Our lives right now are pretty cushy. In fact, when you break it down, most of us just depend on just one skill to survive.
For example, if you know how to do IT, then you can get a job as “the IT guy” and get paid for it. You can then use that money to survive by buying food, shelter, clothing, and anything else you need.
When all hell breaks loose, you will no longer have access to these products and services that you take for granted. Your IT skills will mean nothing. You’ll have to do everything yourself.
There are a couple of things that you must know in order to survive related to water, food, and shelter. If you can’t do even one of these, then you’re doomed.
Below is a list of 10 survival skills. They’re all practical with no fluff — learn all of these and you’ll be pretty safe in a time where survival is necessary.
Skill #1 — How to start a fire
Even if you live in a warm climate, the nights aren’t so warm. How would you feel sleeping outside at 3 AM with nothing but a blanket?
It might be possible, but it’s not ideal. Fires can keep you warm so that you avoid diseases like pneumonia and hypothermia. (Those might not be a big deal in today’s cushy society, but they can be a death wish in a survival setting.)
Fires can cook food and boil water. Eating raw meat is asking for disease, as is drinking water directly from a natural water source without purifying it first via boiling.
Finally, fires keep away predators. Fires aren’t natural — when a predator sees a fire, he will get frightened and stay away from it. As long as you’re close to the fire, then you’ll be all set. It’s just that simple.
Watch the video below. It’ll teach you how to start a fire without matches or a lighter. (We recommend you stock up on these as well for convenience, but they’ll eventually run out.)
Make sure to pick up a portable fire starter. Starting a fire by rubbing two sticks together is nearly impossible — a basic fire starter with a flint and steel will make your life much easier. Fire is essential, which is why this is the first survival skill on the list.
Skill #2 — How to catch game with snares & traps
Think you’re going to go rogue, hunting down wild animals with just a spear or a gun?
Most animals are incredibly skittish. Ever tried to run after a rabbit in your yard? Yeah, they’re faster than you, and their reflexes are out of this world. That’s assuming you can even find one to chase — wild animals aren’t stupid; they’re usually out-of-sight to avoid bigger predators just like you.
As humans, we don’t have speed on our side, but we do have smarts. Learning how to set effective traps and snares can allow you to spend an hour setting them at the start of the day and collect wild animals for you to eat later on.
If you don’t know how to set snares, it’ll still be possible to kill game. From a statistical standpoint, if you throw enough spears, then, eventually, one will hit the target.
Something to consider, though: hunting takes time. If you spend all day trying to catch an animal but fail, what are you going to do? You just wasted an entire day and you’re still hungry.
Luckily, snares and traps are pretty easy to set. You just need a small amount of food to lure the animal in, and the snare will do the rest.
Skill #3 — How to clean game so you can cook and eat it
Catching and killing the game is the easy part. But, when you do that, you’re left with a whole animal — guts, intestines, feathers, skin — everything.
You don’t want to be eating everything that’s inside of an animal. When we go out to restaurants and order lobsters, you can clearly tell which parts of it not to eat — they’re mushy, green, and just plain disgusting.
We only want to be digesting the meat on the animal. No matter what you’re killing, there will be certain parts of it that you can’t
eat. Skinning and cleaning animals is just as important as finding the game in the first place.
Squirrels aren’t the smartest animals and they live almost everywhere — there’s a video for you below on how to skin them quickly and easily.
We’d also recommend looking up your geographical location and seeing which animals are indigenous to it, then doing more research on your own on how to set traps for those particular animals.
Having a knife is vital for skinning squirrels — we’d recommend checking out some survival knives on Amazon or at your local sporting goods store.
Skill #4 — How to forage for food
You do everything right with your snares… you set them up correctly and in the right places.
But at the end of the day, they’re still empty. What are you going to do?
If you just wait around for your snares to magically get filled, then you might be waiting around for your death. You have to be proactive, and foraging for food is one way to do that.
You can’t just start eating every berry you find, though. Some are poisonous. Actually, most of them are. Taking a chance like that is just asking to get horribly sick.
Below is a video on how to identify different types of berries. What you’re going to want to do is pick up a book detailing different foods that are safe (and not safe) to eat.
You MUST get some sort of guide to berries and other natural foods. If you don’t, then you’ll be blindly guessing, which can (and will) lead to your death almost immediately.
Skill #5 — How to find water
Finding water isn’t rocket science — all animals need water, and they can find it easily enough.
If you don’t take the time to learn how to locate water, though, you’re going to be relying on blind luck or man-made water sources like water bottles. You might run out of water bottles, and there’s a very good possibility that you can wander around without finding any water until you get dehydrated and die.
