Urban Vs Wilderness Bug Out Bag: Choosing The Right Gear



If you were born in the 70’s or earlier you probably remember when the term Bug Out Bag was virtually unknown. Nowadays at least three out of four people you meet in a social context are likely to be familiar with the term. It’s a sign of the times in which we live.

However, we don’t hear a lot about the concept of varying the items in one’s BOB depending on whether it’s an urban or rural environment the person will be dealing with. I won’t spend time going over all of the items one should have in his/her pack as I suspect this is well covered ground for most reading this article (CLICK HERE to make your custom bug out bag list & have it sent straight to your inbox!).

Whether one is in the city, countryside, or deep in the wilderness, much of the pack contents should be the same. Much, but not all.

Choosing The Right Tools For The Job

I have read advice about the best items to select for a BOB as if the general environment where it will be used is irrelevant. In my view this is akin to having a handyman show up to your home with only a small tool box without telling him whether it’s a plumbing or an electrical problem he will be addressing!


urban bug out bag

Having the right tools to survive can mean the difference between life and death! Choose wisely…

As a cop working in the greater Los Angeles area for over two decades, I’ve spent some time observing the kinds of scenarios typically encountered when things go awry in urban and suburban environments. Some were accidents, while others involved intentional violence. The point is that all of these events are likely to occur during and following a major disaster, with two major differences:

  1. The effects of these incidents will be exponentially larger, and
  2. Any resources available to respond to same will be overwhelmed, and possibly unavailable altogether.

Worse yet, in my opinion there is likely to be a synergistic effect if the scope of the disaster is severe enough to severely impact the infrastructure (including police response). Those who live their lives as predators (i.e., gang members and others) will in all likelihood become aware of the lack of first responders far more quickly than the rest of society, and will take full advantage early on.

I would like to be proven wrong, and perhaps I will, but don’t count on it.


urban bug out bag

A disaster doesn’t tell you when it is coming

Disaster Planning: Know Your Environment

Making a Bug Out Plan that is specific to your locality is vitally important. You want to include the intricacies and potential dangers that are local to where you are going to be operating.

Urban Disaster Planning

If one should find himself/herself in an urban environment after a catastrophic incident that essentially collapses the infrastructure, the primary objective should be to get out of the heavily populated area ASAP. This is one of the major differences between bugging out through an urban area and doing so in a rural location. Time is a much bigger consideration in the former. With this in mind, one should prepare so that he/she can:

  1. Be equipped to determine alternate routes while on the move (or at least with little time to make route changes).
  2. Have the means to defeat the varied physical obstacles potentially to be encountered.
  3. Have the tools capable of extricating one’s self or others from confinement due to structural collapse, vehicle collisions, or other situations more common in urban disasters.
  4. Be equipped to create large holes in interior walls to facilitate escape from threats present inside the building.
  5. If escape/avoidance is not possible, have an effective means to defend against violent attack.

wilderness survival kit

A wild fire can move incredibly fast and destroy EVERYTHING in its path

Rural Disaster Planning

Contrast the above with the typical priorities for a short duration rural or wilderness survival scenario, such as:

  1. Capability to process wood for starting and maintaining fire.
  2. Means to put together basic (short term) shelter.
  3. Less important, but worth mentioning, is the means to fashion additional crude tools (e.g., hunting devices) to aid in survival conditions should the scenario turn into a longer term one.
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Urban (and Suburban) Pack Items

Maps

A map of the city where one works (as well as where one lives if not the same city) is imperative. Unlike as is often the case when traveling through rural or even wilderness locations, urban travel after a disaster can present fluid situations chock full of potential extreme danger requiring sudden and unexpected route changes. No matter one’s skill and/or type of weapons he/she may have, avoidance of conflict at virtually all costs is going to be the better option. And in the process of changing direction (perhaps multiple times as part of evasion), even the best of us can find ourselves disoriented. Pack a map! And have at least one (preferably two) reliable light sources to study the map during darkness. I have found that unlike when navigating through wilderness, a small inexpensive compass will suffice for city map work.


Map Reading Skills

Click on the image to brush up on your map reading skills

 

Downplayed Appearance

Unlike when hiking through wilderness locations, having/wearing high quality state-of- the-art gear while walking through heavily populated areas when the infrastructure is down is a mistake. Wearing the latest “tacticool” pack can be an equally big mistake.

Since two-legged predators will be aware of the increased opportunities the conditions have created for them, the less attention one invites, the better. I know from experience that many street smart bad guys have a surprisingly keen eye for quality gear, even when it comes to items they know almost nothing about.

Don’t advertise your cool gear if you can possibly help it. Wearing a pack is likely to draw at least some extra attention no matter what—this is largely unavoidable. But donning a pack that appears to be very used, or even dirty, is a better option than a brand new pack. And a “plain Jane” civilian pack is more likely to ride under the radar than a tactical pack. Ditto all of the above when considering the clothes you will wear during these conditions—especially shoes! Learn and practice your Gray Man/Woman Skills now to fly under the radar when a disaster strikes (Click HERE to learn how).


gray man theory

Click on the image to learn how to be a Gray Man or Woman

Large Knife VS. Tomahawk

On many occasions I have watched other first responders use a variety of tools when handling emergencies. I have also used some of these tools personally to gain entry into semi-fortified homes during the course of police work. Other than issued weapons (police) and medical equipment (fire department/paramedics) the tools used most often were those designed to defeat barriers typically encountered in cities (everything from car doors and windows to steel home security doors).

Although you might convince yourself you would not stop to help another in need if it delayed your bugging out from a dangerous environment, you really never know until faced with that scenario. Moreover, you just might need the means to get yourself out of a jam.


bushcraft tools

Each has its place…

With the growing threat of terrorism and active shooter incidents, being equipped to create a travel path (breaking out a hole to crawl through) between a building’s interior rooms is a reasonable preparation. There are many scenarios that could prompt the need to bug out through an urban area—a massive terrorism incident is certainly one of them.

I am trying to make the case for not including a large knife in favor of a rugged tomahawk. Never mind that many “experts” insist on having a large hard use survival knife in any and all BOBs. A person is better off with an affordable tough tomahawk for urban scenarios any day of the week. And a suitable “hawk” can be had for about half the price of any survival knife capable of doing other than traditional knife chores!

 

Estwing’s Black Eagle Tomahawk fits this bill. It is not very attractive, and the workmanship shows only minimal attention to finish and fine symmetry, but I can personally attest to the tool’s capability. I have used the spike end to break car window glass, punch through heavy steel mesh and car trunks, as well as breaking a six inch diameter hole in a cement cinder block (I encountered no steel rebar however). I have also used this “hawk” to pry apart two-by-fours fastened with 16D nails. After all of this, the business ends of the hawk’s blade are still not much worse for wear (cosmetic damage only). Does anyone think any of the better quality survival knives out there could perform these tasks without causing damage, or even breaking, the blade?

 

I once watched a fellow patrol officer show off his $250.00 tanto bladed knife by punching through the steel door of a typical gym locker. Worked fine. He repeated the feat an hour later to show off his new knife to another observer. This time it significantly damaged the blade’s tip. He was so angry we couldn’t talk to him for over an hour. Knives simply are not meant to be used to defeat steel, concrete, or even glass! Check out our article on Picking The Best Tomahawk For Your Bug Out Bag HERE.


Best Tomahawk Survival Tomahawk

Click on the image above to learn how to pick the best tomahawk

 

I have no financial interest in Estwing, and there may be other equally well performing hawks out there for a similar price (about $35 HERE on Amazon), but I have not found them. I have discovered far more expensive hawks but never purchased or tried them. And I have tried a couple of the lighter hawks sporting plastic handles, but found their performance lacking—seriously so! The only real downside to the Estwing is its weight. At 27 ounces it is admittedly heavy. The Becker BK2, a popular hard use survival knife, weighs about 10 ounces less, but the capability of the Estwing hawk makes it well worth these extra ounces in an urban environment.

