10 uses for Yarrow #Survival

Posted by El DiPablo | 7:00 AM |

One of the first wild herbs I learned to identify is Yarrow. You can easily identify it by it's tiny white flower pedals and feathery green leaves. They grow all over the place in Colorado where I live, and it is a very good plant to know about for survival because of its medicinal properties.

Some plants are good for only one thing, but Yarrow has multiple medicinal uses, so knowing it and how to use it can save your life if you find yourself stuck in the wild for any length of time. So without further ado, here are ten uses for Yarrow!
  • Blood coagulant: The first thing I learned about Yarrow was that the ancient Greeks used to use it to treat wounds after battle. One of the reasons it was used was that it is a natural coagulant and can help stop bleeding. This is useful not only for cuts and abrasions, but to help stop simple things like nose bleeds. This property is found in the feathery leaves.
  • Antiseptic: Another reason Yarrow leaves are good for packing wounds with is that not only are the leaves a natural blood coagulant, it has antiseptic properties as well which are useful in preventing infection.
  • Fever reducer: If you boil the leaves of Yarrow and make a tea out of it, or use it in a bath at the you can use it to reduce fever.
  • Treat high blood pressure: If you mix Yarrow leaves with Nettle and Lime blossom in a tea you can lower your blood pressure.
  • Treat tooth aches: Chewing on the roots of the Yarrow plant can numb the inside of your mouth and lessen the pain of tooth aches.
  • Treat menstrual cramps: Again, used as a tea it can help during that special time of the month for women.
  • Antibiotic/Antimicrobial: Another cool thing about Yarrow tea is that it has antibiotic/antimicrobial properties that are perfect for treating illness related to bacteria.
  • Bug repellent: If you take the leaves and rub them on your skin it will keep the bugs away!
  • Treat rashes and other skin irritations: Rubbing Yarrow leaves on a rash, a bug bite or other skin irritation will help reduce itching and discomfort.
  • Reduce bruising: Rubbing yarrow on bruises or even blood blisters is supposed to help with blood flow and reducing the appearance of bruises or other conditions where blood rises to the skin.
Yarrow is a really good plant to know in the wild because of its many benefits. If you only learn one medicinal herb, I recommend Yarrow.

I recently finished reading Hawke's Special Forces Survival Handbook by Mykel Hawke cover to cover, and now I'm reading the SAS Survival Handbook by John "Lofty" Wiseman. Both have a wealth of information, but a few conflicting ideas. At the top of the list is what to do with urine in a survival situation.

Hawke is a proponent of drinking urine as a last resort, not unlike Bear Grylls. The following is from Hawke's Handbook:

Yes you can drink urine! The rules for urine drinking are straightforward: Drink it as soon after you urinate as possible; the first time you urinate is usually fine to drink; and you can drink the second pass in dire circumstances.
He goes on to say that after the second pass you probably won't be urinating anymore anyway without other fluids going in, but in the off chance that you do you could suffer renal failure if you keep drinking urine because the concentration of waste will build up so much by then that your kidneys can't handle it.

In the SAS manual, Wiseman says the following on urine drinking as well as drinking sea water:

Never Drink Either - Never! But both can produce drinking water if distilled - and sea water will provide you with a residue of salt.
Besides those two books, who doesn't remember this scene from season three of Dual Survival where Cody Lundin calls out Joe Teti for drinking his own urine?

In the exchange above Cody said that people who drink their own urine in a survival situation "don't know what they are doing". Cody's reasoning is sound, and basically follows the idea that urine has salt in it which dehydrates you more. Teti argues that drinking it gives him a psychological edge.

In the following video, Bear Grylls who is infamous for drinking urine, says that because he is low on water the only thing he can do is drink his own urine:

So as you can see and as I mentioned above, Mykel Hawke and Bear Grylls share the same philosophy on drinking urine.

Recently in a Facebook thread, Hawke posted the following on his pee drinking stance in response to a comment I made to another follower of his page:

Finally in this clip from Survivorman we see Les Stroud making a solar still and using his urine to distill clean water from it:

As you can see, it appears that Les Stroud shares the same philosophy as Lofty Wiseman in the SAS Survival Manual.

