Survival: What skills to learn before you need them

Many people read or watch videos about survival or bushcraft skills but few actually practice these skills. Too many people rely on tools or gear that they carry on their physical body or in a pack, but what if they get stranded without any of that gear that they have put all their trust in for survival? Will they remember what that book said, or what that video was teaching them to do, if they are caught in a true survival situation? Chances are that they won’t remember, unless they physically practiced what they were being taught. In a true survival situation or emergency your mind and body will be under a lot of stress and you will not be likely to remember things that were not practiced.

It is very important to practice any survival or bushcraft skills that you learn, on a regular basis. This way you will be more prepared if you are caught in a life threatening survival situation. By practicing these skills in a safe environment ahead of time, you’ll be able to see what really works and what doesn’t. You can fail without putting your life in danger. Try to get to the point where you can survive without any purchased man made tools or supplies. It is best to start practicing in warmer weather and then work your way up to learning to survive in colder weather and colder environments. Here is a list of survival skills that you should learn over time as you can.

Survival/Bushcraft Skills

• Primitive Shelters
• Hunting Skills (How to build traps and snares as well as fishing)
• Making Primitive Tools and weapons (for hunting and self protection)
• Primitive Fire (Using only items found in the wild)
• Foraging (what plants are edible and prevalent in the wild)
• Learning to cook, preserve and store any game you may catch.
• Learn some basic herbal medicines that you can make out of local plants.
• Learn basic first aid skills
• Be able to identify different species of trees and there good and bad qualities for different uses.
• Learn how to adapt and problem solve

Just by learning how to build a decent shelter, with nothing more than what can be found in the wild, will give you a huge advantage of surviving whatever survival situation you may find yourself in. Add to that, learning how to make primitive tools, primitive fire and hunting/catching wild game, and you’ll be at a much higher advantage than most in a true survival situation.

Learning to problem solve and adapt is one of the most important things that you can do to train your mind and body. To many people these days can’t do either of these things. To be able to look at what supplies you may have, and be able to imagine what other things that they can be used for or repurposed for could mean the difference between life and death.

For example; say that you are stuck in a survival situation and the only water source is stagnant and you know it is a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria which means you are going to need to boil the water. You have a fire but you have no container to hold the water so that you can boil it. You do have a small flat sheet of metal though (a piece of a downed plane, metal sign etc.). What do you do? Well you take that piece of metal and two rocks and begin to hammer it into a bowl shape so that when you’re done you will have a container that will hold water for boiling. You would want to use the cleaner side to house the water and remove any paint before boiling. This is just one example to get you thinking outside of your normal thought process.

Start small and simple. Try to learn one new skill each month and learn it well. Continue to practice over time. As you learn new skills go out into the wilderness for the weekend and try to survive using that new skill. If you learned how to build primitive shelters, go camping for the weekend without a tent and build your own shelter. If you learned how to start primitive fire, then leave the lighters and firesteel at home. It’s all about training yourself to become comfortable with having to survive. You want it to become second nature.

If you are building your shelter and are planning on doing any cutting down of trees, make sure it is on your own land or somebody else’s land where you have permission to practice bushcraft skills. You should not be practicing some of these skills on government and protected lands. In these areas you should practice the leave no trace method of camping and hiking.

As always practice all survival/bushcraft skills at your own risk and enjoy all of your new found knowledge. Learn to enjoy the challenge of surviving in the wilderness instead of looking at it as a chore or something to contend with. What new survival/bushcraft skills have you learned in the past month or months? Would you be able to survive without that expensive survival knife or pocket knife you always carry? We all need to continue to learn new skills and to practice what we have learned. Get out and enjoy learning to survive in the wild.

Quick Tip #7

If you find yourself in a survival situation and need to filter water but you don’t have a commercially made filter you can make one. One way that you can make a simple filter is to use a sock filled with some charcoal from the fire (cold not hot), sand and pebbles. You first place a 1-2″ layer of crushed up coals in the bottom of the sock. Then you add a 1-2″ layer of sand on top of the charcoal. Lastly you put a 1-2″ layer of pebbles or small stones on top of the sand. Now continue to keep layering these same materials in the same order until the sock is full and pebbles are the top layer.
All you do is hang the sock up if you can and carefully pour water into the top center of the sock. Make sure that you have a collection container underneath the bottom of the sock to collect the filtered water as it pours out. This is just a simple way to make a filter with materials you will most likely have in a survival situation. You can also use a plastic bag to house the filter materials but you will have to poke some small holes in the bottom of the bag to allow filtered water to drain out of the bag. Have fun making your own water filters at home and testing them out so that if you are ever in a survival situation you’ll know what works best and how to make one. As always all survival skills need to be practiced. Have you ever made a homemade water filter? How did it work?

