Stuck in the Woods

Skills exercises

Can you build a fire and boil an egg in fifteen minutes?

1 match
1 pot / tin can of at least 1 pint (16 oz) capacity
1 pint (16 oz ) water
1 raw egg in shell
various dead branches, and other flammable stuff normally found in the woods in your area

In a fire-safe spot, build a fire using only one match, hard-boil the egg and eat it (salt optional).

Were you able to start the fire with one match?
How long did it take?
Did you have trouble boiling the water?
Did you kill the fire safely afterwards?

1. Repeat with a butane lighter.
2. Repeat with a butane lighter that ran out of fuel (i.e. use only the spark)
3. Repeat with a firesteel / metal match
4. Repeat with a plastic Fresnel lens in the sunlight

Can you take an accurate bearing with a compass?

1 compass with a rotating bezel
1 helper familiar with compasses

1. Find an open area, preferably a field surrounded by trees.
2. Standing at Point A, take a bearing of an object (Point B) at least several 100 feet away and adjust the bezel accordingly.
3. Without telling your helper where Point B is, have him/her use the compass and walk toward the bearing, keeping his/her head down (so as not to see Point B).

1. Did they arrive at Point B?
2. If not, was the compass bearing correct?

1. Reverse the roles. Have the helper  take a bearing to a new object (Point C), adjusting the bezel accordingly. Then you follow the bearing with your head down until you reach Point C. Did you reach it?  Why not?

Can you match a map to reality and identify some landmarks?

Map (7.5 degree USGS map preferred) of the selected area.
Compass with a base plate (orienteering type)

1. Lay map on a flat surface and identify your position on the map
2. Rotate map, visually aligning map features to nearby landmarks
3. Optionally, determine North via a compass and align the map North indicator to the compass

1. Visually, can you correlate additional landmarks with those on the map? Are they at the right bearing?
2. Can you take a bearing to a landmark with the compass and verify the bearing with the map?
3. In reverse, can you take a bearing from the map to a landmark and verify it with a visual sighting with the compass?

Can you signal with a mirror and a whistle?

2 whistles
2 signal mirrors

Two persons required, each one has a mirror and whistle
1. Practice aiming a spot of sunlight at a distant target. for example, a tree at 100 feet
2. Stand at least several 100 feet away from each other
3. One signals the whistler with the mirror
4. Each time  the whistler receives a flash, s/he blows the whistle.
5. After a time, reverse the roles

Each person learns to flash the mirror and receives feedback
Each person uses the whistle to respond
Both verifies that a signal mirror and a whistle can attract attention at a long distance

Can you improvise a shelter quickly from trash bags?

2 large plastic trash bags, lawn size or larger is better
30 feet of parachute cord or equivalent
15 feet of duct tape (optional)

Select a grassy or wooded area with trees
Construct a shelter. Some options are:
--- cut open the trash bags and use as a tarp
--- tie the cord between trees and create a A-frame tent
--- tie the cord between trees and create a tube tent
--- any other shelter
Lie down for 10  minutes or, better yet, take a nap

If it rains, would it protect you?
If it is windy, would it survive the night?
Is it reasonably comfortable to sleep the night?

Jim Yuen,  April, 2008

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