Don’t wait to be trapped in the wild to begin learning or practicing your survival skills. Mastering basic skills such as making fires and building shelters is a good thing to get busy with during your free time that can be done safely in the yard.
What are the survival skills?
Basically, it is a various set of techniques that would help a person to survive out in the wilderness or any other environment, whether it is in the forest or desert. It is guaranteed to greatly increase the survival rate of a person who has this knowledge or experience.
Survival skills are also one of the oldest tradition or practice in the world. Especially during Stone Age, our ancestors used these skills to preserve themselves and survive on their own in the wilderness. There were no lighters to make a fire, knives to cut some ropes or vines, axes to get some lumber and water filters to clean their drinking water. It was all self-improvising—making the most out of anything available. Since then those skills have been passed down and learnt to adapt, so we could create some innovations to make our lives easier than before.
Finding Your Way in the Forest
In order to navigate as effectively as our ancestors did, there are some more useful skills that need to be mastered than reading the earth, the sun, and the stars. The details of the hills and forests become important clues for determining where you are and where you are going—and this is what we call natural navigation.
Natural navigation means navigating in the landscape without having any reliance on technologies such as maps, GPS or compass.
This skill ranges from being able to go straight through the forest (though, it will be very difficult if you have never done it several times before) to knowing the names and directions of all the rivers, hills and valleys within 20 miles.
But even if you never truly experienced getting lost in the forest, once you did some outdoor adventures on your own and without any technologies on you, you will find yourself honing some natural navigation skills that some modern wanderers lack due to the special advantages. Here are some simple tips that can help you in this process.
- Sun. The sun moves in a predictable arc in the sky in southern England. Therefore, if you know what time it is, you can accurately tell which is south and which is north, east, and west—if you have an analog clock (the ones which have hands or arrows), you can easily find the south by pointing the hour hand to the sun. The midpoint between the hour hand and 12 o’clock is south. From April to October, you must use the midpoint between the hour hand and 1 o’clock. If you only have a digital watch, you can still try it by drawing a picture of the dial and using it instead of a real watch.
- Stars. The Ursa Major or “Plough” is in the shape of a pan and can be seen all year round in the UK when the sky is clear. The two stars forming the edge of the pan are furthest away from the slightly curved handle, pointing towards the North Star, the Polaris. If you follow an imaginary line about five times the distance between the marks, you will find the Polaris.
- Plants & Moss. Some people heard that growth of moss is abundant on the north side of trees and rocks. This is not entirely true because it grows best in shady places, including the south side that provides good sun protection. The amount of moss in one place rather than the other can be a useful guide.
Southwest wind prevails in UK. Knowing this, you can explain the growth of trees and shrubs on open hills, and then roughly determine its direction. Vegetation usually grows away from the prevailing wind, which makes the trees have a distinct sloping shape in particularly open areas.
Building a Shelter
Getting lost in the woods, the first and only thing you must do is to find a shelter or a place where you can build it, but finding a secured place away from the natural dangerous environment like cold, rain, snow, and even dense fog can be a difficult task. First, you should relax and think clearly. You can use your childhood imagination to keep you calm and in held control of the situation and begin building your shelter or fortress way back as a child. You can totally practice building temporary shelter in your backyard.
First thing you must know is that it heavily depends on the terrain, environment, and time of year/season, where you can build multiple shelters. Start with a simple canopy or tarp and gradually improve your skills until you learn or get comfortable how to tie long branches to the tent. Most likely, you will learn how to do knots on ropes or vines. If you live in an area with a lot of snowfall during winter season, you should practice and make the most out of the situation to learn by digging up snow holes.
Unsurprisingly, hypothermia is the leading cause of outdoor deaths in cold climates, which means that having a well-insulated shelter should be your top priority for long-term survival.
Other buildings that rely on the environment and materialism include igloos, huts, snow caves, ramadas and some tents, but the idea is the same: put a roof on your head to protect yourself from the natural risks or dangers of the environment. There are also risks. For example, a snow roof may collapse, and you may suffocate or freeze to death. If the fire is too close or there is strong wind, a dry shelter like the hut can easily catch fire or the wind blows the burning ashes onto your structure.
