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25 September 2005 @ 03:45 pm
calling all survivalists! (or, you know, just Outdoorsy Types)  
I require fic assistance, omg! It is for my swficathon assignment, which I started long ago and am now trying to sort out. Alas, besyd has been Rita'd, and lacks the DSL capability to answer all my Very Important Survival Questions.

I rather enjoy that, in my life, I need survival knowledge not for my actual survival, but for the lives of fictional characters.

So, here's the situation: Our Heroes (them being Sheppard and Weir for this ficathon) are trapped on a thus-far uninhabited planet with only the clothes on their backs. There is lots of rain and mud and flooding on this particular planet, so they are soaked through, exhausted and very cold.

I'm told by google that it's possible to make fire even in heavy downpours where everything's soaking wet, but I'm not sure how this works. Mostly -- my characters are wet and cold (and somewhat injured and in shock anyway) and I don't want them to die, omg! The vast repository of questionable knowledge that is ff.net has informed me that it's very important for characters in this situation to get naked with each other, but without sleeping bags and stuff, I wonder if the cold ground would kill them more. Help! What sort of shelter would they be looking for in a forested region where there's a chance of flooding? (I have discretionary author powerz and can create caves and even create an abandoned alien cabin/lean-to/something if need be, but the story's not set up for that particular cliche right now. Although... *ponders*) What steps would they take to prevent hypothermia and death in near-freezing soaking weather?

It's very possible I'm overthinking this stuff and that No One Really Cares and I should just gloss over it, but sometimes I read fics that horribly botch things that I know about, and that bugs me. And I'd rather not bug the Sheppard/Weir girl scouts out there. Or accidentally kill off my OTP.

If anyone Knows About These Things and wants to leave me comments here, direct me websites that will save me, or chat with me about this sometime in the near future on yahoo or AIM, it would be very helpful in the general fic-writing cause.
feel: coldcold
hear: "Mean Ol' Wind" - Kris Delmhorst
babylil on September 25th, 2005 11:14 pm (UTC)
I don't really know anything about this stuff, but common sense is telling me that getting naked in the rain without a sleeping bag is a bad plan.

I know you're supposed to get in a sleeping bag (or equivalent) with somebody else naked rather than fully dressed if you're sharing body heat ('cause Mulder told me *g*), but I think the sleeping bag is a pretty essential part of the equation...
Little Red: xf - msr original 'ship - liminallizmylittleredgirl on September 25th, 2005 11:27 pm (UTC)
See, everything I know also comes from other sci-fi shows! I'm told that singing popular Credence Clearwater Revival songs are also helpful!
Phrenitis: any questions? (jr_moon)phrenitis on September 26th, 2005 12:37 am (UTC)
Yes! "Who'll Stop The Rain"! Elizabeth would hum it and John would look at her all "omg we're dying stop this i love you" and then... something about naked.

Besides this, my helpful advice is limited to getting them out of a floodable valley and to higher ground. And I like caves. 'Cause caves are cool. *la*
Little Red: sga - sw comfort hurricane - fifmeistermylittleredgirl on September 26th, 2005 12:43 am (UTC)
"Higher ground" has definitely been a theme of this story so far, yes. I was worried about caves because of the potential for flooding and I didn't want them to get trapped, eep!

... yes, it's a bit weird that I'm worried about unpredictable things happening in a story *I'm* writing, but that's the kind of day I'm having. ;)

And OMG, that is GENIUS with the singing, except that earlier today I put a total and absolute moratorium on John and Elizabeth ever singing in each other's presence ever. But hrm. It is awfully genius. (omg, do I even remember that song? *mental blank oh noes!*)

Phrenitisphrenitis on September 26th, 2005 12:57 am (UTC)
The lyrics! So deep!

And whatever moratorium shmoratorium. There could be shivering! And accidental slippage of humming! And maybe John doesn't say anything so she doesn't realize she's singing and therefore doesn't know he's heard, and therefore there was no singing in each other's presence!

I r smart.
pellucid: Scully good daypellucid on September 26th, 2005 01:39 am (UTC)
But if we're taking all of our knowledge from other sci-fi shows (namely, The X-Files), isn't singing badly to people while stuck in the woods the thing to do??? That is, when it doesn't rain sleeping bags... ;)
רותם שחר (Ro): miss txfroothekittykat on September 26th, 2005 10:35 pm (UTC)
LOL, exactly!

and maybe if it rains sleeping bags he'll get lucky;)
Ravennoradannan on September 25th, 2005 11:15 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure about getting a fire started in the total soaking wet (though I know it's _possible_, I'm just not that cool), but as for shelter, I can help you.

