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Your mad survival skills: busted

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posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 11:37 AM
There is another survival thread where posters have listed their "survival skills."

I'm sure a number of them have actual experience. But I also notice a lot of posters who have "watched a TV show" or read a book, or were cub scouts 20 years ago, who assume that they "have skill." When all they have is a shadowy memory.

For instance.


Practically every survival-fan pictures himself a mighty hunter. But hunting for survival is in a totally different class. Can you bring down a buck, with no deer stand, no deer feeder, and no pickup or ATV to get you to the best sites? What about when others are out in the woods, totally disregarding the laws . . .? Sure, you can "dress out" your kill, but can you do it without reducing your trophy to "buck soup?" And what will you do with no freezer, and maybe no transport back to your camp?


When you claim fishng as a survival skill, you mean riding in a pickup to a government stocked stream, fishing for 3 hours while you drink beer, then throwing the catch in a cooler full of ice you bought at the bait shop, then cooking it over a cookstove powered by coleman fuel. Not exactly survival fishing, is it? Or do you mean you've carved a fishhook from a bit of clamshell, baited it with a fly you made from lint, and used the chord from your windbreaker for a dry line? Yeah. I didn't think so.


How many fires have you started with a bow drill, you made from found components within a quarter mile of your camp? It's one thing to know the process involved. Its another to risk your life in a snowstorm on it. In real life, every winter, at least one party of skiers or campers FREEZES TO DEATH in the American west, because they couldn't build a fire while they were cold, hungry and hurt. I bet someone in every party "knew" about bow drills and flint-steel firekits. But they died anyway. there's a lesson in there somewhere, for those who are interested in survival more than ego.


Even here, there's a difference between rendering aid in the middle of a Level I trauma center, with support staff and a full dispensary, versus stuffing a severed artery with a tampon, then making a tournequette from a broken purse strap. I think most ER nurses and combat medics could manage it. I'm not sure some of the rest of us could.

Some real survival skills:

Survival food prep

I posted a thread here about my efforts to make venison jerky and beef jerky without using electricity or fossil fuel. Last weekend I put my skills to the test--I defrosted our freezer in the garage, and jerked all the buckmeat, and cooked all the frozen fish and fowl left in it from last year. I was shocked by how much I had to throw away, because even in a beer cooler, it didn't stay cold enough to be SURE of. I also learned how LITTLE meat I actually jerk in a single batch. So I ended up improvising a smokehouse out of an old electrical box. Even though it didn't work, I learned a HECK of a lot of useful info.

And when the power goes off, and everyone else decides that the frozen meat at the store will go bad, I know how to convert some of it into survival food that will last 2-3 years. Now, that's a skill I'm interested in.

Survival gardening.

I tried planting a garden this year, only from seeds that were MORE than a year old. To simulate your second year as a survival gardener; you know, after the stores close and there's no more seed . . .

None of my corn even came up. And growing tomatoes from seed is a lot easier than I thought. Why do we always buy pre-sprouted "sets" from the hardware store? It works just as well from the seeds. And I had no idea that romaine lettuce could grow so well here . . .

I also am watering from captured rainwater. Thing is, I'm doing it in a record-rainfall year here in Texas, so it hasn't exactly taught me much.

BTW, I'm in the process of getting some chickens, to raise my own eggs and fryers . . . I'll let you know about the survival implications in a future thread.

In closing, I think there's a WORLD of difference between "knowing about" a topic, and possessing the kinesthetic skill you'd depend on in a survival situation. We need more threads about people investigating survival topics, and less about what people have seen on cable TV.

I prefer the unpleasant truth to even the prettiest of lies.


[edit on 17-8-2007 by dr_strangecraft]

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 11:55 AM
Good post Doc!

My thought on any kind of potential survival situation is that you'd better be able to kill another human being because they are going to want what you have and will probably do whatever they have to to get it, hence "survival". All this Rambo crap will be completely worthless in a nuclear winter let's say. That's what I think of when I think survival, not getting lost in the woods.

