Tuesday, April 21, 2015

My New Home at MuskratSurvival.com

Hello friends!

I just want to let you know that I am moving my blogs to my new home at:

That's right, I now have my very own Internet domain!

At MuskratSurvival.com you'll find more than just blogs, you'll find my videos, favourite recipes, and an online store of Muskrat Survival branded products! How cool is that?

C'mon and click the links in this blog and they'll take you right to my site.

Explore MuskratSurvival.com and tell me what you think in the Contact page!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Avoiding Injuries in the Wilderness

An injury out in the back-country can be anything from a minor inconvenience to a serious life-threatening situation. Even if it is only minor, it can still ruin your day.

So carry a First-Aid Kit to treat common outdoor ailments, such as:

  • cuts
  • scrapes
  • burns
  • blisters
  • insect bites

Learn how to treat:

Learn to recognize, avoid and treat:

The following are some other safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Walk slowly and purposefully - Step over logs when possible, you're less likely to twist a knee or sprain an ankle. 
  • Use a walking stick - Maintain two points of contact with the ground. It helps keep your balance on rough terrain. Use it to turn over rocks and logs, keeping your distance from snakes, spiders, etc. It can also be use as a defensive weapon against animal attacks.
  • Shield your face when walking through dense brush - the last thing you need is a stick in your eye. Use your arms to shield your face.
  • Wear gloves when processing firewood - Prevents cuts and splinters. Adds a layer of protection against spiders, ticks, etc. Also helps keep your hands clean. 
  • Wear adequate clothing for the weather - Be prepared for rain and cold.
  • Wear long pants and long sleeved shirts to protect from ticks, scrapes from brush, and even sun burn.
  • Wear a hat, insect repellant and sunscreen.
  • Keep your feet dry.
  • Don't overly exert yourself by pushing, pulling or climbing. A walk in the forest doesn't have to be a cardio workout.
  • Don't put your hands into crevices where biting insects or animals might live, use a stick to explore those places.
  • Keep your pack as light as possible.
  • Avoid touching metal surfaces near fires or stoves.
  • Avoid confrontations with wild animals. Even a squirrel will bite.
  • Be particularly careful around water.
  • Watch for dangerous overhanging trees, exposed tree roots loose or slippery rocks.
  • Learn to safely use knives, axes and other cutting tools.
  • Keep your cutting tools sharp. A dull tool requires more force to use. Applying more force can lead to slipping and accidents.

The military's way is will-power and determination, and pushing forward in spite of the pain. These are acceptable for short-term gain, but can lead to serious injuries in the field.

A better way is to flow in harmony with the natural world around you. A walk in the woods should reduce your blood pressure and your level of stress. If it doesn't, then you're doing it wrong.

Try not to concern yourself with minutes and seconds. Slow down... and try to think in terms of hours and days instead.

               "Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."                                                                                                   -Lao Tzu

So whenever you venture into the wilderness, it's best to be prepared with a basic First-Aid Kit and always thinking "Safety First".

                                       Be Prepared and Be Safe.
                                                            -Muskrat Jim

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bushcraft vs. Survival - The Importance of Fire

Hello blog readers! Muskrat Jim here, and today I'd like to talk about the difference between Bushcraft and Survival. Specifically, about the importance of fire.

I think we've all made fires with a magnifying glass on a bright sunny day when we were kids. I remember melting crayons, burning grasshoppers and melting those green plastic army figures.

Over the past few years, I've had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of Bushcrafters through the YouTube community. You guys (and gals) are AWESOME! Sharing your knowledge and practicing your skills, but most of all, helping and encouraging each other. I've learned a lot from you... especially in the area of primitive fire.

Before I discovered the YouTube Bushcraft community, I had never seriously tried making a fire by using a bow-drill, a fire piston, flint and steel, or a ferro rod.
Bow Drill
Ferro Rod and Striker

Flint and Steel

Fire Piston and Tinder

Each of these methods start with producing an ember either from heat or spark, then coaxing that little glowing ember into a flame.

