6 Essential Survival Skills

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If you are going to make it when civilization is falling apart, you must have a set of practical and honed survival skills. Here are six top skills, including one that may surprise you.

MENTAL STRENGTH

Mental durability is the most critical skill of all. You have to know that you can make it through. Have the mindset that you will overcome and live. 

If you do not have your mind right, then you doubt yourself. That means you will not use all the skills and all the abilities you have their fullest. How Stuff Works says, "Research revealed a link between positive thinking and emotions and successful survival. That's because it opens up global thinking capacities in the brain, allowing for more innovation and creativity. In the wilderness, once your initial needs are met, you will require new ideas and prioritization of tasks to keep yourself alive for the longer term."

In other words, don't sell yourself short.

WATER

Next in line is finding safe drinking water. You can make it three or four days without water, but the longer you are without hydration, the more your body will suffer.

Start with the obvious, reservoirs of any type. If you are in an urban situation, look for swimming pools and ornamental fish ponds. In the outdoors, rivers and impoundments are go-to locations for water. 

The Art of Manilness has some excellent tips on how to find water in the wilderness. Taken alone, some of these ideas are not very effective. A solar still or "pit evaporation still" does generate water, but not enough for your survival. Combine several ideas and you will may get enough water to live. 

Simply finding water does not mean it is safe to drink. That is where water filtration and purification comes in. Having purification tablets and a filter system makes sure the water you will drink is as pure as possible.

SHELTER

Even if you don't need shelter from the weather, keeping the rain off is appreciated. Beyond that, you need a place to store the things you gather and the gear you bring with you. The best place is an abandoned building. These are easier to find in urban environments than you may think. Industrial park areas almost always have abandoned structures.

In the woods, you are going to build your own. Caves are incredibly rare. Boy's Life has five examples of emergency shelters that are easy to put together. If you have time, grab some tarps and plenty of rope on the way out. These make excellent pup tent structures. They can also be used to harvest rainwater at the same time. 

FOOD

A man does not live on water alone. You can only carry so much food. If you are out there long enough, you will need food. Raiding stores in a SHTF scenario means you have to deal with other raiders. Again, hit industrial parks, looking for warehouses. You may find everything you need right there. Competition is a lot less.

Hunting skills are required. If it is an animal, kill and eat it. For other stuff, we have a guide to edible plants across the US. Here is the guide to Midwest plants to get you started.

FIRE

Fire can literally be the difference between life and death in the case of hypothermia. Take a look at this fire starter we reviewed. Beyond that, here are some ideas:

  • Make waterproof strike-anywhere matches.
  • Use dryer lint as a starter base. It catches quicker than tinder and is easy to carry.
  • Get a Fresnel lens to harness the sun.

FIRST AID

Most communities have a First Responder program and many offer free classes to teach these skills. Take the classes. You will learn valuable survival skills. You may even get free equipment to keep if you sign up to be a first responder or a volunteer firefighter.

Get a STOMP (SEAL Team Operations Medic Pack) bag. This is a military-style first responder kit that is almost a portable hospital. 

You may think antibiotics require a doctor’s prescription. Not so. Many feed and farm supply stores sell common antibiotics over the counter for ranchers and farmers to treat their animals. It says for animal use only, but erythromycin is erythromycin. Do get rid of it once past the expiration date.

Got other survival skills ideas? Got something you want us to write about? Tell us.