Survival Equipment: 
Random Thoughts and Experiences

Learning

This is an article about learning and my personal experience(s) and should not really be construed as a technical article per se. There are “technical” parts included, of course, but it is my own “random sampling” of thoughts and experiences. I hope you find some value in it.

 

Survival Knives

I wrote a bit on hollow handled survival knives in another article on the site, I would suggest you read that for a general idea of what I think about them.

 

I still read a lot on various internet forums although I do not post as much, especially when it comes to knives. I understand ignorance, extremism, hyperbole and eccentricity. What I do not understand is absurdity bordering on stupidity.

 

I received a couple E-mails from the comments I made about the Aitor Jungle King II Survival Knife and was informed that I did not know what I was talking about and how terrible that knife was.

 

Cool Knife Book

 

About a year ago or so, I finally got around to picking up Leroy Thompson’s informative book on Survival and Fighting Knives. It was lying on a table of used books at a gun show and I always liked the articles Thompson wrote in the 80s in various magazines so I picked it up.

 

I was pretty shocked to discover that he and I both liked a lot of the same knives. I never got the chance to get a Brewer Survival Knife (I need one of them things!) but I did own the Aitor Jungle King II (I need to get me another one of them things!) And there were so many other things that jumped out of the pages at me. Tekna, Cold Steel Urban Shiv and Push Daggers… It was great! Even down to considering the Swiss Army Knife as a survival knife. All solid stuff and I recommend his book if it is still in print. As a glimpse at what used to be available when people cared about making great equipment.

 

In fact, it was Mr. Leroy Thompson, in some forgotten gun magazine article that is in a stack somewhere around this house, that turned me on to H. G. Long Thumb, Lapel and Sleeve Daggers.

 

Mention Leroy Thompson, Jerry Ahern or David E. Steele to some of these youngsters now and they don’t have any idea who you are talking about.

 

A bit more on Survival Knives

 

Let me give you a little background about the Aitor knife I mentioned before. When I was a teenager, after my Dad died, my escape was Martial Arts and the woods. My Mother would drop me off at a local park for a weekend in the summer and on one occasion, what was supposed to be a weekend camping trip ended up being a four day camping trip. You know what I mean?

 

I’m not complaining about it, just letting you know where I’m coming from. It was actually a relief to be away.

 

In my opinion, I have used an Aitor Jungle King II Survival Knife in just about every situation you would reasonably expect a “Survival Knife” to perform in while trying to survive in the woods.

 

You don’t have to be lost and your life in danger in order to test the knife.

 

As I said in the other article, I did not beat on rocks with it because I was taught that a knife is not meant to be a rock hammer. If you want a rock hammer, get one from Estwing.

 

Allow me to explain why I am so critical of the critics.

 

Just what are you going to be prying on with a knife in the woods? Again, a knife is a tool and we are incredibly smart and crafty (sometimes too much for our own damned good) animals. We can make tools; we can use tools to make other tools. What will you be prying on in the woods in a survival situation?

 

What about…around large boulders? Do you honestly think you will be prying boulders apart with a knife? If one lands on you, you won’t be struggling to get your hand on another rock and then using the knife as a lever, lifting the boulder off of you. It’s not going to happen. I know the logic behind the statements and thoughts…but…I don’t see where chopping or prying rocks is in any way what I would call a “realistic” test of a knife. It’s like condemning a Ford Expedition because it’s not a very good rubber raft.

 

“I need the absolutely toughest knife I can get…one that will not break…”

 

Give up now, you are never going to have a knife that won’t break. You will never have a knife that cannot be broken in a so-called, “torture test.” Give it up folks. Get a tough knife, by all means, but understand there is a difference between being smart and allowing your pride of ownership (ego) to interfere with being smart.

 

None of this should be construed as an endorsement to purchase garbage equipment either. Even when I was a teenager I knew that the hollow handle “Survival Knives” that had the can opener mounted topside and close to the handle, with the large, bulbous compass on the top were garbage.

 

I’m saying, strike a balance. After I knew a good bit more about knife construction, I thought back to the Aitor Jungle King II and the roll pin that secured the blade to the hollow handle and even I had a moment of doubt.

