Photo- Daina Pop
Most of the survival reality shows would have you believe that you could awaken one day to find yourself in the middle of a jungle or in a vast wilderness area with nothing but the clothes on your back, and with shoes in some cases. You may be expected to survive with nothing more than flip-flops, a piece of Styrofoam and your PJ bottoms.
Of course, the shows are all about ratings. The reality is however, that you left home for a mountain bike ride and the tire blew out 12 miles from home and the fall makes it hard for you to walk. A few hours day hike turns into a nightmare of days wandering lost, or you got lost on a hunting trip, camping trip or your vehicle breaks down in some remote area. This is how you end up lost or stranded in most cases.
The point is you arrived there somehow, in something, on something and with something such as a backpack with a few essentials. The deciding factor on whether you survive or not, are the things you arrived with for the party. Will you be empty handed as well as empty-headed if you find yourself lost or stranded?
Knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge will keep you alive. Skills will keep you alive when your gear fails or materials are not to be had in your backpack. Watching videos of how it is done is not applying knowledge, but practicing is applying knowledge and you need to practice in a controlled environment before it is a life or death situation, were mistakes are a learning tool and not a death knell. Your backyard is the starting point.
Basic Survival Skills
It is now backyard adventure time, where you can hone your skills to gain the confidence and know without hesitation that you can survive if you become lost or stranded in a wilderness environment or in any environment for that matter.
Pull out your tarps, ponchos and even an old parachute and start practicing. Look at various ways of using your tarp or poncho as shelters. You can even use a Mylar blanket as emergency shelter along with certain plastic sheeting.
You can string a line and drape the material over the line and stake down for a classic pup tent style, or gather some saplings and construct a teepee using the tarp, poncho, plastic or parachute as cover for it. Know that you can construct a shelter to cover you from rain, snow or sun, before you find yourself lost or stranded.
2.) Archery/Slingshot/Spear Skills
Photo - Daina Pop
Safety first, and this means no pets in the backyard, while practicing and that you have sufficient backstop materials for the projectiles. Firearms are not always available but you can make a longbow, slingshot and spear from materials on you and from what you find in your environment.
Obviously the way to ensure you have the means to hunt is to make sure you never leave on an outdoor adventure without a longbow (folding ones are available that can be carried in a pack), without a slingshot and the means to cut a sapling and sharpen into a spear.
Can you hit your target with an arrow, or do you only think you can, so find out if you can. Then make sure through practice that you can always bring game down with a bow if needed and the same applies to the slingshot, practice will make perfect.
Spears in most cases would be ideal for “spear fishing” or for self-defense against animals or humans. Unless, the spear is well crafted and balanced properly throwing a spear to kill game is not very productive, but it is one more tool in your survival toolbox and you never will know until you do practice.
3.) Fire Starting
Practically anyone can start a fire on a nice sunny day, with matches and a lighter, but can you do it when the wind is blowing, when it is raining, snowing, or icing out. Can you make a fire without matches or a lighter? Now is the time to find out before you need too.
If you do not have a magnesium stick and/or a Ferro rod, you need to get both and begin practicing. Practice starting fires using a Ferro rod and cotton balls soaked in alcohol based hand sanitizer, or use alcohol wipes from your first aid kit.
Know what works best for you. Petroleum jelly, cotton balls, dry tinder, char cloth, flint, and steel can all be used to create fire under any weather conditions. Make sure you know how to start a fire with any materials available to you. Make sure all materials are available by making sure they are in your pack.
4. Foraging For Food Edibles in Your Backyard
Unless you routinely spray herbicides to kill weeds in your yard, you can find edibles weeds growing at practically any time of the year. These same weeds can be found in a wilderness environment as well, and what better place to learn to identify the edible ones than in your own backyard.
The following is just a sampling of what you may find in your backyard. The list is common weeds and even flowers that are edible and can be found in your yard and in many wilderness environments. Make sure you research carefully before picking and eating any plant and have reliable pictures for reference of all the plants.
-Dandelion – Most everyone can identify a dandelion and the plant can be eaten at any stage of growth. The roots are edible as well, and many make tea/beverages out of the roots.
-Plantain – Not to be confused with the banana shaped fruit. Plantains have medicinal properties according to many, and it can be used as a topical treatment for many skin aliments, and of course can be eaten as well.
-Miners lettuce – Can be found growing in flowerbeds, sidewalk cracks or even in the middle of your yard.
-Lamb’s-quarters – Commonly called wild spinach
-Burdock – People spend countless hours and money trying to eradicate this invasive weed, which by the way, is grown in many parts of the world for eating and is considered a delicacy. The roots are especially sought after in many cultures.
-Stinging Nettles – Delicious eaten or brewed into a tea, just are careful of the stinging nettles.
-Purslane – Is very common and no doubt, you can find some growing up through a crack in the sidewalk, in stoned areas or even in your flowerbed.
-Cattails – Can be found near water in many parts of the world and if you have a pond on your property, you may find some.
-Daylilies – Can usually found in flowerbeds but also can be found growing wild in ditches and around country lanes and all parts of the plant are edible. The roots are especially sought after.
-Primrose – Some consider primrose evasive while other encourages it for its white and yellow flowers, but the flowers can be eaten or steeped to make a flavorful tea as well.
5.) Outdoor Cooking
If lost or stranded, you will have to cook over open flames so what better place to practice than over a campfire in your own backyard. Food cannot just be tossed into the coals or flames and then dragged out when you think it may be done.
Learn how to fashion cooking grates using green saplings, or use flat heated rocks as frying/cooking surface. You may think you know how to cook, because the microwave is handy, but it takes some knowledge and skill to cook over an open flame in all kinds of weather.
The above list is just a few of the skills needed to survive. With some imagination, you can come up with other skills that maybe needed, and when you do, start practicing them so you can master the art of survival.