Tag Archives: SHTF

SHTF: 5 Survival Myths Debunked

If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in SHTF disaster survival chatter.

If you’re not reading this, you’re probably a zen koan, and I have no idea how you got here.

So assuming it’s the former, this is probably not the first time you’ve looked for advice and tips on Survivalism, and this probably also isn’t the first place. So let’s look at some common survivalist, life-hack-y tricks that go around the Internet that you should ABSOLUTELY RECONSIDER.


  1. The Egg Thing.

    See that inside membrane? Good, now forget that exists.

    I see this all over Pinterest (where our sister magazine Calsportsmanmag pins a whole load of stuff related to survival and history!) and it goes thusly:
    “Who knew? If emergency occurs… While the blood is gushing – hold pressure and crack open an egg. Peel that membrane off and put it on the wound (continue holding pressure) The membrane will harden and keep the wound closed until you can get to the ER for stitches. My grandma taught my mom this and it works!”

    Please for godsakes don’t do that. You know how you’re not supposed to eat raw cookie dough with egg in it because it could give you food poisoning? Now imagine putting the stuff that causes that directly into your bloodstream.
    While technically the membrane will stop the bleeding, a band-aid is actually sterile, and comes in most first-aid kits. If you’re beyond the realm of a band-aid, you’d better get to the ER and get some stitches, not an omelette.
    Also, whose idea was to stick the inside of a thing that came out of a chicken butt on their open wound? Who does that?

    What you can do instead: Wash, dry, and crush your eggshells into a fine powder and mix them into plant soil, it can help fresh-potted plants and aerate the soil, as well as reduce acidity. If you have chickens of your own, you can also provide crushed eggshell to them, which will boost their calcium and help them lay more.

  2. You can use a Tampon as a water purifier!
    No, no, no, nO, no. Stop that. First of all, you look ridiculous with a tampon in your mouth. Second, while claims of there being asbesdos in tampons are at best silly and at worst harmful, you don’t really want to drink water through a cotton ball, either. While they are absorbent, tampons aren’t meant to ‘filter’ anything. They’re made to absorb. In case your highschool education failed you miserably: They’re meant to absorb approximately 5-10ml  of blood. About one to two teaspoons (per up to eight hours of use and absolutely no more, lest the user risk Toxic Shock Syndrome).  They’re also completely sanitary in their packages, you babies, stop freaking out when you see them.Anyway, the point is, it might filter out mud or algae, but it won’t filter out bacteria that will still make you sick. Just bring a Lifestraw and some purifier tablets.What you can do instead: Surprisingly, if you’re in a real bind, you actually can use a tampon to plug a bullet wound! No word yet on whether or not this will also increase your risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome, but to be honest, if you have a tampon in your bullet wound for that long, I think you have bigger concerns.

    Or, you know, you can just use them for what they were meant for.

  3.  Use Night Soil for the Survival Garden!

    Grow potatoes, not pootatoes.

    Do you want disease? Because that’s how you get disease.Ok, well, not entirely. While this author isn’t by any means a botanist, unless you yourself are Mark Watney headed to Mars, you probably aren’t going to want to do this. If you’re getting your poo from more than just you, you’ll be exposed to other pathogens and germs and other nastiness that you don’t want on your hands, much less in your potatoes.  However, Herbivore poop can be used relatively safely, because they only eat grass, though composting is recommended.

    What you can do instead: In the case of omnivores, composting is allowed. In the case of carnivores? Trash it. Compost omnivore and herbivore waste with your banana peels, garden waste, grass clippings, whatever you compost with. Alternatively, don’t use any animal byproducts and get yourself a worm bin for composting.

  4. Anything containing “Detox”, “Essential Oils”, “Non-GMO”, “Organic”, “Superfood”, “Antioxidants”, etc.Listen, I know it’s not really a huge deal about survival, but if you heard about it “From the Internet” or if it came from NaturalNews, DavidWolfe or GOOP or (if you’re so inclined) Cosmo, just block it out. Those things are like the National Enquirer of health.  Listen, if it’s on The Rational Wiki, do a little homework on it. Don’t be bogged down by buzz words or fearmongering.

    “Aah, this will fix my Ebola right up!”

    Anyway, my point is, don’t trust ‘natural’ cures for stuff if you don’t have documented evidence. And I don’t mean ‘A blogger took pictures and put them on the Internet’, I mean get documentation from an accredited medical or educational source before you go sticking leaves on your cuts. That also goes for ‘Black Salve’, which is bad for you for several reasons.