 

I would feel adequately equipped If my urban BOB cutlery items were limited to a robust hawk and my multi tool (a must for any BOB, regardless of setting, check out our Guide for Picking The Best Multi Tool HERE). The former could handle any rough cutting tasks, while the latter’s small blade could deal with finer cutting chores.

If someone absolutely insisted on carrying another knife for more traditional cutlery chores, a Mora Kniv would fill the bill for about twenty dollars. And it’s doubtful the Mora’s extra 4 ounces (including sheath) would be noticed.

 

Finally, a hawk can be used for protection against a violent attack when all else fails. As for whether a hawk or a good knife would serve this purpose better…well, that really depends on the individual as well as the circumstances. After all, neither is the best tool for self-defense, for more reasons than one (a topic for another article). Let’s just leave it with the idea that a hawk can be used as an effective self-defense tool in a pinch.

 



Lightweight Wire Cutters

Being able to cut through standard chain link fence could prove to be the difference between escaping a very bad scenario and falling victim to one. I can conjure up a half dozen scenarios where a person might need to escape a threatening situation, seek shelter, or simply shave off valuable travel time by cutting through a fence.

Chain link fencing is ubiquitous in virtually any urban area. Unfortunately, I have found multi tools fall short of being capable of cutting chain link in a reasonable manner of time and effort. Find the smallest/lightest tool capable of cutting chain link in one clipping action (Tekton makes a good pair, see them HERE). Bending or sawing through wire takes too long under most scenarios that would warrant cutting fencing in the first place.


Rural / Wilderness Pack Items

Knife vs Tomahawk vs Hatchet

You’re probably asking, “Didn’t he just cover this issue?” I did—for the urban setting. However, after spending a good deal of time in the wilderness (including several nights without a tent), both recreationally and as a search & rescue volunteer in the California Sierras, I prefer a good large knife in any environment other than an urban/suburban one.


wilderness survival kit

Surviving in the wilderness doesn’t have to be hard…IF you have the right tools and skills.

Hundreds of years ago, the tomahawk’s philosophy of use was multi-faceted. Only one of these intended functions involved the processing of wood for structure building or building fire. The hatchet (hand axe), on the other hand, was designed for one purpose only—processing wood. As one could predict, the hatchet proved to outperform the tomahawk for wood processing, while the hawks performed better as weapons. I have tried many a “woods hawk” over the years, but in the end I have found quality hatchets of similar weight simply do better with wood chores.

Given the points made in the “Disaster Planning” section of this article, the hatchet gets the nod over the tomahawk for a rural BOB.

All of the above notwithstanding, I prefer a large survival knife to a hatchet for my rural BOB. The hatchet will almost always out chop a knife of similar weight, but this isn’t the end of the story. When it comes to cutting wood a small lightweight folding saw offers a better choice than a tool that chops the wood to the desired length. But the primary element of fire wood preparation involves splitting the pieces for fire building.

 

A quality knife with a 7 to nine inch blade can be used very effectively to split wood using the “batoning” technique. And in my opinion it is a safer means of splitting wood than swinging a hatchet to accomplish the task. When “batoning”, only the piece of wood used to strike the knife spine is being swung through the air. The odds of a catastrophic accident are greater when using the hatchet for the job. This can be ever more the case when working in cold climates outdoors. As for the argument that “batoning” to split wood constitutes abuse of the blade, I call B.S. I have split at least a cord of wood over the years with my Ontario SP50, and other than destroying the black blade coating, the knife is still in great working shape. Check out this video to see how batoning works:

I know there are many (far more than hawks that can compete with the Estwing) quality large survival knives that can also perform well when it comes to wood prep. I would, however, urge anyone selecting a fixed blade knife for his/her wilderness BOB to go with a seven inch blade or larger. This makes splitting wood of three inches or larger diameter much easier than using a shorter blade. To see our comprehensive guide on choosing a fixed blade CLICK HERE NOW.

 

Compass

When travelling through areas where there are no street signs, or even no streets, a higher quality compass becomes very important. Land navigation where there are no streets is a skill that demands time and effort to learn. Knowing how to navigate through these types of surroundings using a topographical map is not for the novice! If at all possible, stay on a road, or at least keep the road in sight. In any case, a rural BOB should always include a high quality compass.

Fire Starting Kit

This should be a “no brainer”. When bugging out through an urban setting under circumstances where you might have to spend some resting hours in the dark, it might or might not be advisable to make a fire. Fire attracts the urban predators, while it tends to repel the four legged type.


survival after bugging out

Furthermore, having a fire in a location where there is no man made shelter available is uniquely important. In addition to heat and minimal light, it is well documented that a small fire can provide a significant psychological boost for the solo survivor/traveler.

Having established the greater importance of being able to create fire in a rural setting, ensuring one has the ability to do so becomes paramount. Having multiple means to create fire is a must for the rural/wilderness pack:


everstryke pro review

Don’t forget to Include a few petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls as well. They will ignite with a decent spark (paper and many other tinders requires actual flame) and continue to burn for several minutes. If you want to learn 6 ways to start a fire WITHOUT matches, CLICK HERE.

Steel Water Bottle

Any BOB will include a container to carry water (I’m assuming this goes without saying), so why not have one that can also be used to heat or boil water? A single walled stainless steel water bottle like the Klean Kanteen (or similar design) products can be placed over open flame or coals to heat water.

Boiling water is a dependable way to kill any pathogens (chemical contamination is another issue). I once used a heated steel water bottle as an improvised hot water bottle to ward off hypothermia in a snow cave. Not sure if it was literally a lifesaver, but I was sure glad to have it. Make sure to remove the cap before heating water to avoid a pressure build-up and the subsequent likely explosion.

Conclusion

My experience has convinced me that for urban applications, escaping the locality as fast as possible should be the key objective in a SHTF scenario. Sheltering in place, even for a short time is likely to be catastrophic. In my view a robust tomahawk, coupled with a good multitool and small wire cutters, is close to the perfect set of BOB tools—but this could be surpassed with a new invention at any time.

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For rural/wilderness environments, night travel is far less desirable and sheltering through the night(s) becomes a priority. Creating fire and crude shelter is paramount for the wilderness trekker under any circumstances. For this application, a large survival knife becomes the tool of choice, edging out both the tomahawk and hatchet in the versatility and safety categories.

The very fact that those reading this article have probably already put together a bug-out bag at all places them way ahead of most. Having a readily accessible BOB, even if not perfectly constituted, is 90 percent of the game in itself. However, it’s still a good idea to evaluate equipment choices every so often, keeping a philosophy of use mindset while doing so.



If you are ready to build your custom Bug out Bag List, click on the button above now.

Further Reading

For more info on this topic you can check out these articles:

Your Thoughts?

Do you have an item that is a “must have” for your urban or rural bug out bag? Can you think of any other big differences between what you would pack for these scenarios? Let us know in the Comments Section below, thanks!

About The Author

Frank LaFlamme spent almost a quarter century in law enforcement in the Los Angeles area serving for three local agencies as well as an assignment with the DEA Los Angeles office. His assignments included uniformed patrol in one of the most violent areas in California, narcotics investigation, gang enforcement, robbery and homicide investigation, high risk warrant service, and a terrorism liaison officer position. Upon retiring, Frank volunteered as a Search & Rescue “ground pounder” with a sheriff’s department in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Yosemite National Park. Additionally, he started a small disaster preparedness consulting business called F& D Consulting. In 2014 he published a novel titled EMP Los Angeles (an Amazon best seller for a while, CLICK HERE to see it), a raw and gritty cautionary tale of a post EMP attack Los Angeles.


