Essential Survival Skills
Anything can happen to anyone at anytime. Many survival experts, when asked, will tell you they prepare for the expected crisis because they know it is just a matter of when and not if. Having some essential survival skills is a must for everyone. A day hike can turn disastrous in a matter of minutes, or an overnight camping trip can turn dangerous because of weather events, confrontations with wild animals or injuries. Natural disasters can turn a suburban neighborhood into a wasteland overnight. In a matter of minutes, you can be without adequate shelter, water and food. However, if properly prepared with a few essentials and knowledge you can survive.
Do not dwell on the cause of your predicament. Learn from it, so you can better prepare for next time otherwise; begin an assessment of your immediate surroundings. Your priority now is to survive and to do so you will need shelter, water, fire and food.
Fire Starting and Other Essential Survival Skills
The following is a list of materials that should be in any survival kit. Simply put if you become stranded or lost or a natural disaster such as an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane destroys your neighborhood and home, you will need supplies and materials to make fire, collect and or purify water, build a shelter and forage for food.
- First Aid Kit
- Multi-Purpose Knife
- Heavy Fixed Bladed Knife
- Magnifying Glass For Fire Starting
- Camp Ax
- Cotton Balls Protected From Moisture
- Petroleum Jelly
- Matches (Never Rely Solely On Matches)
- Magnesium Stick With Striker Bar Embedded For Fire Starting
- Metal Container For Boiling Water
- Two One-Quart Canteens
- 550 Paracord Or Suitable Nylon Rope
- 20 To 24 Gauge Wire
- 12 To 15 Pound Monofilament Fishing Line
- Assorted Fishing Hooks
- Assorted Needles And Thread For Emergency Stitching Of Wounds
- Two Percent Liquid Iodine With Dropper For Water Purification
- Two Rain Ponchos Used As Protection From Rain And Used As Shelter
The items listed are in addition to any items you would traditionally carry, such as food and water. The listed items are for extended survival situations and can easily be incorporated into any camping or hiking gear.
The first aid kit is self-explanatory. The multi-purpose knife will have wire cutters, punches and other useful tools such as a file for sharpening wire into fishhooks or spearheads. Fixed bladed knifes can be used for numerous tasks, such as skinning, cutting, chopping and creating sparks when used with striker bars embedded on magnesium sticks.
Use a magnifying glass for fire starting. For best results, the sun should be directly overhead. Use dried grasses or wood shavings slightly pulverized for tinder. It may take a few minutes to create a coal within the tinder. Make sure you have adequate dry tinder and larger pieces to keep the fire going once you produce a flame. Focus as small of a beam as possible directly into the tinder, you will soon see smoke and then embers. Gently blow on the embers to create a flame. Camera lenses, eyeglasses and even broken pieces of glass, though less effective, can be used to start fires by focusing and magnifying sunlight.
Magnesium sticks are extremely reliable and can be used along with cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly to help start damp tinder. To use a magnesium stick without cotton balls gather dried and slightly pulverize tinder into a pile. Take a knife blade or the scraper that typically comes packaged with the stick and shave one side of the stick over the tinder. Ensure the magnesium particles are deposited on the tinder. To create a spark you will need to apply downward pressure on the striker/flint bar using the back of a fixed bladed knife. Apply pressure and scrape toward the tinder, this creates the spark. It may take several times before the magnesium ignites. Once you see flame add more tinder and then larger pieces.
Note: Never use the back of a folding knife blade to create a spark. The blade can easily fold up on your fingers. Always ensure the blade is fixed or has a locking mechanism. Using the sharpened side of any knife blade, to create a spark, will ruin the cutting edge, only use if you have no other alternative.
Using cottons balls dipped in petroleum jelly can help start damp tinder. Take a cotton ball that has petroleum jelly on it, and fluff up slightly. Have some tinder close by. Shave some magnesium particles onto the cotton balls. Create a spark to ignite the cotton. The petroleum will burn for up to four minutes, which is ample time to ignite damp tinder. Do not add too much wood at once; you must slowly build the flame up.
Bow drills have been used for centuries to start fires and are quite simple to make but can be painstakingly slow to start fires. The concept is to heat tinder to ignition by using friction. Materials needed include string or rope of adequate strength, a slightly curved bow, spindle/drill and fireboard. You will also need a cap piece to apply pressure to the spindle/drill. The drill is spun by being wrapped with the sting attached to the bow. The fireboard has a notch in it where you will place the tinder. The friction of the drill spinning against the hearth or fireboard will create an ember in the tinder.
Water Is a Priority
Clean drinking water is essential and this becomes readily apparent during a survival situation. In your daily life, you receive hydration through coffee, juices and even foods. Once the crisis strikes, you will not have any means of hydration unless you collect and purify your own drinking water. Surface water found in the wilderness or even in urban areas is not safe to drink without purification. Surface water is any lake, pond, reservoir, public fountain, river, stream or even depressions in the ground filled from recent rainfall. These water sources will contain harmful bacteria, pathogens and parasites. Surface water becomes contaminated by animals and their waste, insects, humans and ground runoff. Humans cannot survive more than three days without adequate hydration. Dehydration is fatal if the process is not immediately reversed by consuming water.