Finding Water in a Survival Situation

These are just a few ways to find and purify water if you find yourself in a survival situation in the wilderness. Obviously if you find yourself in a true survival situation you’re going to first want to assess your situation. Make sure you and whoever else might be with you are okay. Next you will want to take stock of what supplies you might have and what could possibly hold water. Once you have completed everything you needed to, such as cleaning and patching up wounds, gathering supplies and building a shelter you are going to want to find a good source of drinking water.

When looking for water start by just looking around the area you are in. If you can’t see anything nearby then stand quietly for a bit. If there is a fast moving river nearby you will most likely be able to hear it. You can even hear small bubbling brooks pretty well if there is one nearby and you really listen for it. It helps sometimes to close your eyes when you’re listening because you’ll actually be able to hear better than when your eyes were open. I know it sounds crazy but it works.

If you can’t see or hear any water then you will have to start searching to find some. If you have them, take a pen or pencil and paper or something else you can write on and draw a map as you are walking or mark your path. This way if you find water you’ll have a map of where it is in relation to your camp. If there are others with you, you’ll be able to send them for water without having to go with them.

Well searching for water look for lush green plants, swarming insects and animal tracks. If there are lush green plants around there is most likely a water source somewhere nearby. Animals need water just as much as we do. Look for multiple species of tracks converging and heading in one direction. They are all probably drinking from the same water source. If you are high up on a mountain head down hill towards a valley or low lying area.

If you still are not able to find a good source for water there are a few ways that you can collect water if you have a few supplies. One way to collect water is to make a solar still, but you will need a piece of plastic and a collection container. Find a shallow hole in the ground with some vegetation in it and place your container in the center of the hole. Place a piece of plastic over the hole and cover the edges of the plastic with small rocks and some dirt or sand to make it air tight. Place a small stone in the middle of the plastic so that the plastic dips a little towards the inside of the container. It will take a bit of time before you collect a decent amount of drinking water but it will work. You can also “pull” water out of leafy green trees and shrubbery buy placing a bag over the end of a branch with leaves on it and closing off the open end of the bag tightly around the branch. Make sure to place a small rock in the bottom of the bag so that it stays lower than the branch. This way water can collect in the bottom of the bag.

Another easy way to get water is to collect as much rain water or dew as you can. Of course it will have to be raining for this to work. If you have a tarp, make low spots where water can collect. You can also divert water into any containers you might have. If you find yourself in an area where there is snow, you can just melt the snow with a fire or with body heat. When you are active during the day you can eat snow and this will also help you regulate your body temperature so that you aren’t sweating when you are exerting a lot of energy. Do not eat snow when you are not moving or exerting any energy. It will lower your internal body temperature and cold mean death.

Another area where you can sometimes find water is in a dry river bed. Sometimes there will be small pools of water in shaded areas, under rocks or on the inside bend of the river bed. If you find ground that is damp or moist, dig a hole and see if it begins to slowly fill with water.

If you did by chance find a decent water source you are going to want to make sure it is drinkable as best you can. Whether it is a small brook, large river, lake or pond, look around the water source. Make sure it is not near any pastures or farm land because of contamination. Make sure there is no human waste or garbage all around or in the water source. See if there seems to be a lot of life around this particular water source. Check for animal tracks to see if they are using this as a source for drinking water. You want to start with a healthy looking water source if at all possible. You also want a water source that is moving and not stagnant.

If you have containers and a bandana or some sort of piece of cloth you can place the cloth on top of the container to pre filter the water. It will help filter out large objects as well as some sand and sediment. Next you will want to boil the water in whatever container you may have. You can boil water in plastic if it is done properly and watched closely. I don’t recommend it unless you don’t have any other option. If you have a clear plastic container and can get fairly clear water you can use the sun to purify the water. Preferably you want a sunny day. Fill the bottle completely full and lay it on its side on a rock or a piece of reflective metal for four hours. If the sky is cloudy or the water isn’t clear you will want to let it sit for 24-48 hours.

Every survival situation is different and it could be as simple as you forgot your water filter well out hiking or camping. I have drunk water without any filter or purification but I was up high in elevation and it was a spring flowing out of a rock face. Everyone has to make their own decisions about what chances they are willing to take but it is a good idea to practice primitive water collection and purification to be better prepared for a survival situation. You can get water from some plants and vines as well but you must learn ahead of time what those plants and vines are. It’s all about knowledge and practicing what you have learned. How do you purify or filter your water now when you are out in the wild? Have you ever thought about what you would do if you didn’t have a water filter or some form of purification? Water is too important to our bodies to not know and learn as many ways to collect it as possible in a survival situation.

Raising Egg Laying Chickens

These days it’s becoming much harder to trust companies with the food we eat. Many companies refuse to label their “food products” or like most pizza shops blatantly refuse to divulge their ingredient lists. Many companies spend billions of dollars each year just so that they can keep their ingredients a secret. I’m sorry but to me that is a big clue to the quality of their ingredients and products. If any company can’t tell me what I’m consuming then they can forget my money. My health is more important than their bottom line.

