Wilderness Survival Tips

Man Building Fire in the Forest
When camping, hiking, or enjoying other outdoor activities you can find yourself in unexpected circumstances. The more you know about how to stay warm and what you may eat can help you maintain until help arrives. This is a page about wilderness survival tips.


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February 18, 2005

You're stranded in your car or truck in the middle of winter and you have no winter survival kit in your car. No relief in sight. This TP heater may save your life. This requires a empty coffee can with the plastic lid, at least two 16 ounce bottles of rubbing alcohol and one roll of unscented toilet paper. It's easy to make:

1. Knead the toilet paper roll in your hands to loosen the inner cardboard core. Remove the core,compress the roll and place inside the coffee can. I used a small roll of TP and put it in a 13 ounce metal coffee can.

2. Pour one bottle of rubbing alcohol into the can, let it soak in and -carefully-light the top of the paper. It should burn with a clean flame.

3. Set the can in an area free of flammable materials. The heater will produce deadly CO2 so crack the windows on both sides to provide ventilation. Fuel is running low when the edges of the toilet paper starts to brown. Blow out the flame. Add another bottle and relight. Each bottle will provide flame with intermittent use for 18 to 24 hours. Now get your winter survival kit stashed in the trunk of your car along with the TP heater.


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January 30, 2014

This tip came from a friend, a woodsman and war reenactor. Works amazingly well, but takes some prep. You should prepare this fire starter kit before you have to rely upon it off the beaten track. You may also want to keep the kit in a waterproof pouch or ziplock baggie when backpacking, just in case.


  • Altoids tin
  • small screwdriver or awl
  • some strips of light denim cloth
  • medium size steel belt buckle (small enough to fit into the tin)
  • small piece of flint stone (about 1 square inch)
  • dry jute, twine or other starter mater


  1. Take an Altoids tin and punch a small hole into the side of the lower half with a small screwdriver or awl. The hole shouldn't be more than a couple millimeters across, less than an 8th of an inch.
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  3. Cut strips of cloth, such as denim, about 2 inches long and an inch wide, layer them into the tin and close it. Do not use synthetic material; organic, vegetable fibre cloth only! Cotton does the job well, and light denim is perfect for the job.
  4. Build a medium-small fire around the box and light it. Let the fire burn down to coal with the box sitting in the coals until the fire is completely out. Recover the box. Inside should be the cloth, but it will now be completely black, looking like charcoal. This is called "charcloth." In the same fire, burn your belt buckle to demagnetize it. The trick will not work with a regular, even slightly magnetized hunk of steel.
  5. Set up a kindling fire with plenty of dry starter material in the center. Remember to allow your fire to have plenty of air flow from the non-windy side. Using your small flint stone and the demagnetized belt buckle, wrap the cloth around the flint and strike through it with the steel. In a few strikes, a spark will catch in the cloth. You will see a small grey dot appear when it does. This is an ember.
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  7. Swiftly take the cloth off the flint and loosely wrap some frayed jute or dry bark shavings around it. Blow softly. Your starter material should catch fire swiftly. Place it into your kindling and away you go. When doing this step, make sure you are close to your kindling, since your starter material will burn quickly.

You may want to practice this technique before having to rely on it. It takes some setup, but all your tools can fit into the Altoids tin and travel with you as a "frontier" fire starter kit.

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January 30, 2014

Your old lighters can be used to strike up a fire. Hold the lighter upside down atop your bed of starter material.


Roll the flint several times, without sparking it. Magnesium will flake off the mechanism.

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September 17, 2010

Cobwebs contain many disinfectants, including penicillin. If you're in the wilderness and someone (or yourself) has been cut badly, wrap clean cobwebs around the wound and cover with a clean cloth.

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5 Questions

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April 10, 2008


I was watching a video on bushcraft/survival and the host cooked and ate the tubers of something he called "Celandine". It was a low, ground-level plant with small, yellow flowers if I recall correctly. It grew in a sort of marshy area (think peat bog) in England. It didn't grow above the knee.

Is this a plant that grows in the US and if so, what types of environments does it grow in? Also, I looked it up and pretty much everywhere it says not to eat it. This may just be modern opinion, however, since he said that if you cook the tubers in the coals of a campfire for a few minutes, it'll sap the minor toxins from the roots and it's like eating sweet potatoes.


Hardiness Zone: 5a

Paul from Houghton, NY



I am no expert in identifying, or using poisonous plants for food in a wilderness survival situation, but here is what I know about Celandine.

There are two types of Celandine, Greater Celandine, and Lesser Celandine (Chelidonium majus and Ranunculus ficaria L., respectively). Parts of both plants are toxic and both have been used for medicinal purposes, but despite their similar names (and yellow flowers), these two plants are not at all related. Parts of both plants contain toxic compounds and historically, both have been used for medicinal purposes. What the video host was charring on the campfire was most likely the Lesser Celandine, which is still looked at as a valuable wildflower in many parts of Europe, Asia, and North Africa.

Lesser Celandine is now naturalized (considered a noxious weed, actually) in parts of the U.S. and Canada. According to the USDA, in North America its current distribution is limited to 19 states across the Pacific Northwest, northern Midwest, and northeastern portions of the United States, as well as parts of eastern and western Canada.

A herbaceous perennial, Lesser Celandine inhabits moist forested floodplains and prefers sandy soil. This is the same habitat you find native Marsh Marigolds growing, which is probably why the two are often confused. Lesser Celandine blooms early in the spring and unlike the Marsh Marigold, which grows in individual clusters, it forms dense mats that sometimes crowd out the native species. For this reason, it is on the Federal list of noxious weeds.

Historically, Lesser Celandine have been used for medicinal purposes, primarily as an astringent and in the treatment of hemorrhoids and ulcers. Although all parts of this plant are considered poisonous (including the bulbils, leaves, sap and flowers), the toxins are said to be unstable and easily destroyed by heat. If properly prepared, the roots, leaves, stems and flowers can all be safely eaten. That said, I would not recommend eating Celandine unless:

1) You are certain you can identify it.

2) You know how to properly prepare it in order to destroy the toxins.

Here are some good resources if you would like more information.

Good luck!



March 21, 20080 found this helpful

I would contact your local botanic garden or botanic society to be on the safe side--however, here are some results of a quick search:

Lesser Celandine:


Greater Celandine:


"Celandine Chelidonium majus Attractive, self-sowing perennial herb, prefers moist soil and light shade. Anti-inflammatory and cleansing, used internally (with caution) & externally (warts, tumors, eye problems)"


"This is another great herb for improving bile flow and many skin conditions that are caused by lack of essential fatty acids, such as eczema and psoriasis. This plant is undoubtedly the true Celandine, having nothing in common with the Lesser Celandine except the colour of its flowers. It was a drug plant in the Middle Ages and is mentioned by Pliny, to whom we owe the tradition that it is called Chelidonium from the Greek chelidon (a swallow), because it comes into flower when the swallows arrive and fades at their departure. Its acrid juice has been employed successfully in removing films from the cornea of the eye, a property which Pliny tells us was discovered by swallows, this being a double reason why the plant should be named after these birds."

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