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PA Hiking Trails

Website Est. 2005


Survival / Orienteering

This website was created and is maintained by an educator that is dedicated to delivering..
MAPS, GPS Data and DETAIL about PA Trails like no other!

As I complete pages, the site pages will be updated. Most pages will be broken until the page is complete.
After the migration is complete both URL's will be directed to the new layout. Enjoy!
Feedback is very much appreciated! You can contact the site at georflf@comcast.net or click the feedback link.

Pennsylvania and its wilderness / water supply is in danger, because of the natural gas industry.
Please take action and educate yourself on this destructive process of natural gas extraction known as hydraulicfracturing.
Join the RDA.org (its free!) & the Sierra Club (or just take action, its easy!)
Contact your legislatures & senators to enforce protective law for PA.
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Note: Welcome to the new
I hope you enjoy it.
Currently the site is not complete.
Look for the data on:


Listed below you will find Wilderness Survival Notes that I have taken from
various readings & experiences over the years.

Page Table of Contents
Key Concepts
     Fear & Panic
Don't Complain: Do Something!
Be Here Now
Levels of Importance for Survival
     Key Points to Remember About Insulation
     Insulated Clothing
Types of Shelters
     Natural Shelters
          The Wickiup (desert & summer use only)
          The Lean-to (modest shelter)
          The Debris Hut, (warmest shelter)
          The Stacked Debris Wall
          Thatched Hut
          Thatched Blanket/Sleeping Bag
          Log Hogan
          Rock Hogan
          Survival Cement/Udometer
     Snow Shelters
          Snow Cave
          A-Frame Trench
          Natural Shelter below Timberline
          Snow Pit
     Other Types of Shelters
Hut Logistics
Internal Heat with Rocks
     Heat From Rocks
          Heated Mattress
          Hot-Rock Mattress
     Problem Areas
     Is it Safe to Drink?
     Treat it Anyway's!
     Finding Water
Water cont..
     Natural Catches
          Solar Stills
          Water from Plants & Trees
          Collecting Dew
          Water in Winter
          Conserving Water
     FYI on Making Fire
     Building a Fire
     Gathering Fuel
     Types of Firewood
     Types of Fires
          Tipi Fire
          Log Cabin Fire
          Lean-to Fire
          Cross-Ditch Fire
          Pyramid Fire
          Unformed Fire
     Fire-making Techniques
          Bow Drill
          Mouth Drill
          Hand Drill
          Flint & Steel
     Other Fire Starters
     Maintaining a Fire
     What Makes the Best Firewood
Navigation without a Compass or Map
Compass & Map Reading
Survival Notebook
Heat Loss
Mylar Space Blankets (Emergency Blanket or Bivy)
     How do they work?
     What are they made of?
     What other purposes do they serve?
     Internet Pictures in use

* Click on any of the links to be taken directly to that piece of information

Key Concepts

  1. Practice in a controlled environment
    • Home
    • Yard
    • Close to Help
  2. Take it outdoors, but still be somewhat controlled
    • Camping trip with a way out and help nearby
    • Rely on and don’t doubt your new skills
    • You are proficient, you have practiced, believe in yourself
    • Use the book as a manual; learn the skills until they become second nature to you


  1. The most important survival tool of all is.. YOUR MIND!
    • You must try and maintain a positive and optimistic attitude
    • Remember there is someone who has been in your situation and survived
  2. We do contain the knowledge and strength to survive in almost any situation
  3. Accept the present situation and deal with those that come. You can do it!

Fear & Panic

  1. Try and keep from panicking!
  2. Talk out loud to yourself if you need to
  3. Use coping mechanisms to keep yourself calm
    • Self-talk
    • Breathing Techniques
    • Meditation
    • Music if you have it
    • Preoccupy yourself with something to do
  4. Look at it as a possible enjoyment, adventure, personality builder for an unplanned vacation
  5. Accept the problem calmly
  6. Form a plan
  7. Take action on that plan


  1. Mental comport will increase by realizing that you can't have everything you want, but you can have everything you need
  2. A simple shelter is enough insulation
  3. Children tend to adapt to wilderness & survival better than adults. Why?
    • They haven't been conditioned to the modern day comforts like we adults have
    • You need to step back to those days of playing in the dirt and building your fort and think, I can do it!

Don't Complain: Do Something!

  1. That's right, do something!
  2. Anger should never be your driving emotion, but there is a few situations where it is necessary, when you are feeling:
    • Depression
    • Cold (hypothermic)
    • Ready to give up
  3. As soon as you start doing something, the whole world looks better and your thought process will change too (a positive one)
  4. Activity and productivity: allows no time to think of misery
  5. Every positive thing you do will help in-grain in your mind that you are a survivor!

Be Here Now

  1. Live in the moment. Deal with it as it comes!
  2. Food for thought - "Canoe in Rough Waters" story & John Wuir "Blizzard Story" (the power of positive thinking)
    • You can live through anything if you keep your mind strong!
    • If you are worried or doubtful with thoughts about what lies ahea,d you wont be able to deal with the now! Try your best to stay positive!
    • You must deal with the situation one wave at a time!
    • You can overcome any obstacle thrown at you!
  3. Step back if you must and ask yourself, "Am I alright?" If yes..
    • then that is all you need. The next moment will take care of itself
  4. Live in the moment!
    • Look at the way very young and old people live there lives and think
      • They do it in the now, in the present, one day at a time!
  5. Look at everything as a blessing
    • This is necessary for effective survival living!


  1. Be eagerness to learn
    • Look at it as a positive
  2. Explore with an open mind
    • Like a child, especially if you don't feel comfortable
  3. Everything is a teacher to you, learning can be your empowerment, run with that!
    • There is so much to learn, embrace it and take in as much as you can
      • it will only strengthen you
    • Over time you will learn which tree, plant, etc.. is best for you and what you need
    • Remember there is a multitude of interlocking lives that share the same environment
      • If they can do it in harmony, so can you!


  1. Do not resist nature
  2. No need to fight
  3. Go with the flow
  4. Be involved and connect with it


  • They can be performed anywhere to strengthen the mind!
  1. Problem-solving
    • Stand aside and observe your reactions to it
    • Don't make any judgment, learn from them
    • Be positive, find the positive in everything

  2. Facing Illness
    • Look at this as a growth in attitude
    • Stay active, don't pity yourself!

  3. Comfort Control
    • Practice gearing yourself to a lower level of comfort
    • Slowly take away things that you think you need
      • Sample "uncomfortable" environments in a controlled situation
      • Sample "uncomfortable" situations in a controlled environment

  4. "Now Living"
    • Next time you are worried, practice "being in the now"
    • Harness your concentration
    • Imagine yourself being incapable of seeing "yesterday" and "tomorrow"
    • Mentally put yourself into a day-tight compartment
    • Try relaxation techniques, meditation, physical exercise, or whatever it takes to calm your mind and return to the "now" moment

Levels of Importance for Survival

  1. Shelter
    • Protection and body heat are vital!
    • Any shelter can be built in North American with just your bare hands

  2. Water
    • The body can go about three (3) days without water, but there is no reason why you would not or could not find water anywhere in the US

  3. Food
    • The body can go a good month without food, remember that

  4. Fire
    • Not always a necessity, unless needed for warmth, but fire does calm the mind and certainly helps for cooking food



