Not all those who wander are lost. We are not men of Numenor keeping the evil of Sauron at bay. In the situation for which this document is written, your goal should be to travel to somewhere where your odds at survival are greater than your current location.
Our car has two spare tires– one full-size tire in the back and one smaller one under the front of the car. The car’s manual describes how to change a tire. Our car has a full hydraulic-size jack in the back (in the blue Tupperware container). This jack is much more stable than the little one the car’s owner manual says to use. The instructions for the jack are on the box.
If you need more gas you can get it from any other car and/or gas-using device. To siphon gas, (1) use the acrylic tubing (or whatever tubing you can find) and insert it into the tank with gas. (2) Place a collection vessel lower than the tank with the gas. (3) Very carefully suck on the tubing until you see gas coming up to your lips. (4) Put your finger over the end of the hose and take it out of your mouth. (5) In a quick fashion, stick the tubing into your awaiting vessel and the gas should start to flow. (Siphoning by mouth is dangerous; if you get any into your mouth or eyes, flush with plenty of water.)
Gas should be a priority item that you purchase. There is an extra gas can in the shed. You can also fill the large 15-gallon blue plastic tank with gas (or go buy extra gas cans, if the situation allows). I have a can of something called “sta-bil” in the garage; it calls itself a gas stabilizer. Add this to any gas that you plan to leave sitting for awhile (more than a few months); do not forget the gas that is in the car.
The easiest way to know where you are on a map is to check it frequently. Your aim should be to constantly look for landmarks that you can locate on the map and in doing so confirm your location. The more zoomed in your map is, and the more details it has (e.g. topographical contour lines) the easier it will be to confirm you location. Depending on what map you are using, the symbols on the map may differ slightly. Read the key and make sure you understand it. While reading a map, it is best to align it to the North and then try and identify all the landmarks you can to connect the map in your hands to what you see. Know the scale of your map! A common mistake is too identify small turns in rivers or streams or small hills or rises as the larger ones that are actually on the map. Knowing the map’s scale will help you to avoid this problem. (For example, while walking near a stream you spot a 100 by 100 yard pond; you look on the map and spot a pond near a lake and assume that is your location. However, the pond on the map may be several times larger than the one you see. Now you are unsure of where you are.) Depending on the scale and detail of your map, you should always have a general idea of where you are. Do not get upset over not knowing exactly where you are or not being able to identify some landmarks; it is very normal if you are using an unzoomed low-detail map! The easiest way to know where you are may simply be by staying a comfortable distance from major roads and “bumping” into them once in a while! The odds that you will find maps of sufficient scale and detail to navigate with using topology are pretty slim. Expect to get by using town and road names.
Using a Compass
To help with identifying landmarks on a map and to aid in actually walking in the right direction you should use a compass. (After aligning a map, it will become easier to know which hill is which.) Using a compass is actually pretty simple. Place the compass away from any metal objects (such as gun barrels or the car) and wait for it to settle down. Be sure the needle does in fact turn, however. If the compass is tipped too much, the needle will not move. Once the needle stops moving, it is telling you the direction of Earth’s magnetic field at that point in space. Unfortunately, this direction is not going to be lined up with the lines on your map! The effects of magnetic declination, however, are pretty small in our region, so you can pretty much disregard worry about them.
Using the compass to walk in a certain direction:
- Locate yourself as best you can on your map.
- Pick out a direction you want to head on your map.
- Calculate how many degrees from true North (or magnetic) you need to head. Use the compass itself as a protractor and lay it on the map to calculate the angle you need to head.
- Holding the compass up to your face (flip up the little “sight” to help you align the compass) find some kind of landmark to walk to. In general, the further away the landmark the better, since (as you will find out very quickly) it is not easy to walk in straight lines through the woods. Often walking in straight lines through the woods is impossible, especially where there is any terrain whatsoever; stick to walking on contour lines!
