If you watch a lot of survival shows one of the key elements of the show is making fire. That is because when you get down to the basic survival needs of humans, fire is one of the things we need along with shelter, water and food. Fire keeps us warm, it cooks our meals and it makes our water safe to drink.

However, there is a huge emphasis on making fire by friction on a lot of these shows. That is basically rubbing two sticks together until you get an ember and can catch some tinder on fire. If you know how to do this, that is awesome. I am not knocking that skill at all, nor am I saying that learning how to do it is pointless. If you have nothing, then knowing how to get a fire from sticks is a good thing to know. This might not be a popular opinion, but If you prepare, even slightly, then you can avoid having to use this primitive skill altogether.

I've mentioned it before on here, but I always carry two ways of making fire on me. I have a lighter, and on my key chain I have a small fire steel. Almost all of us carry our keys with us at all times right? So why not do what I do and keep a fire steel on your key chain? Making a fire with one of those is infinitely easier than using a bow drill, hand drill, fire plow etc!

My key chain fire steel
If you watch Ray Mears, or (Dare I say it?) Bear Grylls, both of those guys almost always use fire steel to start their fires. Sure, they have demonstrated fire by friction on occasion, but for the most part they throw a few sparks from their fire steel and get a fire going in no time! It's just more efficient, and having one with you at all times is just a smarter way to go.

Do you agree? Disagree? Why or why not? Let us know in the comments.

One of my favorite past times is geocaching, and as a techie by trade I prefer to do my geocaching using my Android smartphone. The app I use for finding and logging my caches is C:GEO.

That's all well and good, but how can someone use this information save their life? Well, the answer is actually pretty simple. Since geocaching uses GPS tracking satellites to pinpoint locations with latitude and longitude coordinates, you can use your smartphone and your geocaching app to find your way back to your vehicle or camp if you got lost out in the wilderness. That is, if you plan ahead a bit.

A good scenario would be that you decided to go exploring a big forest near your camp that you've never been to before. Before you venture off you stop and record your camp's GPS coordinates using your geocaching app. To do that in C:GEO for instance, you can open up the app and go to Any Destination. In there you can find your coordinates by pressing the My Coordinates button.

You can then either write them down on some paper, or you can save them to your history in C:GEO by pressing the map button at the top of the screen.

If you aren't planning on geocaching, and you aren't getting cell service where you are at then I'd recommend shutting your phone off to save the battery in case you need it. Now you are ready to wonder off into the woods!

If you do get lost, you can now use your app and the coordinates of your camp to find your direction and get you safely back. Pretty simple right?

Stick + Sun + Shadow = A Compass!

Posted by El DiPablo | 7:00 AM |

If you find yourself lost in the wild without a compass fret not, because there is a very easy and accurate way to figure out direction using nothing more than a stick and the sun!

I first read about this method in Lofty Wiseman's SAS Survival Manual, but I also saw Bear Grylls demonstrate it once on Man vs Wild. To me, it is the easiest method to accurately give you direction when you are lost and it works anywhere you have sunlight on planet Earth!

First, take a relatively straight stick and stick it in the ground straight up and down, then mark the end of the shadow with a rock or a twig:

Next wait at least 15 minutes, but you can actually wait longer if you want, then mark the shadow again.

If you line up the two markers, in this case rocks, it will give you your West/East line. The first rock you put down will be West, and the second rock will be East.

Obviously, once you know your West/East line you can figure out which direction is North and South. If you don't know how to do that first of all, below is a compass rose, second of all you should have paid better attention in elementary school...

I always remember that the W in West and the E in East spells WE! On top of that North is always up right?

So why is this useful? Well, if you are lost in the wilderness, but you have a general idea of what direction civilization is relative to where you are at you can head in that general direction if you needed to self rescue.

For instance, the nearest National Forest to me is the Grand Mesa National Forest in Colorado. If I am smack dab in the the middle, I know that in general Grand Junction is to the West of the forest, and Delta is to the South. If I know which direction is which, I can pick which town I want to head to and start hoofing it!

There are many other ways to determine direction in the wild, but this one by far is my favorite and is the most accurate in my opinion. Still though, I'm curious to know what your favorite method is for determining direction in the wild without a compass? Let us know in the comments!

Les Stroud vs Bear Grylls vs Ray Mears

Posted by El DiPablo | 7:00 AM |

Arguably the three biggest names in TV survival are Les Stroud, Bear Grylls and Ray Mears. Being a big fan of their shows, and survival shows in general, I thought I would write my comparison's on these three, and what I perceive their take on "survival" is. Let's get started!

Les Stroud - Out of the three I would say Les is the most hardcore. The dude goes out on his own without a crew at all, and films himself. That takes some balls. His scenarios are a little more "real world" where he only brings with him what an unprepared person in that situation might have on them. He then tries to stay alive for 7-10 days (Depending on the episode) using what he can find, or what he has on him. Les is really more of an adapt and overcome type survivalist.

Bear Grylls - Bear is arguably the worst "survivalist" on TV. I would venture to call Bear more of an adventure seeker than a survivalist. He does some seriously unnecessary and dangerous stuff on his show that no survivalist would recommend. That being said, Bear tends to bring with him most of the stuff he needs (Canteen set, fire steel, backpack, cordage, knife etc.). Bear does give some good tips on occasion so you if you filter out the nonsense, you can still learn from his show.

Ray Mears - I've watched every episode of Extreme Survival and a few episodes of Bush Craft Survival. Ray to me seems to be more of the backpack camper sort than a survivalist. He shows some really great tips, but in almost every situation he brings with him every single thing he needs. To me if you go out into the woods totally prepared you aren't surviving, you are camping. Still though, the man does seem to know his stuff when it comes to primitive fire making skills and wild edibles.

Out of these three men there are tons of things you can learn. It all comes down to what you want to learn. Do you want to learn how to survive off the land in an emergency, or how to survive off the land while being fairly or fully prepared?

What's your opinion of these guys? Be sure to vote for your favorite survivalist in our poll on the right. Also, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!