I know that's not what Strangecraft was really talking about, but I though I'd give my 2 cents.


posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 12:02 PM
reply to post by dr_strangecraft

bravo! excellent thread. you and my dadda would get along great!
this is great information and a great reminder to always be prepared.

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 12:07 PM
I think of Hobbes, saying that

"force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues . . ."

I love your remark about getting lost in the woods.

I think there are two events in western civilization that ought to be the model for "dry runs" for serious survivalists.

A. The "Great" Depression

For the United States, this was the formative event in the lives of most of our parents or great-grandparents. It's worth studying. from 1929-1935, only a few thousand americans starved to death. But millions lost everything they owned. A few did very well: in 1929 my grandparents lived in a boardinghouse. By 1935 they were it's legal owner-operators. This missed a number of meals on the way. But they learned to garden, and learned how to "flip" property a generation before the recent housing bubble made it fashionable. Point is, they didn't need to learn the art of the bow-drill; but rather the hoe and sewing machine.

B. The Black Death

Despite the official propaganda, this was NOT the bubonic plague of the first decade of the 20th century. The actual black death killed 3 quarters of all Europeans within 50 years, and ended Medieval civilization. The survivors, your ancestors, DID need to learn to crack the skulls of their nieghbors, as well as how to make a fire without any help. They also had to learn sanitary funeral practices. . .

My point is, a lot different skill-set than is imagined by most Mad Max / Red Dawn fans.


posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 12:07 PM
Thank you for sharing...what a great post

The 'jerky' especially caught my eye. I'm currently looking into the 'sun dried' method for smaller lifeforms (I'm vegan).

Anyways...thanks again for your insight.

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 12:10 PM
Scary biscuits, when you look at it like that. Being a bit (lot) of a cripple, most of the survival skills you list are well beyond me, despite many hours of osmotic absorbtion of Ray Mears prodigious skills.

I do, however, have what I consider to be the ultimate survival vehicle. With it I have 12v and 24v DC, 240v AC, fridge, freezer, all of which can be run from diesel, or catalyzed vegetable oil. The only thing still on my list to get is a good high volume desalinator. Have you guessed yet? Don't laugh, but its a 30 year old wooden Grand Banks 48 MY. I can fix every part of it myself and it can cross the atlantic on one 640gallon tank. I know the GPS would soon stop working, but the radar and sonar would be invaluable, enabling me to find fish, approaching vessels and nose up unfamiliar rivers without worrying about ripping the bottom out. What do you think, Doc? Any advice on extra kit?

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 12:11 PM
I started out reading your post and thinking another idiot talking, but no... I was enthralled by your depth of knowledge of how little people really know of what they think they know.

Good job on the post and so very true.

There was a time I knew 27 ways to cook a telephone pole, but those are fading memories.....LOL...

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 12:18 PM
Some damn good points there Dr

I'll admit that I fall under the '...was in the scouts 20yrs ago' category and that I'd more than likely be in trouble in open country, I'm better adapted to my natural habitat in the urban setting...

Hunting would mainly be for vermin such as rats and pidgeons and perhaps cats and bait-trapping or slingshot (still a good shot to 30yds) although a handful of worms (after purging for a few days on fresh veg) can make for a high-protein powder if dried and pounded to powder

Farming...I've been putting a lot of time into working on my folks' allotment and have learned a helluva lot over the last year ...especially that your seemingly healthy veg crop can be decimated in a week or two by fungal or insect attack

Firestarting...Have had successes using a cordless electric drill with a dowel in the chuck (I've also heard that if you rub two-ginger-haired kids together you can make fire...will have to get back to you on that one though)

The most important skill needed in any situation though is an adaptive inventive mind, with that, you can make the best of almost any situation and materials to hand

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 01:38 PM

Originally posted by CSkys

The 'jerky' especially caught my eye. I'm currently looking into the 'sun dried' method for smaller lifeforms (I'm vegan).

Anyways...thanks again for your insight.

