Honing Your Survival Skills
Not all of us have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors on a daily basis, practicing our survival skills. There is a saying that goes “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, and this applies to survival skills too. Therefore, honing your survival skills is an important part of having your skills sharp and fresh when you need them.
You do not need to live out in the wilderness to hone your survival skills as there are ways you can practice at home, or plan a camping trip for the purpose.
How Often Should You Practice?
The answer to the question “how often should you practice” is easy! As often as possible! This is because practice is the only way to master a skill and have it become second nature. You don’t want to find yourself in a survival situation where you need to make a friction fire and you have never done it before. It is one thing to have read about it, or watched youtube videos on how to do it, but it is quite another thing to have done it yourself.
Many people that you watch online demonstrating these skills have done it many times, and it seems to come easy to them. Guaranteed, when you try it yourself for the first time, you will quickly realise that it is not as easy as it looked in the tutorial.
You need to take every opportunity to practice a skill. Some you can practice in your own backyard, while others will require you to plan a camping trip or going on a planned hike, in order to practice.
Hone Your Survival Skills At Home
Honing your survival skills at home is a safe environment to practice skills you may need in an emergency. As long as you don’t cheat!
We have listed below a number of skills you can test yourself on or improve, without leaving your back yard.
Building a Fire
There are many ways of starting a survival fire. You should try out as many methods methods as you can, and become proficient in as many as you can. Becoming proficient means you are adept at the skill and it becomes muscle memory. In other words, you don’t struggle when performing the task.
Here are a few ideas for practicing fire making at home.
Making a fire with a ferro rod, or ferrocium rod, may look easy initially, but it requires some preparation before you start showering sparks! Things you need to consider are the following:
- tinder – do you have the right kind, is it dry? Try using as many different items for tinder as you can, such as pine needles, leaves, grass or fat wood.
- do you have a high carbon steel instrument to scrape on the ferro rod, such as a knife, or suitable piece of metal? Scraping anything other than high carbon steel on the ferro rod won’t produce sparks that are hot enough, if any sparks at all
A friction fire is made by generating heat and eventually an ember by rubbing two materials together. These items are usually wood, or bamboo. When making a friction fire, you first have to make the tools required to generate the ember. There are many friction fire techniques, each with their own set of tools required. Here is a list of some you can try at home.
- Bow dill method
- Hand drill method
- Pump fire drill
- Fire plough method
- Fire piston method – this one uses heat generated by pressure as opposed to friction.
Flint And Steel
Flint and steel fire starting is another skill easily practiced at home. Find out which types of stone can act as a flint. Likewise, find out which type of steel will work on your flint. Then try making fire by lighting char cloth with your chosen flint and steel.
Learning to make char cloth is another skill you can practice at home. It makes starting a fire from scratch much easier than starting with raw tinder.
Learning to Identify Edible and Medicinal Plants
This is a very useful skill to master! The first step is to get a few books that are relevant to your area, or do some research online. A book is usually easier because you can take it outside with you.
Learn to identify wild plants that can provide you with nutrition or that you can use as medicine. Then go outside and forage around in your back yard to see how many you can find. You will be surprised that many plants classified as weeds actually have beneficial properties.
Remember, however to exercise caution! Do not eat any plant you have not identified with one hundred percent certainty!
Practicing knots is a really nice one to do at home! You can do this in the comfort of your favourite armchair in front of the television. All you need is a couple of pieces of rope or paracord and you are good to go!
For example, here are a few useful knots you can research for practice that will stand you in good stead in the wilderness.
- The bowline
- The double half hitch
- Sheet bend knot and the double sheet bend, used to join two ropes together
- The clove hitch
- Truckers hitch
Hone Your Survival Skills On A Camping Trip
Honing your survival skills can only be taken so far in your back yard. To practice other skills, you will need to plan to get out into the wilderness. It is a great opportunity however to include the whole family and impart some survival skills to them too!
Here are some ideas on how you can be honing your survival skills while enjoying a family camping trip.
Building A Survival Shelter
There are about as many ways of building a survival shelter as there are making a survival fire! Find some instructional material on the internet on how to make two or three different type of survival shelters and practice them while on your camping trip.
Evaluate each one you build and see how you could do it better, or improve on your design. Some areas that you need to bear in mind when making a shelter are the following:
- Orientation to protect from prevailing wind.
- How waterproof is your shelter.
- How well does it reflect heat.
- Slope of the land to prevent your shelter being flooded if it rains.
Water is probably the most critical commodity in a survival situation. Learning skills on how to purify water to make it suitable for consumption is therefore a top learning priority.
You can research how to build primitive water filtration devices using reeds and grass, or how to filter sediment out of water buried in river sand. Another useful skill to learn is how to make a multi stage water filter (stones, river sand, charcoal), using objects that you can find lying around. Improvisation is a key survival skill to master!
Making hunting tools
This is a key survival skill to learn in order to provide you with nutrition for a survival situation. Learn to make traps for small animals, there are many variations of traps to choose from.
Use materials you have foraged for in the wilderness and make a bow and arrow set or a spear. First of all, fashion these tools and then learn how to tweak them to improve their performance and then practice using them on targets.
Building a catapult is another hunting tool that is good to know how to do, and lots of fun to practice with!
Learning how to cook various foods on an open flame may not be as easy as you think, particularly if you have limited cooking utensils. There are a number of outdoor cooking methods for you to learn, such as burying the food in loose soil with hot coals placed on top, cooking fish or meat on skewers over the open flame, or using heated rocks as cooking surfaces.
Another craft regarding outdoor cooking is making tripods and other mechanisms to be able to support pots or bottles suspended over the flames to boil water or cook food.
Different Methods of Fishing
If you are going to be camping near water, why not try fishing using different methods.
For instance, make fish traps, or use a young sapling to construct a fishing rod, with paracord as your fishing line. Use thorns or sharpened twigs as makeshift fishing hooks and forage in the wilderness for bait.
Another good idea is to make your own survival fishing kit for your bug out bag and take t on your camping trip to test it out. You may figure out a few other important items to include that would make it more functional!
Hone Your Skills On A Hiking Trip
Planning a hiking trip is my favourite way for honing your survival skills! My reason for this is that you normally have a lot less gear with you than you would when camping so it is an ideal opportunity to make sure that the survival gear you take works and you know how to use it. You can practice most of the same skills hiking as you can camping. Try out these two additional skills while you are out on your hike.
Navigating By Day
Take a compass along with you on your hike as well as a set of ranger beads or pace beads. Ranger beads are useful for estimating distance travelled.
Practice map reading, compass reading, bearing setting and distance estimation and see how well you fare against the marked out trail.
There are a number of direction finding methods that you can try out, such as using an analogue watch, the stick and shadow method, to name just two.
Please stay safe and never wander off track into unknown areas unprepared. This is a learning exercise after all and you don’t want it becoming a real life survival situation!
Navigating By Night
Pack a book on star constellations and how to navigate using the stars. Remember to take into account which hemisphere you will be operating in and get the appropriate star charts.
Repetition Is Key
Repetition is the key to mastering any skill and the more often you can practice, the faster you will become proficient.
As you can see, there are many ways you can achieve honing your survival skills that don’t require you to be out in the wilderness 24/7. So get out there and practice a skill and above all, stay safe!