8 Fundamental Survival Skills Every Outdoorsman Should Know
Whether you are a regular hiker or a casual camper, preparedness is the key to surviving in the wilderness. Before you head out on your next big adventure, make sure you brush up on these fundamental survival skills.
1. How to Start a Fire
You can’t stay warm, cook food or purify water without a fire, and the first thing all outdoorsmen should know is multiple ways to make a fire.
If you are stuck without a lighter or matches, you can go the traditional route and start a fire with sticks. The keys to successfully starting your fire this way are to use the driest wood possible, have all your tinder and kindling ready before starting and to create pressure as well as friction. This method does take time, but if you are caught out in the wilderness without your gear, it can be a lifesaver.
Another method you can use is to remove the battery from one of your devices and connect each end using a foil gum wrapper. The wrapper will start to smoke and quickly catch fire, which you can use to light dry tinder and kindling. However, you need to be quick because the flame dies quickly.
2. Purifying Water
Even if you are lucky enough to find yourself close to a water source, drinking water directly from a stream or lake puts you at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases such as parasites, bacteria and viruses.
A portable water filter should be part of your pack, but if you ever find yourself without a water filter, there is a way you can ensure the water you consume is safe.
You can build your own water purifier with a few simple things. Use your pant leg or an inverted bottle to create a cone shape. Then, fill the bottom with charcoal from your fire and fill the rest of the cone with alternating layers of small rocks and sand. Collect the water from the DIY filter then boil it for five minutes to kill any remaining bacteria.
3. Finding Food
If your survival situation extends beyond a few days, you are going to need to find food to keep yourself alive. The woods are generally teeming with edible flora and fauna if you have the knowledge and tools to find them.
Foraging is a good place to start. Though it means less energy expenditure, it can be potentially dangerous if you don’t know which plants to look for. A good rule of thumb is to stay away from anything known to be poisonous. Avoid mushrooms, seeds, and berries. Try to refrain from eating anything that is highly bitter, or which has milky sap, as these are also often signs of poison.
Hunting is a great way to find food, but it does require you to expend a lot of energy. Trapping is a good alternative, and you can build a simple survival trap from the materials you find in your surroundings.
4. How to Sharpen Your Knife
A knife should be the number one item in your pack because its usefulness is limitless.
However, no matter how good your knife is, it won’t be any use if the blade is dull. Learning to sharpen your knife is a key survival skill for when you are out in the field.
The main thing you’ll need to sharpen your knife is a whetstone. Many outdoorsmen carry pocket whetstones for honing their blades. This is because different blades require different whetstones for the perfect angle, but fear not: you can still sharpen your knife in the field if you have left your whetstone at home.
You just need to know what to look for. Most rocks are made of compound minerals that can damage your blade.
One method is to use to smooth river rocks to create a V-shape and run the knife edge between them. Another method is to find a piece of glass and run the blade along the sharp edge at a 30-degree angle.
5. Building a Shelter
Going without shelter at night or in extreme weather can be deadly, and one of the first things you need to learn is how to build a shelter.
There are endless ways to create a shelter, and the type you make will depend heavily on your surroundings and the available resources.
Ideally, you want to build a shelter that provides you with an area to sleep off the ground, as this minimizes heat loss.
For a simple temporary shelter that will keep you safe for a night or two, the lean-to is a tried-and-true classic. Otherwise, you can also try the more labor-intensive round lodge, which is a tepee-style structure that offers better protection.
6. First Aid
Accidents happen out in the wilderness, and when they do you are typically at a fair distance from medical help. A basic understanding of First Aid and a well-equipped kit can mean the difference between life and death.
Your basic First Aid Kit should contain gloves, a CPR face shield, adhesive bandages, compression bandages, gauze, tape, antiseptic ointment, antihistamines, ibuprofen, tweezers and shears.
Exploring the wilderness is all fun and games until you get lost.
Losing your way in an unknown area can be a fatal mistake, and a GPS device is one of the most valuable pieces of equipment you can have in your pack. In cases where you cannot access a GPS signal, however, there are a few different low-tech ways to navigate your way out of an unknown area.
All outdoorsmen should know how to use a compass, but if you have lost your compass, you can also use the sun to determine your direction.
Place a stick in level ground and mark the end point of the shadow. This indicates your west position. Wait 15 minutes then draw another mark at the end of the shadow. This indicates your east position. Draw a line connecting the two marks, then with the west point to your left-hand side, draw a perpendicular line to create north and south points. Now you have your compass.
8. How to Tie Knots
Constructing a survival shelter and tools does not require a degree in engineering, but it does require some knowledge of knot tying.
There is no point in building a shelter or rigging a snare if the knots are going to come undone with the slightest gust of wind. Familiarize yourself with a few of the most common wilderness knots before heading out on your adventure to ensure you are well equipped.
Always be Prepared
Before heading out on your first trip, make sure you are prepared for any eventuality with a well-equipped pack and these survival skills.
After all, you never know when you might need to use them.