This is one of the best guides we’ve found on the topic. Another slightly easier method is to just pick up a map of your area — it’ll display water sources and how large they are. (Make sure you keep reading this list to learn how to navigate a map effectively.)
Skill #6 — How to build a shelter
You always have the option of buying a tent for your bug out bag, but what if your tent (or whatever pre-made shelter you’re using) gets destroyed?
You’re going to be exposed to the elements 24/7/365. When it’s a sunny day, that won’t be a problem…
But that’s what may happen…
Let’s say it rains, and you get sopping wet. Then, the temperature drops, and you’re still sopping wet. The moisture on your body makes your internal temperature drop like a rock. You won’t be able to sleep, and you’ll get sick with a cold almost immediately.
That will happen over and over until you perish. It’s a morbid thought, but it’s true. Think about the climate of your region, then imagine that you had to live in that climate completely exposed all of the time. It would be miserable, and you’d have trouble doing other things necessary for survival.
Building a shelter isn’t terribly difficult. It can be done with just a few sticks and logs. But you still have to know how to do it — winging a shelter will ensure it falls over constantly. Watch the video below for a real example of an ordinary person building a shelter.
If you want to make things a lot easier on yourself, get a tarp. You’ll be a lot more insulated, and you won’t have to find as much natural material.
Skill #7 — How to open a can without a can opener
This skill is more specialized than the ones we’ve already covered, but there’s a reason why it’s so useful: everything comes in cans, cans last forever, and you can pretty much live off of canned food for the rest of your life if you have enough.
All of that goes out of the window if you can’t open a can without a can opener. They’ll be the first things looted from hardware stores, and without the proper technique, just trying to smash a can open will ensure that your food goes everywhere.
It’s pretty simple. Learn it, memorize it, and keep it in your back pocket for when you need it.
(It’s a hassle and it takes a while, but it’s much easier than hunting animals or foraging for food.)
Skill #8 — How to defend yourself with a knife
Defending yourself with a gun is self-explanatory. Just point and shoot. Defending yourself even with the best survival knife is a little bit more difficult, because you have to get up close to the predator… but also stay far enough away where they don’t have a chance to strike you first. (Remember, predators have claws and teeth that can tear your skin apart like tissue paper.)
As long as you know how to wield a knife, you can keep yourself safe. Check out this video below for some basic explanation — it’s worth looking into martial arts studios in your area to get a specialized lesson, too.
The video goes over defending yourself against other humans, but it’s relevant for animals, too.
Skill #9 — How to navigate with just a compass and map
You might think you have a good sense of direction… and that may be true, assuming that you’re traveling around man-made terrain.
The problem with the wilderness is that everything looks the same. It’s trees, bushes, and rocks over and over again. No matter how good your sense of direction is, you will get lost without a map and a compass.
Getting lost is a big deal for a few reasons. To start, if you get lost while hunting and lose sight of your camp, then all of your supplies are suddenly gone. This makes it infinitely harder to survive.
You’ll also have to navigate around certain areas to be able to find natural resources, like water. Without the proper navigation tools, you won’t be able to find these vital resources. There won’t be any GPS navigation in a survival situation… that much is for sure.
This video below is an excellent demonstration on how to use a map and a compass. It also goes over the features of a map so that you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly where you are on the map easily.
Skill #10 — How to mend clothing
Consider how many thorns, rocks, and plain ol’ branches there are in the wilderness. Any of these things can catch onto your clothing and tear it to shreds.
Wandering around with exposed skin is very dangerous. Not only will you be more exposed to the elements, but those thorns, rocks, and branches will now shred your skin apart — not your clothing. Even a simple cut can (literally) open you up to infection and disease.
By having some basic knowledge on how to repair clothing, you won’t need to find new clothing — you can just fix what you currently have. It won’t be the prettiest, but let’s be honest — in a survival situation, looking good will be the last of your concerns.
In order to be able to mend clothes properly, we’d recommend picking up some basic knitting supplies that are in a protected case. You won’t be able to lug around a sewing machine with your supplies, and if your supplies get ruined then you’re out of luck.
Why THESE survival skills?
If you look around the internet for a list of survival skills, then you’ll find some very long lists — some with up to 100 “necessary” skills. Most of these “necessary” skills are more on the “helpful, but not necessary” side.
The truth is that our daily lives only allow us for so much time to prepare for survival. You need to know the essential ones — the 10 in this list — before anything else.
Learn these skills and rest easy. Even if the time does come where survival is necessary, you’ll have the knowledge that you need to beat the elements and stay alive.