The easiest and warmest shelter one can make is to:
1) pile some leaves/needles/grass/whatever on the ground
2) Get a long stick - a bit longer than you are tall
3) get another stick, about a foot a bit more tall, with a fork on the end. Stick it in the ground with the fork up.
4) put one end of the long stick on the ground, and the other resting in the fork of the stick so that you have a long slope.
5)Lean a bunch of other little sticks up against the sloping stick, so you have a long pyramid shape running down the stick.
6) Pile a bunch more leaves/needles/grass/whatever agains the 'walls' for insulation.
7) Crawl inside, feet first, so that your head is near the opening where the forked stick is
8) pile up a bunch more leaves/grass/needles/whatever at the opening so the cold air doesn't come in.

If there are two people, getting naked is probably necessary too, at least if those two people are Sheppard and Weir. I mean, from what I've heard.

I don't know if this is too hard to describe or whatever, but that's what I've learned from crazy survival books/classes (I'm _so_ going to go take a specialty class on edible insects. Seriously. How cool is that?). Hope that helps!
Little Red: sga - sw comfort hurricane - fifmeistermylittleredgirl on September 25th, 2005 11:31 pm (UTC)
Serin! You are so knowledgeable!

So... what if all this stuff is wet, though? I'm thinking of finding them some sort of overhang somewhere that could have dryer leaves or needles or something, and they could build a lean-to against that... (You know, just to be nice.)

Should there be fire made in this scenario at any point? *feels bad to make them put wet clothes on again after all the nakedness* ;)

OMG KNOWLEDGE. I love you! And it's definitely not too hard to describe, because I don't so much need the details spelled out in the story. I'm just looking to create a scenario where people will believe that they survived. With preferrable nakedness. Though I've got to say that being surrounded all naked-like with pine needles is not exactly the sexiest scenario I've ever imagined...

Tell me more about survival! Just cuz!
Ravennoradannan on September 25th, 2005 11:39 pm (UTC)
Stuff being wet is less than ideal, but bodies (especially naked ones) can actually heat things up quite quickly, and the whole point of the shelter is to keep in body heat. Of course, a little lean-to against an outcropping is much nicer, and still probably needs the naked

As for cool survival stuff... did you know you can start a fire with a coke can and a piece of chocolate? It's actually pretty cheaty, to be honest - use the chocolate to polish the bottom of the coke can (which takes a very long time), and then use it like a magnifying lens to focus light and start a fire. But still, as far as making random objects useful, it's very cool.

I've always been really interested in it, and am planning on taking an incredibly cool survival course as soon as I can afford it wherein they teach you for a few weeks, and then you spend a week on your own in the woods with just your clothes and, I think, a knife. Tres badass. I've always wanted to do that.

They also have 'specialty' classes on such things as trapping game (when one has only the clothing on their back and a knife), edible plants, and edible insects. I find the idea of paying several hundred dollars to learn what kind of bugs you can eat, and then spending most of a week eating them, to be incredibly cool. I'm kinda a freak like that, though.

So yeah. I know how to make bowls out of bark, how to boil water in them, how to start a fire with my shoelace and some sticks, and what the lint in my pocket is good for (best tinder ever. Seriously. Stuff out of the drier is even better). I know enough things I can eat that I won't starve too quickly, but most of those are more for northern CA, so I need to do some east coast classes or soemthing, too.

I will so survive the apocolypse. ;)
Little Red: gleee! - nenyamylittleredgirl on September 26th, 2005 12:05 am (UTC)
You ARE a survivalist! Hee!

And wow! You really are just amazingly cool. These classes sound so awesome, but, er, I am all about creature comforts and just want to HEAR about your amazing adventures. So, er, tell me? I'll give you like twenty bucks toward the course in exchange for story hour! :) I totally want to know this stuff! I just don't ever want to have to do it.

Of course, a little lean-to against an outcropping is much nicer, and still probably needs the naked

Ooooh. Will they build the fire outside the lean-to to avoid setting it ablaze, then? And have one end of the lean-to open towards the fire for warmth? (You totally get Consultant credit for this story. ;) )
Luna: SGA-Kaboom by a_gallunasky on September 25th, 2005 11:39 pm (UTC)
I asked my husband (who spend 12 years in the army) and he looked at me weird when I asked if a fire could be started with wet wood. He said "Sure, you just have to get it hot enough." When I asked what he would do, he said he'd just use a blow torch.

