I find many people who claim to be "survival experts" these days. Most of these self proclaimed experts post on survival message boards of popular survival based TV shows gloating about their knowledge and experience. I have read far too many posts that recommend doing things that will most certainly kill you if you do them under controlled circumstances, let alone in a situation of life and death survival.
One such topic that has been heatedly debated on these message boards is drinking your own urine during extreme dehydration. Doing this will most likely make anyone vomit almost immediately causing a massive loss of the few precious fluids you have left. If you manage to keep the urine down, fever and illness as well as further dehydration will be a direct and almost immediate result.
To put it simply your body will need more fluids than before because urine is toxic and your body will be trying to expel these toxins by, you guessed it…urinating, diarrhea and some more intense vomiting. Urine is poisonous if swallowed and will only increase your dehydration. It's very plain and very simple. Do not drink urine!
Being a life long outdoorsman, a former boy scout and a former US Army Ranger, I've learned a few things in my nearly 40 years on this planet about the outdoors, survival and Murphy's Law. What ever can go wrong will go wrong. This is especially true in a survival situation. Having the best quality gear you can afford really is priceless.
Can you put a dollar amount on your life or your loved ones lives? I can not. I would never sleep again if I bought a piece of my kit for $3.00 instead of the quality version for $15.00 and the $3.00 piece didn't do what it was supposed to and someone died as a result. If you want to increase your chance to survive, buy the best quality equipment you can afford. Accept no imitations. Your life depends on it.
Learn survival skills before you need them. Read books, then practice the skills learned and practice them again. Try an overnight or weekend survival excursion in different weather conditions with just your survival kit. You will quickly see what it is capable of, what to expect and what it lacks. A truly excellent book and one that is far superior to the US Army Survival Manual is the SAS Survival Guide printed by Collins Gem and written by John Wiseman. If you are only able to purchase one survival book I recommend this one!
Survival kits are filled with useful items that are truly marvelous inventions. Every item as well as every kit has its limits, strengths and weaknesses. Comfort and being comfortable are luxuries. Survival kits and survival items are all very short on comfort and are designed solely for function.
If you think you will be toasty and snuggly warm in a Mylar space blanket, think again. A fluffy down filled comforter it isn't. Try one out over night in cool weather and you will see what I mean. They are however effective in reflecting your body heat or other heat. They don't increase warmth like a regular blanket; they reflect it back to you to retain warmth, in return increasing your warmth as compared to without it.
Don't let this discourage you from carrying a space blanket. They can and possibly will mean the difference between life and death in extreme situations and therefore serve their purpose and meet their designed function. They can also be used as shelter or on the inside of a shelter for added water and wind protection in situations that don't demand it be wrapped around a body.
Knives are one of the most important tools of survival. Most kits do not come with knives for many reasons and number one is cost. Knives are usually a personal item to the user as well. There are of course multi tools, folding knives and Swiss Army knives which are wonderful but I will focus on a "general purpose, if I could only have one" fixed blade knife.
When choosing a knife it should be large enough and heavy enough to chop through tree branches up to 3 inches thick yet small enough to gut and clean fish. Usually a blade length between 4 to 8 inches is preferred and considered by many to be ideal.
If the blade had a saw tooth back that's great but that alone should not be a deciding factor of purchasing the knife. Hollow handled knives should never be relied upon. Under heavy use the handles can and will snap off. Your "one and only" knife should have a full tang; meaning the knife blade and handle metal are made from one solid piece of metal and are not pinned, screwed or welded together. Stacked leather rings or Micarta scales on the handle are very durable as well as comfortable. There are many US military issue knives that are very affordable and meet all of these requirements. I recommend the US Air Force Pilot's survival knife as made by either Camillus or Ontario Knife Works.
Last but not least you should know the 3's of survival. 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food. This sums up your priorities under most circumstances. You should also know/have 3 ways to: Make a fire, make shelter, procure food, procure water, signal, etc. I try to have skill or tool in each of the following categories: modern, semi-primitive and primitive.
Take fire for example. A modern method would be a lighter or matches and a tea light candle, a semi-primitive method would be a flint and steel or magnesium and flint and a primitive method would be a fire bow or fire plough. For my modern kit I ONLY carry BIC brand lighters in orange or yellow. For my semi-primitive kit I ONLY carry the original Doan Machinery & Equipment Co. magnesium fire starter with built in flint rod. Imitation models tend to loose the flint rod rendering the tool useless.
Don't be afraid to try combinations of each category as well. A 35mm film can stuffed with cotton balls that were wiped in Vaseline helps start a fire very quickly. When the cotton is pulled apart and "fluffed" these can be ignited with just a spark from a flint and the Vaseline keeps them burning hot for 2-3 minutes.
By having or knowing at least 3 ways to do everything in a survival situation, you should be well prepared.
-Written by Angry Mike