Many people assemble an ultimate bug out bag and assume they’re ready for the worst. But the truth is, without having a few survival techniques up your sleeve you won’t make it very far. You can increase the effectiveness of your gear if you learn a handful of these crucial survival skills…
Stop. Think. Observe. Plan. If you completely lose your cool at the beginning your chances of survival are slim. No problem has ever been solved by panicking. Stress and emotion disrupt the logical part of your mind – the part that’s going to get your ass to safety. Think rationally about what’s going on. Where are you? What is happening? Are you in immediate danger? Calm yourself down and formulate a plan to find safety.
Surprise surprise. You probably know how important fire is but when was the last time you built one from scratch? Even under ideal conditions making a fire is difficult. Throw in wet weather to the mix and you have yourself a recipe for frustration, or in a real survival situation, death. There are a number of techniques to increase your chances of success.
Principles of firemaking – If you stick to the science of firemaking you’ll understand how the techniques I describe in this post function. Fire is a chemical reaction that requires 3 elements – oxygen, heat, and fuel. Every piece of wood has a certain ignition temperature – meaning if you can apply enough heat to the organic material it will catch flame – granted there is enough oxygen around (if you’re reading this in space I can’t help you.) The amount of heat required to ignite the wood depends on the density of the material and how dry it is. The dryer the wood the better. If you can create enough heat and not smother your fire you will prosper.
Start small – You can’t throw a couple sparks onto a log and expect to blaze up. Any good fire starts with the tinder bundle. Good tinder is easily ignited by a flame or sparks. The tinder is used to light smaller twigs. The twigs are used to light larger pieces of kindling until eventually the larger logs catch and you have a decent fire that burns through the night. Dry leaves, grass, or fibrous bark can be used to create your tinder bundle. Kindling can be gathered from standing branches or collected from the ground if it’s dry. Wet kindling can be stripped of its bark and split into smaller pieces to reveal a dry inner core.
fire making techniques – There are a number of techniques you can implement to get your fire blazing. These techniques involve laying a proper foundation for the fire and making sure the smaller flames have enough oxygen to grow.
1.) Tepee method – Place your tinder bundle on a dry surface or a bed of leaves. It helps to dig a fire pit to shield small flames from the wind. Stack your pieces of kindling in a tepee formation around the tinder bundle but leave an opening so you can light the tinder bundle. Once you light the tinder, add more kindling until the structure collapses on itself. At this point you can start laying larger pieces of wood over the kindling.
2.) Log cabin method – This technique is considered superior to the tepee method by many survivalists. For one, it doesn’t collapse on itself like the tepee. Sometimes the tepee can collapse and not catch the larger pieces of wood. The log cabin is structurally stable and allows room for oxygen to flow freely – supporting a healthy environment for your survival fire. Start by laying a foundation of thick pieces of wood flat on the ground. Cris cross this foundation with another layer of slightly smaller sticks – about thumb size.
Lay your tinder bundle on the top of this second layer and then cross two more larger sticks in parallel with each other across each side of the bundle. Lay smaller sticks across the tinder bundle and then place 2 more frame sticks on either side to support a layer of kindling. Continue stacking in this fashion and then drop a match down the hatch. The tinder will ignite the first layer of kindling and the fire will progress up the entire stack. Very clean. very efficient.
Some survivalists shun the idea of a “stuctured fire” opting to simply light a bundle of tinder and throw on some wood. To each his own. It’s a good idea to get out there and experiment. This way you can find a method you are most comfortable with.
3.) Rigging shelter
In extreme conditions, man can live for 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food. It’s crucial to build shelter to shield yourself from the elements of your environment. If you grabbed your bug out bag before TSHTF then you have at least a tarp and some paracord. This versatile combination can create many different types of shelters to accommodate different environments.
Rigging techniques – It’s quite easy to rig up a shelter if you know how to create a tension line. Your tension line will serve as the backbone of your shelter. Find two trees and a tie a half hitch around one of them:
Next create a tension loop about 3/4 down the line and feed the standing end through. Pull as tight as you need it and then tie it off. This is called a Truckers Hitch:
Throw your tarp over this line and then stake the ends to the ground or place heavy rocks along the edge. Alternatively, create any number of configurations. I particularly like the body bag configuration for sleeping. As I mention in the ultimate bug out bag guide, a tarp is much lighter than a tent and highly versatile. Do yourself a favor and pick one up. Make sure it has grommets and holes around the edges for increased anchor points.