 

Then I realized how much I beat the hell out of that knife. I cut and chopped with it…I even used it as a spear, which it was advertised as, it did not break. I don’t even remember how many lean-to shelters and other things I built with that knife. I already did these things with it. If you treat it well, it will treat you well. Because I have already did more with it than your regular person is going do with it if they get lost in the wilds for a few days, I believe in it. With the caveat that I mentioned before, if Aitor’s quality control is still up to par, I would trust it.

 

 

I also mentioned the Buckmaster from Buck Knives in the other article. I didn’t like that thing much at all; the Silva compass supplied with it was about the best thing in the box.

 

I have since owned a Chris Reeve Sable IV (hope I got the model number correct) and it was excellent as well. I think I need another Chris Reeve one-piece, hollow handle knife in the future. I have also had a chance to handle Robert Parrish Survival Knives and they are quite well made.

 

Aitor’s “Harpoon”

 

These were originally provided with the Aitor Jungle King II Survival Knife as one of the many accessories that were very useful in an emergency situation. I had a friend who simply begged me for the Jungle King II so I ended up trading it to him a long time ago. But I kept the Harpoon Knife all of this time. As a matter of fact, I still have the extremely small, plastic vial that contained a minimalist sewing kit that was stowed in the larger plastic vial that went into the handle of the Jungle King II…I also have the flint and tiny pencil. I don’t write many notes when out in the woods, but I used the flint extensively.

 

 

This little gem is made out of an unknown (to me), but very tough steel. I used this thing even more than the Jungle King knife. You might be able to see that from the picture. It was used and sharpened in the field with the supplied stone mounted to the back of the Jungle King’s polymer sheath. It took some grinding on it so it would penetrate fish and suffered the occasional ding and whatnot from skewering fish and pinning them to rocky stream and river bottoms, etc.

 

Taking some of the information from the Military Survival Manuals, I have devised a way of rigging this spearhead so I don’t have to pin fish to the bottom. The spearhead will detach from the shaft of the spear and the head will be connected to the shaft of the spear.

 

When you find a suitable pole to improvise a spear, use your saw to split the end of it. To make a “pinning” spear for spearfishing, you would slide the spearhead, the Aitor “Harpoon” Knife into the end of it and then lash it securely or, use a small eye screw and carefully mount that through the wood and one of the holes in the knife (spearhead). Remember that you can simply lash this knife to a suitable pole because the holes in the knife make that easy. Through my experience, the thing always seems to shift when you need it the most. I’d rather split the end and have the knife sticking directly out of the end of the spear shaft.

 

For a detachable “Harpoon” for spearfishing, you saw the end of the shaft and create the slot and then you attach heavy-duty cordage to the “Harpoon” knife and slide it in place, it should fit snugly. It should not, however, fit so securely that it wouldn’t come out when you spear a fish.

 

You then take the other end of the cord and you secure that to the pole with a length of it hanging loose, draping off of the spear. When you spear the fish, you don’t have to pin it to the bottom, you simply spear them and pull them up, one of two things will happen. You will either get your fish, you will pull it right up out of the water or the fish will fight or the weight of the fish will detach the head and it will stay in the fish and you can then pull the fish in with the cord.

 

The newer Aitor Jungle King knives have a “revamped” version of this Harpoon knife. The original combined a can opener (use a P-38), bottle opener, shackle wrench and of course, it had the barbed head.

 

The newer one looks quite a bit larger and more functional as a knife.

 

Suburban Evasion

 

My idea of a great time back then was getting away from my Mother and her boyfriend for long periods of time. I would take a backpack full of canned food and some gear and split for a few days at a time in the fall or winter, into the woods right around the neighborhood if I had to. I remember camping in this “hutch” that I had made in a field that consisted entirely of thorny vines and bushes. It was so rough getting in and out, I knew no one could get in there at night without me hearing them.

 

That’s what a “Tin Can Alarm” is for, but that is another subject, isn’t it? I had them as well because there were dirtbags in the neighborhood a half mile away…

 

It was just this overgrown mass of vines. I followed a deer trail to get into it and started cutting and hacking and once I was in there, it was like an igloo made out of tough vines and had some thorny brush over it. But on the inside it was rather nice and free from the thorns, consisting mostly of large vines and overgrowth.

