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Recommended Books

Survival Wisdom & Know How: Everything You Need to Know to Thrive in the Wilderness by the editors of Stackpole Books.

Wilderness Survival by Gregory Davenport

How to Stay Alive in the Woods: a complete guide to food, shelter, and self-preservation by Bradford Angier.

Hawke's Green Beret Survival Manual by Myke Hawke.

When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency by Matthew Stein

How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It by James Wesley Rawles

When All Hell Breaks Loose by Cody Lundin

Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness by John and Geri McPherson.

The Essential Wilderness Navigator by David Seidman

SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea by John Lofty Wiseman

US Army Survival Manual: FM 21-76 by Department of Defense

The Backpacker's Field Manual by Rick Curtis


Primitive skills - book excerpts online

Survival IQ

Primitive Wilderness Guide

Wilderness Survival Guide

Wildwood Survival

Earth Caretaker


The Tracker School
Watertown, New Jersey. 

Sierra School of Survival
Placerville, California

Twin Eagles Wilderness School
Sandpoint, Idaho.
New Jersey school.

Aboriginal Living Skills School

Cottonwood Institute

Vermont Wilderness School

Alderleaf Wilderness College
Monroe, WA

Primitive Ways
Hayward, California

More school links...

Another directory

Survival Tips

Minimum requirements for survival

Backpacking Tips & Techniques

How to start a fire
Simple Water Purification

Survival Video Tutorials

Best survival knife
Making a Bow and Arrow

Building a shelter

How to set up a Tarp Tent
Northwest Woodsman via YouTube

TV Programs and DVDs

Discovery Channel's Man vs. Wild series with Bear Grylls. Three seasons available on DVD. (Some used copies at

See also the Dual Survival series and Man Woman Wild.

More recommendations available at Amazon...

In the event of a long-term catastrophe, rescuers may not be en route to your location anytime soon. An alternative to staying put in your home would be to evacuate to a wilderness area. There you can hunt and forage, build a wood fire for heat and cooking, and potentially be better protected than in areas populated by stressed-out, fellow humans.

This section of the Mega-Disaster Planner provides detailed notes gleaned from Bradford Angier's classic How to Stay Alive in the Woods, Matt Stein's When Technology Fails, Myke Hawke's Green Beret Survival Manual, Bear Grylls' Man vs. Wild TV series, and other sources listed in the gray box on the right. Feel free to copy and paste all four pages into a text file, and then add the material to your survival binder. (Use the green menu above right if you'd prefer to skip to a specific topic.)

Immediate Priorities

The guiding principle driving any survival situation is to determine your priorities, then act on each of them calmly and in order of importance. Every scenario has its own unique challenges, so establishing a plan of action is crucial to the outcome. Bear Grylls constantly repeats the sentence "Please remember what's first." This is a memory aid to draw on in time of address, with the first letter of each word representing a goal:

P for Protection: Where personal security is concerned, equip yourself with some type of tools that are immediately available in order to stave off animal or human predators, extreme weather and other possible hazards.

R for Rescue: In the typical scenario of getting lost, you might devise a plan for getting help, whether by setting a signal fire, leaving signs on the ground, or sticking a note in a bottle and throwing it into the sea. (Of course, in a doomsday scenario you may not be expecting a rescue or even want anyone to know where you are. )

W for Water: Locating water quickly is essential, since survival without it is limited to about three days.

F for Fire and Food: Building a fire provides warmth, protection from predators, and a way to decontaminate or sterilize germs in food and water. Although you can probably survive two to three weeks without eating, you'll still make better progress on full stomach.

Once these immediate priorities have been addressed, you can move on to the skills and techniques for staying alive in the wilderness.

Building a Shelter

The easiest approach is to use what's already provided in nature, such as a cave, a deadfall of branches, a rock overhang, a clump of boulders or other available cover. Many of these arrangements fall under the category of a lean-to shelter. Once you've picked out a place, look for materials to enhance it, like logs, dead leaves, branches, palm fronds, vines etc. You can build walls with these materials, a roof, or a matted floor for insulation and comfort.