However, a lot can go wrong in the process of bringing this ember to flame:
  • your tinder could be too damp or not fluffy enough
  • it may be too windy, raining, or snowing
  • or you may be trying to work in the dark
Mastering these primitive fire-starting methods are all great skills to have and they build your confidence when you're out in the bush.

During my time in Ground Search and Rescue, I talked to a lot of experienced woodsmen, hunters, trappers, loggers, fishing guides and other people who make their living in the woods. Without exception, they all say the obvious:
"It is so much easier to start a fire with a flame, than it is with a spark or ember."
If primitive man had the option of carrying a Zippo, or inexpensive, easily replaced Bic lighter, you can be sure he would have chosen that over any of his primitive methods.
Zippo Lighter

With a lighter you don't have to fuss with your tinder. Even if you're injured or your hands are numbed by cold, you can light a life-saving campfire in seconds instead of minutes.

In a true survival situation, seconds matter. Being able to get a fire going quickly can be a matter of life and death, or at the very least, between comfort and discomfort.

Am I saying you should stop using your primitive methods for bushcraft? Of course not!

Under controlled conditions in your back yard or out on the trail, go ahead and practice those skills.

Like I said before, nothing builds your confidence like being able coax a fire from nothing but a spark, or by rubbing two pieces of wood together releasing the fire within. It re-establishes our connection to our ancestors and also the natural world around us.

Building confidence in ourselves is a perfect remedy for the stressful world we live in today.

So go ahead. Carry a knife equipped with a ferro rod. Put a ferro rod or other fire making systems in your Bug-Out-Bag. But throw in a couple of lighters too... because fire is so crucial for survival.

ALWAYS carry a SURE method for making fire in a hurry, and in any weather condition.

No person should ever have to work hard to build a fire.

So until next time, stay safe. This is Muskrat Jim, signing out.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Three Methods of Getting Drinking Water From Snow

Hello YouTubers! This is Muskrat Jim, and today I want to talk about my three favourite ways to convert clean snow into drinking water.

One of the things I like about winter in Canada is that we get LOTS of snow! This means that drinking water is abundant, you only need to know how to process it out of the snow we get.

As many of you are aware, a handful of fresh snow is mostly made up of air. That's right, a little bit of water and a lot of air. If you were to fill a pot with snow and set it on a fire, you would likely scorch the bottom of your pot.

The following are three ways that I like to use to melt snow into drinking water:

Body Heat

In the winter I carry a wide-mouth Nalgene bottle on a lanyard inside my coat. This keeps the water from freezing when it gets particularly cold outside. Whenever I take a drink, I scoop up some clean snow and put it in my bottle. The wide mouth makes it easy to add the snow. The heat of the remaining water in the bottle and the body heat from inside my coat are enough to melt the snow and replenish my water supply. It is simple, effective and is my favourite method because it doesn't require you to stop and make a fire. It also works in the worst of weather conditions.


If you don't have a metal container to slowly melt snow near a fire, you can make do with a bandana and a cup or other container. Simply open the bandana flat then fill the middle of it with clean snow. Tie or pin the four corners of the bandana so it holds the large snowball. Now, using a sturdy branch, suspend the bandana near the fire. Soon the heat of the fire will start melting the snow. Before too long, the large snow ball will start dripping through the bandana. Use a cup or other container to catch the dripping water. This method works well basically unattended. You can go about your business doing other things and just checking back from time to time to make sure your container is still catching the drips and not overflowing.

