Emergencies and natural disasters always pose a threat to our safety. What truly counts is how you react to the situation that really determines if you will make it out alive or not. The people on the Discovery Channel or other reality shows make it look easy, but do you believe you have the skills necessary to survive?
Keep reading to learn important prepper skills that everyone should know; whether you are an avid hiker or it’s your very first camping trip. Some of these tips could very well save your life.
Outdoor Survival Prepper Skills Every Prepper Should Master
You don’t have to be the next Grizzly Adams or the next Les Stroud from Survivorman to be able to survive out in the great unknown, as long as you know how to survive.
As you read, you’ll learn what we feel are essential survival skills that everyone should master, regardless if you plan on going into the wild or not—it’s always better to be prepared than not.
1. Locating And Filtering Water
As someone who lives in an area where there is running water, you may not be prepared with the idea of having to drink something that doesn’t come from a faucet or a bottle, unlike survivalists who are okay with searching for their own water sources.
When you’re stranded out in the wilderness, you may not have enough water to last the entire time you’re out there. You can use items like a mini water filtration system or a water bottle with a LifeStraw filter so that when you do find a water source, you can safely drink the water.
2. Find a Location Suitable to Set up Camp
At some point during your experience, Lifehacker reminds us that you’re going to need to rest and set up some kind of camp. Before you even start to unroll your tent or set up your tarp shelter, you need to find an area that is free of any kind of debris, insect nests, or other things that could either pose a threat to your safety or make your night very uncomfortable.
Also, you want to make sure the spot you choose is on level ground, lest your shelter (and you!) go sliding down a hill in the middle of the night.
3. How to Start a Fire?
Along with finding water and setting up camp, you have to know how to start a fire out of anything you may have on hand. Most survival kits will have ever-strike matches or other items that can help make a fire.
However, if you do not have a survival kit, you need to know what you can start a fire with, and how. America Survival has a great list of ways to start a fire. Here are just a few to give you an idea:
- Use a water bottle
- Use reading glasses
- Use a Soda can and chocolate
- Use your own urine
4. Learn First Aid And How to Use a First Aid Kit
In survival situations, there are plenty of things that could go wrong and cause someone or yourself to get hurt. Because of that, SASI Online reminds us that it is important that you always travel with a first aid kit of some kind.
You will want to know how to treat open wounds (regardless of the size), treat frostbite, how to put a dislocated joint into the socket, or set a bone in the case of a fracture. Also, it should be in the best interest to know what kind of plants you can use to act as gauze or a bandage if you don’t have enough in your kit.
5. Know How to Identify Safe Vegetation to Eat
You can never go wrong in knowing what poisonous plants look like in your area, but you would also do well to familiarize what plants are safe to eat, too. You don’t want to find a bush of succulent berries, eat them, only to find out they are poisonous. If you take medications, you should also look up what type of things will react to said medication.
6. Know How to Hunt/Fish/Trap For Food
You may have a few MREs and snacks in your backpack, but that may not last the entire time you’re stuck in the wilderness. It’s always a good idea to know how to find your own source of protein, either through fish and other seafood or by hunting or trapping wildlife.
Granted, if you are stuck in the wilderness, you may not have a gun or a fishing pole. Fortunately, AmericaSurvival has a few examples of how you can find use by using an Atlatl (a slingshot), using a snare trap, or a sharpened stick to fish.
7. Make Tools And Weaponry
Not only are you going to need tools to hunt, but you are also going to need something for self-defense if you are trying to survive for a long period of time. You might have an assault knife or some other kind of blade knife in your survival kit, which can work for skinning animals and even self-defense.
If you don’t have a knife (or even a folding knife), you can create items like an axe, bow and arrow, or a club with a little bit of resourcefulness.
8. Learn How to be Ready For The Unexpected
Nothing is certain in a survival situation so it would be wise to expect the unexpected. Just when you think you’ve got this survival thing down, something could happen, and you could be thrown for a loop. True survivalists understand that nothing is guaranteed and always be prepared to roll with the punches.
Before you go off on an excursion, we hope you seriously consider reviewing and brushing up on survival techniques. Knowing how to do the things discussed in this article can save yours or someone else’s life.
The Ten Essentials to Outdoor Survival
The Ten Essentials list was first presented in the 1930s in an article that appeared in a Mountaineers newsletter. It attempted to list the ten most important survival items for an outdoors man to carry- and it did a pretty good job. Of course, any list of ten items isn’t going to be perfect, and will fail to cover everything. As a basic introduction into what is important, though, it is quite good and held in high regard.
So without further adieu, the Ten Essentials list:
- Strike anywhere matches– it’s important to have strike anywhere matches, and not strike on box matches, and they’re easily confused. The latter become useless if the box becomes wet. Place them in a waterproof box, with a piece of emery board as a striker.
- Fire starter– always include some fire starter in your waterproof case. There will be times when it will just be impossible to get a fire started without it. If you find yourself in such times, you’ll be glad you have it.
