I’m not a life long survivalist. In fact I just recently got into prepping. I don’t have a basement full of food and gear, though at the rate I’m starting to collect stuff, that’s not far off. What I do have is a background in outdoor experience.
While I have been reading and learning about the survivalist and prepper lifestyles, I’ve learned a ton, but it also made me remember how it feels to dive into a culture where everyone you hear from seems to know more than you. So I thought I would share a few basic and useful survival skills from my years in Scouts, all life lessons learned the hard way.
1. Cut Away!
Whenever you are using a knife, saw, hatchet, ax, tomahawk, or any other item that has the slightest semblance of a blade cut away from yourself. Imagine missing what you are aiming at. Where will the blade go?
I’ve seen enough young scouts nearly lop themselves off at the ankle, and watched my brother run a small pocket knife the better part of the way through his palm to know this is a very real concern. This sounds like childish safety, but in a survival situation an infected cut or a large gash could be the worst mistake of your life.
2. Dark Starts at Noon
People, especially people inexperienced with the outdoors, inevitably underestimate the amount of daylight remaining. A good rule of thumb is, dark starts at noon. In everyday life 3 p.m. is the middle of the afternoon, but outdoors it’s high time you were selecting a camp site and starting a fire. Setting up your shelter in the dark is not fun, cooking even less so. I’ve done this more times than I can count. In a survival situation, what if you don’t have an immediate food source? If you have to scavenge, daylight is infinitely better.
There’s no two ways about it. Fire is fun. The bigger the better. Bug Spray fireballs? Sure! There are few things as manly as building a massive campfire just because you can, but in a survival situation you need to carefully consider just exactly how much fire you need and go no further.
First, wood collection and preparation is a serious calorie expenditure that you cannot be wasting on a big fire just to look at. Second, a fire of any size is easy to see from miles away. Since you may be trying to avoid unwanted guests, the smaller the better. If you can boil water and stay warm, it’s big enough.
3. Clean Now
As you might imagine, a bunch of 12-16 year old Boy Scouts who have been on the trail all day, set up camp, cooked dinner, and are relaxing around the fire might be even less apt to do the dishes after dinner than at home. If that is possible. Yes, it is extremely temping to jump into your warm sleeping bag and worry about boiling water and digging out the soap tomorrow, but you need to do the dishes now.
Aside from the obvious get-it-over-with, in a survival scenario the strong possibility of growing bacteria in something you will be eating out of indefinitely is stupid and not worth the risk. Not to mention the threat of attracting wildlife you really don’t want.
4. You Sweat
Even if it’s 12 degrees and snowing, you are perspiring. In a cold weather survival situation, you need to conserve body heat or it could mean your life. So, when you crawl in your bag for the night, strip off everything, I mean absolutely everything, you were wearing. Even if you can’t feel it, all of your clothes are sweaty. Throughout the night that sweat (water) will get very cold and make you even colder.
Put on clean dry clothes right before bed. If you have a decent bag, you can sleep naked as long as you are dry and cover your head and feet. I know how terrible that idea sounds when you can see your breath inside your tent, but it’s worth it in the long run. I spent several long cold nights before I learned that one.
Inside your shelter, especially a tent, you need ventilation. The more the better in fact, and it works for both weather extremes. Obviously, in the summer a breeze through the tent is going to keep you cooler. The one that’s hard to believe is ventilating your shelter in the winter. It’s temping to think that you can bundle all of your warmth by keeping the tent closed up tight, but it doesn’t work like that. Throughout the night your breath and body heat will condensate, and without ventilation will leave the inside of your tent wet, and thus colder. I know it seems backwards, but waking up really damp and wet is not a fun way to start your day. Again, in a survival situation that could be the start of hypothermia, which you cannot afford.
Article contributed by Lucas, founder of Survival Cache blog.
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