    What you can do instead:  If you’re afraid of something unfamiliar, odds are good you need to learn more about it.

    “Fear is the only true enemy, born of ignorance and the parent of anger and hate.” – Edward Albert

  5. What you need to do for Hypothermia is…Alright, chances are good you have some pervasive myths about Hypothermia lodged in your brain that you need to shake out. You don’t need me to tell you what every survival blog and their contributors is telling you.Short version: Don’t drink alcohol to warm up, warming up takes time, shiver lots, get into warm and dry clothes ASAP, eat something, no hot baths, no limb massaging, no heating lamps, get professional medical treatment.

    We have the brandy ready for  you when you get back from your near-death vacation, though!

    If you’ve somehow made it here without knowing at least a few of those things, welcome to the present day, and good luck with that.

    Things you can do as wellHey, you know what gets less press than Hypothermia? Hyperthermia. Consider reading up on it and its treatments, now that you’re basking in the glow of your already knowing what Hypothermia is.

SHTF: 5 Reasons Survivalism is, like, really hard.

We all know a guy. You know. That Guy. The one who ‘has a plan’ when the Zombie Apocalypse’ happens (it won’t). That plan usually consists of holing up in a mall or a grocery store, brandishing ridiculous weapons, and may have taken a martial arts class once.

There’s a survival variant, too, and I’m gonna tell you all about it.

You might find that you’re a That Guy. There’s no shame in it. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. I was a mall ninja once, and I’ll admit it, I still like overly complicated and ridiculous ostensible weapons.

These are so stupid. I’m delighted.

Think you can be a genuine survivalist? Well, read through, and see if you think you could stand surviving on your own in Alaskan wilderness. No mall ninja-ing, no martial artistry, just surviving off the land with a basic kit of tools.

Here’s why that might be really, really hard.


  1. Hunting is harder than you think it is. 

    Alright, alright, I know: “But Sam,” you say, “I hunt all the time. You’re being stupid. (insert other colorful language to taste)”.Yeah, alright, hunting in the Lower 48 isn’t so bad wen you take a truck out and use a kitted-out rifle with a scope and whatever else. But we’re talking a basic kit, remember. No fancy tricked-out rifle (maybe a basic one, but you’ll run out of ammo eventually), no guides, no premade baits, you’re trekking out in your warmest clothes in temperatures anywhere from 46 to 70 degrees. Oh, and hunting season obviously doesn’t apply all year, unless you have your proper Resident subsistence hunting permits. In that case, you may find yourself a hell of a lot colder while you’re trying to fish, hunt, or trap while there’s snow and ice around.

    Oh, but that’s not all: Remember, game will make tracks if they realize there’s a human nearby. You can quickly run out of game to track in your nearby area, forcing yourself to be nomadic, or to occasionally ‘migrate’ from one settlement to another like the Korths.

  2. Moose are Huge. 

    No really, have you ever been up close to a moose? Really up close? I can tell you they can get up to 6.9 feet at the shoulder, or 1,500 lbs, but does that really convey how big a moose is?

    Patio and car in background for scale.

    How about Grizzlies?

    “See that idiot over there with the rainbow knife, cubs? Were going to eat them.”

    Let’s not forget wolves, cougars, coyotes, Wolverines, bison… Look, anything adapted to live in Alaska is either full of blubber like most of the sea life, or is 90% fur and horns/teeth/claws/spikes. Or at least, that’s what it’ll feel like when you’re facing down 600 lbs of angry grizzly.

  3. What if the worst happens? 

    So you got beat up by a grizzly. That’s okay! There’s a whole 26 hospitals in Alaska! …and 663,300 square miles of land.For those who don’t feel like doing the math, that’s one hospital for every 25,511 square miles or so. That would be assuming they were spread out evenly, of course, and they are not. I’m not even gonna go into the amount of trouble you can get into from weather, falling into the ice, animal attacks, potential infections, bad water, or diseases from fleas and ticks, among other things.

  4. This isn’t the Boy Scouts. 

    Ok, you were in the Scouts, you know your way around building an impromptu shelter, distilling water with a solar still, how to build a campfire…When was the last time you actually did that? Did you do it in Alaskan temperatures? Can you use whatever fire starting gadgets you have in windy, wet conditions, to reliably start a fire with freezing, gloved hands? Can you cook the meat you hunted over a sputtering campfire? Can you build a home beyond a basic shelter to keep you warm and dry? If you can, you might just be better off than you thought!