Choosing a Route
For reasons discussed in the defense section, in general, you want to try and avoid all other people. As for where you will be headed, that will heavily depend on the reason for the collapse. In general, you want to head to a place with a low population density.
- To avoid large towns that may not show up as large towns on your map, pay attention to the number of advertisements for upcoming towns.
- Most towns have above-ground water holding tanks that you can see far before coming close to the town. This could be your cue to check your map and use your judgment about proceeding.
- If you have to go through a town, driving down main street may not be the best idea. Try getting on a side road near the outskirts of the town. Here, you are gambling you won’t get lost and waste gas. Use your judgment.
- Rural America is full of county roads laid out in large rectangular grids. Avoiding a town may be quite simple in most cases! Check your map.
- Leave yourself bigger buffers for bigger towns and cities. (Remember the traffic outside Chicago on Thanksgiving when we were still two hours from the city!)
- Stay away from using roads and rail road tracks. In some cases you may be forced to use roads, rail roads tracks, and/or hiking trails (if you can find one!) because some types of terrain are nearly impossible to get through. For example, thick brush is nearly impossible to get through without getting on your hands and knees, in places.
- Keep your water supply in mind. Water is heavy (one gallon weighs 8.4 lbs.) and you may drink more than a gallon a day. Therefore, consulting the map and picking a course that is close to ponds, streams, and rivers is a good idea.
- If you have to cross a waterway that requires you to get wet and it is cold: (1) Gather some kindling and some firewood; pile some on the bank. In case you lose footing and have to retreat back to the bank, you can start a fire to warm up. Later, you can take some over to the other bank with you to warm you when you get there. You can get more after the fire is going, or perhaps you can “pre-stash” a bunch of wood by throwing it over the water! (2) Take off and store your clothes in a water-proof bag. (3) Try to keep your pack over your head to keep it dry as you wade/swim across. If the water is pretty shallow and you only need to remove your shoes and pants, make sure you unlatch your backpack, in case you fall in, so it will not drag you under the water. (4) When you get to the other side light a fire, dry off, and warm up!
The best first aid is prevention. Use common sense and try to protect yourself from minor cuts and scrapes, as they will tax your immune system. Barring some freak hiking or car accident, the worst damage you could possibly encounter will be from another human. Consult the first aid book in the first aid kit for everything! (Remember to swap out the first aid manual with the Weiss version from the bookshelf.) The first aid book covers many, many possible problems. Covered in this section are some things you may have to deal with and are presented in case you do not have access to any other references. You can substitute soapy water for iodinated water. Also, boiling water is commonly called for in this section to sterilize various items; I recommend keeping a few fuel cells unused for this purpose. (Starting a wood fire is not what you want to be doing in the middle of a first aid session.)
There will be some sterile dressings in the first aid kit. To make more, boil any fabric. (This is a good use for that cotton you should not have brought along.)
Minor Cuts and Scrapes
Wear gloves when using the saw! Wear long pants and sleeves when walking through thick brush! Leaving minor cuts and scrapes unwashed and uncovered is inviting an infection. Clean minor wounds with clean water, and be sure to scrub the wound, if necessary, to get all the dirt out. You can put a drop or two of the iodine tincture on the wounds or a small dab of neosporin and then cover with a small piece of gauze or a band aid.
Major Cuts and Scrapes
For major scrapes and cuts, you first want to stop any bleeding. Do this by applying a clean (if possible) piece of cloth or gauze over the wound. Raise the wound over the level of your heart, if possible, to reduce bleeding. You can simply apply pressure with your hand as well as tie upstream of the cut, if it is on your arm or leg. Once the bleeding stops, rinse the wound with a mixture of clean water and 10 drops of iodine. (Here you want to avoid floaties in the water for sure.) Applying iodine tincture, without diluting it, can cause tissue damage. Apply some Neosporin and consider covering the wound with a layer of petroleum jelly to keep it clean. Cover with a sterile dressing. Clean the wound with the iodine solution or clean water daily, and change the dressings until it has healed up. (You can also drink the water treated with a double dose of iodine.)