  • A camp that is pleasing to the eye is not always pleasing to the body, remember that
    • This simply means you picked a good shelter, but it's in a bad location or
    • More is not always better
  1. Protection from the Weather
    • Pick a place that is away from:
      • Wind
      • Rain
      • Snow
      • Glaring sun
    • Locate your shelter on the lee (east) side of incoming weather systems
      • Ridges
      • Tree groves
      • Protect ice outcroppings
        • Warm air rises during the day
        • Cool air descends at night

  2. Protection from Natural Hazards
    • Avoid..
      • Avalanches / Rock / Mud Slide locations
      • Overhanging dead limbs
      • Trees that might blow down
      • Rock formations that could collapse
        • Either break them down or move to another location

  3. Dry, Well-drained Areas
    • Locate your shelter away from:
      • Valleys
      • Troughs
      • Depressions
        • Just stay high enough away from water and run-off
        • Ideally you want to build your shelter 50 yards away from the water so that you do not:
          • Pollute the water source or
          • Have dew build up around your shelter and on you

  4. Open, Southern Exposures
    • If possible, don't build your shelter in thick woods
      • It takes too long to dry wood and other materials, due to the canopy cover
    • Find the edge of a clearing with a southern exposure
      • This will provide the longest daylight and heat for you

  5. Entryway should face East
    • Open your shelter towards the east
    • Entryway will catch the suns first rays of light and heat
    • Southeast exposures are even better!
      • Don't face directly south, storms generally come from this direction

  6. Fire Safety
    • Locate camp well away from fire hazards
    • Stay away from:
      • Peat bog
      • Dry grasses
      • Fir boughs

  7. Plant & Animal Hazards
    • Avoid areas with dangerous plants and animals

  8. Abundance of Material
    • Pick an area with plenty of resources
      • Thatching
      • Insulation
      • Tinder, Kindling, Squall, Bulk wood
      • Edible plants and animals

  9. Comfort
    • Pick a place relatively comfortable
      • Free of rocks, roots, etc..

  10. Shelter Size
    • Smaller is better!
      • You want just enough room to sleep and sit up in
      • Less heat loss
      • Easier for your body to heat the area
      • Better warmth for the body from the sun and your fire
      • Start small, then consider a larger shelter if needed

  11. Conservation
    • Choose an area where you will leave the least amount of impact on nature
    • Practice the "Leave no Trace" techniques

Insulation: Go Watch the Squirrels!

Key Points to Remember About Insulation

  1. The more the better!
  2. Keep it light and airy, use leaves grasses, ferns, cattails, moss, etc..
  3. Dome it up! Real thick
    • Greater than 2.5 ft. for temps down in the 30's
    • Up to 4 ft. thick for temps below zero
  4. Use sticks, twigs & bark
  5. Must separate yourself from the ground with insulating materials
  6. Insulating materials to use:
    • Leaves, ferns, mosses, grasses, pine boughs, cattail down
    • Anything that will provide thickness and
    • Create dead air spaces around your body

Insulated Clothing

  • Use the same materials to stuff into rocks and hollowed logs to create an instant sleeping bag
    • Example 1:
      • Tom got stuck out in a rainstorm in cold weather. The temperatures dropped and he got extremely cold. So Tom stuffed his clothing with leaves and other insulating materials. By the time Tom got home he was nice and warm. In fact, Tom was so warm he had to remove leaves as he hiked out of the woods to his vehicle.
    • Note:
      • you can make home-made insulated materials by sewing two shirts together or pants and stuff them with natural insulating materials

Types of Shelters

The Natural Shelter

  • Natural Shelters are used in quick situation for temporary protection (to keep the wind and weather away from you)
    • Fallen trees
    • A tree itself
    • Clumps of vegetation
    • Cave
    • Rock outcropping
  • General Guidelines
    • Keep it safe from hazards and animals
    • "Brush in" entryways
    • Add protection and insulation (leaves, brush, needles, bark, mosses, pine boughs)
      • Always line the bottom to separate you from the ground

The Wickiup Shelter     "Place of Shelter"

  • The simplest and quickest shelter to build
  • It is used by the Indians of the plains and southwest
  • This shelter is used in desert areas
  • These shelters are not very warm and should not be used for cold weather situations

  • Construction:
    • Three (3) strong ridgepoles setup in a tipi fashion
      • All three should be the same size or one shorter than the others
      • Cordage the top, if you can't select branches that can be hooked together
      • Complete the wall by filling it in with branches and insulation
    • Opening should face east or southeast
    • More brush = better insulation

    • Desert & summer Use Only
      • Low insulating properties
      • Good protection from the sun and wind
      • Marginal Protection from the rain or cold weather
3 Pole Tipi
3 Pole Tipi

1 Pole Tipi
1 Pole Tipi

No Pole Tipi
No Pole Tipi

The Lean-to Shelter

  • Classic shelter used by survivalists everywhere
  • Quick and easy to build

  • Construction:
    • Two (2) forked ridgepoles pounded into the ground at a distance long enough to accommodate your body
    • Lay a third ridgepole across the top connecting the two
    • Leave the opening facing east or southeast which will be towards the morning sun and your fire pit
    • Fill the west side with thick branches and twigs that slope at a 45 degree angle to the ground
    • In bad weather for added protection do:
      • Fill in the sides with brush or create a "Stacked Debris Wall" (talked about below)
      • Add insulating materials to the walls and the roof
      • Close off the entrance as best as you can
    • The length of your shelter should be long enough to accommodate your body with some extra room
    • The width of your shelter should be wide enough to accommodate your body with additional room for critical tasks
    • The height of your shelter should be high enough to allow you to perform critical tasks such as: fire-making and tool lashing

    • Desert & summer use Mostly
      • Provides minimal protection
      • Generally low insulating properties


Lean-to Shelter
Lean-to Shelter



Lean-to with Heat Reflector
Lean-to with Heat Reflector

The Debris Hut Shelter     (warmest shelter)

  • This is the best shelter to construct for warmth and comfort, especially when time is a factor
  • This shelter can be built free-standing or up against something (stump, knocked down tree, forked vertical pole, rock, etc..)
  • Face the opening east or southeast

  • Construction:
    • The ridgepole or spine should be longer than you
    • Use a stump, knocked down tree, rock, or forked vertical ridgepole to the prop the ridgepole up against
    • Prop large sticks up against the ridgepole to create ribbing
    • Set smaller sticks horizontally to create a mesh to help support the insulation
    • The inside should be wide enough to accommodate you, but steep enough to shed moisture
    • Fill the entire structure with insulating materials in the order of..
      • Finer sticks and brush laid crosswise to make a latticework
      • Place over the ribbing heaps or piles of light airy and soft debris such as:
        • Leaves, grasses, cattails, moss, tree boughs, pine boughs, sticks, brush, bark slabs, etc..
        • Damp materials will do, but dry is better
      • The structure should form a large dome-shaped mound
        • 2.5 ft. thick for cool temperatures such as: >30 degrees
        • 4+ ft. thick for cold temperatures such as: <30 degrees
        • More insulation = better protection
        • Steeper the dome = better rain protection
      • Add shingling and added protection by using:
        • Bark to cap it off
        • Large mats of absorbent moss
        • Larger clumps of forked branches
      • Order of Insulation:
        • Light to heavy to shingles for weather protection
      • Mat down the insulation at least 3x to create the dead air space needed to stay warm
      • Gather a heap of insulation to place nearby to use as your sleeping plug or door
        • This is used to add warmth for those cold and/or windy days

