I feel very fortunate to have spent considerable time learning from Indigenous Australians. From my time travelling, I’ve gained an interest in survival; a few close shaves with animal attacks and exposure to the elements has made knowledge in this area a necessity. I love spending time in nature and find practising bushcraft skills relaxing, but I also want to have some survival knowledge and skills for the peace of mind.
Common sense, some bushcraft skills and a little survival knowledge can go a long way. I think having a positive mindset is your most useful survival tool. But if you do happen to wind up in a situation, having some basic knowledge is going to give you a lot more confidence, and keep calmer and more level headed.
Embracing the uncomfortable will also help. I use exercises like ice baths, cold showers and sauna to keep my body primed for the unknown. As well as some potential health benefits, sauna and cold immersion can help the body regulate body temperature much better, which is handy for the elements. I have found these tools extremely helpful. We tend to protect ourselves a lot these days and very rarely do we seek out discomfort, but from personal experience, this type of training is a massive tool not only for survival but life in general.
The human body is a versatile machine and can go for an extended period without food. I practise fasting, so my body knows what it’s like to go a couple of days without food. There is some delicious bush tucker, but you need to have a solid knowledge of plants before you eat them. Australia has a lot of toxic plants that can kill you if you get it wrong!
Understanding what bugs and small animals you can eat is very helpful. They are an excellent nutrition source, and feeding on them is more achievable in a survival situation.
Lizards and bugs are a wise goal. Sit quietly and listen for animal noises. You will conserve energy, and hear animals that will give you a good head start. Sometimes animals can lead you to water too.
If you are a competent fisherman or hunter, these skills can acquire life-saving nutrition too.
Fire is a vital tool for boiling water, warmth and signalling for help. If stranded with your car, you’ll have your cigarette lighter to make a fire. A lighter is the most straightforward method, but for durability, a magnesium rod is a great option. If you don’t have those options available, you’ll need some bushcraft skills.
My favourite fire lighting method is one of the more challenging skills to get the knack of, but it’s simple. You only need two straight sticks, and once you learn the most suitable timber, it’s easy to make an ember.
The best method for a beginner wanting to try friction fire is the bow drill. It requires a piece of string and a few sticks and is a relatively easy way to start a fire once you have a basic understanding.
Take time to sit and listen. Birds and other animal noises can be a telling sign that water is nearby. Look at the landscape. Water travels downhill, so head to low lying areas and follow the terrain in search for water. If the water you do find happens to be dirty, you can be creative and use clothing as a crude filter. Grass, sand, charcoal can make even better filters, and if possible, it’s always good to boil water. But if you were in a life or death situation and couldn’t boil water, I would drink dirty water rather than risk dehydration.
The wind is a killer. If its cold use whatever you can find to make a windbreak, and you can cover yourself with leaves for insulation. Fire is a great way to stay warm and keep biting bugs away.
If you can make a fire, use walls to reflect heat at you. If it’s hot, stay cool in the shade during the day and use the cooler times in the day for activity. Exposure to the elements can put you at additional risk. Ash and mud make excellent sun protection; it’s a method I’ve used numerous times.
Next time you are out camping or exploring, take note of the animals and plants you come across. Try teaching yourself some bushcraft skills and see what works. There are also some great learning experiences on offer around the world. For many, it’s a relaxing activity that may even help you one day. Thinking outside the box, being creative and keeping a calm and positive attitude will take you a long way should you happen to wind up in a sticky situation. Some fundamental survival skills will help your confidence and give you a better understanding of nature.