It's a pleasant autumn evening, and after a long day, you find yourself decompressing with your favorite pipe and tobacco blend, walking through the woods behind your house. Lost in pipe-induced reflection, you no longer consider time or your whereabouts. Suddenly, in the limited visibility of dusk, you misstep and catch your foot maladroitly on a rock. You try desperately to control the stumble and stay on the trail, but the surprise of the fall seals your fate and you tumble down the embankment at the side of the path. During the tumultuous fall, your top priority is the safety of your pipe. (Bones can be mended, after all, but your collection's centerpiece is irreplaceable).
Clenching firmly, you maintain a tight grip on the mouthpiece in spite of the rest of your body flailing like a ragdoll at gravity's disposal. You finally come to a rest against the trunk of an unfamiliar cedar and assess the situation. Your pipe is unscathed and has miraculously remained lit, but such good fortune wasn't extended to your ankle, which has already begun to swell. Familiarizing yourself with your surroundings, you realize how far you strayed during your relaxing stroll, and reality sets in: You're lost, and night is approaching.
Left to your own devices with only the clothes on your back, it might seem that in mere hours you'll surely meet your demise at the hands of the elements, wild beasts, or some sardonically sinister combination of the two.
While we may not have the survivalist knowledge of Bear Grylls or the ingenuity of MacGyver, we know pipes. Pipesmokers everywhere need to be taught wilderness survival, specifically how to survive when all that's available is a pipe.
This crisis of missing pipesmokers has gained traction over the years. The problem is spreading rampantly as pipesmokers leave their homes for a relaxing stroll, only to be found weeks later huddled against a tree clutching their briar, mere hours away from death, while others are never found at all. Spouses are left without answers, confused and fearing the worst; children struggle with abandonment; employers wring their hands in worry and are forced to move on.
Smoking in the beauty and comfort of nature can cause contemplative pipesmokers to lose track of their surroundings and of time, leading to dangerous isolation with little means of survival.
Thankfully, with a little education, together we as pipesmokers can help protect against the spread of this issue, saving lives and briars, and we here at Smokingpipes are committed to offering our expertise. While we may not have the survivalist knowledge of Bear Grylls or the ingenuity of MacGyver, we know pipes. Pipesmokers everywhere need to be taught wilderness survival, specifically how to survive when all that's available is a pipe. We all know the uses of briar as a smoking machine; however, it can be so much more than that.
This installment focuses on surviving a night alone in a wooded wilderness by harnessing all the survival potential out of your pipe and transforming it into a tool of Swiss army knife versatility with life-saving capabilities.
Starting a Fire
The careful cadence of an experienced pipesmoker can be well applied in igniting a small bundle of tinder in the bowl, using the smoldering tobacco as a catalyst.
The first and most important order of business when stranded in an unknown, unforgiving locale is to build a fire. While most pipesmokers will have a lighter or matches on hand, everyone must be prepared to start a fire without such instruments. In a situation such as this, proper pipesmoking technique becomes more valuable than simply keeping your pipe lit.
The careful cadence of an experienced pipesmoker can be well applied in igniting a small bundle of tinder in the bowl, using the smoldering tobacco as a catalyst. Once lit, the bundle should be delicately transferred to a dry spot on the ground and stoked by gradually adding larger and larger twigs and sticks. With a steady campfire built, your chances of survival increase dramatically, ensuring the night's cold won't be your ruin.
By positioning the bowl underneath large, low-hanging leaves in the evening, the morning should yield a bowlful of precious dew.
A roaring fire certainly protects you from the cold; however, it does nothing to assuage dehydration. The human body can survive roughly 3 weeks without food, but the lack of water is a dire threat in only a matter of days. Collecting water, though, can be a difficult task if there are no nearby freshwater sources. A pipe solves this problem.
By positioning the bowl underneath large, low-hanging leaves in the evening, the morning should yield a bowlful of precious dew. Large pipes of Group 5 or 6 size are most ideal for this task, with Ardor Giants and Ser Jacopo Maximas fitting the bill especially well. In fact, collectors drawn to Italian style pipes in general are likely to have an advantage in such a situation, compared to those who regularly smoke more petite briars, and those who smoke Peterson System pipes will appreciate the moisture well in the shank, providing another water-catching receptacle.
If you're able to locate other clean water sources, a pipe can also function as a makeshift canteen, storing water for a later time, the stem acting as a straw as you sip water throughout the day just as you would a burning flake. Though the sight of water-logging your beloved pipe is enough to make your soul weep, dehydration is not a joke, and sacrifices must be made in the name of survival.
Hunting/Protection Against Animals
Pipesmokers who prefer Churchwardens will appreciate the stem's effectiveness as a blowgun.
With a fire abating the cold and your need for water satiated, it's time to consider food as well as prepare for potential attacks from wild animals. Several options exist depending on the type of pipe you have with you. Those of the long-shanked variety, such as Lovats or Canadians, are preferable, as their elongated forms can be filed on a rock to a sharp point, creating a crude but sufficient shank — a shank shank, if you will. It's not a difficult process from a practical perspective, but tears may blur your vision as you perversely disfigure a member of your collection.
Pipesmokers who prefer Churchwardens will appreciate the stem's effectiveness as a blowgun. By loading the mouthpiece with sharpened twigs or small rocks as ammunition, the unassuming pipe is now transformed into a lethal, long-range weapon. Such a use might not be the best means of felling a charging beast; however, it's an unrivaled method for hunting.
Many pipes, however, have neither a long shank nor a long stem. In these cases, such a pipe is best used as a club or choking hazard. Using the button as a means of eye-gouging also gives more reach. If any of those attempts fail, though, then all that's left to do is hope the animal prefers the briar over you as a chew toy.
By keeping the bowl above water, you can remain under the surface as long as necessary — a helpful option when running from an animal attack or traversing large expanses of water.
A pipe's versatility extends beyond these aforementioned uses. Other tips include crafting your pipe into a whistle, utilizing the reflective characteristics of metal accents, and using it as a snorkel.
By removing the mouthpiece and sliding a blade of grass into the draft hole, you should be able to create a high-pitched whistle capable of attracting the attention of rescue parties. Likewise, if your pipe is studded with nickel or silver, it doubles as a signal mirror, reflecting sunlight in a distress signal. As a snorkel, the longer the stem of a pipe, the better. By keeping the bowl above water, you can remain under the surface as long as necessary — a helpful option when running from an animal attack or traversing large expanses of water.
Now, while these tips will give you the best chance of survival if you're ever stranded with nothing but your pipe, they do not guarantee a pleasant experience. They also require severely marring your pipe to the point of likely never being able to smoke it again. This is something each pipesmoker must weigh for themselves: Is the life of your pipe more valuable than your own? Depending on how you answer, it might simply be best to find a comfortable spot to sit and enjoy a relaxing bowl. Let nature do what it will.