    Work Area:
    • Should extend from just above your head at the upper end of the shelter
    • Use this area to:
      • Store dry wood
      • Fashion survival implements
      • Hang wet cloths to dry

    Sealing the Entryway:
    • If your outside fire is providing heat, then leave it partially open
    • Create a door plug, which is the same as a sleeping plug, except it is used to block the opening of your shelter
      • Use logs, bark and other insulating materials to seal off the opening
      • Fashion a door by weaving a simple mat large enough to cover the door
        • use 10 - 12 tinder-sized saplings woven together using the simple overhand weave

    Debris Hut Notes:
    1. You should be warm and cozy
    2. Outside sounds should be muffled to non-existent
    3. Good insulation to a thickness of 2.5 ft. could be good to about 20 degrees based off insulation used
    4. 4+ ft. of insulation should be good for temps below 20 degrees
      • Depends on insulation used, body type, mental state of mind and physical conditions
      • I know I have repeated myself and I have contradicted the measurements on how much insulation to use, but it varies upon many factors. Just remember more is better, but better insulation is even more efficient


Debris Hut
Debris Hut








Debris Hut 2
Debris Hut Type 2







Debris Hut 3
Debris Hut Type 3

The Stacked Debris Wall

  • Easy to construct
  • Uses the same concept as the Debris Hut
  • Serves a wide variety of purposes

  • Construction:
    • Parallel rows of sticks pounded into the ground less than 1 ft. apart
    • Insulation should be placed in the middle
    • intervene the stakes with saplings to control debris
    • A 3/4 reflective wall can be constructed around your camp to hold in the warmth of a fire
    • A four-sided shelter can be built at well
    • The "Fire Place Effect"
      • The fire is placed in the middle of X amount of shelters
      • A shelter openings should face the fire
      • Debris Walls are constructed between the shelters
      • The fires heat will reflect off the walls and help to keep the shelters and the surrounding area warm

The Thatched Hut

  • This is a semi-permanent dwelling
  • The use of hollow grass stems is used to make the excellent walls of insulation
  • This type of shelter is harder to build, has tighter construction, is more energy efficient and is a pleasing structure

  • Framework:
    • Any style you choose will do, tipi, lean-to or cabin framework will do

        Cabin Frame Setup:
        1. Use four (4) Y-shaped posts
        2. Connect the beams by lashing them
        3. Steeply slant the roof beams
        4. It is easier to build if it's dome-shaped
          • Lash four (4) saplings together in the middle if tipi look is used

    • Long grasses and reeds provide the best insulation due to the dead air space that they create
    • Ferns and evergreens will work too, but you will need more of them to get the same R-value out of it
    • Bundle your root ends up, this helps to funnel the water to the ground
    • Your bundles should be >3-4 in. thick if branched materials are used
    • Tie a few inches down from the root end
    • Leave enough cordage to lash it to the crosstie later on
    • The loose end will skirt out, root the end up

    • Make your crossties from flexible saplings or sticks
    • Lash or weave them in parallel rows all the way around
    • Ensure shingling effectively by spacing them at intervals of 2/3rd's the length of the thatching material
      • Example: 1 ft. of thatching = 8 in. of crossties

    • Tie the thatching closest to the ground first, work your way up to the top
      • If a cabin structure is used, start with the roof first then..
      • Start from the bottom of the structure
    • Press each bundle firmly against one another
    • Tie thatching firmly to crossties
    • The bottom fourth should overlap crosstie and lower row of thatching
      • If you do not have cordage
        • Wrap bundles around crossties
        • Make sure the top is sealed!
    • Tie the top into a crown
    • Seal off the crown by lashing more bundles over the top at different angles

    • Spread your fingers and shake all the bundles vigorously
      • The fibers will interlock with one another by doing this

    Added Security:
    • Spiral cordage around from the top to the bottom or
    • Lay brush up against the hut

Thatched Blanket / Sleeping Bag

  • Great thermal properties, can be used as a mat, blanket or sleeping bag

  • Construction:
    • Gather long bundles of grasses, cattail or long needles
    • Us a simple overhand weaver or figure 8 weave
      • Wrap the bundles tightly against each other until you have a finished mat about 1 ft. longer than you
      • Plug any holes by stuffing them with bundles folded in half
    • Is the thatching not long enough to accommodate your body width?
      • Tie the bundles together lengthwise before fashioning them together
    • The blanket can be made by wrapping cordage around handfuls of dried mosses and gradually quilting them together
    • The sleeping bag works off the same concept
      • First mat – 1 ft. longer and a few inches wider
      • Second mat – slightly bigger both ways than the first mat
      • Sew one side and the bottom together, or make it a mummy bag by sewing the other side too

The Log Hogan Shelter

  • This is a permanent dwelling
  • Warm & secure from the elements
  • Built with logs, rocks or both using survival cement

  • Construction:
    • Has a similar setup to Stacked Debris Wall
    • Each corner should have three (3) strong supports
    • Lay the logs between the supports alternating / overlapping the logs as you go
    • Be sure to mortar generously as you go up
    • Chink / Patch the outside and inside walls

    • Use logs no bigger than 6” in diameter
      • Cut the logs using a crude stone tool or by..
      • Burning them in the fire
      • Unless of course you have a field saw!

    Added Warmth:
    • Double the wall thickness with..
      • Another row of logs and/or stones or
      • add a Stacked Debris Wall

    Constructing the Roof:
    • Roof the ceiling on a slant with sturdy logs
      • Chink generously between each log
    • Cover the roof with dome-shaped piles of brush, leaves & grasses
    • Add a thick layer of survival cement to keep the rain out

The Rock Hogan Shelter

  • Use triangular walls for a more stable construction

  • Construction:
    • Build within a framework of sturdy Y supports and strong roof beams
    • Find large flat rocks
    • Stack rocks a few at a time and mortar between them
    • Overlap the rocks like bricks, keep them low and thick
    • Build the roof like the Log Hogan

    • Minimal upkeep
    • Sturdy & strong

Survival Cement / Mud Mortar

  • Mix mud and grass together
    • Equal parts of both
    • Fibers should be interwoven in the mud
  • Dries strong and is weather-resistant

  • Uses:
    • Patch holes
    • Dome a brushed roof
    • Build the walls around a cave
    • Enclose a sturdy dome structure with rocks
    • Construct a southwest Indian structure known as a Hogan!!

