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Survival Skills, Reconsidered

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August 22, 2012

Survival Skills, Reconsidered

By David E. Petzal

In the late 1990s, I attended a class on survival given by Peter Kummerfeldt and was spellbound at how much the guy knew and how well he presented it. Mr. Kummerfeldt, in case you’re not familiar with him, spent 30 years as an Air Force survival instructor and finished his career as head of the survival course at the Air Force Academy. He has taught the subject to other government agencies, is a flyfishing and hunting guide, and has been involved in search and rescue operations as well.

Peter is not one of the television survivalists who eats wolverine dung for the camera. He is not in show business; he is deadly serious about staying alive in the outdoors because he’s seen, first-hand, what happens when your skills are not up to that job.

Mr. Kummerfeldt lectures all over the country for most of the year, and if you get a chance to attend one of his courses, do so. You will not be the same at the end of it. The basic theme of his program is that much, if not most, of the survival information we get from television, magazines, and books is sheer nonsense. He tells you why, and he tells you what does work.

For example, we’re told that in a dire emergency, you can take off items of clothing and make a fire with them. Peter once fast-roped out of a helicopter in Alaska after spotting the bodies of three snowmobilers who were frozen solid as logs. Near their bodies was a pile of charred wool clothes and matches. The wool never ignited.

Or, we’re told that body hair will burn in a pinch. Go to a barber, says Peter, and collect a pile of hair, and then try to get a fire out of it. What you will get is smoke, and a fearful stench, and no flame worth speaking of. 

Among the other things you will learn:
- The classic three close-spaced shots fired as a distress signal is worthless in hunting season. If people can hear it at all, what they’ll think is, “Now there’s a lousy shot.”
- Leave your lighter at home; it’s not only useless; it could kill you.
- Commercial chemical tinder is no good. Better to make your own
- Cheap compasses sometimes have the wrong end of the needle polarized, and even good compasses can have their polarity reversed if they’re exposed to the electronic junk we carry with us.
- Most match safes are no good.
- There’s only one brand of survival match that can be relied on.
- Matches you “waterproof” yourself will probably be useless.
- The scariest four words you can hear in the outdoors are: “I’ll be right back.”

He then tells the story (with photos) of a Northwest elk hunter who said just that to his three friends before going on a short stroll to look around, and was next seen, dead of exposure, four miles from camp.

He will open your eyes and scare the hell out of you, both. If you’re not lucky enough to see him in person, you can go to his website, outdoorsafe.com, and see what he has say. It may someday save your ass, as well as your other body parts.

Comments (40)

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from jcarlin wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I'm not a survival guru by any stretch. The only two things that shocked me in there were the burning clothes to start a fire. That.. would never have occurred to me.
If you don't mind, I would like an explanation of your lighter being useless. I've used different fire starting and tinder products, but am in the habit of having a lighter in almost any jacket you'll ever see me in. That and a knife are the two things I'm almost certain to have on me in a pinch even if casually walking. Having started fires with lighters in all kinds of situations, and having been grateful for, if never really "saved" by those fires, I'd really like to hear the logic behind the lighter being useless to dangerous.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I can't easily find the answer to my above question on Mr. Kummerfeldt's site, but I do see that he lists a cigarette lighter as one of his daypack items.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from dukkillr wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Exactly what I thought. How is something that produces a flame useless?

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from OutdoorEnvy wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

When you look at his scheduled speaking events. There's nothing on it, EVER. I skimmed through two years and didn't see one scheduled event on it.

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from Happy Myles wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Mr Kummerfeldt normally lectures at SCI convention, Dallas Safari Club convention, Rocky Mountain Elk convention, and most of the others. Check with those organizations, would be startled if he was not appearing at one of them this coming year. His comments on old survival books and survival myths are real eye openers.

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Lighters are great for cigarettes and cigars but can become dangerously hot trying to ignite kindling. If you insist on using a lighter, use it to light a candle then start your fire with the candle. Lighters are also unreliable. If the flint falls out your are in for a long cold night.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ORbowhunter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

As taken directly from his website... "Cigarette lighters are touted as a piece of fire starting equipment that should be carried in your survival kit. Cigarette lighters are difficult to light when your hands have lost their dexterity, they do not perform well under cold conditions or at higher altitudes and if dropped into a fire accidentally, they explode sending shrapnel in all directions! Cigarette lighters are for lighting cigarettes not campfires!"

