Survival Skills

Survival Skills

There are a thousand different kinds of scenarios one might find themselves in fighting for their life just to survive the situation. There are another thousand that might take days or weeks to kill a person, but still they will be in a survival situation.

No one can know precisely what situation they might find themselves in, unless they are planning a trip through the jungle down the Amazon river, a hike up a mountain, white water rafting or some other planned event that might take a turn for the worse.

Those people can (and do) take the time to study what surroundings will be when they arrive, what can go wrong, what probably will go wrong and they plan ahead to mitigate problems. In real life threatening situations they will most likely have the right clothing, the ability to signal for outside help, a contingency plan in case everything falls apart and a back up team to assist with supplies or safety gear.

Even a day hike can quickly go very wrong if you twist an ankle with the weather turning bad, with the wrong clothing and no easy way down the mountain. You don’t have to have a planned escape route, support team, extra rations, a GPS, and a helicopter standing by for a day hike though, and who would want to?

But in this case you certainly, we hope, take the time to think through your hike, what can go wrong, what you can do to prevent things from going wrong and in the off chance something doesn’t go the way you expect you have a contingency plan to extricate yourself from your emergency.

This is all planning ahead. It all goes back to the “survival attitude” or “survival mentality” you should develop. Many people simply skip this step for a day trip to the mountains or forest. You should not. If you think things through each time you will prevent almost every possibly disaster you could imagine by simple planning. This is your most important “Survival Skill”. Thinking about what you’re going to do today.

Some skills you might need in the woods or on a hike up the mountain might include such things as map reading, compass use, land navigation, active weather observation, plant and animal identification, recognizing human and animal trails and maybe how to use a knife. (You carry a pocket knife right? Is it sharp? Do you know how to use it for anything?)

Every single situation you specifically place yourself into that could possibly turn bad has also has a specific set of “skills” you should know. Many of the skills will be useful in more than one situation.

Over the years I’ve compiled a few lists for my own use of “necessary survival skills” based on the various situations I’ve put myself into. Things like locating water, fire starting or building a shelter translate to many situations (hunting, fishing, hiking, trail riding, horseback riding, mountain climbing, Four-wheeling, white water rafting, sailing and boating, and canoeing). I’m not going to go through and list every single skill I’ve ever decided was useful in particular situations, but will list a few important skills that might be used in several situations and that you can teach yourself (assuming you don’t already have them).

I consider all of these (I will provide a listing) to be BASIC skills. All Basic skills can be self taught and practiced in your backyard or a nearby woods, or just at home. None of these should be anything too difficult for 90% of everyone to learn and once you have a decent grasp of them, teach them to someone else. The children, grandchildren, neighbor kids, Boy/Girl Scouts, neighbor, spouse… anyone who will listen. You should do this to help others ensure their own survival, to ensure the skills are passed on and to just practice your own skills.

Remember – Survival as I have stated before in other places IS A STATE OF MIND, an attitude. It’s not a box of canned food, a barrel of water, a rifle, knife or collection of things. It’s IN YOUR MIND. All those other things are tools, and food and water are useful and will keep you alive. But knowing those things is education, and education is knowledge. Knowledge is power over your environment – and others when necessary.

This list is in no particular order and I don’t consider one to be more important than any other. They are all useful, some are useful in only certain conditions but should still be a personally known, practiced skill by each person. With a knife, in the woods alone, you can use these skills and survive for a night or a month.

Basic Survival Skills List
Creating a shelter (one night or long term)
Obtaining water (and purifying)
Starting a fire (and how to keep it going)
Self defense (personal and protection of others)
Finding edible food sources
Maintaining your body temperature
Knot tying
Forecasting weather
Disposal of waste and sanitation
Hiding, escape and evasion
Tracking – Recognizing dangerous animals and food sources
Hunting – by various means
Fishing – by various means
Navigation (various terrains like land, water, mountains etc)
Psychology (yes, understanding what the OTHERS will do!)
Personal motivation, survival mentality – why keep going?
Planning for the worst – hope for the best
Expect the unexpected
Basic First Aid skills

Let me talk a moment about some of the above listed skills.