Snow Shelters

The Snow Cave Shelter

  • Make sure the walls are frozen so that the structure is still standing by morning
  • Choose a deep, crusty snow bank, not subject to slides or drift
  • Mound up the snow if no alternative exists

  • Construction:
    • Dig in 3 ft. at a right angle to the wind to prevent drifts from closing off the entranceway
      • Check your opening at regular intervals
    • Above the level of the entrance where warm air collects, hollow out a dome-shaped cave large enough to accommodate you and your gear
    • Make sure that the ceiling and walls are smooth and round so that the water does not drip on you
      • If the ceiling starts to descend on you, consider making another pit
    • Plug the opening with a snow block
    • Poke a hole through the cave for ventilation
      • Check at regular interval
    • Construct the walls about 3 ft. thick

The A-Frame Trench Shelter

  • This is a good alternative to the Snow Cave
  • This shelter is a simple variation of the Eskimo Igloo
  • Quick to construct on a hillside or level ground

  • Construction:
    • Stomp out a rectangular platform big enough for your body
      • Let the snow harden for 20 minutes
        • Don’t walk on it
    • Dig entryway 3 ft. deep
    • Excavate the trench by cutting large blocks of snow for the roof using a..
      • Flat stick, machete ski, well-insulated arm, etc..
        • Make sure the snow is packed, if not scrape off soft stuff
    • Smooth the wall of the pit
    • Cut the blocks parallel to the walls..
      • 6 in. back & 2-3 ft. deep
      • Bevel for more strength & stability
    • Lean blocks in sets of two from both sides to make an A-Frame roof
    • Block the ends with additional snow or blocks or other backing
    • Ventilate the shelter
    • Chink the cracks generously with snow
    • If built correctly, you could technically walk on it

The Natural Shelter (below Timberline)

  • Look for an area that can be converted to a warm biveac by scooping snow out
  • Evergreens generally accumulated snow drifts well

  • Construction:
    • Dig a hole out and climb in
    • Clean the snow off the floor to the bare ground
    • Line the bottom with insulating materials
    • Evergreen boughs, etc..

    Added Warmth:
    • Pack more snow around the shelter and on the walls
    • Remember entrance direction, insulation, etc…

The Snow Pit

  • This is the safest shelter to construct below the timberline
  • Especially when temperatures are above freezing
  • Find a well-protected area to construct this shelter

  • Construction:
    • Dig a shoebox-shaped pit
      • Shape the pit to a triangular or square
    • Dig all the way to the ground if possible
    • Leave one side for a fire or implements and the other for you
    • 4’ depth so you can insulate with materials
      • Deeper for a fire pit
    • Line the pit with 6”+ insulating materials, except around the fire area
    • Cover the pit with large mounds of boughs or branches and cap it with a layer of snow
    • Allow for a good air vent
    • Tunnel in at the east side after completion
    • Pack in sleeping plug
    • Block the entrance with a snow block or cap
Snow Pit

Other Types of Shelters

  • The pictures listed below and to the side are various other types of shelters.
  • Click the thumbnailed picture to view full-size
Poncho Lean-to
Poncho Lean-to
Swamp Bed
Swamp Bed
One-Man Shelter
One-Man Shelter
Poncho Lean-to over Branch
Poncho Lean-to over Branch
Shaded Beach Shelter
Shaded Beach Shelter
Parachute Shelter
Parachute/large Tarp Shelter
Poncho A-Frame
Poncho A-Frame
Below Ground Desert Shelter
Below Ground Desert Shelter
Open Desert Shelter
Open Desert Shelter
Tarp-type Shelters
Tarp-type Shelters

Hut Logistics

Internal Heat with Rocks

Heat From Rocks

  • Collect football-sized rocks
    • Heat them in a fire until they are red hot (1-2hrs. generally)
    • Do not use rocks that are wet or are from a water source; they can explode! Then..
    • Do not place directly on the skin unless you are 100% confident that you will not get burned!
  • Dig a hole inside your hut 1’ wide by 6” deep in a safe area of your hut (work area)
  • Remove the rocks from the fire & drop them into the pit, then..
    • Build up the fire with green wood to last over night, then seal the door
  • Note: Rocks must be kept away from flammable materials to avoid problems. The rocks will..
    • Keep you warm all night
    • Not smoke you out
  • Over time you will learn what size rocks you need for your hut to stay warm
  • Strategic rock pits can be built then covered to provide additional heat


  • Heat the rocks to touch for hand and foot warmers


  • Heat small rocks to touch and bury them in your bedding area or..

Heated Mattress

  • Dig out a trench / trough under your bedding area
    • 1 ft. wide by 1 ft. deep by body length
  • Fill with red-hot football-sized or smaller rocks from the fire
  • Cover the rocks with 6” of dirt
  • Allow the steam to evaporate from the soil
  • Replace insulated bedding
  • Be very careful using hot rocks! Severe burns could result if you do not take precautions!

Hot-Rock Mattress

  • Dig a trench wider than the heated mattress
  • Line with rocks
  • Build your fire over the rocks
  • Use the fire for cooking and staying warm during the day
  • 2 hours prior to bed, rake the remains out of the trough and place coals into a pit
    • Pile the coals and lightly cover with soil
    • Ambers will stay hot enough to start a fire the next morning
  • Fill the trough with at least 4-6” of dirt to prevent burns
  • Make sure all the moisture is out of the soil

Problem Areas

  • Debris Hut: Best in North America, except in open plains, deserts or high alpine / tundra areas where materials are scarce

Plains Area:

  • Poor insulation & protection from the elements
  • Dig a pit if you must
    • line the pit with the sparse grasses around you
  • Use rocks to build a coffin shelter, which is good against the wind
  • If snow & subfreezing temperatures exist..
    • Tunnel in for the night
    • Get out early before the sun weakens the shelter
    • Build a wall of snow, semi-buried

Desert Areas:

  • Generally good for protection with rocks & vegetation
  • Bury under / behind a tree
  • Build a rock walls packed with sand
  • Dig into the sand if you have too

Alpine Areas:

  • Survival here will be a bit for challenging, but..
    • Adjust your expectations and your survival instincts & creativity will kick in to do what is best
  • Generally lack vegetation for insulation
  • Try to get below timberline
  • If this is not possible search out an area away from the elements (wind)
  • Pile up whatever is available, there is always something


  1. Location
    • Take a trip to the park, the woods or the next time you are out hiking start to survey your surroundings
    • Observe and put forth creative thinking
    • Pick out the advantages and disadvantages of the area and the properties it holds
    • Look at and observe the elements and the materials around you such as:
      • Water
      • Sun exposure
      • Natural hazards
      • Plants
      • Animals
      • Fire building materials
  2. Construction
    • Take your skills to the woods and actually build a Debris Hut, a Stacked Debris Wall, etc..
    • Stay a night or more without a fire
    • Take notes of the advantages and disadvantages such as:
      • Insulation, warmth, leakage & room
    • Day 2 or your second adventure out improve upon your prior experiences and findings
  3. Insulation
    • On a cold day experiment with different insulating materials
    • Stuff your clothing with different types of insulation
      • Whichever works best will do for your shelter
  4. Variations
    • Try various construction techniques
    • Try and build all of the shelters you have learned about
      • You will then be comfortable in all terrains and conditions if a situation were to arise
      • Natural Shelters, Wickiup's, Lean-tos, Debris Huts, Stacked Debris Walls, Thatched Huts, Hogan's & Shelters
  5. Heating
    • Experiment with various heating techniques
    • Build the fire 6 ft. away the entranceway
    • Try hot rocks
    • Mattress bedding


  • Water is the most important element in the wilderness needed for survival
  • The human body can’t live without water for more than a few days
  • Water is a necessary for mental function
  • Try to get water any way possible
  • The early Indians thought of water as “Mother Earth’s Blood”
    • Purpose: Was to give life to all the world’s beings (this is a great attitude to have)

Is It Safe to Drink?