If you go to his website and look at the, More News section towards the bottom it is located there in the article titled, "Survival Myths and Misconceptions". I accept the fact that he has far and away more survival training than I, but I will still be keeping my trusty Bic in the hunting bag.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Thanks for the info ORbow. And I agree with you on keeping my bic. He's right, it can get hot, but it's handy. Plus almost all firestarting equipement assumes you have some level of use of your hands.
One item I'm not picking at, but maybe have something useful to add. I've thought about the 3 shots during hunting season before. I don't carry a whole lot of ammo, at least for my long gun, during most hunting outings. It's occurred to me that a 3 shot string would be ignored by most.
However, not after dark. If you need to use your firearm as a signaling device I'd try to be patient with it until it's liable to be most effective. If you shoot a few shots more than a half hour after dark, it's going to be noted where I live and where I hunt. If you do it twice with at least 15 minutes apart, it's going to draw attention as possible poaching if not actually recognized as a distress call. If you can do it 3 times over the course of an hour, that third time likely has people in the woods looking for you already, maybe with a badge. Added to that, if you're hunting from a camp, almost every group of guys worth hunting with will have a couple of guys looking for stragglers who are either in trouble or possibly dragging out after an hour or so of darkness. That makes it much more likely that there's someone who will key into the shots when you signal.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

David

I wonder if Peter Kummerfeldt knows Udo C Fischer?

I worked with him along with Alamogordo Search & Rescue (State Police affiliated) and I didn't know just how much a fella can be well known and respected until I was transferred to Eielson AFB AK from Holloman AFB NM.

www.pjsinnam.com/Udo_Toons/Index.htm

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from Longhunter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I was a bit puzzeled about Mr. Kummerfeldts comment about lighters. I know that there are lighters that are very wind resistant and I believe that they run on butane. He obviously knows much more about survival than I ever will but I think that having 2 methods of making fire would certainly increase your odds of getting out alive. Since he did not seem too keen on matches either I was wondering what he suggests instead?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I survived Fairchild and Eielson S.E.R.E. What I learned:

-Fear the Bunny.

-Read the damn compass.

-Survive the bailout, but no one comes looking for you,even the enemy...Things ain't good.

-Amazing how much energy and water it takes to travel cross country.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Keys to survival is preparation, and avoidance! All the other stuff (like fire starters)while some items may work better then others; are really a matter of opinion.
A family friend fought in the Battle of the Buldge, and the key issue was not being properly supplied/prepared; they had under estimated the enemy's will to fight!
I know..that was WAR, but it really came down to survival..ask a GI that was there, and I promise they will tell you it was a TEST OF SURVIVAL beyond the fighting!
Learn from past survival episodes I say!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Never heard of burning clothes other than the bra, and that was quite a wile ago to light a different kind of fire.s

He's right about the lighter, pain in the neck, but I use it all the time. Can only light it for a couple of seconds.

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from spuddog wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

This guy hates survival blankets as well. He does a series of survival videos for Colorado Parks and Wildlife that you can see free on Vimeo/Colorado Outdoors Magazine. They are good videos and worth watching. I work with Boy Scouts and I have to correct some things. I always tell my scouts to try it first. I've never had much success with dryer lint. A lot of people just repeat what they hear. I've found some fire starting material will work really well under some circumstances, but not others. I try to keep 5 or 6 ways to start a fire with me.

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from O Garcia wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

for me the best man in "survivor" TV shows is the cameraman.

wool is used as fire retardant in some racecar drivers' suits. so it doesn't burn readily.

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from Steward wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I've used dryer lint, but I think it makes a difference what kind of materials were in the dryer, and hence, what materials are in the lint. Some of the things I keep with me work, but I admit I haven't tested them in extreme conditions...like trying to use them when everything is damp, or in a blizzard when my fingers are stiff and unfeeling. However, I keep film cannisters with me, one with gun powder, one with vaseline-soaked cotton balls. I also like to have some char-clothe with me.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from O Garcia wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

floor wax or shoe polish have some petroleum distillate dissolved in the wax, which makes them burn readily. even when they dry, the wax remains.

those rubber foam/ EVA flip-flops so popular with beach buffs also burn like hell, smoky, sooty, stinky, with the rubber melting like lava. find a discarded pair (or steal from a neighbor you hate), cut them up (the soles) in strips, place in a watertight bag with the lighter or other preferred fire starter. use those rubber straps, too. you won't like the smell, but they make great tinder.