 

Then I cut a hole in the top, cutting the vines with tin snips, so I could have a small fire in there with a “Hobo Stove” and I was good to go for quite a while.

 

I don’t know if part of this story will come across well because I’m using terms that I grew up with that might be foreign to some people. Anyway, I had packed my sleeping bag, poncho and liner, all of which were U.S. Surplus, but I snatched a furniture pad/blanket from home, as there were several. Do you know the type of quilted and very heavy padded “blanket” that professional movers use in the large trucks? They are very tough, warm and you can put them through a lot and they will hold up well. I gathered pine boughs and made a bed out of those and then the furniture pad went on top of that and that was the mattress.

 

So, I would do this quite a bit along with being dropped off at local parks with ponds and streams where I could fish and supplement canned foods with fish. I hunted rabbit and squirrel with slingshot, bow and arrows and my Dad’s ancient Sheridan Blue Streak 5mm Pellet Rifle.

 

That was back when you could walk through a neighborhood with a Sheridan Air Rifle without having the local SWAT Team called out…

 

My Dad had mounted a Williams Peep (receiver) Sight on it and if Williams Sights still exist…they might even still make the one specifically for the Sheridan. An excellent Air Rifle and deadly on small game.

 

I grew up camping and fishing…then later on, hunting and I learned a lot from my Dad while doing these things. After he died, perhaps I was seeking the solace and quietude of the woods, I don’t know. I felt comfortable there and spent a lot of time there away from the hoodlums whenever I could. At other times, I hung out with the hoodlums and you see the results of that in other areas of my website.

 

So, I’m in my rather comfortable little dugout/hutch that nature has made and that I have modified and I have my little homemade stove and I would sit there and eat pork and beans warmed right inside the can which became the pot they were cooked in. Some other food cooked in a surplus mess kit along with the occasional roasted rabbit or squirrel.

 

A good fire, a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, a P-38 can opener and a spoon is a fine thing on a chilly day out in the woods. You only have to clean minimal slop off of the can opener and the spoon and you’re done if you peel the label off of the can and use the can as a cooking pot.

 

I spent a lot of time doing things that I read in certain books, Paul H. Risk’s excellent book, “Outdoor Safety and Survival” is a book that I cannot say enough about. In my opinion, it is far better as an all around, extremely realistic instruction manual than the military manuals I have read on the subject. You should get as many books as you can, however.

 

I never got around to the part about eating grubs because I never had to. I did eat a lot of rabbit, squirrel, fish and canned food though. Wild Blackberries, Mulberries and Onions were quite plentiful. Pick a bunch of Mulberries (a few cups) and dump a couple sugar packets in there, heat it up in an aluminum G.I. cup and you have a rather sweet “stew.”

 

There is something that is being lost; the kids today don’t get to do these things. There is something great about hunting or trapping a rabbit or squirrel, or catching a fish, cleaning it and then roasting it over a fire. Things like wild onions make it all that much better tasting. To know how to do these things is freedom. It can save your life.

 

Try that with a Play Station.

 

Think you’re going to snare your food?

 

I trapped a bit using some old leg-hold and Conibear traps my Dad had but never got into that too much and never for the pelts. I was going for rabbits. I kept reading and re-reading the book and kept trying to make snares and deadfall traps, pit traps and all sorts of things. I did not do too well in that department.

 

I would sit and carve the various triggers for snares, trying to get them perfect. Eventually, I did. Still not a whole lot of luck with the snares. I had better luck when I was near a stream, pond or lake, using a sapling and one of the triggers with a hook and line to fish with. That worked very well.

 

Then one day, I got a rabbit! That was pretty cool, cleaned him and roasted him. Good eating and I was rather proud of myself and it taught me a lot. I trapped more after that, but never enough to really think I was going to be able to “live” off of that if I had to. It also taught me something about Paul Risk’s book.

 

That it was not simply a “neat” book, it was very important because there were little snippets of information Mr. Risk put in there that were very, very true. If you did not heed certain things in there, you might go hungry. Under the wrong circumstances, you might die.

