How To Practice Survival Skills
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If you are serious about establishing your survival skills, then you need to practice them. Whenever, you go camping, make sure to set aside time to practice your skills. This is because camping will best represent your survival scenario.
However, it’s ok if you don’t spend all of your time working on your bushcraft and survival skills. As a retired Search and Rescue officer said in a camping forum, campers by our nature are better prepared than the average person.
But you should also practice while at home. In particular, if you find yourself bored or with extra time such as if you get put into quarantine.
What I like to tell people who have never practiced bushcraft before, the emphasis should be on the word “craft”.
Several of my friends run successful crafting Facebook groups. They’re always knitting or crocheting or scrapbooking. I also enjoy doodling and watercolors. I’m even taking up whittling.
But not everyone wants to knit or learn how to paint or knit. Though they might enjoy learning knot tying or carving a spoon out of a discarded 2-liter bottle.
How To Use Boredom Productively
Most people don’t like being bored. This is because humans have not yet adapted to being bored. In ancient times, you didn’t have time to be bored. There was too much work to do just to stay alive.
But now most of us have a lot of free time. Even while camping, often you have hours to do nothing but sit back and relax.
While you should use some of your time to relax and just enjoy doing nothing, consider practicing your survival skills when you are bored.
In particular, when we are bored at home. Instead of endless binge-watching movies on Netflix, why don’t you spend some of that time practicing your outdoor skills. I keep some cordage and something solid (but small) on my coffee table so that I can practice tying my knots.
Or on weekends, you can take some old lumber and practice your lashing skills.
This will solve your problem of being bored. It can get you outside more frequently. And give you more opportunities to spend quality time with your children.
Plus being able to make things gives you a great sense of accomplishment.
Plan Plan Plan
The most important tool in your survival skill tool chest is your brain.
The more you think through situations ahead of time, the better prepared you will be.
Whether this is as simple as planning how to make a shelter in the house if you lost your roof in a storm or how you would hunt squirrel if your weekend camping trip turned into a month-long journey of survival, you will be better prepared.
The more you are mentally prepared, the more you will be able to remain calm. And if you are ever caught in a dangerous situation, the ability to remain calm is the most essential skill.
How To Practice Firemaking
Fire is important in a survival situation.
In an impromptu and unplanned camping situation such as when you run out of gas while out riding your dirtbike, it’s even more important than shelter.
The reason why fire would be more important in this type of situation is that that if you’re dressed properly and have at least a couple of contractor bags in your kit, you can establish shelter quickly.
Meanwhile, fire plays several important roles and requires more work.
The first reason why we want fire is that once you have fire you can boil water to make it safe to drink. You can read our article on how to boil water for camping to learn more.
The second reason why you want fire is to keep you warm.
And then the third reason why you want to have fire is that it’s a moral booster.
While camping is a great time to practice making fire, you can also do this at home.
Start by making sure that you can consistently start a fire with a Bic lighter. The Bic lighter is cheap, simple and consistent.
When going on any outdoor adventure make sure you have a Bic lighter in your pocket plus some cotton balls soaked in Vaseline. This is almost reliable as turning on a switch to start a fire.
But you also want to have backups.
This would include the ability to start fire with your knife and a Ferro rod.
Plus you want to be able to start a fire using the lens and the sun.
The benefit of using the lens and the sun is that you cannot run out of fuel. Because technically your Ferro rod could eventually be scraped dry.
How To Practice Knots
We had to practice learning how to tie knots in Boy Scouts to qualify for advancement.
While you may not qualify for a merit badge, knowing how to tie basic knots are important even in traditional camping. And even more important to bushcraft and “survival skills.”
I also enjoy tying knots as a form of relaxation. There is something satisfying about tying knots.
And I think we’re often on our phones while watching TV not because social media is that much more interesting than the program we’re watching. But rather, we’re looking for something for our bodies to do while sitting there.
In particular during anxious times such as the COVID-19 epidemic.
You can also, of course, practice, knot tying while bored in camp. Either during the day just passing time while drinking a beer (or whiskey or iced tea). Or around the campfire.