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from Moose1980 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I think his idea behind the lighter is you shouldn't just rely on it. One should have multiple ways of starting a fire on them. If you just have a lighter, and the lighter breaks, then you're screwed. I carry a lighter and matches, but should probably get into the habit of carrying a flint and steel striker also.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tom warner wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

There are plenty of good fire starting materials, but I have found that the best is sawdust soaked with kerosene. Just carry a little container of it. I have been using it for over 60 years, and you can't beat it. Yes, and always carry of piece of candle also. Matches? Always have the strike anywhere variety and always make sure they are FRESH and in a waterproof container. Moose 1980 has it right.

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from Amflyer wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Dryer lint...of course it makes a difference in what type of things you are drying. In my case, a large percentage of the lint is made of GSP hair.

Of course, this is supposed to be a serious subject, but I've found that all you need in a survival situation is a deck of cards. Start playing solitaire, and within five minutes someone will be over your shoulder telling you that the red jack will go on the black queen over there...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from IowaGuy wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

From Petzal "television survivalists who eats wolverine dung for the camera"

Love it!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

BTW: Why the sudden interest in Survivalism/Prepper stuff within this blog and a recent blog, DP?

F&S sending you to Dark Corners to write a feature on *Aliments du pays*?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

@Mark-1,
Nah, Dave just took a break from gun cleaning and watched the news for 5 minutes...so he is afraid.
And rightly so!!!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

May be a bit coincidental that DEP followed up a preppers blog with one on field survival, but the two don't have much to do with each other.
Preppers are getting ready for Armageddon; hunters, backpackers, etc. making sure they're up to snuff on survival skills are just exercising common sense. A huge percentage of people who get lost and end up dead do so a short distance from their cars or campfires.
I used to hunt an area near Palestine, Texas fairly regularly that consisted of thick-wooded, boggy, river bottom, and it took about 100 steps into that mess to be completely turned around. I never got lost because I had enough sense to carry a compass and to note what my own tracks looked like, but I'll admit I was turned around a couple of times.
Best bet is to always be prepared to spend the night no matter how short a trek you plan to make; especially in deep woods. That line about “I’ll be right back” being the scariest four words you'll ever hear is a good one.

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from buckstopper wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Has anybody ever been lost in the Wabbeseka Scatters? Flooded timber on a cloudy January day looks the same.

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from DrewN wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Well, he's wrong about lighters (plastic "Bic" type,anyway) "exploding and sending shrapnel in all directions". Try it for yourself. Remove the metal guard from the top of the lighter, invert and use the flame to ignite the plastic case. Set upright (in a safe place obviously) and wait. As it melts, the flint and spring will pop out, but even when the gas chamber ruptures there isn't even enough force to tip the lighter over. It will shoot out a 4 to 6 inch flame for about 5 to 10 seconds, then just melt away. It's quite anticlimatic actually.

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from focusfront wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Never mind surviving in back country Montana: I'm waiting for Bear Grylls or somebody to do a sequence where his car breaks down on the south side of Chicago and his cellphone doesn't work.

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from outdoorsman170 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

very true and a solid article. I always carry and use a compass, as well as I get good distinct land marks, and I never get lost. Even if I just plan to stay on a trail, I always have enough water to last a night in case something was to happen, and I have a magnesium firestarter duct-taped to the sheath of my hunting knife that I always wear whenever I am out in bush, and so I always have a method to start a fire.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Peter is quite the interesting lecturer and survival expert. I have heard his presentations and even though I have experience at JOTC in Panama, USAF SERE school, and Ranger training, I learned something new and interesting each time. He is the real deal. Listen up.

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from sd211mba wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

As an additional way to light a fire, I recently found that hand sanitizer (70% ethanol) burns quite nicely.

