Be careful out there
June 29, 2007 4:25 AM   Subscribe

Learn the 5 basic survival skills Planning that hike through the Northwest Territories this summer? You will need survival skills. Learning survival skills is an ongoing process that will last for your entire life. There is always more to learn and experience, which is part of the fun of being a survivor. And as your expertise grows the knowledge and abilities you gain is often useful in other areas. For example survivors prepare ahead of time, and they are experts in the art of ingenuity and inventiveness. Need more? Well try the survival blog for helpful answers to such questions as "How Long can I survive without food or water?" or "How can I maintain water discipline?"
posted by psmealey (47 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
I guess my survival instinct isn't strong, because basically I feel that if an extreme disaster strikes and society as we know it collapses, I'm giving up. I don't really want to live in a man-eat-man world. I really like the man-eat-donuts world a whole lot better.

That being said, I do see a certain romanticism in living off the land, just not in a "only the strong will survive" kind of way.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:18 AM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


3 minutes without oxygen
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
3 months without sex
posted by bruce at 6:35 AM on June 29, 2007 [3 favorites]


Well, if the 5 survival skills you have linked to are all that's needed, I have this survival thing in the bag.

Although it's ridiculously hard, I can start a fire with nothing but a stick and a curse word. I know how to make a shelter, I can signal, and I always carry a first-aid kit and water in the trunk of my car.

After a rather lengthy "accidental" hike in the desert 15 years ago, I taught myself a few tricks.
posted by bradth27 at 6:40 AM on June 29, 2007


3 months without sex

I can attest that this is not accurate.

I think it is fascinating to see modern human's obsession with "survival skills." I think the reverse would be pretty funny; a reality tv show where a hunter/gatherer is picked up from the jungle, dropped in Manhattan and has to do things like use his "survival skills" to cross the street, find food and find a place to sleep safely. If we are alive, we have survival skills, so why exactly are skills beyond our own environment so necessary that we spend so much time and money obsessing over it?
posted by Pollomacho at 6:42 AM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


After a rather lengthy "accidental" hike in the desert 15 years ago, I taught myself a few tricks.

Okay, well now you have to tell us the story.
posted by AV at 6:43 AM on June 29, 2007


Bless the UK's Daily Mail.

From this week's middle market tabloid:

"Michael Werner looks normal enough. He's six foot tall, grey and bespectacled, weighs in at 12-and-a-half stone and enjoys playing tennis, socialising and jogging - three brisk miles before breakfast with his wife Angelica, a nice fry-up for her and a quick coffee for him.



All very ordinary. It's just that Michael doesn't eat. At all.


In fact, the last item of food that passed his lips was a huge helping of potato salad and a slice of cake on New Year's Eve 2001
... "

Werner is apparently a doctor of chemistry in Germany - and the article is a hilarious read (a polite yet highly dubious editorial tone maintained throughout) except for the vile bit when Werner says the world's starving hordes just need to tweak their mental attitude to survive famine.

After all, Africa gets plenty of sunshine - crucial if you don't eat.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:50 AM on June 29, 2007


3 minutes without oxygen
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
3 months without sex



Since sex is a species survival concern, rather than an individual survival concern -- I think I'd modify that old chestnut to be:

3 minutes without oxygen
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
3 generations without sex
posted by fairmettle at 7:03 AM on June 29, 2007 [2 favorites]


#6. How to kill a man for his numbers 1 to 5.
posted by slimepuppy at 7:20 AM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


Since sex is a species survival concern, rather than an individual survival concern

Speak for yourself, pal.
posted by psmealey at 7:21 AM on June 29, 2007


A good list, though it leaves out an essential point for those possessing both these skills and a lot of enemies (and, I guess, a brutal, anarchistic, post-apocalyptic environment): fire has an extreme downside, which is that its propensity for long-range signaling doubles as a rather effective HEY THERE'S ANOTHER HUMAN OVER HERE sign.

If the mutant hordes see that, what are you going to do? Nothing, that's what! This is very much the same argument as the one yesterday about not attracting aliens, but reduced in scope.
posted by invitapriore at 7:25 AM on June 29, 2007


The key to water discipline is to jab anyone in the gut with a crysknife if you catch them wasting water... and then render their body down for its water.