In an effort to know what is entering our bodies, my wife and I try to grow as much as possible ourselves, and make most things from scratch. As you saw in a previous post we raise a specific breed of chicken for meat. We also have another breed that we raise as our egg layers. We raise Black Australorp chickens as our egg layers. We chose them because they tend to be an aggressive egg layer and they don’t mind being cooped up as much as some breeds, which is good since we live in New York. We order all of our chickens from Murray McMurray Hatchery, but feel free to check out other hatcheries. We have just had good luck with this hatchery.

We have fifteen hens and one rooster. We generally get 14-15 eggs per day. We would be fine with only 7-8 hens but some chickens will only lay eggs every other day instead of every day so I didn’t want us to run short. We just give any extra eggs to family or sell them.

There was no way I was going to spend a ridiculous amount of money for a tiny prebuilt coop so I built my own. I figured out how much room I needed for the amount of chickens we would have and it seems to have worked out well. My coop is 8’x8’ and is 7 ½’ tall. I built the coop like a tiny house and placed roosting poles about 3-3 ½’ off the floor so that the chickens would have a lot of room when they were cooped up during really cold weather. I hang the waterier and feeder near the door so that I don’t have to climb into the coop to feed or refill their water. I built an exterior nest box unit so that it is easy for egg collection. I also put tires on the coop so that I could move it whenever and wherever I want to. I’ve been told that I built a chicken Taj Mahal but I wanted a coop that would last for years instead of one that needed repairs yearly. Here are two pictures of my chicken coop.

 

chicken coop 2chicken coop

 

 

Now we enjoy fresh eggs everyday for breakfast as well as for use in our cooking. It’s nice to know exactly what our chickens are eating, knowing that they really are free range and knowing that they are actually living a decent life for a chicken. I do not heat the coop and they do just fine. The only thing I do is add a small 40 watt light so that they still get 14 hours of light throughout the winter months so that their egg production continues. During the really cold parts of winter I change their water twice a day since it freezes. This doesn’t seem to be a real problem until it gets below 10 degrees outside because they produce plenty of heat. I did insulate and wrap the coop with Tyvek to aid in heat retention. I made sure to add plenty of ventilation as well which is key to keeping them warm in the cold winter.

If you live in an area where you can raise chickens for meat or for eggs I highly recommend that you try raising at least one or two. Start small and work your way up to more. They are very easy to raise and take care of. Chickens are pretty neat to watch when they are free ranging and they are great for the land as well. Growing a garden and raising some chickens will help start you on your way to being self sufficient as well as knowing what you are actually eating. Do you raise chickens now? Have you ever thought about raising your own chickens for eggs or meat? I hope this post encourages you to try raising some of your very own chickens and have fun doing it.

Survival Bracelets

With all the popularity over “survival bracelets” the past couple years, I wanted to draw your attention to some survival bracelets that are made of much more than just cordage. Each bracelet is built and hand tied by us here at Armstrong Survival Gear LLC (family owned and operated). All of our cord is American made and weight tested. We try to put only quality parts into our products and we make changes periodically to better our products not to cut costs at the expense of customers.

Each of these bracelets was designed by me to help cover different needs that people would have based on their survival situation and level of expertise. Some people desire to carry and rely on as little gear as possible and others want to carry and rely on as much gear as possible. So I designed different bracelets for each of these types of people. From our base model the Fire Bracelet, which is very basic, to our Explorer Bracelet which has everything you could want in a survival kit you can wear on your wrist.

We have four models of survival bracelets. They are the Fire Bracelet, the Beaver Bracelet, the Minimalist Bracelet and the Explorer Bracelet. Each model contains different products that will help aid you if you ever find yourself in a survival situation. Here is information as well as specs for each model of bracelet.

 

Fire Bracelet

You’ll have everything you need to get a fire started; fire steel, a striker, tinder and paracord for making a bow drill. We’ve got your back!
Contains:
• 550 Paracord
• Whistle Buckle
• P-38 Can Opener
• Fire Toggle
• 2’ Jute
*optional quick tinder with ranger band

 

Beaver Bracelet

This bracelet will give you the help you need to build a shelter or to start a fire. We’ve got your back!
Contains:
• 550 Paracord
• Whistle Buckle
• P-38 Can Opener
• Fire Toggle
• Ranger Bands
• Compass
• Wire Saw
*optional quick tinder with ranger band

 

Minimalist Bracelet

Here is a simple bracelet to take care of some basic needs of survival, from starting a fire to being able to fish for some food. We’ve got your back!
Contains:
• 550 Paracord
• Whistle Buckle
• P-38 Can Opener
• Fire Toggle
• Ranger Bands
• Compass
• 30’ 50lb braided fishing line (won’t be a tangled mess)
• 2 #8 hooks
• 2 weights
• 2 swivels
*optional quick tinder with ranger band