    Polish boyscouts acting as couriers during the Warsaw Uprising, picture from Wikimedia. These kids are more hardcore than I will ever be.

  5. Do you have the coin for it? 

    Er, yeah. Turns out, living ‘the way our ancestors did’ is more expensive than you think.
    “As of 2015, Alaska’s largest metro area, Anchorage, has an average monthly rent of $1,410. One-bedroom apartments rent for an average of $1,050 per month. Kenai, a small town, is somewhat cheaper, with an average rent of $837 for all apartments.””Utility bills north of $300 are not uncommon in Alaska’s colder regions.”
    “In Fairbanks, a smaller and more remote city, prices are higher: $4.75 for milk, $3.36 for bread and $5.75 for a pound of chicken.”
    These quotes come from Investopedia.com and you know, it’s a huge state, so you have to make sure your truck and/or snowmobile is functional, possibly with spares for when things inevitably freeze and/or break, and also only 267 gas stations in the state. Goodness only knows how often they can get refilled.

    6. Bonus round

    This one might not be surprising to you, but it might be to ‘That Guy‘: You need people. You need people to talk to, to barter with, to laugh with, to smile at, you need human interaction. Even the loneliest of introverts needs somebody to talk to. If you think you don’t, congratulations: You’re a ‘That Guy‘. But hey, prove me wrong, and tell me your story in the comments!


Anything else I forgot? Feel free to tack it on, I write these for your amusement, and I can absolutely be wrong, though I do my best to *Research.

*Read as: google

SHTF Prep: Party in the Wasteland

How to form and keep your survival party when SHTF

Those of you who play a lot of videogames or tabletop games will probably have an idea how this works. For those of you who don’t: It’s time to learn a little thing about Party Balance.

There’s a good reason most teams in games and movies are uneven numbers: Conflict resolution. You can take votes, and never risk an even split. No matter who the leader is, you’re going to want your team to be a democracy, because if the leader intends to lead everyone into what seems to be certain doom, the team is going to want to veto that, for good or ill. So for all intents and purposes, there should usually be an uneven number of adults in the team, unless there’s only two of you. Three, five, and seven-adult teams are decent ideas, depending on what the problem is. While larger groups can be harder to house, they can also be better-protected, assuming you can trust your entire survival party.

Pictured: A team more organized than yours will ever be.

There’s a habit of not wanting to trust teenagers to understand things or do their jobs, but give the youth some credit. Adults have learned to ignore some abnormalities in their daily lives and not consider them, while the younger and less experienced crowd will treat any unknown with more caution. To add to it, younger members of the team have usually had general education more recently. Someone with a Doctorate in English may not have remember their tenth-grade biology or chemistry quite as well as the kid who had a test on disease evolution last week. It’s a trope you see in survival movies often for good reason: Young People know some things.

Not to say trust a kid with everything, but just keep in mind when they contribute, they will often operate with the best of their knowledge, especially with adults whose opinions they respect.

Now statistically speaking, not everybody can be the leader. You have to learn to work in a team, but you probably already know how that works. You’ve undoubtedly been a part of group projects before, either at work or back in your school days: often you get some slackers and some hard workers; but the ideal purpose of a group is for complimenting skillsets to work together.

“Hahaha, what do you mean none of us has any idea how to MLA format? We’re all gonna fail.”

Think about who you need to make a society, and try to get a condensed version in your survivalist group:

You’ll need a Doctor. Nobody can stay well all the time, especially when SHTF and infection is bound to run rampant. You need someone who knows what all the different medicines are, and how to use them. A naturalist or essential oil seller isn’t gonna cut it when someone loses an arm or -more likely- a minor infection becomes full-blown sepsis, or even when someone catches the latest flu strain. A pharmacist or EMT may do in a pinch. The point is, you need someone with a strong stomach and a good idea of medicine. If you have a bigger group,two or three could keep your whole party healthy and active.

You’ll need a Workhorse. It sounds mean to put it that way, but you need someone who knows how to lift with their legs. Someone who can build things is a bonus, but no matter what scenario you’re going into, you’re probably going to need to lift heavy things at some point, up to and including people. If I were making a ‘dream team’, I’d look for a tough-as-nails biker type on the outside who has a young kid. Someone who’s scary on the outside but a softie on the inside is exactly what you need for scaring the daylights out of other human threats, and keeping your own team secure (if human threats are a factor in your SHTF scenario).

