustard seed. It’s a smell that never fails to transport me back to my childhood, being driven out of the house by the smell of my mother’s day-long pickling marathons. The smell may be identical, but our pickling styles are different. I use more garlic than she did. And I generally can in smaller batches I think.

It’s a good idea to make sure pickling is a part of your food storage skills. It’s a really old method of preserving, one that takes advantage of natural elements and can be done with really low energy inputs. The vinegar and salt of the pickling solution form an environment that is too harsh for the human killing bugs to survive in. Pickling has crossed into many different food cultures. There are the chutneys in India and the saurkraut in Germany. Kimchi, relish, kosher dill, sweets….. I love them all. Most recipes are great bounty-busters. If you’ve got too much of a good thing, and need to get it put away cheap and fast, vinegar, salt and sugar are as quick and cheap as it gets. Differing the spice choices and fermenting times gives you a wide range of tastes to choose from, giving you a final product that best suits your needs. Don’t mess around with the vinegar ratios though, the acidity is what’s keeping botulism at bay.

While I’m busy cleaning up the explosion of dill seeds in my kitchen, (what, normal people don’t let their 3-year-old play with the dry dill heads?) Enjoy some pickling recipes. Go crazy this summer and experiment with pickled and fermented foods. They are good for you and great additions to storage food.



• 2 heads Napa cabbage
• 1 or 2 daikon radishes
• 1 1/4 cups sea salt
• 1 tablespoon fish sauce
• 5 green onions, chopped
• 1/2 small white onion, minced
• 2 cloves garlic, pressed
• 2 tablespoons white sugar
• 1 teaspoon ground ginger
• 5 tablespoons Korean chile powder – in my experience, optional. It won’t have as big a kick, but it is kinder to my tastebuds if I sub in a smaller portion of a more familiar chile powder.

Wash and salt the veg. Give it 6 hours in the salt. Mix together the spices, coat the leaves with it. (Use gloves to protect your hands.) Let it ferment for 4 days. A large crock is good for this, or a large glass bowl, use what you have.

Pickled Green Beans (Dilly Beans)

• 2 1/2 pounds fresh green beans
• 2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
• 2 cups water
• 1/4 cup salt
• 1 clove garlic, peeled
• 1 bunch fresh dill weed
• 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Boil everything but the green beans, pack them raw into hot jars. Ladle the simmering liquid onto the beans, hot water bath.

Pickled carrots

A great example of small-batch pickling. She’s pickling 1 pound of carrots, and this little bit of food preservation can be done in as little as 10 minutes. Plus, Marisa is a fun read, even about something as straightforward as pickling.

Go forth, and pickle something!

By Calamity Jane