Throughout my life of camping, fishing, hunting, scouts, and the military, I have had a huge array of training, and experiences across America, and actually, the world. I’ve been in, grown-up around lived, and trained in environments such as woodlands, prairies, mountains, deserts, swamps, jungles, hot, humid, cold, and wind, you name it, it’s all been a part of my experience at one time or another. One thing that many will tell you, about experts, or a know it, is to make sure you take what they say with a grain of salt because as knowledge has always been power, it is experienced knowledge that is the key to success in any survival situation.
I will not be writing in this section of the website all the time but will drop in from time to time sharing some of my experiences with you on several different topics here on the Being Ready page. So, I thought it to be good to begin my first article in the “Survival Section” by sharing with you my top 7 “must-have experienced” skills.
A most experienced survivalist will tell you the rule of 3, which is great guidance to start your survival knowledge.
1. Knowing you can live 3 minutes without air
2. You can live 3 hours without shelter
3. you can live 3 days without water
4. And you can live 3 weeks without food
And I’d like to add that I can live 3 months without a Guinness, okay, not really, however, Guinness is a meal by itself, but I digress. Anyway, the Rule of 3 is a rule of thumb that gives the individual a type of pecking order in a survival situation, as far as, what should be made available as soon as possible. It is not 100% literal, but the rule of 3 is an easy way to remember that the air you breathe is very serious, and if there is anything taking your breath away, it will be next to impossible to survive and to act on any other survival need. Critics who want to attack the rule of 3 are cock roosters fluffing up their expertise ego-feathers to gain some type of status, and you shouldn’t let it affect your own knowledge and your own practice to gain experience. No one expects you to hold your breath for 3 minutes, just know your air is a top priority and #1 in moving forward. The same is true with each of the other rules, except, of course, the Guinness.
Now that you know the rule of three, what skill sets do you need, in my opinion, to make sure you can put into practice that ensures you meeting a survival situation with success? Skill sets that you yourself have practiced in your back yard, or practiced on a camping trip, or on a family farm somewhere.
So, knowing your first rule of 3 is air, and assessing that that is good, the first skill set that should be practiced is building a shelter. You might have seen pictures, and watched plenty of survival shows that give you step-by-step on building a lean-to shelter, or building a bed off the ground, etc., but if you have not attempted to actually build one before, especially without the supplies to make it easy, then I strongly suggest you do so. Many think building a shelter is no big deal, but when you know that exposure to any extreme weather elements can kill you, it quickly becomes a priority. Rain and temperature drop drain the body of heat and trigger hypothermia. Direct sun and heat trigger heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and not to mention, severe second-degree burns with blisters. The same is true of snow, floods, humidity, and even winds, All of these in their extremes can lead to your death; shelters are very necessary for your survival.
I could write pages on shelters alone, but do not have that time in this article so I will suggest starting small, with basic natural shelters, like building a lean-to, and working up from there. Make sure they are sturdy to withstand wind, make sure the roof you make will repel water away from dripping on you, make sure you can tie lashings that will hold it strong in place. Practice increases effectiveness.
Now, even though it says 3 days without water before you die, it is imperative to note that if you are going to be working, moving, and expending energy, you have got to drink water every single day, especially in a survival situation, and that is why this is #2 on my list of 7. Water has to be found and collected, which is a skill in itself. However, for this article’s purpose, one needs to learn how to collect water from one’s surroundings. Knowing that green (chlorophyll) means water in most cases, tells you that knowing how to build a solar still to extract water from green plants is a nice skill to learn. There are numerous methods in how to do so, which you can find all over, but again, the key is taking those methods to practice. Experiment with different methods of water extraction from plants, the ground, and even your urine. Water purification is another skill that is just as important as the extraction process; knowing where, and how to collect it, and then filtering it. Again, there are numerous methods in how-to, and the more you actually do and practice, the more skills you build and have in your “experienced skill set”. If you never tasted water purified by iodine tablets, then you need to try it at home, so you know what it tastes like, that way in a survival situation, once again, you’re “experienced”, which means less stress. The same is true in building a dry filter using rocks, sand, t-shirt, etc. Do it, know that it works, and your mental state will be all the better for it.
We all know fire is essential, and being prepared is having the right tools to build one is preparation 101. However, are you always going to have your bug-out bag or tools with you to do just that? Probably not. When it comes to fires, I always tell newbies to start knowing how to build a fire, even if you have a lighter. Knowing different methods of stacking burnable materials, such as kindling, and the size of the fire, and having control of fire perimeters are all good basic starting points to practice. Learn the different types of tinder that can be used to start a fire and how different types of materials burn, etc. What happens when you don’t have a lighter? You start a fire using your handy all-weather magnesium striker. Again, not actually using it to start a fire before you need it is a bad move, and could be a matter of life or death, which leads to being naked and afraid, sort of speak; having nothing at all, and still needing a fire. Remember, there are a few methods out there, from making and using a bow drill, to the two-man friction drill, to hand drill, and to praying that lightning strikes the tree next to you, and bingo, you have, fire. Well, that’s tongue in cheek, but sometimes this is the mindset of those who don’t want to prepare. Seriously, practice these techniques in your backyard, learn the value of developing that skill, and when the need arises, your stress levels will not rise to an emotional high.