A Wildlife Expert never goes amiss. When you’ve got to bug out from one place to the next, or you’re camping in the wilderness and trying to create a long-term base, you’re either going to have a wildlife expert, or you’re gonna wish you had a wildlife expert. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is actually a good task for younger members of the team– particularly Scouts. I know in my last article I pointed out ‘Don’t trust an 80 year old Scouts handbook’, but more recent Scouts will have seen any updates to the material, and it doesn’t take a botany major to recognize poison oak when you see it. Get someone who knows what to do when you encounter predators or venomous snakes, and can recognize some of the region’s most deadly plants. If you’re in Alaska, you’re probably not going to encounter a Manchineel tree, but you will want to know how to recognize a Baneberry. Wildlife Experts are often good at finding or creating clean water and shelter, too, which are -as always- essential in any survival scenario.

The Hunter can be invaluable. While the Wildlife Expert can be all scavenger, if you’re not in an urban environment (and sometimes even if you are), a hunter is exactly who you need, and you need them armed. Someone who can protect the team with weaponry, or provide food and skins for the team. While not all Wildlife Experts are Hunters, most Hunters will by necessity by Wildlife Experts. Hunters who can’t tell which leaves are poison oak don’t tend to stay hunters for very long. They also tend to be good at McGuyvering.

Which beings us to the MacGyver. Every team will likely have a few. You don’t have to be The Professor from Gilligan’s Island, but some people will have more odd fun-facts that come in handy than others. The Biker Workhorse may know you can use pantyhose as a fan belt in a pinch, but the Doctor may know how to use fish antibiotics on humans, and the Wildlife Expert will have more an idea how to rig a rabbit snare. Everyone is likely to MacGyver in their own way. But if you happen to meet an Engineer, they may be the King MacGyver.

Don’t forget the Artist. No I’m not kidding. Though perhaps not as essential for short-term survival, an artist or craftsman of some kind can keep your sanity in longer hauls, writing tunes for longer trips or stories to tell just to keep everyone occupied, or if they’re crafty, making useful tools. When entertained, people forget pain for longer periods of time, stave off hunger, and generally work better with higher morale. Artists can also be helpful for things like making textiles, too. It sounds ridiculous, but there’s a reason there’s a Bard class in tabletop games– You need someone who can entertain to keep everybody from being at one-another’s throats.

The Diplomat is absolutely essential for any large party. This can be anyone in the party, but it has to be SOMEBODY if there’s more than two people. Or sometimes even if there are two people, really. In survival, people are going to be strong-willed, on-edge, and tensions will run high. Even when your party naturally gets along, at nine weeks in a nice place you and your best friends will still be ready to brawl over something stupid.

Believe me, after nine weeks, it’s the Lord of the Flies time.

What’s that old saying, ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’? You’ll want a diplomat to help cool tensions and work things out when disagreements crop up. They’re also likely to be good at bartering, and if you think you’ll run into any other humans who have supplies you need, you’re going to want a diplomat on your team for just that purpose.

When you’ve got a team in order, you’ll want your pecking order, too.

That doesn’t always mean “Leader issues commands, followers follow them”, though it can if that’s the kind of group you’re in. More likely, you’ll want a democracy. That said, A SHTF scenario is not a time for a leader you’re not sure of.

Your leader should know, at the bare minimum
A. What’s going on,
B. Who’s in the team,
C. What your goals are,
D. How we got here in the first place.

Using the old hypothetical ‘Zombie outbreak‘ scenario we all hate, if your leader doesn’t know there’s zombies, that’s a problem. If they don’t know who has what skills and whether we’ve got a zombie or someone likely to hide an infection in the party, that’s a problem. If they don’t know where a possible safe zone is or how to move toward safety, that’s a problem. If they’re not sure how they ended up with a rag-tag group of survivors against the world, that’s probably not somebody you want to trust with a job that requires a memory span, and you’ve got a problem.

Your leader should also know when not to start something. Violence isn’t always the solution, and if your team leader’s response to everything is ‘Shoot first, questions later’, you’re going to have a bad time. Leaders listen, consider, and make command decisions based on what makes sense. More importantly,  a leader should be able to admit when they might be wrong, and not make decisions based on ‘Feeling’ or ‘Intuition’.