Obviously knowing these skills can not be used in ALL situations is simply common sense. We wouldn’t expect to have to build a shelter in a city – unless the city is some post-Armageddon type place. We likely won’t have to find water if you’re living at home, have running water or in the middle of an airport. And you likely wouldn’t want to build a fire in the middle of a baseball stadium.

Over all these are just a list of basic skills that I’ve come up with myself and have either used them, practiced them for some good reason or understood that I would be a position at some point having a NEED to be able to do them all. I’ll try to break these each down just a bit – leaving the details of where and how to learn them to you. There are plenty of books, web sites, survival manuals and even posts on this site to explain many of them. Most you will need to practice a few times to “get them right”. Some you learn and “forget” until needed. Some you might practice daily/weekly.

Creating a shelter (one night or long term)

If you’re stuck in the woods, on a mountain, have survived a plane crash or a ship wreak you might require a shelter. If you get lost on a day hike, or it starts snowing when you’re out camping deep in the woods or hunting out there, you might find yourself needing a shelter.

Depending on the terrain, circumstances and conditions there are many types of shelters. If you’re prepared ahead of time, you mgiht have a tent, or camper. Good for you. But you might have to make do with the things around you.

WHY you need shelter is the most important question though.

Exposure and dehydration kills more “survivors” than any other problem encountered. If you’re caught in a sudden downpour and get soaked to the skin you’re likely to get hypothermia. If you’re caught in a sudden snow storm you’re going to get tired, sweaty and sweat equals death by hypothermia. A quick lean-to can put you out of direct wind, rain, snow and cold.

Building a shelter should be on the top of your list of survival abilities and list of “to-do” things in a survival situation in the woods or outdoors.

Obtaining water (and purifying)

Dehydration is one of the leading causes of death in any exposure situation. Finding water is important because you can live a couple of weeks without food in most cases. You can only live a few hours in a desert, perhaps two days. You can generally live without any fluid intake for 3-5 days. After that, your body will begin to shut down, blood stream will thicken and your organs will fail. In short, get water or you WILL die.

Finding and getting water should be very high on your list. Probably second after a shelter

Starting a fire (and how to keep it going)

Being able to start a fire with practically nothing in your pockets is a skill that may save you some day. There are several methods to make a fire with nothing but dry wood – commonly called by the lesser informed “rubbing two sticks together”. In truth having practiced several of these methods I can tell you from personal experience that none of them are EASY. All of them use friction to start a fire, and preparation before starting is as important as the materials you chose to use to start the fire in the first place.

The fire bow or hand drill method to me has been the easiest assuming I had a string or some sort of cording material to make one available to me.

The fire trough – a long board with a long groove in it, using a stick to rub in the groove is a tough way, but works.

Flint and steel – you can purchase and carry a small flint and steel fire starter which should be allowed on airplanes through security and so on. Finding such things in the woods is very difficult, but can be done.

There are a dozen other ways to make fire using items you might carry like that latter, but making fire without man made materials is a difficult process for most – but it’s because they don’t practice.

You can google the various methods and try them yourself, choose one that works for you and would be useful in many situations. Understand the other methods for situations where your chosen method won’t work well.

Maintaining your body temperature

High up on the list of survival skills, most of us practice this every day of our lives without really thinking about it. The types of clothing you chose on a daily basis, the predicted weather for the day (or weekend) usually dictates our clothing. Regardless of what you’re wearing now, in twenty minutes when you find yourself escaping from a flood and soaked to the skin you’re likely to want to be warmer, and drier.

How you accomplish that becomes the order of business for that moment in time.

