Someone recently asked me what my top 10 survival essentials were and it caused me to think. You see, I talk a lot about the top 5 survival essentials. Here at Sigma 3 we teach our classes based on the top 5 essentials. Everything after that is not so essential for life. However there are some things to add to the list, not because they are essential to life, but because they are essential to quality of life. So I wracked my brain to come up with 10 for this list. People like lists with nice round numbers. Well I couldn’t come up with ten, but here a broad overview of my top 7 essentials to help you survive and thrive.
I talk about shelter building a lot. That’s because it is a survival essential. In some cases it is the most important survival essential. Like in the north in winter, for instance. Your soft human body can only regulate its heat few hours in the subzero conditions of a northern winter so you need a shelter immediately. The same is true in the scorching desert. You only have a couple hours until the sun zaps all the moisture from your body. A shelter lets you control the atmosphere around you. It traps warm air in frigid conditions or blocks the harsh sun in arid ones. It also keeps our rain and pests. It’s important and that is why its number 1 on this list.
We need water. It lubricates all of our moving parts and it transports vital minerals and nutrients around our bodies. Without it we die in 3 to 5 days. All other living things need water too. Some of them live in water and some of them can really harm us. They are usually too small to see but they could be in there. So, we have to get them out. Also, water is a solvent, meaning things can dissolve into it. Some of these things, like lead or mercury, are very harmful to us. We have to get them out too. A good way to do that is with a water filter. Whether we make our own or we buy one a water filter is essential. I carry a Sawyer and it works great. You can pick one up here at our store pretty cheap.
In this modern age we have heated homes with stove tops and ovens but in the wilderness our heat source is almost always fire. Fire does more than just warm us up. It also cooks our food and kills pathogens in our water. It can even be used as a tool but more on tools later. Any outdoorsman that is worth their salt can create fire in any weather, anywhere, at any time. Any instructor, who tells you different, be wary of. There are a million and one instructors in this business and 999,999 of them aint worth a shit.
There are also tons of different fire starting methods, but, in my opinion, the bowdrill is the most universal. It works in the desert as well as in the tropics. It’s pretty simple to use but it does take practice to master it. So make a kit and practice it until you are a master. Then you will be in the top 1% and more importantly you will be able to stay alive while others die.
If you have watched any of the survival TV shows out there nowadays you know that a human can live a long time without food. But is that really living? I prefer to say that a human dies very slowly when not eating food. If you are burning more calories than you are taking into your body then you are either dying or dieting. Food is our fuel and if we don’t have it our body eats itself for fuel. So food is an essential.
We are constantly surrounded by food when we in the wilderness. The problem is can we recognize it and/or catch it. When it comes to plants it’s about knowing what you can and can’t eat. Plants can give us important vitamins and minerals so they are worth knowing. Some plants even contain high amounts of protein but it is rare. So learn them.
As a general rule we get our protein and fat from animals. That means we have to catch them, somehow, so we can eat them. For this we use traps. We can use traps to catch bugs, fish, birds, even bears. Once you know some of the basic mechanics for trap triggers you can create traps that fit your specific needs for your specific situation. So knowing how to set traps is an essential skill.
We humans are a pretty weak species. We have dull teeth and nails. We are not very strong or fast. We are not covered with protective scales or shells or hair yet our species has managed to dominate the entire natural world. That’s because our large frontal lobes give us the ability to reason and problem solve. We don’t have sharp teeth but we can sharpen sticks bones and rocks. We can then attach them to a shaft that gives us reach. We can even reason how to propel these sharp points by adding bending sticks and cordage. The bow and arrow is just one example out of millions of tools we can use. A sharpened stone flake is a tool by itself and it can be used to make other tools for whatever specific need arises. Personally I think the most important tool we can own is a knife. Yes we can make them ourselves but for quality sake it’s a good idea to invest in a good one. You can find my top picks here. A good knife can be used to make a million other tools.
Knowing how to heal from damage is a skill that everyone should know. It’s a skill often overlooked because it isn’t generally needed, but when it is needed it is REALLY needed. If you have ever been trapped in the wild with a severe injury you know exactly what I mean.
Knowing what plants can heal specific ailments can make your life better or even save it. Knocking out a cold before it gets bad or getting rid of a bad headache is important but stopping an asthma attack before it kills you is even more important. Learn your medicinal plants.
But don’t rely solely on native plants. Carry a good first aid kit. You will have a hard time finding anything sterile in the wild. Sterile wraps and gauze pads are super useful and they may save your life. You can get a professional first aid kit here.
Navigation is a skill most people don’t think about. Basically navigation is just being able to get from one place to another without getting lost. You can use a map and a compass or landmarks and blazes. Native Americans used rivers and creeks and road maps. Imagine you are traveling along setting some traps. The sun is going down so you head back to your camp and gear. When you start walking back, nothing looks familiar. You are lost. This happens way too often and way too often its ends in death. Don’t let this be you. Learn to find way around.
So that’s my list of top 7 survival essentials. If you master these subjects you will be a wilderness ninja. All it takes is guidance and practice. If you want some guidance I would love to train with you. Check out our classes and join us as we master the wilderness.
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