The Three Most Important Survival Skills

Posted on: May 12, 2016

This is just a quick, drive by, sort of blog post. A little less than two months ago, I was approached by the editor of Ballistic Magazine and asked to contribute to a round table discussion sort of article. The topic was to identify what I felt were the top three most important survival skills one should learn and explain my reasoning. Unfortunately, Ballistic Magazine was one of the ones that went defunct when Harris Publications went belly up. That being the case, I thought I’d post my response here for your entertainment and discussion.

Let me say this, though, before we get into my answer. The situation dictates the skills needed to survive. If I’m lost in the southwestern US, I’m likely to be more concerned with getting under some sort of shelter and finding water than I’m going to be looking for fire building materials. That said, I feel the following skill sets are imperative for every survivalist to learn and foster.

Which top three skill sets do you think would be the most important for your safety and survival?

Situational awareness
Making fire

Why? Often, we think of situational awareness as applying primarily to detecting interpersonal threats. However, the reality is that being aware of your surroundings and keeping your head on a swivel will do far more than just alert you to a potential mugger. You’re more likely to see the snake before you step on it. You’ll take note of the tree limb that looks like it could come crashing down on your bedroll. You’ll notice the gopher hole that is waiting to twist your ankle. Survival is a matter of mitigating the little risks far more than it is reliant upon heroic efforts.

Skill with making fire under a variety of conditions is extremely important. Fire keeps us warm, dries us out, cooks our food, and disinfects our water. Not only will fire keep the critters, both real and imagined, away at night, making fire is an incredible boost to one’s self-confidence. Survival is just as much psychological as it is physical. Making fire is tremendously effective in that regard.

Foraging isn’t just about finding wild edibles. Being able to locate natural tinder, good things to eat, and plants and other substances that will help heal, all of that and more fall under the foraging umbrella. As I often tell people, get into the habit of finding what you need before you need it. When you take a break from hiking, look around you. Squirrel away a handful of dried grass or plant fluff in case you need it for tinder later. In an urban area, look for things like cordage and small containers that could be useful. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

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