EMP Los Angeles

Click on the book to go check it out on Amazon!

 

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how to move silently

How To Move As Silently As A Cat

how to move silently

It’s the quintessential moment in any horror flick – the part where the heroine is trying to sneak silently away from the bad guy by moving stealthily through the old, rickety house (aren’t they always set in an old, rickety house?), but try as she might to move quietly, her position is given away by a loud creak from the old wooden staircase.  We all wonder, why doesn’t she know how to move silently?

Makes for great suspense, but in the real world, learning how to walk silently is a valuable skill that should be in every prepper’s survival arsenal. Moving in silence is not only a valuable skill, but also easy to learn and practice. Think about your safety in a SHTF situation – how beneficial would it be to be able to move or run in silence?

how to move silently
Knowing how to walk quietly on a creaky floor or staircase gives you the advantage of stealth.

There are many instances you may run into where such a skill could save your life, including sneaking past checkpoints or aggressive / hostile people, scavenging while other (potentially hostile) people are around, leaving an area when unfriendly people arrive, or successfully stalking prey while hunting.

how to move silently
The slightest sound can alert your prey and ruin an opportunity to secure a meal.

Learning to use stealth techniques is an invaluable survival skill that you and any member of your family can learn – plus it’s easy to practice! In this article, we will teach you 5 essential tricks for moving in silence – as well as 1 bonus trick! – that will allow you to move undetected and help keep you safe.

5 Tricks for Moving in Silence

1. Maintain Your Center of Balance

If you are carrying anything, especially a backpack, stash it if you can as it throws off your center of balance. Look for somewhere safe you can leave it where it will be recoverable later. While a well-fitted backpack will be cinched tight to your body and have good weight distribution, it’s a surety that the added 30-50 lbs you are carrying around will change your center of balance.

The reason this is important is that it is far easier to sneak around quietly with your natural movements and center of gravity as opposed to your body trying to compensate for the unexpected extra weight.

how to move silently
Moving in silence is more difficult with the added bulk of a backpack because it throws off your natural balance. Image credit Joseph on flickr.

2. Get Rid of Noise Makers

When trying to move silently, if you have anything on you that jingles or jangles – get rid of it. If you are carrying items such as keys, change, jewelry, gear, buckles, or straps hanging off your body or bag that have the potential to make noise, make sure to eliminate them from your person.

how to move silently
Bring only what is necessary for the mission and be sure to secure any gear so that it will not make a sound when you move.

Zippers are another item that can give you away when trying to move quietly, but ranger bands can help with this – you can learn how to make ranger bands here or purchase them here. The video below shows how ranger bands can be used to silence zippers:

Also be aware of the clothing you are wearing. Some clothing may have the potential to swish or get caught on things, especially loose cargo pockets, which can easily get caught on a corner or exposed nail.

how to move silently
Silent clothes are slim-fitting with minimal protrusions. This large hooded jacket may keep you warm but it would make it difficult to walk quietly.

3. Don’t Move Blindly

how to move silently

When moving in silence, always scope out your path ahead of time, don’t stumble along blindly. Before moving, make sure to take a few seconds to survey the area around you and scope out the best path to take.

You’ll likely need to employ some improvisation at some point, but having a general plan of where you are going, including things to avoid and knowing where safe / quiet areas are, can mean the difference between detection and moving stealthily to safety.

If you have a long way to go, plan your trek by stopping in safe or concealed areas and then scoping out the next leg of your trip from there.

4. Look Out for Landmines

By landmines, we mean surprise objects that can give away your presence if stepped on. Items to be on the lookout for include broken glass, dry leaves, twigs, and animals.

how to move silently
Learn how to walk silently by avoiding noisy objects, such as pine cones and twigs.

When scoping out your path, try and find the way that has the least amount of debris that could potentially make noise and give you away. As you’ve no doubt seen in the movies, something as simple as the snap of a twig can immediately alert others to your presence.

Additionally, look out for animals and avoid them at all costs. The bark of a startled dog or the rustle of a bird hastily flying away are key indicators to others of your location.

how to move silently
Startling a flock of birds into flight is a dead giveaway of your presence.

5. Proceed with Caution

Even weight distribution and foot placement are key to moving stealthily and keeping your footfalls as quiet as possible. Always move carefully and with intent.

If you are unsure about your next step, test the location lightly with your toes and gradually place the rest of your foot down once you’ve determined it’s safe. Also be mindful not to knock anything over if you need to lean against something at some point. The video below gives a detailed demonstration of stepping with your toes first to walk quietly across any surface:

Bonus Trick For How To Move Silently

While the preceding 5 tricks will help you to move quietly and undetected, there is always the chance that something will go wrong, which brings us to our bonus trick – always have an escape plan.

If you are detected and need to run, it’s imperative you know which way to head in order to flee safely. Sometimes it can be as simple as going back the way you came, but in case that path is blocked or otherwise inaccessible it’s always prudent to have at least one additional escape route.

If escape is not a viable option, you may want to have some means of defending yourself against whomever detected you. This could include non-lethal options such as a flashlight or pepper spray, or entail more serious options such as a survival weapon or firearm.  

survival weapons

General Stealth Techniques

Along with the tricks above, keep the following in mind when attempting to walk or move undetected:

  • Use a red flashlight to move at night as this will preserve your night vision and attract less attention EC11 and EA21 from Nitecore both come with a secondary red LED in addition to their main light for just this purpose.
  • If avoidable, do not sneak around barefoot – yes, it is quieter to move barefoot than with shoes, but you will be in serious trouble if you get caught as it is much harder to run barefoot and you run a higher risk of injuring your feet
  • Be aware that floorboards will make more noise in the summer than in cold weather.
how to move silently
While you may be able to walk lightly over these rocks barefoot, running could cause serious injury to your feet.

Practicing How To Move Silently at Home

If you want to learn to move as silently as a cat, reading this article is a great start, but you’ll need to practice what you’ve learned. The great thing about stealth movement is that it’s a survival skill that’s easy to practice in your everyday life. Here are some tips and tricks on how you can incorporate stealth movement into your daily life and learn to move undetected:

  • When you’re just beginning, feel free to practice in socks or barefeet, but after you start to get the hang of walking silently, start practicing in the shoes or boots that you plan on wearing when bugging out
  • Take advantage of everyday situations to practice, such as movie night – when getting up to grab some popcorn, see if you can sneak back without anyone noticing;
  • Practice walking quietly past your pets – see if you can pass by Fido without attracting his attention
  • Turn practice into game time with your kids – start a game where one person sits centrally in a room (blindfolded, if need be) and challenge everyone else to get from one side of the room to the other without being heard (this also has the added benefit of teaching all members of your family how to move silently)
  • When moving around at night, see if you can move silently enough so as not to wake up your baby / husband / wife
  • While at work, try walking into your co-workers’ cubicles / offices / workspaces without them noticing your presence, at least until you say “Hello,” – no need to creep anyone out!

Conclusion

The ability to move about undetected is a highly valuable skill to have in survival situations and can be learned and mastered by anyone. Moving stealthily has myriad life-saving applications as well as practical uses for everyday life. Running or walking silently is a skill that can be practiced almost anywhere, which makes it one of the easiest survival skills to master. In order to learn how to move silently, keep in mind these 5 key tricks:

  1. Maintain your center of balance
  2. Get rid of potential noise makers
  3. Don’t move blindly, choose your path intentionally
  4. Look out for landmines
  5. Proceed with caution and have an escape plan!

 

how to move silently

What are you waiting for? Start practicing now and pretty soon you’ll be able to move around your friends and family as stealthily and silently as a cat!