Solar Power

Putting snow on a black garbage bag (a.k.a. drum liner) in the bright sun will melt the snow to give you drinking water, but then it's difficult to get that water into a container. Because of this difficulty, I didn't add it to my video. Then my brother John told me about a simple improvement on this method. By putting the clean snow in a clear zip-loc bag on top of the black plastic solar collector, all your drinking water is conveniently made inside the easy-to-handle zip-loc bag! BRILLIANT !! So this method works if you're camped in a bright sunny location for a while and if it isn't so cold to re-freeze the water as it melts.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dehydration - Where to Find Water in the Wild

Hello YouTubers! This is Muskrat Jim, and today I want to talk about DEHYDRATION.
A healthy adult can survive up to three weeks without food, but only about three days without water. Your body needs a minimum of 2 quarts per day, more if you’re exerting yourself or if the weather is hot or dry.
Symptoms of mild dehydration include:
  • Thirst and a dry mouth
  • Darker than usual urine
  • Less frequent urination
  • Confusion, dizziness, fatigue and irritability
Ignoring these signs, your symptoms could quickly progress to:
  • No urine output
  • Extreme sleepiness
  • Fainting, reduced blood pressure, seizures, delirium and death
So it is VERY important to stay hydrated by drinking a minimum of 2 quarts per day. Recognize the signs of dehydration and take appropriate measures right away.
Out here, we don’t have the luxury of an unlimited supply of sanitized city water or deep clean wells. So we have to look for water wherever we can find it. And then we have to make it suitable for human consumption.
If you know your area through maps, aerial photographs or through familiarity, you can make your way to these lakes, rivers, streams and marshes.

But what if you don’t know the area you’re in? What if you’re lost?
  1. Well, water flows downhill, so you can start by walking downhill like the animals do. Larger animals need to drink in the mornings and in the evenings, so if you see their paths follow them downhill.
  2. Sometimes the surface water will have dried up. So if you see a dry stream bed, or plants that typically grow in marshes, you can dig there. Water will seep into the hole. It will be dirty, maybe even black, so you’ll have to filter it as best as you can.
  3. Rain can be collected using an open tarp or survival blanket. This can be laid in a depression on the ground or elevated and angled so the rain can flow into an open container.
  4. Rain or dew can also be collected from wet foliage by using a rag and wringing it out into a container or sucking the moisture directly from the cloth.
  5. If you’re on the seashore, you can’t drink the seawater without distilling it first, because you can’t filter out dissolved salts and other chemicals. Lacking distilling equipment, you can dig just above the high-tide mark. Dig until water starts seeping into the hole. Collect, filter and sanitize as you would any other surface water.
It’s important to note here that drinking seawater may speed up your dehydration because of it’s salt content. Also, drinking unsterilized surface water can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, both of which can greatly speed up your dehydration.
  1. In the winter, if you have snow, all you have to do is melt it. Fresh clean snow, like rain, doesn’t need filtering or sanitation.
  2. In the spring, when the sap is running, you can even tap a birch or maple tree and collect the watery sap.
  3. Plants in other parts of the world also have abundant sap that can be used for drinking water, like:
  • The Wild Grape vine in the States.
  • The Australian Water Root in Australia
  • And Bamboo in the tropics.
  • Coconut milk can also be used.
So as I mentioned earlier, surface water has to be filtered and sterilized, or distilled before you can drink it.
  • Filtered – to remove the dirt and cloudiness
  • Sterilized – to kill any germs, bacteria and other microscopic critters that would make you sick
  • Distilled – to separate salts and other dissolved chemicals.
In much of the world, where the sun is bright and strong, you can use the SODIS METHOD to sterilize water using the sun's ultra-violet rays. All you need is a clear container like a soda-pop bottle or a zip-loc bag and bright sunlight for a minimum of six to twelve hours.
In areas where winters are long, like here in Canada, solar radiation isn't as strong as it is near the equator, so I wouldn't trust the SODIS method to sterilize my drinking water.
So without commercial filters, chemical sterilizers, or a still,  you'll be left with boiling questionable water. Which brings me to a pet-peeve of mine…
In survival literature there’s a lot of bad information out there, so I feel the need to mention a few things:
  1. In a well-respected book that I won’t name, it says you can suck the liquid out of fish eyes for water. Fish eyes? Seriously?? How many fish eyes are you going to have to suck to make up your 2 quart minimum?
  2. Many other books talk about making solar stills by digging a three foot hole and covering it with a four foot sheet of plastic. A still this size in ideal conditions (bright sunlight, wet soil and air-tight seal) may produce a pint (500 ml) of water in a day. You'd need several of these solar stills to keep you from dehydration. Perhaps to augment other methods, but not on it’s own.
  3. A famous survivalist who doesn’t need to be named, says you can drink your urine. Urine is full of salt and toxins. It should be treated as seawater.
  4. Other so-called 'experts' say you should boil you water for at least five to ten minutes. If you’re like me, and you’ve ever boiled water in a small pot, you know that boiling for five to ten minutes will boil your pot dry. Just bringing it to a boil will cook any microbes in the water. Look at pasteurization… milk is heated to below the boiling point and that’s enough to sanitize it for human consumption.
Well, that was my rant. 
For more information on this topic, and to see how I treat my drinking water, be sure to watch my other videos:
  • My Compact Still For Treating Seawater
  • Beaver Fever: Pocket Water Filters and Aqua Tabs Demo

