The key to being a successful prepper or survivalist is more than just purchasing all of the gear and supplies you can afford. You have to develop skills that will help you survive and practice those skills on a regular basis.
Here are 5 survival tactics you should learn and practice BEFORE the SHTF.
If the conditions are harsh enough you can die from the elements in only a few hours. That’s why learning to construct primitive shelters is a foundational building block of any survivalist. There are tons of shelter configurations, using any number of materials, but the easiest to learn and practice is a simple debris shelter.
Make a debris shelter by constructing a lean-to from larger branches or a tree that has fallen at an angle. Stack smaller branches vertically in a line along the large branch or downed tree. Next, layer debris and moss across the angled vertical branches to form a wall. Add a layer of debris on the ground under the wall to insulate your body while lying down. This form of shelter can do wonders in keeping the rain off of you, and if you build a fire in front of it the back wall will do a great job of reflecting heat back on you. Speaking of which…
Learning fire making is one of the most important survival tactics of all. Fire is often referred to as the greatest gift to man, and it’s for a good reason. A fire can create life-saving warmth, as well as provide a means to cook life-saving food. Add to that the fact that a fire can prevent you from becoming a meal yourself to large predators and it doesn’t take long to see that the ability to start a fire in a survival situation is a pretty damn important skill to have.
I recommend studying primitive methods of fire starting, such as using a bow drill, but here’s an easy way to get a blaze going with minimal preparation. Coat some cotton balls in Vaseline and stick them in an old Altoids tin along with a box of matches and you’ve got an instant fire kit. The Vaseline drenched cotton balls will catch fire easily and will burn for a very long time. In the event you forget your matches, the bundle will take to a spark from a flint steel just as easily.
Once you’ve got the cotton ball flaming, start adding kindling. Begin with small twigs, about the size of a toothpick, and work your way up to pencil-sized pieces. Once you’ve got a decent tinder bundle going, start adding larger branches until you have a manageable blaze going.
The ability to collect water is another important survival tactic. You’re going to need fresh water. Period. If you’re lucky enough to get a nice rain storm to pass through while enduring your survival situation you can collect rain water using large leaves as funnels and drain it into containers.
In more arid climates, you can still get fresh drinking water, you just have to work a little harder for it. You can build a still. First, dig a hole in the ground about two feet deep by five feet across. Place a water collection container in the center of the whole. Pile green vegetation around the container. Next, cover the whole with a sheet of plastic or tarp and secure the edges with rocks or sand. Last, place a stone in the center of the tarp so that it sags and the lowest point is directly over the collection container. Over time, the heat of the sun combined with the green vegetation will cause condensation to form on the plastic sheeting, which will then run down and drip into the container. It’s not a fast process, but it will provide life-saving drinking water.
You can live for quite a while without food, but given all of the other tasks you’ll probably need to perform to survive, you’re going to need some nourishment and energy. Feel free to snack on bugs and worms if you want, but I’d recommend picking up an outdoor survival book and learning to make deadfalls, snares and catches. Spears can take down surprisingly large game if you’re able to get close enough, and you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish with a little string and a fishing hook made out of a thorn.
While meat is important for proper survival nutrition, you can find a lot of food by getting to know local edible plants, too. The golden rule is ONLY EAT PLANTS YOU’RE 100% FAMILIAR WITH! Buy a book and familiarize yourself with different plants. However, if you’re in a life or death situation, there is a way to test plants for edibility.
First, smell it. If it gives off an acidic odor it’s probably a no go. Next, break open the stem and rub it on the inside of your elbow. If you get a reaction you should definitely NOT eat it. If, after 15 minutes, you have no itching or burning, touch the plant to your lip and wait 3 more minutes. If you get no reaction, touch the plant to your tongue and HOLD it there for 15 minutes. If you still have no adverse reactions, chew the plant and hold it in your mouth for another 15 minutes. If no reaction, swallow it.
Now comes the hard part. Wait 8 HOURS. If you experience ill effects, induce vomiting and drink plenty of water. If you experience no ill effects, eat about a half a cup of the plant and wait ANOTHER 8 HOURS. If you’re still good to go after that you can consider the plant edible. I know this seems tedious, but believe me, it’s a lot more fun than toxicosis.
These five skills and tactics will set you up with the basics of survival. Build upon them and add additional knowledge and you’ll be on the fast track to becoming a master outdoorsman in no time!