If you're just getting starting, learning everything there is to know about survival can seem a little daunting. Just a few blogs in and you're acutely aware of how under-prepared you actually are. The weight of this starts to sink in. It's almost overwhelming. Luckily, there's a path to success. For the beginners out there, know that honing your survival skills takes a process, and you can't do it haphazardly. The best way to make rapid progress is to follow a framework, and today we cover five steps to follow to boost your skills, fast. Now let's get started.
Get the basics down
Sitting on the couch watching Les Stroud, or any of the other experts who spend night-after-night in the wilderness, it looks like a piece of cake, right? With a cold drink in your hand, you scoff to your mates as you watch them build shelters with almost no materials, and start fires with a couple of sticks and say ‘that's nothing, I could do this too.’ Wrong. Too many beginners jump in too fast, without learning the basics and they get themselves in serious trouble. When was the last time you started a fire with matches (let alone a fire-steel)? How about finding water and purifying it in the wild, or building a shelter with the rain pouring down? You need to get your basic skills in order, before you start testing the limits like your heroes on television. Here's where to start
- Building a shelter
- Starting a fire
- Finding and purifying water
- Identifying edible plants
- Trapping and fishing
Spend some time camping so you can build a foundation of basic skills before you start pushing the limits as a survivalist.
Continue to learn
Once you're confident with the basics, there's an almost endless amount of information out there to teach you new and important skills. Pick a channel you like, whether it's a podcast, a blog like APE Survival, a set of videos, a book, or even a live course, so you're constantly learning new survival skills. I find that I am most effective if I set aside particular timings each week, perhaps you can spare 15 minutes at the end of the day to read a new post, or you've got time on a Saturday morning to attend a class. The real goal is to challenge yourself and pick up new skills all the time.
Go out and practice
Survival is a skill that is best learn by doing. You won't ever get a feel for what it 'really takes' unless you get off the couch and go practice. It doesn't even need to be far. Sit in your backyard and practice your fire-making skills, or go for a hike and build a basic lean-to. Hours and hours on the couch will not prepare you, and while you may gain knowledge, what you really need is the experience putting that knowledge into practice. The more you practice, the easier you will find it to translate what you are learning into real skills you can rely on in the field. Once you've started a fire with a bow drill successfully, it boosts your confidence and you actually know the effort required. In a real survival situation this is critical, so you can focus your efforts on the most critical tasks.
Make it daily life
Practicing once-in-a-blue moon isn't going to cut it, if you ever need to use the skills you intend to learn. The key to becoming a survivalist and being proud of your skills is to regularly practice each and every one. I find the easiest way to do this is to incorporate my survival skills into my daily life. When I have a barbeque, I pull out the fire-steel and my fire-starters to get it going. I take my dog for a long hike into the wild every weekend, and collect edible plants and herbs that I cook with. One thing I am now hooked on is pine-needle tea, and in my many camping expeditions I make simple traps like fish-baskets instead of relying on a rod. Some skills are particularly harder than others, but daily practice is the only way you're going to rapidly improve.
Keep your mind open
Becoming a survival master is more than just knowing how to live off the land. In a true SHTF scenario, the more you know the better. Have you considered basic electronics so you know how to operate and maintain that HAM Radio you bought? What about mechanics so you can take apart your generator and get it going again? For me, becoming a survivalist is actually more about becoming independent. I don't want to have to rely on anyone, and becoming well-rounded, with a working knowledge of many different topics is fundamental to this. In addition, you also need a knack for improvisation. Being able to turn worthless pieces of junk into usable items will be key once the SHTF, and tricks like being able to fashion a crude water filter out of plastic soda bottles, or boiling water when you don't have a saucepan is the key to thriving as a survivalist. Ultimately it's up to you. The more you push yourself to stretch your boundaries and learn new skills, the faster you will acquire new knowledge and skills. Remember too that practice is key. Knowing the theory is very different to putting it into practice, and you must ensure your skills are up to the task when you do really need them.