Lost in the woods in a snowstorm might be a cold place to be, but, you will soon find yourself sweating in your clothing if you over do it. If you panic and run, if you start working too hard digging out your stuck SUV you will find that you will be sweating. Sweat equals Death. Hypothermia will set in. You are better off taking off all your clothing to dry your skin than letting your clothing become damp with sweat (as I have proven to myself on a couple of occasions)!

Not getting too HOT in the summer time is another condition you must be aware about. Not being hydrated and working too hard in the heat can caused heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke will kill you. Your body temperate gets too hot, and the blood flow can’t remove enough heat from your brain. You literally over heat your brain and will die from this condition.

When you set out to climb a mountain or a day hike you plan your clothing around your trip. Don’t forget a windbreak or other lightweight outer cover to keep the wind off you. There are a lot of ways to plan for such trips. Getting caught with just the shirt on your back is probably a bad thing, but you can overcome if you think about it.

Dry leaves in the winter time stuffed into your clothing will give you insulation.

A damp tee shirt in the summer will cool you down.

You can read up on various ways to maintain your body temperate and come up with many more things than I have time to mention.

Finding edible food sources

This is a more difficult skill to have. It’s also one that will come in handy in the woods, or on a deserted island. However, there is one thing about this you should know. Many plants are edible. Most animals are as well.

If you learn nothing at all about this, learn how to determine if a plant is edible. Normally you find a source of what might be food, a plant of some kind. There are some steps to determine its usefulness as a food source. They are:

1) Is there ENOUGH of the plant around you?
2) Break it open (fruits usually) and smell it.
3) If it smells like peaches, or almonds, don’t eat it – it is PROBABLY poisonous.
4) Rub it on your skin, on the back of your hand or inside of the forearm and wait 30 minutes. If no effect then
5) touch it to your lip. Wait 30 minutes. If no effect after 30 minutes
6) touch it to your tongue. Wait 30 minutes. If no effect then
7) Chew up some of the plant or fruit…. again, wait awhile, a reasonable amount of time. If there is NO EFFECT then…
8) Chew up and swallow a small amount. Wait at least eight hours. If there is no effect, the food is probably ok to eat.

You would do well to obtain a book on plants located in your region and learn them, identify them, and even try them out yourself in various meals once you are sure you can easily identify an edible plant. If you’re going to another part of the world, then get a book on fish, animals or plant identification. These will help you later, especially if you can carry the book with you to help ID things while visiting. If you suddenly find yourself in a bad position, with no food, you will know what you can eat.

Coupled with the ability to locate water that is safe to drink (or purify it) you should be able to survive with no problems until rescue comes or you walk out under your own power.

Self defense (personal and protection of others)

This is a skill anyone can learn and there are literally a dozen different forms of self defense. Maybe more. I won’t detail any of this, but at the least you should learn to defend yourself against attack by one or more bad guys. If they have guns you might be in trouble. But if not, sometimes fighting is your only recourse. Research this one yourself and see where you should go.

This is a daily life skill. Most of us have no idea what nutrition is really about. But simply put it is eating a balanced diet. The right amount of carbohydrates and sugars, animal or vegetable proteins, vitamins and minerals.

There are massive tomes written on this subject. Knowing what to eat day in and day out is not easy to learn in the first place and putting it into practice in a survival situation where protein and edible plants might be difficult to come by in the first place makes this one of the more “difficult skills” to know.

But if you take the time simply to understand what a good, daily requirement would be and start eating right in the first place (to keep your weight where it should be, your strength up, your health in general good and combined with exercise) you should do find.

When you get hungry you will figure out eventually what your body needs. If you keep your strength up in the first place.

This is not a skill I personally “practice” in the woods or camping, hiking or hunting. I make sure I have the right foods with me, know what I can and can’t eat out of the woods and go from there. The main thing to take from this skill is that you need certain things to keep going.

Carbs for immediate energy. Protein to continue body repairs if injured and also in place of “no fats” in your body. Fats provide around one half of the body’s stored energy. Animals can provide plenty of protein and fats.