Your Thoughts

Can you think of other situations where it is important to know how to move silently? Have you practiced stealth techniques on your own or with your family? Tell us about your experience in the Comments section below, thanks!

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how to predict the weather

How To Predict The Weather In The Wilderness

how to predict the weather

Typically we count on weather services and electronic devices to know what to expect from the sky. We may alter travel plans, make a quick trip to the store, or simply pack an umbrella in reaction to an impending storm. However, these services will likely come to a halt if disaster strikes and alternative means of monitoring weather conditions will be necessary. For those that opt to head for the hills, it will become vastly more important to know how to predict the weather in the wilderness.

Nature itself provides many clues as to what is in store. The clouds, plants, animals, insects, and the moon have been used for centuries to predict precipitation, droughts, and floods. Farmers, fishermen, sailors, and others who spend long periods of time outdoors, and whose livelihood depends heavily on the weather patterns, have devised ways to foresee the weather in order to prepare themselves.

Having the skills to read the warning signs that nature provides has short-term and long-term benefits that can greatly increase your chances of survival in a bug-out scenario. Whether a major storm is brewing and you need to prepare to build a shelter in for the day or if the likelihood of flooding doubles and you need to reconsider your location for the season, learning how to predict the weather using nature is a valuable survival skill.

Observing The Sky To Predict The Weather

The most intuitive way to predict the weather is to look to the sky. The clouds, wind direction, air pressure, and even the moon are directly related to incoming weather. Paying close attention to the changes in the sky and knowing how to interpret what you see gives you advance warning of what is to come and enables you to prepare.

how to predict the weather
A red rising sun warns of rain to come.

There is an old saying, “Red sky at night a sailor’s delight. Red sky morn, sailors take warn.” At sunset, the red sky is caused by sun rays passing through dust particles which accumulate at the forefront of a high pressure system. However, in the morning a red sky occurs when a low pressure system carrying moisture is on the way. Therefore, a brilliant red sunset usually precedes a clear day but a red sunrise is a warning that a storm is coming.

how to predict the weather
A red sky as the sun sets in the west is a sign of clear skies.

Another colorful way to predict the weather is the formation of rainbows. In the northern hemisphere, a morning rainbow in the east indicates rain is on the way, as weather generally moves east to west.

Reading Clouds

Cloud identification is a science in itself but there are some simple indicators that can prove very useful, especially when trying to predict the weather in the wilderness.

how to predict the weather
When you see cumulus clouds, it’s a good day for traveling, foraging, and other outdoor activities.

White, fluffy clouds sitting high in the sky are non-threatening as they pass overhead. When the cloud cover is low and dark, a storm is building and appropriate measures should be taken to prepare your camp. Gathering extra firewood and storing it in a protected location will ensure that you have dry fuel to burn during and after the storm.

how to predict the weather
Low, dark cloud cover is a sure sign that a storm is building. Make sure your shelter is ready to withstand rain and wind.

To give yourself more time to prepare, there are two easily identified types of clouds that form prior to storm clouds: mare’s tails and mackerel skies. Mare’s tails are wispy cirrus clouds that are somewhat hazy and undefined, as the tail of a galloping mare. The same conditions that cause them to form also cause airplane trails to linger in the sky.

how to predict the weather
Cirrus clouds precede incoming frontal systems and indicate changing weather. Image credit k4dordy on flickr.

Mackerel skies are altocumulus clouds and are also a sign of rising moisture levels. Independently, these each warn of rain coming within a few days, but seen together, rain will typically fall within 24 hours.

how to predict the weather
Mackerel skies are named for their resemblance to the scales of a mackerel fish.

While clouds are often thought of as bringers of rain, they also act as a layer of insulation. On an overcast night, the radiant heat from the earth is trapped by the cloud layer, leading to a higher temperature in the morning. When the sky is clear at night, the radiant heat escapes and the morning will be cooler as a result.

Wilderness Survival Kit

Detecting Air Pressure

Though air pressure is less noticeable than cloud cover, it is a very dependable indicator of incoming weather conditions. Low atmospheric pressure leads to cloud formation and precipitation. High pressure systems are associated with rising air and clear dry skies.

One way to detect the current air pressure conditions is to observe the smoke from a campfire. If the smoke is rising steadily in vertical column, the air pressure is high but if it is sinking and swirling, the air pressure is low and precipitation may soon follow.

survival after bugging out
Studying how to predict the weather turns your campfire into a barometer.

What The Wind Tells About The Weather

Wind is named for the direction it comes from, so an easterly wind blows from east to west. A gentle prevailing wind or light, variable winds are signs of clear weather. Strong winds occur when two fronts with different temperatures meet, and usually mean that a storm is forming.

An awareness of the surrounding climates will also help you read the wind. For instance, if a desert lies to the east of your location, wind coming from the east will typically carry dry, warm desert air. Mountains also play a role in that air flowing over a mountain will usually release precipitation as it rises along the side facing the wind and will move down the opposite side with dry air.

“Circle Around The Moon, Rain Or Snow Soon.”

People have long looked to the moon to provide insight into atmospheric conditions. As the old saying states, when the moon has a hazy ring around it, precipitation is on its way. The ring is caused by the presence of dust particles building up in the atmosphere. It means that a low pressure system is on its way, bringing rain or snow with it. As it passes through, the low pressure system will push the particles along.

how to predict the weather
You can see how the moonlight reflects on the particles in the air, forming a hazy ring.

When the moon appears clearly defined and bright, it is due to an absence of particles and moisture. This is characteristic of a high pressure system and the next day has a high chance of being dry. In the short-term, this is a simple and effective way to predict the weather.

how to predict the weather
When the outline of the moon is clearly defined, fair weather can be expected.

For long-term or seasonal weather predictions, the phases of the moon can reveal clues. When two full moons occur in the same month, there is a higher chance of flooding. It is also said that when the tips of a crescent moon point upward and the moon looks like a bowl that can hold water, a dry spell is coming. When the new moon looks like a frown, or a bowl that water would spill out of, a wet spell is predicted.

how to predict the weather
This bowl-shaped moon is often associated with a period of dry weather.

Weather Signs In Nature

The natural world is built to survive and living things will make adjustments in order to maintain life and produce offspring. Sometimes the changes are so subtle they can hardly be detected but there are some common plant and animal behaviors that reveal clues about the weather. When bugging out, you can use these clues to increase your own chances of survival.

How To Predict The Weather Using Plants

Upon waking, take a close look at the ground. Morning dew on the plants, while itself is wet, can actually be a sign of a dry day to come. A lack of morning dew can occur when dry winds have been pushed through ahead of a storm system bringing rain close behind. Of course, if it rained the night before, this will be more difficult to observe and you will need to look for additional signs in order to predict the weather.

how to predict the weather
A dewy morning can mean that a dry day is in store.

The phrase “it smells like rain” has some truth to it. The moist air of a low pressure system brings out the scents of plants, as they release their waste under this condition, so the air will smell more pungent just before a rain. Swamps will also release gases during a low pressure system, making for a telltale sign that a storm is moving in.

Visual signs that it is time to prepare for wet weather are readily apparent in trees. The leaves of deciduous trees will curl upward in anticipation of a rainstorm. Pine cones will open their scales in dry air but close them in high humidity.

how to predict the weather
The increase in humidity prior to a storm causes deciduous leaves to curl upward.
how to predict the weather
It looks like a dry sunny day for this pine tree.

Plants also have the ability to foresee more long-term conditions and will adjust their growth accordingly. Crops, such as onions and corn, will grow thicker husks when a harsher winter is predicted in order to provide more protection to their seeds. Similarly, evergreens will produce larger, more robust pine cones, and acorns will form thicker shells- all to provide the seeds with a better chance of surviving extreme winter conditions. If you notice these signs, be prepared for a cold, long winter.

how to predict the weather
A thicker husk provides the seeds with better insulation against extreme temperatures.