- A map– a lot of trouble people have gotten into could have been avoided if they had a map of the area. Don’t make this mistake- be prepared.
- A compass – and know how to use it. – More about compasses
- A flashlight – with extra batteries and an extra bulb.
- Extra food – supplies you with energy, keeps you thinking clearly, and helps ward of hypothermia in cold wet weather.
- Extra clothing – a rain coat and a good wool hat are essential. A rain coat keeps you dry in rain and protects you from wind. A large amount of body heat is lost through the head, hence the hat.
- Sunglasses – helpful in sunny or snow covered environments.
- First Aid Kit – always essential.
- Pocket knife – Go for a multi-use, Swiss army style knife.
Why You Should Prepare Even if You Never Experience a Major Disaster?
There are many people who refuse to prepare for disasters or emergencies because they would rather play the odds. Sure, some people have been affected by disasters in the past but there were also many others who lived their entire lives without running into a single tornado, hurricane or other major disaster! However, these folks forget that preparedness has advantages beyond the big disasters that can be quite valuable. Let’s dive in and see exactly how helpful your preps will be even if you never see a major disaster.
It’s The Little Things That Matter, Good and Bad
First let’s get the obvious point out of the way. Your preparations are quite useful for all those small-scale personal disasters that are pretty much inevitable. You might manage to go your whole life without running into a tornado, but what about a power outage? What about those cash-strapped months when a sudden car accident, repair issue, medical bill, or other expense drains your bank account? Most preps, from stored food and gear to survival skills can help reduce expenses or minimize inconveniences when things go a little sour. Sure your knowledge on how to build a molotov cocktail might not be useful, but gardening, anti-thievery, and food preservation skills will still be useful.
And when things are going well and you don’t have any disasters, even minor ones, to complain about? You’ll have a number of benefits from your preparedness, including:
Peace of Mind
You’re ready for any disaster regardless of size or impact. Although there are always a few things you could do to improve your situation, if you maintain a healthy balance you’ll be able to rest in the knowledge that you’re always 80% prepared at least. This relieves a lot of stress that most people tend to just accept as normal, and allows you extra time to react to the bigger issues.
The Resources to Help Others Who Suffer
I always advocate prepping so that those who are worthy of help but not sufficiently prepared can be assisted when they run into troubles. Whether it’s giving a friend some extra food so that he can have enough to pay his rent or using your skills to help rebuild a devastated town, your preparations enable you to act when disaster does strike.
A Cushion for Short-lived Crises
Droughts causing a rise in food prices, a refinery blowing up raising the price of gas, these are generally short-lived and only cause minor harm unless you’re already living on the edge of each paycheck. But with sufficient stocks of supplies you could ride through the temporary increases until prices stabilize at their normal rates again, saving you a fair amount of money.
Skills to Save You Money and Time
Many preppers learn at least the basic principles of construction, fabrication, plumbing, and general repair in order to be ready for a disaster. As you can imagine, these skills translate into a side business or just a money-saving skillset for around the house work. Knowing how to garden and can goods allows you to enjoy homemade goods that are far superior to the mass-produced variety.
The Benefits of an Expanded Mindset
Preparedness offers a lot of advantages in terms of gear and skills, but the mindset itself offers some good things as well.
For one thing, being able to look ahead and prepare for future disasters applies to many applications if done properly. Just being more aware and alert for thieves and denying them an easy opening could save your life! In a business setting, using your skills to improve risk analysis could assist you in making better decisions as well, depending on the industry you work in.
For another, the more independent and self-reliant design of a typical preparedness mindset can serve you well too. Whether you’re looking to become an entrepreneur or just living through a typical day, being more capable of taking care of yourself or acquiring the resources you need is a definite advantage. Odd as it may seem, it can also make you a greater asset in a team effort as well since you will be more capable of gauging input and getting work done.
Preparedness isn’t some miracle cure for all ills, but it certainly shouldn’t be dismissed just because you might not be involved in a major disaster. Be prepared for that!
How to Improve Your Prepping Skills On a Budget: Go Camping!
You often hear preppers bemoan how hard it can be to hone your skills since the standard 9-5 job and evening with the family isn’t exactly living rough for most people. However, as summer has set in the camping season has kicked off in earnest and the prime opportunity for improvement has arrived along with it. Even if you plan on surviving most disasters in a well-stocked retreat, just learning to live without constant access to electricity and in close proximity to each other for a weekend is a great experience. Additionally, it’s just plain fun and adds an element to your preparations that even the uninterested members of the family can participate in.
What Kind of Trip?
Obviously how long you will be gone and how “rough” you want the trip to be is dependent on who is going. Certainly great-grandma isn’t going to be rock climbing up to a beautiful perch for your evening campsite! Regardless of how long you can be gone, even if it is just one day, you’ll be gaining valuable skills. Heck, you can even just “day camp” and get used to hiking about and having an evening campfire before heading home if you wish. I would recommend at least 1 full day, complete with sleeping in a tent or other shelter, if only to get the full experience.