Plants provide vitamins and minerals your body requires. A survival situation will force your body into using stored fat and energy requiring you to replace it or tire and weaken quickly.

It’s a fair bet that you won’t find any “Government” list of foods that are good for you, the “food groups” won’t be growing on a tree someplace and the chance you’re going to kill animals with nothing but your bare hands are pretty remote. So, considering the best course of action for any given place (woods, forest, mountains, island etc) are really something you should do well ahead of your planned stay.

If you are suddenly thrust into a bad position like in a plane crash or a shipwreck, that’s another story, so general knowledge is usually more helpful than regionally specific information. So consider some general knowledge on nutrition.

Knot tying

Since cavemen first figured out they could use a vine or plant to make a knot, to tie things together to more modern things like sailor marlingspike skills knots have been around a very, very long time. Knot tying can be as simple as a simple overhand knot to something much more complex like a sheet bend, bowline or a granny knot.

Why know knots? It’s more about why should you know which knots than why know how to tie a knot. Anyone can tie a simple knot like a granny knot or a square knot (also known as a reef knot in sailing). A sheet bend is the sort of knot used to create a fishing net. A bowline is used for several reasons on a ship. You might know two or three knots now, but do you know when and how to use them?

Probably not. Most folks don’t. That’s ok, that’s what education is all about. You might tie a knot and find out you can’t easily untie the darned thing and you need to reuse your line!

There are some books available to teach you knot tying, and you can certainly use Google to locate information on

what kind of knots to use when.

But you will find that sometimes you do not have string, rope or any other binding material at hand to use in a

survival situation. That’s where using natural materials like vines or makeshift cordage comes into play and then

tying the right knot will become more important than you can even imagine right now.

Six knots I think you should know, and when to use them and which situations are best for them are as follows:

Square or Reef knot
slip knot
sheet bend
Figure Eight knot
Clove Hitch

Each of these knots is useful in a different situation where any of the others would not work or would fail. I’ll leave it up to you to research them and figure them out.

As always, if you have a specific question for me related to this topic, feel free to contact me.

Tracking – Recognizing dangerous animals and food sources
Hunting – by various means
Fishing – by various means

In one fell swoop I’ll cover these. Personally, I’m a pretty lousy fisherman when it comes to using a fishing rod nd reel and lures. In short, I’ll starve if I have to depend on that method for fishing.

Spearing them, catching them in a net, dynamite or electricity is my preferred method of catching fish.

But I’m sure most folks can figure out that you can catch a fish with some simple methods. Various survival

manuals I’ve read, in particular the US Air Force Survival Manual has several methods of catching fish, from making nets to trot lines, to building fences to catch them in.

Fishing if you’re in a place where you can catch fish in the first place isn’t going to get you a lot of fish most of the time, but anything is better than nothing. If you have NO equipment at all, you’re going to have to create makeshift methods to catch or spear fish.

Tracking is something that takes years to learn properly, but you can pick up some very basics, including identification of tracks from books. Tracking larger creatures is immensely easier than tracking smaller creatures. However, most animals create their own paths in the woods and they continue to use those paths consistently leaving animal trails that are easily spotted if you know what to look for.

Finding animal spoor is not as difficult IF you know what to look for, and where to look. Tracks are harder to spot in a woods setting than on a beach. But tracking those animals to a place where you might be able to catch, trap or kill one will be exceedingly difficult for most people.

What tracking does for you though is to confirm the type of animal you’re after, locate it’s trails and allows you to set up snares for smaller animals, or traps for bigger ones. On a good day, it will get you in a position to kill a larger animal for a good quantity of protein.

The other thing tracking will do for you is help you identify dangerous animals you want to stay away from like buffalo, big cats, some pigs and in foreign lands, elephants, rhinos and wildebeests!

Hunting goes along with tracking. Tracking gets you near the animals. Hunting puts you face to face with the beast you’re after.