How To Predict The Weather Using Animals

The combination of heightened senses and well-developed instincts makes animals highly adept at sensing bad weather conditions. Be on the lookout for changes in feeding patterns, behavior, and sound level that may indicate rain is on the way.

Here are some specific examples of animal behavior that can be used to predict when a storm is coming: 

  • Fish will feed voraciously at the surface prior to a storm so that they can ride it out in deeper water where food is scarce, so an excellent day of fishing usually means you should seek shelter and be prepared to cook the day’s catch in the rain.

how to predict the weather

  • Turtles begin to seek higher ground 1-2 days before a large rainstorm, so you may see them on roads or other areas above normal water levels.
  • If birds are flying high, the weather will likely be clear for a few days. Birds will fly lower in dropping pressure systems because the change in pressure hurts their ears. They will also exhibit frenzied feeding. Squabbles at the bird feeder can mean that a storm is coming and birds are stocking up in preparation of riding out the storm in their nest.

how to predict the weather

  • Along coastlines, seagulls will take shelter before a storm and birds in general become very quiet.
  • Squirrels, similar to birds, will aggressively stock up on food prior to a pending storm.
  • Cats’ ears are very sensitive and they do not tend to wash them but a change in pressure may cause your cat to rub at its ears, indicating a drop in pressure and a storm on the way.

how to predict the weather

  • Horses and cows are known to exhibit similar ear sensitivity behaviors when the pressure changes.
  • Herd animals, such as cattle, will group tightly together, usually facing the same direction, when a storm is approaching. They also tend to head for high ground.

In addition to predicting major storms, animals can also sense long-term threats in the weather pattern. This information is highly valuable when preparing your bug out camp to withstand low temperatures and difficult conditions. A harsh winter means that food will be scarce and opportunities for foraging and hunting will be limited.

bushcraft skills

Depending on the amount of snow cover, it may be challenging to gather firewood. Keeping a fire going will be vital and your bug out party will need as many warm layers as you are able to find or make. All of these preparations take time, so the sooner you know, the better.

In general, if you notice extra thick coats of fur on domestic animals or local wildlife, expect dropping temperatures. Conversely, when their fur comes off in tufts, warmer temperatures are right around the corner.

If birds begin migrating earlier than usual, it is a sign of harsh winter to come. The brown section in the middle of a woolly bear’s body is also used to predict how harsh the upcoming winter will be; the thinner the brown stripe, the harsher the winter is expected to be. While there is not much research to back it up, a 70-80% success rate is pretty good for an old wives tale!

how to predict the weather
The Isabella Tiger Moth caterpillar, often referred to as the “woolly bear,” is an age-old predictor of winter conditions. The one on the left (photo credit Sheila Sund on flickr) is thought to indicate a short winter, while the one on the right (photo credit USFWS on flickr) shows a harsh winter is in store.

Farmers have even used cow fertility rates to predict whether there will be a drought the following year- a drop in fertility occurs in anticipation of a future water shortage.

how to predict the weather
Do cows know how to predict the weather?! Many animals will make similar adjustments in breeding in response to foreseen conditions.

Resources On How To Predict The Weather

To futher explore the topic of how to predict the weather using nature, check out these excellent resources on clouds, weather, navigating, and storms.

ResourceAuthorSubject
The Lost Art of Reading Nature's Signs
Tristan GooleyForecasting, tracking, navigating and more by reading clues from nature
The Natural Navigator
Tristan GooleyHow to read navigational clues from the sun, plants, tides, stars and more to find your way
The Weather Wizard's Cloud Book
Jim Duncan, Louis D. Rubin Sr., Hiram J. HerbertA full guide to using clouds to predict the weather
Instant Weather Forecasting
Alan WattsCloud formations and reading the sky to predict the weather
Instant Storm Forecasting
Alan WattsFocuses on forecasting strong winds, thunder, hail storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, typhoons, and waterspouts
Instant Wind Forecasting
Alan WattsLearn to read clues to make predictions for wind conditions
Truth About Nature: A Family's Guide to 144 Common Myths about the Great Outdoors
Stacy Tornio and Ken KefferGreat for families! Explore myths about nature in this interactive guidebook
Click the image to view the book on Amazon.

Conclusion

Plants and animals have been “bugging out” and surviving in nature since the beginning of time. There is much to gain by observing their weather predicting skills and honing our own. When living in the natural world, a simple thunderstorm can be catastrophic if you are not prepared for it. Anticipating a harsh winter can help you ration supplies and apply your energy effectively so you have adequate food and fuel stored. Knowing how to predict the weather will help you to make wise decisions in favor of your survival.

Your Thoughts

Do you know any other ways to predict the weather in the wilderness? Have you been in a situation where knowledge of weather signs in nature benefitted you? Share your experiences in the Comments section below, thanks!

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survival after bugging out

A Step-By-Step Guide to Survival After Bugging Out

survival after bugging out

It’s one thing to have everything you need prepared and ready to go in case of disaster; it’s quite another to know exactly what to do and to stay calm under pressure.

In a disaster, what you do in those first crucial moments has a lasting impact on your long-term survival. However, preparing for survival and actually surviving are two very different things. To improve your chances of survival after bugging out, we’ve prepared a list of priorities to help you plan your long-term survival strategy and ensure you’re ready for life off the grid.

Priority #1: Securing the Area

Once you and your party have arrived to your designated bug out location, the first thing you want to focus on is ensuring the area is still a safe place to spend the night. Check out your perimeter and, if you haven’t already, sketch out a rough map of key area features. Find a decent vantage point that allows you to get your bearings and view the surrounding area, making note of any bodies of water, visible trails, roads, and train tracks.

survival after bugging out
Carefully assess whether it is safe to remain at your chosen bug out location.

Another important sign to look for is evidence of other travelers; you chose your bug out location because of its desirable features, perhaps other bug out parties have as well. Key indicators to look for include man-made items along the trail to your bug out location, rising smoke, and bright colors indicating tents or tarps. Additionally, listen carefully for footsteps and voices, especially if you fled a nearby disaster.

At this point, simply having knowledge of any persons nearby and being able to keep tabs on them without divulging your location will suffice until you have addressed the second priority, assessing health. However, if you have the means, consider setting up a trip wire around your camp before settling in for the night. Using glowsticks and mousetraps, you can build a simple, yet very effective, security system such as this one.

Priority #2: Assessing Health

Assessing the health of your bug out crew is of utmost importance; skipping a full evaluation can lead to severe problems down the road so make sure your assessment is thorough. In a survival situation, overlooking or ‘braving through’ a condition can threaten your long-term survival – as such, all injuries should be accounted for and treated accordingly. If the size of your bug out crew permits, this assessment can be performed at the same time as your perimeter search.

When assessing the health of your crew, you’ll want to look at both physical and emotional health:

Physical health

Even minor cuts can become a major problem if they become infected, so making sure everyone in your party has arrived unscathed is an important step. Of equal importance is immediately tending to any cuts or wounds crew members may have suffered to increase the chances of quick healing. If you’ve determined there are no pressing medical issues, scan everyone for minor injuries and ticks. Additionally, once you take off your packs, be sure to properly stretch in order to alleviate any soreness, and drink water to replenish lost fluids.

survival after bugging out
Your survival after bugging out greatly depends on your health and that of everyone in your group.

If there are any injuries, prioritize treatment based on severity, starting with the least severe. While it may be tempting to treat the most severe injury first, tending to those with minor injuries first will then allow them to assist with others. Also, patching up small cuts can prevent passing bloodborne infections. However, sequencing for treatment is always a judgment call; if a member of your crew is having difficulty breathing or experiencing severe bleeding, they should be tended to immediately.

