5 Survival Skills to Learn Before the Big One Hits

woodland shelterMaybe the “Big One” will never happen where you live. Maybe there is no looming apocalypse, despite what various pundits tell us. This is no reason to not be prepared for the worst.

War, famine, plague and other natural disasters can cause major unrest and have, historically, thrust many countries and regions into a state of panic and lawlessness. In such situations, your best chance of surviving – thriving, even – is to have a few basic survival skills up your sleeve.

You can stockpile supplies until the cows come home, but there’s always a chance you will be cut off from your supplies when disaster strikes – or that they will run out before order is restored. Your survival skills, on the other hand, take up no space in your pack and remain with you wherever you go.

Luckily, the five primary survival principles to keep in mind are rather straightforward: shelter, water, fire, food, and communication. Following are some survival skills you should learn to ensure these basic needs will be met in an emergency.

Building a Shelter

After it has been determined that you are on the go, lost or trapped in a specific area, perhaps waiting for help, the first order of business is to set up a base of operations, some spot to call temporary home. Shelter is a key component of survival; without protection from the elements, you run the risk of hypothermia.

A true survivalist can construct a shelter in almost any environment, using whatever materials can be scrounged up from the vicinity. You should learn several different methods for building a shelter, including using a tarp, branches or reeds found in the wilderness, snow, and other commonly found materials.

To make sure you’ve got the tools you need on hand, make a habit of bringing a multi tool with you in your pack or on your belt at all times. The knife, pliers, saw blade, and other instruments typically found on a multi tool can make building a shelter far easier. You’ll also want to keep an LED headlamp handy in case you need to forage for materials or build your shelter in the dark.

Purifying Water

As most of us already know, water is essential to survival. A person can go some time without food, but without water you’ll quickly lose your ability to think and function. Access to uncontaminated water sources can be difficult when regular social services and infrastructure break down. While it’s a good idea to stockpile some water in your emergency kit, you should also consider what you will do if your water supply becomes unavailable or runs out.

Many people who have grown up drinking treated water can’t tolerate water even from reasonably fresh wilderness sources, due to the microbes that live in even the cleanest lakes and streams. For this reason, you’ll need a means for purifying water. Water purification tablets are easy to carry and use, but you should also learn a few other methods for purifying water, such as filtering and distilling using only the most basic supplies at hand.

Starting a Fire

Next up is starting a fire, which can be used for cooking, staving off hypothermia, boiling water to clean a wound, keeping predators at bay and even signaling for help. Most survival guides recommend carrying waterproof matches for this purpose. It’s also a good idea to learn how to use a flint and steel, which will continue to last long after your matches run out.

But why not go a step farther and practice starting a fire using nothing but wood and tinder? You should also read up on foraging for wood, finding good sources of tinder and building a signal fire. Your LED headlamp will make this task easier in the dark, and a sturdy hunting knife or multi tool can help you cut kindling or shave tinder.

Hunting and Foraging for Food

If the disaster last longer than a couple of weeks, or if you end up cut off from your food supplies, a little knowledge of foraging and hunting can go a long way. Even in urban areas, food is plentiful if you know where to look. Before disaster strikes, it’s a good idea to learn how to find safe food sources in your area, including foraging for wild edibles and hunting, trapping and skinning small game using only your hunting knife or multi tool. You should also learn to recognize which plants in your area are poisonous.

Signaling for Help

Finally, if you end up stranded or need to signal for help, you should learn several methods for doing so. Find out how signal for help with your LED headlamp or flashlight, how to create a smoke signal, how to radio for help, and how to use your hunting knife to mark signals on waypoints.

[ photo by: Dominic's pics ]

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