I can not recommend getting all your hunting skills from a book. I can’t recommend you going out and testing your personal skills against nature either. I DO recommend you GO with an experienced hunter (if you’re not already a hunter).

But, if you think you will ever be in a position where hunting will be an important survival skill, certainly learn what you can.

For the record, hunting doesn’t just including finding and killing an animal for food. It includes how to skin and clean, butcher and use the animal remains! This also includes (under normal circumstances) taking care of the environment to the best of your ability. In a survival situation, pretty much anything goes.

Forecasting weather

Forecasting weather isn’t as difficult as many believe. Certainly there are meteorologists who go to college for years to learn how. But weather prediction is based on wind and cloud patterns for the most part and people have been predicting weather a few hours to a day or two out for centuries. You only gain this sort of knowledge by examining cloud structure, wind patterns and knowing what went before today to know what tomorrow will bring.

In other words, this is a “difficult” skill requiring some basic knowledge of the region where you live, knowing the weather patterns and studying them ahead of time to be able to predict anything with accuracy. Pick up a book or read on the Internet on cloud patterns and what they bring. This will get you started. Keep a log book for your area on a daily basis. If you have access to simple things like a barometer, thermometer and wind indicator (telling you where the wind is blowing from) record this information and watch for patterns.

When you see “Mare’s Tails” or Cirrus clouds, what happens in the next 24-48 hours (probably a low pressure system or cold front, or both) and so on. Knowing this sort of information can give you a leg up on the other hunters out there knowing when it is going to rain or snow, and when the deer will be bedding down or moving around!

As you can see, many “survival skills” are translating into other daily use skills. Daily use skills translate into survival skills too.

Disposal of waste and sanitation

This is a daily use skill. When you’re in the woods, you basically have to learn to shit in the woods. Some folks don’t know how. There’s even a book written on the subject.

But this is very important in a survival situation where there are more people than just yourself. In flooding and quakes and other natural disasters, the normal public utilities go away. Toilets don’t work. Electricity doesn’t function. Waste material can quickly over come what meager amounts of water are available in such cases and preventing bacterial infection can save your life.

Knowing how to dig and set up a latrine can save everyone involved.

This is a skill that you should learn even if you never have to use it just so you understand the dangers of various communicable diseases present in natural disasters and how people catch them.

Waste disposal doesn’t just include human or animal waste. It might include burying the dead, either humans or animals. Nothing something any of us want to have to do but depending on the circumstances you might be called upon to be a community leader and your knowledge of this might assist you in keeping not only yourself, but others alive and safe from diseases.

Basic First Aid skills

These skills go hand-in-hand. First aid can always come in handy to know at any time of the day or any day of the week. These go without much explanation.

AED – Automatic External Defibrillator – is a skill you get when you learn CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation). I get trained every two years in CPR. Never know when it might come in handy and I’ve used it once on a random victim many years ago. Don’t think I helped save his life exactly, but he was still alive when I left the scene and other, more highly trained people took over. I would love to see everyone trained… you know in case *I* need CPR!

Navigation (various terrains like land, water, mountains etc)

Navigation, how to get from one place to another, or to get yourself OUT of the woods and back to civilization is a skill we all possess to some extent. We know how to get to the store, the movies, the gas station, to work from home and back again.

But basic outdoors skills to find your way into the woods to that deer stand or the creek where you fish might be lacking in most people.

Navigation skills include learning to use a map and compass (together!), use a map to identify distant features, fixing (locating) your position on the map using the compass and deciding which direction to go if you don’t have a map, compass or other helpful items.

Simply knowing that if you follow a stream or river downstream will generally (not always) take you to civilization. That’s a form of navigation. Knowing that in certain areas (for example the African Savanna) a certain kind of bird builds its nest only on the west side of the tree (to get out of the prevailing east winds) gives you directions. Looking at the north star will give you true north, and knowing you can use a vertical stick to get directions from the shadow of the sun easily are also a part of “land navigation” skills which are easy to learn, teach or use.

