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5 Basic Survival Skills You Can Practice at Home This Fall

An image of a campsite in the wintertime. There is someone tending a campfire to the left and in the back there is a tent set up.
Survival skills may be intimidating to some people which is why practicing at home is a great way to build confidence.

As we navigate through life's adventures, having basic survival skills under our belt is not just smart—it's essential. Be it an unexpected power outage, a hiking misadventure, or even a global crisis, these skills can make all the difference.

In this article, I will cover five basic survival skills that you can start practicing right in the comfort of your home this fall! Whether you're an experienced survivalist or a complete novice, these skills are easy to learn and practice.

Building a Fire - A Warm Skill to Master

Possessing the knowledge to build a fire is an invaluable survival skill that provides both warmth and a means of cooking. From warming your hands on a chilly fall evening to roasting marshmallows or heating a simple tin-can meal, fire serves various purposes.

Building a fire pit in your backyard is a practical way to practice this skill. All you need is a safe, open space, some rocks to encircle the area, and of course, firewood. However, make sure the pit is not too close to any flammable materials like trees or wooden furniture.

Alternatively, you can use a large metal coffee can as a controlled fire vessel. Simply poke some holes in it for ventilation, place your tinder and smaller sticks inside, and ignite the fire. This method ensures a small, manageable, and temporary fire that won’t get out of control.

An image of a fire burning through a Swedish Torch fire
The Swedish Torch is an option for those with limited firewood. The nice thing is that you can cook on top of it.

The Swedish Torch Fire

The Swedish Torch, also known as the Swedish Fire Log, offers an exciting way for both young and experienced outdoor enthusiasts to practice their fire-making skills.

It is not only a source of warmth and a cooking station, but it also offers an interesting conversation piece during a camping trip.

First, find a log roughly 1 foot in diameter and 2-3 feet in length. Using a chainsaw, make a cross-shaped cut from the top, stopping a few inches from the bottom. Pull the segments apart slightly to create an opening at the top where you can place your kindling and tinder. For safety purposes, always ensure you are wearing proper safety gear and working in a clear area when using the chainsaw.

Once the log is prepared, fill the opening with your choice of tinder and kindling, and light it up. The design should draw air in, feeding the fire from within and causing it to burn from the top down, concentrating the heat and creating a natural 'stove-top' on the log's flat surface.

Regardless of the method, remember: safety first. Always have a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby when you're practicing your fire-building skills. Never leave the fire unattended, and ensure it's fully extinguished before calling it a day.

Dirt is another great way to smother a fire. Using it in conjunction with the other methods is a surefire way to put out the blaze.

Fire is a friend, but only if treated with respect and caution.

Knot Tying - The Binding Basics

Understanding how to tie different types of knots can be crucial in various survival situations, as well as in day-to-day scenarios. For instance, securing a tent to the ground, fastening a hammock between trees, or simply tying a secure knot to a boat or trailer are all tasks that require different knot-tying skills.

An image of a thick, grey rope that is in some kind of knot.
Use th constrictor knot for things you don't want to lose, a taut line hitch for tarps, and a bowline for most other things.

Here are some simple knots you can practice at home:

Taut Line Hitch: This adjustable knot is perfect for when tension matters, like securing a tent to a stake. This knot allows you to change the length of a line while it's under load, which is useful in situations where the line may stretch or contract, such as when it's wet or dry.

Constrictor Knot: This knot is highly secure and tightens under load, making it ideal for bundling firewood or securing a load to a vehicle. It's difficult to untie, which can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the situation.

Bowline Knot: Known as the 'king of knots', the bowline creates a secure loop at the end of a rope, which won't tighten or loosen under load. This knot is extremely versatile, and useful for rescuing individuals, to securing a boat to a dock.

Practice tying and untying these knots in various materials and under different conditions to master them fully. Remember, the ability to tie and untie knots quickly can often mean the difference between safety and danger in many situations.

