Most people who brave outdoors will never find themselves in a survival situation where one wrong decision is the matter between life and death. Most of those who decide to go camping, hiking, or climbing know exactly what their plans are, their own abilities, and are adequately prepared for their trip. Unfortunately, those that find themselves in a life or death scenario aren’t often prepared for it. Luckily, here are eight skills you can practice from the comfort of your own campsite.
In a survival situation, one of the first things you want to do is find a suitable shelter. Finding a shelter doesn’t necessarily mean building one – it’s often as easy as scouting the area and finding natural formations such as overhangs, caves, heavy foliage, or even uprooted trees. Your goal is to find somewhere where you can hunker down and avoid the elements. If you can’t find a natural shelter, you may have to construct a shelter from forest debris. The most used materials are twigs, sticks, and foliage. If you’re out camping, set up your shelter and take a trip, attempting to find or construct natural shelters. With experience knowing what to look for and how to find them, you’ll be much better off if you ever find yourself out in the wilderness without your shelter.
Your next skill to practice from your camp should be fire starting. While it may seem easy, starting a fire from scratch is a tough, slow event. However, even in the worst survival situations, you’ll often have matches, lighters, flint and steel, or other types of fire starting devices. If you don’t, however, you may have to resort to making a bow and spindle or using flint and steel that you’ve found. In real life, mastering these techniques to reliably make fire takes hours of practice, persistence, and patience. Start practicing once you’ve set up camp with a lighter nearby, as you don’t want to be practicing these techniques when your life depends on it.
Water is essential to survival no matter what the circumstances. If lost out in the woods, finding clean drinking water can be one of the toughest skills to learn. It’s not enough to find water – you must filter and sanitize it from all contaminants before drinking it. If there’s a dead animal upstream polluting your water and you drink it without sanitizing it, you can find yourself too sick to even move. Filtering water can be done by running the water through your clothes, though the less porous the material, the better. In a pinch, you can even allow the water to settle in a bucket or bottle. The sediments and other particles will float to the bottom over time. From there, you can transfer your filtered water to another container. Next, you need to sanitize your water. If you don’t have a water filter, like a Sawyer Squeeze, then you’ll need to boil it. If possible, you want to your water to reach a boil. In other cases, this may not be possible. For instance, if you only have a plastic bottle, setting your bottle close enough to the fire will slowly sanitize your water without melting the bottle. It’ll take up to an hour to make your water safe to drink, but your life is worth it.
Another necessary survival skill, but one that is often overlooked, is land navigation. It’s important to recognize where you are in any given survival scenario. Having a map is useless if you don’t know how to read it or navigate with it. When camped out, locate where your camp is on your map. Study the area around it. Grab your compass and a radio, or phone if reception is available, and walk up to 500 yards away from your camp. Study your map and find a way back. Take trips in multiple directions. With practice, you’ll be able to recognize contour lines, elevation changes, and approximately how far you’ll have to walk to get to your next destination.
When lost, it’s often recommended to wait where you are instead of trying to find your way out of the woods. It’s easier to get found this way. But what if no help is coming? You need to learn how to properly signal rescuers. A plane could fly overhead, but without any way of letting them see you, they may fly away. A good technique to learn is signaling someone with a mirror. Find a high, far away spot from your camp and signal back to those in your camp with a mirror. This is a good technique to use while learning land navigation. Even better than a mirror is a signal fire. Learning to make a big, smoky fire can be a lifesaver. Know what materials can make enough smoke for rescuers to see it.
Tool making is another great survival technique to learn. While most situations won’t require the knowledge of creating a bow or a spear, knowing how to make small knives is a great skill to learn. They are most often made from flint or even glass. With a sharp knife, the opportunities for use are endless. You can skin small game, cut cords to make a shelter, cut clothing, chop down small trees, and countless other uses. If you don’t have a knife on you, making one is a smart idea.
While sitting around in camp with time to burn, consider learning how to fish for survival. Lost out in the woods, one of the items you will usually never have is a fishing pole. With your knife, you can make a fishing hook out of wood or bone. If you have any Paracord on you, you can make a fishing line. Get creative with your fishing pole. Test out what works and what doesn’t.
The last skill to practice is how to find food. Except in the most dangerous scenarios, foraging for plants is not recommended. It’s often too easy to mistake an edible plant for a survival one. But if you have time to kill in your camp, recognizing plants and which ones are edible is a great way to relax. In most situations, you will be rescued before you die from starvation, so this skill will probably never be put to the test. But if it is, you’ll be thankful to know which plants will keep you alive, and which will kill you.
These certainly aren’t the only survival techniques you should know before venturing out in the wilderness. However, they’re great skills that can be practiced after you’ve already set up a camp while outdoors. After all, if you have the extra time to burn around camp, why not make yourself useful and figure out how to survive?