Any time that you leave your home, it is important that you don’t become a statistic and that you get back home safely.
The fact is, people today are used to having everything they need right at their fingertips.
If we head out and something happens to us, if we get lost with no phone, in the middle of nowhere, what do we do to stop ourselves becoming a statistic?
It isn’t hard to learn some basic survival skills and there is no excuse for not doing it. These skills CAN save your life, I just hope that you understand the importance enough to take the time to learn them.
We’ve put together this list of the most important survival skills that everyone should know. These cover everything from getting clean water, to making a fire, to building shelter, and dealing with wounds. These are the skills that will ensure that you get back home to your family.
Without water, you won’t last long. Depending on the situation, a human may only last a matter of hours. It is imperative that you find clean potable water as soon as possible.
There are certain things that you can look for in a situation like this to help make it happen.
- Water flows downhill – some terrains make it easier to find water than others. If you are in an area of hills, you can count on seeking out streams and creeks in the crevasses where hills meet.
- Take a quiet moment and try to listen for the sound of water then follow that sound to the source.
- Look for signs of life. Animals and insects need water too and these can lead you right to the source.
- Groundwater – digging a hole in damp soil can sometimes reveal groundwater but be careful, it can be riddled with germs and parasites.
You should try to avoid standing water where possible as it can be full of all kinds of parasites and bacteria. The same goes for pooling water in streams. Your best bet for finding suitable drinking water is always going to be in places with a strong flow, as all the stuff that will almost certainly make you ill propagates wherever water doesn’t move.
Purify when possible: Even when you are sure the water is from a safe source, you still want to purify it when possible. Get ill from the water and you put yourself in far more danger than you was before.
The best option, if you have the means, is to get a fire going and boil the water. If you prepared before heading out, then a good lightweight carry-along would be a personal water filter.
Making a Fire (and maintaining it)
It is one thing making a fire, it is something else to keep it going. Not only will this be useful for warmth, but can help with purifying your water, and even smoke signals.
If you have a lighter or matches on you, this will be easy but we are going to assume here that you don’t. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Dry fuel – if your fuel source is too wet, it will ruin your chances of keeping a fire going. Go for the dry, cracked, dead branches from the ground. Same goes for your kindling – go for dry dead grass.
- Start small – smaller fibers are easier to get lit than bigger ones, common sense. Start small, and then gradually add the bigger pieces to build your fire.
- If you don’t have matches – you can still create fire, you just need to be creative. Check out this post from The Art of Manliness for methods of creating fire without matches.
The next in skill in our list of survival skills that you should know by now is shelter building. Hopefully you won’t have to spend the night out, but if you do, you are going to need a way of protecting yourself from the elements.
You have a few different options but it will depend on your actual surroundings, and the available materials at the time. If you are in a wooded area then a safe choice is the debris hut which you can find our guide on here.
No matter what environment you find yourself in, find a way of getting a roof over your head.
For a better understanding of safer shelter building, check out our post here.
OK, so you have the knowledge for water, fire and shelter, next up is making sure that you can eat. The human body can go weeks without food but as you won’t know how long you will be in the situation, it’s best to start looking for sources of food.
- Hunting – if you have a knife, you can sharpen a sturdy stick to create a spear. This can be used on small game and fish. If you have some sort of cord you can create a simple snare.
- Fishing – If you have something you can use as a fishing line and hook, and you’re near a body of water, you might as well set up your fishing line, baited, and wait for a bite.
- Foraging – You would be amazed at just how many wild plants are actually edible. The available species will differ between regions so it is important that you study some foraging books for your local area.
Once you have some available food sources, you are going to need to know how to cook it. If you have managed to catch some game, follow these simple rules:
- Gut it – you want to get rid of all the guts. Just because you have seen Bear Grylls eat raw hearts and livers, it doesn’t mean that you should. Stick with the muscles and the limbs.
- Overcook – the last thing you want to be doing is eating undercooked meat. Slightly over cooking will ensure that all harmful bacteria or pathogens that may be in the meat have been killed.
- Clean up – you need to dispose of all waste once you finish cooking and do so away from the location of your shelter. Failing to do this is just inviting wild animals in for dinner. If possible, bury the waste.
Dressing a Wound
If you are in an emergency situation, things are already pretty bad. Get an injury, and it becomes much worse.
It is a good skill to have the knowledge to deal with wounds that may occur. Below are some simple tips to remember:
- Close a wound – an open wound needs to be closed, simple. If not, it is like an open door for bacteria and, subsequently, infection. All cuts, even small ones, need to be cleaned as best you can, and sealed shut. You can bandage the wound with a clean cloth or if in a really dire situation, burn-close the wound.
- Bind a break – In the case of a broken limb, you need to bind the injury so you don’t make it worse. Find a strong and straight branch and bind it to the injured limb.
When you are lost in the forest, it can be frightening to find your way out if you don’t have a GPS, map and compass, plus good navigation skills. In a pinch, you can easily find direction with nothing more than a stick, two small stones, and the sun. No matter what method you use, good navigation skills are what will help get you back to safety.