 

I see all of these “Survival Kits” and “Mini Survival Kits” and “Tins” and I think all of the people designing these Kits are doing a great job! I’m troubled, however, when I see people putting a little bit of picture hanging wire in there, maybe enough to make two or three snares in the belief that they are going to be eating a rabbit a day…or every two or three days from a couple snares. I do the same thing too. I intend on doing something a bit different, however…

 

No, if you are going to go down that road, you need a lot of them (snares) and you still have to know what you are doing, intimately, or you are going to be wasting your time.

 

 

I have used the brass wire snares and the Thompson locking steel snares, both of which used to be available from Brigade Quartermasters (Thompson Locking Steel Snares still are). That’s where I ordered them from a long time ago. Both types work, but they don’t work as much as people think they are going to work. Even with proper construction and placement, you are not going to be feasting every day in the woods on rabbit and squirrels from tip-up (sapling), drag, counterbalance or drop weight snares with a two-pin or two-piece trigger.

 

And if you can walk out into the woods and eat a rabbit every day because of your snare work, you have spent much more time than your average person is going to spend, cultivating that skill and you would also be doing it where those animals are quite plentiful.

 

 

So, understand that I’m not saying that people extremely skilled in wilderness survival are going to starve to death. So, for those of you out there who are skilled enough and carry enough snares, don’t take this the wrong way like I am criticizing you. What I am saying is this, people who place things like snares in their survival kits that have no understanding of the items or the reality of the situation are going to be in for a very hard time.

 

Don’t expect to place a mini survival manual in your kit to remind you of trigger construction and enough wire to make two or three snares and think you are going to be a great success at snaring rabbits.

 

Sit down on your porch or whatever and start learning how to carve the triggers now. When I was a teenager, I thought it was pretty harmless to snare rabbits and whatnot. It is illegal to do here now. I’m sure if you get lost somewhere in the mountains to the west of me, it won’t make much difference if it is a real emergency situation and you break the law and snare some small game. And even if you did get arrested after you were rescued…well, “judged by 12 or carried by 6.” The Maxims of Life keep coming back full circle, don’t they?

 

However, be aware that in many places, it would be illegal for you to make a working snare, even on your own property to practice snaring small game. That’s where we are now as humans.

 

The best way to go about snaring small game

 

Going back to Risk’s great book, he advises the following:

 

To read about primitive traps, snares and other entrapment devices promotes a feeling that all such devices properly constructed will yield a bounteous harvest. It looks easy. But looks can be and often are deceiving. First, the trap must be properly constructed. Second, it must be correctly placed. Third, an animal must come along and either blunder into it or be attracted to bait. At the same time, nothing about the trap location, presence, or smell can give the animal warning. What this all means is that it is not necessarily easy to trap or snare game. Often, the success ratio is as high as 15:1. Fifteen set traps will yield one success. Or, to put it another way, to get a meal a day per person, four people would have 60 traps set; five people would have 75; and so on.

 

REMEMBER: SET 15 TRAPS FOR EACH MEMBER OF THE PARTY.”

 

The capitalized words at the end appear as they do in the book. I agree with him.

 

Paul Risk also advises the reader to construct simple traps and to ignore the more elaborate types.

 

Words to the wise, all of it.

 

My Advice

 

What I advise you to do is to learn now what you need to know, learn how to make a working snare in the back yard. I’m not telling you to break the law; you can test it with a stick or whatever. Learn it now.

 

If you carry snares in your survival kit, learn how to make them, learn how to make the trigger(s) and study the movements of animals. Some more handy advice from Paul Risk:

 

Learn animal habits. Become familiar with their activities. Don’t wait until an emergency to suddenly develop an interest in wildlife biology.

 

I will tell you something that most rabbit hunters know that was taught to me by my Dad. If you scare up a rabbit and they bolt on you. They will usually circle right back into the area that they left. Not usually to the exact place they were, but close enough that you can get another shot at them when they come hopping back. This is golden information for someone who has set multiple drag snares on a well-worn rabbit trail or if you are hunting them with a slingshot.

 

Watch where they run to and then you can see where you have to go to once again get a shot at them. It will be a basic semi-circle to an almost complete circle, use your imagination. This knowledge can also drive them, in a panic during their escape, into a drag snare they might normally avoid.