Although there are some emergencies that need to be dealt with, there are a few things you can do to make things easier: Don’t build shelters too close to water or wet soils or swampy basins—you do not want to get drifted away when flash floods broke out. Rather, look for high, dry soil and a stable terrain. It is also a good idea to stay away from places frequented by wild animals. Pay attention to footprints and feces. Yes, it might be great area to find some meat for dinner, but you may not be the only one who is looking for a meal. Finally, it is always a good idea to build a structural framework so that you and your hiding place do not touch the ground. This will protect you from insects, muds and small floods
Building a shelter or fortress is a basic survival skill, because it is one of the most important things we need to survive anywhere we may be.
Basic First Aid
Having an injury during an emergency is arguably the worst circumstance you can be under, because it only makes the situation worse. It is always best to be prepared. Although you can avoid serious injuries, it is best to be prepared for cuts, fractures, or other things that you or someone with you might suffer. The ability to understand and provide at least basic first aid can certainly save someone’s life or even your own life. So, here are a few ways to treat common injuries, as well as other first aid tips and tricks:
To practice first aid, you can find a friend, partner or family member to deal with some common survival threats, including basic cardiopulmonary resuscitation, bleeding control, burn treatment, limb stabilization, and sedatives to locate insect bites and abrasions using plants.
This sounds obvious, but its importance cannot be overemphasized—an open wound is an entry point for bacteria, so infection can lead to high risks of complications. You want to do everything possible to clean the wound (alcohol can help) and seal it. You can use a variety of methods, including bandaging with tissue, using a first aid kit, or in a serious emergency—you can even burn closed wounds that don’t stop from bleeding.
The tourniquet should only be used as a last resort, because tightly connecting the limb can cause the loss of that limb. Therefore, unless the situation is critical, the use of tourniquets should not be considered. You should still make sure that your bandage covers fresh wounds with sterile tissue or cloth and change the bandages frequently, as dirty bandages can cause wounds to rot.
In the unfortunate event of a limb fracture, you want to heal the injury so that it does not get worse. Fortunately, this is as simple as finding a sturdy, relatively straight branch and then tying it to the branch with rope or cloth. But on an important note, If you do not have any medical experience or profession, never try to correct a broken bone as the fracture could worsen if it was not done correctly.
Building a Fire
Not only a fire provides vital warmth on cold nights, it can also drive away predators from going near, burn wounds, purify river water, provide heat for cooking meals and signal for help. Making a fire may be harder than it sounds, especially when the weather is wet or cloudy, or when you must survive with little or even no supplies. You can carry a lighter or matchbox with you, but you should also know how to start a fire from scratch. So that, just in case, you don’t possess any easy fire-making sources on you, you could still light one.
There are some innovative and useful ways to start a fire without using any equipment, but they require practice and long patience. You can try some fire making skills in the backyard first, it is a great way to prepare for any emergency situations—while at the same time, you are learning. Practice finding or making dry fire by carving a stick with feathers, stone against stone or hunting amadou (it is a fungus that usually grows on the bark of coniferous trees, like pine, fir, spruce, larch and etc). You can also look for quartz in the yard to make flint that can induce sparks.
Furthermore, if your fuel (such as wood, sticks, twigs, etc.) is too wet or hydrated, then your proficiency with bow drills, magnifiers, or flint is not important. Instead of using branches off of trees or anything looking green, you should look for dry, cracked, dead branches on the ground. The same is true for wood; hay is many times better than freshly cut grass, saving you time and energy. When trying to generate a smoke signal, you want to use any type of green vegetation to start a fire. Even so, you still want to start the fire with dry wood, and then cook the vegetables on it.
The thinner the fiber you want to burn, the easier it is to ignite. If you get the fire right, you can use a few smoldering sparks on a handful of dead grass to make a fire. Don’t try to light up even medium-sized branches, as this is likely to waste precious time, fuel and energy. In fact, once the small flame is ignited, it is best to light the wood outside the main pile first and then carefully slide it under the larger branches. Remember, even sparks can make a difference. Be patient, be kind, and your flame will burn immediately.
Matches and lighters are not the only way to make a fire. Of course, these may be the easiest, but if you are resourceful and creative enough, you can find other useful ways to start a fire. You could use your childhood trick on making a fire by magnifying ants. If you have magnifying glasses, you can focus the sunlight on a concentrated beam and light the fire. The same strategy can be used on clear ice when you are located in a place with cold weather. These are just two ways to use the environment and effectively use the surrounding equipment.
Never underestimate nor take for granted the importance of fire in any survival situations. Whether you need to keep warm, cook or burn wounds, the ability to make a fire is essential.