But in practice, I stopped using any fire starters while camping - was teaching my kids how to start fire with minimum of anything. Need only a knife and lighter or matches. There is always dry wood in a forest, even under the heavy long rain. Just need to split dead branch, insides will be dry.

But the best way to be safe is to be prepared and to avoid situations where one is lost. It would be interesting to see statistics on how many unprepared people get lost vs people like on this list, who already have 3-5 ways to light a fire and are generally prepared.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Want to be around a real Alaska legend, knead to go See this Fella Udo C Fischer who now lives in New Mexico and last time I worked with him back in 83-86 he was the first call out by State Police. I didn't know how well known he wuz until I started wearing my Alamogordo Search & Rescue shirt in the Fairbanks area and so loved and respected by all. I wuz told about the rescues, there was no hope getting them out, yet alone getting them out and finding them to begin with but he did.

This has been a "NO LIE GI" moment!

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from dws wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

There are different cigarette lighters and that is the biggest thing that I see. When it is cold, a butane lighter is useless, probably wouldn’t even light. Get a Zippo.

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from Zermoid wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

If you carry a butane (bic type or refilable) keep it warm, inside coat or at least in a pants pocket, butane lighters don't work when cold!

I usually carry a butane lighter, zippo lighter, matches (waterproof AND strike anywhere types), and a magnesium firestarter. Also have a 1/2" strip of paper towel rolled up and stuffed in the cap of a survival knife for tinder starter if needed. Alot of people were never told how to make a 'starter stick' either, take a 1 or 2 inch diameter branch, about a foot will do but can be longer hold it upright on a log or the ground and use your knife to chop at it, the idea is to shave thin shavings that stay attached, it should look like an open pinecone when you are done. the shavings will catch on fire easier and get the stick burning. helping you get from a small tinder/grasses fire to a sticks and logs fire much easier.

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from Jim Baird wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I’m sure this guy is good and his coerces are great but telling people lighters are no good is not the best advice for a variety of reasons as far as I'm concerned. I would never bring just a lighter and I always have matches and lighters in my survival kit but if I'm in the bush for a month in the far North I use my bic to start a fire every day and I rarely touch the matches. If you can't light a fire using a bic without burning yourself or melting your lighter you need some more practice starting fires with a lighter, it’s a little different than how you do it with a match.

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from 99explorer wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Zermoid's "starter stick" is an old trick I learned in the Boy Scouts, and it is very helpful. Good comment.

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from hutter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I didnt see anything about how to survive my wifes meatloaf !

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from davidpetzal wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

To Mark-1: I don't believe in living off the land. Years ago, in New Brunswick, I asked a MicMac Indian named Louis Ward how he would live off the land, and he said: "Carry a big hunk of hard cheese or a big container of peanut butter.That's how you live off the land."

I'd also like to put in a good word for the candle idea. I've carried a plumbers candle for years. All you have to do is get that going and you have plenty of burn time to start a fire.

Norm Strung said to always carry three different means of making a fire: matches, metal match, and lighter. Good advice. I also carry three compasses. That way, if one of them seems to be going weird, the other two get to vote, and the majority wins.

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from HammerGun wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I wouldn't want put anyone down, but there can be such a thing as a lazy native, Mr. P. No need to be so adversarial towards nature. as much as it is unkind and unforgiving, Mother Nature also provides. What might be needed is a little more knowledge and a bit more practice of skills. Knowledge weighs nothing.

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from woodsdog wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

I took Mr. Kummerfeldt's course last summer. It was a classroom only abbreviated version for NYS Certified Hunter Safety Instructors so inclined to pick up some tips. My buddy and I drove four hours one way to see Mr. Kummerfeldt. I also have his video, which I purchased through the National Bowhunter Education Foundation (NBEF). He's excellent on video and even better in person. He's no nonsense with a South African accent. Yes, he told us his story on how he got to the US Air Force. Quite interesting in and of itself. anyway, his point with a standard "bic" style lighter is that Murphy's Law Reigns, especially when you find yourself in a survival situation. He outlines typically that you never ever expect to be in the situation in the first place, thus most people are ill prepared. In addition, because its typically because you are in a plance or boat crash, an auto, atv or snowmobile accident, you are facing having to survive with one or more injuries. Can you imagine trying to gather wood and then trying to start a fire off of native area kindlin with a bic type lighter? Yes, it can be done, but after much consternation and aggrivated pain and frusturation. This guys starts at worse case scenario and works from there because like he says, unless you are prepared, its usually is. Get his stuff, heed his advice and don't be pig headed about your life or your families. One thing I thought was great was that he and his family are always ready to survive. He told us that even when traveling, if they are in hotel and it catches fire, sometimes you have little or no time to gather your things in time to escape safely. He and his wife always prepare a bug out type bag, just a small pouch that has everything that is important to them and they place next to them on their bed. Everything else can stay. Money, wallets, ID's credit cards, prescriptions, glasses, etc. That kind of stuff is intentionally stuffed in this little pack that fits in a pocket. They put on their shoes and are out of harm's way. Good advice and now me and my family do it everytime we travel.