Navigation, like all other survival skills provides you with a method to stay alive in unfamiliar terrain, and to get you back to civilization – assuming that’s where you want to go.

Survival skills of all sorts are those things that help you survive long enough to get somewhere safe. That’s the whole purpose. If you’re using “survival skills” on a daily basis you’re no longer surviving, you’re “living”.

Hiding, escape and evasion

Hiding from an enemy, dangerous animals, gangs or Heaven Forbid “The Government” is a survival skill too. If you’re trying to stay alive anyway. Escaping and evading in general becomes a skill required in only one real situation. Either someone is out to get you or you’re in “enemy territory”. In either case this becomes a skill used along with navigation, fishing, hiding, hunting, making a fire (and knowing when NOT to make a fire), finding water and many, many other skills some of which I haven’t even listed here to keep you alive, get you away from the danger and avoid detection by the “enemy”.

I’ll leave the “enemy” to your imagination but in this day and age of technology unless you’re up against a pretty rudimentary enemy you probably aren’t going to outrun the cops, governments, or military personnel out to get you.

But, at least you might be able to prolong your life if you’re skilled in these things.

I do not recommend this as a book learned skill alone. If you’re going to learn it, read for sure, but try taking a course. You might be surprised at the amount of knowledge you can gain with carefully pointed questions when they are aimed at a good, experienced teacher.

There are a few books available out there, and both “Urban” and “Rural” (or woods) type of Escape and Evasion skills are considered in the books.

Psychology (yes, understanding what the OTHERS will do!)
Planning for the worst – hope for the best
Expect the unexpected
Personal motivation, survival mentality – why keep going?

The last four skills are less “skills” and more “mental preparation”.

Most of you won’t have a degree in psychology, or even to a great degree care much about the subject. But I can assure you that if you think like a bad guy, you can guard against the bad guys. If you think like a terrorist you can predict their behavior. If you think like a cop and train like a cop you can understand how they think as well. If you can put yourself into the position of a would-be “enemy”, or a friend, or a co-survivor you will be able to predict behavior of those around you.

Why is this important in survival? If you’re alone, why worry? Good question. If you’re alone you’re probably ok, but if there is even ONE OTHER survivor with you, one of you will have to take the lead – be the leader. If you’re skilled, that will automatically be you. Survivors can panic, be scared easily, worried about being “late for dinner” or have any of a dozen other emotional conditions which might require you to calm them and direct them.

They might be the type to “give up”. Me, I’d give it a shot to convince them not too. Once, after that, they are on their own. If they are going to be a team player, great. If not, there is “me” and “me” is my main goal in survival. Sorry, but that’s the way it is. A family member is a different story, there’s an emotional connection there and you have got to deal with that too.

You might have people who are with you who are downright dangerous because they don’t KNOW what to do, and won’t listen. You have to get control.

You might be with some less than savory people who might stick you in the back with a knife on their first opportunity.

Being a good judge of people when face-to-face is also a survival skill and helps you use your own knowledge of psychology to help control the situation.

Of course no one needs to go out and get a degree in psychology (and I don’t recommend that as a life style or career anyway, because to me psychologists are a waste of oxygen in the first place, and in the second place they are usually government workers, social workers and that too is a waste…. but that’s my personal opinion of the field). Where psychology SHINES is being able to – well, to be blunt – profile people. Yep, you heard me, profiling good guys, bad guys, terrorists, gangs, banditos, survivors. All of them. Being able to get a grasp on the type of people you must deal with when trying to survive will keep you alive.

Knowing that the bandito on the border IS going to shoot you if he gets the chance will make you grasp the one important thing you should know about survival above all else… DON’T BE THERE WHEN HE SHOOTS!

Seriously, knowing people and the way they act and knowing to not put yourself in a dangerous position in the first place is a basic skill (one I didn’t list, exactly as you shall see in a moment).

So psychology is a good thing to know. Basic psychology, like MOB psychology will give you some incentive to NOT become involved in a mob, avoid them at all costs and if you’re an unlikely, unlucky survivor of a plane crash with no obvious leaders other than a chaotic, psychotic loon you might be better off going it alone. If you’ve chosen to be a leader then knowing how to get people to do the right thing to stay alive becomes one of your most important goals. Keeping others alive will keep you alive most of the time. Helping them help themselves is the best thing you can give them.

Getting away from a bad situation that is getting worse though might be your only right choice and understanding how people are behaving is one of the skills you can develop.

Is this easy? No. I’m over fifty and have had a lot of years just observing people from a distance and noting their behavior – and I’ve developed a kind of sixth sense about folks. I can usually tell in a matter of seconds after meeting someone if they are going to be trustworthy or slugs. I wouldn’t expect everyone out there to develop this skill except after a long period of time with a mind to doing so. But you can certainly read up on how groups behave – say, survival groups, books about survivors, stories about survivors, stories about surviving plane crashed, boat accidents, mountain climbing accidents and so forth.

What this will do for you is give you a wide range of “experiences” even though you didn’t go through them yourself. One of the underlying skills you will gain from reading about others is having “already thought out the subject in detail” and your brain WILL put the things together at the time you’re in a similar situation!

That is what I consider “psychology” of “survival”. Knowing what others who’ve gone before have done!

This is where “planning for the worst – hoping for the best” comes into play. Since I was a child I’ve used that phrase. For fifty years I’ve lived by it. Sometimes I think it is what gave me high blood pressure, “What-Ifing” everything. And sure, I’ve had people say “You can what if something to death… blah blah blah” but every single time I’ve thought out a situation and went through every thing I knew about the situation I came out ok. I didn’t die (and I’ve been in several life threatening situations in my life now). So far, so good.

I can ONLY recommend that you PLAN things out ahead of time, even if you never expect to BE in that particular, harrowing situation. THINK about it before hand. Guess at what the conditions would be. It’s a mental exercise that keeps you sharp and thinking, not a waste of your time as soooooo many have told me.

(You know you’ve all heard or maybe said it yourself, “IF a nuclear bomb is coming, I’m going to grab a six pack and lawn chair and see what happens”. The truth is I’ve never said that. I’ve always thought about how I can escape. Even if I don’t, AT LEAST I TRIED! )

No matter what, never give up hope you will get out of the situation you’re in. You might not, but you might be surprised when you do that it “didn’t seem quite as tough as it really was”!

This brings us to “Expect the unexpected”. What’s that even mean? How can you expect something you don’t expect anyway? Well, you can’t. But all of us have an imagination – and in some of us it is much more active than we will admit in public…. but that’s another story. The fact is, if you’re walking down the street and a bank robbery happens right in front of you and you’re standing there like an idiot while the bad guys are shooting at witnesses you’re going to die. So my little “exercise” is to always be alert, what’s going on around me and then consider the “What Ifs” that MIGHT happen even though I can’t even believe it might.

Walking past the bank, I consider what IF there is a bank robbery and I’m caught right here. What do I do, drop?

Run? Pull my own weapon? What if they are armored? Pulling my own gun won’t help. Running might. Diving for cover might. Dropping to the ground will get me killed, so running, zigzagging away is my best bet! Which way?

Through traffic? Well, any which way that’s going to put something between me and randomly applied bullets!

The building in front of you a block away suddenly explodes. What do you do? What do *I* do? I dive for cover before the blast wave hits me if can. Glass will be flying. Piece of things, people, rocks, gravel – you name it.

Get out of the line of fire. In fact, as soon as you can you would move away from the building as quickly as possible, since there MIGHT be three more bombs. Maybe five more. Maybe someone was launching motor shells in that direction! MAYBE it was a plane hitting the building and another building close by is the next target. Not going to happen, right? Well, it did in New York.