  • Never take the chance of drinking unfiltered, unpurified or possible unclean water!
  • Look for:
    1. Fast-flowing waters at high elevations away from human interaction
    2. Water that is clear without discolorations or oil slicks
    3. Water that is free of algae and animals (stagnant)
    4. A large and/or free-flowing stream of water with a healthy assortment of flowers growing around it
    5. Life in the water
      • Fish, frogs, insects & other invertebrate
    6. Animal tracks around the water source(Is there an indication that they drink the water?)
      • Remember: This however does not mean that its necessarily safe to drink
      • Many animals can eat and drink contaminated stuff
    7. In general, there is no positive proof of drinkability
      • Example: Spray to treat the trees from bugs
    8. Ask yourself, “Would I stake my life on it out here in this situation?”
      • NO!: Giardia, Hepatitis, dead animals, feces, human contamination

Treat It Anyway's!

  • If you doubt it, filter it & boil it!

  • Filtering
    • Filter if the water is muddy or has suspended particles

      • Strain the water through a piece of cloth into a container
      • Use clean sand and a hollow log
        • Create a grass mesh bottom
        • Rinse the sand until the water comes out clear then..
        • Pour the water through the filter into a container

    • Boil all of your water if you can
    • 20 minutes of boiling is recommended (5 min will not kill all bacteria)
      • Will kill: bacteria, tiny pollutants, no guarantee against all chemical pollutants

      • Create a fire
      • Heat a few rocks depending on the size of your container
      • Drop the red-hot rocks one-by-one into the container of water with fashioned tongs
        • Make sure the rocks came from a clean source
        • Do not use rocks from a river bed (could explode)
        • Do not use wet rocks before heating (could explode)
      • Note: baseball-sized rocks can boil a gallon of water in 15 minutes
      • May need to pour the water from one container to another to freshen up the taste
    Possible Container
    • Hollow stumps or logs
    • Animal stomach
      • Be sure to empty, clean, turn inside out, stake out (setup on tripod to rid dirt)
    • Natural rock depressions
    • Rawhide
    • Coal-hollowed container (best)
    • Carved wooden bowl or perhaps
    • You already have some sort of bowl!

    Rock Boiling
    • If a container exists you can boil water for just about anything: meat, greens, stews soups

      • Build a fire
      • Heat a few rocks depending on the size of your container
        • 1-2 baseball-sized rocks can boil 1 gallon of water
        • 1 golf ball-sized rock can boil 1 cup of water (Ex. Pine Tea)
        • Regulate the boil by varying the rock size
      • Dig a hole in the ground
      • Line with the animal stomach
      • Drop the red-hot rocks one-by-one into the stomach (very strong) of water

    • Use sapling
    • Bend in half
    • Bevel end slightly
    • Place over the fire
    • Tie cordage to keep it from spreading apart

    • A slab of bark for a dish
    • A large non-poisonous plant leave
    • Two sturdy twigs for chopsticks
    • Rocks/logs for pots

Finding Water

  • Observation, awareness & common sense is the key to finding water in the wilderness
  • Water flows downhill, simply find a place where it collects
  • Survey the landscape!

  • Probable Locations
    1. Rugged Terrain/Higher Elevations:
      • River valleys, between mountains, ridges, high alpine lakes
    2. Lowland Elevations:
      • Boggy spots with rushes & reeds
      • At the base of sloping cliffs
      • Adjoining hills, dunes
      • Dried up ravines where water collects beneath the surface
    3. Water-loving Plants:
      • Cottonwood, willow & sedges
        • Good indicators that water is nearby
    4. Southwest:
      • Collects in rock depressions called kettles
    5. Listen for:
      • The sound of rushing water
      • The gurgle of a spring
      • Croaking frogs, Warbles and Cactus Wrens
    6. Look for:
      • Troughs, depressions, ravines, traps, bottom of valleys and steep topography
      • Animal trails and tracks
        • Generally will lead you to a water source
        • Note: Animals grazing are generally walking away from water, vice versa
      • Watch the animals, look for trails that lead to possible water source locations
      • Birds such as the Cliff Swallow
        • Fly in a straight line toward water
        • Return with muddy beaks
      • Observe the wildlife and your surroundings

Natural Water Catches

  1. Lakes, Ponds, Rivers, Creeks & Streams
    • The safest is a stream
      • Look higher towards the tributaries = cleaner water
      • Lower towards the lakes or pond = higher chance of pollutants
    • Examine any water before drinking
      • No signs of human presents is a good thing
      • Look for signs of a healthy plant environment with animal existence
        1. Never drink directly from a stream or any water source
        2. Collect, filter, purify before drinking
        3. Keep waste and yourself >50 yards away from the water source

  2. Stone & Wood Catches
    • A depressions in a rock (kettles)
    • A shallow hole in a nook of a tree or stump
      • Not generally advisable, because it is quick to become polluted or evaporate
      • If you do use it, make sure it is not poisonous with plants
      • No animals live near it
      • No algae growing on or around it
      • No bad taste from the wood, indication of tannin or resin
    • Old Mining Areas
      • No animals living there
      • No algae growing nearby or on it
      • If you do use it:
        1. Soak the water up with a piece of cloth or non-poisonous grass
        2. Wring it out in a container
        3. Filter
        4. Purify / Boil

  3. Lowland Catches
    • Considered areas where the soil is soft and damp
      • Indicates: seeps, springs, pockets, inside bends of creek beds
    • Collecting Moisture:
      1. Dig a hole and wait for the water to seep into it
      2. Gather the water with a piece of cloth or dried grasses
      3. Ring the material out over the container
      4. Filter
      5. Purify / Boil
      • Dig more than one hole for more water
      • Emergency: Place a piece of cloth over a depression to suck out some moisture
    • Generally Pure Sources:
      • Sandy bottomlands
      • Ravines
      • Dried riverbeds (emergency use)
    • Avoid catches from the ocean, caves, farm water or timberland

Solar Stills

  • A solar still is the best way to get drinking water in an area where water is scarce!
  • Learning to make a solar still is a major survival tool, but..
    • you must carry the equipment to utilize this technique!

  • Components:
    • 6’ x 6’ clear or milky sheet of plastic
    • 6’ of surgical tubing
    • Container for the water
    1. Dig a hole 4 ft. wide by 3 ft. deep
      • Do this in damp areas such as:
        • Gullies, river basins, stream basins, etc..
    2. Place the container in the deepest part of the hole
    3. Place one end of the tube into the bottom of the container with the other end hanging out above the hole on the ground
    4. Cover the hole with the plastic sheet
      • Secure all the edges with dirt, rocks, etc..
      • Place a rock into the center of the sheet right above the container
        • This will form a cone in the hole with a 45 degree angle
        • The lowest point of the plastic sheet should be over the container
        • The center should be no more than 3 in. above the container

    How it Works:
    • Creates a greenhouse effect under the plastic
    • Ground water evaporates and collects under the sheet of plastic
    • The condensed water runs down the plastic and into the container
    • Then you just drink the water right out of the tube
    • If it rains, drink the water right off the top of the plastic
    • Place herbaceous plants, cactus, etc… within the pit to increase water output
      • Be sure to use edible plants only!
    • Don’t use a solar still to treat chemically contaminated soil!
    • Does a great job in purifying bacterial polluted water
      • Just pour the liquid onto the surface soil next to the plastic covering
      • The water will filter through the ground and distill into a nice drinking supply
      • You can even recycle and purify urine this way