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from Pathfinder1 wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

Hi...

Kummerfeldt and an associate also did extensive testing on the use of matches in emergency circumstances. The bottom line was that ALL matches will deteriorate in time, even if kept in so-called proper containers.

He did state, however, if you still wanted to carry matches, to use the Stormproof matches sold by REI.

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from jcarlin wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Thanks for the info ORbow. And I agree with you on keeping my bic. He's right, it can get hot, but it's handy. Plus almost all firestarting equipement assumes you have some level of use of your hands.
One item I'm not picking at, but maybe have something useful to add. I've thought about the 3 shots during hunting season before. I don't carry a whole lot of ammo, at least for my long gun, during most hunting outings. It's occurred to me that a 3 shot string would be ignored by most.
However, not after dark. If you need to use your firearm as a signaling device I'd try to be patient with it until it's liable to be most effective. If you shoot a few shots more than a half hour after dark, it's going to be noted where I live and where I hunt. If you do it twice with at least 15 minutes apart, it's going to draw attention as possible poaching if not actually recognized as a distress call. If you can do it 3 times over the course of an hour, that third time likely has people in the woods looking for you already, maybe with a badge. Added to that, if you're hunting from a camp, almost every group of guys worth hunting with will have a couple of guys looking for stragglers who are either in trouble or possibly dragging out after an hour or so of darkness. That makes it much more likely that there's someone who will key into the shots when you signal.

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from jcarlin wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I'm not a survival guru by any stretch. The only two things that shocked me in there were the burning clothes to start a fire. That.. would never have occurred to me.
If you don't mind, I would like an explanation of your lighter being useless. I've used different fire starting and tinder products, but am in the habit of having a lighter in almost any jacket you'll ever see me in. That and a knife are the two things I'm almost certain to have on me in a pinch even if casually walking. Having started fires with lighters in all kinds of situations, and having been grateful for, if never really "saved" by those fires, I'd really like to hear the logic behind the lighter being useless to dangerous.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from DrewN wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Well, he's wrong about lighters (plastic "Bic" type,anyway) "exploding and sending shrapnel in all directions". Try it for yourself. Remove the metal guard from the top of the lighter, invert and use the flame to ignite the plastic case. Set upright (in a safe place obviously) and wait. As it melts, the flint and spring will pop out, but even when the gas chamber ruptures there isn't even enough force to tip the lighter over. It will shoot out a 4 to 6 inch flame for about 5 to 10 seconds, then just melt away. It's quite anticlimatic actually.

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from buckhunter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Lighters are great for cigarettes and cigars but can become dangerously hot trying to ignite kindling. If you insist on using a lighter, use it to light a candle then start your fire with the candle. Lighters are also unreliable. If the flint falls out your are in for a long cold night.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Mark-1 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I survived Fairchild and Eielson S.E.R.E. What I learned:

-Fear the Bunny.

-Read the damn compass.

-Survive the bailout, but no one comes looking for you,even the enemy...Things ain't good.

-Amazing how much energy and water it takes to travel cross country.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Steward wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I've used dryer lint, but I think it makes a difference what kind of materials were in the dryer, and hence, what materials are in the lint. Some of the things I keep with me work, but I admit I haven't tested them in extreme conditions...like trying to use them when everything is damp, or in a blizzard when my fingers are stiff and unfeeling. However, I keep film cannisters with me, one with gun powder, one with vaseline-soaked cotton balls. I also like to have some char-clothe with me.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Amflyer wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Dryer lint...of course it makes a difference in what type of things you are drying. In my case, a large percentage of the lint is made of GSP hair.