First Aid - Healing Hands at Home

First aid is a vital skill that everyone should possess, as it can prove critical during emergencies to preserve life, prevent further harm, or promote recovery. These skills become especially crucial when professional medical help is not immediately available.

A few practical first-aid techniques that can be easily learned and practiced at home are bandaging a wound and creating a salve. Bandaging a wound correctly can control bleeding and protect the wound from infection. Practicing this on a piece of fruit or a stuffed animal can help you hone this life-saving skill. As for creating a salve using items like jewelweed for bug bites or rosemary for muscle aches can be beneficial for minor burns or scrapes, providing relief and promoting healing.

Knowing how to check if a person is injured or lucid is another important aspect of first aid. This involves checking the person's responsiveness, breathing, and pulse, as well as looking for any visible signs of injury.

In any emergency, remaining calm is paramount. A composed demeanor can help in efficient decision-making and can also soothe the injured person, reducing their stress and fear.

First aid may seem daunting at first, but with regular practice, these skills can become second nature, potentially enabling you to save a life in an emergency.

An image of an open med kit with various items inside such as gauze, band-aids, and alcohol wipes.
Having a small-medium sized med kit is great for individuals up to a family of 3.

Shelter Building - Your Safe Haven

Building a suitable shelter is a fundamental survival skill, providing a haven from harsh weather conditions and potential hazards. The size of the shelter is vital, with smaller spaces being easier to heat and maintain. For a lone individual, a debris shelter—constructed using natural materials such as leaves, branches, and soil—can be a wise choice, offering warmth and concealment.

When in larger groups, especially during the fall, a 'lean-to' shelter is beneficial. This simple structure, made by leaning sticks against a tree or a rock, can accommodate multiple people comfortably and protect against wind and rain.

In the stark cold of winter, a 'quinzee'—a shelter sculpted from a mound of snow—can be incredibly effective. Its insulating properties keep the interior relatively warm, making it a valuable technique for survival in snowy environments.

Building a shelter is about utilizing available resources, and understanding how they can be manipulated to offer maximum protection. Practicing these skills at home, perhaps by building small-scale models of these shelters, can prepare you for potential real-world scenarios.

An image of a quinzee that has a shovel in front of it.
A quinzee is basically a hollowed out snow pile. Keep in mind that you can only sleep in it for a few nights before it starts to lose its insulation value.

Purifying Water - Can't Survive Without It

Water is the bedrock of life, and in a survival situation, it quickly becomes a precious commodity. Knowing how to purify water can mean the difference between staying hydrated and healthy or falling ill from a waterborne disease. The first step in this process is filtration. This can be done using a simple cloth to strain out any visible particulate matter, such as sediment or debris.

Once filtered, boiling the water is a reliable way to exterminate most pathogens and harmful bacteria. Keeping a metal container for boiling, matches or a Ferro rod, and a reliable fuel source are essential items in any survival kit. Remember, the boiling process should last at least one minute to ensure maximum safety.

Something important to keep in the back of your mind: clear water is not necessarily clean water. Even seemingly pristine, running sources of water can be contaminated upstream by unseen pollutants, such as a rotting animal carcass or human waste.

It's best to err on the side of caution and purify water before consumption, no matter how clear it appears.

An image of faucets coming out of a moss covered wall. They are pouring fresh water.
Failing to purify your water can lead to intestinal distress causing issues such as dehydration.

Basic Survival Skills: Your Fall Focus

As we step into the heart of the fall season, it's the perfect time to hone your survival skills. From first aid to shelter building and water purification, these basic abilities are not only essential for survival situations but also cultivate self-reliance and confidence.

Practice makes perfect. Use this season to gather your family around, making each learning session an enjoyable family bonding experience. The more you familiarize yourself with these skills, the more instinctive they become.

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Oct 26, 2023

This has everything readers need to get started living independently. Very much appreciated.

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