Water from Plants & Trees

  • It is hard to extract water from plants so use this technique in a dire emergency
  • Good only during certain seasonal
  • Be careful of plant location due to possible contamination

  • Hardwood Trees:
    • Early Spring
      • Walnuts, Maples, Birches & Hickory's

      1. Tap the tree by boring a ¼” to ½” hole into the trunk with a knife or sharp object
      2. Insert a hollow reed
      3. Collect the thin sap by using bark or a log cup or..
        • Cut through the bark with diagonal slashes
          • Be sure to cut into the cambium which lies under the bark
          • Do not cut all the way around the tree, it will kill it
        • Highly concentrated sugar water
          • May cause upset stomach if drunken in large quantities
      • Spoils quickly, can’t store very long
      • Good to use for presweetened tea water
      • Can be evaporated in a solar still for pure water

    Sycamore Trees:
    • Can be tapped during any time of the year, except the dead of winter

    • Tapping:
      1. Tap the tree by using the same methods above
        • Lower sugar concentration
        • Can be stored for a few days

    Grape Vines:
    • Can be tapped during any time of the year
    • Good source of water

      1. Cut the vine at the base
      2. Collect the water in a cup and drink
        • Can yield up to 1 cup in <1 hour for up to two weeks!
    • Be sure that it is a Grape Vine and not the deadly Nightshade, Canadian Moonseed or the Virginia Creeper

    Thistle Plant:
    • The most common species of North American Thistle yields water
    • Bull Thistle yields the most and best tasting water from a plant

      1. Peel the thorns off the young stems and leaves and chew on the watery food
        • It is known as: survival celery
        • Yields a small overall amount of water, use for dire emergency needs
    Cactus Plant:
    • Is an edible plant
    • Common Prickly Pear is high in vitamins and water concentration

Collecting Dew

  • Is the simplest and safest way to collect water
  • Consists of recently condensed, distilled water (unless chemical contaminants are near)
  • Does not need to be filtered or boiled

  • Procedures:
    • Use a rag, cloth or a handful of dried, nontoxic grasses
    • Wipe the moisture from the landscape
    • Wring into a container

    Collect From:
    • Grasses, rocks, leaves and even sand
    • It is possible to collect 20 gallons of water in a two hour period with several people

Water in the Winter

  • Just as easy as collecting dew, except there is more of it!
  • Wipe vigorously so that the water soaks into the material
  • Solar stills will work as long as there's enough day time heat

  • Do Not Eat Snow or Ice:
    • It takes a lot of energy to melt snow and ice when you eat it
    • Best to melt and warm the snow and ice first
    • It is necessary to boil ice, but not snow
    • If you must eat snow or ice due to dehydration (headaches, nausea, confusion lethargic, haven't drank in a day or two, be sure that you are not or close to hypothermia

    Techniques to Melt Snow:
    • Build a fire
      • Dig a depression in snow nearby to collect water
    • Drop a heated rock into a container of snow
    • Place a snow-filled container into a snow pit
      • Cover with evergreen boughs
      • Let the sun melt the snow through the insulation
    • Drop a red-hot rock into fresh snow
      • Push snow on top of the rock
      • A column of water will be created as it melts
      • Continue process until enough snow has melted

Conserving Water

  • Situation with limited reserves of water, conserve by following these steps:
    1. Don’t eat anything if you don’t have water to drink with it
    2. Travel only during the coolest times of the day
    3. Walk at an easy pace so that you do not perspire
    4. Wear light-colored clothing to reflect the suns rays
    5. Don’t expose your skin to the hot sun
    6. Don’t drink urine unless you have purified it first in a solar still
    7. Store as much water as you can in your stomach by drinking as often as possible
      • People have died with full canteens of water during times of rationing
  • You might not be thirsty, but you are at risk of dehydration (when the body expels more water than it takes in) when/at:
    • Normal Circumstances:
      • Breathing
      • Humid air leaving the body
      • Sweating
      • Urinating
      • Bowel Movement
    • Increased Circumstances:
      • Hyperventilation
      • Exposure to hot weather
      • Exposure to humid weather
      • Exposure to hot & humid weather
      • Exposure to direct sunlight
      • Traveling in the hottest part of the day (mid-day)
      • Moving at a high rate of speed and perspiring
      • Drugs, medication, alcohol
      • Fever, sickness
    • Environmental Circumstances not typically thought to increase dehydration:
      • Travel at high altitudes (moisture evaporates quickly at higher elevations)
      • You are exposed to cold weather
      • You are exposed to wet weather
  • Force yourself to drink regularly


  1. Safety
    • When passing a potential water source determine whether it is safe or not
      • Is it fast-flowing and clear
      • Is there an assortment of plants growing around the water source
      • Is their a sign of animal life at or near the stream
      • Is it stagnant, could it have been polluted
  2. Filtering
    • Practice filtering muddy water into a container
    • Try a variety of possible filters
      • Grasses, fibers, whatever possible
  3. Boiling
    • Heat up a quart of cold water with hot rocks
      • Start with different sizes and work your way up
      • Learn how much water a certain size rock will boil
  4. Sources
    • Practice locating logical water sources
    • Try to detect hidden sources using your senses, such as: sight & sound
  5. Collecting
    • Collect water in as many ways as you can think of
    • Natural catches, solar stills, dew melting snow
    • Compare the pros and cons of each method


Important Things to Know or Think About When It Comes to Fire Making

    1. Where to put the fire
    2. How to protect the fire from the elements
    3. Where to located tinder and fuel
    4. How to start and maintain the fire
    5. Other skills for comfort and convenience

Building a Fire

    Location Precautions:
    • Should be placed for maximum warmth and convenience without sacrificing safety
    • Clean the area above, below and around (>4’ diameter) the fires location
    • Look for things that could smolder from hot coals such as:
      • Peat bog, mosses, root systems and dried vegetation
    • Be cautious of the fire location and your shelter
      • Entryway should be 4-6’ away or more (depends on situation)
    • Place slabs of bark or damp wood around to help with possible sparks if ground can’t be cleared
    • Always pay close attention to the fire
    • Keep the fire low to keep the sparks down and to conserve fuel but..
    • Make the fire as large as necessary for warmth and cooking
    • A good recessed wall produces a great heat shield even for a small fire and is vital for total warmth
    Fire Pit & Reflector:
    • The proficiency of a person in the woods, can often be judged by what Tom calls the “spin indicator”
        • It is common to see campers huddled around a fire completely unbordered
        • Freezing on one side and baking on the other in cold weather, it is unnecessary!
    • Choose a place that offers a natural heat reflector such as:
      • A large boulder or stump, then build the fire and a heat reflector on the other side, that way both sides of you get warm
    • The pit and reflector are just as important as the fire
    • You want to create the “fireplace effect”
      • 2/3rd of the fires heat is lost without the reflector

    The Fire Pit:
    • Is a disk-shaped hole with gently sloping sides 6-12” deep, depends on the width of the fire
    • The depression cradles the fire and groups the coals toward the center to help the burn stay hotter longer
    • If roots, stems or loamy soil exists, line the bottom with (dry nonshale) rocks to stop a potential underground fire
      • Remember no rocks from water sources or wet rocks, they could explode