Of course, this is supposed to be a serious subject, but I've found that all you need in a survival situation is a deck of cards. Start playing solitaire, and within five minutes someone will be over your shoulder telling you that the red jack will go on the black queen over there...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RJ Arena wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

@Mark-1,
Nah, Dave just took a break from gun cleaning and watched the news for 5 minutes...so he is afraid.
And rightly so!!!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from MReeder wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

May be a bit coincidental that DEP followed up a preppers blog with one on field survival, but the two don't have much to do with each other.
Preppers are getting ready for Armageddon; hunters, backpackers, etc. making sure they're up to snuff on survival skills are just exercising common sense. A huge percentage of people who get lost and end up dead do so a short distance from their cars or campfires.
I used to hunt an area near Palestine, Texas fairly regularly that consisted of thick-wooded, boggy, river bottom, and it took about 100 steps into that mess to be completely turned around. I never got lost because I had enough sense to carry a compass and to note what my own tracks looked like, but I'll admit I was turned around a couple of times.
Best bet is to always be prepared to spend the night no matter how short a trek you plan to make; especially in deep woods. That line about “I’ll be right back” being the scariest four words you'll ever hear is a good one.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from focusfront wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Never mind surviving in back country Montana: I'm waiting for Bear Grylls or somebody to do a sequence where his car breaks down on the south side of Chicago and his cellphone doesn't work.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ORbowhunter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

As taken directly from his website... "Cigarette lighters are touted as a piece of fire starting equipment that should be carried in your survival kit. Cigarette lighters are difficult to light when your hands have lost their dexterity, they do not perform well under cold conditions or at higher altitudes and if dropped into a fire accidentally, they explode sending shrapnel in all directions! Cigarette lighters are for lighting cigarettes not campfires!"

If you go to his website and look at the, More News section towards the bottom it is located there in the article titled, "Survival Myths and Misconceptions". I accept the fact that he has far and away more survival training than I, but I will still be keeping my trusty Bic in the hunting bag.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Longhunter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I was a bit puzzeled about Mr. Kummerfeldts comment about lighters. I know that there are lighters that are very wind resistant and I believe that they run on butane. He obviously knows much more about survival than I ever will but I think that having 2 methods of making fire would certainly increase your odds of getting out alive. Since he did not seem too keen on matches either I was wondering what he suggests instead?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ralph the Rifleman wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Keys to survival is preparation, and avoidance! All the other stuff (like fire starters)while some items may work better then others; are really a matter of opinion.
A family friend fought in the Battle of the Buldge, and the key issue was not being properly supplied/prepared; they had under estimated the enemy's will to fight!
I know..that was WAR, but it really came down to survival..ask a GI that was there, and I promise they will tell you it was a TEST OF SURVIVAL beyond the fighting!
Learn from past survival episodes I say!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from spuddog wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

This guy hates survival blankets as well. He does a series of survival videos for Colorado Parks and Wildlife that you can see free on Vimeo/Colorado Outdoors Magazine. They are good videos and worth watching. I work with Boy Scouts and I have to correct some things. I always tell my scouts to try it first. I've never had much success with dryer lint. A lot of people just repeat what they hear. I've found some fire starting material will work really well under some circumstances, but not others. I try to keep 5 or 6 ways to start a fire with me.

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from Moose1980 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I think his idea behind the lighter is you shouldn't just rely on it. One should have multiple ways of starting a fire on them. If you just have a lighter, and the lighter breaks, then you're screwed. I carry a lighter and matches, but should probably get into the habit of carrying a flint and steel striker also.

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from tom warner wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

There are plenty of good fire starting materials, but I have found that the best is sawdust soaked with kerosene. Just carry a little container of it. I have been using it for over 60 years, and you can't beat it. Yes, and always carry of piece of candle also. Matches? Always have the strike anywhere variety and always make sure they are FRESH and in a waterproof container. Moose 1980 has it right.

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from WA Mtnhunter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Peter is quite the interesting lecturer and survival expert. I have heard his presentations and even though I have experience at JOTC in Panama, USAF SERE school, and Ranger training, I learned something new and interesting each time. He is the real deal. Listen up.