It's also a good idea to fit your stillsuit boots slip-fashion, and to make sure your noseplugs are fitted properly.
posted by COBRA! at 7:37 AM on June 29, 2007 [9 favorites]


Planning that hike through the Northwest Territories this summer? Learn the 5 basic survival skills

#7. Don't eat the seeds of the Eskimo potato.
posted by pineapple at 7:39 AM on June 29, 2007


There is always more to learn and experience, which is part of the fun of being a survivor.
The other part being that you get to survive.
posted by Floydd at 7:50 AM on June 29, 2007


I just watch Survivorman.
posted by smackfu at 7:58 AM on June 29, 2007


Always have your towel.
posted by gomichild at 8:22 AM on June 29, 2007 [1 favorite]


why exactly are skills beyond our own environment so necessary that we spend so much time and money obsessing over it?

Because it's people who never master any of the most basic skills of survival who get into serious trouble when they go on vacation, thus providing plenty of opportunity for rangers, rescue teams, first aid providers, and some of us more prepared civilians who end up sharing the wilderness with them.

I've been in a couple mild survival situations -- nothing that really threatened to take my life, but enough to show how ugly things can get and how important it is to know a lot of ways to handle yourself. In my mildly outdoorsy life, I've definitely had to ration water, to boil questionable water, to ration food, to treat serious hypothermia, to build a makeshift shelter, and to make fire (though I've never had to do it without matches).

I agree that city smarts are just as vital as wilderness smarts, but mastery of one doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't also master the other. Things happen, especially when people have expectations developed over years of urban life that there's always an infrastructure ready to kick in and save their tuchus. It can be a shock for people to realize help is really far away, or that weather or road conditions may delay a return or rescue.
posted by Miko at 8:23 AM on June 29, 2007


If the mutant hordes see that, what are you going to do? Nothing, that's what! This is very much the same argument as the one yesterday about not attracting aliens, but reduced in scope.

Yes, but fire can be reasonably effective in thwarting small-scale zombie attacks.

Nevertheless, this post has now panicked me into going to REI or some similar place this weekend to obtain basic survival gear. So far, my post-apocalypse kit in my car consists of some water, a pointy metal stick, a large plastic tarp, a length of rope, extra shoes, and several Frisbees.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 9:28 AM on June 29, 2007


Anywhere without water, food, shelter, heat, light and first aid is not a place I want to go on holiday anyway. Considering this, it is unlikely that I would survive the actual Apocalypse, much less the post-Apocalypse.

(But now, when I find myself stranded in a Alive-type situation, all I will remember is that 'huh, I really should've rtfa on that metafilter post on survival.')
posted by slimepuppy at 9:32 AM on June 29, 2007


Paging #36993
posted by [expletive deleted] at 9:48 AM on June 29, 2007


I've always found survival to be a pass/ fail kind of course.

and

Deathalicious : I don't really want to live in a man-eat-man world. I really like the man-eat-donuts world a whole lot better.

Eponysterical? Anti-ponysterical?
posted by quin at 10:10 AM on June 29, 2007


I think a rule of survival should be to always take your Dr. Bonner's Magic Soap. You can use it for tooth paste, dish soap, food (if your really desperate) and of course the all popular body wash that makes your skin tingle.
posted by Viomeda at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2007


I sort of just "fell into" the whole survivalist hobby. I really, really love to camp, and I absolutely hate carrying shit around. I pack in very little gear and sleep in a jungle hammock (I know pup tents exist that are probably smaller than my hammock, I like sleeping above the ground). I also really like being able to make stuff.
I learned how to crochet. It sounds silly, but the simple act of making a warm winter hat made me realize how little I was actually able to provide for myself.
I read a book on gardening and started growing plants. I had a pretty good understanding of woodland edibles that I got from my dad (who was, himself, something of a survivalist). I learned how to tie a fish net. Which I used to catch and eat some rockbass. That felt really, really cool.
I took some classes on blacksmithing, most especially on forge-building. I can take any metal object and, given some combustibles and two rocks, turn it into a tool.
I can turn swords into plowshares, or rather, rifle-barrels into shovels.

I'm pretty much ready. I can also preach a good sermon on Sundays and I value the safety found in intentional community (good churches), so there's this little part of me that thinks, "Hey. I think I'd make a decent addition to your little post-apocalyptic community." Probably not a Kevin Costner or Mel Gibson, but at least an efficient, contributing part of the whole.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 10:30 AM on June 29, 2007


Point 9: Do not share with others, because they will TURN ON YOU.