So until next time, Remember… Stay Hydrated and Survive.
This is Muskrat Jim, signing out.

Pocket Water Filters and Aqua Tabs Demo

Good day YouTubers! Muskrat Jim here and today I want to talk about "Beaver Fever", what it is and how to prevent it. 
We're also going to talk about pocket-sized water filters and chemical tablets you can use to filter and disinfect drinking water. 
And finally, I'll demonstrate the filter and tablets that I carry whenever I venture into the bush.

If you happen to drink untreated water from a Beaver Pond or other place frequented by animals, you risk getting BEAVER FEVER. This is a gastrointestinal illness caused by GIARDIA CYSTS. Symptoms include stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhoea.
CRYPTOSPORIDIUM and E.COLI bacteria may also be present in the water. These two bad boys can also make you quite sick with pretty much the same symptoms. E.Coli has also been known to cause death in children and the elderly.

In a survival situation, you cant afford to be sick. So it's very important to treat the water before you drink it.

Commercial filters are used to remove the cloudiness, suspended particles down to the microscopic level, and bad taste. There are many commercial filters available on the market. Some are quite expensive, but there are other less expensive pocket-sized ones too.

  1.   Aquamira Frontier Filter / $10 / 2pc unit / 75 L - 20 gal. / 99.9%

  2.   Aquamira Frontier Pro  / $20 / 2pc unit / 200 L - 50 gal. / 99.9%

  3.   Life Straw / $30 / 9" one piece unit + lanyard / 1000 L - 250 gal.
                             it claims to remove 99.999 including E.Coli

Also available are water disinfection tablets. There are basically two varieties… those that use chlorine as an agent and those that use iodine. Some taste better than others, but they all do the job.

  1.   Coghlan's (iodine)    1 tab -> 1qt.    15 minutes

  2.   Potable Aqua (iodone)   2 tabs -> 1 qt.    30 minutes

  3.   OASIS (chlorine)   1 tab -> 1 qt.   10 minutes

  4.   Aquamira (chlorine)    1 tab -> 1 qt.  30 min room temp up to 4 hrs cold

If you REALLY want to be sure your water is safe to drink, after filtering you can sterilize it further by treating it with the tablets.

The filter I use is the Pristine Pioneer Pro, which is the Canadian version of the American Frontier Pro. With this filter you can:
  • drink directly from a water source
  • screw onto a standard soda pop bottle
  • bite valve can be removed and the filter can be gravity fed
  • using the hose, it can also attach to standard hydration packs

I also picked up these AQUA tabs at Canadian Tire. 50 tablets for $12.95. These use chlorine as the disinfectant agent. 1 tab -> 1 qt clear water, 2 tabs -> qt cloudy water. Mix well for 10 minutes, let stand for 30 minutes.