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from Zermoid wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

If you carry a butane (bic type or refilable) keep it warm, inside coat or at least in a pants pocket, butane lighters don't work when cold!

I usually carry a butane lighter, zippo lighter, matches (waterproof AND strike anywhere types), and a magnesium firestarter. Also have a 1/2" strip of paper towel rolled up and stuffed in the cap of a survival knife for tinder starter if needed. Alot of people were never told how to make a 'starter stick' either, take a 1 or 2 inch diameter branch, about a foot will do but can be longer hold it upright on a log or the ground and use your knife to chop at it, the idea is to shave thin shavings that stay attached, it should look like an open pinecone when you are done. the shavings will catch on fire easier and get the stick burning. helping you get from a small tinder/grasses fire to a sticks and logs fire much easier.

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from Jim Baird wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I’m sure this guy is good and his coerces are great but telling people lighters are no good is not the best advice for a variety of reasons as far as I'm concerned. I would never bring just a lighter and I always have matches and lighters in my survival kit but if I'm in the bush for a month in the far North I use my bic to start a fire every day and I rarely touch the matches. If you can't light a fire using a bic without burning yourself or melting your lighter you need some more practice starting fires with a lighter, it’s a little different than how you do it with a match.

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from 99explorer wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Zermoid's "starter stick" is an old trick I learned in the Boy Scouts, and it is very helpful. Good comment.

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from jcarlin wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I can't easily find the answer to my above question on Mr. Kummerfeldt's site, but I do see that he lists a cigarette lighter as one of his daypack items.

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from dukkillr wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Exactly what I thought. How is something that produces a flame useless?

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from OutdoorEnvy wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

When you look at his scheduled speaking events. There's nothing on it, EVER. I skimmed through two years and didn't see one scheduled event on it.

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from Happy Myles wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Mr Kummerfeldt normally lectures at SCI convention, Dallas Safari Club convention, Rocky Mountain Elk convention, and most of the others. Check with those organizations, would be startled if he was not appearing at one of them this coming year. His comments on old survival books and survival myths are real eye openers.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

David

I wonder if Peter Kummerfeldt knows Udo C Fischer?

I worked with him along with Alamogordo Search & Rescue (State Police affiliated) and I didn't know just how much a fella can be well known and respected until I was transferred to Eielson AFB AK from Holloman AFB NM.

www.pjsinnam.com/Udo_Toons/Index.htm

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from rock rat wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Never heard of burning clothes other than the bra, and that was quite a wile ago to light a different kind of fire.s

He's right about the lighter, pain in the neck, but I use it all the time. Can only light it for a couple of seconds.

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from O Garcia wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

for me the best man in "survivor" TV shows is the cameraman.

wool is used as fire retardant in some racecar drivers' suits. so it doesn't burn readily.

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from O Garcia wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

floor wax or shoe polish have some petroleum distillate dissolved in the wax, which makes them burn readily. even when they dry, the wax remains.

those rubber foam/ EVA flip-flops so popular with beach buffs also burn like hell, smoky, sooty, stinky, with the rubber melting like lava. find a discarded pair (or steal from a neighbor you hate), cut them up (the soles) in strips, place in a watertight bag with the lighter or other preferred fire starter. use those rubber straps, too. you won't like the smell, but they make great tinder.

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from IowaGuy wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

From Petzal "television survivalists who eats wolverine dung for the camera"

Love it!

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from Mark-1 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

BTW: Why the sudden interest in Survivalism/Prepper stuff within this blog and a recent blog, DP?

F&S sending you to Dark Corners to write a feature on *Aliments du pays*?

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from buckstopper wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Has anybody ever been lost in the Wabbeseka Scatters? Flooded timber on a cloudy January day looks the same.

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from outdoorsman170 wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

very true and a solid article. I always carry and use a compass, as well as I get good distinct land marks, and I never get lost. Even if I just plan to stay on a trail, I always have enough water to last a night in case something was to happen, and I have a magnesium firestarter duct-taped to the sheath of my hunting knife that I always wear whenever I am out in bush, and so I always have a method to start a fire.

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from sd211mba wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

As an additional way to light a fire, I recently found that hand sanitizer (70% ethanol) burns quite nicely.