So can you drink your own urine? Yes, you can at least once and possibly twice and you will live. Should you drink it? I'm no expert, but I think Wiseman's, Lundin's and Stroud's reasoning on not doing it is more sound than Hawke's or Grylls's for doing it. I think after looking at all of the information, the smart idea is probably to distill it over drinking it straight.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

I owe Mykel Hawke an apology... #Survival

Posted by El DiPablo | 7:00 AM |

Earlier this year I wrote about how I thought survival expert, Mykel Hawke's, rule of thumb for edible berries is bogus. At face value, it is not a fool proof way for finding edible berries in the wild and if you only go by that rule I'm not wrong about how you shouldn't use that as your only guide for finding edible berries. The problem is that if you read more on Hawke's survival methodology he doesn't exactly tell people they should eat anything unless they are sure of what they are eating.

I've owned Hawke's Special Forces Handbook for quite a while now, and up until recently I've only thumbed through it and picked out bits of information. I finally decided to read through it cover to cover and I found that Hawke actually recommends staying away from edible plants unless you know what you are eating and there is a lot of it available. He actually recommends only eating meat in a survival situation as it gives more "bang for your buck"!

At the beginning of his section on eating plants Hawke writes:

If I haven't made it plain and clear before, let me do so now: Eating unknown plants can be deadly! Look at it this way, 90% of the plants on the planet are not edible for humans, but, conversely, 90% of the animal life is!
 Hawke also says the following when it comes to meat:

Animals and insects can meet about 90% of all your nutrition needs in a survival situation, and it's an easier and safer bet to catch and kill animals than trying to subsist off of plants alone. Ounce for ounce, you will always get the most calories from meat over any other food source out there.
Hawke does explain the Army's method for finding edible plants in an environment and contrasts that with his experience and ideas. He also talks about his rules for berries, but gets more in depth saying that not all of the purple and blue ones are edible. So instead of "if they are purple or blue they are good for you, if they are yellow and white they probably aren't right" he says 90% of purple and blue are good for you, and 90% of yellow and white just aren't right.

In general if you read Hawke's writing about plants you can see why he recommends just eating meat because there are so many plants that can kill you. Every section on every set of plants comes with some sort of warning.

Long story short, I owe Captain Hawke an apology. I think the smart thing to do is to not take what survivalists say on TV shows at face value and either do more research yourself, get more training on the subject, or buy their book to see exactly what they are talking about.

Alone's Season 1 winner Alan Kay
I am not a survival expert at all, I am more of a student, but I do have some ideas on stuff I would bring for my 10 items on History's Alone if I was ever brave or crazy enough to go.

Of course my list is based purely on the first season where contestants were dropped in the super wet environment of Vancouver Island where it's cold and there is so much moisture that making fire is very difficult. Who knows where the next season will take place?

Also, some of my results are based on what I saw on the show, what worked as well as some other elements like preference and Dave Canterbury's Five C's of Survival. Finally, I'm not completely sure what you are allowed to take and what you are not. I know from watching Youtube videos from some of the contestants that some items were off limits (lighters and matches for example) and they had a secret list of 40 items they could choose from.

Here's my list:
  • Magbar - In a wet environment like Vancouver Island finding dry tinder is very difficult. A smart idea would to bring something that can be used as tinder and can start damp wood on fire. A magnesium fire starter could do that. I'd bring a big one though like the Maxi-Match.
  • Fixed blade knife - Experts agree that a knife is one of the most important tools you can have in your survival kit. My current favorite is my modified Hawke Peregrine 2.0.
  • Covered cooking pot - This is necessary for processing water and for cooking. Something like a Stansport would probably work out.
  • Fire retardant tarp - I'd like to bring an over-sized fire retardant tarp for use in making a shelter. With the fire retardant material I can have my fire in close proximity to where I'm sleeping so I can stay warm. If it's extra large I can also cut the excess off and use it for cordage, water catching in the rain, carrying supplies etc. It's just a good thing to bring.
  • 750 Paracord - Alone allowed up to 20 meters of paracord which is a little more that 65 feet. That's quite a bit of cordage, plus it's durable and with the inner strands very versatile.
  • Sub-zero sleeping bag - I'd be sure to bring a sleeping bag that was rated for sub-zero temperatures in case I had to stay out into the winter months.
  • Slingshot - Some contestants brought a bow with arrows. I think I'd probably like carrying a slingshot better. With all of the rocks around the water front I'd have almost unlimited ammo. I could use it for small game hunting.
  • Folding saw - I think I'd prefer bringing a folding saw for processing larger wood pieces and building shelter with over a chopping tool like an axe. I think sawing is more efficient than chopping and doesn't use as many calories to use.
  • Fishing line/hooks - Contestants were allowed to bring 300 yards of fishing line and 25 assorted hooks. Catching fish would probably be the easiest way of obtaining food.
  • Canteen - I think since you can go roughly three weeks at a time without food, but only three days without water having a canteen would be nice to keep water at the ready after I boiled it in my pot. If they let me bring a military canteen set as one item it would be a bonus and I'd have an extra utensil for cooking with.
That's my list. What would you bring and Why? Let us know in the comments!

