10 Effective Skills to Boost Your Odds of Survival

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One of the many goals of today’s society is to constantly find new ways to make life easier for everyone. That’s what brings about products such as phones with Internet access or green energy machinery.

While these products make our daily lives easier, advancements could still be easily wiped out. Natural disasters happen all the time, in addition to devastating events such as acts of terrorism. If a big enough disaster occurred, the modern world could get wiped out! Do you have what it takes to survive in a world without the tools and technology people use every day?

Read on to discover 10 skills that can boost your survival chances and make all the difference between surviving or dying in a survival situation. And remember to practice them regularly, so you’re always prepared for any scenario.

1. Follow Gravity to Find Water

Most people know it’s more important to find water than food if you’re ever in a situation where you lack both. The human body can go weeks without food, but only if there’s access to fresh water. Without water, people die within days.

Let’s say you’re in an unknown area and need to rely on your skills to survive. The first thing you should do is follow gravity to find water. Travel down hilly areas since water will always flow downhill. Listen as you look for rivers or streams, since many may not be obvious at first glance.

Another good tip to keep in mind is to not drink from stagnant water if you can help it because standing water is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. It also attracts insects and rodents, specifically mosquitoes who are likely to carry disease. It’s always in your best interest to boil whatever water you can find. When the water reaches its boiling point, bacteria die off and it becomes safe to drink. This means you’ll have to wait longer to take a sip, but you can prevent illness.

If you can’t find water, know how to build a tripod water filter. You can make this out of tall sticks and some triangular strips of fabric. The water will filter naturally as it drips between the layers, ensuring a long-term solution to purifying water if you don’t have access to a modern handheld water filter.

[Editor’s note: you should still boil water or treat it if using a makeshift water filter, such as a tripod water filter.]

2. Start a Fire Immediately

Starting your own fire is also extremely important. You’ll need the warmth at night during most months of the year, as well as a way to cook your food and possibly even defend yourself if you need to. In the best-case scenario, you should find dry tinder, such as wood shavings, leaves or dried moss. Top it with small branches for kindling, and then follow that layer with your traditional firewood.

There are a few ways to build your fire, depending on its purpose. The first is the crisscross fire, which uses, as you might have guessed, a crisscross fashion to maintain a lasting burn. There’s also the log cabin fire. This is where you build a square of firewood around your kindling and top it with your lightest kindling for extra burn time. You may also want to build a teepee fire for cooking. This will look like a teepee since the kindling is piled up and the firewood leans in over it to form a triangle shape. Whatever you choose, make sure you build a reflector wall to redirect the heat and keep your fire strong.

To get the fire started, you can use traditional matches or lighter fluid if you have them. If not, there are plenty of ways to start a fire without them. You can use flint and steel to strike sparks onto your kindling, or a glass lens to capture the sun’s rays.

3. Build a Shelter

There are a few ways to build a basic shelter in a survival situation depending on how many people need to use it, although a traditional lean-to is the perfect option for survivalists who are on their own. You need to find branches long enough to lean against a wall or rock face. Pile on other branches and leaves to deter rain and you’ll have a successful shelter.

Survivalists who also need to house family members may want to try other shelter options. Areas with thin trees you can bend into place may be a great location for a teepee lodge. You can tie the trees together with rope and reinforce it with other branches.

[Editor’s note: You might want to use the Mors Kochanski Super Shelter for such purposes.]

Snowy locations are the perfect place for snow huts, and groups can always look for nearby caves to act as a place of shelter.

For those people building a backyard bunker style shelter, you have more time to make it as strong as possible. Take your woodworking skills to the next level by cutting boards at precise angles that will totally seal off water and give you an air-tight roof to protect you from rain. You can also build shelving to stock up on canned goods.

4. Always Carry a Map and Compass

One of the easiest survival techniques you can use is to carry a map and a compass with you. While you may end up leaving the area on the map, the compass will always help guide you in the right direction.

Review how to read topographic maps and standard map symbols. This skill will allow you to pick up any map and understand how to use it, so you never have to worry if you lose the map you started with.

5. Know How to Hunt

Once you’ve found water and a place to make a shelter, you’ll need to find  food. In some survival situations that means learning to hunt. While you may rummage through some buildings in an apocalyptic scenario, eventually the food will run out or go bad.

Hunting is the best way to ensure you’ll always have access to your next meal. There are a few ways to hunt; which you choose will depend on what tools you have and the skills you’ve developed.

The first method of hunting is the most basic. You can use a distance weapon–such as a gun or bow–to bring down prey. The benefit of this method is you don’t need to get up close and personal with potentially dangerous animals, but you may be unable to replace the ammo or arrows you use.