Note: For best results, water must be filtered before purification regardless of the purifying method.
The most reliable method of destroying all harmful contaminates in water is by rapid boiling. Water boils at various temperature based on your elevation. Water at higher elevations boils at a lower temperature. The general rule of thumb is for every 500 feet or 152 meters you are above sea level the boiling point of water is reduced by one degree. Water must boil longer at lower temperatures to achieve the desired results, which is to destroy all contaminates. At sea level one minute of rapid boiling will destroy all bacteria, pathogens and parasites. Boiling reduces water volume so keep this in mind if you have a limited source. If unsure of your elevation, you should rapid boil water for three minutes. If you know, your elevation is more than a mile above sea level; you should boil water for up to 10 minutes.
Purifying Water using 2% Liquid Iodine
For safety reasons you need two containers. One container is used to collect the contaminated water. Once collected it must be filtered into a clean container. The collection container will be contaminated around the drink line and is considered unsafe to drink from unless it is sanitized by placing in boiling water. The ratio using 2% liquid iodine is five (5) drops per quart of water. Once the drops are added seal the container, shake well and wait 30 minutes before consuming.
Humans can survive up to three weeks without food. However, lack of adequate nutrition will hinder your performance and ability to perform tasks. In a wilderness situation, the quickest and most easily obtained food source is fish. Fish can be found in lakes, streams, rivers and ponds. They can be speared, trapped, caught by hand and hooked by traditional means such as line, hook and bait.
Fashion a fish pole using any slender relatively straight piece of wood. Hooks can be made using wire, bone and wood. Gorge hooks are easily made and effective. Take a two-inch slender piece of wood and sharpen both ends, and then notch a groove in the center for the fishing line. Bait both ends. The hook can be adapted to accommodate larger or smaller fish. The hook must be sized so the fish engulfs the entire hook. Make additional hooks by bending or sharpening pieces of wire, bones, wood or other pieces of light gauge metal.
Make a fishing spear by sharpening and splitting the ends of a seasoned and fire hardened slender shaft. You can also attach sharpened pieces of wire to the end of the shaft. To fire harden allow the end to blacken over flames, yet not catch fire. Remove let cool and repeat.
Crickets and ants are a good source of protein. Remove the head and wings and cook if possible to destroy any parasites. Avoid brightly colored insects such as caterpillars. Snakes can also be eaten and they are an excellent source of nourishment. Process all game to include fish and snakes by skinning and removing all entrails without contaminating the surrounding meat. Cook all game, fish and snakes thoroughly to kill any bacteria and parasites present.
Edible Plants and Berries
There are edible plants available in the wilderness and urban areas, however many common plants and even some household plants are toxic to humans. Only consume plants and berries you are familiar with such as wild strawberries, black berries, raspberries, and plants such as nettle, dandelions, day lilies, wild onions, wild garlic and miner’s lettuce. Nuts include hickory, black walnut and pecan. Berries that are white or yellow are generally considered poisonous. Acorns can be made edible by leaching the tannin out. The process is laborious and requires clean water and potash. The shell is removed and the nut or meat is typically crushed into a mix of ash and water to allow the acid to leach from the crushed nuts. Then the nuts must be rinsed well by running water over the nuts through a filtering device. It is recommended you familiarize yourself with the process before attempting.
Snares can be made using light gauge wire. Complicated traps take time and energy, with a high failure rate. Simple wire snares can be made in a matter of minutes and placed along small game trails. Typically, small mammals use the same trails going to and coming from water. Place the snares along paths you have identified by droppings and tracks. Locations for snares include logs where animals must cross over water or shallow gullies. You can create obstacles in the path to force the animal to move toward the snare.
Foraging In an Urban Environment
In an urban environment, you can forage for backyard gardens, greenhouses and patio gardens. If you live in an urban environment and are experiencing power and utility disruptions your tap water can be contaminated by line breaks caused by a natural disaster or the water treatment plant is damaged or simply not in operation. Use the described methods to collect and purify your drinking water. Purify your water regardless of the source while there are power and utility disruptions, unless you are notified by the proper authorities that your tap water is safe to drink.
Once outside of the city limits you may find small farms with livestock that can be a food source if the disaster has caused others to evacuate the city and surrounding area. Evacuating with others can be dangerous because of the turmoil and confusion. You can also take advantage by foraging for items people have left behind. Avoid commercial establishments because of looters and other criminal elements. The rule of thumb in any crisis is to stay in one location, if it is safe, for at least 72 hours.
Being prepared is important and having a survival kit and the necessary survival supplies and material with you can make the difference between surviving and not. The survival kit should be carried in your car, with you on hikes, on bicycle rides and on camping trips. The kit is designed to help you survive after your standard supplies have run out. Practice with all of your equipment so when the time comes to use the materials and supplies there will not be any hesitation. Seconds matter in an emergency, so it is important you always know what the next step should be. Practice your essential survival skills – Prepare Today, Survive Tomorrow!.