To assist in situations where bug out crew members are injured, we recommend adding CPR and first aid training as a measure of preparedness. Additionally, always keep a first aid manual with your bug out gear as this will help when trying to administer treatment under stress.

Emotional Health

The emotional toll of bugging out can be just as debilitating as physical injuries, and many mental effects won’t manifest themselves until you’ve reached safety. As the adrenaline cools and the reality of what you’ve just endured and the fact that you may never go back to your old life start to sink in, fear and anxiety can take over.

survival after bugging out

Many people will start to wonder about the safety of loved ones and friends that are not with them and stress about their whereabouts; additionally, for those in a disaster situation, there may be extreme images that play through crew members’ minds. This can be a lot to take in at once, keeping everyone calm and minimizing discussions of the events will help your group focus on the tasks at hand. Arriving was an important step, but there is still work to be done in order to survive.

Bugging out with children can present its own set of emotional challenges. If there are children in your bug out party, make sure you designate a caretaker adult ahead of time who is able to comfort them and display a positive attitude. Older children can be kept busy with tasks such as gathering firewood or kindling and retrieving other items to help with camp.

survival after bugging out

The better prepared your children are ahead of time, the better they will be able to handle the rigors of survival after bugging out. The way you carry yourself and your demeanor makes a huge difference as even very young children can pick up on your stress level; by maintaining a level head and staying calm, you will benefit everyone in your crew.

Priority #3: Attempting Communication

Once you have secured the area and all injuries have been stabilized, your next priority should be to find out what’s going on by pulling out your emergency radio. Emergency broadcasts will provide you with current information and potentially the extent of the damage in a disaster scenario. This information will help you to better assess whether or not to stay at your bug out location as you will be aware of potential impending threats (such as bombings) or the scope of a natural disaster.

best emergency weather radio

If cell phone use is an option, you may be able to check in with loved ones to help alleviate some anxiety. However, should you be unable to reach anyone, don’t panic. Communication lines are often overwhelmed in the aftermath of a crisis; you can always check again later.

survival after bugging out
If your cell phone is still working, preserve battery by only turning it on a few times a day for short periods.

Priority #4: Setting Up Camp

There is no guarantee of what time of day or year it will be when you bug out; the more you plan ahead and establish roles, the smoother the process will be.

To properly set up camp for survival after bugging out, you will need to choose spots for your fire and shelter, assemble your fire and shelter, make arrangements for hygiene, and safeguard your food rations against wildlife.

Fire and Shelter

There are many options for bug out shelters; carefully assess the weather and conditions in your particular locale to choose which type is best. To learn about simple shelters you can build, CLICK HERE. Whichever means you choose, try and utilize natural structures for shelter and concealment, and locate the fire pit centrally in order to keep everyone warm.

survival after bugging out
No tent? No problem. There are lots of ways to build a simple shelter.

After establishing the locations for your shelter and fire, it’s time to start building your fire; this way, you can use the light from the fire to continue building or setting up your shelter. As a prudent measure, you should include at least two means for starting a fire in your bug-out bag; however, should you run into problems, here are six ways to make fire without matches.

survival after bugging out
At night, the light of the fire is less visible if you recess your fire pit.

One consideration for setting up your fire is whether or not it is visible from far away; if giving up your location puts you at risk, try to keep the fire small and obscured by brush (at a safe distance) or possibly wait until after dusk when rising smoke will be less visible.

Hygiene

Designate an area to serve as a bathroom that is downhill and 200 feet away from your main camp area and any water source. Digging individual catholes will work for smaller groups over a short period of time, but for a larger group, a latrine may be your best option.

To build a latrine, dig a six-foot trench that is about eight inches deep and use every inch from one end to the other, covering waste with soil as you go. When all the space is used up, you will need to choose another location as concentrating too much waste in one area decreases the decomposition rate and attracts wildlife.

survival after bugging out
Once the immediate needs have been met, you can start planning for long-term survival after bugging out.

Food Preservation

Another big attraction for wildlife: Food. Make sure to secure your food rations out of reach of animals. For a simple bear bag method, tie a 10-inch stick to the end of a rope and toss it over a high branch and then tie a bag with your food supply (and any other items that might smell tempting to animals) at the other end. Hoist the bag at least 15-feet off the ground and then secure the end to the trunk of the tree with the stick.

survival after bugging out
This branch was ideal for our bear bag because it was high off the ground and away from other branches.
survival after bugging out
Close up view of how the bear bag strap was secured to a nearby tree trunk.

Priority #5: Finding a Water Supply

If you’re wondering why finding a water supply is lower on the priority list, we assumed that you bugged-out with a 72-hour water supply as well as a means of purifying found water. If this is not the case, you may want to improve your bug out preparedness or move finding a water supply up to a higher priority.

When choosing your bug out location, you undoubtedly chose somewhere near a body of water; however, no matter where your water comes from, always be sure to purify any water obtained in nature to prevent contracting a parasite. If there is no water source near your bug out location, or it is unsafe to approach existing water sources, there are several ways in which you can harvest water from nature.

survival after bugging out survival after bugging out
Intestinal parasites, such as giardia, can have devastating effects. Always purify drinking water!

Different ways to harvest water include tapping into trees and plants (think sap), collecting condensed water in a transpiration bag, and digging for water in geographical low points by looking for key indicators such as lines of shrubs. For more details on these and several other ways to harvest water from natural sources, please CLICK HERE.

Drought-Prepping-Intro3

Priority #6: Rationing Supplies

When bugging out, the supply of food you have on hand no doubt consists of MREs, high-density protein bars, dehydrated foods, and other items that are light and easy to carry. While these can be great sources of nutrition, try not to deplete your supplies too quickly – survival is not a three-meals-a-day holiday.

survival after bugging out survival after bugging out
Ration your packaged food to last as long as possible to give you enough time to figure out a food source. Image via JaseMan on Flickr.

To get an idea of the amount of calories each of the members of your bug-out crew will need per day, check out this table that details the minimum daily caloric requirements for men, women and children. 

survival after bugging out survival after bugging out
Keep your energy up with high-calorie protein bars. Image via Richard Masoner on Flickr.

While children may have lower daily caloric needs, they will suffer from lack of calories sooner; feed children more frequent ‘meals,’ but keep those meals small. When rationing food supplies, keep in mind that you have not yet secured an alternate food supply, which brings us to the seventh priority: Finding food.

Priority #7: Finding Food

The time to start looking for food is as soon as possible, not when your supplies are low. You never know how long it will take you to find a food supply and should it take some time for success, your food supply may run out. There have been entire books written on how to scavenge for food in the wild, and we here at The Bug Out Bag Guide have covered the topic several times, including in our article Bushcraft Skills: Foraging for Food.

Foraging for Plants

One of the easiest ways to forage for food is to look to the plants and foliage all around you. Plants do not provide the same caloric value of meat or fish, but they do have a variety of nutritional benefits. Make sure to study your local edible plants and learn how to identify them in the wild before bugging out.

Hunting Game

Small game can be caught quite successfully in forested areas by setting traps. In particular, squirrels and rabbits tend to be abundant and can be easily caught using simple snares. Always ensure you mark the location of your snares on a map and check each one frequently; a struggling animal will attract attention from predators who may steal your meal before you even know it’s there.

survival after bugging out survival after bugging out
A deadfall trap is a simple yet effective way to catch small game.

Traps, such as funnels or corrals, can also be set to catch fish by placing the traps along the bank of a stream. Depending on your skill level and the type of weapons you have available, hunting for larger game may also be an option.

survival after bugging out survival after bugging out
Inlets lend themselves well to building a corral for trapping fish.