Not the most helpful answer in the world, I know. I do know though, that if you can get a flame going (I'm sure John's got some fuel or fire starter in his miltary kit). Here's a link for more info: http://www.equipped.com/devices28.htm

Come to think of it, John will probably have one of these: http://www.nitro-pak.com/product_info.php/products_id/135

And I think if they can make a shelder as suggested above, they'd probably want to get out of the wet clothes, because they'll keep the cold close to their bodies. Air is a great insulator, so if they can get the fire going inside or very close to their shelter, they'll be much warmer sharing body heat then staying in their wet clothes. Even if it's cold outside.
Luna: SGA-Elizabeth by ethelineshermanlunasky on September 25th, 2005 11:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, and I forgot to say, if the wood is wet, once they get fire going, he should probably put several other log (or burnable type things) close to the fire, so that they'll dry and burn easier when they need to add more fuel to the fire.
Little Redmylittleredgirl on September 26th, 2005 12:10 am (UTC)
Yes! We do that all the time with, er, the woodstove in our house. Except I'm sure it's more dramatic when outside and fighting for one's life against the wild elements.
Little Red: sga - sw comfort hurricane - fifmeistermylittleredgirl on September 26th, 2005 12:09 am (UTC)
Yay knowledgeable husband!! I'm sure John has useful things to start fires in his vest, yes. I was more flailing about the sleeping arrangements, because some sites are all "you will die if you sleep on wet branches!" and others were all "sleep on wet branches or you will die!" and I was all "SO CONFUSED, OMG." But the f-list has enlightened me. :)
Pooh: Kiefer - hmm (by silver_echoes)mspooh on September 25th, 2005 11:47 pm (UTC)
AskJeeves gave me this site: Equipped to Survive that has some "survival information." Might help?
Annieraisintorte on September 26th, 2005 12:00 am (UTC)
You can start a fire with in the rain with wet sticks and leaves in the rain. I would suggest finding cover under or by a tree canopy where the rain isn't as hard or the ground isn't as wet. That would give them a reasonably dry place to start the fire.

As for stuff to start the fire, they will probably be able to find reasonably dry sticks and leaves under heavy tree cover. They should look for paper thin bark, such as birch bark or something like that as a fire starter. Also if there is pine tree like trees in the area most of the inner pine needles should still be dry. Can we assume they have matches? If yes, it would make their lives easier. Sheppard would probably have them in his vest.

Now for starting the fire, if the sticks and leaves are damp they should stand the sticks up and lean them against each other in a pyramid formation. Stick the dry leaves in the bottom as kindling and light that, add the dryer smaller sticks to build the fire up. As the fire gets warmer, it will start to dry out the sticks in the pyramid. Also, if there are larger logs and John is industrious enough to find a way to split them open the insides would be dry.

I did a quick search and found the usscouts page that has some helpful hints (the boy scouts are usually pretty good for outdoor stuff) http://usscouts.org/scoutcraft/firestarters.html

Here's some info on hypothermia from the scouts: http://www.usscouts.org/safety/safe_hyp.html

I found some other interesting survival info on shelter and keeping warm on this page: http://www.equipped.com/primer.htm

This part could fit right into your story:
Take advantage of natural shelter. A lean-to can be constructed against a fallen tree using deadwood and layered boughs, a tarp or sections from the aircraft. Beneath the bottom branches of a large evergreen there is often a clear dry area, even in heavy snow. A simple snow trench can be quickly excavated and covered with boughs. The floor of your shelter can be insulated from the snow or ground using seat cushions, carpet, small boughs, dead leaves or other materials which will get you off the ground and trap air. Huddle together for warmth. Do not let any personal inhibitions prevent you from taking advantage of the significant warming effect of bodies in contact.

This makes me want to go camping! :-)
Little Red: fridge magnets pr0n - josephidesmylittleredgirl on September 26th, 2005 12:07 am (UTC)
Oh wow!! Thank you! So much knowledge!!