If you find yourself confused, losing hand dexterity, or shaking violently when it is cold out, you may have or be getting hypothermia. The fix here is to get warm. If your clothes are soaked, get naked, dry off, and put dry ones on. (Even if you don’t have a lot of dry clothes, a little bit of dry clothes is better than a lot of soaked clothes). It is going to be difficult to do it, but you must get out of the wet clothes. Then, wrap yourself in the mylar emergency blanket, shiny side facing you. Then wrap yourself in your sleeping bag and then all of the tarp material you have. If you can manage, get our of the wind and try to insulate yourself from the ground, as described in the shelter section. As for making a fire, only attempt to do so if you really think there is a lot of wood within easy reach. There is no guarantee you would succeed, and you probably would have been better off getting into your cocoon. Obviously if you have no dry clothes and no tarps, you should try to make a fire. If you have no dry clothes, keep your wet ones on and cover yourself with whatever you can, as described in the shelter section. Try to make something warm to drink or eat in all cases!
Unlike hypothermia, which may be unavoidable in the winter, heat stroke and heat exhaustion can be avoided in most cases. If you find yourself heavily sweating, getting the onset of a headache, feeling dizzy, having dark urine, or nausea, you may have heat exhaustion and be on your way to heat stroke. Stop all physical activity, get out of the sun, get fluids, and apply wet towels to your body. If you do not heed this warning, you may find that you stop sweating, get a worse headache, have red skin, start vomiting, and experience muscle cramps, a fast heart rate, fast breathing rate, dizziness and/or confusion. You know then that you are entering heat stroke territory. For your purposes, the treatment is the same as for heat exhaustion. Consider wading into a stream or pond to cool off, but only if you haven’t had any severe dizziness or passed out up to that point. (You don’t want to drown.)
Treating a gunshot wound can be broken into three stages: (1) stop bleeding and avoid shock, (2) wound cleaning and debridement, and (3) daily wound care (cleaning re-packing/bandaging wound). First, you stop the bleeding by applying pressure (using sterile gauze, if possible), elevating above heart, and applying pressure to the “pressure points”. If you have avoided getting hit in a large blood vessel, the wound may only seep a little blood after awhile. If a major vessel is hit and there is no surgeon around, you probably will not be conscious long enough to help yourself. Step 2 is to clean the wound and get all the severely damaged tissue, bone fragments, and bullet (if possible) out of the wound. Debridement is the fancy word for cutting away any tissue that is dead or probably will not make it. NATO recommends cutting away any tissue that has a bad color, does not respond to stimuli (contraction), has a consistency differing from surrounding tissue, and does not have adequate circulation. This is known as “the four C’s.” Obviously, the laymen will not have experience being able to tell what is normal for each of these metrics. Do your best, and remember that any questionable tissue left behind will be a haven for infection to take hold. Use the scalpel and tweezers to cut away and remove any questionable looking tissue and bone/bullet fragments. Clean the wound by irrigating it with a mixture of clean water and iodine (diluted 10 drops per liter). Step 3 is to pack the wound with sterile dressings. You may also want to cover it with petroleum jelly. (You can boil it to sterilize it/Neosporin before packing.) The following is from the NATO emergency war manual : As a dressing, dry sterile gauze should be laid lightly in the wound. This should be no more than a wick. In no case should gauze be “packed” into the wound since this additional pressure can cause necrosis of any tissue that already has its blood supply partially compromised. The single most important principle in the management of battle wounds is their nonclosure following debridement. The surgeon must not give in to the temptation to primarily close certain “very clean appearing” war wounds. Such closure is ill-advised and inappropriate and can only be condemned. You can close the wound 4-6 days postdebridement. Boil all tools that you use, wash your hands and the surrounding tissue, and you must ensure no foreign matter gets into the wound during the “operation”. Obviously, if you are at home, you can have a lot of these supplies set-up in a constant state of readiness (and encourage the neighbors to do likewise).