Remember, the greater variety of methods you have in place for finding food, the more likely your chances of catching it!

Priority #8: Defending Your Camp

Once you’ve put in the hard work of getting your family to safety and ensuring you have the supplies needed to survive, it’s time to focus your attention on keeping your family, gear and supplies safe from predators and thieves.

survival after bugging out survival after bugging out
Be prepared – you never know who might stumble into your camp!

The first step in defending your camp is to set up a watch, ensuring someone is on the lookout at all times. Additionally, you can use thorny brush to build a fence around your camp to keep both human intruders and predatory animals out.

We also mentioned setting up a perimeter fence around your camp in order to keep intruders out; now is the time to decide what to do about it. If the intruder is an animal and you are equipped to take it down, that could be an easy dinner for your crew; however, with larger game, unless you have a suitable weapon at hand, you are better off to try and scare it away than risk injuring yourself.

Your group will also need a strategy to handle human intruders. Each situation should be evaluated reasonably; arming yourself with weapons and defensive tactics to protect against attackers is a smart move, but not every person you encounter will be out to get you.

Final Thoughts On Survival After Bugging Out

The most important thing to remember after bugging out is to stay positive and calm. Keeping a level head will help you to better handle all the tasks necessary to establish your bug out camp.

Foster communication and cooperation within the group so that you work together as a team and always be open to new and creative ways of completing tasks. Having your main tasks prioritized beforehand is an excellent way to ensure you’ve covered all the critical bases and that you are not expending unnecessary energy.

Your Thoughts

Do you agree with our prioritization of tasks for survival after bugging out? Is there anything missing that you feel should be addressed immediately after bugging out? Do you have any tips to share from your experiences setting up camps? Share your thoughts and questions with us in the Comments section below, thanks!

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surviving a drought

Surviving a Drought: Learn How To Harvest Water From Natural Sources

surviving a drought

Imagine, your mind a complete fog, your body unable to lift itself due to extreme dizziness, and nausea and cramping so bad you can barely move. This is what happens to your body after only three days without water – it’s called dehydration. While symptoms and severity can vary, the chances of survival after three days without water are slim.

In civilized society, droughts are thought of more as an inconvenience than a threat; however, in a disaster scenario, the threat of a drought – especially in times of extreme heat – becomes much more real when clean drinking water is a scarce resource.

No matter how thorough your prepping, there is a limit to the amount of water you are able to store. In a long-term survival situation, sooner or later, you’ll need to find a natural water source suitable for drinking. The good news is, even in the driest of times, there are always ways of harvesting water both above and below the ground.

In this article, we’re going to take you through the various methods you can use to harvest water in the wild, teach you to identify and find signs of water, and show you ways to purify harvested water so it’s suitable for drinking.

3 Key Methods for Harvesting Water

surviving a drought
When the pipes run dry, will you be able to harvest water from natural sources?

Solar Still

A great way to extract water straight from the ground is by using a solar still. To build one, you will need the following:

  • Collection bucket (this can be any type of wide-brimmed container to collect the water; basically, anything water-tight. In a pinch, even a plastic bag will work, as long as it can be secured so it will not tip and spill the water)
  • Large sheet of plastic
  • Rocks
  • Long straw (optional)

Once you’ve collected your items, choose a sunny spot and dig a wide hole; at the base of the hole, dig a fitted spot large enough for your collection bucket to rest in. If there is any leafy, green vegetation around, place it in the hole around the opening of the bucket; this will enhance your water collection rate by drawing moisture from the plants as well as the air.

Next, lay the sheet of plastic over the top of the hole and use your rocks to secure it firmly in place. Place a small stone in the center of the plastic to create a low-joint point, just above the top of the bucket to allow condensation to collect and drip into the bucket. Even in the desert, a solar still can collect up to a quart of water per day. To access the water without disturbing your still, use a long straw or piece of tubing.

surviving a drought
Solar Still Design. Make sure the plastic sheet overlaps the edge of the hole enough to lay the rocks.

Rainwater

Although water falling from the sky may seem like a lottery win to someone suffering from dehydration, be aware that rainwater is not technically safe for drinking due to pollutants in the air (such as arsenic) that make their way into the rainwater. There are ways to purify this polluted water to make it safe for drinking; several strategies are discussed later in this article.

If you are in the wilderness, collecting rainwater is as simple as setting up as many containers as you can. Be sure to place your containers in unobscured locations in order to obtain rainwater directly from the sky, and not water that has dripped off plants.

surviving a drought
Water dripping off plants can contain debris and pollutants, so collect rain away from foliage.

Harvesting rainwater from your home is accomplished by setting up rain barrels below your roof gutters to catch the runoff. However, be aware that in addition to pollutants, water from roofs will also typically have bugs and bird feces and not be particularly suitable for consumption.

There are some barrels available with built-in filtration systems that will remove solid waste; allowing the rain to rinse the roof for about 10 minutes before connecting your barrel will also help decrease the amount of debris and contamination.

Plant Sources

If there are green plants, there is water to be harvested. There are several ways to extract water from plants, just be sure to choose the non-poisonous ones!

Transpiration Bag

Plants take up water in the process of photosynthesis and during transpiration, water is one of the by-products released into the air. To capture this water, place a clear plastic bag over the end of a leafy branch and secure it with a cord. Within a few hours, several ounces of water will be available.

Before consuming water from natural sources, we recommend purifying it for safety. For a great visual demonstration on setting up a transpiration bag, take a look at this YouTube video:

Directly Off the Leaves 

Plants have many adaptations for surviving a drought. In desperate times, plants that have leaves with a natural cup shape can be a source of water. The leaves specifically grow in that shape to funnel rainwater towards the trunk and act like a natural scoop. Look for plants with leaves growing directly from the base of the stem or trees that have clusters of leaves growing out of the trunk. The Traveler’s Tree can hold several pints of water this way.

surviving a drought
Plants are good at storing water to survive a drought. A refreshing drink may be waiting in the leaves.

Tapping Into the Trunk

In a tree trunk, xylem transport water from the roots to the leaves in a vertical fashion; this water can be collected similar to how sap is collected from maple trees. To do this, you will need a strong, tubular stick about the diameter of your thumb (alternatively, a hollowed out length of bamboo works as well) or a drip stick; a means of cutting a notch and hammering in the drip stick; and a collection reservoir.

surviving a drought
Sap is simply sugar water and it can save your life.

Sharpen the tube at one end and gently tap it into the trunk at a 70 degree angle – you do not need to drive it in more than a few inches – and set up a collection reservoir below to catch the dripping water. Your collection reservoir can be a plastic bag, large leaf, or, ideally, a bucket. Collection will take a while, but the water collected is safe to drink. For a great instructional video on the drip stick method, check out this YouTube video:

From the Roots

While the roots of plants do contain water, it is quite a laborious task to extract it. To harvest water from plant roots, start by cutting a large root and stripping the bark. Then, use rocks to mash the root into a pulp, this will produce droplets of water and the root pulp can be pressed into a collection container for consumption. If you happen to be bugging-out in Australia, blood woods, water trees, and desert oaks are known for a high yield of root water.

surviving a drought
The inside of a barrel cactus can also be mashed and drained to yield water.

Bamboo Plants

Bamboo plants serve as a great source for water as they store it in the cavities between their joints. When looking for bamboo plants, look for those that are most yellow as these typically have more water. Once you’ve found a piece of bamboo, tap and listen for a low thud, indicating it is not hollow, then locate a section with water, cut a notch just above the lower joint, and collect the water that runs out. While this water is safe to drink directly, we recommend purifying in order to protect against disease.