When cut off from supplies for an extended period the unprepared people in your area will quickly become hungry and destitute. If they know about your survival preparations (because you told them all about your efforts) they will turn to you. Or worse, turn ON you....

You may even try to loose a little weight to disguise the fact that you have plenty of food – your malnourished neighbors will be interested in why you remain so fat and rosy cheeked!

An important part of your survival preparations plan should be to keep your plan from the knowledge of other people. When a long term survival scenario occurs you do not want the starving hordes beating down your door.

posted by Tehanu at 10:52 AM on June 29, 2007


My grandfather taught me wilderness survival when I was a kid. In the Colorado mountains, it's useful stuff. Years later, after "friends" helped me spend myself broke, the chips were really down, and I used those skills to live off the land for two months when nothing else would have saved me.

Thanks, Grandpa!
posted by SaintCynr at 11:03 AM on June 29, 2007


#0 rule - make sure your party contains somebody you can out run (in case of bear attacks).
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 11:24 AM on June 29, 2007


Midnight Creeper: Don't try to throw me off the trail, okay? You think I can't tell where your allegiances lie with a name like that?
posted by invitapriore at 11:25 AM on June 29, 2007


I think a rule of survival should be to always take your Dr. Bonner's Magic Soap. You can use it for tooth paste, dish soap, food (if your really desperate) and of course the all popular body wash that makes your skin tingle.

If you're really in a survival situation do you really need toothpaste, dish soap and tingly body wash?

I can turn swords into plowshares, or rather, rifle-barrels into shovels.

Who needs a shovel when you have a rifle? You, over there, get to digging!
posted by Pollomacho at 11:32 AM on June 29, 2007


Anywhere without water, food, shelter, heat, light and first aid is not a place I want to go on holiday anyway.

You'd think so, wouldn't you? And yet every year, millions of people visit the Grand Canyon, Sedona, AZ, the Grand Tetons, the Adirondacks, hurricane-prone Caribbean islands, salt-water fishing areas in the Gulf - and every year a few people end up in a situation that means they've got to get by for at least a day or so before anyone's going to haul them out of the trouble they've gotten themselves in.

If you think surviving for a day or two without food or water, or if you're completely wet and cold, is not a big deal and requires no special skill, you haven't had to do it.
posted by Miko at 12:01 PM on June 29, 2007


If you think surviving for a day or two without food or water, or if you're completely wet and cold, is not a big deal and requires no special skill, you haven't had to do it.

True, but does it require the special skill of blacksmithing or making sure you have a good supply of toothpaste on hand? Sounds more like a job for a couple of candy bars, a space blanket and a jug of water, no?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:10 PM on June 29, 2007


Yes, but the main link is about surviving environmental conditions, not starting a new society from which to re-populate the earth.
posted by Miko at 12:42 PM on June 29, 2007


Step 1: Survive.
Step 2: Start new society from which to repopulate the earth.
Step 3: OMG ZOMBIES! Step 1 + remove the head or destroy the brain.
posted by Tehanu at 1:09 PM on June 29, 2007


..... Or you could just give all that fire starting and shelter building nonsense the finger and carry a satelite phone and some simple GPS type thingie whith you.
posted by Wonderwoman at 1:33 PM on June 29, 2007


You know who else used to practice water discipline?

Stilgar


I got a shotgun and a rifle and a four wheel drive
I can plow a field all day long,
I can catch catfish from dusk till dawn.
Make our own whiskey and our own smoke too
ain't to many things these boys can't do.
(I live back in the woods you see,
my woman, and the kids and the dogs and me.)
We grow good old tomatoes and homemade wine
We can skin a buck, we can run a trout line
*spits beechnut*
posted by Smedleyman at 1:59 PM on June 29, 2007


Related
posted by Smedleyman at 2:05 PM on June 29, 2007


I once grew my own radishes.
posted by Midnight Creeper at 2:43 PM on June 29, 2007


Wonderwoman : ..... Or you could just give all that fire starting and shelter building nonsense the finger and carry a satelite phone and some simple GPS type thingie whith you.

A good idea. But the downside is that both sat-phones and GPS require power. And are delicate. And if you have put your life into relying on them and them alone, you will be in a lot of trouble if they don't work.