Don't forget to factor in rain, high winds and cold (or hot) temperatures. Weatherproof your shelter with lots of extra material if necessary. You can use mud or dried dung and mix in leaves and vines. Whenever possible, provide for a second escape route from the shelter in case of attack. 

When you have to build a shelter from scratch, here are a few options:

A-frame structure: Two A-shaped braces with a log connecting provide a skeleton over which you'll lay branches and other covering. For this job, you'll need lashing, which can be rope, paracord, vines or clothing cut into ribbon-sized lengths.

Boy scout training typically includes A-frame construction.
Photo: Stuttgart Military Community

Teepee: As shown in the illustration above, you can lash three seven-foot logs tightly together on one end. Then insert and tie a dozen or more poles to this tripod and start weaving in the branches. If necessary, you can brace the structure on the ground by piling up stones or rocks in a circle around it.

At left, a hybrid teepee-A-frame shelter. At right, a lean-to. Photo credits: Bushcraft Plus (left) and U.S. Army.

Platform: To get yourself off the ground (especially in the jungle), create four elevated corners over which you can lay logs, branches and matting for your bed. A platform is generally used in combination with another structure (natural or manmade) that provides the walls and roof. you can tie together three 1-foot long logs into tripods, build up piles of flat rocks or tie other materials together to give you the elevation.

Treehouse: This is simpler than it sounds. Survivalists prefer it because staying high off the ground and hidden is always the safest option. Look for two side-by-side branches in one tree, or a single branch in 2-3 trees, then wedge or tie-in two logs to make a platform. Then place slats across the logs, and pile soft materials on top of these. Alternatively, you can weave several vines together into a sort of hammock. Make sure this arrangement is safe and secure before nightfall. You may even need to tie yourself in to keep from falling out of the tree.

To make a treehouse easier to access, pound some sticks into the trunk to use as steps. Alternatively, you can fashion a climbing ladder out of vines and sticks. Once you're in the tree, always pull the ladder up so intruders can't use it.

Tarp Tent: If you have a rain poncho, large garbage bag, other sheet of plastic, or cloth, you can create a tent by running a string between two trees, and then drop the tarp across. Secure the ends on each side with more string (i.e. rope or vines), or with rocks.

In this variation of a tarp tent, a pole at the entrance is used in combination with paracord to frame the tarp. Photo:

Hammock: This quick shelter requires weaving together some vines or ropes that are wide enought to hold your body safely. (You can also try cutting several long slits in a bamboo pole.) A rope on either end secures the hammock to the trunks. If you expect rain, you also have to construct some form of cover on the branches above you, as shown in the photo below.

Snow Shelters

Always erect these with your entrance at a right angle to the wind. This will prevent snow piling up and blocking your exit. You must also be mindful of the potential for avalanche. Here are three options:

Notice how the sleeping area is placed on a shelf, with a lower area below it. This takes advantage of the rule in nature that cold air sinks, warm air rises. The shaded area represents the snowpack. Diagram: Rick Curtis, Outdoor Action Program, Princeton University.

How to make a soft mattress

First scoop out some curved holes in the ground to accommodate your shoulder and hip bones. Then lay out young, heavily-needled boughs of balsam, birch or pine. Or you can use pine needles, moss, ferns, or marsh hay. Lay the branches, beginning from the head of your new mattress, and move downward. Remember to turn the branch bottoms up, which is the opposite of how they hang on a tree.

Other Shelter Considerations

At right, a shelter waterproofed with interlocking pine branches.

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Please note: A wilderness expedition can be dangerous or life-threatening. Always consult a professional outdoors expert before undertaking one. Whenever possible, avoid solo adventures. Discuss any first aid or medical issues beforehand with your health care provider. When researching survival techniques, be sure to consult multiple sources to insure the accuracy of the information.

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Finding and Disinfecting Water: Page 2

Food and Cooking: Page 3

Other Survival Topics: Page 4

Wilderness Navigation

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Mega-Disaster Planner


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