SHADOWS was released in the UK yesterday and I'm so happy to announce that the Shadows blog tour has stopped by my blog today!
It's nearly Halloween and so I don't think that there could be any better time to pick up either Ashes or it's sequel, Shadows for a quite frightening (but certainly compelling) read!
There's also probably no better time than now to hear what the author of the books, Ilsa J Bick, would do in a zombie apocalypse - because we all need some survival tips, right?
Isla has kindly taken the time to write an exclusive guest post, giving us some of her tips for if (or even when) that scary time comes! Take note!
Unless you’ve been living in a cave the last couple of years, you know that pointers on surviving the zombie apocalypse are a pretty big deal. (My personal favorite: you guys with long hair? Cut it, or you’re toast.) Even the U.S.’s CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has gotten in on the act: http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies.htm Their site’s pretty good, and you should certainly give it a look-see. If you don’t have a bug-out bag, make one and get familiar with your gear, how it works, and what to do. Trust me: being hip-deep in an emergency is not the time to read the instructions.
This is the thing: you don’t have to face down a zombie to find yourself in a survival situation. Wander off the trail, take the wrong fork, get lost in the woods—think about those kids in Blair Witch—and you’re there. Now, most people have never had a truly wild wilderness experience, one where the trails aren’t nicely laid out; a cell won’t hack it; and your next meal might be, well . . . a worm, a grub, a beetle—or a long time coming. Call me paranoid, but I like knowing what to do and how to make it for a couple days if, say, the world ends and Starbucks disappears.
A question most ask is whether the backwoods survivalism Alex practices really works or is stuff I’ve done. The answer to both: you bet.
So you want to be Alex? Learn what I consider to be the most important things to do in and the bare-bones gear needed for an emergency backwoods situation, and you’ll be on your way. Now, all the stuff I’m going to suggest should keep you alive and safe for about three days. Why only three days? Easy. Unless you really are Alex or the zombies attack and presuming you’ve been a responsible hiker, people will know where you are, how long you expect to be gone, when they ought to hear back. So if you don’t show or fail a check-in day, normally people will get worried and alert the authorities who, in turn, will look for you. The focus here is on surviving until you’re rescued, not that you need to suddenly become Daniel Boone (or Ray Mears).
So let’s assume you’re out hiking and you’ve gotten lost. You’re not drowning; you’re not falling down a mountain or off a cliff. Now what?
Easy. First order of business: hug a tree.
I’m completely serious. If you feel strange getting intimate with a tree, then sit down. Or sing your favorite song. Whatever, but do something to calm yourself down. Really. Panic will only get you killed or in trouble that much faster.
Second order of business: get warm. This frequently translates to finding shelter, building a fire, peeling out of those wet clothes, whatever. Avoid hypothermia because that will kill you pretty fast. Successfully getting that fire going is a real morale boost, too. In addition, you want a little redundancy here; I always make sure I have at least three different strategies for when the first two fail. Here are the fire-making tools I always carry on the trail: flint and striker; waterproof matches in a box in a Ziploc bag because I don’t trust anybody; a lighter; Ziploc baggies with dryer lint and frayed jute (for my fire nest); cotton balls coated with petroleum jelly (light one of those suckers and you’ve got flame for a good couple minutes: long enough to start your fire or cook a hot dog); an Altoids tin of char; alcohol swabs in individual packets; a couple folded squares of tin foil (good for reflecting and directing heat off that fire-wall you’ll build from rocks and place next to your shelter, but aluminum foil is also GREAT for catching rainwater or signaling that rescue helicopter).
For added warmth and/or shelter, I also always carry an emergency blanket and a folded rain poncho. The blanket’s good for signal purposes, too, and the poncho can serve as a makeshift tarp, if you want. Also, both catch rainwater. So they’re definitely win-win.
Got your fire going? Warm and toasty? Thinking you might survive after all? You bet. It’s also occurred to you that a signal fire is a great thing, too, so you’ll keep this going. But now . . . well, all that hard work and you’re kind of thirsty.
Which brings us to water.
It’s a fact that you can live for three weeks without food, but try going three days without water—and you’re history. So water is key. In crummy conditions—say, it’s really hot—you can figure on needing a quart every couple of hours. So bring at least one canteen, and I would suggest you not settle for only a Nalgene bottle. Yes, they’re virtually indestructible and I have several (one wrapped with duct tape because that stuff is great if you break your arm or leg, or split your forehead). But a stainless steel water bottle is incredibly valuable because you can set that over the fire to boil water, something you can’t do with Nalgene or any kind of plastic.