4.) Purifying water
Securing clean drinking water will be your top priority in a survival situation. Finding it will depend entirely on your location and your situation. As a rule of thumb, water should always be purified before drinking it – especially water found in urban areas. Years of industry and pollution have tainted the water with chemicals and bacteria. Even in the wilderness water contains protozoa, viruses and bacteria. Drinking infected water will have you shitting liquid and dehydrate you even more.
Did you pack a water filter in your bug out bag? A reliable water filter is the most effective solution to obtain clean drinking water from dubious source. Products like the life straw are cheap solutions to your biggest problem in a survival crisis – the provisioning of clean water.
Required reading: Everything you need to know about purifying water
However, you can quickly fashion a DIY water filter using readily available materials.
Water purifying technique – Snatch up an empty 2 liter or other plastic container and chop the bottom off. Fill with activated charcoal, sand, and gravel. Stick a piece of cloth in the hole to keep everything in place. Simply pour in some water and collect it when it comes out with a clean drinking container.
Water purifying technique #2 – A second way to collect clean water is with a solar still. All you need is a plastic sheet, a clean bucket to collect water, and a rock. Dig a hole in the ground and throw in some vegetation. Put your bucket in the center of the hole and the cover it with the plastic sheet. Place a weighty rock in the center. The solar rays from the sun heat the hole. As the soil and vegetation lose their moisture it collects on the plastic and then drops in the bucket. Drink deeply my friend.
5.) Signaling techniques
If you find yourself in need of rescue you can use multiple variations of the international distress signal. From the wikipedia page:
A distress signal indicates that a person or group of people, ship, aircraft, or other vehicle is threatened by grave and imminent danger and requests immediate assistance.
The IDS can be communicated in several ways:
- Transmitting a spoken voice Mayday message by radio over very high frequency channel 16 (156.8 MHz) and/or high frequency on 2182 kHz
- Transmitting a digital distress signal by activating (or pressing) the distress button (or key) on a marine radio equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) over the VHF (channel 70) and/or HF frequency bands.
- Transmitting a digital distress signal by activating (or pressing) the distress button (or key) on an Inmarsat-C satellite internet device
- Sending the Morse code group SOS by light flashes or sounds
- Burning a red flare (either hand-held or aerial parachute flare)
- Lighting a non-pyrotechnic visual distress signal device
- Emitting orange smoke from a canister
- Showing flames on the vessel (as from a burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc.)
- Raising and lowering slowly and repeatedly both arms outstretched to each side
- Making a continuous sound with any fog-signalling apparatus
- Firing a gun or other explosive signal at intervals of about a minute
- Flying the international maritime signal flags NC
- Displaying a visual signal consisting of a square flag having above or below it a ball or anything resembling a ball (round or circular in appearance)
- Launching distress rockets
6.) Situational awareness
Be aware of your surroundings and what’s going on. Situational awareness means having a complete understanding of the situation at hand. It’s a mental snapshot you keep in RAM of your environment. More importantly, it’s paying attention to the elements of your situation that are most important for your current mission (since the human brain can’t pay attention to everything.) Are there serious injuries in your group? Are you hurt? Are there any immediate dangers you need to address? What is the next move and what are the logical steps to reach your next goal?
It’s also about keeping cool under intense pressure. You can increase your day to day situational awareness by meditating and become hyper aware of your surroundings and what’s going on. Even in the grocery store you can do this. For instance, does the checkout clerk look like he’s about to snap?
Using the information you observe you then make choices about what to do next. Your observations inform your decisions. Situational awareness is an important skill to cultivate.
The best way to survive is to prepare. Preparation breeds caution and cushions the blow of being thrown into an SHTF situation. While you can’t be 100% prepared for every situation, you can take practical steps to ensure the safety of yourself and your family. At the very least, secure resources for an extended power outage and “prep” for potential situations. Going out into the wilderness and learning the basics is a fun way to spend time and learn about survival. It doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom!