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Survival: In The Wild with…Only a Knife

Long before satellite beacons, humans thrived in the wild with the best technology available: a knife. And with that one tool and some basic knowledge, they fulfilled all life-sustaining needs.

Find Food
In most emergencies, food isn’t a priority. Depending on your extra reserves (love handles were never so welcome), it takes a month or more to starve to death. Conserve energy and water by staying put rather than foraging. “The fasting body taps into its fuel stores,” Nester says. “In survival situations, people can last 25 percent longer this way compared to those who burn calories looking for a measly morsel.”

But you can graze on nearby food like: acorns and other tree nuts; ants and ant larvae; grasshoppers and crickets (roast these first to avoid stomach upset); and fish.

To make a fishing spear, carve a 10-inch tip onto a sturdy stick about eight feet long and 1.5 inches thick; saplings work well. Harden the tip in hot coals for a few minutes. Then pin a fish to the creek bed and grab it with your hands.

Find Water
Stay cool
Hole up in the shade and wait until dusk to hunt for water. If you have a bottle of liquid left, drink it at your normal pace, or until your urine is mostly clear. “Rationing water, especially in the desert or the tropics, hastens heat exhaustion,” says Nester.

Search Smartly
Top spots to look: shady areas at the base of north-facing cliffs; islands of green vegetation; rock depressions; tree trunk cavities; undercut banks or shady, outer bends in dry riverbeds; and anywhere you see birds and insects gathering. No sources nearby? Head down gullies, or dig wells with your knife: Find a spot that’s likely near the water table such as a riverbed. Dig a few holes, about two feet deep, and wait five minutes. If water seeps up, line the hole with pebbles so it’s less porous. Sop up mud with a shirt and wring the moisture into your mouth.

No purification method?

Guzzle anyway. Most water bugs take weeks to incubate, but you can die in days from dehydration.

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  1. danschwemin

    I think Tony Nester needs to look up the definition of “full-tang” because Mora knives are NOT full tang. They have a rat tail tang. The 3 7/8″ bladed Mora knife that this article is referring to is most likely the Mora 511 which has a very thin, weak rat-tail tang (I would know; I’ve broken one) and is not a very strong knife. Either way, Mora’s are not full tang knives and are not regarded as being very strong knives in general. This article should be revised so misinformation is not being spread to people who don’t know very much about knives yet.

    Profile photo of danschwemin

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