We all occasionally wonder how we would do in a real wilderness or urban survival scenario. We love to watch guys like McGyver and Bear Grylls brilliantly navigate life threatening situations and use their wits and resources to survive, but what would you do if you were stranded in the woods, trapped in a war-zone city, or caught in a natural disaster? Here are 10 urban and wilderness survival hacks to make those other guys jealous.
Trash Bag Poncho
If you’re trying to survive without shelter or an extra change of clothes, getting your clothes wet can be dangerous. Once your clothes are wet, it will be practically impossible to stay warm and your system will be more vulnerable to diseases. If it’s starting to rain, don’t panic and get soaked looking for shelter. First, find a trash bag. Empty or full. You’ll survive the smell. Cut a hole in the top and slip it over your head. The trash bag should cover your shoulders and most of your upper body. If you can, try to find a second, smaller trash bag and use that for your head. Keeping your head warm is vital to surviving in the elements. Now go find shelter.
If you have to spend the night on the street, don’t leave your money or any important documents in your wallet in your back pocket. Chances are when you wake up, they won’t be there anymore. Put your money and personal ID in your sock. It’s not likely you’ll sleep through having your shoe yanked off in the middle of the night. During the day, leave the money and ID in your sock but put a few dollars and maybe some less important cards in your wallet in your back pocket. This way, if someone tries to mug you, you will have something to give them and avoid a confrontation.
Duct Tape Butterfly Bandage
The optimist in all of us would like to think that we would navigate an urban survival situation and come out without a scratch. But let’s be realistic. Street gangs, savage dogs, creaky floors in abandoned buildings…the list goes on and on. Chances are, either you or someone with you is gonna end up needing first aid in an urban survival scenario. If you have a deep cut and need to close it, duct tape can save your life. Just tear off a square of tape and cut two chunks out of the center so it looks like a bar bell. Squeeze the cut together with one hand and place the duct tape bandage across the cut. The two fat ends should be on either side of the cut. A minimal amount of tape should be actually sticking to the wound.
Somewhere in your urban survival adventure, you are going to need to start a fire. Gather a pencil, a set of jumper cables, and some kindling. You can use newspaper, old wood, shreds of cloth, anything you can find that will burn easily without making too much smoke or emitting too many fumes. Using your pocket knife, shave the pencil down to the graphite in two places. Attach the jumper cables so that they are securely clamped to the graphite. Lay the pencil on top of your pile of kindling and start your vehicle. Let the vehicle run for a few minutes while the graphite inside the pencil heats up. After a few minutes, the pencil should catch fire.
Guitar Pick Fire Starters
Here’s an interesting piece of trivia for all you musicians out there: guitar picks are highly flammable. Don’t have a vehicle or a set of jumper cables on hand? Don’t worry, there are other ways to start a fire. If you can get hold of a guitar pick, or if you happen to have one stowed in your wallet, you can use it to start a fire. Imbed a guitar pick in a piece of wood or lay it on top of a pile of tinder and light it using either a lighter or a match. Since guitar picks are made of celluloid, which is highly flammable, the pick should catch easily and set the rest of your tinder aflame.
Another good resource to have around is crayons. Though you won’t be able to cook over them or use them as a significant source of heat, they make great candles. You never know when your survival may depend on a little extra light. Simply melt the bottom of the candle and stick it to a flat surface so it will stand upright. Once it is secured, light the other end on fire. One crayon should burn for about 15 minutes.
If your city is flooding and you need to travel down a river or cross a large body of water but would rather not get too wet or contaminated, you can always build a raft. Raft building supplies might seem difficult to come by in an urban area, but one resource is probably floating by you all the time: Plastic bottles. Pretty much any city you’re in will have a surplus of discarded plastic bottles, so put them to use. Gather up as many as you can. Choose a few sturdy 2-liter bottles and, using your pocket knife, carefully cut the bottle in a spiral. Each cut should be about a half an inch thick. When you’re done, you can use the bottle as plastic cord. Use the cord to lash the plastic bottles together. Lay a tarp over the raft and test it in the water. Make sure it’s sturdy enough to hold your weight and even enough to stay upright. Lay on your stomach as you travel to evenly distribute your weight.
When you’re stranded in the wilderness, it’s important to keep things clean and disinfected “down there.” With all the walking and sweating, you’re probably going to get a little raw. Guard carefully against infection by making sure you wipe well. Find a tree or bush you recognize, ensuring that it isn’t poison ivy, poison oak, or any other poisonous plant. Pick two clean, dead leaves and one fresh green leaf. Sandwich the green leaf between the dead leaves. The green leaf will keep the other leaves stiff while you wipe.
A compass is a must have for wilderness survival. But let’s be real. How many of us actually carry a real nuts and bolts, non-electronic compass on our person? If you’re anything like me, you probably have a great compass on your phone, which is essentially worthless in wilderness survival since power outlets will be scarce. However, if you have a needle, a leaf, and a puddle you can make your own compass. Rub the eye of the needle against your hair or some fur one hundred times. Lay the needle on top of a leaf and lay it in standing water, like a puddle or a still pond. Make sure there are no other metal objects and that the wind or a current in the water won’t influence the needle. The magnetized needle should naturally turn to point North.
When you’re trying to survive in the wilderness, you need all the strength you can get. Keeping the bugs away will help you sleep better, concentrate harder, and plan more effectively. If you happen to have some vodka in your cooler, don’t use it to drown your sorrows. Rub the vodka on your skin or clothes. Mosquitos don’t like the boozy smell and will leave you alone. Cattails are also a great way to keep the pests away. Simply light the head of a brown cattail on fire and let it smolder up wind from you. The smoke will help keep the bugs off. Rubbing mud on your skin can also help–just be very careful of infection. If you have any scratches or cuts, or even an open bug bite, the mud might cause it to get infected.
In any survival situation remember the essentials: duct tape, shoe string, and a pocket knife. Urban and wilderness survival could hinge on whether you have one of these three elements available. With these three weapons in your survival arsenal, and these 10 urban and wilderness survival hacks, you can feel more prepared for anything life throws your way.