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The Most Critical Survival Skills to Know in Case of an Emergency

There are many important survival skills, but only a handful are critical to survival in emergency situations. We all know the survival rule of thee’s – That is you can’t survive longer than 3 minutes without breathable air, 3 hrs without shelter in hard conditions, 3 days without water and 3 weeks without food. As with all rules, there are exceptions, but generally speaking, these hold true.

So what are the critical skills to survival if you are unexpectedly caught in a wilderness location? Which one of these skills you need to employ first depends very much on your situation. If you are injured then first aid would be your most important skill. If you are in a hot environment finding and purifying water could be where you start and if you are dealing with cold and wet conditions then shelter is probably your first concern.

If you have the Ten C’s of Survival with you – and why would you ever be without them even for a quick day hike – then you should be well prepared for almost any emergency.

Shelter from natural materials

A survival shelter can at times provide something more necessary than these. A good survival shelter provides protection from extreme elements.

Humans are not designed for extended exposure to the following conditions:

  • freezing temperatures
  • sweltering heat
  • high winds
  • deep snow
  • driving sleet
  • heavy rains

We quickly become dehydrated in direct sunlight in a desert. We can become hypothermic on the frozen tundra of the North within minutes, or even in more temperate regions when rain-soaked.

Shelter equals protection not just from the elements but also to a certain extent from predators.

There are many videos on YouTube on how to create shelters without tools this one by TA Outdoors is a good one and this one by Survival Lily shows five different types of emergency shelters using natural materials.

Of course, if you have your Survival kit with you which includes a tarp and cordage the shelter you build will be a little less labor-intensive and quicker to build. This video demonstration by the Gray Bearded Green Beret gives some good instruction on getting a tarp shelter up quickly.

Water purification

Even though the rule of threes says you can last without water for 3 days, in extremely hot conditions that time can be less and physical exertion can also shorten that time. Plus dehydration affects your ability to think clearly.

The dehydration process begins the moment you are lost, hurt and in need of rescue. So it’s of utmost importance to find, purify, filter and drink water continuously when in survival mode.

There are two basic methods of purifying water – boiling it for 10 minutes or filtering it. Boiling requires a container to hold the water, and filtering, of course, requires filtering the water, preferably through a commercial filter like a Swayer Mini. But if you don’t have a filter you can create one that will filter out at least some things.

Fire starting

Fire starting is a craft that takes lots of practice in a variety of situations. If you don’t have man-made fire-starting tools such as waterproof matches, or a ferro rod then you will need to resort to using found items.

Here is a video that shows multiple ways of starting a fire without matches. While you probably won’t use all of these ways, but it is good intel to have in your mental library.

How big of fire you need depends on what you need it for. If it is too keep warm overnight then a long fire with a fire reflector may be what you need. Or if you only need to boil water than you are going to want to size your fire much smaller.

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