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Backpacker Magazine – October 2010

Survival: Lost with...Only a Bottle of Whiskey

Put that hooch to good use with these tips for starting a fire, treating water, and even signaling for help.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Use that bottle of whiskey to save your life!
Use that bottle of whiskey to save your life!
A whiskey bottle can hung from a tree to signal for help.
A whiskey bottle can hung from a tree to signal for help.
Start a fire using whiskey.
Start a fire using whiskey.

So you’ve zigzagged into the woods to drink your sad self into oblivion with a fifth of Johnnie Walker Red, hoping night freezes away life’s pain. Then a bluebird alights on your shoulder, chirps a sweet song of hope, and you realize life is possibly worth living. But now you’re lost! Crikey—what next? Well, friend, dry those tears and put that hooch to good use.




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Mark
Apr 06, 2012

Re: "Lab grade alchohol/ethanol" - please do not drink this. It is easy to get the azeotropic mixture of 95% ethanol through conventional distillation, but you have to add chemicals like benzene or acetone to get 200 proof ethanol. There is still residual (carcinogenic) chemical in the final product.

Ken
Jan 27, 2012

You can start a fire with hand sanitizer that comes in those little bottles... The stuff is 62 to 64% alcohol.... just squirt it on your wood chips, twigs, etc.. and light it with your lighter, etc...

Works well for trying to get damp twigs to start a fire...

Just DON`T RUB IT ON YOUR HANDS AND THAN TRY TO USE A LIGHTER WHILE YOUR HANDS ARE STILL WET... YOU`LL BE DISAPPOINTED WITH THE RESULTS..LOL...

xanadu
Dec 11, 2011

Sorry but this article is a total joke written by someone who has never even been camping. 1.Whisky as a signaling device? STUPID waste of time. 2.Start a fire? NEVER. 3.Care for cuts? Urine would burn less!!! 4.Treat water???? So that you will get more dehydrated from the alcohol!!!!!!???????

Tom
Sep 13, 2011

After reading this, and the comments below, I tested Wild Turkey 101 Proof and Crown Royal 80 Proof and both lit up in a blue flame with a bic lighter after only a second or two! I would take the 101 proof with me, not only cuz it's more flamable but cuz I'd carry less to catch a buzz. If only I could get my hands on some of that kentucky moonshine!

RICHARD
Jul 21, 2011

I AM AN AMERICAN AND IT'S WISKEY TO ME AND OTHER AMERICANS

David
May 14, 2011

I'm curious where you're getting this 180 proof whiskey?
The whiskey I drink (Jack Daniels) like most bottled alcohol is only 80 proof. Now 80 proof means it is only 40% alcohol - you half the proof for % of alcohol.
I could throw burning matches in it all day long and never get a fire. The 60% that's water and rye flavor overpowers the burning capability of the alcohol.
I could use it to put out a fire but not start one.

muddpuppy
May 12, 2011

well if i had to choose between freezing my but off in a snow storm or sitting by a toasty fire, im gonna dump every last drop of wat ever flammable liquid i can get ahold of. i can start a fire with natural tiner and a flint, but if ive got whiskey and im freezing its fire starter first, then its ok to sip.

sierracanon
May 06, 2011

Just wonder how often this scenario really plays out amongst Backpacker readers...

Scott
Apr 22, 2011

Why waste the whiskey?

Howard Hayden, Scout Leader
Apr 22, 2011

All of the cute jokes aside, if you use an alcohol stove, it is well to use Everclear or the 190 proof Ethanol rather than denatured or methyl alcohol. In strong light, a yellow-flame flickering will show that the stove is still lighted. The deep blue of methanol is hard to see. And ethanol, spilled onto food or leaking anywhere is not a poisoning problem as is methanol. I am amused at the suggestion of pouring a 'quart of whiskey' into a sand or clay receptacle...that is an expensive fire! Who on Earth would waste a beverage in such extravagance!
As for killing bacteria, my backcountry physician ffriends tell me that it takes a 16 hour contact of alcohol solution to totally kill bacteria. In short, there are better and safer ways to disinfect water or treat injuries; leave the alcohol for use in stoves,but cooking times are long!

Tony
Oct 26, 2010

@ Ben....actually for both Americans and Scots it is Whisky. Canadians and Irish refer to it as Whiskey.

Jonathan
Oct 24, 2010

DO NOT pay any attention to the previous post about lab-grade alcohol. While it is possible to find lab-grade that is safe to drink, most is not. Usually methanol is added to the alcohol to make it unpalatable so you don't drink it. However, if you do drink it, it can cause you to go blind or die. So stick with the stuff from the liquor store...

the buckaroo
Oct 22, 2010

While attending the university, I had the opportunity (student work program)to set up lab experiments for the Chemistry Dept. at a local Community College. We used a 100% (200 proof) alcohol in the lab...it was quite drinkable.