    The Reflector:
    • Is a horseshoe-shaped wall built around the fire
    • Is build by stacking large rocks in a semicircle about the fire
    • Generally 2’ high by 3’ wide again this depends on the size of the fire
    • Smooth the walls for better heat reflection
      • Use dirt, small rocks, mud or sand to fill the holes
    • You can also stack wet wood around you and use it to feed the fire as it dries
    • Use the hot rocks for boiling, bedwarmers, handwarmers, heating pads

Gathering Fuel

  • Simple rule, the tinder and firewood must be dry!
  • The driest wood is found high up away from water sources
  • Look to south-facing hillsides with an open exposure to the sun
  • Look on the lee side (west) of the incoming jetstream
    • Use the same criteria when selecting a shelter site
  • Don’t collect fire-starting fuels from the ground, especially in wet areas
  • Gather dead, dry vegetation from standing trees and plants
    • Look under low evergreen boughs, on the underside of shrubs and use dead branches protected from rain
      • Such fuels don’t absorb ground moisture and dry quickly
  • Even in a downpour you can find dry materials, just carve off the outer wet area

  • Determining Dryness:
    • Break it, if it snaps cleanly and is audible then it is good
    • Touch the wood, use your hands or your lower lip and feel for dampness
    • Check the weight, if its light its generally dry or rotten

    Areas of Scarcity:
    • Look for dead patches of vegetation such as: matted grasses and plants
    • Desert Areas: search in high places and collected rock depressions called kettles
    • If you can avoid a fire than do so due to the scarcity of resources

Types of Firewood

  1. Tinder
  2. Kindling
  3. Squall Wood
  4. Bulk Wood

  1. Tinder
    • 1st of the four necessary fuels for fire
    • Needs to be a light airy material that catches and spreads a spark into a flame
    • Tree Materials:
      • Dried inner bark of certain trees such as: Basswood, Elm
      • Best: Aspen, Cedar, Cherry, Cottonwood, Sage, Walnut, Willow
      • Good: Dry Reeds, Grasses

    • Plant Materials:
      • Bulrush, Cattails, Dogbane, Fire Weed, Milkweed, Primrose, Thistle, Velvetleaf, Yucca, and down from Cattail, Milkweed, Thistle
      • Any dry, fibrous material can be used for tinder even some mosses & lichen if prepared right
      • Experiment with the materials around your area to find the best tinder source

      • Remove all hard, crumbly bark or inner pith from source
      • Systematically twist, turn and push the material between fingers to loosen & separate the fibers
      • Rub the fibers back and forth in the hand until you create a fluffy bundle made up of filaments as small as thread
      • Soften stubborn fibers by smashing them between rocks
      • Good tinder is essential and needs to be light & airy
      • Well buffed too, try the "face-test" if not, fluff & buff some more
      • Cattails & Thistle work without preparation, but they need other fibrous materials with them
      • A match or lighter will ignite just about any tinder without great preparation

  2. Kindling
    • 2nd of the four necessary fuels for fire
    • Comprised of tiny twigs or slivers that range from pencil lead to pencil thickness in size
    • Break small limbs off dead branches of trees
    • Look to the undersides of evergreen boughs or
    • Shave kindling off larger pieces of wood
    • Vital to keep tinder & kindling absolutely dry!

    • Wet Weather:
      • Look under evergreen boughs or other trees
      • Make "fuzz sticks" by carving away the wet exterior of the wood (curled branches)
      • Store the kindling between the layers of your clothing
        • If stored next to the skin the wood will absorb your body moisture (bad)

  3. Squaw Wood
    • 3rd of the four necessary fuels for fire
    • Comprised of twigs and branches from pencil size to wrist size
    • Named after the Squaw Indians for their conservation of the wood during their fire-making
    • Use woods such as those named in this section
      • Remember the burn rates within soft, medium-hard and hardwoods

  4. Bulk Firewood
    • 4th and final fuel source needed for a healthy fire
    • Comprised of branches that are wrist size and larger to too-big-to-break size branches
    • Added to the fire after a good glaze is going strong
    • Dryness here is not vital, but helps
      • Green & wet wood will burn if a good fire is going
    • Conserve your energy while gathering bulk firewood by
      • Rigging up a sled and dragging wood back to camp
      • Cordage up bundles of wood making fewer trips into the bush
      • Do not drag large pieces or try and split/cut bulk firewood, let the fire do it by
        • Placing one end into the fire and slowing feeding it or
        • Allow the fire to cut the log into two

    • General Information:
      • Gather the best material possible
        • Easy to start, long-lasting no matter what the weather
      • Gather enough to last the night into tomorrow morning

Types of Fires

  1. Tipi
  2. Log Cabin
  3. Lean-to
  4. Cross-Ditch
  5. Pyramid
  6. Unformed

Tipi Fire

  • The best type of fire setup for survival purposes
  • Starts easy, burn effectively and gives off good heat & light in large quantities
  • Smoke and sparks are channeled upward
  • The slanted walls result in high flames to help the fire hold up in wet and stormy weather

  • Construction:
    • Line the ground or pit with dried bark or grasses to prevent moisture from wicking into the fuel
    • Make a small cone out of kindling by propping the smallest sticks against one another, tipi look
    • Leave enough room between the twigs for air to get through
    • Leave an opening on one side so you can place the tinder inside
    • Face the entranceway toward the wind to help drive the flame up through the fuel
    • Encircle the tipi with a row of slightly larger sticks
    • Lace the kindling with dried grasses, pine needles or other easily combustible materials
    • Expand the size of the tipi by placing squaw wood around the kindling
    • Work carefully to form the thinnest to thickest pieces until the tipi is 8-10" across and a foot or more in height

    If Raining:
    • Place small slabs of bark around and over the tipi to help the fuels stay dry

    Added Insurance:
    • Make sure you use good thumb size wood in the fire setup
    • Use highly flammable pitch from evergreen trees
      • Gather the seeping pitch with a stick and use on the kindling
      • Create "pitch sticks," soaked pitch wood from the heart of a rotting or dead evergreen
        • Identify by looking for the mottled white streaks of decaying timber
        • Strip into small pieces (finger-size) with a knife or other sharp implement
        • Add this to the kindling
        • Will burn furiously even when wet

Log Cabin Fire

  • The best type of fire setup for survival purposes
    • Based off my own experiences

  • Construction:
    • Line the ground or pit with dried bark or grasses to prevent moisture from wicking into the fuel
    • Gather your tinder materials and place a small pile in the middle of the pit
    • Begin by constructing a log cabin frame on three sides using kindling
    • Slowly work the walls of the cabin up
    • Roof off the structure 6-8 in. from the ground
      • This allows enough air flow between the tinder and kindling
    • This type of fire allows air to penetrate the tinder
    • Reach in and light the tinder

Lean-To Fire

  • This type of fire looks like the lean-to shelter

  • Construction:
    • Push a green stick into the ground at a 30-45 degree angle
    • Point the end of the stick in the direction of the wind
      • This will allow good airflow
    • Place some tinder deep under the lean-to stick
    • Lean pieces of kindling against the green lean-to stick
    • Light the tinder
    • As the kindling catches fire from the tinder, add more kindling

