Let’s face it, the chances of any of us becoming the next Les Stroud or Dave Canterbury are slim to none, as a matter of fact some of you might not even want to. Even though you might not have any plans on surviving in the wilderness like Grizzly Adams, some of these wilderness survival skills should be part of your preparedness plan.
None of us want to be without food or water, none of us want to figure out how to start a fire with absolutely nothing, but with most SHTF scenarios these are real possibilities. While it’s nice to have all the supplies we do, we need to have a plan B, a plan for surviving when we have nothing but the tools in our head.
Learning these skills are free (for the most part) and some are more important than others. This list is not in any certain order because it all depends on what situation you are in. If you’re out of food, having something to hunt with is more important than a water filter.
With all of the information right at our fingertip’s, and with YouTube university there to show us how to do just about anything, there is really no reason why we can’t learn some of these skills.
Learning these wilderness survival skills will also teach you the fundamentals. For example, learning how to make a debri hut will teach you the basics of constructing a shelter and how gravity can work for you, or against you. Building a water filter will show you why it works like it does.
Below is a list of 10 wilderness survival skills everyone should know, after that I have added some things that are not necessarily “Survival skills” but will be helpful to know in any disaster scenario.
There are a bunch of links to great information in this post, so you might want to bookmark it so you can find it later.
Finding & Filtering Water
If you live in the city or an urban area you need to think outside the box trying to find water. Rivers and parks might be contaminated with chemicals, but there are other places to look for water.
There are also some not so obvious ways to find water in an urban area. You can “tap” a tree depending on the time of year and tree, or you can dig a hole and make a solar still.
Learning to start a fire when you have nothing other than what is around you is critical in any survival situation. You have probably seen a million things about how important fire is…that’s because it is.
There are quite a few methods of starting fire like a bow drill, flint and steel, and you can even use the power of the sun (Video Below). It never hurts to learn some of these, but make sure and practice…it’s not as easy as it looks on TV.
Knowing how to build shelter is important for a few different reasons, the main one being to protect you from the elements. This video shows how to build a debri hut, but there are literally hundreds of different ways to build a shelter.
The type of shelter you make will depend on the supplies you have available. In the city you might have some premade supplies available, in the wilderness you will have to make your own.
Even if you have no plans on surviving in the wild, the basic building process is the same, so by learning these wilderness skills you can transfer them to an urban setting.
Natural First Aid
It always a good idea to know what plants you can use in the wilderness that will help you if you don’t have access to your first aid kit. Some of these won’t work as well as a bandage or gauze, but they will work in a pinch.
This video talks about plants like Plantain, Yarrow and old man’s beard (usnea.) This is part one of two.
Fishing might be the easiest way to find meat in a survival situation, but even this takes practice. As I wrote in this article “The benefit of fishing is that the effort is not substantial compared to the payoff. You could burn valuable calories setting traps or searching for food while fishing is just a lot of waiting.”
Trapping food by using a snare trap (in this video) is pretty much rolling the dice. Learning where to set your snares and where the animals are will determine your success, or at least give you better odds.
The video above shows how to make a snare, but there are many other traps you can set as well. Search for videos about Paiute deadfall traps, a t-bar snare or a Mojave box trap.
Hunting for food is one thing when you have a rifle and some ammo, but what would you do if you didn’t? Learning how to make an atlatl, a simple slingshot or a long bow like I did is the first step in hunting without a gun, the second step is learning how to effectively use it…easier said than done.
Foraging For Food
Foraging is also a great skill to have. Knowing what to look for really depends on the area of the country you live in. There ae some wilderness survival foods that are available just about everywhere such as cattails and a few others I have listed in this post.
Processing Wild Game
If you are hunting or trapping you are going to have to process that meat. If you have never cleaned wild game it might be a little intimidating at first, but it gets easier over time. It also helps to remember that it is either you or them.
Most people in this country would like to believe that the meat they buy in the grocery store was never actually alive and would have no idea what it takes to get that meat on their table.
If you have the ability to raise chickens or rabbits I suggest you do, even if it is only a couple. This will give you an idea about what it will take to put food on the table in a post collapse situation. I’m not going to post a video for this one, but I’m sure there are plenty out there.
Making Tools & Weapons
Along with weapons to hunt, you are going feel more comfortable if you have some sort of weapon for self-defense. We would all like to believe that people are all nice and polite, but we know that wont be the case in a SHTF situation. When time gets rough and resources are limited people will do whatever it takes to survive.
Self-defense weapons could be something simple like a club or an axe to a bow and arrow. A simple axe takes more than a sharp rock and a tree branch, you need to be able to make string and tie everything together. Think about all the little things, not just the main components.
If you are lucky enough to catch something in your snare trap you are going to need a way to cook it. Being able to cook your food is a collection of a few different skills, making fire, making tools like a container and actually catching something to eat. Oh yeah, you also have to clean it.
You might not have any pots and pans with you, but then again you might. In an urban area you might be able to find something metal to cook in, in a rural area you might be cooking everything campfire style.
If you were lost in the middle of the woods could you find your way back to camp? If you found yourself in an unknown part of town could you get out safely without going the wrong direction? I wrote a post about using a map and compass to find out where you are and get you direction if the answer is no.
A compass not only comes in handy in the middle of the woods, it will help you in the city as well. With all the roads and the twists and turns it can be pretty easy to get lost. The last thing we want to do is make the wrong turn and find ourselves right in the middle of chaos.
I chose not to add tracking into the hunting portion of this list because tracking can include humans as well. If you are trying to avoid a dangerous situation it’s a good idea to know how someone might be tracking you.
Here is a great video series from the MainePrepper on YouTube that goes through tracking and counter tracking techniques.
Not Skills, But Still Useful
There are some other things that wouldn’t necessarily be considered “skills” but are equally important in any survival situation. Your physical fitness is going to be very important, If you’re not prepared physically to travel 10 miles on foot, or you are not ready for some hard labor working on your homestead, your well thought out plan might not work out as well as you thought it would.
Bartering could end up being valuable as well. This I would consider a skill to some extent, the better you are at haggling, the better trades you will be able to make.
Being the gray man is important now as well as in a SHTF situation. This video explains exactly what being the gray man means and how it is critical to your safety.
What other skills can you think of that would be useful? Or what else do you think is important in a SHTF situation where you are left with nothing but the cloths on your back?
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