But in practice, I stopped using any fire starters while camping - was teaching my kids how to start fire with minimum of anything. Need only a knife and lighter or matches. There is always dry wood in a forest, even under the heavy long rain. Just need to split dead branch, insides will be dry.

But the best way to be safe is to be prepared and to avoid situations where one is lost. It would be interesting to see statistics on how many unprepared people get lost vs people like on this list, who already have 3-5 ways to light a fire and are generally prepared.

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from Clay Cooper wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

Want to be around a real Alaska legend, knead to go See this Fella Udo C Fischer who now lives in New Mexico and last time I worked with him back in 83-86 he was the first call out by State Police. I didn't know how well known he wuz until I started wearing my Alamogordo Search & Rescue shirt in the Fairbanks area and so loved and respected by all. I wuz told about the rescues, there was no hope getting them out, yet alone getting them out and finding them to begin with but he did.

This has been a "NO LIE GI" moment!

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from dws wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

There are different cigarette lighters and that is the biggest thing that I see. When it is cold, a butane lighter is useless, probably wouldn’t even light. Get a Zippo.

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from hutter wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I didnt see anything about how to survive my wifes meatloaf !

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from davidpetzal wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

To Mark-1: I don't believe in living off the land. Years ago, in New Brunswick, I asked a MicMac Indian named Louis Ward how he would live off the land, and he said: "Carry a big hunk of hard cheese or a big container of peanut butter.That's how you live off the land."

I'd also like to put in a good word for the candle idea. I've carried a plumbers candle for years. All you have to do is get that going and you have plenty of burn time to start a fire.

Norm Strung said to always carry three different means of making a fire: matches, metal match, and lighter. Good advice. I also carry three compasses. That way, if one of them seems to be going weird, the other two get to vote, and the majority wins.

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from HammerGun wrote 1 year 33 weeks ago

I wouldn't want put anyone down, but there can be such a thing as a lazy native, Mr. P. No need to be so adversarial towards nature. as much as it is unkind and unforgiving, Mother Nature also provides. What might be needed is a little more knowledge and a bit more practice of skills. Knowledge weighs nothing.

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from woodsdog wrote 1 year 32 weeks ago

I took Mr. Kummerfeldt's course last summer. It was a classroom only abbreviated version for NYS Certified Hunter Safety Instructors so inclined to pick up some tips. My buddy and I drove four hours one way to see Mr. Kummerfeldt. I also have his video, which I purchased through the National Bowhunter Education Foundation (NBEF). He's excellent on video and even better in person. He's no nonsense with a South African accent. Yes, he told us his story on how he got to the US Air Force. Quite interesting in and of itself. anyway, his point with a standard "bic" style lighter is that Murphy's Law Reigns, especially when you find yourself in a survival situation. He outlines typically that you never ever expect to be in the situation in the first place, thus most people are ill prepared. In addition, because its typically because you are in a plance or boat crash, an auto, atv or snowmobile accident, you are facing having to survive with one or more injuries. Can you imagine trying to gather wood and then trying to start a fire off of native area kindlin with a bic type lighter? Yes, it can be done, but after much consternation and aggrivated pain and frusturation. This guys starts at worse case scenario and works from there because like he says, unless you are prepared, its usually is. Get his stuff, heed his advice and don't be pig headed about your life or your families. One thing I thought was great was that he and his family are always ready to survive. He told us that even when traveling, if they are in hotel and it catches fire, sometimes you have little or no time to gather your things in time to escape safely. He and his wife always prepare a bug out type bag, just a small pouch that has everything that is important to them and they place next to them on their bed. Everything else can stay. Money, wallets, ID's credit cards, prescriptions, glasses, etc. That kind of stuff is intentionally stuffed in this little pack that fits in a pocket. They put on their shoes and are out of harm's way. Good advice and now me and my family do it everytime we travel.

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from Pathfinder1 wrote 1 year 14 weeks ago

Hi...

Kummerfeldt and an associate also did extensive testing on the use of matches in emergency circumstances. The bottom line was that ALL matches will deteriorate in time, even if kept in so-called proper containers.

He did state, however, if you still wanted to carry matches, to use the Stormproof matches sold by REI.

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