I think canning is your best bet here. Drying plants is the way to preserve herbs and spices. If international/continental trade is disrupted, spices and seasonings will command an incredible price, and could be extremely lucrative.

In my own case, I travel over 500 miles to get the right sun-dried peppers to season my jerky. No problem right now, but I'll obviously have to dry my own or pay for them during econo-hell. A vegan might not want jerky in trade, but I'm sure we could reach some kind of mutually beneficial arrangement.

Canning food is your best bet for vegetables. Survivalists always gripe about the bulk of the liquid brine, but then, it's not a problem if you have to bunker down right where you are, instead of moving out to yellowstone park, where all the survivalists will be shooting each other over their last remaining MRE's.

The great thing about canning is that it's easy and cheap, and the product is modular and easy to trade. Canning jars also keep out insects and mice, always a problem with dried bulk storage. For instance, wheat stored in co2 processed 5 gallon buckets will last indefinitely. But, once you open the bucket, what do you do with the other 4 1/2 gallons? Feed it to the mice who show up???

There are basically 4 ways to preserve foods: drying, sugar, salt, and vinegar.

Don't let the sugar throw you. Suburbanites currently eat way too much sugar, but in econo-hell, you'll be greatful for the extra calories and sweetness.

The key about trading foodstuffs is that other people must want to eat it. My "goose jerky" was great, but no one else would eat it but me; so that path was a waste of time. They only want the kind they are used to seeing in stores.

One final word of advice would be that any food skill you develop to your own satisfaction can probably be sold or traded at a profit. As a matter of fact . . . look for Dr. S's Survive-all Jerky in surplus stores near you . . .

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 02:13 PM
reply to post by Dr Love

Interesting thread. It has made me re-think the core capabilities of myself and my immediate family...uhh...not so much. I better get on this. I do know a bit about organic gardening, but, as pointed out, food rots if you fail to cook it because you can't go caveman with some heat.

To Dr. Love's point I think you also have to have a skill that will make other people want to keep you around (and maybe help or protect you) and not just get rid of you and steal your resources.

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 03:19 PM
Great thread Dr. I too am an old boyscout but have recently been trying to educate myself on all kinds of various survival techniques. A really good book that I have is the "SAS Survival Handbook." A lot of very practical info and even a whole chapter on urban survival.

I took my kids camping a few weeks ago to practice some of the things I learned and, lets just say, I need more practice. Trying to start a fire with a bow made on-site was more difficult than I thought. I'm glad I had a lighter with me.

Being an ER nurse I have the medical thing down pretty well. You'd be surprised to realize that even in a Level I facility, we still have to improvise.

I would like to learn how to dry and jerk meat. Would you, Dr. Strangecraft, be willing to share your techniques or is there some recommended literature out there that you can steer me towards?

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 03:36 PM
Skills and knowledge are two different things. Knowledge means you have the information to pursue the acquisition of skill. Skill comes from repetition and practice, not simply knowing a few facts. Confusing the two can be lethal.

I've ridden BMX for close to 30 years now, I'm skilled. I bust big airs, barspins, wallrides, bunnyhop trashcans, and drop off whatever i think won't bend my bike. I've been doinhg this for years, i'm skilled. I can give you a detailed video description on how to barspin. Even if you view my video 1000x and can recite it word for word, visualizing the move, you're not skilled, you're just knowledgeable when it comes to my skill. When you get on a bike and go out and try, you're not going to get it on your first try, or your second, probably not your 10th. If you're a bike prodigy you might get it within 20 tries, but for the average joe if they do get it, it's after hundreds of tries. By now you'll have calluses on the inside of your knees from gripping the seat, and they won't even bleed anymore when you do it, unlike the first few tries which involve rippihg the flesh from the back inside of your knees. When you can do it on command, with your eyes closed, and make it look good, then you possess that skill. Until then youdon't have that skill, you're journeying to a place where you can recieve it. Sometimes that journey is short, a few minutes of working with it and you might get it, others may take year of practice before it becomes a skill.