English: Mykel Hawke
English: Mykel Hawke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As a student of survival I have several survival books on hand to help teach me on my journey into the world of survival, bush craft and self reliance. If you read multiple books on the subject you start to see a pattern emerge, and you start to see a lot of the same themes being taught.

One thing that bothers me on survival shows is an emphasis on using primitive skills for starting a fire. I'm not saying this is a bad skill to know, but it glorifies the idea that one shouldn't go into the wilderness prepared.

In a 2014 article by David Peisner of TV Guide talking about the dangers of reality survival shows he writes:
In 2012, a 29-year-old man froze to death during a trek into the Scottish highlands, a trip reportedly inspired by [Bear] Grylls's show. That same year, another reported Man vs. Wild fan disappeared in the Smoky Mountains. While it's unfair to blame Grylls or anyone else for viewers' foolishness, shows like his certainly make survival look much simpler than it is.
A really popular TV survivalist, Cody Lundin used to say "knowledge weighs nothing" and used to promote the minimalist survival strategy on Dual Survival. Matt Graham often did the same thing when he replaced Cody. I think it gives the wrong impression to the average individual who hasn't spent 20 years living off the grid. Lundin has since gone on the record (Including in the above article) talking about how Dual Survivor and other Hollywood survival shows don't give an accurate picture of true survival.

With that in mind, in three of the manuals I have, the opposite of minimalist survival is stressed. In John Wiseman's "SAS Survival Handbook", Mykel Hawke's "Green Beret Survival Manual", and Dave Canterbury's "Bush Craft 101" they all stress the importance of heading out into the wild prepared with modern, and more importantly, RELIABLE means of starting a fire because your life depends on it!

For example, in the "SAS Survival Handbook" Wiseman stresses bringing matches:
However many lighters or fire makers you carry still pack as many matches as you can - you can not beat them. So called everlasting matches can be used over & over again but sooner or later even they pack up. So carry the ordinary matches as well. Work out which kinds gives you the most strikes for the weight and room they take up.
Hawke is more of a lighter fan in his "Green Beret Survival Manual" when he says:
Always carry a lighter. Everything else that follows in this chapter is what you have to do because you didn't carry a lighter. There are a million reasons at all times, and not one reason not to do so...

...The million reasons you should carry a lighter - or some other means of ignition - refer to the minimum number of strokes you will need to get a fire going when you have to resort to rubbing sticks together!
Dave Canterbury suggests carrying at least one of three modern items in your survival kit in his "Bush Craft 101" book. The three items are a lighter, a ferro rod or a magnifying glass. He says the following on lighters:
You should have at least three lighters: one for your pocket, one for your belt pouch or haversack, and one for your main pack. The weight is negligible and the reward is great.
These books also talk about how to start primitive fires using friction, but they stress that those methods are really a last resort because you didn't prepare enough.

You might be thinking to yourself about various scenarios when you wouldn't have some means of reliable fire starting. Maybe a car or plain crash when a survival scenario is unexpected. Who knows? The answer is still the same, you should always have some means of starting a far on your person. I always carry a cheap BIC lighter in my pocket, and my mini ferro rod on my key chain.

Do I expect to be in a survival situation? Not really, but if I end up in one, I will be prepared. Will you?