I have a fortunate life, but it often seems like weeks and months go by without being able to find the time to get out in the wild. You've got a family to care for, the weather isn't right, or there's a thousand and one other reasons you're not able to go and practice your survival skills.
Which is a problem. Without practice, you're done for. Knowing what to do because you watched a video, or read an article, is very different to applying those techniques in real life. There's an element of the unknown you need to master, but I've good news for you. Many survival skills you can learn in your own backyard. You don't need to disappear into the woods to practice, and in today's article I'll share a few key skills you can learn from the comfort of your own home.
The art of collecting water
Now unless you have a running stream through your yard, it's going to be problematic finding a water supply that isn't a tap or a swimming pool. But there are fun projects you can do to give you a feeling for what it is like, and impart a little knowledge to your kids too.
Using the tarp in your bug out kit, set up a rain-catchment device the next time the weather looks grey. What you want to practice is collecting and harvesting the water from the sky, so you're confident in the wild. Just don't forget something to store it in, and to filter it before use.
Another nifty little trick I learned in California was how to extract water from plants. Their leaves in particular. In my bug-out-bag I always keep a few large plastic bags, which you can tie over a leafy branch. Condensation will soon start to form inside, which will pool into fresh, drinking water.
The art of the fire
One particular element that many survivalists struggle with is fire. It's a finnicky beast, and even a little bit of moisture in the air can make it almost impossible to light. Depending on where you live, an open fire may not be permitted. What I'd recommend is buying a charcoal grill, and using this as your "fire pit" to ensure you're not breaking any neighborhood rules.
Clear an area and start a fire using your fire laces. You could even make a game of it. Get your kids to help you collect the firewood, and see just how well you're able to get a fire roaring. As a reward you could enjoy a nice little cook out and make some smores in the flames.
Start a fire without using a tool at all. Ideally you want to master a number of traditional techniques, I prefer the bow drill for a friction fire, but you should be able to also get a fire going with a lens (from a pair of glasses), a fire steel, and by shorting out the battery in your flashlight.
Once you're confident of your fire making abilities, your next goal is to cook an entire meal on the flames. Consider buying something similar to what you'd catch in the wild, like a fresh fish, and get comfortable preparing a meal with only the supplies in your bug-out-bag.
Create fire torches. This is the perfect way to light up a campsite, and give a little comfort to your family in a crisis. Cut a pine branch, and split the end into four or five prongs. While you're at it, shove a handful of pine shavings into the gaps. Double points if you can find a resin ball to jam in their too. Then light it. The burning ends will draw the sap from the stick and burn for an hour or so.
The art of the shelter
Now I get that you're not going to be able to cut down trees and build a lean to like you would in an actual wilderness survival situation, but that doesn't mean you can't practice.
Take your tarp and setup a quick lean-to in your backyard. Bonus points if you do it in bad weather, like a storm or the rain and spend the night in your emergency sleeping bag. The goal here is to use what you have in your bug out kit to create a shelter that keeps you dry and out of the rain. Though maybe do it on a nice night the first time.
The art of finding food
When it comes to spending any amount of time in the wild, you will need a sustainable source of food. And there's a few things you can do at home to practice.
Build improvised fishing poles. Using the line, hooks and gear in your bug-out-bag, learn how to actually tie proper fishing knots and set up your rigs. It's fiddlier than it seems, especially if you've not got a whole lot of practice tying these.
Learn how to set snares and deadfalls. This could go terribly wrong if you have a pet cat or a small dog, so be warned. But there's nothing stopping you from actually setting these up and learning how to tie them. Just make sure you don't leave them out once you're done.
Master the art of the slingshot. It's not the most impressive weapon in a survivalist's arsenal, but it's one you can use effectively to take small game like birds, squirrels, and (if it's powerful enough) a rabbit. Clear your yard of any pets, and setup a target to practice on.
There really is no excuse to not be prepared. Without leaving the comfort of your own home you're able to practice and master a key set of survival skills, that will serve you well if you ever find yourself needing to evacuate or bug out to a remote location. The trick is to practice now, before you actually need them.