I am famous for my terrible sense of direction. I’d rather be famous for winning the lottery or inventing renewable energy. Unfortunately, I’m known among friends and family for being able to get lost in my own house…and my house isn’t that big.
So, taking an outdoor survival class seemed like a good idea…
After that class, I was driving through the woods on a friend’s very large property. I realized I had no clue where I was going and that’s when it kicked in!
I’m feeling mildly panicked after almost getting stuck in quicksand. The thought hits me, ‘Is anyone going to help me.’ But here are a few tips from the survival class that helped me through this:
- First of all, before I left my house that morning, and because I knew I was heading out to a fairly remote area, I told my teenaged son where I was going and approximately what time I’d be home. That right there is huge. In an absolute worse case scenario, if I didn’t come home and my son reported me missing, rescuers wouldn’t be like “Well, she’s probably somewhere in Florida”; they’d know where to start looking right away.
- Secondly, after that survival class, I started making sure that I had a few basic survival supplies with me in the car, including bottles of fresh water and a box of granola bars, and a basic fire-starter.
- And thirdly, I remember one of the first things the instructor told us: Don’t panic. If you start panicking and thinking “I’m going to die!” you probably will. If you stay calm and decide “I’m going to live”, you also probably will.
Also, while my sense of direction still isn’t great, thanks to the survival class, I now know how to make a compass out of objects lying around on any forest floor AMAZING
I’d debated getting out of my car and walking to get help, but I decided against it. I had shelter; why leave it? After a few minutes, I saw a car driving off in the distance, winding through the road that I’d been looking for. I managed to turn my car around, headed out that way, and within minutes, I was out on the main road.
To some people, a survival class may sound kind of extreme, but you literally never know when you may need some of these very basic skills that can keep you alive for the crucial few hours or days it might take for rescuers to find you.
It’s easier than you think. Starting a fire with a magnifying glass is possible and in this short blog we’re going to teach you how.
I was not very good at starting fires in the fireplace, so I loved Christmas time when we had tons of wrapping paper to put under the fireplace wood to get it started. Half the time the fire would quickly burn up the wrapping paper and go out. After practicing a few times, starting fires became easier for me. Now seeing kids and families learn how to start fires in our survival classes is so much fun.
Most people can’t start a fire easily, because they don’t prepare. Sp what will you need?
First of all, experiment with a round magnifying glass and focus the light on the area you want to light on fire until you have a small white dot. Use a plain white piece of paper as your tinder and go out in the middle of the day when the sun is hottest overhead and try to light the paper. Make sure this is done over something that will not burn like dirt or concrete. Use white paper and you will see that it won’t light, then rub the paper in the dirt or use a black marker to draw a large spot on it. Be patient and try to light it again while focusing the light on the dark area and it will quickly burn a hole in it. Great, now you know how to make a hole but still no fire. It might light and burn if you hold the paper right, be sure and put it out completely as the fire can start back up.
NOTE a flat page magnifier can be much different to work with. Even though they are not very strong, the larger surface area can concentrate more of the sun’s power on to the tinder. This time you will focus it into a tiny white square as opposed to the round circle. Make sure you notice one side of the flat page magnifier is smooth, face the smooth side down.
**Warning – it’s never good to stare into the sun, or the magnified light, it can hurt your eyes**
Now the trick is to actually get a good fire going. For that you should always prepare some tinder, like a manmade bird’s nest or tinder bundle from some palmetto fur, dryer lint, char or anything else that burns fast and easy. Whatever you use chop it into really small pieces or pull it apart and then form it into a bird’s nest like in the picture. Now try it again with the small dark area inside the nest and then blow a little life into it as it starts to smoke and you see an ember. You can also take the entire bundle and move it around in the air to fan the ember and light the tinder bundle. Be careful not to burn yourself or start a fire out of control.
As it begins to light the tinder bundle (birds nest) flip it over to get the flames to burn up the rest of the bundle and slide it under the small to larger pieces of wood for the fuel and you will see the fire grow. I am still lazy about fires, so now I add lighter knot, pine needles, hand sanitizer or Vaseline to my wood and let it catch to keep burning. The hand sanitizer can be dangerous because you won’t see the flame and it keeps burning for quite a while. Make sure if anyone else is around they know it is lit or they could get burned. You want to use the Vaseline like making a candle, just coat the outside of a cotton ball, which acts like the wick and light it. It will burn for a long time. When I first started survival classes, I saw a video to soak the cotton balls in Vaseline. That was a bad idea, you need something dry to light easy and the Vaseline part will burn slow, don’t soak it, just smear some on.
All the other items listed above that can be used like a magnifying glass simply need to be used to either let light through and then concentrate the light to the tinder or reflect the sun to the tinder. A video even shows one guy polishing a tin can with a chocolate bar or some clay to shine a hot reflection from the sun. I prefer to eat the chocolate and use a lighter but in a survival situation you may have to do something extreme like sacrificing your chocolate bar for fire. All kidding aside, everything looks easy when someone with experience does it but there is a huge deference between watching or reading about survival training verses actually taking a survival training class. Our goal in the Omega Ranch survival classes is to make survival techniques natural and easy for you.
Be prepared! Learn to survive and thrive!
What is the best survival knife to have if I could only buy one?
From our Survival Expert: Jeremy Spence
When it comes to knives, the blade metal alloy, temper, thickness and shape are the most critical things. I prefer carbon steel because I can use it to start a fire in ways that are not possible with stainless steel knives. There are 4 basic knife shapes which would be very hard to explain in this post but they are the V shape flat grind, the standard half flat, half V shape and the Scandi grind shape. It all depends on what type of cutting you are doing to what type of shape works best.
But if I had to choose only one knife it would probably be an Ontario RAT-7 made in Franklinville, New York, USA which is about $85 on amazon.com. Ontario is my favorite knife manufacturer. They use good blade steel and make blades for use by the special forces. I personally use an Ontario Spec Plus knife for shelter building and log splitting. You can purchase the Spec Plus 2nd Generation version on amazon for $56.
Another good knife would be the Becker BK-7 or BK-9 by Ka-Bar, also American made and around $80.
I personally use a Habilis Bushtool made in Dalton Georgia that, at $200, is twice as expensive as a standard Ontario but it is hand made. I will one day buy a Habilis SRT (self reliance tool) for around $230. I also use a Old Hickory kitchen knife which is excellent steel for carving spears and starting fires, just not quite thick enough for chopping down trees and this knife can be had for less than $11 on amazon.
Another option is a Morakniv, made in Sweden, which is kinda on the small side but great for carving spears and splitting small wood down to kindling, it comes with a Scandi grind shape and is also good for cleaning fish and small game but a little too small to be the only knife you have but makes an excellent companion knife and costs between $13 and $16. I have a Mora companion knife I got for $16 on amazon.