 

Explorer Bracelet

Explore the great outdoors with peace, knowing you have the very best survival bracelet available. We’ve got your back!
Contains:
• 550 Paracord
• Whistle Buckle
• P-38 Can Opener
• Fire Toggle
• Ranger Bands
• Compass
• 2’ Jute Twine
• 18” Snare Wire
• Wire Saw
• 30’ 50lb braided fishing line (won’t be a tangled mess)
• 2 #8 hooks
• 2 weights
• 2 swivels
• 18” 45lb lead
• Dry Fly
• Bobber
• 2 safety pins
*optional quick tinder with ranger band
Here is the link if you would like to check out any of our bracelets: http://armstrongsurvivalgear.com/category/survival-bracelets/

 
My goal in creating these survival bracelets was to better something that many people were already wearing anyways. Why not better your chance of survival by wearing a bracelet that contains many aids for survival instead of one that only carries cordage? I like all my gear to be as versatile and multi functional as possible, thus the reason I designed these bracelets. These bracelets can be worn daily, thrown in an emergency bag, clipped to your backpack or clipped to your belt loop for easy access. If you are an avid outdoorsman, outdoors women or are just preparing for a possible emergency, these survival bracelets may be of interest to you. Do you wear a 550 para cord bracelet already? What limitations or capabilities does your current bracelet have?

One side note:

Our bracelets do not carry anything for water purification other than purifying water over the fire that these bracelets can help you start. I was going to include water purification tabs when I first designed these survival bracelets but the purification tabs do expire and I didn’t want people to rely on something that may not be any good when they need it most. What I would recommend doing if you order one of our bracelets is to get some Aquamira purification tabs and slip one or two tabs in their packaging underneath one of the ranger bands. This way you will have easy access to the tablets and you can change them out periodically as they expire.

Quick Tip #6

Carry some moonshine, everclear or any grain alcohol that is 80 proof or higher, in your emergency bag, bug out bag or in any pack you may use for the outdoors. You can use the alcohol to start a fire by soaking some tinder in it. This will also help if you are dealing with wet tinder. You can use the alcohol as the base for many herbal remedies. If you lack any other type of antiseptic, you can pour or dab some of the alcohol onto the wound. You can use the alcohol as a mouth wash as well. In a survival situation it is not recommended to drink the alcohol because it is only going to dehydrate you (but hay that’s up to you). You can also soak some rags in the alcohol and wrap them around sticks to make torches to be used at night for light or personal protection. There are many survival uses for high proof alcohol which is what makes it a great survival tool to add to anyone’s kit, as long as they are over 21.

Preparing for Your First Hike of the Season

With the coming of spring and hopefully much warmer weather soon, many people are preparing to get outside and do some hiking and camping. If you don’t backpack or camp during the winter months you’re probably going to find out really quick how out of shape you have become during the past winter.  Even if you do workout in a gym or at home, carrying a backpack up a mountain is much more difficult than running on a treadmill on an incline. I’m not saying that you should stop working out, far from it. If you do some sort of physical activity during the winter you’ll be much further ahead than those that don’t. Here are some tips to get your body back into hiking condition and ready to carry that pack up the mountain with ease.

I assume you are or have already gone through your gear to see what needs repairs, replacing or just some TLC. If you haven’t, you better get a move on because the trails are calling. Either load up your pack with all the gear you plan on using for your spring hiking or add weights to your pack a little at a time until you reach your pack weight with all of its gear. You can start with only 10 lbs in your pack and put it on your back and take a walk down your road each evening or morning whichever works best for you. You can also wear your pack for your morning jog or well you are on the treadmill, adding however much weight you would like. Not only will this prepare your body to be carrying weight on your back again it will also give you a great workout. The nice thing about doing this ahead of time is that you can slowly work your body up to your full weight pack and get your body conditioned over time with as many breaks as you need.

Another great workout would be to find a short steep hill, steps or a steep road and walk or fast walk up and down as many times as you can. This will not only give you a full body workout but it will get your lungs conditioned as well. If you have a set of stairs in your house you can do your work out right in your own home. Make sure that you are stretching before doing any strenuous physical activities and be careful if you have heart problems or any other medical issues. By conditioning your body to carry a pack again, and to walk up steep grades well carrying weight on your back ahead of time, you will be ready for a much more satisfying and easier than you expected spring hike. Wouldn’t you rather be full of energy well passing everybody else that’s winded because they didn’t prepare for hiking season? The other nice thing about training with a pack on ahead of time is that your body will have already learned to stabilize itself again when hiking with weight on your back. So you won’t feel all clumsy on your first hike and hey your heart and body will thank you for the physical activity. What are you doing to prepare for hiking season?