I keep a quart-sized zip-loc bag and a few tablets in the back pocket of my Les Stroud Ultimate Mountain Survival Knife. Just in case I am ever separated from my pack. I also carry some in my E.D.C. pouch.

These tablets use chlorine as the active ingredient. The instructions recommend one tablet per quart for clear water and two tablets per quart for cloudy water. It also says to wait 30 minutes for the chlorine to do it's work.

These tablets also have safe handling instructions and poison warnings because eating a tablet would be a very bad mistake. READ THE PACKAGE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY!! Keep safely out of the reach of children.

Don't take chances with surface water. With a bit of preparation, it's easy to make sure your water is safe enough to drink.  

So until next time, this is Muskrat Jim signing out.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Food for 72-Hour Emergency

Emergency Preparedness experts (EMO Canada, FEMA and RED CROSS) all recommend that we keep adequate non-perishable food and water supplies in our home for a 72-hour period in case of disasters. 

The most likely scenario would be a storm knocking out the electricity which our society has become increasingly dependant on these last few generations. 

Below is my grocery list for one person to last three days:

                    3-pk Ramen Noodles
                    3 cans of Brunswick Sardines
                    6 pk Instant Oatmeal
                    1 box of 6 Nature Valley Granola Bars
                    1 cup of dried fruit & nuts
                    6 pk Ritz Crackers with cheese or peanut butter
                    6 tea bags
                    3 herbal tea bags
                    6 coffee packets     

                    6 sugar packets
                  12 creamer packets or powdered milk
                    3 Orange Juice drinking boxes
                    6 one-litre (quart) bottles of water

Six litres (quarts) of water weighs about six kilograms (12-1/2 pounds). It's not practical to carry this weight in water if you are on the move, so it's crucial that you have a way to collect and purify water on the go.

Inexpensive options are to carry a stainless steel container which can be placed directly into a fire to boil water:

Another is to carry a simple filter:

Below is a Menu for One Person (1500 Calories)


2 pk Instant Oatmeal                     80 calories
Dried fruit & nuts                          100 calories
Orange Juice Drinking Box           90 calories
            2 Coffee, creamer, sugar              50 calories
            (includes 3 cups of water)


1 pk Cup-a-Soup                           50 calories
1 pk Crackers                               125 calories
Nature Valley Granola Bar            170 calories
Tea, creamer                                  10 calories
(includes 2 cups of water)


1 pk Ramen Noodles                    380 calories
1 can Sardines                              140 calories
Nature Valley Granola Bar            170 calories
Tea, creamer                                   10 calories
(includes 2 cups of water)

Night Snack

Herbal Tea                                        0 calories
1 pk Crackers                               125 calories
(includes 1 cup of water)
                                                                  1500 calories / day


The "Survival Rule of Threes" is a useful tool to set priorities in a survival situation. 
                      A person can survive for:
                                          --  three minutes without air,
                                          --  three hours without shelter,
                                          --  three days without water,
                                          --  three weeks without food.

According to the "Survival Rule of Threes" a relatively healthy person could live up to three weeks without food. However, after only a couple of days of fasting they would be in a weakened state and may not able to make intelligent decisions or take care of themselves properly.

Our great-grandparents were much more self-sufficient than we are today. Their knowledge and skills, gained through countless generations, has been lost in just the past two or three generations. Our current society has been built on convenience and cheap energy... when electricity is removed our very survival is at stake.

It is incredibly important to re-learn those past skills of our grandparents and share them with our family and friends... our community... just as they did in their day.

  • Become active, and get into shape.
  • Learn to grow food and preserve it.
  • Learn to bake bread, learn to sew by hand.
  • Learn to hunt, fish and trap. Eat what you kill.
  • Learn a skill and barter it with your neighbours.