You find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere with the sun setting fast.
It’s too late to try to find your way back to civilization, and you only have about an hour of good sunlight left to seek shelter and protect yourself from the chill that is coming.
Luckily, you know the six most important survival skills that every person must master.
By thinking quickly and putting your skills to good use, you can find a suitable location, build a shelter and protect yourself from the elements.
The Six Survival Skills You Must Master
Survival training protects you in the event that you find yourself battling the elements. Hopefully, you won’t find yourself in a situation where you need to call upon this training.
However, knowing how to protect yourself can mean the difference between life and death if you do get stuck in the wilderness.
1. Finding and Building a Suitable Campsite
You may not have a lot of options when it comes to choosing a place to set up your camp. Look for a location that is high, and avoid paths and valleys that make it easy for water to flow directly toward you.
Look at the area around you and make sure there aren’t any dead branches hanging above you that might fall during the night. When possible, look for an area close to running water and against a rock face to help protect you from the elements.
The best shelters are made from natural elements. Look for a downed tree that is firmly secured by rocks or other trees. Cover the tree with any debris you can find like moss, leaves and branches.
Finally, cover the inside of the lean-to with debris to help insulate you from the ground.
2. Finding Ingredients for a Fire
No survival training course would be complete with instruction on how to build a fire.
Building a fire requires tinder and kindling ranging in size from a toothpick to a pencil. Place a large log as the base and then add your tinder. Tinder consists of fibrous material that tends to burn easily and quickly.
Look for dry brush, leaves or shred branches to create your tinder. Light the tinder and then start stacking the smaller pieces of kindling. Gradually add larger pieces of kindling in the shape of a lean-to.
This allows air to flow through and fuel your fire. Once the fire gets big enough, add additional logs to the fire. If the logs are damp, keep them close to the fire to dry them out and make it easier to keep your fire going strong. A fire can act as a signal for help and protect you from the cold.
3. Finding Clean Water
Ever wondered why cats tap water with their paw before they drink it?
It’s a behavior that stems from a knowledge that stagnant water is not safe to drink. Running water is your best option for clean water.
Avoid anything that has been standing for a long time, such as water you might find in puddles. The best option is to boil your water, but that isn’t always possible.
Rain, snow and dew are also fairly safe options for water. If there is a waterfall or a river with water that cascades over rocks, that source should be your second option.
You can filter the water by taking some clean clothing, soaking the water in the clothing and then wringing it out. Maples trees and cacti contain good sources of water if you cut a hole and let the water drain out. Water can also be squeezed from vines and thistles.
Finally, consider filtering the water yourself if you have good sunlight. Find a leafy branch and tie a plastic bag around the leaf, come back later in the day and drink the condensation that formed on the inside of the bag.
4. Finding Edible Food
One of the biggest mistakes people in a survival situation make is trying to hunt big game. In a survival situation, you need to conserve your calories and the time and energy required to hunt, cook and prepare game might overextend you.
Plus, if you fail to find food or can’t cook it correctly, you’ve just wasted a day’s worth of energy. Look for easy to catch and find foods like edible plants.
Additionally, you can catch small game like fish, frogs and even lizards. Just make sure to cook anything you catch properly. This is where good survival training becomes important.
Being able to identify the plans that can kill you from those that are safe to eat is crucial to surviving. Memorize the plants common to the area you frequent most often. Safe plants common to many areas include cattail, dandelions and wild spinach.
5. Finding Help
If you are injured, you won’t have time to find your way home.
You need to send out a signal for others to find you. In fact, sending up a signal is a good idea even if you aren’t injured. Each day, find time to create a signal so that any planes overhead or search parties can find you more easily.
Use a signal fire on top of a clearing or hilltop. Create large amounts of smoke by piling on green branches, pine boughs and other green plants.
If you have a mirror, cell phone screen or any other reflective surface and use it to reflect the light from the sun. A reflective signal can often be seen for miles at day or night and is far more effective than a flashlight.
6. Finding Your Way Home
While surviving, you also need to make progress towards civilization. If you’re lost and you don’t have GPS, you can use your environment to ensure you don’t go in circles.
If you’re on a mountain, choose a direction and head down. Follow any streams or lakes when possible, since these natural flow along the line of least resistance and will lead you to the mountain’s base.
If there is no sun, then look for moss on trees. Moss doesn’t grow exclusively on the north side of a tree, but it does grow the most on the north side. This only applies to the northern hemisphere. If you’re in the southern hemisphere, it’s the reverse.
If you find a trail, road or any other indication of civilization, stay on the trail. The important thing is to make a decision on a direction and stick with that choice. Create large markers every 500 feet. This way, if a search party is looking for you they can follow your trail markers.