On summer breaks, my tendency was to spend a month in a high country base camp with a favored lady hiking, fishing & photographing...the 200 proof mixed well with powdered OJ.

quit drinking & still hiking
'nuff said

The Gael
Oct 20, 2010

Btw, Johnny Walker would be "whisky," not "whiskey."

Anonymous
Oct 20, 2010

From now on I will carry a flask of Jack Dannels in my pack at all times!!! Its a new part of the ten essentials!

RenoRick
Oct 19, 2010

Hey Bates, I do! A liter that is, and make mine 151-proof 'Kleer or Rum if you please. I guess Kentucky is about the only state that still allows the 190-proof stuff.
Got a Fifth use for you all: Grain Alcohol powers my pet food can stove quite nicely. Had a run-in with a leaky white gas container in my pack once. Just once. Edible alcohol answered the question of what to eat when your food is soaked with fuel.
And, as observed earlier, a dollop in the evening takes the edge off trail aches too.

francis
Oct 18, 2010

Great article, I always hike with a flask and never knew it could be so advantageous

lost wanderer
Oct 18, 2010

Someone complained about the weight. You can find super light plastic flasks to replace the bottle. Once that's said and done, booze weighs less than water...Cheers!

Gorge Warrior CK
Oct 18, 2010

This is probably my most likely scenario, were I to get lost. We usually pick up some local shine in the Kentucky hills before backpacking out.

mike
Oct 18, 2010

"Who the hell (GBates)carries whiskey in a desert canyon!"

I do, and now I will always have an excuse to carry wiskey thanks to this entertaining article.

ben
Oct 17, 2010

Whiskey is what you Americans and Irish call it; scotch is whisky - just that the Scots get very upset about the added e. I guess that Volka works pretty well - less expensive and less waste really.

ben
Oct 17, 2010

As Jake said, it's just an amusing article - though may be useful if walking back home from a pub having lost your way. What would have John Wayne done?

Nate
Oct 16, 2010

I would like to clarify that Johnny Walker Red is a Scotch Whiskey blend, If you want a true whiskey try Wild Turkey or go elite and try a bourbon... either way I am not wasting it to start a fire.

Brian
Oct 16, 2010

Who the hell (GBates)carries whiskey in a desert canyon!
I have a hard enough time staying hydrated in desert climes. I can think of better things to get a little buzz going. Then I can eat and drink (water) my way out of that God forsaking hole!

Eli
Oct 15, 2010

Instead of a quart of 40 proof, a pint of woodgrain, 190 proof Everclear for example makes more sense. It's lighter weight, in a clear, strong bottle and provides more alcohol for water treatment, fire starting, etc. If you can't find the 190 stuff, 151 proof Everclear will still be a better choice.

fmgray4
Oct 15, 2010

to answer the question: rednecks in the backcountry of kentucky jk
lol

Jake
Oct 15, 2010

Well I found it rather entertaining.

Ben
Oct 15, 2010

Don't forget--you can brush your teeth with whiskey and it works pretty good--and you can just swallow it.

sierracanon
Oct 15, 2010

ok... this is all very clever. But how many people get into trouble in the backcountry with only a bottle of whiskey???

JD
Oct 15, 2010

If your water pump gets clogged, I see the whiskey being good. (I bring a little whiskey on my week-long hikes.) BUT, I ALWAYS bring a bottle of iodine pills, even on short day hikes. This, my friends, is my #2 item in my pack. #1 is something to make flame with. #3 is a warm jacket. AND, last but not least, #4 is a poncho. If I were to pick a #5, a knife.

GBates
Oct 15, 2010

Oh, drinking a wee bit might help you relax- but only if you follow up with plenty of drinking water to avoid the dehydration. First time I backpacked the Grand Canyon, I drank about a cup of whiskey; took 11 hours to hike out. Next trip: no alcohol, 5 hrs hike out. Carrying a whole bottle in your pack would just be foolish: unhealthy, and too heavy.

Anonymous
Oct 15, 2010

David Kane
Oct 15, 2010

My understanding is in olden days, (think like as far back as old testament times), the purpose of wine was to dilute it in water to make it potable.

Carlito
Oct 15, 2010

Why on earth would you waste a whole quart of whiskey to start a "sand fire"? Use an ounce or two like they said at first in a can or anything else that will let it pool. Light it, and then use that to light some wood... even if it is soaking wet out, if you know what kind of tender to find, you could easily get a nice toasty fire going and enjoy the rest of the quart that you didn't pour out! =)

sierracanon
Oct 15, 2010

ok... this is all very clever. But how many people get into trouble in the backcountry with only a bottle of whiskey???

sierracanon
Oct 15, 2010

ok... this is all very clever. But how many people get into trouble in the backcountry with only a bottle of whiskey???

james j. pond
Oct 15, 2010

This is the worst ad campaign i have ever seen. Where is the story?

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