The key here is to get a deep cleaning of the wound. If the object is inside of you, try to get the first aid kit out and ready before removing it. Also try to get some water boiling. After taking the object out, or if it was already out, let the wound seep blood for a few minutes to aid in getting it clean, unless it is bleeding pretty severely and you risk losing too much blood. Irrigate the wound and clean the surrounding skin with clean water with extra iodine added. Again, do not apply un-diluted iodine as it will cause tissue damage. Use the syringe to force water down into the wound. Apply some Neosporin and consider covering the wound with a layer of petroleum jelly to keep it clean. Cover with a sterile dressing. Clean the wound with the iodine solution or clean water daily and change the dressings until it has healed up. Do not sew up or tape the opening closed; it must be left open to seep!
Damage to Eye
Damage to one eye will most likely cause the other eye to become clenched shut as well. This is your body’s way of minimizing eye movement; both eyes move together, even if one eye is closed. The main concern for treating the eye is to not apply pressure. Applying pressure can “deflate” the eyeball and cause permanent damage. You can flush out the eye with clean water. You can use iodine treated water using the syringe in the first aid kit, which will force water at the eye. Just DO NOT APPLY UNDILUTED IODINE TINCTURE TO THE EYES! Cover the eye with a clean dressing and tape it in place. Again, be sure not to apply too much pressure when doing this. Try to avoid moving your other eye as much as possible. Use the mirror in the first aid kit to remove anything that may be stuck in the eye tissue or surrounding tissue.
Feet First Aid
- Give your feet daily massages.
- Keep your toe nails trimmed.
- Wash your feet as often as you can and make sure they are as dry as possible before putting your socks back on.
- Exposing your feet to the sun for as long as you can (while eating/resting) will help kill bacteria, dry them, and increase the circulation to your feet (since they will not be in socks or shoes).
- The “butt” cream used for baby butt rash is perfect for your feet! Use it if you start to have difficulties with you feet.
If you get a small blister, do not open it. An intact blister is safe from infection. Apply a padding material around the blister to relieve pressure and reduce friction. If the blister bursts, treat it as an open wound. Clean and dress it daily and pad around it. Leave large blisters intact. To avoid having the blister burst or tear under pressure and cause a painful and open sore, do the following: (1) Obtain a sewing-type needle and a clean or sterilized thread. (2) Run the needle and thread through the blister after cleaning the blister. (3) Detach the needle and leave both ends of the thread hanging out of the blister. The thread will absorb the liquid inside. This reduces the size of the hole and ensures that the hole does not close up. (4) Pad around the blister.
Your diet, exercise, and stress will all be changed, and most likely your poop will look different as well! Do not expect to defecate that much if you are traveling by foot. You will be eating good food and burning a lot of it off. With that said, you may be constipated if you cannot poop at all or if when you do poop, it is very difficult. You may also feel like there is a hard turd plugging you up. This is known as fecal impaction, and the remedy is to go in there with your finger and break it/pull it out. Obviously, have something ready to wash your hand with after you do this. To avoid and or treat constipation: (1) Drink plenty of water. If you ever feel thirsty during the day, you are not getting enough, (2) Get fiber in your diet by eating dandelions or other edible greens, (3) Take some laxative that is in the first aid kit. Choosing not to deal with this problem may make it worse, and you may experience pain and vomiting, (4) try to defecate often to avoid your stool hardening while it waits to be released.
Might as well comment on how to go “number two” here. I find it best to find a log to squat against while in the woods, this gives you plenty of back support while you go about your business.
1J. Tolkien, The lord of the rings (HarperFiction-Tolkien-Profit Share PB, 2009).
2T. Bowen and R. Bellamy, Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office (1988).
3P. Underwood, US Army Survival Manual (Skyhorse Pub Co Inc, 2011).