Firestarting, how many of you had your hand drill work on the first try? I'm good at stuff like this, and it took me several hours, and blisters on my rugged assed tuff hands while sitting in the comfort of my living room to get a coal going. Even though i saw Mears do it a bunch of times, it still took a while before i got it working in good conditions. I still don't call it a skill yet, but i know i can succeed in making fire with sticks. When i can do it within an hour from harvesting the materials to blowing tinder, and without injury to myself, or spin up a coal in a few minutes from an already constructed set, then it's what i'll consider a skill.

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 04:21 PM

Originally posted by scooler1

I would like to learn how to dry and jerk meat. Would you, Dr. Strangecraft, be willing to share your techniques or is there some recommended literature out there that you can steer me towards?

I did a buncha searching on the net. Then I posted my first attempt here on the survival forum at ATS:

Venison Jerky

Please note that I pulled the pictures from photobucket. Someone started U2Uing me, trying to guess exactly where I live. Creeped me out.

Anyway, the recipes are still there.


posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 04:34 PM
Don't be too hard on the folk who learn this stuff from books and Tv. The fact that they're interested is a start. One of the most important things that can keep you alive in a survival situation is frame of mind. Just the knowledge that you CAN survive will be a great help should the worst happen. One of my biggest heroes is Nando Parrado. He had no skills in an extreme situation but he had the belief to try, and he made it, and saved his friends in the process.

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 04:41 PM
I have a few ideas I thought I'd throw out there.

- Lens and reflectors, anything will do, but the best would be a magnifying glass and parabolic mirrors

- Build a Solar Oven so fire is less necessary for survival(it works in sunny winter days too if you have enough light reflecting into the oven)

- Burying burning coals/embers with soot will preserve embers. Remember it HAS to be soot as it will insulate the coals, and if you want to be stealthy you can even bury the soot with some loose dirt, leaves and branches.

Survival gardening
- Composting for better soil quality

Fast Composting

Slow Composting

I'm not sure which is the better technique, as I've only had experience with Slow composting, but I know it's essential for a healthy nutritious fruits and vegetable garden.

- Old CD's can be hung on lines near your produce to discourage birds. The find the flashing and spinning bothersome, works better then a scarecrow.

- For crops that are not good for your climate, you could consider building a plexiglass roofed, plastic sided greenhouse attached to your main domicile if any room is available. The type of greenhouse I want to build has a roof that slants to one way so all the rain water can be collected in bins that automatically waters the plants inside the greenhouse when the soil is dry. No automagically cpu controlled gizmo is need for that to. I read about an invention made by these Spanish scientists/engineers in a place called Gaviotas, Columbia which automatically waters the plants when the soil is dry. They do this by using pipes that are lined with the same type of clay they were planting in so when the clay outside became saturated the clay samwidged between the pipe layers would also get saturated and would stop water flow. Ingenious device that I've always wanted to try to replicate. Maybe something on the market by now as it was invented in the 80s.

[edit on 17-8-2007 by sardion2000]

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 05:28 PM
One point about commercial canning: An acquaintance of mine who worked in the food safety department of a major soup vendor told me that most standard canned soups actually have a 10 year life span, as long as the can hasn't been compromised in any way. The far lesser "USE BY" dates are ultra conservative dates, primarily established by the company's legal department. The functional limitation of 10 years, he claimed, was due to the fact that around then the acid in the broth begins to eat the can's liner.

I keep around a couple of weeks to a month's worth of canned and dried food around for extended power outage emergencies, and have had no problems eating canned goods that were up to a year over their use by date, as I rotate the food out. The food tasted a little flat, but there was no change to the food's appearance or smell, and I'm still here to talk about it.
Obviously, one should exercise reasonable care doing this, and throw out any damaged or bulging cans, but I've had no issues.

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 07:23 PM
Excellent post. I love the "keep it simple" survival skills, because after a few months of survival, no one's fancy equipment is going to be worth anything. I always chuckle a bit when I see someone mention battery-powered survival equipment.