... I don't know that I will need to go into great bark detail, actually, so I hope you don't mind if all this information doesn't end up in the final story. I mostly just needed to know how they would survive so that then I could gloss over it more confidently. Errr. But OMG KNOWLEDGE. *eats this knowledge*

Mmmm... bodies in contact...
Annieraisintorte on September 26th, 2005 12:11 am (UTC)
You don't need to use any of it if it doesn't fit. :-) I was just having fun flashbacks to my days of dragging 8 year old girls around the woods teaching them how to camp. :-)
dark_cygnet: DC lovedark_cygnet on September 26th, 2005 12:11 am (UTC)
Hey Red, i'm not any help since my idea of survival is hitching a free ride on the neighbor's wireless, but i just wanted to say damn! Your flist is so smart and knowledgable that when the apocolypse strikes, i'm hangin with them! Looking forward to seeing the fic when it's finished.
I joined the Rebel Alliance ironically: john/elizabeth world disappearsmorwen_peredhil on September 26th, 2005 12:19 am (UTC)
I don't have anything to add to the excellent survival tips you've already been given, but I would like to add my vote in favor of John and Elizabeth getting naked.
-a.frog/gorf.a-froggoddess on September 26th, 2005 02:23 am (UTC)
everything has pretty much been covered---except that i think someone told me once that pine trees do make the best shelter because the needles don't trap as much moisture and they dry out quicker. the characters definitely need to get naked, especially if they're wearing cotton clothes, because the clothes wick all warmth away from the skin... however, if they're wearing synthetic clothes (polyester! yeah!) they should keep them on and cuddle, because the body heat will dry out the clothes and then keep them warm. and serin's shelter idea is very, very cool. and it'd work, too...
miera_c: canon whoremiera_c on September 26th, 2005 03:53 am (UTC)
I agree on the cave thing - if there are floods going on they would not want to be deep in a cave, they might drown.

What about heavy tree cover, maybe some big ass boulders with an overhang they can hide under to stay out of the rain, rather than an actual cave?

Are they being chased or are they just lost and alone? I wrestled with a story I still haven't finished (I don't know how to end it) where they were being chased and John had to stay awake the whole night to keep watch both over Elizabeth and in case the dangerous aliens showed up (erm, after they were both in their underwear and cuddled up under emergency blankets I invented from John's off-world supplies. Elizabeth was hurt and in shock and needed the body heat! I swear! *ahem*)

I'm assuming that foul weather gear (ponchos like we've seen SG-1 wear) are included in their supplies - maybe use those in place of a sleeping bag which they probably don't have? They'd be waterproof to lie on at least.
Little Red: sga - sw comfort hurricane - fifmeistermylittleredgirl on September 26th, 2005 04:10 am (UTC)
Tammy phoned me and talked me through it! John apparently would have a SPACE BLANKET OMG in his vest! So they are SAVED from death and wet ground, gleeeee.

They aren't being chased. They just need to get to higher ground to get out of the flash flood zone.

OMG, I WANT YOUR STORY NOW. A lot of those elements will show up in mine, too, but less with the chasing and the omgfear.

The problem is that they weren't planning to end up on this particular planet, therefore they lack any *regular* supplies or packs or anything, so I don't think they have ponchos. But space blanket will totally suffice and make me very happy.

My characters will live to UST another day!
Lytalytarules on September 26th, 2005 06:11 am (UTC)
I, um, sleep with an official Boy Scout Scoutmaster and Eagle Scout, and will help beta if need be.

The proper trees to use depend upon the terrain/ecosystem. I know trees, um, pretty well. What type of terrain do you need? Their lives will be easier if it's more of a conifer forest.

The lean-to design will work better if you use low branches or lash together some saplings for the primary support. Makes it much less house-of-card-like. That's what works better to lean the main branches on. And it will leak.

John would pick ground on a slope where there isn't a lot of runoff.

And I *never* go on a hike without a $1 thin plastic emergency poncho. It would fit in the same pocket with the space blanket. Our kids had one, plus a space blanket and a whistle, in their hiking gear since they were old enough to walk. John could could chew Elizabeth out for not having either of those things. And then the only way for both to stay alive would be cuddling. :D

Hubby prefers to start fires in the rain with a road flare. Check a vehicle emergency kit, or buy a pack at Wal-Mart. You can even test it out the next time it rains, but do it on a concrete pad where you won't catch anything on fire. Hubby never goes backpacking without one. They're a bit heavy, but can make a big difference, and they never fail to light unless they're out-of-date.