 

I have seen this time and time again. Rabbits and Squirrels are creatures of habit, they are smart in their own way but we are much smarter. Use their habits and curiosity against them whenever you can.

 

My basic advice is the following:

 

1.     Learn to make the triggers and complete snares.

2.     Learn some basic animal habits.

3.     Carry 15 ready-made snare wires or a combination of ready (home made) snares and Thompson Locking Steel Snares (or equivalent).

 

If you are going to try to snare some survival food, you better have enough snares to do the job or it’s a waste of time when it comes to really procuring food. This will, of course, take up even more space in a kit where you are trying to jam every possible material and device into it.

 

What I plan on doing

 

I plan on carrying a lot of snares, snare wire material and hardware to make the construction of them faster, easier and more secure. I’m also planning on focusing on the common squirrel instead of rabbits because a Squirrel Pole is a much more effective type of snare trap than drags, twitch-ups, counterbalance and weighted snares. And certainly better than a deadfall in my opinion.

 

I first read about the Squirrel Pole in Risk’s book as well and I have used it and it works incredibly well. It consists of multiple snares on a large stick that is leaned against a tree that squirrels frequent. Watch them before you set the pole, choose your target and then place it there.

 

 

Now the Squirrel Pole is included in Military Survival Manuals, they were not in the Military Manuals I have which are older, Vietnam-vintage manuals. I have “Survival, Evasion and Escape” from 1969 and “Survival” from 1970. Both manuals are designated FM 21-76.

 

I first read about it in Risk’s book. Risk wrote the following about it:

 

Squirrels would much rather go up a slope than climb directly up a tree. The squirrel pole is so effective, it never ceases to amaze.

 

The wire nooses are arranged so that the wire curves up and around. When a squirrel is caught, it tends to flip off the pole. In this way the animal falls below the pole and strangles. In one training situation an instructor came back to find three squirrels hanging from the same pole. As one animal was caught, others must have come to investigate, with disastrous results.

 

If I were you, I would focus on the common squirrel as a source of food if you were going to carry snares. Don’t ignore other types of snares, but focus on the Squirrel Pole Snare.

 

Then if you want to carry even more snare making materials, focus on drag and twitch-up snares if you feel the need to. The Squirrel Pole is so attractive because there is no time consuming carving, no study of trails and other things. You just watch for a few minutes where the squirrels are going, that’s the amount of trail study you do. Then you simply construct one without all the whittling and carving and lean it on the tree. Go off to a different area and do the same thing. Bait them with acorns if you can.

 

In a mini kit, three snares are an absolute minimum and I think if there are squirrels in the area you should focus on them, using a Squirrel Pole and don’t bother with all the other types of snares unless you are carrying over a dozen of them.

 

What else?

 

Gill Nets. Put that across a stream and eat a lot of fish, assuming the stream has a lot of fish. Some of the streams around me where I live are totally devoid of any fish and have been for years. In some areas, even if you can catch them, they might be contaminated, all depends where you are trying to “survive.”

 

In other places, you can eat quite well even in a somewhat urban area.

 

As far as I know, Gill Nets are illegal in some places. So you cannot use them for legal fishing, when you are lost and you are hungry, all bets are off just like they are with snares, right?

 

I heard Ted Nugent on a radio show recently refer to fishing as, “Hunting with a hook.” I thought that was a good way of thinking and decided to place that in here!

 

Hunting with a hook…hmm…

 

Go back to the beginning of this article with the spearfishing information using the Aitor Jungle King “Harpoon” Knife included with the older models of the Jungle King.

 

Here is some good cheating information. The CMG Ultra Infinity LED Flashlight reviewed in Part One of this article make good fishing lures, fish can be attracted with light. Stay behind the light so you do not illuminate yourself. Because these lights sip power, you could use them for extended periods of time to draw the fish to the top and then spear them. Military Manuals advise to use the back of a machete (not the sharp edge) to club fish while using a flashlight or torch. Something to consider.

 

Just some random thoughts that I hope some will find some value in when they start assembling their various supplies to face whatever emergency that might happen.

 

 

 

Don Rearic

 

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