Until you actually do a skill and master it, don't assume that you can actually do it.... because when you try, it's a lot harder than you think. Take the time to master it comfortably now, being able to take a break and a good supper when you fail, before you need to actually rely on it.

To me, "hunting" would be the equivalent of how cavemen did it... chase a deer down (on foot) and spear it, etc.

To consider yourself a real "pyro" I would say you need to start a fire with, in the very best conditions, a fuel-less lighter. To be a pro takes starting a fire with nothing but a few pieces of wood that may or may not be somewhat wet.

Fishing is one barbed hook (I'm not to the point of actually making a hook yet.. that will probably be the next step), a bug you found on the ground, and a 15 foot line tied around your hand (which will eventually be made from vegetatation as well), and then cooking your catch with the firemaking mentioned above.

For gardening, this year I tried corn, tomatoes, radishes, peppers, and a few other seeds that were either sitting dried in the garage for the past 5 years, or out of something we had for supper. Unfortunately only the radish and peppers were successful, and peppers sure take a heck of a long time to grow. Corn, tomatos, and cucumber seeds got too wet... I was sprouting all the seeds in a wet piece of paper and then planting them to make the process go faster. Corn seems quite difficult.

I've been looking into edible plants a lot as well, and I think foraging would be much easier than planting crops, at least for a while. Most people have no idea what a rich variety of edible vegetation is all over their lawns. All parts of a dandilion are edible, but people are throwing them away and spending money to buy endive instead.

I think we will indeed need to start getting some step-by-step, photo-illustrated tutorials going in this forum to get people from daydreaming about survival, to experiencing it for themselves.

And the only problem with canned food is the weight. While you are on the move, it's quite impractical and you'll want to go with the jerky/dried methods (make sure you drink lots of water with it). But once you settle down and make a permanent shelter, then canned is the way to go.

[edit on 8/17/2007 by Yarcofin]

posted on Aug, 17 2007 @ 10:22 PM
Well i actually do have some skills for this sort of thing.

Growing things - Well i was raised in a rather rural area, my parents always grew their own vegtables and fruits. We used to have enough potatoes to last us a year. I know a great deal in this area. I also remember going out picking wild foods, i can find a good deal of wild edibles, beyond the usual berries and bullaces most people see.

Fire lighting - Well i decided last year i should give this one a go, it took me nearly an hour with the fire and bow method to get a nice hot ember that i could use. I've pracitced since and it's gotten a lot easier, hard work each time but at least it's consistant.

Fishing - I have very little knowledge in survival fishing, the nearest i've ever come is throwing a baited line into a lake and coming back a day later.

I think there is one big thing most people don't bother with and it's the basics of camp craft. Knowing how to tie the correct knots, buiild decent shelters, protecting a fire etc etc. Also things like making cordage from nettles or other plants is a very useful skill, and it's one that can be picked up in a couple of hours practice.

Don't be to hard on people that use tv and books to learn, i learnt a large amount from books. I simply read the book and tried it, over and over until i got it right.

Oh and hunting, well i can hunt pretty well with an air rifle. In a survival situation though i think traps are your friend, set them and check them regularly. You really maximise your chances doing this whilst conserving energy.

You are right though doc, there is a large leap between reading the skills and trying the skills.

[edit on 17-8-2007 by ImaginaryReality1984]

posted on Aug, 18 2007 @ 02:19 AM
interesting thread, i mean that. i taught a 'survival' class to kids at summer camp and when i read their idea of a survival class asked if i HAD to teach that or could make my own. they greenlit my own and away i went. day one, basics, we built a simple lean-to shelter with stuff we found, theory being if you can make one lean-to you can build 4 all facing inward and put a roof on it and have yer basic shelter.

after taht was how to build a fire starting with stuff you scrape off bark and building up. now, in this i did show them how to make a set up to bow a fire but i also told them that if they were clever their "survival kit" would ahve at the MINIMUM a few books of matches, a roll of nylon cord (i always recommend 550 cord. its cheap and you can use it for anything. take the guts out of it and even the thin nylon cording inside it is invaluable) and a good knife. with those three things, or even the last two, and a good head on your shoulders you can probably last longer than teh avg person.