For the sake of argument, we’re going to pretend there’s a water source: a scummy pond, a stream, rain, whatever. Well, you can’t just drink. There are all sorts of nasty things floating around in there. But, lucky you, there are two basic ways to purify water: heat and chemicals.
a) Boil water, and you’re set, and because you’ve taken my advice and brought along a stainless steel bottle, you’ve got your cooking vessel. How long? Easy. Just until it comes to a rolling boil because all the nasty bugs that will hurt you will die right around 74 degrees C. Since water boils at 100 degrees C, give or take for altitude, you’re golden.
b) Chemicals: There are a number of ways, but along with my handy-dandy LifeStraw (http://eartheasy.com/lifestraw?gclid=CJbEy-rP77ICFexAMgodOU0ALQ ), I always bring purification tablets; a small bottle (and dropper) filled with household chlorine bleach (two drops per quart; shake and wait thirty minutes); and a small bottle of 2 % tincture of iodine (five drops per quart; again, shake and wait. Hate the taste but when you’re thirsty . . .)
Lastly, there’s food, which is easy. A couple power bars, a few packets of Kool-Aid, and two or three pouches of energy gels. In a pinch, you can make that one power-protein bar do for a day. Would knowing the region’s edible plants help? You bet, but that’s a huge topic, and all we’re covering here is the bare minimum you need in a bare-bones, no-frills fanny pack.
What else should you bring? Depends on who you are, but in my fanny pack, you’ll find:
a) A good, sharp knife. Two, actually. I always wear one, carry the other. A knife is mandatory and the most important piece of equipment in your survival arsenal. If I somehow lose my fanny-pack, I still have a somewhat decent shot of making it with only a knife. I wouldn’t enjoy it, though.
b) A whistle. You can tear those suckers a mile away and blowing your whistle gives you something to do while you wait to be rescued. Of course, if there are zombies out there, don’t blow.
c) A signal mirror. Don’t bother with that fancy-schmancy metal thing you buy at a camping store. A CD works just as well.
d) Toilet paper. Three guesses why this makes life ever so much more pleasant.
e) A small bottle of Purell.
f) A three-day supply of prescription meds.
g) A small LED headlamp and extra batteries (I like both hands free).
h) A staple or thin paperclip. I know. Sounds weird. But if you know how to do it, in a pinch, you can couple a staple to a battery and start a fire that way.
j) Spec 550 paracord. (I actually wear mine—about 7 feet worth—in a specially woven bracelet.) Why? With this kind of rope, you can make ladders, repair clothing, create snares and tripwires, fashion a bow-drill. Strangle a zombie.
k) A little vial of 100% DEET. While smoky fires will deter mosquitoes, those critters can be mighty persistent.
l) A mini-deck of playing cards for something to do when I’m bored with counting ants or blowing my whistle.
m) A notepad and pen/pencil for the same reasons as l. Also, in case I decide rescue’s not happening and I must leave my encampment, anyone who stumbles on where I was will know which way I went.
Notice what I don’t include: an extra cell phone; an iPod; a transistor radio; a GPS, a small portable stove. Electronics won’t help you much out here unless you spring for a power pocket of solar panels—oh, and have service for that cell—and then we’re getting into knapsack territory, not a bare-bones survival pack.
I also didn’t include a bow-drill because that doesn’t fit into my fanny pack. Do I know how to make one? Sure, and in a pinch, that’s where a good knife and that strong paracord come in. The problem is: not only is making a bow-drill very time-consuming, trying to get a friction fire going can be such a drag because you can get tired very quickly. (News Flash: the way Tom Hanks made fire in Castaway? Not possible. Never happen. <shrug> It’s Hollywood.) When it comes to fire, I’d much rather scrape my sparker or flick my Bic and save my sanity.
Anyway, there you have it: what I think you should have in that fanny pack before hitting the trails. Now, go back your own, learn how to use the tools, and go have fun.
But watch out for those zombies, you hear? And for God’s sake: cut your hair.
I hope you're all feeling a little more prepared now!
Thank you so, so much to the fantastic Isla for her time and fantastic post.
If, like me, you're a little forgetful when it comes to reading series, check out the ASHES recap on Isla's website for a refresher before diving into SHADOWS: