Making a survival shelter, starting a fire in the rain, hunting for food, identifying edible plants… These are just some of the many outdoor survival skills that everyone should know. But how – and where – are you supposed to start learning them? Don’t worry. You don’t have to plunge your family into survivalism with some hardcore boot camp or survival course. Here are some fun ways to start learning survival skills today.
Skills: Navigation, map reading, how to use a compass
Have you ever heard of Orienteering? It is a sport where you run through the woods with a map and a compass. The goal is to get to all the points on the map in the shortest period of time. Aside from being a lot of fun, it gives you a chance to learn valuable navigational skills while being in the great outdoors. You can go to the Orienteering website to see if where the nearest club is to you.
Buy a Plant Field Guide
Skills: Plant identification
Look around you. How many plants can you identify? If you are like most people, then you can probably only recognize a dozen or so. And, of those that you can recognize, do you know if they are edible or have any medicinal value? You’d be surprised how many common plants are very useful in survival situations, like these edible plants you can find in cities.
Go buy a good field guide to the plants in your local area. Then go for a walk with your family and try to identify the plants you see. Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to memorize the entire field guide at once, nor do you want to flip through pages while on your walk. Two ways to get started with plant identification are:
- Choose a few plants from the guidebook and look for them while on your walk OR
- Go for a walk and gather samples of some plants. Take them home and then locate them in your guidebook.
This article also has good info on how to get started with plant identification.
Build a Fort
Skill: Building a survival shelter
As a child, I was lucky enough to live near a small woods. My friends and I had fun making our own forts out of branches. Once we even made a really elaborate cabin-style fort. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this play was actually prepping me for wilderness survival situations.
If you have a woods nearby, then go out and build a fort. If you don’t have kids and do this, people will probably think you are weird – but who cares!
If you don’t have a woods nearby but do have a yard, then get some scrap wood and see what you can make. The first few attempts are probably going to be hideous and structurally unsound, but you will learn in the process.
And what if you don’t have a yard? You can make mockups of survival shelters out of sticks (here are some simple survival shelter designs). Or you can get involved in a project like Habitat for Humanity which will teach you building skills while you do something good for the community.
Host a BBQ
Skill: Off-grid cooking
Yes, hosting a BBQ really does prepare you for survival. Of course, I’m not talking about a BBQ on a fancy gas-powered grill. Try building an old-school BBQ pit and roasting all sorts of foods over it. You can also try these methods of off-grid cooking.
Play Paintball or Laser Tag
Skills: Hunting, marksmanship, self-defense
Learning outdoor survival skills can be tough if you live in a city. But I bet you have a laser tag gaming center in your local shopping mall. Maybe you even have a paintball range nearby.
Games can be a bit costly to play but, trust me, they are worth it! Aside from being loads of fun for the entire family (and good exercise), you will learn valuable hunting and self-defense skills. You will also learn how to evade attackers and stay calm under pressure.
Take a First Aid Course
Skills: Emergency first aid, rescue
This is one thing that you should really invest in. Everyone should know first aid basics like:
- How to stop heavy bleeding
- How to dress a wound
- Heimlich maneuver
- How to treat shock
- How to treat hypothermia
You can find a first aid course here through the Red Cross. There also may be many free first aid courses in your local area.
Skills: Making a fire, sleeping outdoors, outdoor cooking, and much more!
What is the best way to be prepared for survival outdoors? GO OUTDOORS! There are dozens of survival skills you can learn from camping, and it is great for boosting self-confidence in children. Most importantly for survival, camping helps you get used to being outdoors and comfortable in nature.
Sadly, camping is becoming an increasingly rarer pastime. Orion Magazine reports that visits to National Parks in the USA are down 25% from 1987. The Colorado Independent reports that 80% of Denver kids have never been to the mountains (despite living at their foothills). A survey found that only about 13% of Americans went camping in 2013.
If you’ve never been camping before, then please START SLOW! Don’t drive off to the most remote mountain you can find and try to survive. Here are some tips on how to start camping:
- Don’t have time to go camping? Camp in your yard. It isn’t exactly the wilderness, but you will still have to put up a tent and it will get you used to sleeping outdoors.
- Start with campground camping. This is the easiest because you can bring lots of gear in your car. After a few times with campground camping, you will better know how much gear you need to bring.
- Go camping with someone who already has experience. Learn from those who know!
- Buy the best gear you can afford. You don’t need anything really fancy, but that $20 tent isn’t going to cut it if it starts raining. If budget is an issue, borrow gear from people.
- Always check the rules and facilities before going to a campsite. Campsites can be very different, such as some have luxury facilities whereas others may have just an outhouse.
Image credit: Orienteering Bosco Martinetto by Federazione Italiana Sport Orientamento, found on Flickr. CC BY NC 2.0
If you have kids, please read this post about how to teach your children survival skills.
How are you learning survival skills? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on Facebook!