The main thing to consider here is what your group can handle without hurting themselves or missing some obligation. Certainly try to avoid maximizing all the luxuries, but there’s nothing wrong with taking things slow when you’re still getting used to the atmosphere and skills needed.
Where to Go?
National/State Parks often offer extremely cheap and convenient camping locations if you’re looking to have a few services (camp bathrooms and spigots for water) and some even offer truly primitive camping during certain seasons. These are probably your best bet unless you have a friend or family member with a few wooded acres to work with.
What to Bring?
This is where you can get really creative. In all honesty, most people tend to bring half of their house with them when they camp and most of that stuff is beyond excessive. For preparedness and to improve the fun, try artificially limiting the amount of stuff each person can bring. Many scouting troops, for example, have “Shoebox Camping” where each boy is told to bring only what can fit in a shoebox (aside perhaps from essential tools like a hatchet that can be carried on the person or a proper sleeping bag). This forces you to think of what is really needed, since a shoebox can only hold a few food items and small tools unless you’re willing to get really creative.
You could also bring certain experimental or “survival only” tools, like a portable water filter or your firestarter kit. This lets you give them a try in a useful environment without having your life on the line, getting you used to using/cleaning each tool properly.
Camping is definitely a fun way to learn some practical prepping skills and hone others. Make sure you give it a try at least once this summer, you won’t regret it!
There are plenty of methods to improve your preparedness skills, ranging from hardcore training to reading books. Yet, games are often left to the side when considering getting better at survival. For many this is because games don’t seem serious enough for the kinds of lifesaving skills you need to have to survive a disaster, or because games are “just for kids”. However, games are not only common in emergency professional fields but they’ve been used for thousands of years to prepare for deadly serious raiding, home defense, or hunting for game. Let’s look at how you can use games to get a leg up on a disaster and improve the odds of survival.
Let me be clear, not every game is going to be helpful for you. Some games are mainly for fun and to kill times of boredom or boost morale, and they shouldn’t be confused with games that teach genuinely useful skills.
Functional games have a secondary function besides the fun, which in fact is the entire point! Games in previous eras that celebrated skill in chariot racing, heaving heavy objects, wrestling/stick fighting, and even jousting were at least originally designed to be imitations of real-world warfare or work. Even mundane tasks like axe cutting or sheep shearing could be turned into competitions if time permitted. Although children sometimes participated, many of these sports pretty much required an adult, so there’s no reason why modern games need be considered “childish” at all.
Why Use Games to Learn?
As with almost anything, learning is often done faster and with more enthusiasm if there are others participating, cheering you on, or conversely trying to outdo you and claim the prize. It gives you a goal to shoot for beyond merely “learn to shoot, learn to cut wood, learn to can fruit, learn to…” and gives you a sense of achievement along the way even if you lose since you’re able to put your all into it.
As a component of this, competitions can also focus on specific skills related to a larger overall skill. Firearms competitions might focus on specific distances, specific weapon types (handguns only, bolt action rifles only etc.) or specific means of winning (accuracy, consistency, choosing proper targets) that shake things up. Some contests are intentionally more difficult than the equivalent real world situation in order to make it easier to perform properly in real life. Dexterity might be improved by having men attempt to climb a greased pole, marksmen might be instructed to aim for a ridiculously small target, and shearers might learn the best possible method for shearing by being forced to cut extremely quickly.
Another thing competitions can do is improve teamwork and solidify relationships between group members. It’s one thing to know that your nominal “firearms expert” is going to lead you in defending an area if things go south just on his word, another to see how he leads you in a mock battle with paintball or airsoft guns and have the proof presented to you directly. Plus, some people might only demonstrate a skill if they’re thrust into a situation where they have to be responsible for it and there are consequences (loss of pride for example) for failure. Secondary leaders, map readers, or plain level-headed folks become much more obvious under stress.
On a mental level, it helps to take your mind off of the drudgery of repetition to have fun and enjoy learning, and it can even increase your desire to dig deeper into the concept. “Time flies when you’re having fun” can be turned to your advantage and leave you with hours and hours of training time that wasn’t just boring repetition.
Finally, it makes you seem more human to the non-preppers and neighbors around you. Your group isn’t just a grim bunch of survivalist nutjobs, you’re normal people who enjoy life just like anyone else. If the contests involve more practical skills, so what? It makes you less intimidating without making you seem unskilled or foolish.
What Kind of Games?
I’ve already mentioned a few, but let’s put some in a handy list:
- Wood Cutting.
- Setting up tents/campsites the fastest.
- Suturing/Stitching (cleanest job, best stitch, speed)
- Getting ready to escape the retreat
- Taking apart/Reassembling weapons
- Shooting tiny targets for accuracy
- Shooting targets and aiming for the tightest group
- Survival recipe contests (both skill in cooking meals and taste of invented recipes!)
- Minimal living (how few items you need to bring with you, how long you’re able to survive)
Some of them will obviously be limited, but you should also try to devise some games that permit out-of-the-box thinking and problem solving. This is one of the most difficult things to teach, and so any situation that promotes that sort of mental processing is a major plus!