i also taught them how to make simple traps/animal snares and how to safely navigate difficult terrain.

along the way we also talked about thigns you acn eat and things that you shouldnt. (by the way, something like 95% of all grass varieties are supposed to be edible, not very tastey but it is survival afterall)

i spent some time teaching them basic back country first aid as i agree thats a pretty critical skill to have. (at one point i had even considered co-authoring a book on back country first aid with an ER dr friend of mine (by co author i meant id write it and he'd attach his MD to it for credibility lol))

also tried to emphasize that while hunting or fishing it was best to take only what you needed for the day and possibly the next. unless you ARE able to jerk the meat or otherwise preserve it, does it make sense to take down a 150lb deer to feed just a couple people? of course not, the risk of the wasted meat drawing other predators or even just the flies and disease possible from the rotting meat should answer that one. take what you need to get by if you are in an area where things are abundant. a few rabbits or a few fish will sustain you til the next day and theres less need to worry about immediatly. if you are in an area where food IS scarce then knowing how to jerk and preserve meat with what you have becomes more important as who knows when your next meal could be, but if you end up needing to survive, choosing a spot near a stream/lake would be clever.

so honestly, should bad things happen, i dont worry about my family getting through it. there are benefits to being a "country boy"

things i keep around for survival/camping etc are:
matches obviously
my paracord (550 is what i prefer)
a few good knives and a sharpening stone
a .22 rifle and a few boxes of ammo (not a good choice for deer, but is a cheap and effective rifle for smaller game and does just fine for self defense if that is your concern. if u want bigger a bolt action .223 or .243 is a good choice or for an auto i like the sig556 (didnt someone list that as their rifle of choice in another thread? good choice, but a bolt action is lower maintenance))
i like to keep one of those magnesium fire starting blocks (matches can get wet or absorb humidity)
flashlight and spare batts
a GOOD first aid kit. not the cheap one you get at walmart i mean a GOOD one. (if anyone is really interested ill post my first aid kit contents sometime, i used to be an EMT and did back country stuff when i was a rock climber, hehe try doing a wound dressing on a tiny ledge half way up a 150' cliff sometime, fun stuff lol)
a water purifer (one of the camping models not the nice brita ones for your kitchen) or at the very least those iodine tabs they use (which i personaly detest)
a few rolls of either black tape or 100mph tape (ask anyone in the millitary)
some type of bug juice is a good idea with all the west nile stuff and lyme disease (make sure its rated for ticks, the DEET stuff is a good choice)

loose fitting yet long sleeved shirts and full length loose fitting pants. protects your skin yet allows air flow

boots. comfy but sturdy (i prefer my old combat boots or jungle boots)

somethign to cover your head, yes, ventilation is good, but so is protecting your mellon.

lastly i just have to echo the thoughts of the good Dr. if you ever think for a second you may need survival skills, go on a "survival camping trip". take things with you but practice all the skills u think you need and try not to dip into what you brought with you. force yourself to survive like you have to. the practice could save your life some day

posted on Aug, 18 2007 @ 02:47 AM

Originally posted by ImaginaryReality1984

Don't be to hard on people that use tv and books to learn, i learnt a large amount from books. I simply read the book and tried it, over and over until i got it right.

[edit on 17-8-2007 by ImaginaryReality1984]

I'm not hard on anyone for their preferred method of skill acquisition, i merely stress that you need to actually practice, and not rely solely on knowing how to do it, you have to be able to physically be able to perform in adverse conditions, and most likely while not in the best physical and/or mental state. After dark with an approaching snowstorm and wet clothes isn't the time to find out that firestarting is a lot harder than it looks on TV .

I encourage learning from books and video, but do the lab exercieses as well, or you're just wasting your time. I reccommend Tom Brown books, he has his guide to wilderness survival with defined exercieses at the end of each chapter.

[edit on 8/18/2007 by DezertSkies]

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