And there's something called "lashing" (omg such a kinky name) that John would know. He could use parachute cord, twine, or certain types of vines to tie stuff together. I can show you how it's done, but it mostly involves wrapping things in the right pattern. But John could lash stuff if it was worth the time. It's not all that quick, but that's how he'd build a proper shelter for several days use.

Um, more info from personal experience. Flash floods sometimes rumble. Sometimes there's a big wave, and sometimes there's just a rapid rise in the water level. It's hard to stand in fast-moving floodwater even if it's just up near your knees. You can't get your foot to stay put when you're trying to set it down - the current doesn't seem to want to get out from under your foot. And the rain is loud. Flood waters are murky. You don't always know when things are going to hit you, or what they are.
dingcdingc on September 26th, 2005 06:28 am (UTC)
Just thought I would throw some more (lots more! Lots and lots more!) info at you:

This seems like a good site for info: http://www.geocities.com/tominelpaso/

And for some of the useful stuff,

Survival Shelters, since I'm assuming he's Army, this is from the Field Manual FM 21-76 (http://www.aircav.com/survival/asurtoc.html) , which he would probably follow exactly.

When considering shelter site selection, use the word BLISS as a guide.
B - Blend in with the surroundings.
L - Low silhouette.
I - Irregular shape.
S - Small
S - Secluded location.
(Even if he doesn't feel threaten in the story he would probably do this, never know when angry natives might be around)

To reduce heat loss to the ground, place some type of insulating material, such as leaves or pine needles, inside your lean-to.

Note: When at rest, you lose as much as 80 percent of your body heat to the ground.

Field-Expedient Lean-To

If you are in a wooded area and have enough natural materials, you can make a field-expedient lean-to without the aid of tools or with only a knife. It takes longer to make this type of shelter than it does to make other types, but it will protect you from the elements.

You will need two trees (or upright poles) about 2 meters apart; one pole about 2 meters long and 2.5 centimeters in diameter; five to eight poles about 3 meters long and 2.5 centimeters in diameter for beams; cord or vines for securing the horizontal support to the trees; and other poles, saplings, or vines to crisscross the beams.

In cold weather, add to your lean-to's comfort by building a fire reflector wall. Drive four 1.5-meter-long stakes into the ground to support the wall. Stack green logs on top of one another between the support stakes. Form two rows of stacked logs to create an inner space within the wall that you can fill with dirt. This action not only strengthens the wall but makes it more heat reflective. Bind the top of the support stakes so that the green logs and dirt will stay in place

Swamp Bed

In a marsh or swamp, or any area with standing water or continually wet ground, the swamp bed keeps you out of the water. When selecting such a site, consider the weather, wind, tides, and available materials.

Debris Hut

For warmth and ease of construction, this shelter is one of the best. When shelter is essential to survival, build this shelter.

Medicine: First, he would drink a lot of water, but would clean it, in a effort to keep this reply "shorter", I'm not adding how he would do that, it's on the website though.


Unlike heatstroke, you must gradually warm the hypothermia victim. Get the victim into dry clothing. Replace lost fluids, and warm him.

Another method is to wrap the victim in a warmed sleeping bag with another person who is already warm; both should be naked.

If the person is conscious, give him hot, sweetened fluids. One of the best sources of calories is honey or dextrose; if unavailable, use sugar, cocoa, or a similar soluble sweetener.


When with others, prevent frostbite by using the buddy system. Check your buddy's face often and make sure that he checks yours. If you are alone, periodically cover your nose and lower part of your face with your mittens.

Do not try to thaw the affected areas by placing them close to an open flame. Gently rub them in lukewarm water. Dry the part and place it next to your skin to warm it at body temperature.



To make this fire, arrange the tinder and a few sticks of kindling in the shape of a tepee or cone. Light the center. As the tepee burns, the outside logs will fall inward, feeding the fire. This type of fire burns well even with wet wood.

(Any "natural" way to start fire is going to use all your energy and probably will only start a fire 1-5% of the time!)

Anything else check those two sites I sent you, they should answer it. Or just IM/reply back and I'll try to find an answer it.
Caveecavee on September 28th, 2005 02:59 am (UTC)
I don't know if anyone suggested it yet, but the military issue poncho and lining make like the best tent ever. I only remember this from childhood games with my brother, but it might be the easy way out that you need.

The poncho consists of a waterproof outer covering as well as an insulated layer that John probabbly left at home.