Pretty sure that’s how cults get started.

Survivalism First Aid– What do you need to know?

First Aid is tough.

If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t need ambulances, right? So when you’re planning to survive off the land or away from hospitals or you’re preparing for SHTF and nobody available, what do you need to know?

One of the obvious ones everybody thinks about is broken bones. Splints and bandages can wrap them up and keep the bones secure, but what other things do we have to watch for?

Remember– your furry friends might need first aid, too. Or your scaly or feathery friends, for that matter!

Infection and disease is a tough one. There are so many potential problems. Just like in medieval times, any nick could be your last if you’re in a bad place. Keeping alcohol wipes, disinfectant, and antibiotics (and knowing how/when to use them) could be a major lifesaver.
Naturally, a lot of people will point to “Natural” remedies to save them. But will “aspirin” from a willow tree really help you? Well, it turns out, it’s not really aspirin per se. “This tree contains phenolglycosides, salicortin and salicin. This last is an analgesic which led to the formulation of salicylic acid, aspirin.” Says The Poison Garden, ” Aspirin is a modified form of salicin which gives reduced gut irritation and bleeding.” It’s also not recommended for anyone pregnant or giving birth. Of course, aspirin itself can cause stomach bleeds, but conventional aspirin does less damage than willow bark.

I’ve also heard interesting chatter about Chinese Lantern plants– specifically, that their cherry-like fruits can “reduce fevers, help stop coughs, as an expectorant, as a diuretic for gout sufferers and to disperse stones and gravel in the kidneys.”
What this neglects to tell you, however, is that unripe plants AND LEAVES (so, the “whole plant” can’t actually be used, as the above blog suggests), can cause “Headache, stomach ache, vomiting, diarrhoea, low temperature, dilated pupils, breathing problems and numbness”.

“Delectable tea, or deadly poison?”

“But Sam,” some of you might be saying, “You’ve only looked at one article for each of those, how can you know which one is right?”

The real question here is, how do you know which one is right?
Do you know when a Chinese Lantern berry is ripe? Do you know whether they promote birth or are have “anti-fertility” effects? Do you know when they may or may not kill you?

Please for god’s sake don’t trust Pinterest or an 80 year old boyscouts handbook or a friend of a friend who ‘seems to know what he’s doing’. If you plan to survive in any location, know what the local flora looks like, and all the details of when that flora is edible.

You see an orange, you peel it, then a licensed survivalist jumps out from nowhere and proclaims it’s poisonous. You tell him ‘That’s stupid, it’s an orange.’ You eat the orange. It’s delicious. That is how certain you should be before trying out new plants. But just remember– if plant-based medicine worked as well as manmade pills, we wouldn’t have the manmade pills. You’re better off stocking up and learning how to barter.
So okay, your friend didn’t poison himself on mystery berries, isn’t going septic because of dirty instruments, didn’t break a limb, but they fell unconscious because reasons. Now what?

Here’s where that paracord of yours can come in handy, sport! Turn your paracord into a net Or create some other form of stretcher or litter. Barring that, learn to perform a fireman’s carry or learn another carry.

Some other practical things to know:

How to stop bleeding (Press a clean cloth to the wound and hold it firmly)

How to communicate nonverbally (basic sign language will help, either when hunting and trying to communicate without spooking prey, or when an airway is impaired and one needs assistance)

How to identify hypothermia, Hyperthermia (those are two different things!) and how to solve both of them

Which includes how to build a shelter and a fire

How to handle and avoid basic pest wounds (fleas, ticks, mosquitos) and their diseases

How to dispose of potentially deadly biological waste (Yeah, that means blood, poo, vomit, and all those other gross fluids you don’t want to think about)

How to cook food and distill water so you don’t have as large a risk of disease

How to detect disease in the creatures you’re hunting so you don’t eat potentially diseased food

If you’re from Alaska, you might know what this berry is. Is it Deadly or Delicious? Are you sure? (Source: Wikimedia)

Basically everything. Enjoy being able to google these things while you can, and compile knowledgeable information where you can get it. Don’t just trust a Wikihow article or survivalist forum with your buddies, either. Never trust anything without a great deal of accredidation behind it, and keep in mind: Not knowing even one of these things could get you killed.


Isn’t survivalism fun?