Your chance of survival following any kind of disaster is not just based on what you have stockpiled but also on the skills that you have. Having what you need is one thing, knowing how to use it is another and if you ARE missing something, it may be your skills that keep you alive.
You could ask 10 different people what skills they believe you should have and get 10 different answers. There have been many debates on this very subject so below I will share the skills that I believe every prepper should learn.
Finding & Purifying Water
Without water, you will only live a few days. This is why learning how to find water is such an important survival skill. It does not matter what the temperature is or how much exercise you are doing, your body is constantly losing water.
A few outdoors sources include:
- Rain – the lowest risk of bacterial infection and easily collected.
- Rivers, lakes, streams – look for clear flowing water. These are, however, the most susceptible to contamination.
- Morning dew – easily collected on to a cloth that can then be wrung out into a container. Will be a lot of work to make it worthwhile.
- Plant transpiration – tie a bag around a whole branch of leaves to trap the water.
- Make a solar still – Dig a hole 3ft by 2ft, dig a smaller hole where your canister can fit easily. Place the plastic and keep it in place with some rocks. After that, place a small rock or weight in the middle of the plastic to create an inverted cone over the container to collect water.
However you end up getting the water, you will also need to learn how to filter and purify it to make it safe to drink. If you have a fire then boiling the water is one of the most effective ways of purifying it.
I am not talking about getting the perfect beach body here, I am talking about getting your fitness to a level that will enable your body to handle the physical tasks that you may be faced with in a disaster scenario. Consider doing the following:
- Walking – if just starting out, do 30 minutes 5 times a week. Gradually increase the distance that you cover as well as the difficulty of the path you take, gradually choosing rougher terrain and steeper inclines to better prepare you for the realities of bugging-out.
- Carry what you need – once you are able to walk the distance to your bug out location with ease, the next step is to gradually add weight to your bag until you can go the distance whilst carrying all of your gear.
- Run – in a disaster scenario, there may be times when walking just won’t cut it and you need to run. Start off with a slow jog and build it up from there.
- Strength – there are plenty of exercises that you can do using just your body weight. Press-ups, sit-ups, and squats are all good choices.
- Flexibility – this can be as simple as adding stretches into your routines or starting yoga.
- Swimming – The ability to swim not only opens up your bug-out plan to alternate routes but can also be a life-saving skill.
There are many online resources that can help you to learn basic first aid and trauma treatment but nothing will help you learn as much as taking a real course. Hospitals don’t necessarily have to be closed but in a disaster scenario, it could take much longer for medical help to get to you.
If you have a family or a group that you are preparing with, all members should take the course to at least learn basic first aid.
It might be easy if you have a lighter or matches in your pocket but what if you don’t or what if they run out? You are going to have to understand how to build and maintain a fire from what you have around you. Fire is not only useful to keep you warm but also for cooking, purifying water, sending smoke signals, etc.
Along with the skill of starting a fire, you will also need to know how to find dry tinder. If it has done nothing but rain and you are in the middle of nowhere, how will you get the tinder? A few ideas are:
- Under fallen trees
- Peel off outer bark and use the inner bark
- Fuzz sticks/feather sticks
Check out this video to learn how to make fuzz sticks for yourself:
Hopefully, you would never need to use this but if it comes down to it, you need to be able to protect yourself and your family. Now I’m not telling you to go out and master every martial arts style but a few basic moves can go a long way. One of the best forms of martial arts that I highly recommend is Krav Maga. The reason being is that they teach situations that you will find yourself in in the streets. If you have never heard of Krav Maga before, check out the demonstration below:
Following a disaster scenario, you may find yourself having to travel for a few days or more to get to your BOL. In this case, you will need to know how to find or make a shelter along the way to protect you from the elements.
If you have a tarp and some Paracord, with a little practice you can create all kinds of shelters. If not, there are many shelters that you can build with branches and other natural items. Check out our guide “How to Build a Debris Hut” or check out the video below for a long-term debris hut.
People haven’t always been able to just head down to a store or have something delivered when they are hungry. They had to go out and get it for themselves.
It is quite possible that humans actually began tracking animals before they started hunting. By knowing and understanding how animals move could bring you a lot closer to a food or water source.
If you run out of the food you are going to need to know how to feed your family. Large bodies of water make fishing an easy choice but if not, you are going to need to understand how to hunt for your food. Consider purchasing the SAS Survival Handbook for some great tips on trapping.
Way back, animal skins were degreased and softened with any number of strange things in order to tan the skins into useful leather. Some of these included Urine, wood ashes, tree bark acid, and even mercury.
Even stranger though, and actually the one that works best, is to use animal brains to tan the hides. Yes, you read that right! How does it work? Brain tissue is full of very fine oils that condition and soften the animal skin, as long as the skin is stretched and moved during the drying process.
Edible Plants and Natural Medicine
The biggest loss to us as humans in terms of survival skills we’ve lost over time is the knowledge of edible plants and the plants that have different medicinal uses.
We now use what is known as the Universal Edibility Test but to be fair, in a severe survival situation it wouldn’t really be of use. It basically involves taking each part of the plant and putting it through a series of tests to determine whether or not it is edible.
This is not perfect and some plants that passed all tests could still turn round and kill you. Some have a delayed onset reaction that won’t harm you for quite some time past the recommended UET times.
Learn Your Lashings
Different shelters, fences, and other camp furniture will require different methods of being lashed together and so you need to take the time to learn a few different lashings.
If you are just starting out we suggest getting to know the square lashing which will allow you to join two perpendicular sticks together. Check out the video below to see how it’s done.
There hasn’t always been a compass or even a GPS in the world and many years ago, our ancestors will have had to do a lot of long-distance traveling on foot. For them to have done that they would have needed very good navigational skills.
It’s not just about getting somewhere, you also have to get back! And everything looks different on the return.
We all have a clearly developed sense of spatial cognition and mental map-making, yet we still choose to rely on navigational aids. The indigenous Australians would often use pictographic maps, storytelling, and artwork to navigate the vast and often featureless Australian outback.
Cordage was used by the indigenous sailors of Micronesia to navigate waters that would challenge any modern sailor.
At one time people couldn’t just go out and buy something new when their old one packed in or buy new clothes when they become damaged. They made them and they had to know how to repair them to keep them going. This could be any number of things, such as:
Our ancestors knew how to use the land that they had in order to grow the foods that they needed. Gardening is not just about keeping the weeds and pests out but also knowing soil conditions, crop rotations, pruning, germination, among many other things.
You may not see gardening as a survival skill but fail to learn how and when you need it, you will have wished that you had.
Today, thanks to advances in technology it is very easy for us to actually preserve our own foods but these technologies have not always been around and our ancestors needed to know how to preserve their own foods for the long term without such technology.
Check out our food preservation post here to find out more.