Cross-Ditch Fire

  • Added insurance for adequate air flow

  • Construction:
    • Scratch out a + in the ground about 10-12 in. in length
    • Dig the cross about 2-3 in. deep
    • Place a large clump of tinder in the middle of the cross
    • Build a kindling pyramid above the tinder
    • The shallow ditch construction allows air to sweep under the tinder to provide a draft

Pyramid Fire

  • Similar to the Log Cabin Fire

  • Construction:
    • Place two small logs or branches parallel on the ground
    • Place a solid layer of small logs across the parallel logs 
    • Add three and/or four layers of logs or branches
      • Each layer should be smaller than the last
      • Each Layer should be placed at a right angle to the layer below it
    • Make a starter fire on top of the pyramid
    • As the starter fire burns, it will ignite the logs below it
      • This gives you a fire that burns downward, requiring no attention during the night


Unformed Fire

  • Uniformity & structure are of no real concern here
  • Use this type of fire if dry fuel is abundant and you have great sources of fire starters
  • Remember fire needs: air, fuel and heat to ignite

  • Construction:
    • Place a good amount of tinder in the middle of the fire pit
    • Add kindling around and on top of the tinder
    • Ignite the tinder
    • Feed the fire as needed

    • There are several other ways to lay a fire that are quite effective. Your situation and the material available in the area may make another method more suitable.

Fire-making Techniques

Bow Drill

Mouth Drill

Hand Drill

Flint & Steel

Other Fire Starters

Maintaining a Fire

What Makes the Best Firewood?


  1. Tinder
    • Experiment with all kinds of tinder, see which works best for your needs
      • Leaves, mosses, lichens, plant stalks, bark, anything burnable
      • Prepare the tinder bundles with each type of material
      • Take notes on how they burn

  2. Tipi Fire
    • Work on starting a tipi fire from scratch in 1 minute
    • Use your instincts to build the fire from the materials, methods and actions that you know

  3. Bow Drill
    • Learn this technique of fire-making at home
    • Take your new found skill out camping and try it out
      • Force yourself to master it out there

  4. Woods
    • Observe how different woods burn
    • Soft, hard, dry, wet, green
    • Note the colors, duration of flame, quantity of heat and the amount of light produced
      • Examples:
        • Cedar – white hot
        • Oak – yellow to red

Navigation without a Compass or Map

Navigation without a compass or map is a manageable thing. It is real, but knowledge of this form of navigation is needed in order to utilize direction without conventional or technological tools. Understanding the basic knowledge of this could be benefical to you some day

Compass & Map Reading

Learning to read a compass and a map is vital in navigation whether it be on the road or out in the woods. Map and compass reading are essential and all should understand the basics of reading a map in conjunction with a compass.

GPS with Paper Maps Icon    Read Garmin's "How To Use Paper Maps with your GPS" to improve your navigational confidence.

GPS for Beginners Guide Icon    Read Garmin's "GPS Beginner's Guide Manual".

Map Datum List Icon    Read Garmin's "Map Datum List"

DCNR Trail Markings Icon    Read the "DCNR's Trail Markings" PDF file.

Get Adobe Acrobat Reader Icon    Download Acrobat Reader here.

Survival Notebook

A small notebook or even a piece of paper will work fine and is great to use in order to write your experiences in the woods

How Does the Body Lose Heat

The body loses heat up to five basic ways. They are: conduction (touching something), convection (air movement), evaporation/perspiration (absorption of water into the air), radiation (transfer of heat from warm to cold) & respiration (breathing).


How does this affect us?
  • Skin contact with an object or surface that is at a lower temperature than the body will result in heat loss
    • Which means your skin/body is going to get colder by being in contact with the colder object!
    • Do not wrap a space blanket around you without some sort of insulation between you and the blanket
      • If you do, you will loose body heat through conduction and convection


How does this affect us?

  • Skin in contact with air that is cooler than the body (98 degrees) will result in heat loss because it speeds up evaporation
    • Which means your skin/body is going to get colder by being in contact with the colder air!
    • Do not wrap a space blanket around you without some sort of insulation between you and the blanket
      • If you do, you will loose body heat through conduction and convection
    • You may use a space blanket for a windbreak without insulation, but make sure it does not touch your skin


How does this affect us?

  • Skin naturally perspires, as your body sweats the water vapors are absorbed into the air
  • This evaporation creates a cooling effect on the skin, which lowers the body temperature
    • Which means your skin/body is going to cool from evaporation
    • Wrapping the space blanket around you does not allow the perspiration to evaporate into the air, which in turn increases the humidity within the airspace, theoretically reducing the loss of body heat via evaporation

Is increasing the humidity within the airspace between me and the blanket a good thing?

  • Yes & No. Trapping moisture within a confined space causes something to become wet (you & your cloths).
    • As long as you stay wrapped within the blanket you will be warm, but you will be wet!
    • Being wet in a cold weather survival situation is never a good thing as the body loses heat up to 26x faster by being wet
      • At some point you will need to unwrap yourself to tend to other survival necessities, at this point you will loose important heat at an alarming rate, endangering yourself to hypothermia
  • You want to be warm and dry, not warm and wet!


How does this affect us?

  • When outside temperatures are cooler than the body, the body naturally emits its heat into the surrounding air.
  • This cools the body, which lowers the body temperature
    • Wrapping the space blanket around you allows upwards of 97% of your body heat to be reflected back on the body for an efficent/recycled way of heating itself


How does this affect us?

  • Breating alone gives off body heat in the form of exhaled water vapor
  • Covering your nose or mouth with some sort of insulation such as fleece or wool will help, but remember you don't want to warm and wet, but rather warm and dry

Mylar Space Blanket aka Emergency Blanket!

They also go by other names: mylar blanket, first aid blanket, emergency blanket, thermal blanket or weather blanket.

How do they work?

What are they made of?

What other purposes do they serve?

Below you will find some pictures that I have found on the Internet displaying uses for the Mylar Space Blanket

Debris Hut
Debris Hut
Tarp Type Shelters
Tarp-type Shelters
Snow Shelter
Snow Shelter
Lean-to with heat reflector
Lean-to with heat reflector

The pictures surrounding this text are various examples of natural sheltes in which the space blanket could benefit

Click on the thumbnail to view full-size picture

Snow Shelter
Ground cloth setup
One-man Shelter
One-man Shelter
Poncho Lean-to
Poncho type Lean-to
Tent using a branch
Tarp using a center branch


More to Come in the Future.. Check Back at a later time!

Questions or Comments?: Please feel free to email me, I would appreciate them, Thanks!

*Please, if this site as helped you in anyway and you would like to give back, donate by clicking the link found on the bottom left navigation bar. It takes many hours to update, post, check the data and its accuracy. Any contributions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! Last Updated On:  August 6, 2013

*Please remember, the information posted on this page and all other pages can & probably will change. I assume no liability for accidents happening to, or injuries sustained by, readers who engage in the activities posted on my entire website including links. Remember, you are responsible for your own actions, please understand conditions on the trail, in the woods or on the river can/will change due to mother nature. Please don’t assume I know all there is about such topics, unfortunately I do not. I am just posting my travels and opinions experienced out in the wilderness. I encourage you to read further and look to reliable resources like the PA Game & Fish Commission and the PA DCNR. Thank You.