Vines

While vines can be a source of water, caution must be taken in choosing which to use as those with milky sap tend to be poisonous. If there is no milky substance in the vine you chose, proceed by cutting a deep notch in the top of the vine. Then, cut off the tip of the vine to allow water to flow and continue to work your way up the vine, cutting sections and collecting water until no more water flows. It’s important to notch the topmost part of the plant first, otherwise it will respond by drawing all the water in the vine back towards the base of the plant.

Surviving A Drought By Extracting Water From the Air

It is possible to extract water from the air, and World War: Water, a must-have survival resource, will teach you how. Click here to order your copy!

Searching for Water – 4 Key Signs You Must Look For

surviving a drought
Surviving a drought involves knowing how water behaves in nature.

Growing Vegetation

Even if the landscape you are looking out at seems barren and devoid of water, take a closer look for small trees, bushes, or clusters of tall grass. If this vegetation is growing in a line, there is likely to be an underground stream sustaining it. To confirm, dig a small hole at the base of a group of plants.

Following Insects and Birds

Following insects and birds can lead you directly to water. Bees in particular need fresh water to survive and will typically build their hive no more than a few miles from a fresh water supply; should you find a hive, immediately start looking for other signs of water.

surviving a drought
Signs of life can lead you to water if you know how to read them.

Mosquitos, as pesky as they might be, are good to follow as they breed in pools of standing water. The mason fly can lead you to underground springs as it uses mud to build and therefore seeks out moist soil for this purpose.

Another reliable water indicator is wild pigeons; after feeding on grain all day, they seek out water at dusk. Pigeons that are flying low and swift are typically headed towards a watering hole, while flying from tree to tree is a sign they are returning from the water hole. The added weight of water in their stomach slows them down and causes them to use more caution to avoid predators. Carefully observing the activities of wildlife is key for finding signs of water.

Following Animal Tracks

Grazing animals need to drink in the morning and the evening to digest their diet of grass. If you come across a hoof print, look downhill to locate where their water source might be. You may be lucky enough to find more tracks to follow, but also look for snapped twigs, scat, scraped bark, and other signs of larger animals.

Often the path to the water hole is heavily trodden and clear of obstacles; the careful eye can pick up signs of wear on the ground indicating the trail.

surviving a drought
Mark any animals signs you find and carefully scan the area for more.

Terrain Indicators

The ground itself can serve as an excellent roadmap in locating water. Water obeys gravity, flowing downward, and therefore your best chance of finding water is to seek low ground. Walking parallel to a mountain gives you a good chance of finding an outlet of fresh water, or at least a dry stream bed.

While a dry stream bed itself is of no use to someone who’s parched, there may be water accessible beneath the surface. The ideal stream bed to investigate will have dark green vegetation along it, but any vegetation is still a good sign. Examine the stream bed for dark patches of earth or dampness, the outer side of a bend, or natural depressions in the dirt – these are ideal places to dig.

surviving a drought
A stream like this may not look like it has much water but with a little digging, it can be your key to surviving a drought.

Underground water can be harvested by digging a seep – a hole two to three feet in diameter and at least one foot deep. After digging your seep, groundwater should slowly start to seep into the hole, and by lining the bottom with rocks, you will prevent much of the sediment from stirring up.

Fresh groundwater is considered safe to drink but we always recommend sterilization as it’s better to be safe than sorry; additionally, leaving your hole unattended may invite wildlife to share in your water supply so purification is a must.

Essential Water Purification Techniques

If you’ve been able to harvest enough water to drink using your drought survival skills, there’s still the problem of purifying to ensure it’s safe to drink. The following are our suggestions for the best water purification techniques when surviving a drought:

Filtration

To filter water, pour it through a bandanna to get rid of any sediment. You can layer charcoal, sand, and dried grass in a sock or another piece of fabric, then pour murky water through it and collect what seeps through in a container; you may need to repeat this a few times to achieve clear water. It’s important to remember that this water will have sediment removed, but not microscopic contaminants such as bacteria and viruses.

Gypsy Filter

If you happen to come across a pool of water but have no means of purifying it, dig a hole deeper than the pool about one foot away from its edge; this will cause water to flow in. The initial water will be muddy and should be discarded, but eventually, after being drawn through the layers of sediment between the pool and your hole, the water will be filtered.

DIY Charcoal Straw Filter

To build a charcoal straw filter, first find a hollow reed or other tube. Then, stuff in some dry grass followed by a layer of crushed charcoal and top it off with more dried grass to hold the charcoal in place. Pack it firmly, but not so tight that air can’t be pulled through, and then, using it as a straw, draw water up through the filtering layers.

Steripen

A Steripen uses UV light to sterilize water. Before treating, water should be filtered and clear. Once your water has been filtered, turn on the steripen and stir in your water until the indicator light turns green. The UV light targets the DNA of microorganisms, rendering them unable to reproduce and thus unable to infect you. A steripen is 99.9% effective at destroying pathogens.

LifeStraw

When it comes to surviving a drought, a LifeStraw not only filters water, but also removes 95% of the bacteria as well. They are easy to use, very portable, and allow you to drink directly from the water source without having to pre-filter or sterilize. Each straw filters up to 1,000 liters of water.

Boiling

To boil your water, first remove any sediment and bring your water to a rolling boil for one minute (three minutes at altitudes above 5,000 ft.); this will kill any pathogenic bacteria and viruses. Allow the water to cool and transfer any water for storage to a clean container that can be tightly sealed.

UV Purification

UV purification can be accomplished using clear plastic PET bottles or glass containers. First, filter your water to get rid of sediment, then fill the bottles and seal tightly using a lid or improvised material. Second, lay the bottles out in the sun for six hours (or two days if the weather is overcast) to allow the UV rays from the sun to kill any bacteria. The water can continue to be stored or consumed straight from the bottle.

surviving a drought
If nothing else is available, you can use the sun to purify your water.

Unscented Chlorine Bleach

Unscented chlorine bleach can be used to disinfect water using the following ratios:

WaterChlorine Bleach
1 Quart2 Drops
1 Gallon6 Drops
8 Gallons1/2 Teaspoon
Water purification ratios for chlorine bleach.

 

Add the bleach to the water and allow to sit for 30 minutes. There will be a slight chlorine odor, and if there isn’t, repeat the dosage. Allowing the water to stand for a few hours in a clean container will reduce the taste and smell of chlorine.

Purification Tablets

Purification tablets are similar to using chlorine but easier to carry with you; one tablet treats two quarts of water. To use, simply drop a tablet into your water and allow to sit for 30 minutes.

Perfecting Your Drought Survival Skills

Now that you know the basics of harvesting, finding, and purifying water to survive a drought, it’s time to take your knowledge to the next level. In order to be fully versed in drought survival skills, there are two resources you need to be familiar with. The first is The Bug Out Bag Guide’s Survival Skills article, which builds on the information in this article to provide a holistic guide to surviving in the wild.

The second, a resource no prudent prepper should be without, is World War: Water, a fascinating read that discusses the oncoming drought our world is facing and presents novel harvesting methods to ensure you don’t run out of water. Click here to get your very own copy!

surviving a drought
Click the cover image to find out how to harvest clean filtered water right out of the air!

Conclusion

The devastating effects of dehydration are something no one wants to be faced with; it is essential for your survival that you learn water-harvesting techniques to sustain yourself during a drought. Remember – the human body can only survive for three days without water, and what a grueling three days they are!

To build your water-harvesting knowledge, consider researching local plant life in your area to find out which types are likely to be the best sources for water. Also, remember to ensure your bug-out-bag is stocked with plenty of supplies that will allow you to purify any found water. While you may (literally) be so thirsty you could die, safety first; always protect yourself from illness and never consume water without first treating it.

Your Thoughts

Have you ever harvested for water in a drought? What was your experience like? Share your comments and stories with us in the Comments section below, thanks!

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