So, expecting the unexpected is as simple as playing a mind game with yourself. Think of the most unexpected thing you can imagine and then imagine it happening. Then roll the scenario through your mind forward, then backward.

Consider various conditions, weather, wind, rain, snow, high traffic, low traffic, wild animals escaping from zoo in the middle of everything and an alien UFO landing at the same time. Highly unlikly by any odds but still it’s a MENTAL game, an EXERCISE.

Every exercise you do helps some muscle. Let’s help those brain muscles!

Personal motivation, survival mentality – why keep going? Why indeed. All of us have an innate, instinctive need to survive. Don’t believe me? Hold your breath until you pass out. Go ahead. Lie down on the bed and just HOLD YOUR BREATH (that way if you pass out you won’t hit your head). Are you holding your breath? Ok… are you passing out yet? NO? No? You can’t make yourself pass out by holding your breath. You will not let you do it.

I have tried this experiment before in classrooms where I was teaching. No one has ever fainted. I’ve tried this with my kids (you know, when they hold their breath to make you do something – doesn’t work with me) – I just wished the kids luck with that. The fact is you will do everything you can to survive if someone puts a pillow on your face. You will try to get to the surface of the water you suddenly find yourself in in a bad accident.

You will pull your hand away from the flame. You will close your eyes when the wind blows dirt at you (and hopefully beat that one sand grain!) and you will run, duck, dodge and hide if someone shoots at you.

Those are your built in survival instincts, those are your built in skills, the ones you didn’t HAVE to learn. Oh, and by the way, if you were able to hold your breath long enough to actually pass out, your BODY will automatically take over and force you to breathe! (Autonomic physiologic responses are built in as well!)

Your heart beats, you breathe, you respirate autonomically, and you excrete, you will eat food and drink water based on what your body tells you. Eventually you HAVE to go to the bathroom, you HAVE to eat, you HAVE to have fluids. Those survival instincts keep most creatures alive without even thinking about it.

Animals have a fight or flight instinct as well. If they can, they will flee danger. If they can not, they almost ALWAYS will TURN AND FIGHT. Even mice will fight you no matter how big you are if they are placed in a position to fight and are denied flight paths!

So… WHY survive? Why not just GIVE UP? Unless you are so beaten and lose the will to even live your body will try to keep you alive.

If you are at the point where you’ve given up, somewhere along the way you did something wrong. You skipped one of the other skills. You perhaps didn’t look for food. Or perhaps you couldn’t. You don’t have water or couldn’t get to it. But if you have tried, and I mean TRIED everything and finally give up out of weakness (not mental, physical) then you at least tried.

If however, you still have any opportunity left to you to live, keep going, get even, kill whomever put you in that position, see your family, rescue someone else, or just to write a bloody book when it’s all over then you have enough to keep that “will to live” in you.

And don’t laugh at writing a book either. Some survivor books have made a lot of money for the survivors. What the hell, right?

When all is said and done, these few skills I’ve personally picked as “basic skills” are probably more than most care to know. And honestly if I had to pick five skills right off the top of my head everyone should know they would be simply make fire, make shelter, find water, land navigation and controlling your body temperatures as my main, most important skills to know.

Why? Because if it all goes to hell tomorrow and you’re kicked back to the stone age you can survive, you can travel to another place that has more food or water. You can regulate your body temperature in winter or summer. You can find food. You can find water. You can stay warm, cook your food, purify your water and keep the evil night creatures away with fire. So… why not learn those now?


I hope that those of you who took the time to actually read this learned something or at least confirmed for yourself you’re doing the same thing others are when it comes to learning about survival. I don’t expect many people to read this whole article, and I don’t expect everyone will see it like I see it but I hope somewhere along the way someone, somewhere will find this information helpful and if they find themselves in a very bad, bad situation it will help them survive to live another day and perhaps even write about their own adventures.

Plan for the worst, hope for the best!

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