Having a basic knowledge of how to keep yourself alive if those conveniences fail is alway a good practice. For example, this is why I keep a blanket in my trunk. Sure my car has a heater, but if it's a Wisconsin winter and my car breaks down, I want to know that I won't freeze before help arrives.
posted by quin at 2:54 PM on June 29, 2007


#0 rule - make sure your party contains somebody you can out run

Yep, you don't have to be faster than the bear -- just faster than your friend.
posted by pineapple at 3:05 PM on June 29, 2007


I'm a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician. A very large number of "survival situations" are easily preventable - common sense is usually the answer... do everything possible to avoid circumstances which would put you in one of these scenarios. Any degree of wilderness first aid training (first aid/first responder/WEMT) will also help you a great deal - money very well spent if you spend any amount of time in the outdoors.
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:45 PM on June 29, 2007


Anywhere without water, food, shelter, heat, light and first aid is not a place I want to go on holiday anyway.

You'd think so, wouldn't you? And yet every year, millions of people visit the Grand Canyon, Sedona, AZ, the Grand Tetons, the Adirondacks, hurricane-prone Caribbean islands, salt-water fishing areas in the Gulf


And I wonder why they do. Honestly, I hate camping. I don't want to survive the apocalypse either.
posted by dame at 5:10 PM on June 29, 2007


I just watch Survivorman.

That guy's a joke compared to Bear Grylls. He doesn't seem very competant, and all he does is bide his time for five days until he's picked up. Grylls actually finds his own way out.
posted by Devils Slide at 6:43 PM on June 29, 2007


competent
posted by Devils Slide at 6:53 PM on June 29, 2007


The website hasn't been updated (yet) but this months National Geographic Adventure magazine's theme is "How to survive (almost) anything". Definitely worth the few bucks if you see it on the news stand!
posted by blaneyphoto at 7:29 PM on June 29, 2007


I like the idea of preparedness and self-sufficiency, but the whole survivalist movement is whacko paranoid.
If you do a risk analysis, it is likely you need to do a few simple things to maximise your survival in probable situations. Things like off-site back-up of your title deeds, investment info, insurance papers etc. Learn first aid.
Have a week or two of food in the cupboard and a way to do some cooking that isn't dependent on mains utilities.
This just about prepares you for any survivable natural disaster (up to Katrina levels) where external help will come eventually.
The trouble with survivalists is they spend a lot of time preparing for catastrophic civilisation end. While I think this is unlikely, I can at least accept it could be prepared for, but the typical survivalist takes it a step further and says "I will depend on nobody, and help no one."
Any rational assessment shows the best chance of survival is in a societal group, yet these guys arm themselves and hide to avoid engaging with the community.
If TSHTF I want my town and neighbours pulling together, not holed up in their compounds shooting anybody coming by.
posted by bystander at 9:28 PM on June 29, 2007


All you really need to survive the apocalypse is a flashlight with a laser beam.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:38 PM on June 29, 2007


The trouble with survivalists is they spend a lot of time preparing for catastrophic civilisation end.

This is actually very well said and it hits on a salient point. There isn't a really good term to differentiate a person who enjoys really roughing it when opposed to someone who trains themselves to live in a post-civilization world.

Both of these interests are going to have a lot of cross-skillsets. But one is in assumption that at some point there will be a need to know these skills (apocalypsists) and the other is a certainty that they will be using them soon (hard campers in unpleasant areas.)

In my youth, as a camper, I always enjoyed not carrying a big pack by eschewing tents for tarps and ropes, and coolers of food for MREs or less. And yet, I wouldn't ever call myself a survivalist. I just think of myself as someone who might have a better than average ability to take care myself if the lights go out for a while.
posted by quin at 10:17 PM on June 29, 2007


Or you could just give all that fire starting and shelter building nonsense the finger and carry a satelite phone and some simple GPS type thingie whith you.


Which doesn't help you at all if rescuers can't get to you.

I agree that survalISTS are often wackos, but having the basic means to sustain your own life should systems or plans fail is not wacko, just responsible.
posted by Miko at 5:46 PM on June 30, 2007


..... Or you could just give all that fire starting and shelter building nonsense the finger and carry a satelite phone and some simple GPS type thingie whith you.

Not if, as happens in a lot of wilderness and mountainous areas, you're out of range. Then you're really fucked.


Knowing basic survival tactics; first aid, navigation, etcetera, will save you when the batteries run out, the car breaks down, and you drop the phone in the river.
posted by canine epigram at 1:43 PM on July 2, 2007


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