You could also trap your food. Once you learn how to build a small game snare, trapping will become second nature to you. Look for footprints in the snow, droppings on leaves or burrows in the ground to first locate small prey such as rabbits or squirrels.

Next you’ll construct a snare. Snares typically have four parts — the noose, trigger, leader line and engine. As you build these make sure you have some bait to place inside the hook, so it’s more likely you’ll catch something. You can also use snares for fishing if you replace the noose with a line, hook and some bait. Other methods of fishing you may want to try include constructing a fishing rod or sharpening a spear.

6. Learn to Forage

In some situations, you may not be able to immediately go out and hunt down meat for your next meal. That’s when you want to know how to forage. There are plenty of plants out there that can help sustain you if you know what to look for.

Take the time now to review foraging tips and techniques. Commit plants to memory so you know exactly what they look like and where they grow. Some plants get easily confused for poisonous ones. Don’t let yourself accidentally pick the wrong ones because you couldn’t tell the difference!

[Editor’s note: This is nothing to take lightly… choosing the wrong plant can be deadly. Here’s a bit about choosing the right mushrooms.]

Another plant tip you should learn is what plants are typically around edible ones. These are called companion plants since they’re so often found together. Foraging for companion plants too makes it more likely you’ll find even a small amount of edible food.

No matter what, it’s important to stay patient with foraging. You won’t have a refrigerator to store everything in, so plants will go bad quickly. As such, you should also leave some to continue growing. Never take the entire plant, or else it may not begin to grow again in that area.

7. How to Cook Safely

Once you have a rabbit or fish in hand, the process of cooking it will be much different than frying up some ground beef from the supermarket.

First, remove all the guts. While some restaurants may serve liver and heart, they’ll just make you sick in the wild.

Second, always try to overcook your food to ensure safety. The meat will probably be tougher to chew and may lose some flavor, but the alternative is to ingest harmful bacteria or pathogens. Being sick in a survival situation is very bad and, sadly, you may then lack the energy to filter water or find food, ultimately starving to death or experiencing organ shut down from dehydration.

Third, always properly dispose of the waste. That means you need to dispose of it far from your campsite so no animals try to fight you for their newfound snack. Try to bury your waste if you have the means to dig a few feet deep.

8. Know Crucial First Aid

Even if you’ve learned everything you possibly can about skills such as hunting, starting a fire and filtering water, things will probably still end up going wrong at some point. Perhaps you’ll have some kind of accident and hurt yourself, or others around you will get injured. Don’t wait and hope you come across another survivalist that also happens to be a doctor. Figure out basic first aid techniques now so you can help yourself.

Read up on how to suture a cut. Always have a needle and thread on hand to close a wound, tying each stitch separately for easier movement afterward. If you need to care for a gunshot wound, always apply pressure directly to the wound. You’ll also need to construct a tourniquet and place it between the wound and the heart if possible. For torso wounds, just keep pressure to stop the bleeding.

[Editor’s note: I highly recommend The Survival Medicine Handbook for survival first aid knowledge.]

You can use a clean cloth or bandages as a way to slow or stop any bleeding. Always use something fresh as a bandage and regularly replace to check on the healing and prevent the growth of bacteria around the wound.

Another thing to keep in mind is how to spot an infection. The area around a healing wound will naturally look red because of the increased white blood cells trying to heal the area. Signs of a more serious infection are things such as yellow or green pus, red streaking around the wound, swelling and fever.

9. Take Care of Your Weapons

Every survivalist should have some kind of weapon on them for self-protection. You may choose a knife, gun, bow or other means of self-defense. Always keep an eye on your weapon, so it’s never lost, but also keep in mind you’ll need to take care of it. Learn about the weapon or weapons you’ll have access to so you know what that care should look like.

Cleaning your gun regularly is always a good idea, as well as sharpening knives and arrows after a few uses. You can sharpen weapons against rocks if you don’t have a sharpening block available.

10. Study the Stars

People have roamed the earth for centuries by studying the stars. They’ll guide you where you need to go, which is especially useful in survival situations where you may not have access to a GPS. Learn the stars above your campsite, so you always know how to get back to your shelter. Memorize the constellations, which will line up with important facets of the stars. Polaris will always point you north, which you can find in the Little Dipper.

The rotation and position of the stars will also help you tell what season and time of year it is. When clock and watch batteries run out, this will prepare you for oncoming changes in the weather and seasonal foraging.

Always Keep Your Mind Open

These are just some of the survival tips that will keep you alive in a situation where you can’t access modern tools and technology. Study these as much as you can, but always keep your mind open to learning other survival strategies. The more you learn, the better you’ll be prepared to survive against the odds.

[Note: This was a guest post.]

Author: Damian Brindle

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