One way I love to practice knot tying is with this knot tying kit from Amazon
How To Practice Lashing
Learning how to lash is also important for bushcraft. We use lashing to make common items like tripods for cooking around camp. You can also make improved shelters with raised beds if you know how to lash and can find the proper limbs.
This is also something you can practice at home. What I did is go down to Lowes (because I have a Lowes 2 minutes from my house, go to your favorite big-box hardware store) into the lumber department and got some small pieces of wood.
Just like knot-tying, you can practice your lashing skills while bored in camp. Though there is a lot of satisfaction when you can make stuff to use in camp with your own two hands.
How To Practice Shelter Building
One of the most important, fun and fulfilling activities you can do while practicing survival skills is to practice building a shelter.
I would focus on building multiple types of shelters.
As a beginner, I would focus on a tarp shelter. I would bring along hiking trekker poles and tent stakes in my backpack along with some paracord as a way to make this easier. In particular, if you’re like me and live in a place without a lot of trees.
Here is an example of how serious I am on this.
This is a photo of my tarp I bought in December 1999 in case things had gone badly on Y2K.
Yes. It’s still in the same package. Maybe it’s a collector’s item?
The reason why it’s still in its package is that I bought it explicitly for my emergency gear. And threw it in the bottom of a box with other gear.
Because my wife hates tent camping, we typically stay in a travel trailer or cabin. But I do have other tarps for when I go tent camping with other people.
Next, I would practice making simple shelters using branches and foilage I find while camping, assuming the campground rules allow it.
You can also practice shelter building at home. In particular, the poncho and tarp based shelters. This is something that can be fun to do in the backyard with the kids.
How To Practice Cooking
Most of what we cook while survival cooking, is the same as cooking over a campfire. So you will naturally do this on any camping trip.
And the simplest food to catch on your own will be fish. And this is simple to practice on your general camping trip too.
However, let’s challenge ourselves.
From what I’ve heard opossum can be used just like pork.
When I mentioned that to my Facebook friends, they thought this was gross. I said broccoli is gross. This is just unique.
And according to my father-in-law, squirrel tastes good but there’s not much meat for the amount of work.
And if you want to hunt them, you don’t necessarily need firearms.
You can even use 177 or 22 or 25 caliber pellet rifles to snag small game. These are quieter and much cheaper to fire than your traditional firearm.
Though if you want to try cooking squirrel, opossum, or even coyote, you can order it online here at Exotic Meats.
There are various recipes you can try either at camp or at home.
How To Practice Making Water Safe To Drink
Being able to make water safe to drink isn’t the sexiest skill nor the most exciting.
But it’s very important.
And I would encourage you to practice it at home before hitting the trail.
Boiling water is the simplest method. So I wouldn’t say you need to practice this more than making sure you know how to make fire. And that you have a proper container to boil the water in while camping.
But if you are going to bring a water filter, it would be useful to make sure that you know how to use it properly before required.
I got a first-hand demonstration at a water filtration class at REI.
But you can do this at home. By filling a glass or food-safe plastic container with water and some good old dirt.
Then you can practice filtering your water.
How To Practice Snare And Trap Making
If you want to maximize your ability to survive out in the wild then you need to able to catch your food with a snare and a trap.
You can practice building them in the backyard, but of course, you shouldn’t try and snare the family pet.
And before you use this in the field make sure that you check with your local regulations.
How To Practice Navigation
Something we all should do more frequently but don’t is practice compass navigation.
Heck, many people can’t eve read a map anymore.
But if you’re going to go camping, in particular, dispersed camping, you are likely to be going places where Google maps might not work.
Or your battery goes dead while out on a hike.
Thus you should know how to navigate back to safety with a compass.
You can practice this at home. Have your spouse drop you off a mile from home but in a place you are not familiar with. Though is safe to walk back home. And practice using your compass to navigate.
Check Your Gear
Finally, make sure to check your gear. I set a reminder on my phone to do this once a month.
You can make sure to have everything where you know where it is. This is also a chance to make sure batteries work in your lights. As well as the expiration date of any food or medications you keep packed in your kit.
Plus use this as a chance to sharpen knives, saws, and axes.