4. FIRST AID
This now brings us to first aid itself. Panic during a survival situation kills more people than the actual physical environment they find themselves in. The more prepared one is, the less panic one will encounter, which means, that one can focus more on the tasks needed, without increased stress. Nothing creates panic more than injury and open wounds. Knowledge of different types of wounds, injuries, and shock, will naturally lead you to the treatment of the said situation. One needs to practice dressing wounds, and what types of materials are needed to do just that. There is a lot to learn, such as, how to tie a pressure bandage and when to use it, instead of a tourniquet, how to splint a broken bone, with and without traction, if needed, what to do for someone showing symptoms of shock, to how to keep a wound from getting infected. As you get more advanced, move into identifying plants that aid in healing and other medicinal properties. Where most fall short, is finding and identifying those plants in the pages of books or the internet, and not actually doing any hands-on practicing.
Rule of 3 says, 3 weeks without food before dying. Well, like water, after a short period of time without food triggers a degradation in your body’s physical ability to sustain itself and begins to attack itself, and with each day that goes by, it begins to shut down. Food is the one area that many pictures when thinking about survival. Kill a deer and pack the meat along with you? It sounds good, but in reality, most don’t have a clue on how to, or even worse, thinking they have watched enough survival shows setting snares, making spears, making bows and arrows, making fishing traps, when they have never made anything, or killed anything ever, in real life. They have not snared a rabbit or trapped a fish, or know how to actually clean one, and use the substance to survive on. Read, study, learn how to make these things, and actually practice and engage yourself in putting them to use. I would start with cleaning animals. Fill the bath, get soap and water… okay, not that kind of cleaning, but get a chicken or quail from a market, go fishing and keep the fish, buy a meat rabbit from a farmer and bring it home, learn how to gut, strip, pluck, peal, descale, and cook these animals. That knowledge alone takes out most of all the anxiety one has about preparing the animals to eat. Then learn and start actually making your tools for hunting and put them to actual practice in catching your dinner. Finally, learning what plants are edible is a very important task in itself. When animals are scarce it becomes the norm to forge and have the knowledge and knowhow to do so.
Knowing where you are, where you’re going, and where you came from, are all important, but just as important is how you got where you are and how you’ll get to where you need to be. The “how” is done with tools that every good survivalist preps with; maps, compass, GPS (where it works), and knowledge of the area one is going into. I’m sure you are getting the theme down, which is, that those tools do you no good whatsoever if you don’t practice with them: reading a map, knowing the types of maps out there, such as a topographical map, knowing how to tell elevations, steepness of slopes or cliffs, how to spot a ridge, etc. A compass is a great tool if you know how to shoot an azimuth, and how to stay on course as well as knowing what your pace count is for 100 meters, or a mile, which is 1609 meters. How and why to use Ranger beads, knots, or rocks in your pocket, so you don’t lose your way. You must practice with a map, find the direction you want to head, get the azimuth, transfer it to your compass, and see if you can make it work for you. The more you do it the more you will develop that skill set. However, there are also times that you might not have any navigation tools and only what nature provides around you. Learn the techniques on locating directions while lost by using the sun, the shadow tips, the star constellations. These are basic but very useful in serious situations. Practice identifying and using them. When the directions are not as important to you, other than just finding civilization, always by the rule of thumb, the mission is to follow a ridgeline to oversee the area, then go downhill and try to locate a creek or river or large body of water, which almost always leads to civilization or people in general. Once at a river always travel it downstream, unless you know your destination is upstream from you. Again, practice, practice, practice, without doing so, your possibility of being found, is nill.
This one is almost always forgotten, or not considered as important, or even worse, some will be offended that I am even mentioning it. There are 3 things that are tested, torn down, and work in direct synergy with each other during any long-term survival situation, and they are, your physical toughness, your mental focus, and your spiritual strength.
In 1942 during the most intense phase of Japan’s invasion of the Philippines, General MacArthur lead the allied forces against the Japanese in the Battle of Bataan, where Chaplin William Cummings, gave a sermon, in which he said, “There is no atheist in a foxhole.”
I will tell you that no truer words are ever spoken when all hope of life is weighing down on your shoulders and that whatever you decide to do will either save you or kill you, which gets one asking God for help. For me, the understanding of my relationship with God guarantees me that I am not totally alone, that there is something I can feel, and allows me to understand what pushes me to “Continue the Mission”, which is no different than any of the other 6 skill sets that are needed to develop over time, with practice; develop that relationship, and it will not leave you in a time of survival.
In closing, I remember when I was still in active duty status, I asked a Sargent Major about trying to be the best at my physical fitness test. He said to me, “If you want to get better at PT tests, do more PT tests.” This is true in all things, especially survival skill sets. Practice them, do more of them.
“Charlie Mike” (Continue the Mission)